I will first say this is my first post but have been a long-time lurker. I have been trying to design out my homestead on my own, but would like the advice of others. My property is 4 acres and some change, but it is 145' wide by a quarter mile long. It is currently just a hayfield. We have use of about 3 additional acres that joins our property. It's all family property and I hope to buy another 3 that would make it less narrow. Does anyone have any suggestions or tips for laying out such a property geometry? I'd like to make just my 4 pretty much self-reliant. The extra property will come eventually. We plan to have goats and chickens along with sizable gardens. Also, I'm trying to layout a small tree stand. We live in South louisiana, so the winters arent too harsh to warrant a whole lot of trees. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
I’m currently working on developing a long narrow block, although it’s smaller than yours (about 2 acres).
Aside from considerations like sunlight, orientation, water, soil, current infrastructure and slope (which are pretty major considerations lol), I reckon it really helps to think of things in terms of the classic permaculture zones.
So think of the area immediately around your home site - ie the area you’re literally going to be in or moving through every day that your home, and that’s your zone 1 where you want all the stuff that you need to use every day or attend to /check on every day. So kitchen garden, sensitive plants, perhaps permanent housing or infrastructure for intensively managed animals, greenhouse etc. Then each zone out from your house you try and place things that need less and less daily attention until your final zone is forest or wood lot or wild zone (ie needs the least daily management).
Of course it doesn’t always work that neatly. In real life on a real price of land you also need to take in to account placing things where they will be happiest, but I think on a long narrow block, where you potentially need to walk quite a ways to reach the end of it, the zones idea really carries a lot of weight. You don’t want to be having to walk to the far perimeter of any property to pick your Kitchen herbs or collect the eggs, and on a long narrow block that’s maximum distance. Likewise, sensitive plants/animals/projects that are far from zone 1 might risk getting ignored and neglected.
In our case, about half the property is thick, steep, riparian Bush, and that’s the half furthest from the houses and the road access. The sort of flatter half around the houses is where we have our gardens and (small) animals. It’s not perfect - the annual vege gardens are further away than ideal due to chasing available sunlight (there’s a lot of trees), but as it’s all within about an acre it’s fine.
So, to start, I would take a good look at that acre that’s closest to the home site, and note what the slope/sunlight/soil/water situation is in that area. Then do the next to each acre moving further away. Without trying to imagine anything specific in any one place yet, but rather really just observing what’s there. Then read up on Permaculture zones and divide your property into zones based on your ease of access. Then make up a list of all the things you want on your property (like, all your dreams). Then comes the tricky part of trying to decide what should go where based on the best site for an element, what zone it should belong in, and what’s already there, and how it interacts/intersects with the elements surrounding it.
Having said all that, I must admit that so far I have never had a blank canvas so to speak, and usually end up working with things placed according to what’s already there rather than my ideal, but there’s many ways to work a system.
I think another thing to keep in mind, is that with a small, narrow and long block, intensive systems really come into their own. Because of the geometry, your zone 1 can end up smaller, and your outer zones bigger, than if you had a more square shape (or circular? Anyone with a circular block lol?!). So by working intensively, you can get more out of your zone 1. On this, I would massively recommend Linda Woodrows ‘The Permaculture Home Garden’. I know I keep banging on about this book but her system enables you to have a self perpetuating annual and perennial vegetable/chicken fodder garden powered by chickens (= eggs) and intensively managed orchard all in zone 1. As an additional idea you could add in rabbits and / or muskoveys/ducks into that, and rotate larger animals like goats/geese/pigs through your outer zones.
It will be great to hear about what plans you come up with and how it goes. Post us pictures!
Does your property already have a house on it? Some places require new construction to be a certain distance from the boundary. I've seen a few parcels that were too narrow to build on because of that.
Jj, welcome to Permies! So glad you jumped aboard.
You certainly have a challenge set out for you. Caitlin has excellent suggestions. My question is about moving around the property. You'll have a quarter mile to cover and 145 feet is relatively narrow. Will you want a road for a full size truck the entire length? An ATV path? Footpath?
I always find making a map helpful. Something to doodle ideas on for discussion and problem solving.
Caitlin Mac Shim, you really hit the nail on the head to get me going in the right direction. Exactly what I was looking for. I really appreciate your feedback and will definitely look into that book. Part of my problem is that it is too blank of a canvas. Im a very visual person, and since there are no visual boundaries other than the four corner point on my property, I was having a hard time imagining where everything should go. Thanks again. I'm gonna start working on a new map with these principles.
That has been an issue that makes me cringe every time I try to lay everything out. An ATV sized trail would be sufficient to collect firewood and such. I honestly hadn't considered that. A full driveway/road would take up way too much of the width. I'm sure glad I reached out on this forum. I would sit down to map it out and would end up being discouraged because of the width so much. Thanks for the insight.
Ellendra Nauriel wrote:Does your property already have a house on it? Some places require new construction to be a certain distance from the boundary. I've seen a few parcels that were too narrow to build on because of that.
The only boundary restriction is distance of a sewer system. We do have a house that we moved onto the property and everything is squared away with that.
I understand feeling discouraged. Our place (my folks) is only about 84ft wide at the side where the road is, and then widens slightly all the way along to end up about 120feet wide at the river. So it’s a long gradual wedge. And half of it is Bush, and the other half is still pretty well trees and it’s all steep. It can be a challenge. However - I've still got plans to fit in heaps.
It’s hard to figure it out when there doesn’t seem to be anything there already. The trick is to see that there probably are lots of things there already There’s at least distance from your home site to work from, and unless it’s perfectly flat with no trees you can work with slope and orientation and water flow. You can figure out where the wind comes from, where’s more sheltered (or could be if you planted some trees) and where’s warmer/cooler. What about creating some privacy from the road/neighbours? That could help with where to plant trees (as long as that side isn’t the long side and oriented towards the sun, or you could get too much shade).
Just a heads up that she works in circles rather than straight lines, (which sometimes does people’s heads in lol) , but you could always adapt it any way you like.
Personally I like the circles because the clearings I have to work with tend to be more circle shaped than straight. Also I just like circles too
For getting more info on permaculture zones I reckon theirs loads of people on these forums who could advise you in detail of the theory much better than me. I just try and consider the general principle.
I reckon it’s going to be awesome. You’ve got your own place, and also the possibility of adding more from the surrounding land in the future. It’ll be really cool to see what you end up trying!
Jj, any time you get discouraged, come here and talk to us! Someone will have faced a similar problem and will have insight to help. Homesteading is a huge challenge, even under the best of circumstances. Your property will require some creative thinking, but I believe it's entirely doable.
The beauty of thinking in permaculture zones, is that it helps put things in logical proximity to your living area. Areas where you need to be daily will be closer to the house. Areas you only need to visit occasionally will be farther away. Our wooded area is hard to get around in, so my husband made a little wagon for his riding lawn mower. He hauls firewood, mulch, wood chips, soil, whatever with it. It's been perfect for narrow areas and tight spots.
Looking forward to seeing some pictures and sketches of your preliminary ideas!