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About to purchase a property. Am I crazy?

 
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Bottom line question: Is no running surface water a no go for property selection? Read on for context.

My wife and I run a small but profitable bee operation (she full-time, me part-time) and have for some time (a decade). Most of our hives are on other people's properties. Our intention is to homestead and expand into diversified permie-type stuff. Fruits, berries, sheep, chickens, eggs, ... and of course, the bees. And, potentially as we get older, a potential farmstay / bed-and-breakfast option (i.e., been looking for a house with "character" already on the property -- I'm not building).

So, we found a spot... an hour outside of Raleigh. 16 acres -- 11 cleared (prior horse grazing) -- 2 acre pond. Rolling hills. It is surrounded by 800 aces of primarily hay fields owned by some absentee owner (maybe expansion potential, but no guarantees).

There are two things that give me pause: (1) it has a 150 year old farmhouse that we'll have to sink money into, though it has been reletively well maintained, (2) no running surface water.
#1 we'll wrestle with ourselves and figure out. But that #2...

The 2-acre pond is drainage fed from the surrounding landscape. There is also road frontage on the another part of the property that funnels drainage water into an intermittent "stream" to a neighbor's algae pond (heh). I *suspect* the property could be terraigned over time to trap water and redirect it and maybe create more small ponds. Note, I don't have a PDC. Geez, with drainage-based water collection, should we worry about reliability (drought) and poison run-off? That 2 acre pond looks pretty healthy (and full of (supposedly) the typical bass, brim, catfish, snapping turles, etc). It has the first water moccassin I have seen in my life. Heh.

So... We have an accepted offer on the table. We have the house inspected. The well is good. We are about to pull the trigger and close the deal, but I wonder. Is this "no stream" bit a problem??? Do most of you permies do your work without a surface stream?

This is a huge step for us. We can financially pull it off. I just don't want to walk into a mistake.

Thanks for any thoughts.
-todd warner, the carolina bee company (google us, I don't know if we are allow to plug)

P.S. We are looking to experiment for ways to stack bees and livestock. Lemme know separately if you have thoughts on that subject. I have "schemes" as my wife likes to call them.
 
gardener
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No, I do not think a lack of a running surface stream will be too much of an issue. Also, I think drought will be a non-issue as Raleigh,NC is in a humid subtropical climate and North Carolina's forests will help moderate the extremes- trees store water and create microclimates through transpiration and shade.
 
steward
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Howdy Todd, welcome to permies!
You all get some rain in those parts don't you?

If permies like Lawton are growing stuff in the deserts I think you can have a really nice place there without surface water. Are there trees and shrubs in the area that are growing"wild" ?
That would be a pretty good indication of the potential. Look around the area for other gardeners/ farmers. See what there places look like.
Keep us updated on your place and your schemes!
 
Todd Warner
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Howdy Todd, welcome to permies!
You all get some rain in those parts don't you?

If permies like Lawton are growing stuff in the deserts I think you can have a really nice place there without surface water. Are there trees and shrubs in the area that are growing"wild" ?
That would be a pretty good indication of the potential. Look around the area for other gardeners/ farmers. See what there places look like.
Keep us updated on your place and your schemes!



True enough. And we do get rain. Or we don't. It is common to have drought conditions in July and August and sometimes into Septembert. 2012 had Durham three weeks out from it's reservoir running dry. The property we are moving *from* has a significant stream that has gone dry on two occassions in the last 12 years that we have lived here. But it is a stream. I suspect that drainage-based pond went bone dry, but I don't know. I would also not move to a desert. Not my kind of challenge. Considering my area, part of me was thinking that we should hold out for a property with a stream, but we have been looking off and on for several years... Not having a ton of luck within our list of criteria.

I suppose we shouldn't wait for perfection... it will not likely come. Not that a stream provides perfection or water security. The one 100% electric-free, off-grid homesteader I know (loose acquainance) thinks we should hold out not just for a stream but a streamhead. Ugh. Easy for him to say, he has 500 acres in Appalachia (tons of streamheads).

Thanks for your input.
 
Posts: 226
Location: South central Illinois, USA
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Don't reject the nearly perfect chasing the ideal.... Good luck!
 
gardener
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On many properties that I've heard about permies develop, there were no streams. Then after a few years, with trees, and water management, a stream started to run. I think it's been on Paul's podcasts and Sepp Holzer has done this too. North Carolina seems as good a place as any for this to occur. You will probably returning a lot of natural systems to the terrain, which tend to feed off of each other. You will probably also get more rain after you plant more trees than before, due to the increase in humidity and evaporation through the trees. You're probably going to get completely increased water cycles running through every part of your terrain if you do it well, permaculture style.
john S
PDX OR
 
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Hi,
forgive me for asking but what is the price of land there? I got no clue and here it is 500-1500e for Ha.
 
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Location: Long Island, NY (Zone 7)
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John Saltveit wrote: You're probably going to get completely increased water cycles running through every part of your terrain if you do it well, permaculture style.



^^^This

You say that 11 out of the 16 acres are cleared for grazing horses. Get some cover growing to shade those acres and then lay out some swales & hugels to direct your new surplus water to wherever it suits you.
 
master pollinator
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The combination of rain and clay available in the Carolinas virtually guarantees that with proper land sculpting and water management, you will have plenty to spare. If you must see it move, make a swimming pond and swim as fast as you can.

Holding out for a top of watershed site may be a pipe dream. Even if one does come available, it may be rocky, remote or far outside of your price range. Get the best property that is available now. Once you make it worth a million dollars, you can go shopping again.

My older brother and I have earned roughly the same amount of money over the past 20 years. I bought property early. He finally entered the market when prices peaked. My personal wealth is roughly twice that of his.
 
steward
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I don't know if having a stream is important or no. there will be someone that will always have different ideas. I can tell you that if you like the place, the views, if you have daydreaming images of what it will be then go for it. you'll have to do some earthworks but that is normal. having rain during the year doesn't mean you have a drought free climate. we have situations where there is to much rain in only a few months of the year and then nothing. yeah maybe on an annual scale one can say you have enough water but that ain't true. you have to see how to stop water on your land. is it a flat o smooth slope? that can change a lot of things. any piece of land can become awesome.
I brought a piece of land not having water on it, I have a nice watershed but it's on a significant slopy area, it's terraced and I'll have to think how to manage to stop water on it. you just have to imagine different solutions.
one thing that I have learn't here on permies though is don't improvise on earthworks, and see what regulations your county, or state, has remember you may pay to have a pond built and then have to pay double because the army come's and says you didn't ask their approval, I read this absurd story about the fact in the states you have to have the army some sort department of there's that says your pond is ok. study and ask advise to who can give you some professional answers.
 
Todd Warner
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Lorenzo Costa wrote:I don't know if having a stream is important or no. there will be someone that will always have different ideas.[/qoute]

Yup. That is what I am finding.

I can tell you that if you like the place, the views, if you have daydreaming images of what it will be then go for it.



Well... this place is "picturesque". Which is awesome, but it gives me pause because I don't want it's beauty to overshadow my rationale. And yeah, we have all kinds of unschooled daydreams for what it will be someday.

you'll have to do some earthworks but that is normal. having rain during the year doesn't mean you have a drought free climate. we have situations where there is to much rain in only a few months of the year and then nothing. yeah maybe on an annual scale one can say you have enough water but that ain't true. you have to see how to stop water on your land.



That's a bit daunting for me at this time. I am familiar with the whole earth-working thing, but I really need to study more now. We'll probably sit on the property for a year before we do anything. Just to get a sense of the place. We're leery of "digging" before we really understand what we are doing.

is it a flat o smooth slope? that can change a lot of things. any piece of land can become awesome. I brought a piece of land not having water on it, I have a nice watershed but it's on a significant slopy area, it's terraced and I'll have to think how to manage to stop water on it. you just have to imagine different solutions.



It's rolling hills with a hill and 3 valley bottoms with a 2 acre pond in one of them. 3 pastures on 3 slopes. One of the valleys is wet pasture as well (future pond, likely). The shadiest pasture (northern) is also the steepest. All are suitable for horses, sheep, etc. (prior owner rotated her horses through them). This rolling hill nature suggested to me that it was more malleable. Plus, it is just more interesting.

one thing that I have learn't here on permies though is don't improvise on earthworks, and see what regulations your county, or state, has remember you may pay to have a pond built and then have to pay double because the army come's and says you didn't ask their approval, I read this absurd story about the fact in the states you have to have the army some sort department of there's that says your pond is ok. study and ask advise to who can give you some professional answers.



Yeah, I loath the prospect of making earth-moving mistakes and having to involve regulatory agencies in the process, hence, we'll likely sit on the property for awhile and study the situation. In the meantime, we can probably experiment a bit with smaller things and play with some designs.

Thanks, everyone. I am resting easier now.
-todd

 
Todd Warner
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Martin Miljkovic wrote:Hi,
forgive me for asking but what is the price of land there? I got no clue and here it is 500-1500e for Ha.



The price of land is wildly variable in NC but one of the more affordable places in the USA given the good markets. Near Raleigh, you are looking at $25,000 per acre nearer to town, $7500 / acre a little ways out... to $2500 to $3500 /acre an hour outside. So... not the cheapest, but still affordable. Considering. Raleigh is a hot market (for sellers) right now. There is a huge influx of the "creative community" to the region and it is one of the US epicenters of computer technical work -- without the SF, Boston, DC, NYC price tag.

-todd
 
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It sounds like this property is a dreammaker. Every property will have its challenges, or may be missing a little something. Your plan of observing for a year is a good one. I have a background in hydrology and it sounds like the parcel has all the potential for a running creek, and you are clearly someone who observes, researches and contemplates before diving in, so you will make it happen. And you will find the right people to guide you so it is done right!

Congratulations!
 
Lorenzo Costa
steward
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Todd Warner wrote: We'll probably sit on the property for a year before we do anything. Just to get a sense of the place.-todd



that's the best thing to do. I've been watching my place for nearly a year and I have seen so much. observe, observe,observe and maybe you'll find that water is just under the surface.
all the best!!!
 
Todd Warner
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Lorenzo Costa wrote:

Todd Warner wrote: We'll probably sit on the property for a year before we do anything. Just to get a sense of the place.-todd



that's the best thing to do. I've been watching my place for nearly a year and I have seen so much. observe, observe,observe and maybe you'll find that water is just under the surface.
all the best!!!



Well, folks. We pulled the trigger and as of yesterday we bought the place. We'll see what comes!
-todd
 
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Location: Northern California
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Awesome! Congrats. As someone with no stream (and no pond) in an environment where normal rainfall is 15-20 inches (10 inches last year), I say go for it. You just have to grow according to what water resources you have. And as many have pointed out, your water resources are likely to improve over time.
 
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Location: Sacramento
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I have a friend near where you live and having spent time in SW Oregon where it is very dry, growing up in San Diego and living in Sacramento, all places that are near desert, NC without a stream seems like a rainforest! It also seems rather idyllic! Streams are nice but a 2 acre pond with fish seems like winning the lottery! Beauty is something you can enjoy every day and I think you scored!
 
Todd Warner
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Michael Bush wrote:I have a friend near where you live and having spent time in SW Oregon where it is very dry, growing up in San Diego and living in Sacramento, all places that are near desert, NC without a stream seems like a rainforest! It also seems rather idyllic! Streams are nice but a 2 acre pond with fish seems like winning the lottery! Beauty is something you can enjoy every day and I think you scored!



Ha! Indeed. Thanks everyone. A lot of challenges ahead. The spice of life, one supposes!
 
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So where are you at now?
 
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