Hello All! My first post. I am a die hard Holzer fan. I read his books and built a hugelkulture bed on our urban lot IMMEDIATELY and have a burning desire to move out onto land and homestead on a modest scale. However, I now bring you a dilemma that is keeping my DH and I up at night. All things equal, should we invest our $$$ in a treed 4 acre parcel with ponds covering 40% of the lot (we are high and dry in central Alberta, Canada - Zone 3, windy, clay soil) OR should we go for more land - 14 acres wooded, east - west layout but NO WATER whatsoever on site (water is on a co-op piped in from the community, with some luck and $10-20K a reasonable well could be dug.
All life, as we know it, requires water to survive. In most inhabited parts of the world, water is readily available, else humans wouldn't be living there. I believe that this will change with the passage of time. In many populated parts of the world, water may become a scarce and valuable commodity.
Lakes and rivers are drying up, and most glaciers are retreating. Deforestation is reducing rainfall. Industries are using water as if it was a free, and everlasting resource. Cheap water will soon be a thing of the past.
A recent report stated that 100's of U.S. communities have raised their water charges 100-200% in the past few years. Don't expect this trend to remain a U.S. problem, or to reverse itself.
Four acres of land with ample water will feed a family. A hundred acres without water couldn't keep a few scorpions alive.
We haven't seen a fuel crisis yet, but it will look rosy compared to the water crisis that follows.
If those are your only two choices of land I would personally choose the smaller parcel with the ponds. Ponds and wetlands are the most biologically productive land, so in a sense you'd be getting more "land" that way.
...but there are alternatives to smaller with ponds. The first thing we did in 1974 was drill a well.....then we built a 1 acre 16' deep pond. We need both, but a cistern could replace the well. The pond is essential. DO YOU HAVE A PLACE ON THE LARGER ACREAGE TO BUILD A POND. Used to be that a dozer was best for pond building. I have a TD-8E.....BUT, I hire an excavator for depth. A good "Track hoe" excavator will outwork a dozer in many instances. USE THE DOZER TO BUILD THE DAM AND DRESS UP THE SLOPES.
You have not described the existing ponds.....shallow and broad is a PITA. You want DEEP. An excavator can dig a 20,000 gal cistern hole cheaply. The concrete can be done on site with easily built slip-forms. You are going to have structures.....roof is a great water collector.....
I am in the middle of all of this in NW Arkansas. We have homesteaded a rough mountaintop since 1974...don't get me started....I just had to log off 40 acres where the timber was dying faster than I could walk through it. The shift in precipitation is devastating our ecosystem.....and it is not just 1-3-10 years. tree rings show a dramatic shift over the past 200 years of established patterns.
ANYWAY....get clever.....I am clever, AND NOW I HAVE TO GET MORE CLEVER.... Go figure....I have had to shake off a lot of ideas that I held dear. PLAN FOR THE FUTURE...AND IT AIN'T GONNA' BE PRETTY.
i think one should consider the climate around the land as well
if the larger property gets adequate rainfall than the larger land would be a better deal imho as you can build ponds and a water retention landscape and more land equals more security against other people, you can also protect the center of the property better if you have larger land, because you can build a bigger pollution barrier, larger land would be better in my personal opinion IF there is adequate rainfall and the soil can retain water (sand is difficult and expensive to build a pond on), if there is enough to create your own ponds and streams then the bigger one is a better option, if not, then definately go with the ponds:)
Not sure if this helps the discussion, hard to get a sense of the topography from this, I know. A hurdle to overcome is getting permits from the rural municipality for outbuildings like barns, let alone ponds. I can certainly relate to Holzer!
We are Zone 3, 3640 ft altitude. The climate is greatly influenced by the elevation and proximity to the Rocky Mountains. Our winters can be uncomfortably cold; but warm, dry Chinook winds routinely blow into the city from over the mountains during the winter months, and can raise the winter temperature by up to 27 °F in just a few hours, and may last several days. It's a place of extremes, and temperatures can range anywhere from a record low of −49.0 °F in 1893 to a record high of 97.0 °F in 1919. Temperatures fall below −22 °F on about five days per year, though extreme cold spells usually do not last very long. Average daytime high temperatures in range from 75 °F in late July to 27 °F in mid-January.
Due to high elevation and aridity, summer evenings can be very cool. The average summer minimum temperature drops to 46 °F but summer daytime temperatures exceed 84 °F anytime in June, July and August, and occasionally as late as September or as early as May. With an average relative humidity of 55% in the winter and 45% in the summer we have a dry climate and humidity is rarely a factor during summer.
We are among the sunniest cities in Canada, with 2,405 hours of annual sunshine, with an average rainfall of 16.24 in of precipitation annually, with 12.62 in of that occurring in the form of rain, and 49.9 in as snow. Most of the precipitation occurs from May to August, with June averaging the most monthly rainfall. Droughts are not uncommon and may occur at any time of the year, lasting sometimes for months or even several years. We've been looking a long time for a location that provides land, water, buildings/barn. No one around us is much concerned about water (at this point!) and think we are crazy for insisting on this.
First off....I have to temper my response. We moved onto a quarter section -160 acres of timber in 1974. We lived in a tent, built a log cabin, and built our "empire" with a sawmill, bulldozer, dump truck, and Hough Payloader. We sawed out a house, built miles of roads and ponds, built a huge shop.......well, you get the picture. Spending almost a Million dollars looks like about a thousand acres to me.
16.5" of rain ANUALLY is a hard row to hoe. You will have to be clever. Obviously, you will rely on the community water. Don't think a well is any cheaper. We recently had to pull our pump and replace wire, pipe, and pump. Totalling up the monthly electric bill (deeper is more $$$) and the wear-and-tear expense, over 38 years.....Our household water still costs us $60-$80+ a month.
Personally.....if I could command that $$$$$ to spend on a place......and I had to live a semi-urban lifestyle......I would buy as large a tract of timber as possible....with $$$$ funds left over for.........Sawing a timber frame pattern. Have local loggers pull up the trees, and a local portable sawmill operator to come out. Any Amish in the area....they can erect it professionally.Build a modest timber frame house with all the solar bells and whistles. Secure your water......a 20,000 gal cistern using roof water, first. Several deep ponds on the place, greywater reclamation tanks, OUTDOOR WOOD FURNACE !!!. I would cover the outside with metal....get the lowest tax rating possible, and I would deluxe the inside.....ALL wood, no sheetrock, saw it out from timber on the property. Solarhot water.....low flow and flush fixtures.
I would force my own hand to discard the most egregious energy and resource wasters that are going to be a part of the units that you are looking at. I'm not saying live Off-grid and no plumbing like I have done for many of my 40 years of homesteading....Just dump the stuff that will cost EVERYONE a fortune in the next 10 years. Life is not going to be easy for the urban/suburban dwellers in the coming energy/water/tax/inflation crunch. I'm not a "black helicopter"/apocalyptic person..... BUT, I don't make 1/5 of what most people consider "necessary" ......and, I have built an "empire" with what I have saved.
There is a lot more to making the "BIG CHANGE" ....don't worry, you will either make the change willingly, or the change will compress your life into a feverish scramble to pay for the amenities that are considered essential. SORRY....IT IS GOING TO GET UGLY.....SOONER THAN WE ALL WOULD LIKE.
i dont know how much rainfall most work with, but 16in is 4in more a year than what i get, so im sure you can get some kind of stuff going... i'd personally look for 20in or more but i THINK that 16in would be enough to get soem ponds going...
Our rainfall here averages about 28 inches, but last year we got at best 12 inches. Virtually all the ponds in the area went dry, except those filled by springs and wells. But our evaporation down here is probably much higher than in Alberta.
I had absolutely no idea that semi-rural Calgary commanded such prices!
If you want my advise, don't take anybody's advise on here... Mine being the exception of course
Enough of all the drought talk, dig a well or put in a cistern. With 16" annually the roofs of those houses will catch damn near 15,000 gallons a year. Excuse my imperial inferiority, I really wish we (USA) would convert to metric already.
Anyway, you could have a 2 acre pond dug for 30, 40, 50 grand so that way you'll have an extra 10 acres for the price of a pond.
But in the end, can't decide for you, especially when we don't know your goals.
5 Acres in Southeast Michigan, zone 5b/6a, sandy loam soil, 930' above sea level, winds from WSW/W/WNW, annual rainfall of 35", annual snowfall of 30". Previously orchard and pasture that was retired for approximately 25 years.
.30 acres in Central Florida zone 9b, SAND and nothing but SAND, 6' above sea level, near coast with varied winds, annual rainfall of 52". Large city lot, will be more of a "high density urban" project.
Michael: what I wouldn't give for 160 acres! We are in the heart of oil drilling/fracking country here. There is frequent media coverage of families getting sick who live further out from this site (where land is less expensive). We've researched these properties as "unlikely" to suffer the effects of oil & gas drilling. We feel the need to reduce our dependence and become as self sufficient as possible (which is how my DH and I were raised). Strangely, the municipality has no issues with drilling all over the place, but very sticky about getting permission for outbuildings like a barn, etc. Just trying to decide what was the HIGHEST priority in choosing a homestead.
"Don't think a well is any cheaper. We recently had to pull our pump and replace wire, pipe, and pump. Totalling up the monthly electric bill (deeper is more $$$) and the wear-and-tear expense, over 38 years.....Our household water still costs us $60-$80+ a month." --THAT IS HELPFUL!!! I can't get any hard data from other land holders here about homestead "infastructure" maintenance costs. Most have been on their acreages only 5-10 yrs and report "no maintenance" needed so far?? Thanks for your advice.
Regarding getting Amish to build home - WE ARE CONSIDERED THE AMISH up here. Seriously. No one here even has resource scarcity on their minds, think we are very, very VERY weird. The homes shown would be lived in until we could accumulate enough cash to build a zero energy home. DH is an architect (but a poor one) who does "green build" projects that return energy back to grid, so house wise I think we have some options (but have immense respect for the talent of those who have built their own - I AM envious!). Rocket mass heaters look amazing to me! I CANNOT get enough of the ingenuity here on this site. I feel grateful to have found it.
But building roads, ponds, installing cisterns are things I am VERY interested in, but am not experienced with (but could certainly learn). How did you all learn to do these?
"But in the end, can't decide for you, especially when we don't know your goals."
Agreed. The best advice comes from those who have already been there, done that. We're a small family of 3, our needs aren't fancy. Michael's empire would be a dream for us. Organic, locally grown, sustainable is what we are after. We are early 40's, will look fpr a homestead where we could live for at least 20 yrs. Our parents were raised on wheat farm, dairy farm, had beefcattle, raised chickens and bees and are eager to pass that expertise on. Unfortunately they did not build homes, roads, ponds, or dig wells. We need to bridge that gap somehow.
We want to have a family milk cow and a steer to put in the freezer, a dozen layers, dozen broilers, 4 beehives and enough pasture & farm land to raise (some) of the feed. Enough garden space to produce our food, greenhouse, orchard. Forestry for privacy, windbreak/shelterbelt, heating using some of our own fuel (rocket mass stoves look darned good to me). Stocking ponds with fish might not be an option, it gets to -30 C and lower in the winter here.
Our realtor wants us to take the smaller parcel with pond and lease pasture for livestock. But I keep telling him I want to keep the manure! Too valuable to leave on someone else's pasture!
Carlie, the first (smaller) property is a dream house, wow, but it is insanely expensive, for my standard of living!
Well, the scenery looks to be fertile and with plenty of water. Go for that, if you have the money. A pond that large is really great stuff.
However, such a price is totally out of league for me (I am looking at the range of 10.000 to 50.000), and I wouldn't want to have such a high debt (actually I want zero debt when buying a property, which is a challenge for me).
in Portugal, sheltered terraces facing eastwards, high water table, uphill original forest of pines, oaks and chestnuts. 2000m2
in Iceland: converted flat lawn, compacted poor soil, cold, windy, humid climate, cold, short summer. 50m2