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Lower middle class transition to rural permaculture  RSS feed

 
                                  
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First, I think this could go in 2-3 subforums, so hopefully it is ok to put this here.

I'm trying to devise the most realistic game plan for how I could transition to a rural agriculture permaculture lifestyle from a suburban lower middle class life. Household income in ~10,000 per person, so options are limited.  Kids are currently ages 3-9, so in a few years I'll have lots of helping hands, but definitely not yet.

I'd like thoughts to improve this, as well as specifics.  I'll be looking at land in Texas east of the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex.  A little ways west of the area is cactus land, and east of us is agriculture land and 100 miles east is pine forest.

Here is a super rough strategy for my case.

First, find and buy cheap land when I can afford it, that is cheap because standard agriculture would not be easy without terraforming.  Around North Texas, that usually means land in flood plains, but also hilly areas.  Such land is often zoned, taxed, or used as timber land, recreational land, or hunting land. I don't know the precise differences, but no average person can afford taxes on land without some type of agricultural exemption.  I'm not sure if timber land is a subset or separate.

Next:  What minimalist permaculture terraforming would be appropriate for a flood plain to become a food forest?  Maybe intentionally deepening some of the land to make ponds and add aquaculture?

Third, seed the land with permaculture appropriate self sustaining crops, especially food trees.  One of the common area food trees as common as weeds are pecan trees, but I have no idea how they would do in a flood plain.  Supposedly they put taproots down as deep as they are tall. For 10 years I've been chopping one down at the ground because it is too near our pool and it keeps coming back.  Beehives could also be established early.

Those stages above are where I'd like the most advice.  What all would you plant on such land and environment, that you can let it grow on land you can hardly visit for several years while I continue the cubicle rat race?  Start the land on the process of preparing itself unattended.

Maybe after a few years, build a low cost barn that could double as rough housing and prepare the land for livestock.  Occasional longer stays by the wife and kids as I run the cubicle rat race to pay for it.

Eventually I should have enough savings to make a move and abandon the cubicle, build a house, and be mostly self sufficient and productive enough to make an income.

Other risks: The DFW metroplex will require more lakes to be created for urban water needs.  They "eminent domain" land and if the land is already low and in a flood plain, there is more risk that land I buy would be taken.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I would be extremely cautious about buying flood-plain land, not only because of the risk of eminent domain (which is scary enough in itself), but because you could get flooded out.  If you do buy flood-plain land, put your house up on pilings or on a very high foundation (I would go at least six feet above the ground, if I were in your area).  I have a friend in that area who has several acres of land.  She lives in a mobile home and within the last few years suffered from bad flooding, water four feet deep on most of her land.  She lost poultry, and had water in the house.  Thankfully, there's a bit of higher land, and she was able to move the MH to that higher ground and hopefully won't flood like that again, but it's definitely something to take into account. 

I would think, however, that that type of land would be excellent for creating a food forest, since it should be well-watered even in a drought, at least for deep-rooted trees.  Not going to try to advise you on what to plant, though, as I've never lived in that climate.

Kathleen
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9696
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Personally, I would look at the hilly areas instead of the floodplain.  Sloping land is much more amenable to permaculture than flat land, in my opinion, especially if you can get a parcel which has slopes facing in various directions.  This will give you more opportunities for a passive solar home and growing plants with different needs.  Also, I think managing water is more effective on a slope (not too steep!) using swales and/or Yeomans' keyline plan. With a really good sloping layout you might even be able to have a gravity-fed water system for home and gardens.

A good chunk of our land is flood plain and it has been very expensive repairing our driveway, the only way on and off the property (except by foot).  So I concur with what Kathleen says cautioning you about buying land in a flood plain with the caveat that if you do plant a food forest in a flood plain, it could all get washed away in a flood. 
 
                    
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I would recommend that you start looking for property now. and don't buy anything till you find one with several useful trees. When i bought my property I saw a black walnut that was the most beautiful i'd ever seen. I also saw some other things that intuitively made me want this land. Now that im here I realize i have about 10 walnuts and most are very near reproduction age if not there already.

I also have cattails growing vigorously and some apples. I have plenty of products i can obtain with absolutely 0 inputs. This means that no matter how bad my annual garden fails I still have valuable assets on my land. I would recommend doing something similar.

if you have time before you wish to move there start looking now for a property (no house) that has at least some young pecans and healthy looking soil. like others said, go for the hills. consider southern slope and other important factors.

once you have the site begin hiking in the very local areas and radiate out. identify every land type and plant you can and see what you can translate to your land.

once you have it start digging on weekends and build your own house underground. if you can contact discovery channel see if they will do a reality tv show on you and your family moving back to the land :p

 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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first of all IF I read that right you have a $10,000 yearly income and children..that makes it rough right there..you could probably move to a new area and make more money, and then have more money to buy with. If you were to move to an area with a lot of bank repos you might get some property with a house and land cheap..often way cheaper than rent..

we lived on $3,000 one year so I know it is rough living on little money, but it can be done.

I however would suggest trying to find a job that pays more, and not necessarily stay where you are if there isn't decent land ..
 
                    
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Brenda Groth wrote:
and not necessarily stay where you are if there isn't decent land ..



Yes!
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 469
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Does Texas have a forestry department? A lot of the states will sell conservation-grade fruit trees for 80 cents each.

Kansas only sold plum trees this year but other states sometimes sell a wide variety of edible fruit trees.
 
                                
Posts: 41
Location: Missouri
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Terri wrote:
Does Texas have a forestry department? A lot of the states will sell conservation-grade fruit trees for 80 cents each.

Kansas only sold plum trees this year but other states sometimes sell a wide variety of edible fruit trees.


Agree! I posted on another board that there are rural development loans that are geared towards getting people out in rural areas.  Especially with your yearly income, you would be sure to qualify. 
http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/RD_Loans.html

I don't know if this would help with imminent domain, but you could get conservation grants, get your land put in a land trust that might protect you from the state or local governments from seizing land.
 
                                      
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Brenda Groth wrote:
first of all IF I read that right you have a $10,000 yearly income and children..that makes it rough right there.


he says 10k per person....that could mean 3kids/wife so a total of 50k...OP doesn't make it clear....the right time to buy though in the USA. go for your dreams sir! l like the advice about getting a property with mature plants. i just bought a home and planted lots of edibles and will have to wait for years for some of them. i had a mature orange and lemon though which has been really great for me...to get something from the place for now....
 
John Sizemore
Posts: 96
Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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Terri wrote:
Does Texas have a forestry department? A lot of the states will sell conservation-grade fruit trees for 80 cents each.

Kansas only sold plum trees this year but other states sometimes sell a wide variety of edible fruit trees.

When all else fails you have these peaple to fall back on. They sell conservation grade trees.
You have to down load the catalog to find the information.
http://www.lawyernursery.com/
 
                            
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You should hook up with slowmoneydfw.org.  Some of the members are looking for land east of Dallas as well and a couple, including myself, are getting Permaculture certified in a class that is taking place now in the metroplex.  We would enjoy meeting you and sharing ideas.
 
Lee Einer
Posts: 169
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There is also the possibility of forming a community land trust. In an agricultural CLT, farmers lease the land for a small fee, but retain ownership of any structures they build on it. They get to stay there on the condition that they keep the land productive. If they fail to do so, the CLT will buy off any structures on the land and then lease the land to someone else.

Agricultural CLTs were developed to reduce the amount of capital required to start farming. They have the added charm of taking that land out of the reach of land speculators forever and always.

http://www.cltnetwork.org/index.php?fuseaction=Blog.dspBlogPost&postID=1682
 
Bucks Brandon
Posts: 44
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania [zone 6]
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if money is a big concern you need to have your finances in order before anything else.  Lots of free resources online, my favorites are
thesimpledollar.com
and
www.getrichslowly.org/blog/

a good place to start is with trent's 14 money rules:
http://www.thesimpledollar.com/14-simple-money-rules/

Rural land is cheap for a reason, you have to drive far to get anything. Keep in mind your fuel costs are probably going to go wayyyy up if you move to the sticks. TSD has some interesting posts with comments about rural vs city or suburban living:
http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2011/04/25/why-i-prefer-living-rural/
http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/09/27/the-city-versus-rural-debate-which-is-the-better-place-to-live/

Good luck!
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Rural commutes can indeed get costly, especially if you have to do it every day for work.  Buy an economical car strictly for daily commutes.  Generally, most rural folks don't 'go to town' that often.  Keep a notepad on the fridge, and every time you think of something you need, write it down.  Buy things like flour and sugar in bulk so you don't run out every week.

During harvest seasons, hitch up the trailer, and take a load to town.  Sell what you can, then do your shopping and go home.  If you limit your trips by maximizing each one, your fuel costs will be minimized.  A 40 mile rural commute may not use any more fuel than a 20 mile urban commute.
 
Darren Collins
Posts: 34
Location: Jamberoo, NSW, Australia
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Another good resource for financing a move to the country is early retirement extreme. Start reading his 21-day makeover here:

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/day-1-finding-a-place-to-live.html

You don't have to go to quite the same lengths as that guy, but his way of thinking about money is very sensible.
 
Hey, sticks and stones baby. And maybe a wee mention of my stuff:
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