Greetings fellow permies, I have returned to Southwest Florida with the goal of developing a food forest on a few acres here in the south west region. I'd like to be as off the grid as possible. One area I'm looking at is in Punta Gorda and has only power.
I'm wondering if anyone has any experience in regards to the positives and negatives, mainly what are the differences as far as animals on ag land, rainwater harvesting, and composting toilets, temporary living structures/tiny homes between the three counties: Charlotte, Lee and Collier. Is there a reason one would prefer one over another with respect to homesteading off grid?
Christian, I'm in lee county, lots of subtropical things grow great here, I have had banana, sugar cane, coconut trees, organic gardens for years, not off the grid though. Sandy soil needs good improvement to hold moisture for sure.
In Cape Coral over the bridge from me, a woman tried to disconnect from the utilities and received serious blow back from the city, made national news
I think her biggest problem was that she was flushing toilet into city sewer and they used that to say she couldn't be off grid. They have been connecting septic residents to city sewer for some time, you don't get a choice. This was in residential area, easier to be more independent in more rural area. We have code enforcement guys that look for out of the ordinary things.
I have friends that turned their entire front yard into a garden/ food forest, in a residential area and haven't had a problem.
I grew sugarcane in a residential neighborhood and got to experience deed restrictions first hand, they didn't win!
I also have friends in collier county, they are way off 75 to the east, have a couple of fenced acres, and never get bothered by the "Dept of making you sad".
I would dig through the county websites and look at the statutes pertaining to anything you may want to do that doesn't fit into 'conventional housing/living standards'. There are different laws by county about how large a shed can be before needing a permit, some have laws about livestock, and other things. I'm going to call up about a piece of land in Putnam county tomorrow since that county seems to have more relaxed laws than I have seen in most other places.
Another thing to think about is income streams. I knew of some people who went to Punta Gorda for the cheap land and came back because it sucked them dry. They couldn't get much work and had no other source of income and didn't want to burn all of their savings. If you are expecting to sell stuff from your land or work a regular job to make ends meet, then it would be beneficial to secure these avenues before putting down money for land. Things may have picked up a bit in the past few years, but it would still be a good idea to figure these things out. If you have income that doesn't rely on the local economy and can live within your means then you should be all set.
Tiny homes seem to be frowned upon in a lot of places. Granted most enforcement is complaint driven, but it would be a disaster to invest a ton of money and have it go up in smoke. Many of the counties do allow for RV's for varying amounts of time (Putnam county allows RVs as permanent homes for instance), and they usually allow something like 6 months of a temporary structure while building a new home. It depends on the county, but the ones I have seen have a 600 square foot minimum for the outside perimeter. Not exactly a tiny house for 1 or 2 people, but this depends on many factors. If you are outside of large population centers then the taxes should be pretty affordable. As someone who has built a few hundred houses in NE Florida from small to insanely large, I would strongly recommend not using 2x4's for exterior walls. 2x6's 2' on center is not much more costly than 2x4's 16" on center, yet much more sturdy and more room to insulate. It must be nice to have so much money you can build a 16,000 square foot house and barely insulate it!
Rainwater should be extremely easy. My barrels have been overflowing today. I get around 5 feet of rain a year here, it is probably similar down there. I would definitely go with a large cistern. It seems like the stuff people dump in the ground can make well water much worse than rain water. I have been using gravity to power my drip irrigation. There are numerous ways to get it to work with little energy input if it is designed right.
Composting toilets will probably be variable depending on the inspector. Getting one that is EPA approved will likely have a higher chance of being approved as opposed to a home made system. Going solar should be very easy. I would highly recommend solarhot water with perhaps a small electric backup. If you are conservative of energy use and can use more energy while the sun is shining then you can spend a great deal less money on batteries.
Thanks Kevin and Daniel for sharing your experiences. I esp like what you said about testing deed restrictions, then reading your sig... hahaha Thanks for the welcome. Daniel, I really appreciate what you wrote about PG and earning money there. That definitely resonated with me. Great advice all around, thanks so much permies!