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cheap land for homestead, advice?  RSS feed

 
Joel Cederberg
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ok, so, ive been looking for land on landwatch and smile4uinc.com,
im looking for absolute desert land that is 5-10 miles away from a small town. preffereably 10 acres of it.
i cannot believe the price of undeveloped no electric or water access boony land in new mexico.
anyway, i figured i would budget out 10,000 for the land, 5000 for a years worth of food and 5000 for a years worth of resources (gas, tools, etc). this way i can support myself fiscally for a year without making and money.
so i am aiming for 20,000 dollars to get me up and running on a 10 acre piece of salted desert land around the four corners area.

is this pie in the sky thinking or is this realistic? also, is there any cheaper places to buy land? i am so surprised that there are some places that are literally an acre of flat sand and rock miles away from civilization worth 1200 dollars. they should be paying me to reforest it.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Joel, Joel, there are reasons why land is cheap -- no water. Have you been looking at the drought maps? They aren't as ugly as they were at the beginning of summer, but the problem is not going away. All the climate models predict it's going to get worse. Would you want to be homesteading Chaco Canyon when everyone else was moving out? It's one thing if you like the southwest and are willing to deal with the climate and make water harvesting your number one priority, but if it's just the price of land that catches your eye, there are other places with inexpensive land.

I grew up in the desert and spent many years trying to garden in low water environments. That's why I now live in Georgia. Although the weather is changing here too. The rains have become much more sporadic, little if any for months and then a month of continuous rain. At least we get enough during the wet periods to be able to save it for the dry periods.

Do you know of the history of dry farming in New Mexico? At one time, right about statehood, there were people dry farming in Catron county and homesteading other areas. It wasn't easy, but they were able to grow crops -- until the Dust Bowl years. That really shook out the homesteaders and the land reverted to nature. I'll admit, I've looked at the cheap land prices, all the way from Lordsburg up to Gallup, even the tax sales, but when you look at the land, do some calculating on how much rain catchment you would have to build, think about what you can grow with irrigation from those catchments, well, I decided that moving east where the rains come was a better idea.
 
Joel Cederberg
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i plan on making rain harvesting my number one agenda, i grew up in beer sheva israel and love the desert, although its been a few years since ive returned to it. from what ive seen/heard//understand there is really nothing a good water management system of a property wont solve. itll be slow at first of course, but im willing to rough it for 3 years before we start to live easier. it has been done.
how cheap have you found desert land at tax sales?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Abe Connally hopefully will respond. He has a really good understanding of this because he just did most of it. www.velacreations.com has many of his projects documented, and he has some here on permies.

Water management can maximize what you get out of what you get--but if you don't get any rain you don't have anything to work with. But the bigger problem with a lot of those cheap pieces of property is ACCESS. There are pieces of land that have no legal connection to any road, you have to have an easement (or trespass) across someone else's (often federal) land to get in/out.

My rough calculation, you should expect to spend about 5k just on water catchment. That does not include the piping for irrigation or any pumps, but assumes some of the additional roofing and guttering costs to other buildings.

How many people are you trying to feed? For a single guy or a couple with maybe a child I think $5k would last a year easy if you did it right. If you expect to bring in friends to help work, the food will disappear very fast. Keep in mind that if you are busting tail to get stuff built you will be burning probably twice as many calories as you do now.

If I were doing it over, I would plan on spending $20-30k to buy one good piece of equipment immediately--excavator, wheel loader, etc.--that could build foundations, ponds, roads, and swales. If you do it right, you can sell it again after a year or two when all the mainframe is done and get most of your money back. That is the money to live on from when the forest is planted until it produces.

$5k is a good number for basic tools for a homestead. If you already own a beat up 4wd pickup. and don't need any power tools or specialty tools to build the house.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Joel Cederberg wrote:i plan on making rain harvesting my number one agenda, i grew up in beer sheva israel and love the desert, although its been a few years since ive returned to it. from what ive seen/heard//understand there is really nothing a good water management system of a property wont solve. itll be slow at first of course, but im willing to rough it for 3 years before we start to live easier. it has been done.
how cheap have you found desert land at tax sales?


I haven't bought desert land at a tax sale. I've bid on parcels at auctions (but got outbid), and I almost put some money down a couple of other times but chickened out. I ended up buying a HUD house at a healthy discount from "market value" here in GA. The county assessor has it assessed at about 25% more than what I paid for it. But to get a good deal, you have to (1) be very patient, as sales are once every year or two or whenever some auction comes up and (2) have cash in hand, as the seller usually has no patience to wait for some loan process. The parcels you see listed at sites on the internet are usually sellers who are waiting for a buyer to come along and pay their price. It takes a little more digging to find the truly distressed properties where the seller will take what he can get. It's also tedious, as you may have to check every county assessor and treasurer's office until you find just the parcel you are willing to pay for. (And in Arizona, I think you can't do anything with the property until the one-year redemption period is over. Got to know those laws before going in!)

I'll take back some of my cautions now that you seem to know what you are getting into. Good luck to you, if I was younger and had more energy, I might even want to do something like that.
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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You also need to factor 'sharing' into the budget.

As soon as you have green vegetation in the middle of a barren desert, every critter within 5 miles will begin migrating in. If the land now supports 5 rabbits per acre, and you 'green' it, expect the population to soar to 5,000 per acre. Their predators will follow in their foot prints. Your poultry will need secure housing.

 
Galadriel Freden
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Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Joel, my small family of 3 are looking at the same thing you are, with inspiration from geoff lawton's "greening the desert" project in Jordan. My parents live in Southern Utah, and we're looking to sell up here (currently in the UK) and move down, either close to them at 6000 ft elevation, or a bit further south near St George at 2000 ft--quite a difference in plant hardiness zones, but we're looking at issues like average rainfall, water rights, and the cost of land for both areas. It seems like there's some extremely cheap land around there!

Our initial budgeting is similar to yours, though we plan on from $10k-$20k for the land, looking at 5-20 acres; and our first priority would be earthworks and planting of trees and perennials; following that in order of importance--and depending on funds--would be livestock and housing for them and us, underground rainwater catchment containers, solar panels. and a well. We're planning on an oehler structure for our own housing, but will probably be living in an RV and/or with parents until it's built. Shelter for livestock will either be strawbale or earthbag structures--we're definitely looking at poultry and a few pigs to begin with, but cattle and sheep are also a possibility in the long run.

I don't know what water rights laws are in NM, but in Utah they seem to be complicated, so if we do end up in Southern Utah, this may have implications for our permaculture plans. I think of all considerations, ownership of water rights is probably going to be the deal breaker for any property we consider--I'm sure you've already looked into the NM laws.

Though I've never lived in that area, I love the desert (lived in Eastern Utah for four years) and with my newbie permaculture vision, I think we can make it grow and thrive, and support those 5000 rabbits--though I'm hoping it's turkeys instead, as I prefer a nice turkey soup over a rabbit stew
 
Janet Williams
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Galadriel Freden wrote:Joel, my small family of 3 are looking at the same thing you are, with inspiration from Geoff Lawton's "greening the desert" project in Jordan. My parents live in Southern Utah, and we're looking to sell up here (currently in the UK) and move down, either close to them at 6000 ft elevation, or a bit further south near St George at 2000 ft--quite a difference in plant hardiness zones, but we're looking at issues like average rainfall, water rights, and the cost of land for both areas. It seems like there's some extremely cheap land around there!

Our initial budgeting is similar to yours, though we plan on from $10k-$20k for the land, looking at 5-20 acres; and our first priority would be earthworks and planting of trees and perennials; following that in order of importance--and depending on funds--would be livestock and housing for them and us, underground rainwater catchment containers, solar panels. and a well. We're planning on an Oehler structure for our own housing, but will probably be living in an RV and/or with parents until it's built. Shelter for livestock will either be strawbale or earthbag structures--we're definitely looking at poultry and a few pigs to begin with, but cattle and sheep are also a possibility in the long run.

I don't know what water rights laws are in NM, but in Utah they seem to be complicated, so if we do end up in Southern Utah, this may have implications for our permaculture plans. I think of all considerations, ownership of water rights is probably going to be the deal breaker for any property we consider--I'm sure you've already looked into the NM laws.

Though I've never lived in that area, I love the desert (lived in Eastern Utah for four years) and with my newbie permaculture vision, I think we can make it grow and thrive, and support those 5000 rabbits--though I'm hoping it's turkeys instead, as I prefer a nice turkey soup over a rabbit stew


I like your idea's. If I may suggest, a beagle dog or two, will help in the control of rabbits. And/or can the rabbit meat to feed the beagles..
 
Ben Plummer
gardener
Posts: 345
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b
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I find Zillow to be easier to use than Landwatch. Do wish I could enter how many acres rather than sq. ft. in the lot size filter though.
 
Joel Cederberg
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I forgot all about laws. i heard colorado had strict water laws because they are uphill from alot of people, but i figured no one really cared what the people at the end of the water chain did with the water. it makes me angry even thinking that someone would tell me how to do what on my own land. ive put off buying property for years now because the thought of paying yearly taxes for merely owning land on principle is so agitating to me that i break out in hives. the constitution states that we have a right to own private property. we should buy it once and pay taxes on it once.

anyway, i figured whatever, i cant go around being a vagrant all my life, and if i get my act together now ill have things figured out later.

this is the detailed plan, ish:
this october my wife and i will pick apples in kentucky until theres no more work (november), then use wwoof farms and work exchange sites like helpx to live at relatively low cost until the next fruit picking season in colorado (hopefully durango area around february or march 2014), anyway, once peach/apple picking season ends in colorado (end of october). were planning on purchasing a plot of land.
by then we are projected to have saved 10,000 dollars.
from october to march we will map out the land and figure out where to put our earthworks, the idea would be to develop from the outside in. form a rough system that can be improved upon later whose goal is to retain any rainfall, then in march we will go fruit picking again, and hopefully it will rain in our absence. which will be march-october. doubtful.
anyway, october 2014 we return to our swaled land with 6000 dollars we didnt have before (from fruit picking). anyway, this way i could spend more money on land and work incrementally.



r scott:

hopefully abe connally will respond. its not easy to find alot of successful arid land replenishment projects.
would it not be ok to use federal lands as access to a property? im assuming federal lands are blm or national forest or something.
what sort of water catchment are you thinking of?
i like your idea about the excavator, would it be cheaper to rent it?

Galadriel Freden:

i hope everything works out well for you. when are you intending on doing this?
oehler structures are really cool.
how much do you think an underground water catchment would cost to install? i was under the impression that you could just dig out a huge ditch and then cement it and cover it.
*does anyone know a cheap diy cement alternative for making watertight stone structures?*
i like the rabbits, let them live and poop all over the desert.

Ben Plummer:

thanks, ive never heard of zillow before.
 
Galadriel Freden
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Joel, I like your plan of seasonal/migrant working for your initial funding. It sounds a lot more fun than being tied to some dead end job.

We hope to move over October 2014, as we have some commitments tying us here until then. We also hope to wwoof and gain some experience before working on our own land, but depending on circumstances, we may just jump in.

Definitely look into water rights laws for your state. I know that Utahns can harvest and store a certain amount of rainwater without needing to own water rights (though a permit is required, which luckily is free). Digging a well in Utah requires water rights, and many counties have very restricted access to water rights, particularly the southern counties, so a well may be out of the question--we may have to bring in water, at least for drinking and bathing. We'll have to see. I have only done some initial research into underground rainwater tanks, so I don't really have any answers about them--mostly questions, like you!

I'll be very interested in hearing about your progress, as it seems we'll be starting out roughly the same time and in the same area (well, sort of, at least!).
 
Joel Cederberg
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Galadriel Freden:

assuming life goes the way i plan it, then yes, we will be starting up then.
laws are a most depressing topic.
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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if you are planning to live in Colorado, please familiarize yourself with the water law here.
you dont own the rain that falls onto your property, and [in theory] that water should be allowed to flow towards whichever river it drains, so the people down river, who own the rights to the water, may use that water.

there are also restrictions on capturing rainwater as well as drilling for a domestic well.

here is a link to more info: http://water.state.co.us/SURFACEWATER/SWRIGHTS/Pages/default.aspx

also, if you are wanting to pick fruit, the western slope (olathe - grand junction) may have more opportunities than durango

good luck, and keep us updated on your progress.

edit:
just reread my post, and i hope it doesnt come across as discouraging. Just want to make sure people know what they are getting into with respect to water, when buying land in CO.
 
R Scott
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Joel Cederberg wrote:
would it not be ok to use federal lands as access to a property? im assuming federal lands are blm or national forest or something.


Might be OK today, but they can and have cut off access at a whim, or limited access to foot and air travel only. You may see that as a positive or a negative.

Joel Cederberg wrote:
what sort of water catchment are you thinking of?


That would be a moderate sized cistern, enough to drip-irrigate gardens and swales in the establishment years. How fast you build swales is limited by money to build and buy plants and the WATER to keep them alive the first several years. 5 gallons per day per tree adds up fast.

Joel Cederberg wrote:
i like your idea about the excavator, would it be cheaper to rent it?


It may be cheaper to rent/hire IF you can plan and pay for most of the work in one shot. The cost to bring the machine to the property can actually be more than the cost to do the work for a small (or even moderate) sized job. Having a decent sized machine on the property (excavator or loader) can be SO helpful in homestead setup--from offloading trailers to moving timber to setting rafters to building access roads to you name it. That ability on-demand saves a LOT of time which you need every second you can get when trying to establish a homestead.
 
Joel Cederberg
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kelly smith:

i heard colorado water laws were brutal, i just figured it would get less brutal the more downstream you are.
are you familiar with any peach orchards out on the western slope?
we are planning on making the rounds till we find a farm to work, just hoping to get hired on one around durango because well be around there at that time. there are a bunch of orchards down there though. http://www.orangepippin.com/ is a resource i use to find apple farms, its pretty comprehensive and is pretty good remote viewing type technology.

 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Kelly Smith wrote:if you are wanting to pick fruit, the western slope (olathe - grand junction) may have more opportunities than durango


+1 on this. not good paying work, out here you are competing with migrant workers, but at least the fruit is sweet and the air is clean.
 
Kelly Smith
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Joel Cederberg wrote:kelly smith:

i heard colorado water laws were brutal, i just figured it would get less brutal the more downstream you are.
are you familiar with any peach orchards out on the western slope?
we are planning on making the rounds till we find a farm to work, just hoping to get hired on one around durango because well be around there at that time. there are a bunch of orchards down there though. http://www.orangepippin.com/ is a resource i use to find apple farms, its pretty comprehensive and is pretty good remote viewing type technology.


unfortunately, you are correct, the water law here is brutal.
no rain capture, and you must buy water rights, but you must first buy property in which to have that water delivered (not all properties are able to have water delivered)

I think the water rights/shares get cheaper the further down the river you go, but that doesnt always hold true, and most of the rivers are over allocated already. i think the further east (downstream to me) you go the easier/cheaper water is.
i am constantly on the lookout for land in CO where the water is inexpensive, while still being close enough to your market [or close enough to keep another job]. seems i am about 50 years late

as far as where to pick fruit, i only suggested the western slope because that is typically where fruit comes from in CO. Palisade peaches are the most common i can think of, but i am sure there are places all through the western slope with fruit.
if you already plan to be in the durango area, it may be better to reach out to the orchards ahead of time. it might help you get an in with them before they are looking to hire someone. worse case, you can drive up over the pass and be headed towards the western slope to find work there. on the link you posted, there are 2 orchards in durango, and ~12-15 in the grand junction/western slope area

good luck
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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In any market, it helps to know who the most incompetent real estate agents are. Often, listings for raw land get forgotten and the price is dropped when they don't sell. The guy who listed my place is a drunk. My agent, Doug is a really sharp - non drunk. We played that guy and saved thousands.
 
Karen Crane
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There is cheap land in a lot of places.
I got some in NM.
Have 4 acres that I want to sell.
Also check ebay as there is always a lot of cheap
land, however it tends to be high desert.
Mostly west Texas, NM NV and a really good
deal I saw recently in Norhtern CA that already
Wish I had the cash, I would have got it even
though it was high desert. had a well, root cellar
and old cabin for really cheap.
Check out craigs list, www.unitedcountry.com
ebay, www.zillow.com, www.realtor.com
just put in the search what you are looking for.
WATER is the biggest thing.
Wells are expensive to drill and got to think
about HOW you will pump the water to your house.
Electric pumps need electricity and when I asked about
the cost for a solar pump I was floored with the price;
this was a big surprise to me as I had not figured on the
fact that the well pump runs on electricity. (UG).
Anyway I want to find out more about the air well and
see if that is something that would work
Yes, CO, WA and OR have very restrictive water laws
so do make sure that you check that out before you buyl
 
Noah Jackson
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We are writing an article on how some people manage to get land - for farming or permaculture projects. I'm looking for any success stories and would love to correspond with people who have had some success - or failure - stories. We've had both.

Thanks,
Noah
 
Donna Smith
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Has anyone tried hydroponics?
You can grow a ton of food and save on a ton of water. One of the advantages is you get food all year !
I believe this is the solution to the problem of worldwide hunger.It takes very little water to do this. There are cheaper ways to set up than what you find in their stores on the net.
When we lived in florida we just had a 30 gallon tank with nutrients. That tank would last quite awhile and it produced so much, we gave alot of produce to the elderly people who could really use it. We grew several kinds of veggies from that tank.
Greenhouses too are another way to go. It can keep you plants from drying out, and they do have shade screen. Look around and you can find it cheaply in places.
As far as rain runoff from the roof, if you have regular asphalt shingles, that is not good water.
You could get a fairly cheap RO system installed. Make sure your water quality is good. You can get those from home depot or lowes.
 
Donna Smith
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BTW,
Many people looking for land in TX may be dissappointed in the longrun. The aquafers are prety much drying or have dried up. My husband used to be a surveyor and knows most of the places.
People will be in for a huge shock when little water is to be found. We used to live there, but moved to a greener place.
People waste quite a bit of water. Especially on golf courses ( in my own opinion)
We lived on a sailboat for 6 years in Fla. and we had no problem on water. We had 80 gallons worth of water, plus a RO system installed. We used it to make water for everything from drinking to bathing.
The time we lived in fla. They had water restrictions all the time down south.
 
Philip Durso
Posts: 142
Location: Missoula, Montana (zone 4)
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Joel Cederberg wrote:
*does anyone know a cheap diy cement alternative for making watertight stone structures?*
Look up "Concrete Canvas" I think you'll be intrigued.
Concrete Canvas or Google it & watch the Youtube Videos
 
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