My husband and I are new to the homesteading lifestyle. We are on (what was) a 10-acre horse ranch and plan to convert the space into farm. There's also a creek and hill on the property.
Does anyone have any general advice/suggestions for getting started? Some things we've discussed are growing our own food, food preservation, raising chickens and goats, wind turbines for energy, solar, etc. It's exciting, but a little overwhelming. I'd appreciate any tips or shared learnings from when you were first getting started.
I would simply start a veggie patch somewhere. It can be moved later, the improtant thing is to start. You could build a chicken tractor too. Later when you want more chicken you use the chicken tractor for breeding. You can learn, read plant for months, but the practical experience is far more important. I would start doing everything which is movable first (veggies, chicken...) and later do things which are not so easy movable like fences buildings... However, the fruittreesshould go in soon as they take some years to bear fruit. That means look for frost pockets, decide weather you need netting, weather you want to espalier and order your trees.
As well start making compost, it does not have to be a formal bin, simply a heap which you shovel around every now and then.
The best piece of advice I can give you is ... start small.
It's so easy to want to jump into 16 projects right off the bat, because you're excited to be on your land and you want to get this thing going! And you see all of these people posting all of these cool things, and dang but those goats are CUTE, and of course you need chickens because everyone does, right?
But all of these things have a learning curve if you've never done them before. When you have multiple learning curves going on at the same time, it's easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed. You can learn it all, but you can't learn it all at once.
So pick one or two things that you'd like to start with. Get them going really well ... and by "really well" I mean that you've gotten through one or two disasters with them, corrected the problems, and learned something. You're comfortable with the day to day management and only occasionally need to ask advice or google something. Then go ahead and add something else.
If your new project involves animals, please do your research before you get them. I can't tell you how many posts I've seen along the lines of, "I just got a baby goat. Now what?" and the person has no idea what it needs and absolutely no concept of the fact that a single goat is a miserable goat, and it's now 8pm and everything's closed and someone is supposed to tell them what to do.
My wife and I have twenty wooded are in Michigan, which we are not yet living on, but have been planning for months Before we bought our land we had been reading and studying and searching for a suitable parcel for a couple of years.
Something I haven't seen anyone mention yet is "Observe". Watch your land through the seasons before doing permanent things on it. Watch what is growing where, watch where the sun passes across the land and by the seasons, watch the rain and where it flows, watch the winds - that's for starters as you watch and observe these things, you will surely notice other things to observe.
In terms of priority for planning your homestead, water is top of the list. Where is it, how do you get it, how much do you get, how does it move across your land? On our Michigan property there is not much difference in elevation across the entire parcel, on the order of twenty feet over all. We have no running water (streams, etc.), but we also have evidence of seasonal runnels/streams and our lower lying ground is generally pretty damp. We haven't had the chance to observe over any period of time yet (we are still living in NJ, 14 hours away), so we don't know how wet it gets, and we have yet to see the water moving. We need to watch and learn and gain understanding of these movements in order to plan out how we will manage water on our property.
Holding it as high as possible and using it as much as possible as it passes through your land are fundamental principles of water management. Most of whatever we want to do on our homesteads is dependent upon what we can do with water. Water livestock, irrigate plants, even generate electricity - all can be done with water. And managing water is one of the most permanent, long-lasting systems you can establish on your property.
Setting up a small garden is a fine thing to do, not permanent at all, really, so you can shift it around to other (better) locations as you learn your land. Take your time about choosing where to place buildings and roads, they're relatively permanent and hard to relocate, plus poor positioning can have far-reaching results. Trees are another thing to take your time placing, as they can be generational
Choices about livestock are pretty transitory; you can bring in chickens today, replace them with ducks next week, try goats - etc. Infrastructure for animals doesn't have to be permanent, or even fixed in location.
Our plans include establishing animal systems as a very first stage in our homesteading, precisely because they are easily moved about, adjusted to fit what we learn through observation. And they can be used to prepare areas for gardening or other sorts of cropping.
And for a parting thought, spend more time thinking about the design of your systems than you spend implementing them
I realized I posted my introductory post in the wrong category--newbie mistake!
Anyways, my husband and I are new to the permaculture life and are very excited to get started on our design, projects, etc. I've already found so much useful information while lurking forum threads. I can't believe how many people are involved in the community! Does anyone know how many members Permies has? The traction is awesome.
Welcome to permies Kristin! Glad to have you here. There's a LOT of people that are active on the site, probably thousands, though I'm not sure, and you'll get to know quite a few characters as you explore more. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to reach out to the community for assistance. There is always somebody around to help. I hope you find everything you're looking for and more. I know I did.
If you update your profile with info about your land and climate, you'll help other permies to better answer any questions you have, as almost every question is answered with "it depends...". And mostly "it depends" on your climate, goals and location. Anyway, thanks for introducing yourself and welcome to permies.