Garrett: for every hour of work you plan to do, read for 10. If you can afford it, do one or both of the following:
1. enroll in an online Permaculture design course
. (Geoff Lawton
has one each year the next is in April 2015) a comprehensive course will not only teach aspects of design by WHY certain things are done and how they relate--you will learn how to site buildings and dams and swales or gambions, you will learn about chanampas, and rice paddies and gardening
in arid areas. You will learn about succession, the importance of soil pH and what immigrants (weeds) tell you about your land and which ones to encourage in order to revive land. You will learn how to build dams, move earth, site, green houses and hoop houses... how to begin the process (I can tell you to start by learning about orientation, aspect, slope, climate, latitude and longitude and how far above sea level your land is. ) After you have that down, figure out the slope and take just a bit of land (around 3-4 acres to start--learn or practice understanding contour and how water
falls (contour is perpendicular to water flowing down a hill)
Learn how to design swales on contour because you START by siting your dams and ponds (water catchment even if you are in a place with lots of water) , then determining access with roads or paths, then with preparing legumes and other plants you can broadcast after the swales are dug, then growing tree seedlings (both legume annual, perrenials and trees and then fruit trees) Understand succession is a MUST.
Although you indicated you have 5-7 years, I would encourage you begin in stages BUT 5-7 years is not that much time--the sooner you can start the better. There are ways you can fast track succession but for sustainability
you are going to develop a manmade ecosystem to mimic a natural one. You will be replacing immigrants with designed in plants and you will create more water sources and more edges--learn about edges if you do not know about them already.
Natural succession can take anywhere from 15-75 years or more --Permaculture speeds up this concept exponentially--but it ALL starts with knowing the above then moving to paper and designing water retention elements, then water usage, then soil state and soil needs. do NOTHING without learning about soil and water at least. Do LESS than you think
you need to--maybe think about where you want your zones. I presume you know about zones by now so plan out where you would site your home (NEVER at the top of the property if you can help it--try for midslope and depending on where you live, not too near the bottom or water , not too near the top--try for a south facing slope if you have one --unless you are in very hot country.
In MT--get your slope understood then your water then the soil (that can be adjusted when you make some dams/ponds, building swales and designing in hugels or other water /mound retention methods--do not build swales unless you already have your first layer of seed
nitrogen fixers) and inoculant ready to broadcast and some chopped straw
mulch to lightly cover.
Be sure to also check for prevailing winds (evaporative factors and wind tunnel considerations) and know what water is available. You will try to build your dams at the highest points in your land and you will seek to farm or site your PC area, in a place with no more than 20 degree slope.
Hope this helps.
2. The other thing you can do is take some time off and volunteer
for a stint or seminar at a local permaculture
site---nothing beats hands on information and experience