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New to homesteading, just getting started  RSS feed

 
              
Posts: 5
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Hi everyone!  My girlfriend and I just bought a fixer-upper cabin and 5 acres in north Georgia and we are really looking forward to using permaculture and sustainable techniques to make this spot of the world beautiful four ourselves and our family.   Right now we are in the learning and planning stages while making repairs to our neglected 25-year-old cabin.  After coming across this website and reading through the posts it looked like this would be a great place to start, so forgive this long initial post!

Quick description of our land.  North Georgia, zone 7a/7b.  Lots of rainfall typically.  5 acres, rides along a small ridge on the top/north size of the property and most of the land slopes from the north down to the southeast corner.  We don't have any surface water except for when it rains, then a couple of runoff creeks form.  The cabin sits on the western side of the land on the only cleared portion.  The rest is pretty heavily wooded with red oak, shag bark hickory and a few poplar and pine thrown in for good measure.  Soil, as far as I can tell, is ok is some spots, and rocky or worse in others.  If you look at the diagram I attached, you'll see I've already started looking at different ways to use the land.  The orange next to the cabin is a nice space that gets a ton of sunlight, not too bad of a slope, and should do well with some hugelkultur berms that I think i want to run along the contour of the slope (aiding in keeping the water from running off).  There is a large section (marked in the yellowish-orange color), probably almost 2 acres, that is mostly flat but heavily wooded.  There is a nice open section between the cabin and the gravel road (dark green area) that from what I've read would make a nice apple orchard (rocky soil, no water or cold-air pooling, would provide privacy barrier between road and house, etc).   There is another section (light green) that is fairly sloped, has a mixture of trees and bramble, not really sure what it would be good for.  Finally there is the area marked by red that is pretty steeply sloped, heavily wooded, and I would like to leave wild.  I've marked in blue the rain runoff "creeks" or gullies, and I also indicated a large blue circle where I think I could make a large pond. The arrows I hastily drew in show the general direction of the slope.  Finally, the dark rectangle and circle to the north/above the cabin are where I'm eventually going to build a cistern to have a cistern to gravity feed water to the cabin and barn (currently depend on a 150' deep well) as well as solar panels (this area is a fairly rocky hillside, but with full sun southern exposure all day long).  FYI - I've indicated a barn on there, although this is only a fond wish at the current time.  Eventually I will have a barn, but for right now I'm extremely limited in my outdoor storage space (don't even have a garage, ugh!).

My long-term goal would be a permaculture homestead in which I can raise most of my own food and live off the grid as best possible.  I don't think I have enough room for larger animals, but I'm definitely interested in chickens and goats, maybe some smaller pigs.  I would prefer to grow most of their food as well, but realize this might be difficult due to the smaller size of my property.  Some of my ideas are:
1. Having chickens with their own or shared paddocks, hopefully letting them feast on the plentitude of bugs here.  Would like to utilize the woods as "cover" for them as we have a lot of hawks around here. 
2. Goats - Paddocks in woods and cleared pasture areas.
3. Fruit and nut trees.
4. Sustainable firewood harvesting using coppicing and selective cutting to feed my big wood stove
5. Mixture of perennial fruits and vegetables and "forest gardening" which I'm still figuring out.
6. Keeping a hive or two of bees for pollination and honey.
7. Pigs?  Other animals a possibility?
8. Figuring out how I can feed my family off of this piece of land while being a responsible steward to it.

Fairly aggressive goals considering I have lots of trees, rock, and dirt, but dream big, right? I have plenty of questions, like whether I should try to completely clear out the large "pasture" area, which I really don't like the thought of, or whether I could keep trees there while growing food for the animals and my family.  Can I use the steeply sloped areas for another goat paddock or is it good to leave some areas wild?  etc.

Anyways, I welcome any thoughts and suggestions that you have and I'm looking forward to learning more from this knowledgeable group!
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Posts: 51
Location: Finland
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Hi there
Congratulations on your new home, looks great.  You have certainly set yourself some challenges....so good luck.
Im sure you will get lots of advice from the knowledgable people on this forum.
Good luck with your project.
suomi.
 
              
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Thanks suomi!  Yeah, sometimes I have to remember that they are challenges rather than "Oh my god what was I thinking taking this on". 
 
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Nice home, it doesn't look neglected to me.   

Fairly aggressive goals considering I have lots of trees, rock, and dirt, but dream big, right? I have plenty of questions, like whether I should try to completely clear out the large "pasture" area, which I really don't like the thought of, or whether I could keep trees there while growing food for the animals and my family.  Can I use the steeply sloped areas for another goat paddock or is it good to leave some areas wild?  etc.



What is the forest like?    Lots of brush and low growth or thick canopy and little undergrowth?

Leaving a wildlife corridor is probably a good idea.   

Trees provide shelter for livestock in summer and winter so I wouldn't clear the pasture completely.   That saves you from having to build shelters for them.   What is the pasture for?    Goats prefer browse over grass and it is better for them.    Higher risk of parasites on grass.    Goats create their own food by eating the tops of brush and causing the brush to sprout lower and thicker.   

Check out this site about "fodder trees"
http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/63-8script_en.asp

Exciting adventure!   Keep a journal.

edit:
http://www.winrock.org/fnrm/factnet/factpub/FACTSH/Gledtri.htm


 
              
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Good questions.  First, my goal for the pasture would be for goat browsing and possibly  I would also like to plant a grain or cereal crop for use by the family as well.  Those may necessitate dividing the pasture into two different areas, though. 

I only moved here at the end of summer last year, so I haven't seen the true extent of growth.  I would consider it a younger-growth forest.  Trees ranging from 1 year to up to 50 or more years, the average is probably around 10-15.  There is some undergrowth but it isn't real thick except in a few areas.  I definitely want to provide shade in the pasture.  Right now my selective cutting is getting all of the standing dead wood, trees without good roots and look like they are about to topple over, and others that are in the way of various projects like my barn.  My "ideal" would be a shaded or partially shaded pasture that still allows for undergrowth as you said.  I don't want to grow grass, but I would like a mixture of various things.  Brush/bushes, fodder trees (per your link), some grain or grass, clover, etc etc.  Finding the right balance will be a fun experiment.

Good call about the journal.  Although I'm not really a "blogger" I've been thinking about doing just that. 
 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Oops!  Ha! Ha!  Journal is really an ancient term isn't it?  I really was thinking of pencil and paper while typing on my computer  
I added another website to my original post.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1109
Location: Green County, Kentucky
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Your steep brushy slope would probably be the ideal spot for a couple of goats.  If you can practice intensively managed grazing/browsing (with multiple small paddocks, or a moveable fence) that would probably provide most of the feed for two or three goats for most of the year.  Protect any trees you want to save by wrapping fence wire (small-mesh) around their trunks, even if they are older trees, as goats can strip the bark and kill a tree fairly quickly. 

Looks like you have a lot of potential in that place.  The best advice I can give is to 1.  move slowly, not trying to take on too much in any one year (especially when it comes to something you haven't done before, such as a type of livestock you haven't raised before).  And 2.  plant trees ASAP!  They take a long time to grow and produce, so you want to get them started!

Kathleen
 
              
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Thanks for the info Kathleen, that sounds pretty like pretty much what I had thought.  All except wrapping the individual trees with wire mesh - didn't know they could kill trees that quickly.  I'll definitely have to include that in my plans!  Oh, and I was already planning to plant apple trees this fall.  We have a peach tree but it's not looking so good, I don't think there's anything I can do for it.  Might also go for some pear trees.  I figure experimenting with that isn't terribly expensive for small saplings and like you said they take time to grow!
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i agree to let the goats loose where you want the brush cleared, but protect the precious trees you want to save..also the pigs will root and manure an area where you might want to put in a good garden the following year..

putting in the hugelberms for a terrace effect to plan for growing on later over the rocky soil makes total sense and shows you have been doing some research..do you have a well for your water or do you collect rainwater..

you might also make a berm and line it with some pond liner and get yourself a pond if you get a lot of rainfall..that way you would also have some water for your wildlife and critters for part of the year anyway..maybe all year in your area.

better than hauling ..eh?

the area of woods that you plan on leaving wild sounds like the perfect place to put in some understory fruit and nut trees and some brambles or berries..as well as maybe innoculating some mushrooms

at the edge of the woods is a good place to put some of the things that need some sun and would be permanent plantings..such as some asparagus or rhubarb or horseradish (if you like it)..etc..sunchokes , maybe even some hazelnut or berry hedges.

i love the house, it is very nice looking and well situated on the property.
being on the west side you have all your east and south facing propertty to put into production..
 
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That is awesome! I did the same thing. I bought a fixer upper located on about 5 acres with some woods, a little creek and some open land with fruit trees. I wanted Goats, Chicken and Rabbits and did just that. I think the hardest part was allowing the chickens to all free range knowing there were critters and other threats out there. But I got dogs who run with them, some barn cats (great at getting rid of snakes lol) and let everything do it's own thing. I only have to feed during colder weather when they free range less. They have a huge pole barn I keep compost going in so they have something to scratch and eat year round plus it keeps the barn warm in the winter. So far it has been a very rewarding experience.
Your home looks just amazing. Mine is still being worked on and the work around here seems endless. But it is what I signed up for and I love it!
 
Seriously? That's what you're going with? I prefer this tiny ad:
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
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