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Exploring abandoned homesteads

 
pioneer
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Location: SF Bay, California Zone 10b
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As I browse Zillow posts in various areas I come across listings that mention there is an abandoned homestead on the property. A lot of the time the listings don't even include a photo of the homestead - I'm guessing the average property buyer is more interested in putting something new than dealing with something old.

The idea of a property that was homesteaded a long time ago really appeals to me. The idea that I can explore the artifacts of labor from people long dead who were trying to live off the land, and see how they modified the environment for their purposes. In a spiritual sense, it would allow me to connect with people from the past not through their words, but their actions.

I found this cool thread from someone mentioning the usefulness of abandoned homesteads for getting plants with strong genetics. I remember another thread where Paul Wheaton said he saw a property with an unusually wet area, and he deduced that there was once a well there that was filled in over time. It feels like property that was used a long time ago is more likely to have modifications that benefit a Permie, whereas more recently developed land will have such things removed/damaged.

Have you ever had the chance to explore an old abandoned homestead? Have you ever noticed benefits on your own land from the actions of people from a long time ago?
 
pollinator
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Location: SE Indiana
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In my area there are lots of old homesteads and I love exploring them. Some are very old, from the time of the first white settlers, Generally there is nothing left of them except some rocks where a foundation was and maybe a stone chimney still standing. These were log houses from early 1800's. There is often the remains of a stone root cellar, sometimes a well is still in tact. I have garlic collected from one of them and a collection of various items such as a heavy iron door knob and a few other things collected from them. One of these is on my place, the root cellar from it is fantastic and completely intact but unfortunately not close enough to my house to be of use. If there was ever a road to that side of my place it has been gone a long time, more likely there never was one.

My whole neighborhood is like that. About the same time I bought my place the state bought about 4000 acres and made a fish and wildlife area. It included several of these old pioneer homesteads and also a bunch of more modern ones. The more modern ones were also mostly abandoned but in more recent decades and were accessible by roads. The state tore them all down and made public access parking areas. Before they bulldozed and laid down gravel I visited and collected things like:
Roses
Irises
Peonies
More garlic
Walking onions
Cat mint
Lilac - puny little flowers compared to modern varieties but the fragrance is amazing
Asparagus
Already dressed building stones and bricks
Cast iron pipes
Various glassware and stone jars
Lots of old barn siding and old but good lumber of various size and type
This list would be much larger if I took time to look around and think about it but you get the picture.

Behind my house in the neighbor's pasture is the remains of a very old homestead, just a roughly rectangular pile of rocks. The grave of the revolutionary war soldier that was granted 640 acres for his service is also supposedly somewhere nearby. We checked thoroughly for it before I built my house. The pond I believe associated with it is on my land. Really just a seasonal mud puddle now, there must have been more water in the ground back then. The west boundry of my place is the Greenville Treaty Line, never rescinded by agreement of both parties so the other side is still Indian land.
 
master gardener
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Location: southern Illinois.
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I have an abandoned homestead on my property. I have obtained some artifacts from it.  I am concerned in my exploring because I have never located the well.  That is something I don’t want to come across by accident.

Many decades ago, I used to regularly explore abandoned homesteads.  In present times, that does not strike me as such a good idea.
 
master steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
1910
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There was an article in my electric coop magazine about ghost towns.  

I have been to one or two that we ran across in Colorado.

One thing that I feel would be good to remember is that these properties belong to someone.

To not get charged with trespassing and because it is the right thing to do is ask the owner for permission before going exploring.

I have had people dig up plants from my West Texas property to the point that my beloved Thompson Yuccas no longer exist on my property.

Since I live thousand of miles away there is nothing I can do about the theft of those beautiful and rare plants.

I am also surprised that Zillow is calling those properties as having abandoned homesteads.  They are not abandoned though maybe uninhabitable.

To my best knowledge, all land is owned by someone even if it is the taxing authority.

Please ask permission before exploring and digging up plants of taking artifacts.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1866
Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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I love walking through old farmsteads, seeing the thinking of the people who built them. I find them inspiring. Development has chewed up many of them; and others are razed and buried as "unsightly old junk."

Sometimes there's nothing visible anywhere, and yet there's a patch of horseradish growing merrily away. That's a dead giveaway; it's not native here. Every homestead apparently had some.
 
pollinator
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The property we bought used to be part of an old homestead. The part we own wasn't developed in any way, but I've found the old house foundation and some fruit trees a ways away. The fruit trees are way too tall to pick now, unfortunately.

There are old fruit trees all over the place in my area from old orchards, but most of the homesteads are gone and built over.

There's one homestead that's got a popular walking trail through it, and lots of people collect fruit from the orchard there. There are three kinds of plums, two kinds of grapes, blackberries, raspberries, apricots, lots of apples and pears, walnuts, butternuts, asparagus, garlic, comfrey.

The garlic has spread through a whole field. Some of my garlic comes from bulbils from there. It's delicious, but I can't eat it because I can't stand the smell on my skin afterwards :(

Anne makes a good point about wiping out plants. Since comfrey isn't endangered, I don't feel bad about having dug some up, though. 😁
 
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