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ideas for microcommunity?  RSS feed

 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 115
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Hi all.
I have recently purchased 104 acres in west Texas close to Sierra Blanca to build my home on. After looking at the property I feel like i went a bit overboard. (who really needs that much land?) I have devised a plan to make use of the land and solve my "one man show" problem when it comes to building and maintaining my homestead. I thought I might seek volunteers to help build a micro community. Basically a we help each other arrangement allowing others to live on my land with me and we share in the raising of livestock and a garden. I plan on building with adobe and super adobe with a little cob here and there. Has anyone else tried this approach? If so, what were the pros and cons? Anyone thought about it? I am open to ideas here. Thanks for your time.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I strongly suggest you read "Creating A Life Together" by Diana Leafe Christian. It details why most intentional communities fail and why some have survived, and gives information about how to avoid being one of the failures!
 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 115
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Thanks so much!! A lot of very good information all in one place. I have barely gotten 50 pages in and I am realizing this is a much larger commitment than it appeared at first glance. More research is needed and other options must be explored before proceeding. It is more land than I can handle alone though so I am still wide open for suggestions lol.
 
Christian Huble
Posts: 25
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Hey Joseph,

phew! 106 acres, yes, maybe a bit "overboard." but hey, that's a whole plot of land that you just saved from big agrobusiness!

There are endless options to what you could do with that land. Look into (responsible) cattle grazing, as you could rent out that land to some ranchers.

Be careful about jumping into community living, because the hardest aspect of such things, especially when your vision for the land is not yet clearly defined,
is conflicting personalities. The hardest part of community is not working the land, it's getting along with your neighbor!

For now, sit on the land and focus on your own personal vision and aspirations, and exactly what sort of people you would be comfortable working with and building a life with. And stay plugged in with permies, there are a lot of good people here. Maybe you're not ready to get involved heavily in a permaculture project, but you could provide more than enough space for other reliable individuals to work on their own projects.

Personally, I am starting an organization currently that would help individuals startup their own ecovillages/farm communities. We will be based out of Colorado, but our people are pretty heavily present throughout Texas.

Keep in touch, good luck, it's overwhelming but so rewarding, your options are endless. Cheers!

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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You can graze maybe one or two animal units (an animal unit is the equivalent of a cow and her nursing calf) on that much land in that region, so not really a good position to rent the land to a rancher. Once you're living there, a small herd of goats carefully managed might be something to look into.

As a point of comparison, land in my region can generally support no more than one animal unit per 20 acres.
 
William Fenton
Posts: 4
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Let me Guess its Salt Flat Texas?
If so let me know, I attempted a project out there a few years back, with to little resources Material/Monetary/Human

I can tell you a great deal about where I went wrong and what to look for, if its salt flat you got a lot of work ahead of you, but at the same time in 5 or 10 or 15 years if you can stick it out the potential is amazing.

You got a lot of things to consider Hudspeth county averages I think depending on sources 10-12" of rain per year(sometimes in one shot, yes sometimes it rains once per year there)so you need to find a way to get as much of that as possible, wind barriers are ESSENTIAL any soil you build will easily be taken away by high winds.

Wells are usually not an option (water is a few thousand feet down, and the water quality is very poor, not to mention it is part of an endangered aquifer) You could get tanks of water, but again they most likely come from the Aquifer and the expense will make it unproductive for most agriculture.

Yeah if its Salt Flat let me know (and look for tires, there are abandoned places just filled with tires everywhere)
I have a lot more tips for that area, I failed hard, but spent a couple years evaluating said failure.

Oh Border Patrol is hardcore there, just always be polite, after all it is a Constitution free zone
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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As William says, it's going to be very challenging out there! Can you post a satellite view of the land so we can get a sense of the contours and maybe help you with some ideas about design? Where you choose to place your house and gardens will be super important.

 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
Posts: 6678
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Someone mentioned that the acreage is a bit much. I'd want 10,000 acres in that region. Areas near rocks offer some chance of gathering run off from a large area, to provide a useful amount of water for a much smaller area.

How much does a parcel like yours cost? Do prices reflect the carrying capacity of livestock? How does that compare to inexpensive areas that have adequate rain fall?
 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 115
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Sorry it took so long to get back to this. My job sometimes makes it difficult to get online. These last few days I have been looking deeper into the food and water aspect. Most of you have posted on those threads so I see no reason to link them. After reading "Creating a life together" (Thanks Tyler) I decided to just get some of my more adventurous friends and family involved instead and work on the land as a group and farm it.

I have included some satellite images as requested to get ideas of placement and a rough outline of the property for thoughts on water collection. In the wider view I put a pin about center of the lot.

As for the price, I paid $42,000 for the lot which is just under 105 acres in 5 lots. Comparing this to other land with better rainfall totals was never really an option. I bought here for the freedom. I have no permit requirements to speak of and I can build how and where I want. I am really into more natural build and here we can play with adobe, super adobe, cob, strawbale ect, without fear of zoning or building code issues.

As always your thoughts and comments are appreciated. I don't want sugar coating, I am not a bakery so please be as blunt as you must. I knew when I started it would be a challenge and I welcome it.
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The Property
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Wider View
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Personally I'd suggest you not rush into forming a community on that land just yet. Not until you get your water management down and a few years of experimentation with that water supply.

It's been said that in arid climates it often takes 20 acres of catchment to water one acre of production.

I'm also seconding the wind breaks. Hot, dry winds are something to be dampened if at all possible.

As for trees in zones that you aren't directing water to, Honey Mesquite [hardy to 0F] might be an option that would supply you with sweet pods, goat browse and smoking/barbecue wood. I have heard that in very arid regions Mesquite does require some irrigation during establishment though.
 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 115
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Personally I'd suggest you not rush into forming a community on that land just yet. Not until you get your water management down and a few years of experimentation with that water supply.


After reading "Creating a life together" I scrapped the whole community idea. The 8 of us are family and very close friends (considered family). We have similar ideas and values yet different enough to add diversity without adversity. Everyone has a stake in this and we discuss all options together.

As for the windbreaks It has been suggested by one in our group that we use tires (they can't give them away fast enough) to build an 8ft high "courtyard" for the garden. Not pounded, but supported every ten feet and using the loader to dump dirt in them and then adobe plaster. Still looking into that one but so far everyone seems to be on board with that idea but me lol.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Tires are liable to leech toxins into the soil, and besides that they don't provide the gentle dampening of wind that a windbreak should have. Instead they're either spaced widely, concentrating the wind into chambers, or wedged into a solid wall that forces the wind over them and causes a lot of turbulence on the leeward side.

The best windbreaks are living hedges, secondary to that are brushpiles.
 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 115
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Toxins are the biggest reason I am against the idea. I like the idea of a living hedge and will be looking into your earlier suggestion of mesquite. We are not wanting to provide a place for rattlesnakes and the like so brush piles will be limited to composting piles at the edge of the property.
 
Perry Tart
Posts: 15
Location: Pacific Northwest
bike goat woodworking
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I am working on doing something like this up here in the PNW.

The angle I'm coming from, for primarily legal reasons (though it has enticements for folks to join, too) is building a co-op apartment with several similarly-minded folks I know. We're still working on the plans, so nothing's concrete yet, but we are hoping to have a plot of land around the size of yours, and be able to convert some of that space to an event-hosting sort of space (for groups like Dystopia Rising). I also hope to raise goats and such.

I'll post my actual thoughts on this later, because I'm very tired, but I thought I'd chime in first.
 
scott romack
Posts: 89
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100 acres does not seem too much for me. Especially in a brittle environment. Community? Yes, go for it!
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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scott romack wrote:100 acres does not seem too much for me. Especially in a brittle environment. Community? Yes, go for it!

Yeah, with that waterflow- depending on its quality and the nature of the soil- it *might* be possible to harness that water and build a community.

Might.

Before one can place that sort of gamble though, they need to get boots on the ground and make the land support one family and see how much more potential it has.
 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 115
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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The "community" idea is no longer part of the plan. Thanks to Tyler, I got my hands on "Creating a live together" and decided against jumping into a project of that magnitude. With everyone's help here we are just trying to get a plan in place to get our homestead up and running. That in itself has enough challenges to keep us busy for quite some time to come. I probably should have posted the pics much sooner in this thread. It is nice to find out "the wash that presumably carries a ridiculous amount of water" doesn't sound so ridiculous anymore. Water was one of our biggest worries to start. I am currently reading up on swales and gabion retaining walls to see if we can safely convince much of that water to hang around a while. Also still looking for options to deal with the possible "caliche" problems. Byrant's link to Dry Climate Permaculture and the ideas put forward by everyone on my other tread have been a big help there.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Water is STILL going to be a big worry. The water moving through that thing is going to be moving fast and hard, and it might only do so a few times a year. It's going to take some significant engineering to take advantage of it.

But indeed it is quite a resource given the location, IF it still flows [you don't know what's happened upstream since it was formed, that water might be going somewhere else now.]
 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 115
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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The road along the front of the property is a county maintained dirt road. One of the first things I noticed when I went out there was the washouts from the property into the roadway. Water is definitely still flowing that way when it rains. Anyway, I was just watching a video by Bill Mollison and he interviewed this guy about "land imprinting" in the desert. Very interesting stuff. Anyone have any info on this concept?
 
Mick Fisch
Posts: 235
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first requirement is water. Looking at the picture there appear to be several good places for putting in something to slow down/ stop water draining away. Dams, sand dams, even straw bales spiked down in the gully will help some, trapping sediment behind them. Couple of questions. Is there a decent aquafer? well depths in the area? What is the possibility of a windmill powered pump to get you some water to begin with? Without water the joke is your cattle will graze in pairs, because they will need to lean against each other to stand up.

You probably do want to address wind breaks. Of course the best wind breaks are at 90 degrees to the prevailing wind direction and swales are at 90 degrees to the slope, probably won't directly coincide, but wind break plants have a better chance with a swale.

There is a spineless prickly pear, I believe it was developed by Luther Burbank, that might be a good starting point. The young pads are good eating in the spring, they can be eaten by goats, etc most of the year, and then there are the pears. My grandma would skin the pads, chop them up and steam them to remove the slime and the fry them up in bacon grease. It tasted like what Okra wishes it tasted like. She said was a mexican dish that cooked it in some kind of tomato based dish, but I am ignorant about the name or how it tastes. the pears are good, if seedy and used to be dried into a kind of fruit leather.

I'm guessing you are like the rest of us, more dreams than gold, so I would suggest you pick your improvements to start with and expand as you can.

Best of Luck.
 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 115
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Mick Fisch wrote:Is there a decent aquafer? well depths in the area? What is the possibility of a windmill powered pump to get you some water to begin with?


Aquifer is decent by all accounts but of little use to me because the well depths in the area start around 700+ Ft. We do have our semi trailers to haul IBC tanks in though so we will not be without water to start.

Mick Fisch wrote: Of course the best wind breaks are at 90 degrees to the prevailing wind direction and swales are at 90 degrees to the slope, probably won't directly coincide, but wind break plants have a better chance with a swale.


Actually, if the 90 deg. figure checks out, this should line up quite nicely.

Mick Fisch wrote: I'm guessing you are like the rest of us, more dreams than gold, so I would suggest you pick your improvements to start with and expand as you can.


My dreams always outweigh the gold stocks lol but we are blessed to have a small trucking firm to help generate funding for the project. We are bringing in a small tractor with loader and backhoe and currently looking for a tiller attachment. Also, while I have yet to meet one of my neighbors, (truck driver as well) I am told that he has a much larger one and could possibly be retained for larger earth moving projects. Once I understand the whole contouring and swale aspects these parts of the project should go rather quickly. Currently we are considering either a pond of perhaps a couple 20,000 gal underground cisterns. We can construct these with earth tubes (stabilized of course) and liners relatively inexpensively.
 
Mick Fisch
Posts: 235
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If you start a pond, ducks will seal the bottom pretty quick. I was amazed how fast my seasonal pond became permanent once I put ducks in there.
 
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