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If you could start all over again…

 
pollinator
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This is a serious question, that could help anyone who is thinking of starting an off-grid homesteading life.

If you could start all over again, and you knew what you know now…

How would choose the ideal off-grid homesteading situation?


I’d love your input for location (e.g. closeness to city, highway, …), altitude, climate, local social situation, local laws and regulations, local economic situation, etc… 


What are the most important factors to consider, and what would be ideal for each factor?


 
N. Neta
pollinator
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I’ll start by pitching my 2 cents…

We chose to live on a small island (but not too small) to live a slower-pace island lifestyle.

We chose to live in the mountains - both to escape the beach tourist destinations, and to get the 4 seasons - instead of the beach all-year-spring climate.

We chose to live off grid and a few miles from the nearest village to have our privacy and resiliency.

We chose to live in a Mediterranean climate as it allows us to grow fruits and veggies also from temperate and subtropical climates.

The one big mistake we did was choosing for a location with too little rainfall (and getting worse every year)…
I wouldn’t do this mistake, if I could do it all over again…

Can’t wait to hear your wisdom and experience…
 
master pollinator
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Great question. I wanted a homestead long before I discovered permaculture.  What I’ve learnt in the last six months, is permaculture gives me far more flexibility. I don’t need everything to be perfect. I’ve seen what can be done downtown in a city with 900 sq meters and in a desert below sea level with almost no rain.

My current wish list:
2 hr commute to my wife’s office in mid town New York City
900 sq metres of land
A walkable town with a vibrant forward thinking community
20 minute walk to the High Street / High School
More than 1km from any big highway
Access to wilderness for hiking and foraging
Within budget
In need of some work to add value to the property (This won’t be our final destination, current plan is for five to ten years)
Able to build out buildings
Able to keep poultry
30 meters above any water / river / flood pathways

Previously I wanted:
Minimum of 1 hectare
Some woodland
Water source

Those requirements aren’t compatible with being in a town. My primary concern would be the isolation of living in a rural place that’s not my home town or country. The area I’m searching doesn’t have much agriculture, country villages or community, just massive strip-malls running for tens of miles.

It sounds like you’ve ticked almost every box. Lack of rainfall is tough and with climate change, we’re all going to have to be more resilient and adaptable  than ever. Andrew Millison posted an amazing series on youtube - India’s Water Revolution Series. There are people growing food forests, starting with little more than bedrock and very low seasonal rainfall.
 
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Location: eastern cape breton, 6b
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i dunno if this is exactly what you are looking for but here goes... all are lessons learned, some successes. some failures:

>> be prepared to struggle with things you thought would be easy, also be prepared to surprise yourself by discovering hidden talents

>> cultivate resilience, patience and flexibility over drive, energy and planning

>> it will always cost more and take longer... that applies to pretty much everything

>> don't spend time and energy out of the gate with all your "on paper" plans.. you may end up with an unused $1000 chainsaw and a campervan rotting in the yard

>> don't go batshit crazy with the seed catalogue and try a bit of everything... grow what grows best where you live first, then add things each year

>> start a garden diary asap

>> learn to pressure can asap

>> try to do projects start to finish.. in parallel can be exhausting and demoralizing

** if you are a couple, be sure you are "together" on this for real, not just getting away from it all and/or "following a dream"... we came as two, there is just me now, this wasn't my plan... i was a city boy, yet i was the one who stayed in the woods.. life can be funny that way

** my personal preference is to be away from heavily populated and high-traffic areas.. period.. you may have to deal with more challenging conditions at times and do more by yourself.. the tranquility is worth it (it doesn't have to be 100s of miles from anything either, just off the beaten path.. enough... got this one right by accident on the first try)

hope this helps..in the end i consider myself to be very lucky and very rich indeed.. i wish you nothing but similar good fortune - peace!
 
master gardener
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I walked out of my Freshman year in college with several thousand $$$ (1969).  Land in northern Wisconsin was going for 50 an acre.   I wish I had known and made the move.
 
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Dear James M,

I'm a long time gardener and have been following 'Permies' for many months now. I saw the question on this post and wondered what little bits of wisdom I might gleam from the answers. But your answer was extraordinary!!

The fact is, I rent out 3 rooms in my home. Recently, I accepted 3 new tenants. All are middle aged men. One is a little depressed and is trying to get a better foothold on life. One is in transition and is looking for some 'fulfillment' in life and the third is just now separating from his wife and seems to be totally lost. None of them are into gardening or sustainability or agriculture. But regardless,  I think that each one of them will benefit greatly by reading your answer! Your wisdom exceeds the agricultural landscape. I have printed out this article and left a copy of it on the kitchen counter for each of them to read. I think it will help each one of them.

I think this will give them each hope and help them a lot.

Thank you,

Debbie
 
pollinator
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Well I was fortunate, I walked out of Uni as a Civil Engineer, decided to buy land so as not to waste my very good income at about 22 years of age.
Bought a 20 acre block ;
- in a 28,000 acre forest
- intermittent creek running along the edge
- no neighbours
- 6km from bitumen
- 15 km from town 100,000 people
- power available which I use only in my welding shop
- wildlife an birds all over
- rainfall low at 18 inches but I now store 1/2 million litres
- slight slope across land with about 6 ft fall all over.
been building etc for 45 years and its lots of fun.
 
N. Neta
pollinator
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Thanks everyone for your great input…

Would still love to hear from others who are willing to share their wisdom…
What would be your ideal off grid homesteading situation, if you could start all over again, but knowing what you know now…?
 
pollinator
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Face @$%#ing  South!
 
master pollinator
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LOL, Dan, if I could give that ten thumbs up I would!
Says me living for the past twenty years in a west facing house with a north facing garden...

My big regret is not seriously starting earlier. I did, but in a half-assed way, worrying too much about staying near family and work and chasing more conventional goals. Some of my big life choices were made for the wrong reasons. But I need to trsut I am where I am now for a reason.
 
James MacKenzie
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Debbie - thank for the kind words - i think you give me way too much credit..

i can say that the gardening got me through a very bad year - i am sure it will help your tenants find a sense of purpose again as well

anyone here would surely agree that a garden can counteract many of the stressors and anxieties of modern life... most are way more versed in the zen and nuances of gardening for the spirit than  i am - i might suggest that you put up a post asking what books etc. they can recommend that will help your tenants as well - these are nice people - you will have no end of help

your desire to help them is heartwarming - speaks a lot to your character - i hope it goes infinitely better than you planned.

take care - peace!
 
N. Neta
pollinator
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Jane Mulberry wrote:My big regret is not seriously starting earlier.


I believe that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood…
So it can never be too late to do what you’re curious and passionate about, Jane…
Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
 
N. Neta
pollinator
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I just thought about another thing today…

As we’re looking on other properties for sale around us… most of them are surrounded with fields that used to (or are still used) to grow potatoes. For decades they were (still are) spraying roundup and other chemicals on those fields, and the fields that are not cultivated for years, are still empty from any vegetation…

So, a crucial criterion for me would be to have land that wasn’t cultivated for many years (or possibly forever, like our land that was too fragmented and inaccessible to be cultivated, until we cleared one small terrace at a time… by hand).
 
master gardener
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N. Neta wrote:As we’re looking on other properties for sale around us… most of them are surrounded with fields that used to (or are still used) to grow potatoes. For decades they were (still are) spraying roundup and other chemicals on those fields, and the fields that are not cultivated for years, are still empty from any vegetation…

This may be increasingly difficult to avoid. In fact, Mark Shepherd (Restoration Agriculture) did essentially that and Greg Judy (https://www.amazon.ca/Comeback-Farms-Rejuvenating-Livestock-Management/dp/0972159738) did a variation on that and has improved his land tremendously and is convincing other farmers to follow his example with spread-sheets that show that they will end up with more money in their pockets.

Without help, those empty fields will take longer to recover. If the land is that bad, step one would be as many wood-chips or dried leaves both inoculated with mushrooms and then planting the top layer of chips with *anything* that might grow. It certainly wouldn't be my first choice to own that land, but if people like us don't use the tools in our tool-boxes to help them recover, they may just continue to loose more and more topsoil.
 
pollinator
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We are thrilled with our property, been here 2 1/2 years. I love the privacy. It was very important to me. I don't like being told what to do and around here code enforcement requires a complaint. So not having neighbors to be able to see what we are doing, so they can't complain is ideal. I look at all the properties right on the highway, it's like they are living in a fish bowl. I could never handle that.

Personally, I'd rather have too little water than too much. Flooding is much harder to solve. I have tons of roof for rainwater collection. And lots of ways to increase the water holding capability of the soil. It's a lot of work setting up, but I'm optimistic.

 
N. Neta
pollinator
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Stacy Witscher wrote:Personally, I'd rather have too little water than too much. Flooding is much harder to solve.


I never thought about water challenge this way, Stacy…
Thank you for opening my eyes.
 
gardener
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There is not a terribly large amount that I would change in my present living situation so these suggestions will be a bit broad/generic:

1) Build/buy a house with good Southern Exposure.  We built our present house and we deliberately gave it plenty of Southern Exposure.  We get LOTS of sunlight in the winter and that also brings in heat on a cold day.  Further, we built with a fairly open floorplan that was also open to the upstairs.  Our great room is double height which would normally be a big minus, but in our case, it has LOTS of open areas to the upstairs and this helps circulate warm air from the great room to the upstairs and generally throughout the house.

2) We put a propane ventless (meaning all the heat exhausts into the house--no outside vent) fireplace into out great room.  This supplements the natural lighting heat that we get from the Southern exposure.  Consequently, sun or clouds, our great room helps circulate heat to the rest of the house, mostly passively.

3) If I were building again, I would have built with 2x6 construction.  But as everything costs money when building, and we cut costs by going with 2x4 framing.

4) Get good quality windows.  Ours could have been better.

5) It would have been interesting to incorporate a RMH in some central location, especially in the great room to heat and circulate air.  At the time I did not know about RMH and there are expenses in adding in a chimney (we were quoted $10,000 for a chimney alone for a wood burning fireplace, but maybe this does not apply to a RMH).  Also, our insurance would go up.  At the time a gas fireplace made sense, but maybe a RMH could have been worked in.

6)  Land.  I remember thinking that I wanted a MINIMUM of 1 acre with 5 being much preferable.  As it was, we got just over 9 acres and are very happy.  It is a mixture of woodland and grassland.

7)  Since we were building a house and we eventually bought a tractor (and then sold it to buy a bigger tractor), it would have been extremely handy to have this tractor during building.  I can't tell you how many times we needed to pay money for a small tractor to come out to do some minor grading and/or lifting & adjusting.  We probably would have saved by having the tractor right from the beginning.  I especially could have used the tractor to dig a shallow ditch which I ended up digging by hand--what a backbreaker.  However, again, everything costs money and we did have a budget so take this for what you will.

8) Final suggestion: if you are building, consider hiring an architect to look over the plans/blueprints.  We got some architectural software to get a basic floorplan which was good, but not good enough to actually build (there would have been some mighty expensive, ugly and permanent mistakes).  We paid about $1200 to hire an architect correct our mistakes.  He gave us back about 85% of what we gave him and it was a much better plan.  That was the single best investment we made in the house.  Also, make certain that your builder has an EXACT copy of the blueprints you want.  We actually gave him a rough copy with a minor change left omitted.  It was not a big deal and did not change the house in any significant way, but we got lucky there.  Good planning counts

So there are my thoughts.  It is not exactly things I would have done differently, but things I would recommend.  Mostly this applies to the building of the house, but site selection is very important as well.

I hope this helps and if I need to clarify, just fire away.

Eric

 
N. Neta
pollinator
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Eric Hanson wrote:
6)  Land.  I remember thinking that I wanted a MINIMUM of 1 acre with 5 being much preferable.  As it was, we got just over 9 acres and are very happy.  It is a mixture of woodland and grassland.


Thank you so much, Eric, for the detailed answer.
May I ask why you considered 5 acres as the “magic number”?
We have 1.5 acres and I find it more than enough…
We already planted over 350 fruit  trees, and we still have space to plant.
We also have 10 long raised beds for vegetables.
And we can’t even use all our land as it’s a mountain side, so everything needs to be terraced prior to planting.
Just curious what you’re doing with all this land…?
 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I live in small town Wyoming. I can't sell anything specialty for any kind of money to make them worth it. There is no rain. There is lots of wind. Basically everything sucks.

However, no one bothers me. I do whatever I want without restriction. So, as far as that goes I got it made. I'd just starve to death if I had to feed myself.
 
pollinator
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Who one does a homestead with is the first thing I’m rethinking.
 
N. Neta
pollinator
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elle sagenev wrote:I live in small town Wyoming. I can't sell anything specialty for any kind of money to make them worth it. There is no rain. There is lots of wind. Basically everything sucks.
However, no one bothers me. I do whatever I want without restriction. So, as far as that goes I got it made. I'd just starve to death if I had to feed myself.


I must ask, Elle, and if you don’t want to answer, I respect that…

But…
If you could start all over again, and you knew what you know now…
How would choose the ideal off-grid homesteading situation?

 
Jeremy Baker
pollinator
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I’m also rethinking how much land is enough? What about for firewood production? How much forest is enough? People talk about food and water a lot but what about other energy sources. I’m hoping to build a house that needs very little heating or cooling. What I would do differently is certainly not build a house using sticks and bricks. I drove past a military base and there were hundreds of large grassy earth mounds. I assume they were concrete quonset huts covered in earth. Why isn’t there more of this? When I go inside I like to be inside a cavelike space because I spend a lot of time outside. Perhaps a sunroom attached to the cave so I can sit inside and enjoy a view but I spend a lot of time outside. The military base was wonderful! No manmade junk or buildings in sight. I’m hoping for a property where very little man made stuff is visible. I was thinking the cheapest property in the USA is flat desert and is very monotonous looking. If it just had some boulders it would be more interesting. Then I realized the huge rocks at the zoo are hollow. They are ferrocement and one could probably live inside them. It’s funny to think of people driving past a bunch of boulders and not realizing there’s someone inside lol. I guess if I was to do a homestead differently id make it more unconventional, creative, whimsical, is what I’m trying to say. I don’t like to be told what to do. There I said it haha. Maybe going to English boarding school made this way lol. Could be why I currently move around in vans and buses. So what kind of homestead works for me?  I’d like one that is flexible enough to come and go from. The previous one started to feel like a prison. Any suggestions are welcome. Perhaps I’ll start a new thread about freedom to be motile part of the time and now folks achieve it. Does anyone else feel stuck when they have a homestead? Ive been reading about cohousing communities but what about “colanding” or cohomesteading”?
 
pollinator
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Does if I could start over include a bigger pot to start with?  If not then I am happy in a run down city with 3 city lots to garden on.

But in an ideal world, thinking of myself and my family, we would be just far enough outside a town to not be bothered if that's what we were feeling, but to easily go say hello or for supplies if we wanted.  5 acres would be lovely, with the better portion of it wooded.  Open area south facing as well as front of home(s).  Would eventually like a small grouping of homes because I wouldn't want to do it without the help of my grown children.  I am familiar with this climate in NE Ohio and like it quite well, but hubby would like a bit less cold.  Although we are talking about adding a RMH here, maybe that will make him happier.  Making sure land wasn't spray killed would be important...also that it wasn't taken over by Japanese knotweed!  I do love that no one seems to care too much what we do here, although I am sure we have broken quite a few rules.  We lived for a time in a suburb outside of DC where people watched and reported on everything (grass too high, toy in yard, too loud, etc).  When we moved back this direction I was so happy to see junkyards and purple houses!!!  Freedom is important.  
 
pollinator
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Take more before pictures and videos!
 
N. Neta
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Cris Fellows wrote:We lived for a time in a suburb outside of DC where people watched and reported on everything (grass too high, toy in yard, too loud, etc).


Living on a small Spanish island off the coast of Africa, I can’t imagine how it is to live where people would actually do that… 🙈
 
pollinator
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We spent a lot of money to attend a high quality hands on PDC right before we bought our current home.  While the PDC was the most expensive 10 day vacation we have ever taken it was worth every penny!  After the PDC we did a serious wants verses needs evaluation and it saved us a fortune in the cost of our home.

We took a hard look at what we wanted to do now and realistically estimated what we would do long term. Considerations on  how much could we handle when we got old were discussed.  I really wanted a place we could stay in if my health continued to decline.  We may not retire here but I didn't want to be forced to move because I couldn't function here any longer.  

These discussions  brought a few things to light.  We don't like doing the work of harvesting animals for meat. Since we can buy high quality pastured meats and dairy from local farms we don't need to grow our own.   I can't harvest firewood and my husband hates doing it so we have it delivered.   We also know that a large barn or garage would just get filled with stuff.  We moved into a house half the size of our old one in part to force us to keep the acquiring stuff habit in check.  We also hate maintenance so we wanted a property small enough to not need tractors and lots of equipment that needs lots of regular maintenance.      Because we had a realistic idea of what we could and would do  our 2.5 acres is more than enough space for us.  We could do everything we are doing on an acre and could have bought a home with a shorter commute for my husband.  Luckily there is no need now because he is working from home and should be able to continue doing so till he retires.    

Not needing 10 acres allowed use to be closer to the small city near us which turned out to be a very smart move when I stopped driving due to vision problems. We are far enough away to be in a quiet neighborhood but I can still get an Uber or a friend to drive me if my husband can't drive me.  Of course giving bags full of home grown produce makes it easy to get friends to drive me places.

We bought a single story house on 2.5 acres.  It is a long skinny lot on the side of a hill  with lots of southern exposure.   It doesn't have a barn or a garage.  It is on the edge of suburbia and rural and we are very happy here.  It is zoned agricultural and that greatly reduces our interactions with the Department Of Making You Sad.  We also hit the lottery and lucked out on getting awesome neighbors.  These people rock and are very supportive with what we are doing.  They are good neighbors and good people.  

The down sides are set back requirements for adding things to the property and a seasonal spring that makes it difficult add infrastructure to the property.  The seasonal spring is next to the driveway which we can't really move without moving the house.  

If we had the funds I would have like to renovate the house before we moved in.  Now we have the funds but every contractor is booked solid.  So we are putting solar and batteries in.  The only grid we are attached to is electricity and internet so we will be dramatically reducing our need for the grid.  When we do remodel the house it will be to make it more energy efficient, less toxic materials that are durable and need little care.    The inside will be much more friendly to my physical limitations and set us up to take in my in laws when they get too old to stay in their current home.  They may never move in with us but we want to be ready in case they need to.  

I would have preferred to be a little more off the beaten path but still in the same general area.  Our location is great now but if things go really bad we can't hide that we are growing a ton of food in our yard.  
 
N. Neta
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Kate Muller wrote:After the PDC we did a serious wants verses needs evaluation and it saved us a fortune in the cost of our home.
We took a hard look at what we wanted to do now and realistically estimated what we would do long term. Considerations on  how much could we handle when we got old were discussed.  I really wanted a place we could stay in if my health continued to decline.


This is a great point, Kate…
Although we have a great house and a great property, both will have to go through some transformation if one of us (or both) wouldn’t be able to walk anymore…
 
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I only started homesteading 2 years ago.  I was 73 then.  If I had it to do over, I'd have done it 50 years ago when I first got out of college.  I wanted to at the time, but I succumbed to others' plans for my life and didn't reclaim control over my time until I retired in 2016.  Then it took me a couple of years of prep and land hunting before I bought 30 acres in a beautiful area of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in Nov 2019.  Fell in love with the view, and still love the location, but I didn't really consider the angle of slope, and without extensive excavation to terrace the hillside, most of the land is unusable for anything but grazing Swiss cows or mountain goats.  If I knew then what I know now, I'd have looked for flatter ground even though I would have had to settle for fewer acres at much higher price per acre.
 
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I'd take more classes to learn skills. Volunteer to help build homes or do re-models, etc. I remodeled a conventional stick home this summer and while much of the skills aren't transferable I did the electrical work and that does transfer.

I took a welding course and it's really opened my eyes. Some projects I would have tackled with wood I now go with steel.
 
N. Neta
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Cimarron Layne wrote:I only started homesteading 2 years ago.  I was 73 then.


Wow, Cimarron… this is impressive.
Thank you for inspiring us.
 
Cimarron Layne
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Thanks for the apple N. Neta.  Yep, I posted to this thread to inspire others to start NOW at whatever age they may be.  Don't put it off, 'cause it gets harder the older you are.  When I was young, strong, and energetic, I wasted my life sitting behind a desk for 40+ years and my only exercise was hiking, skiing, or cycling on weekends, when I should have been doing what I'm doing now.

I struggle to do the heavy work at 75, but I do what I can every day even if it is only a couple of hours of work, and though I'm not progressing as fast as I would have at 25 or even 55, I am seeing improvements to my homestead every month and learning skills that make me more and more self-reliant.  I was never mechanically inclined, but now I can maintain and repair my tractor, riding mower, and water pumps, etc., and I may take a welding course soon as I see a lot of ways that skill would be useful.

Got my PDC last winter online with Tom Kendall, a protege of Geoff Lawton, in Australia and used about 10 acres of my land as my final design project.  Still building infrastructure, mowing and sowing to improve pasture, cut one swale so far across the slope and started a food forest with 5 fruit trees, two varieties each of grapes and blueberries, still repairing barn and sheds, and the mobile home that was gutted when I bought the place is now quite livable.  Still need to replace 8 windows, install finish flooring, and install 2nd bathroom fixtures.

My 7 hens and 1 rooster are fat and happy, especially when the dog is tied up and I can let them free range.  My Aussie Shepherd pup is a failure as a LGD, and though he does keep other predators at bay and the deer out of the garden, he is himself a predator when it comes to poultry.  He doesn't eat them, but he thinks they are toys for him exclusively.  Though he wouldn't let any other animals or birds of prey harm them, he loves to chase, catch, and play keep-away with them, toss them and catch them again.   I've been able to rescue several of them, but I'm not fast enough on my feet to catch him, so I have to divert his attention to some other object like a stick or ball while I pick up the traumatized chicken.  A few have had heart attacks and died of fright.  I should have gotten rid of the dog after he got the first chick, but he is so lovable most of the time, that I kept giving him reprieves.  Now I'm trying to rehome him with a family that doesn't have poultry.

Tried pigs last year with a pair of piglets from different parents.  They grew up trained to electric fencing, had a small litter of piglets of their own which I sold for enough to cover a year's feed, but every time the power went off, the boar would head right for the dog house, evict the pup, eat his food and bed down in his house.  He was also very destructive, crushing trash barrels and knocking the front porch posts out from under the corners.  Sold the sow, but the boar is still either penned up or stalled to keep my dog from attacking him now that he is big enough to take revenge.  Always something to keep my adrenaline pumping.

Homesteading is a lot of work, but enjoyable work with many rewards.  The first younger family I brought in to share the land and the labor turned out to be duds, and I had to evict them, but I may try again with one or two singles.  Plenty of land and plenty of projects to work on.   No loafers or parasites though.
 
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Location: determine your ideal climate + distance to local amenities (shopping, med facilities, schools etc.).

Legalities: just because you "want" something does NOT mean owning your own land makes it legal (earthship, grey water, animals). Check municipal, state/province and federal rules!

Services: fire protection, water, sewer/septic, well, electricity, gas...items you may want/need or wish to avoid.

Access: road building is VERY expensive but a necessary evil for realistic living: building supplies, feed etc.





 
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I would have married my high school sweetheart, bought 50 acres of land and built a home right in the middle of it. I would not want to be off grid, but have a fireplace, a generator, some farming tools and a work shop. Off grid living is hard work just to maintain yourself, something I do not want to do, especially as I get older and live alone.    
 
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If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't spend 17 years of my life on college, and chasing a lucrative career in the big city. I would stay in my small rural community (or one even smaller).
 
author & master steward
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If I could start over, I'd take a PDC before looking for land. That course changed my perspective so much! It completely changed how I look at land, its potential, and how to prioritize. As it was, the property we bought (5 acres with a 100-year-old house) is pretty much the exact opposite of what was recommended in my design course. Not that there isn't potential here (there's always hope), but that PDC would have changed how we approached and evaluated the properties we looked at and what we ended up with.
 
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V Rogers wrote:I would have married my high school sweetheart, bought 50 acres of land and built a home right in the middle of it. I would not want to be off grid, but have a fireplace, a generator, some farming tools and a work shop. Off grid living is hard work just to maintain yourself, something I do not want to do, especially as I get older and live alone.    



You have a very good point that there is a range of "off grid"-ishness.

If you choose wisely, it is possible to buy a property that is not currently off grid and then reduce dependence on the grid, possibly to a point where you could get by without it at all.

It is often more difficult to go the other direction if you decide that off-grid is not the life for you.

Also, +1 to all the folks mentioning the value of privacy, especially in regions where self-sufficiency is far away from how people imagine life. As a wise friend put it when we bought our homestead, "Just remember that you are as foreign to them as they are to you." I have often reflected on his words while trying to imagine why people living nearby do things like cutting down beautiful, healthy trees or paying money for gas to run leaf blowers, thus depriving their lawns of leaf compost which they then pay more money to replace with artificial fertilizers.

A few of my own points --

- Flat land: you need at least some land that isn't too steep. Very steep land has limited use and often acts as a funnel.

- Previous uses: if your land was not fallow before you bought it, what was it being used for, and how?

- Access: you may want to use machines at some point. If you do, is there a way to get them there (and without destroying existing improvements)? On our homestead there is ... barely.
 
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I've remedied the situation now at some expense but if I did it again, I'd make sure that all of my property was easily accessible. In my case I need to be able to get around in my truck to haul stuff around. For some it might be just to pull a hand cart or a horse and wagon but accessibility critical. I didn't think about that in the early years and ended up with having to move some perennials and even cutting down a few trees. Thankfully I realized the error fairly early on so the damage was not too bad.
Now if starting over I'd begin with, driving, walking, pulling carts or whatever all around the place and getting a sense of all access points so I didn't block them by building or planting something.
 
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