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7 acre design help

 
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Hi guys!
I am having some trouble with the layout for this piece of property. Specifically, where to put buildings (house, barn, garage, green house, ect), in such a way that they take up as little of the usable, sunny land as possible. In theory I have a spot that I would love to put the house and garage, a spot that is out of the way of water drainage during rains, off to the side so the bulk of the property is open for various uses, has nice views, ect. But I can't put the house there because of the needed septic field. There is a spring head on my property, which creates a little creek. We own 100% rights to this little creek, but it eventually joins with a big watershed creek about a mile off the property, so there is a 50ft zone on either side where the septic field cannot go. We can't redirect the stream away from where the leach field would have to be because it flows through the lowest point of the property (though we wouldn't want to redirect it, even if we could)

This spring will be our house water source (it flows strong year-round, even when the neighbors' 250ft wells dry up). Our plan is to use wind power to pump it up to a cistern on one of the high points of the property, use it to feed the house and barn and possibly a pond and irrigation, and then flow back into its original position in the little creek. But again, the trouble all comes back to the leach field. We can't find a spot for the house that would allow for the leach field to exist in a way that it doesn't either A: Pollute the Creek or B: eat up the rare  spaces of relative flatness and full sun. There are no roads or anything resembling infrastructure on the property, except a small shed near the middle and a dilapidated hay barn on the south east side. We would like to fix up that barn and use it for its original purpose, but that still leaves the house (and necessary evil septic tank), garage, green house, and livestock barn to place. I feel the rest of buildings could be sleuthed out based on where the house and garage go, but I really need help finding a healthy, safe place to put them that wouldn't eat up productive land and would allow for the leach field.

Here are some maps of the property. On the sun map, the faded lines and writing are the winter sun map, and the more opaque lines and writing are the summer sun map.
On the more scribbled-on map, the red dot and red line are the high points of the property, the purple lines are where there are rain-dug ditches, the light blue square and line are the spring head and creak, the dotted blue lines are the riparian buffer, and the blue arrows are the direction rain runoff flows in. The orange swoop is warm summer winds, and the blue swoop is cold winter winds. I am sorry I used so much blue, I don't know why I did that.
any help would be very appreciated. We're starting with what is essentially a blank slate and I don't want to drop the buildings and then three years down the road go "Wow this was a dumb place to put the house"
sector-map.jpg
[Thumbnail for sector-map.jpg]
sun-map.jpg
[Thumbnail for sun-map.jpg]
 
pollinator
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My leach fields aren't particularly close to the houses. Is there a reason why yours would need to be?
 
AnnaLea Kodiak
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Hi Stacy!
I don't know much about septic field design, I just know you don't wanna drive over pipes, right? I worry if the leach field is too far from the house that increases the risk of someone *cough*absent-minded husband*cough* driving over a pipe. I'm sure there are ways to prevent that, like a fence or other easy option, but it just kinda slipped my mind. If this were your property, where would you put the house and leach field? :)
 
Stacy Witscher
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We drive over one of our leach fields all the time, it's a road. Maybe it depends on the kind of leach field, I don't know. Hopefully, someone else will chime in.
 
AnnaLea Kodiak
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Wow! Your leach field has a road on it???
In our county, the only thing you're allowed to have on your leach field is grass and native local wildflowers, except [list of local flowers with roots that goo further than 18" deep]

Not a whole lot of wiggle room!
That's part of my dillema. The county health department said I could occassionally rotationally graze say, chickens or small goats/sheep, but other than that it would basically be wasted land. Can't even grow wheat or oats because of how deep the roots get, even though they're fine/thin.

I guess my problem is finding a 100x100 area (which would include the leach field and the minimum "safety zone") that isn't near the water, is downhill from wherever the house will be, and doesn't eat up valuable useable land

It is seeming to become an excersizes in insanity haha
 
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You can put the leach field anywhere you want even uphill, The further away it is the more complicated it becomes and the larger chance for something to go wrong, but in our last house the piping to the septic was around 100ft long with no power and that did absolutely fine. As to driving over pipes, nothing should be driving on the leach field but any pipes running out to the tank can be protected when you first install them.

I think I would look at the top corner for a house with the house where the contours stick out a bit into the valley and the leach field right in the corner. that would give short drives, and easy access for trucks etc and easy access to empty the tank when needed. Of course that spot might not be suitable for a house I cannot see all the details.
 
AnnaLea Kodiak
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Hey Skandi!
Thanks for the idea!
That was one of the places I was eyeballing actually, and I think it might work. There is some steep land on that side, but it's the smoothest (if that makes sense? Like no up down up down just a smooth transition from top to bottom)
Do you think this would put the leach field far away enough from the creek? I am so scared of that, water is precious
 
Skandi Rogers
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AnnaLea Kodiak wrote:Hey Skandi!
Thanks for the idea!
That was one of the places I was eyeballing actually, and I think it might work. There is some steep land on that side, but it's the smoothest (if that makes sense? Like no up down up down just a smooth transition from top to bottom)
Do you think this would put the leach field far away enough from the creek? I am so scared of that, water is precious



That's going to depend on your soil/subsoil type I would think and that's probably something to get a specialist in to assess if you are worried about it.
 
AnnaLea Kodiak
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I gotcha. Our soils are something like 25-30% clay, 65-70% sand, and a very very small percent of silt. The exact totals vary across the property, but the silt content is never above 4%. The entire property is 100% virginia red clay if you dig deep enough though. 2 feet in some places, 4-5 feet in others. I think this layer is what created the spring, but am not certain.

if the septic system didn't have to exist, where would you put the house? Out of curiousity
 
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A leach field could be a rabbit-maintained lawn. Play space for kids, sunlight/view corridor to the house, meat/skin production, manure source. Rabbits keep stuff pretty short, if I remember correctly. A movable pen system is probably best.
 
Myron Platte
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If you're worried about the leachate, you might want to consider installing biofilter type stuff downhill from the leach field, like swales full of gravel and planted to reeds tilted off contour at 1-2%. This will make the area around the reeds extra fertile, so a good place to plant to trees. Willows would be especially good. (They are awesome for basketry and firewood coppice)
 
Stacy Witscher
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A contractor I work with thinks my leach fields are a different kind, no water or nutrients reach the surface, maybe that's why we can drive on it. I didn't put them in so it's hard to know. I didn't mean to misinform anyone.
 
AnnaLea Kodiak
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Hi Myron!
Those are both really good ideas. We do want to get into meat rabbits, so I suppose if chickens are allowed, I dont see why rabbits wouldn't be!
I also like the idea of the filter gardens, essentially. I think that would be a great way to protect the stream from any possible leachate.

Stacy, I'm super jealous of your septic system! That sounds so convenient! Don't worry about misinformation, just genuine surprise! (and envy)

As far as placement goes, where would you guys put the house/barn/cistern ect. Just looking for ideas! :)
 
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Hi, AnnaLea,
  Good luck planning your layout.  You are right to take some time and think about long range plans in advance.  I do not know your climate situation, amount of rain, and other factors that come into play.
  Agree with a previous poster that the shorter the driveway usually the better for long term upkeep and reduced maintenance.  I am not sure I understand all of the map but a house somewhere around the word sunrise might work???
  We bought a vacant, sloping lot with some issues that sound a little like yours.  We built our active-passive solar house in NW Colorado so that it was oriented by GPS with the longer part of the house facing south with most windows facing south for solar gain, second most windows facing east.  Few windows north, none west.  If you are in a colder climate this orientation will make for a sunnier home and lower heating costs over the life of the property.
  Due to the sloping lot, we have a one story main level with main bedroom, living, dining, kitchen and a walk out basement with 9 foot ceilings and nice windows to the south and east for a family room and two more bedrooms.  A basement is cheaper to build and will be more efficient to heat and cool than a second story.  We have a deck off the kitchen which faces east.  It is nice to spend time in the summer on the deck facing east because the house shades the deck; a deck facing west here would be too hot to enjoy in the summer.  
  We have two large leach fields that are lower than the house in clay soils.  We do not drive over the shallow leach fields, which is definitely a consideration as we have had the need for utility trucks to drive over the property.  They can drive over the yard near our house but not over the leach field.  Our septic tank is not far from the house and it is in our front yard, which is different, but it works and no one notices.  If septic maintenance becomes necessary it is not too far from the driveway.  The leach fields are quite a ways out but in lower elevation.  Our neighbor has a creek and pond that are below our property.  So the leach fields are good for wildflowers and wild grasses.  In our case, we can't mow a lot of this area easily because it is too wet in the spring after snow melt and the grass gets too thick in the summer for our mower.  But these areas are critical from a permaculture perspective and they do provide habitat for lots of birds, for example.
  Our garden is above the leach field but not too far from the house.  Our garden is downhill from the house and we did not have much choice, but the flatter and shorter the distance from the house to the garden the better.  Putting the garden where it will naturally get more moisture via gravity and/or swales makes sense if you live in a drier climate.  Our garden is downhill but close enough that we can direct roof water to the permaculture vegetable garden as well as flower/pollinator gardens closer to the house.  We have deer and elk so a high fence around the garden is necessary and the fencing can be a consideration for views (so our fenced garden is along the back corner of the house).  At the same time, I think it is helpful to be able to see the vegetable garden from some window in your house because it is easier to see what is going on and helps encourage you to get out there and do what needs to be done.
  Our fenced back yard surrounds the chicken coop and the chickens free range in the yard.  I like having the large yard where the chickens are by the garden because I can throw extra produce their way or bring poultry manure easily to the garden.  We mow our back yard, it has grass and just looks like a normal yard that just happens to have chickens in it.  And collies who guard the chickens from foxes.
  We built the chicken coop behind our house on the northwest corner.  A chicken coop needs to be on high ground where runoff water will not run into the coop; chickens need a dry environment.  And chickens need sunlight so the coop should not be shaded by large structures and should also not be too far from the house.  We had to compromise due to where water run off occurs and our coop is behind our house and it does not get as much sun as it should early in the day in the winter which can reduce egg production.  Our coop has large windows facing in all directions but it is a little too close to the house and would have been better with better morning sun in low winter sunlight.
   I am envious that you have the barn.  It looks like it is in a good position for storing equipment which will come over the years.  I like that the barn is close to the road so you can use the road to access the barn where you may store things you do not need all the time.
  Good luck with your plan!  It looks like a lovely acreage.
 
 
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Where in Colorado are you located? I’m in the North Fork Valley, Delta County CO.
Have you considered a composting toilet instead? There is at least one, maybe two, commercially made composting toilets that pass CO plumbing/health codes. From what I can tell, they are definitely cheaper than a septic system and no “dead” zone wasted land like with a leach field.
Let me know if you’re interested, I’ll get you a link with more information when my hubby comes home.
 
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I can't exactly give advice as I don't know if these plants could damage your septic field, but we used to have wild blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries growing all over ours. It wasn't planned, but just happened. It was always a very productive patch and we would harvest the berries from it. I'm not sure if this would pass by inspectors, but possibly if it doesn't look planned... Again, I don't know enough to recommend this, only mentioning an experience of mine. The field was about 250' from the septic tank.


Is privacy from neighbors/the road of any concern? I would be tempted to place the house in the forested corner of the property. I suppose it would be the least sunny place to go, and you might lose that lovely afternoon/sunset light. That would lead me to want to place the house closer to the road on the east side of the property, with it designed to face west, perhaps dug into the slope on the east/road side.

I'm sorry, I haven't helped at all..... seems like good spot though
 
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I'm in a similar headspace where there are so many factors to consider trying to decide where to put Zone 0!  This process might help.

1) [  ] Print out a couple hard copies of your area map, one for each stakeholder.  Ensure that:

     [*check*] The maps have your contour lines, water, and roads/access drawn.  
     [  ]All legal setbacks and restraints are also depicted.  
        -Draw the legally required distance the septic field must be from your water sources and creek bed.  
        -Consider other legal restrictions, like how close animals can be to the boundary edge.
     [  ]Large trees trees and forest are depicted.

The above items are all behind climate on the "Scales of Permanence", but are ahead of buildings and structures.  Dave Jacke & Eric Toensmeier's book, Edible Forest Gardens, Vol 2, have in depth discussion on this on page 193-195.  Unlike Yeoman's and Mollison & Holmgren's permanence scales, Jacke+Toensmeier's scale wisely includes legal constraints.  I digress!

2) [  ] Make little scale paper or cardboard cutouts representing your desired structures' area size so you can place them around the chart.

     [  ] Also cut out a little rectangle depicting the minimum septic field size based on the desired house size.  (Personally, I would definitely have the septic downhill, because I would not want to pay for an engineered pumping system, nor would I want to be reliant on the pump having power and functioning 24/7.  I also value gravity fed water systems where possible, so having a windmill makes me wary compared to say...a ram pump or even better, direct fill of H2O to a cistern.)
     [  ] Consider making other cut outs, like for a large garden, or cisterns.  

3) [  ] Scratch out any "no-go" areas for your structures based off legal requirements and each stakeholder's personal preferences.  

     [  ] Scratch out flooding areas, erosion prone areas, un-accessible areas, zone 5 wilderness areas, areas too close to beautiful trees or trees which may fall etc, areas without acceptable privacy, etc.

Eventually, each stakeholder may have only a few legally or socially acceptable zones 0 spots left.  

4) [  ] Compare stakeholders' common spots, and label the potential zone 0 areas "A" "B" "C" etc.

5) [  ] Have each stakeholder list metrics they value in a potential zone 0: Things like good views, sun or shade considerations, easy access, privacy, energy efficiency, easy proximity to production zones, low cost (short driveway/minimal length to grid access).

     [  ] Allocate a "weight" to each metric...which metrics are the most important?
     [  ] Have each stakeholder assess each potential site "A" "B" "C" etc. with each desired metric on a scale of 1-5 on how well it achieves that metric.
     [  ] Multiply the assessed metric by the metric weights, and then sum them up for a grand total.
     [  ] Compare everyone's grand total.

In the end you'll have significantly fewer possible areas to choose from.

6) [  ] Most important, as a final check remember that "the map is not the terrain" so check out the land in person and figure out which of the best sites just feel right while meeting essential criteria.  Have stakeholders write out observations and gut feelings at each of the potential sites.  

The weighted-metric process works for any number of decisions, of course.  The hardest decisions then become not between a "good" and a "bad" choice but between two very close or equally acceptable choices.
 
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I had a similar problem with the septic tank and the leach field.

What we did to solve the leach field issue was to use  a European type septic tank system.

The tanks are made of fibreglass, and they have four separate inner tanks, by the time the water comes out into the leach field it is already safe and non-polluting.


Manure is something to take into account because the flies and stench can be an issue in the summer.

I have completed a project not dissimilar to the one you are describing, but back in those days we had no internet to help us out, and we just got on with it.

My projects involved converting a seed store into a house, cowshed to workshop conversion, barn renovation and a lot more.

We decided to go with chickens, as we wanted the better quality manure for growing cabbage for shredding and fermenting.

We even dug out a massive pond to encourage wildlife and have a back-up for watering the cabbage during the hot dry spells.

Getting back to your leach field, make sure that your pipes are surrounded by gravel and wrapped in a cloth type membrane to stop soil and gunge from blocking the drainage holes.



 
AnnaLea Kodiak
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Hi guys!
Thank you so much for all of your helping, and I'm sorry it took me a few days to reply. We tried to take as many of the different factors  into consideration, and we ended up deciding on putting the septic field in the extreme northeast corner of the lot, and placing the house and garage as close to it as possible while still being uphill. This puts both the field and the tank close to the road for easy work/maintenance/repair and leaves the vast majority of the property open and free for farming. We aren't locked in to this location yet, but we think we'll go ahead with applying for the permits soon.
Thank you again everyone!
 
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