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Selecting the perfect homestead site  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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I am starting the process of simplifying my life by selling off big things, getting rid of clutter, researching a ton about food preservation, food forests, hand tools, etc. All of this is being done with my eyes focused forward on moving from where I am currently at and setting up my own homestead.

First and foremost, I am trying to determine what might be the best site for me, where I can get the best bang for my buck. I have watched geoff lawton's video on site selection, but would like a little more insight from others based on what my current thought process is.
* I am primarily looking in the mid-atlantic to midland america areas (Virginia, both Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, upper parts of Georgia and Alabama) so that I can get warmer than where I am but not a total culture shock
* Have taken into account the total per capita tax ratings of these areas because it should be a lower cost of living on the big things (want to migrate away from full time stressful job into part time less stress with primary focus on homestead development and alternat income streams)
* Thinking that I don't want to be overly far from a reasonable sized city (within 45 minutes or so) for income stream possibilities, materials, employment, etc.
* Love the thought of a site with variations in elevation for the earthworks possiblities but am not against a flatter parcel as well
* Thinking a site that is a mix of open with some trees/wooded might be good since I would end up clearing a bit if it was all wooded
* Trying to figure out lot size and whether I want to start with a true house or not. I can find urban areas with reasonable sized lots for one person to manage (2-5 acres) with a house OR there are more rural lots with larger acreage (5-50 acres) and a home or structure that could be turned into a home (if you could get away with not having to install a septic and could go with composting toilet). Have even looked at larger properties with no structures and that would mean a complete ground up development of a home. The larger lots have so much room for potential, but is it unmanageable for one person and would most of that land end up being zone 5.
* Springs on some properties, but can be a little hard to find. Would creeks be sufficient, but have concerns about contamination. These are for more rural properties and not urban, of course.
* Having a limited budget so that property can be paid for outright and not carry a mortgage.

Help, please, with the circle my brain is racing in. Anything that I haven't thought of and should be thinking of? What is the best way for finding what is right for me?
 
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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You have thought of EVERYTHING except the most important part. (sidenote...I was a RE broker for 10 years)

Where do you want to BE?

My recommended methodology:

1) Sell everything, cash up/out.
2) Travel. Backpack/bike/whatever. Not just the USA either.
3) See places. Fall in love with an area/group of friends.
4) Commit to that place.
5) Use your love of said place/new/old relationships to find the perfect site.

 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Grant - I hear you. I was a part time real estate agent for several years. Maybe that makes me think a bit in depth about things. I do tend to make my final decision, after the intial practical evaluation, based on gut feel.

Right now, while working through getting things in line (ie. sold), and while I have a full time decent paying job, I am taking a little time to travel to sites of interest, mostly related to education ventures.

I will be heading back down to North Carolina in April to visit a friend. When I visited them in November of last year, I must say that it was a soul healing experience and made it difficult to come home. Didn't really interact with people beyond that friend, so I couldn't make a personal decision about the other people in the area. Being east of Asheville about 45 min or so, I have "heard" that Asheville tends to be an area that is a bit more densly populated with like minded people to myself.

I also had an opportunity to take a seminar up in Duluth, MN last spring and really felt at home with the group of people that I met from the area. That said, I will NOT be moving to Duluth. I already have cold winters where I am at and I am becoming less and less of a fan of them as the years progress.

I do hope to, once things are in line, maybe take some other trips. I will have to figure out a cost effective way to do that, though, because I don't want to eat up all of my funds in WOOFing. I can and have fallen in love with different places for different reasons. Sorting out what makes a good place to live, even if I love a place for a particular reason or reasons, is a bit more difficult to determine.
 
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I think you have to be open, but stick with what you know. I grew up in a maritime climate in Maine and my family gardened - zone 5. I have lived in subtropical asia, and food production for me was a completely different think. I probably would have been more sucessful in Korea or japan! I am now in Chicago and grow all my own produce. It isn't near the ocean, but it is still zone 5. I am comfortable here, and I am sure I will go back to one of the Northern New England States when I move next.

Good luck!
 
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The brain race over what the perfect homestead site should be is one I'm all too familiar with.

I've been stuck in dense urban East Asia for the last 5 years and it's given me much more appreciation for the rural woodlands I grew up in. I used to dream of finding a place with 50 + year old oaks, walnuts, and maples, creeks and lake frontage, gentle southern slopes (okay, I still dream about that) but proximity to family or friends has shot through the roof in the last half decade.

Most of the things I wanted before, I began to realize were things that with time I could grow a homestead into if I worked hard. If an area turns you off because there don't seem to be many opportunities for income streams, it may just mean that the area is on the cusp of being ready for what you have to offer. It may be different for everyone, but there is probably something you truly desire from a homestead that you cannot create... I've got a few friends now hip deep in Canadian prairie who've only just realized how much they miss life back on the sea.

I think you're idea of getting away from it all for awhile is golden, it gives you a chance to apply the rule of observation inwardly. Don't immediately require it of yourself to know where the perfect place to settle.

Let the things you might not yet know are the most important to you have a chance to rise to the top before you place all your bets on a place.
 
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Jen... You may want to check out Earthaven Ecovillage as an option - Great people there - I'd be happy to give you some insight if you're not already familiar -- www.earthaven.org
 
Posts: 85
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I would suggest somewhere that borders a forest if it doesn't contain a wooded area. I would go for somewhere that has a creek at a higher elevation then the house. That way a small dam will provide via gravity all your water needs, you even have the option of micro hydro. Contamination is an issue related to what is happening upstream, if it's coming from a forest, it's probably as good as you can expect.
5 acres is small enough if you want to grow all your own food without heaps of back breaking work. I'd say that would be a minimum size, because you still need room to grow firewood, maybe a few animals, and something to sell. A 50 acre farm doesn't need to be all zone 5. Livestock can manage it for you. Depending on fertility and rainfall etc. you could run 20-40 beef cows there, a low input income stream.
Don't get steep sloping land, and check the average rainfall for the area, somewhere that is dry and getting dryer is just way too much work.
 
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When it came time to buy our land, I wrote down the criteria that were important to me. First was that I wouldn't immediately quit my day job, but use my earnings to fund the land. Secondly, I wanted to be less than 1/2 tank of gas away from the land so I could travel to it from our suburban home. It had to be remote enought for hunting, which really means no next-door neighbors looking in our windows.

I bought an atlas for our state and drew a 200 mile radius circle around our home. I wrote a cover letter to realtors and shotgunned it to those in the areas I pinpointed in the atlas. I contacted a bunch, took a week off from work to view properties, and settled on one that met our needs. We've had our land for about 10 years now, slowly developing it into the self-sufficient permaculture homestead we first invisioned.
 
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Having just completed such a search and now moved into the purchase phase, allow me to post a word or two about having a stream as a starting requirement for the selection of land. I would advise against it.

Any stream or agricultural ditch in the United States is under the jurisdiction of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USA/CE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In my opinion, having a running stream on your property is the equivalent of giving the USA/CE and EPA free access to your land at any time under any pretenses that wish to use. Such areas, including an old agricultural drainage ditch (the western boundary of my property selection), are 'wetlands' as defined by the type vegetation near the area and the type soil. The number of weeks of the year the area is actually wet is irrelevant.

If you question if an area is a wetland, you can submit to the USA/CE a Request for Determination. They then look at it, or require you to hire a consultant at your expense to look it, and declare it a Jurisdictional Wetland. All a Request for Determination does is move the classification from assumed to actual. You can't develop it without going to a lot of expense. Read up on the Tulloch Rule if you want to explore developing an area of wetlands. It can be done, using 19th century technology and techniques.

Our country has changed.
 
Andy Reed
Posts: 85
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Any stream or agricultural ditch in the United States is under the jurisdiction of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USA/CE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In my opinion, having a running stream on your property is the equivalent of giving the USA/CE and EPA free access to your land at any time under any pretenses that wish to use.


I would think that doing anything on your land that involves selling something for money, gives the 'making you sad' people the right to enter your land. I don't see this as much of a negative in a permaculture farm because you are improving the land. Another point is 'what they don't know wont hurt them'. I think the positive aspects can outweigh the negative, if you have a clean stream sourced from a forested watershed there are huge opportunities there for hydro power and not having to pump drinking water, or irrigation for tree establishment. If the watershed is going to be logged in the future that could be a problem that will destroy the watershed for a few years.
 
Posts: 40
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
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Michael Qulek wrote:When it came time to buy our land, I wrote down the criteria that were important to me. First was that I wouldn't immediately quit my day job, but use my earnings to fund the land. Secondly, I wanted to be less than 1/2 tank of gas away from the land so I could travel to it from our suburban home. It had to be remote enought for hunting, which really means no next-door neighbors looking in our windows.

I bought an atlas for our state and drew a 200 mile radius circle around our home. I wrote a cover letter to realtors and shotgunned it to those in the areas I pinpointed in the atlas. I contacted a bunch, took a week off from work to view properties, and settled on one that met our needs. We've had our land for about 10 years now, slowly developing it into the self-sufficient permaculture homestead we first invisioned.



That is a fantastic idea! Why didn't I think of simply purchasing a map and circling how far I would be willing to travel to and from the homestead. As of right now I want to keep my full time job and use the earnings to improve my land. Mostly I want to be able to move away within the next half a year. I already have savings so I am going to buy a map and find my circle! Thanks!
 
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