new videos
hot off the press!  
    more about rocket
mass heaters here.

more videos from
the PDC here.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

questions about acquiring land  RSS feed

 
Stu Horton
Posts: 30
Location: Coastal New jersey
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm in central nj. Closer to the coast than Philly. I'm looking at land within an hour of where I am. I've been looking for a long time b/c land is expensive and harder to find around here. Yes, moving would be great but for family and employment reasons it just isn't possible. The area is known as the pine barrens. Most lots are wooded and that leads me to my question.

Should I consider a wooded lot? I've ignored them for a long time. I have dreams of a small orchard, garden, permaculture, few small animals, already have the 3 kids and dog...

The task of clearing land seems expensive, time consuming, and extremely environmentally irresponsible.

Any ideas or experiences will be appreciated. I'm not getting any younger and neither are the kids.

Thanks
 
Jack Edmondson
Posts: 240
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
11
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why would clearing land be "environmentally irresponsible", especially to an "extreme" degree?  I could understand if you were talking about clearing say, Central Park, the last green space in a extensive urban environment; but the Pine Barrens are not short of habitat, green space, or vegetation. 

You are replacing one ecosystem for another, albeit managed, ecosystem with an orchard and garden.  It is expensive.  But it is also a negotiating point.  People with wooded lots love to use the comparison of the more expensive developed property in their area.  Only natural.  But a smart buyer calculates what a property would be worth in finished form, adds up the cost of all the work and infrastructure to get it 'perfect', subtracts that from the comp; and that becomes their opening offer.  Sellers don't like this, because they think their little slice of heaven is every bit as good as their neighbors.  However, THEY don't want to spend the money to bring it to the same standard.  Doing the math helps them be more reasonable. 

One idea for affordability, if you are committed to this area, is to get good at clearing and preparing land.  Buy a small lot.  Clear it, either by hand or rent equipment.  Put in lights, culvert and a water source; perhaps even a septic system.  Then sell it for a tidy profit and move up a category.  You are building equity, while learning the skills to make your (bigger) place a reality.  There are many people, much like yourself, that want to buy a piece of property; but don't know or want to develop it.  Become the broker of their dreams, while you build equity to realize yours.

I do speak from (limited) experience.  I could not afford what I wanted.  I started small.  I found an area that had almost completely undeveloped lots.  I went into the tax records and contacted people to see if they would be interested in selling.  I found a bunch of folks whom were either overwhelmed by the task or disillusioned by the dream.  I bought 5 lots.  I started clearing.  Here are a few things I learned.  Dozer operators want way too much money to tear up my land.  There are better heavy equipment choices that can be hired or rented, if you are willing to learn how to operate them.  Time is money.  A pro might be able to do it faster and cheaper than you can if you are renting equipment you are unfamiliar.  However, it can be done by the 'average person'.  You should check out a "skid steer" with a land shark attachment. 



In my area, I was quoted around $1700 a day (not bad); but they did not want me to pick it up, due to the weight; even though I have 14K gvwr trailer and a 3/4 ton truck.  They wanted to deliver it and pick it up - to the tune of $500 each way.  (I think somebody had a brother in the hauling business.)  It is the second best but most reasonably priced option for equipment rental.

A forestry drum is the absolute best, but prohibitively expensive.  BobCat said, "yes", they had one for rent.  But the minimum was a weeks rental at $10k a week, including delivery.  I only have two acres not a forest.  That is maybe a couple hours work for this thing.  A dozer operate was half that price.



I tried a few other options from rental companies; but with limited return on investment of time and money.  What I have finally found works best for my situation (a couple of acres and trees in the 4-6 inch range and lots of underbrush) is a rotary brush cutter and a shredder.  The brush cutter is like a circular chain saw.  It whips through stems as you walk with no bending over to get to ground level.  Once a big patch is cut; back the shredder into the clearing and start feeding branches and small trees.  A brush cutter purchased is less than $300.  A shredder rented from a local tool supply company (or big box) is less than $100/day.  Once the stuff is on the ground, you will be amazed at how many tons of vegetative matter you can run through a 6 inch chipper/shredder in an hour.
 




It is time consuming, but worth the investment to get a rough property into shape on a tight budget.  Hope this helps.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 966
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
117
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It may be wise to research the regulations that govern development in the pine barrens. There are restrictions in various areas as to the number of trees that can be removed, the amount of land that can be cleared, the type of buildings and development that can be built. There are also restrictions about how close livestock enclosures may be to surface water and/or endangered plants.

I lived in the pine barrens for nine years after we found the right place for us. But we had to turn down some lovely properties because of pine barren regulations interfering in what we wanted to do. Our local realtor helped us a lot to find the right location and helped us work through the pine barren regulations.

It's been almost 20 years since we lived in NJ, but land was expensive even back then. So I don't know which areas have the best bang for your buck.

But I can say that growing vegetables in NJ was easy compared to other places that I've lived. And boy, do I miss those tomatoes!!! Jersey tomatoes are the best.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 481
Location: Pac Northwest
40
books chicken forest garden goat hunting solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I used to live in S NJ in Moorestown. My parents still do, though they just bought land in Sedona AZ and are going to build a house there and move.

Something to consider about the Pine Barrens. Most of the forest there was cut down at some point or another, what you see today is second and third regrowth. You can find the remains in there of old farmsteads, industry, and orchards that have become overgrown wild forests. So I would not be overly concerned about clearing a wooded lot if I were you. The forest can and will return if you abandon it.

While clearing might seem a large monumental task, it doesn't have to be too hard. You might even make some money if the trees are good quality. Something I would suggest is look into the possibility of selling trees on a wooded lot to a timber company or as fire wood. You could actually get paid to have the trees cut down rather than pay for it. Now that would leave you with stumps in the ground and you would need some heavy equipment to pull them or you could grind them down to level and just let them rot in place.

Something I would suggest being concerned about more is soil conditions. NJ has a lot of clay and sand. So actually seeing a lot wooded can be a good sign of decent soil that can support growth. Not only is the tree growth a good indicator of soil but the forest would have been dropping organic matter for many years helping build a good soil.

Good luck with your land search, NJ is definitely not an easy place to buy land. Prices are high, taxes are high, and attitudes are not permie friendly.
 
Stu Horton
Posts: 30
Location: Coastal New jersey
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jack,
Thanks for the detailed response.  I have a bit of experience with older backhoes and a good deal with skid steers.  Not thousands of hours but a few hundred.  I appreciate you easing my mind about cutting down trees.  It just rarely feels like the right thing to do but I know sometimes it must be done for the greater good.  Thanks for the suggestions.

SuBa,

Ah the tomatoes.  Come October I can't bring myself to eat a tomato for months because they taste like cardboard.  I will look into the pineland regulations.  I'm actually looking at the northern border of them.  I'd prefer a more deciduous and slightly less lyme tick area.  If only at 18 I knew what was going on.  I would have invested in land for the future.

Devin,

Thanks for easing my mind.  That's probably true about 99.9% of this area.  I spoke to a local organic farmer and he told me he paid 10K per acre to have an area cleared in 94. I imagine it's double that now.  He said he sold all the maple out of it but he didn't mention if it put a good dent in the cost.

Thanks to all 3 of you for the encouragement and I apologize for the delay in my response.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!