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North Central Kentucky Homestead Build

 
Posts: 34
Location: North Central Kentucky
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My husband and I have had a long-standing dream to buy a ton of land and live in a rural setting.  I love to cook and garden, and would love to raise animals for food production. We finally pulled the trigger last year and bought ~100 acres of land about 45 minutes north of Lexington.  We've been working with an architect to design our dream home and over the last year have begun working on projects to make the land work for us while we wait for our house to be built and be able to be on the land full time.  We currently rent a house about 30 minutes away in Georgetown.


The land is basically one big long holler.  It's hilly, rocky land with a small flat bottomland area.  The hills that are cleared are heavily eroded clay, less than 30" down to bedrock at the tops.  The majority of the trees are white oak, black walnut, eastern red cedar, and shagbark hickory.  The front portion of the land is mostly cleared, with trees in some of the smaller hollers, and a medium pond (~.66 acres)in the one closest to where the house will be situated.  The back portion of the land is primarily wooded with a long drainage creek that runs all the way out to the front.  It's kind of seasonal, but we've never seen it any drier than "very muddy."  Adjacent to the drainage creek is a small (~.15 acre) pond.  

Before we bought the land, it was being used to run cattle.  This has created some issues with heavily rutted and eroded land near the ponds (there is no running water on the property at this time, so the ponds were the only water source for the cattle).  I've been working to help slow the erosion on the banks of the big pond, adding some marginal plants like blue flag iris and pickerel rushes, we took a couple of trees out that were growing on the dam, and seeded the eroded mud heavily.  It's payed off some.  Much of the dam is grassy now and the marginal plants seem to have popped back up after winter, but it can't be mowed as the rocks jutting up out of the clay are far too high and we don't have a budget for bringing an excavator in to deposit a layer of dirt on the dam.




Our first purchase for the land was a side by side.  It's been instrumental in getting around the hilly areas and checking on things.  Last fall my husband and in-laws cleared a lane around the property line (in excess of 2 miles - our property boundaries are not straight lines) so now we can get the side by side through every month or so to check the fence (we don't have animals on the land yet, but the neighbor runs cattle) and make sure everything's in order.  The land had one building on it, a collapsing tobacco barn.  It is pretty cool (and kind of creepy) but if it weren't for the trees holding it up, it would have been on the ground years ago.  A vulture family seems to have made a home in part of it.  Knowing that we'll eventually be adding additional equipment, and wanting a secure place to store it, we jumped on having a shop built.  The long term plan is to run water and power to the shop, but we needed inexpensive initially.  We are planning our dream home and want to keep as much liquidity as possible right now. Shop is 30x40, 3  12' tall doors in the front and one in the back (makes it so I can drive a tractor through without backing it into things I shouldn't.)  We should be able to put a lift in once we have power run to the shop to work on cars.



When we sold our house in the PNW, our realtor told me not to plant a garden in our raised beds, as it would look unkempt by the time the new owners took possession of the property, so I grew no garden in 2020.  When we came out here, it was nearly July and far too late to start a garden, so I focused my gardening energy on planning future gardens and learning everything I can about gardening in Kentucky.  Coming from a zone 8 sandy soil garden that receives almost zero rain every summer to a zone 6 clay soil getting inches of rain.   Also, I suspect we can grow watermelons here(!?) which is exciting to me.  This spring I mulched an area adjacent to the shop  (where they used to work cattle) and planted some tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, watermelons and canteloupe.  All things that I feel OK trying to grow without too much intervention as we're usually only at the property a few days a week.  I also turned an old cistern into an herb garden - I have walking onions, basil, sage, thyme, and mint planted in it.




Our next few projects include getting a tractor that can handle mowing the steep slopes, installing rainwater collection from the shop roof, and expanding the garden area.  We are hoping to break ground on the house later this summer, and hopefully be in by next fall.  

Future plans include:
Raised bed kitchen garden near house
Chicken tractor followed by permanent coop once I figure out where I want to put it (trying not to rush this one, but I'm antsy to get some laying hens and guineas patrolling for ticks)
A few sheep I can rotate around the property to control growth in some of the sketchier areas - and if we can harvest 1-2 each year it would be nice to have lamb in the freezer
A few pigs - I was planning on mangalitzas but a friend who has raised them said they don't make enough meat, so I may go with a manga sow and do a cross with a more standard meat producer - either way we'll start out with big pink pigs to see if managing them is in the cards
Meat chickens if I can make friends who would be willing to help with butcher day
Maybe a few dexter cattle, but bringing cattle back to the land will take some equipment we don't have and becoming OK with them doing a bit of environmental damage I don't love
A high tunnel if I can find a good site for it.
 
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Laural, what beautiful land!  Congratulations on the purchase.

You certainly do have some ambitious dreams, but you appear to be acting on those dreams quite well.  You can certainly do a lot with 100 acres.

When I bought my land (all 9 acres), we also built our house.  And the roughly $1500 we spent on the architect was by far the best money invested.  Actually, ten times that would still have been a good investment as without him we would have made an expensive mess.  Good job on looking for the architect.

If I could have made one purchase before building the house it would have been a utility tractor.  I have one now, but they are just so useful and there were so many odd jobs to get done during and briefly after construction that having one would have been a blessing.  For my purposes, a tractor with a loader (a must-have in my opinion), a box blade and maybe a rotary cutter would have been the perfect machine.

But at any rate, again, congratulations on the land purchase.  And please, do keep us updated as this long-term project progresses.

Eric
 
Laurel Jones
Posts: 34
Location: North Central Kentucky
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Will do!

Our architect is amazing.  We're definitely paying him more than $1500, but our house is going to be phenomenal.  We are very happy working with him and the builder who's consulting on the design.

Yeah, we've been considering a large tractor (something powerful enough to drive a bush hog) to mow and move things around, but have recently decided to get a ventrac as it should be far safer on the steep slopes, and we can get a cheaper smaller tractor with a grapple bucket when spending has come down a bit.  Would be great to have something to grab the trees and honey locust we've been cutting down.


Yes, definitely ambitious dreams!  I have the rest of my life to make them reality.  It's fun to have so much space to think "man it would be cool to do XYZ" and then actually be able to just do that!  I inoculated a couple areas with dead ash trees to grow morels last fall.  
 
pollinator
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A couple of ideas.
- try and save the tobacco shed, since it does not need a permit to be there
- consider the use of tethered goats instead of mowing areas.
- Any cattle that get in will wreck the dams again.
- consider fencing the dams off from cattle etc
Catch water for reuse off the roof.
My signature below has a link to using rainwater.

Project looks exciting.
 
Laurel Jones
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Location: North Central Kentucky
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Thank you.  The tobacco barn is past saving.  Most of the poles have slid off of their footings, the only things keeping it up are the trees that it's leaning on.  That said, I cleared some wild grape off of a couple of the trees this winter to help keep them healthy, I fully intend to try to keep it upright as long as possible, but it's not a functional building that I'd trust livestock in.

With the predator pressure in the area, plus the need to manage them effectively, (and given we have about 40 acres that needs mowing), I don't think that tethered goats are the right match for us.  We may see about "borrowing" a couple of bucks of wethers from the neighbor once we are living out there occasionally to clear areas before we get sheep.

Thanks, I agree.  They've been really hard on the land.  In the future if we do decide to keep a few dexter cattle(they are supposed to be a bit less destructive due to their size) they'll be kept in the more forested and wild back areas of the property where the damage they'll cause will heal itself more quickly.

We have only one dam and it's in a more accessible/trafficked portion of the property, there won't be livestock with access to it any longer.

I'm working with a friend to get a couple of IBC totes for rainwater collection from the roof of the shop for watering the garden.  That's my next project.
 
John C Daley
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I am not sure any cattle actually dont damage the ground.
I have worked on dairy farms and have not seen soil compaction that causes trouble in the paddocks, but it certainly happens on paths and near water rings.
I guess its a matter of not overstocking.
 
Laurel Jones
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John C Daley wrote:I am not sure any cattle actually dont damage the ground.
I have worked on dairy farms and have not seen soil compaction that causes trouble in the paddocks, but it certainly happens on paths and near water rings.
I guess its a matter of not overstocking.



I believe all cattle will do a certain amount of damage, however smaller cattle should theoretically be a little less hard on the land.  And they'd be going somewhere that has already taken the brunt of the damage from a decent size herd of large cattle, so likely won't cause any additional damage.
 
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pictures worth 1000 words,
very beautiful place you have.
as far as the 40 acres that need mowing. are there any neighbors who cut and bale hay? might be a good way to get it mowed without having your own equipment and making new friends.
 
Laurel Jones
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Location: North Central Kentucky
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bruce Fine wrote:pictures worth 1000 words,
very beautiful place you have.
as far as the 40 acres that need mowing. are there any neighbors who cut and bale hay? might be a good way to get it mowed without having your own equipment and making new friends.



Thanks for the suggestion!  Unfortunately most of the land is quite hilly and also has rocks, so while it needs mowing, it's more work than it's worth to hay.  We have some flat bottomland that was used for tobacco many years ago but as the farm shifted away from that transitioned over to a hay field, so the neighbor who used to hay it before we bought it mows those few acres in exchange for what hay he is able to get from it, but it doesn't make much of a dent in the rest of the areas needing to be mowed.
 
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That is a pretty piece of land. In fact the whole area around Lexington is nice, you might make a point to visit Daniel Boone State Forest and Natural Bridge State Park a little to the south east when you get the time. I've spent many a night living in caves down there, back in another life time.

About 45 minutes north of Lexington puts you about the same distance south of me, I'm just across the Ohio River in Indiana. As far as what you can grow there I'd say just about anything except maybe some of those Andean crops that they grow in the PNW.

You mentioned raised beds, in your neighborhood you should have Black Locust as well as Honey Locust. Black Locust logs, if you have them of decent size make great raised beds as well as posts, building supplies and of course firewood. Black Locust flowers are also generally abundant in the spring and are delicious battered and fried similar to morel mushrooms, in fact I almost like them better than morels and they are much easier to find.

When you get settled in you can drop me a note if you want as I have a pretty good supply of vegetable seeds that I've been growing by landrace technique. The way you describe your soil is very similar to mine as is our climate, so they should be pretty well adapted.

I see some kind of furry black and white critter in than one photo. Boarder Collie or English Shepard perhaps?
 
Laurel Jones
Posts: 34
Location: North Central Kentucky
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Mark Reed wrote:That is a pretty piece of land. In fact the whole area around Lexington is nice, you might make a point to visit Daniel Boone State Forest and Natural Bridge State Park a little to the south east when you get the time. I've spent many a night living in caves down there, back in another life time.

About 45 minutes north of Lexington puts you about the same distance south of me, I'm just across the Ohio River in Indiana. As far as what you can grow there I'd say just about anything except maybe some of those Andean crops that they grow in the PNW.

You mentioned raised beds, in your neighborhood you should have Black Locust as well as Honey Locust. Black Locust logs, if you have them of decent size make great raised beds as well as posts, building supplies and of course firewood. Black Locust flowers are also generally abundant in the spring and are delicious battered and fried similar to morel mushrooms, in fact I almost like them better than morels and they are much easier to find.

When you get settled in you can drop me a note if you want as I have a pretty good supply of vegetable seeds that I've been growing by landrace technique. The way you describe your soil is very similar to mine as is our climate, so they should be pretty well adapted.

I see some kind of furry black and white critter in than one photo. Boarder Collie or English Shepard perhaps?



Thanks!  We really love it out there!  I checked out parts of Daniel Boone and saw Princess Arch and Chimney Rock last autumn, but Natural Bridge is definitely on the list!  

Out of curiosity, what Andean crops are generally grown in the PNW?  I didn't get too ambitious in terms of growing weirdsies in the suburbs, mostly just stuff we knew we liked to eat already.

We have a TON of honey locust, but I haven't seen a single black locust on the property. We had raised beds made primarily out of corrugated metal roofing in our old garden, I'll probably build more of those, I'm working out ways to make them using less wood than before, because you know, lumber prices.  I'll have to keep an eye out for black locust though, the flowers sound awesome.  I did set a couple areas with morel spawn last fall, hopefully I'll have some morels in the next few years.  

Some landrace varieties would be rad.  Right now I'm just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks, which is kind of a fun way to garden it turns out!

Yes!  That's Cirilla.  Best the vet figures, she's a border collie sighthound mix.  We haven't done a DNA test yet, but she runs like a greyhound and tries herding everything that moves.  
 
Laurel Jones
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A few small garden updates - My garden has gone crazy and I'm loving it.  My pumpkins and tomatoes and butternut squash have made so much progress.  I even harvested my very first okra pod yesterday.  


We've been getting a lot of rain mixed in with the hot weather, which the plants have been loving, but having nearly a week of days in the mid 80s without any precipitation has reminded me once again that I really need to get my rainwater catchment situation figured out sooner rather than later.  Being able to turn a soaker hose on in the garden versus hauling water from our rental house just to water things would make a difference in ease of management.  
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