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author's question for new and aspiring homesteaders

 
author & gardener
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Location: Southeastern U.S.
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It's exciting to see how many people here are just beginning their journey into permaculture homesteading. The questions being asked in the forums are excellent and the enthusiasm is inspiring. And as most of you are discovering, Permies is the best place to ask questions, find answers, share ideas, brainstorm, and encourage one another.

As an author (of books) I think that books are also an excellent resource, and I encourage each of you to build a solid homesteading library. If you haven't found it already, do check out The Official Permies.com Book Review Grid for recommended resources. You never know, if the electricity is knocked out for an extended length of time, it's a relief to have a good collection of homesteading and permaculture books on your bookshelves.

On to my question. I've just launched my newest book and am now looking ahead. What I'm curious to know, as you all look at books, what topics do you wish you could find? There are plenty of good books on getting started with gardening, fruit growing, chickens, goats, etc., so I'm looking to focus on skills and information that aren't written about as much. What would help you new and aspiring homesteaders? What would you suggest?
 
pollinator
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Location: Italian Alps, Zone 8
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Hi Leigh,

First of, I really enjoyed reading your 5 acres & a Dream book! So inspirational. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

I suppose what I find really interesting to read about is the mistakes that are made, pitfalls or things that didn't work out, and then how one learns from those experiences and improves / finds other ways of doing things.
Learning how to do things is valuable, but learning how NOT to do things can be equally interesting. A lot of permaculture principles seem very simple from the outset (like just mulch with wood chips, or just chop and drop! easy-peasy), but then when you actually start applying those practices you come across a lot of mistakes or things you didn't expect would happen. My example of mistakes I've made is chop and dropping weeds that already had gone to seed, allowing them to spread even more prolifically, or spreading green clippings as a mulch around my fruit trees, but spreading it too close to the tree trunk causing rot and fungal diseases to set in! I've learned my lesson now, but I can imagine others would benefit from reading my mistakes as well so they can avoid them.

 
Leigh Tate
author & gardener
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S.Bard, thank you!

Your point is well taken. Excellent example! I often hear from folks who agree with you and appreciate my writing about "downs" as well as "ups." Actually, it's the kind of thing I look for in my own research too. Others' problems and problem solving attempts are invaluable as I try to figure out whether a given idea will work on our homestead. So your input is very helpful.
 
pollinator
Posts: 346
Location: Monticello Florida zone 8a
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I think my question would be: How much do you need to know (including experience) before starting a homestead that can at least hit the ground walking, as opposed to crawling. I know even the masters are still learning and every start up has alearning curve. How solid do your skills and knowledge need to be so that starting can be reasonably enjoyable instead of overwhelm from to many unknowns?

P. S. I do not have a homestead yet.
 
pollinator
Posts: 114
Location: Sierra Nevada Foothills, Zone 8b
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Personally I would like a book, or more likely a chapter or two about water. Developing springs, digging water delivery trenches or constructing flumes, small ponds and dams, creating a wetland, etc.
 
Leigh Tate
author & gardener
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Huxley, that's a good question, but honestly, I think every single one of us, no matter how prepared we thought we were, felt overwhelmed at first. That being said, I don't think anyone needs to be an expert in any of the skills; I think a basic working knowledge is a good place to start. Three that would make a good foundation are:

1 - knowing how to set goals and prioritize. Everything seems important, but some things are more important than others. Shelter and food are usually at the top of my husband's and my list. But much depends on the set-up of your property, for example, if you don't have a water source, that's the place to start. Knowing how to make a list of needs and prioritize them is an important skill to have.
2 - having basic knowledge and experience in food production and preservation. Gardening can be learned in containers, if need be. Canning and dehydrating can be learned without owning property. If you're comfortable with the basics of food growing and preserving, then you can add to and fine-tune your skills as you need to.
3 - being comfortable using tools. There's always something needing to be repaired or built: house, outbuildings, animal shelters, fences, gates, garden beds, etc. Having a good basic set of tools and knowing how to use them is another good skill to make your start.

At some point, we just have to jump on in and make a start. You pointed out that no matter how much experience we have, we're always still learning. That's so true! And it means we do a lot of experimenting. But even when experiments don't turn out as hoped, we still glean valuable information and experience. And that's how most of us build our homesteads.

Dan, thanks. Those are excellent ideas.
 
Posts: 61
Location: Fort Worth, TX
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I haven't read your book yet so these topics may be covered. Which then you can ignore.
But the things that are concerning to me are climates and zones. I am in Texas and have to look specifically for books or videos by Texan authors because it gets so hot here.
Single budget homesteads/or women run homesteads.
I think for me, a book that covers all the basics that are obvious to start. Land and what to look for, water, shelter, how to start compost, how to start garden, quality of soil. Till or no till? Where to you find the best seeds? What to plant in your zone. Necessary basic tools. Work stay programs..etc.
I am sure there is probably something like this out there but I have been going down the youtube rabbit hole and searching for specific information here there and everywhere. It starts to get overwhelming and what information can you trust?

I will go check out the book referral list and dig around. Thank you for asking and good luck on your next book.
 
Posts: 26
Location: New Braunfels, TX, Zone 8b, multi-generational suburban household
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Leigh Tate wrote:3 - being comfortable using tools. There's always something needing to be repaired or built: house, outbuildings, animal shelters, fences, gates, garden beds, etc. Having a good basic set of tools and knowing how to use them is another good skill to make your start.



I'd like to add to that... having a functional way to organize your tools, too. There's stuff I could do but end up asking my husband to do it simply because I don't know where the tools are... the latest example being taking some screws out of a board with the drill. Simple enough, but where on earth do I find a star drill bit? lol! He got the proper bit, drill, and screws out in probably 20% of the amount of time it would have taken me just to find the drill bit...

So, I guess along with being organized, make sure other members of your homestead know where stuff is, too. We have a special situation since we live with my parents currently (who aren't particularly organized themselves) and we left much of our stuff in storage for the time being. Being cramped in one room, our stuff we did bring doesn't quite have proper homes.
 
Rebecca Blake
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Location: New Braunfels, TX, Zone 8b, multi-generational suburban household
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Jenny Jones wrote:I haven't read your book yet so these topics may be covered. Which then you can ignore.
But the things that are concerning to me are climates and zones. I am in Texas and have to look specifically for books or videos by Texan authors because it gets so hot here.
Single budget homesteads/or women run homesteads.
I think for me, a book that covers all the basics that are obvious to start. Land and what to look for, water, shelter, how to start compost, how to start garden, quality of soil. Till or no till? Where to you find the best seeds? What to plant in your zone. Necessary basic tools. Work stay programs..etc.
I am sure there is probably something like this out there but I have been going down the youtube rabbit hole and searching for specific information here there and everywhere. It starts to get overwhelming and what information can you trust?

I will go check out the book referral list and dig around. Thank you for asking and good luck on your next book.



Pretty much, yes to all of this, Jenny! I guess we're both in the early stages of our permaculture journey!

I want to second the matters surrounding different climates and zones. I've read a few books on gardening and permaculture now and feel there was a greater learning curve when I started my first garden this past spring because the books are typically for temperate climates. But, for us Texan mavens, what do our seasons really look like? What's some stuff we may need to know like.. how beans won't produce if the weather is over a certain temperature? (my poor beans never did produce! hah) What does it look like to be able to plant all year round? More specifically, what does a winter crop look like and what precautions need to be made for if it does snow unexpectedly (like it did here TWICE in one winter back in 2017-2018!)

These are definitely very climate specific, but it's a niche that could use more material so if you're able to fill it... then by all means! Shoot, even the issues Jenny would have in Fort Worth are widely different than my struggles. Snow is a rarity for me but not quite for her!
 
Jenny Jones
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Rebecca Blake wrote:

Jenny Jones wrote: Snow is a rarity for me but not quite for her!


haha girl, snow! I haven't seen that stuff in years. But I have visited South of San Antonio and know how dry and desert like it is.

 
Leigh Tate
author & gardener
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Jenny and Rebecca, you bring up a really good point about how much is climate specific, especially when it comes to food growing. I lived in Texas for close to ten years before moving east and getting a start on our homestead. While there are differences in weather and temperature patterns, we still have hot dry summers which put most of the garden into survival, rather than production, mode. I've learned to focus more on winter gardening! So yes, finding information from people in your region is always desirable. Even then, there's a lot of trial and error, because your specific property will have it's own unique features and microclimate. Everything starts as an experiment, but gradually, you figure out which plants and which varieties do best for you. It's similar for livestock. Most descriptions for chicken breeds, for example, will mention how cold tolerant they are, but rarely if they can tolerate heat.

One thing to take advantage of, is the regional forums here on Permies. There's one for Oklahoma and Texas where you could communicate with folks who have the same challenges. That might be a good start.
 
Rebecca Blake
Posts: 26
Location: New Braunfels, TX, Zone 8b, multi-generational suburban household
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Jenny Jones wrote:

Rebecca Blake wrote:

Jenny Jones wrote: Snow is a rarity for me but not quite for her!


haha girl, snow! I haven't seen that stuff in years. But I have visited South of San Antonio and know how dry and desert like it is.



What!? I was under the impression it snowed there at least once a year! Hah, jokes one me.

 
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