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I need advice - farm sitting a nearly off-grid acreage  RSS feed

 
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A friend of mine is going on a national parks tour and asked me to watch his property.  He leaves near the end of April and will not be back until end of September.  Here is the catch he lives in northern New England on 30 acres with almost no luxuries.  He does have electricity and wifi but that is it.  All his water comes from a spring which means no plumbing.  He has a small wood stove for heat and both a small camp propane stove and oven.  My only real duty will be to look after his chickens.  I am a city boy that has spent time in the outdoors for a week or two to enjoy nature.  The advice I am looking for can be anything from tools to reading material to tips on what to do.  My biggest fear in doing this is dealing with ticks.  He said they can be really bad.
 
Posts: 944
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Get him to buy some Guinea Fowl now for the tick issue.

Help him build their shelter.
 
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I lived for 19 years in a heavily tick infested area of southern New Jersey. It was also a hot spot for Lyme disease, so we took ticks quite seriously. Quite honestly, we never discovered a highly effective permaculture instant control for ticks. But with Lyme disease being so serious, here's some of the things we did.....

... We kept a flock of 30 Guinea hens on 7 acres. I never could determine if they really did eat ticks (we never killed one to check its crop), but I hoped they did eat at least some. But frankly, even with the birds we had tons of ticks, tons. The crawled on the fences and up the siding of the house! They crawled on the picnic table and lawn furniture. They even crawled all over the cars.
... We used our dog as a trap to gather ticks. That sounds really mean, but this is how it worked. She was a Border Collie and loved to run around in hyper circles. So I'd send her out into the woods daily and encouraged her to circle. After a half hour of exercise, I'd give her a good combing with a flea comb, thus removing most of the ticks. But we also kept an amitraz tick collar on her, plus treated her every three weeks with frontline. Yes, not at all Permie. I'm saying this not to encourage you to use these products, but just to say this seemed to be a feasible option at that time that would be safest for both us and the dog, Lyme disease, plus other tickbourne diseases were prevalent in our area and nothing to mess with. On a strictly permaculture approach, these chemicals could not be used.
... We did full body tick searches on ourselves twice a day. We had to be thorough because we'd find tiny nymphs in body folds, behind our knees, along our hair line. We used a special tick removal "spoon" to remove any in such a way that we didn't accidently squeeze the tick.
... We'd use a sweeper wand on the bracken fern and huckleberry. This was a long stick with a white piece of flannel or terry cloth on the end, like a flag. I guess it was about 18" x 18". I'd gently sweep the tops of the foliage. Lots of ticks would grab onto that cloth. I found that it worked better if it smelled of us or the dog....so nothing clean just out of the laundry. It worked better with body odor and if it was warm. White made the ticks easier to see and remove.
... We put out chemically treated cotton balls for the mice to use for their nests. Not a permaculture approach. But it surely helped reduce the tick population around the house.
... We discouraged deer from coming onto the property. We used  deer chasers that one of the neighbors made. It was a motion sensor that started up a noisy lawn sprinkler. We initially used motion sensor activated spot lights, but the deer soon got use to them. The sprinkler contraception worked better. The local deer were infested with ticks.

We eventually got the ticks down to a tolerable level, but it took several years. They never disappeared, so we never could let our guard down. We found out when we moved that we were the only family on our road that hadn't contracted Lyme disease.

Some of the things we did fall into the permaculture category. Some do not.

For people with dogs, are you aware that dogs can smell a tick and be taught to alert to them? Besides the Border Collie we also owned a Basenji. He was an avid tick hater and hunter. He could not only smell a tick on us, but also on the other dog, even deep in her fur. He was great at it, but had a flaw. He'd grab the tick in his tiny front teeth, pull it off, then sling it across the room! Yikes! Now we'd have a tick loose in the house. Sometimes we'd be able to locate it immediately, sometimes not. So we always tried to get to the tick before he did his slinging act. How's a tick finding dog for a permaculture approach? Pretty nifty, eh?
 
garden master
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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John Donovan jr wrote:  All his water comes from a spring which means no plumbing.



Since you will be there several months it might be advisable to take a stock of things you might need if you can't get to the store.  The main thing I am thinking of are gallon bottles of water.  I don't know how far away the spring is or what type of terrain.  And if it is raining do you want to get wet to get a drink of water?

Hiking boots

Have a good First Aid Kit with a supply of pain reliever, cough medicine, etc.

Favorite spices, hot sauce, etc.

Favorite foods, that you can't buy in the area.

Getting to know the area that you will be living in before you get there, such as where the grocery stores are located, where the hospital is, where to get prescription meds.  All this can be done online.

You might ask your friend to introduce you to some locals so you can have someone to ask for local info.

You might want to get there a week before he leaves so you can learn the ins and out of how to take care of things.


My only real duty will be to look after his chickens.  I am a city boy that has spent time in the outdoors for a week or two to enjoy nature.  The advice I am looking for can be anything from tools to reading material to tips on what to do.  My biggest fear in doing this is dealing with ticks.  He said they can be really bad.



You might want to gather some egg recipes to take with you.


Here is some info from https://www.mommypotamus.com/natural-tick-repellent-recipe/

adding diatomaceous earth and garlic spray to their play area. (About 1 pound DE per thousand square feet of yard, in case you were wondering!)

Additional essential oils that repel ticks

If you search on the EPA’s guide to insect repellents, you’ll find that when you specifically search for repellents for ticks it lists three oils as active ingredients that can be selected –catnip (Nepeta cataria), citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus) and lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora).

Water-Based Version
Ingredients

    2 oz. apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or vodka (For info on sourcing non-GMO vodka check out my post on how to make vanilla extract)
    2 oz. water
    20-40 drops of either geranium bourbon essential oil, citronella essential oil, lemon eucalyptus essential oil, or catnip essential oil (Or a mixture of any of these essential oils as long as the total amount used is 20-40 drops. I don’t personally recommend catnip because it doesn’t smell awesome.)
    Optional – 1/2 teaspoon glycerin to help the scent last longer

To Make

Because essential oils don’t mix well with water, start by adding your geranium oil to the apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or vodka. Add a squirt of castile soap if desired and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before giving the mixture a stir. This will disperse the essential oil in the liquid. Add water and pour into a spray bottle, preferably one made of glass or PET plastic. (Essential oils can leach chemicals from some plastics, and we don’t want that!)

To Use

Shake well before use. Spray on skin or clothes before going outside.


Lotion-Based Version
Ingredients

    2 ounces natural lotion (I make my own, but some brands have pretty good ingredients. I like this one.)
    20-40 drops geranium bourbon essential oil (where to buy it)*

To Make

Mix oil and essential oils together and add to a spray bottle, or better yet an oil mister that is less likely to clog. Store in a cool, dark area when not in use. Should last 2-3 months.

To Use

Spray directly on skin before going outdoors.
 
Posts: 66
Location: Zone 4B, Maine, USA
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Agreed with Anne on the essential oil insect repellent. We used the recipe published by WellnessMama, but it's basically the same thing:
https://wellnessmama.com/2565/homemade-bug-spray/

When I'm working hard in the heat and sweating a lot I find it's only effective for about 30 minutes where it stays wet. But it's every bit as effective as deet, but far nicer smelling, non toxic, and it feels great even on bare skin.

I'm supposed to live in a bad tick area. Yet they've never gotten through my clothes, So I've never had a chance to use a tick key (perhaps kind of like the spoon Su mentioned?). But it's supposed to work really well:
https://www.amazon.com/Tick-Key-Remover-Assorted/dp/B000R1D3KQ

Ticks don't seem to be eager to cross large areas with short grassy growth. Don't know if that helps. Hang out with the chickens and they should protect you

Hopefully he has all the tools you need already there. So you'd only need to bring what you need to take care of... what you bring.

I'd suggest a hammock, some rope, and a knot tying book. And some sunglasses and a cool hat. And some beverage fixings I guess you might need some more reading material once the hammock is actually set up... I'd bring Tolkien and Thoreau, but I'm a weirdo

Definitely be prudent and prepare for problems, e.g. perhaps verifying the existence/contents of a chicken first aid kit in addition to the one for yourself that Anne mentioned. But I'd also offer: don't forget to relax and have some fun while you're there!!
 
John Donovan jr
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I will have to look into those essential oils thanks for the tips.  He told me for the chickens I just need to let them out in the morning and lock them up at night.  Other than that just daily feeding and watering with the occasional mucking out the coop.  He did tell me if I was feeling adventurous I could butcher and eat some of his birds.  It is funny that I have been catching and cleaning fish for 30+ years but the thought of doing the same to a chicken makes me a bit squeamish. 
 
pollinator
Posts: 190
Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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Hey John, welcome to permies :)

I'll be spending a majority of my summer roughin' it, though I won't have electricity or wifi.

- I'd prepare incase something happened to your electrical supply by bringing a powerbank. Though my preferred method would be buying at least two 18650 batteries, a charger that works as a powerbank and a LED flashlight that uses 18650 batteries. Include a fold-able $20 USB solarpanel if you want.  
- I'm assuming your friend has most of the tools you would ever need. What do you plan to do to fill your day while you are there? One of my first tasks will be to build a dakota fire hole.
- If he has wifi, I wouldn't worry too much about reading material.
- I'd be doing lots of wild-craft if I was in your situation. I picked only a handful of wild mint last year and the stuff was so potent and wonderful that if I have some time I'll be getting at least a pail of it this year

It seems tick-risk depend on the location, because in the spring/summer I wake up in the middle of the night, feel a tick on me, pull it off and go back to bed. I probably pull off 200 or so during a season and as far as I know I am pretty healthy after 5 years of the vampire attacks - always good to be cautious though. I don't know of any insects that like the smell of garlic, and it's certainly effective against rogue bacteria, so I've always eaten plenty of it from May to July for tick-prevention. 
 
John Donovan jr
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I want to thank everyone for the replies.  I asked this same question on some other forums and was told what I was doing wasn't homesteading which is funny as I never said I was.  All I asked for was advice just like my original post.  This seems like a greet community so once again thanks for the positive feedback.
 
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We’ve a major tick problem at our place and i’ve toyed with creating tick traps, basically co2 generating from a bucket to attract and a kill zone infused w/ permethrin (the active ingredient in those tubes of cotton meant for mouse nests, dangerous for pets). Powassan virus has been found nearby, so the problem has grown in severity (Powassan transfers faster than Lyme). We’re not at our place full time but have removed many ticks, but have always caught them early. Living alone might present a problem if the tick attaches out of reach.

Ticks don’t like dryness, so will retreat into the leaf litter until disturbed or it gets wet enough for their liking. So clearing leaf litter away from your living/hangout areas and keeping grass short is supposed to help. Ticks can be a hazard even overwintering in the leaf litter if disturbed. Never considered guinea hens because they are noisy (neighbors).

Wearing white clothing so they can be spotted and of course tucking pants into socks and long sleeved shirts (bummer in the summer). Supposedly Special Forces folks wear panty hose when laying around in the brush and I can attest that works. Those roller lint sticks might as well be called tick sticks as they seem purpose built for removing ticks from your clothing. This is especially useful if you disturb a nest of baby ticks.

If I get that tick trap prototype deployed I’ll post pictures.
 
Anne Miller
garden master
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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I don't know if the area you will be in has chiggers but we always dusted our socks and pants with it and it seems it will also repel ticks:

https://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/repel-ticks-sulfur-remed

Never tried this:
"following my grandfather's recipe, mixed dry sulfur with wild honey or molasses and we all ate some. You have to mix it with something because sulfur tastes really icky.
Mix one-eighth teaspoon of powdered sulfur with a little honey or molasses. Take this mixture once a day for a week in early spring. The next week take it every other day. The next week take it every three days. Thereafter take the mixture once a month through tick season."

Before you leave it might be helpful to make a checklist so that you don't forget to take important thing:

Medication
Cell phone and charger
Bills, financial stuff,
List of phone numbers of creditors, banks, friends
Personal items
First aid kit

Something that would be important to us would be a way to keep up with the weather

 
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I will bring along a friend if possible.

compass map hammock

have fun
 
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Just say "no" if you're afraid. Otherwise, enjoy some time in the wild with your pants tucked into your socks, long sleeved shirt, etc. to protect from ticks. I see so many idiots running around through long grass in Spring/Summer barefooted or with sandals (no socks), shorts, etc., then complaining about Lyme disease later! Chickens? Well, being a vegetarian I'd be tempted to set them free but that's your call...
Good luck!
 
Posts: 12
Location: Southwest Wisconsin: Zone 5b: Clay bottomland soil near a river
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I think the others covered quite a bit of your main questions...so I'll go for fun stuff.  I would recommend Tom Brown's books for reading material. He's got lots of great things you could be working on while you're out in the wild like that. Firestarting, toolmaking, weaponmaking, foraging for wild food, and especially tracking! There are so many cool things you could learn how to do, :).  And also...if you haven't read them before permaculture books are great too. toby hemenway's, "gaia's garden: A guide to Home-Scale Permaculture" is a great beginnerish guide to it.
  I second (or third?) using essential oils and diatomaceous earth for the ticks.
  Also I'd look at a couple basic essential oils to add to your first aid kit. Lavender and Tea Tree and Peppermint are pretty cost-effective and have so many uses! Just make sure to buy from a reputable company...if you get impure oils they can do more harm than good.
 
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Kat Ostby wrote: And also...if you haven't read them before permaculture books are great too. Toby Hemenway's, "Gaia's Garden: A guide to Home-Scale Permaculture" is a great beginnerish guide to it.


I hadn't heard of this one yet.  Another to add to my reading list!  Thank you.
 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 4, SD
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James Whitelaw wrote:Wearing white clothing so they can be spotted



White clothing helps you spot them, but sadly, it also attracts them.  I have a horrid tick problem and try NOT to wear white socks or pants when I go into the back and side yards or down by the creek.  Doing so assures I will have a dozen or so ticks to remove when I get back to the house.  I do have a yucky, fuzzy white blanket that is used to help clear the yard of both ticks and sandburs.  Ticks removed from it go into a jar of alcohol and the burs go into a pail to be burned. 

They say that ticks don't actually climb trees - won't go higher than about 3 feet, but I call BS on that. If I go out to work under trees - which is just about everywhere on 2/3rds of my yard, I will come back with ticks in my hair.  I know they didn't climb up me that fast!  So hats are a good thing! 

I also recommend Guinea fowl and Muscovy ducks as a big part of the tick patrol, but as you don't own the property, John that is probably not something you can do.  :)

Growing up in the Texas hill country, we dusted the perimeter of the yard [and camping sites] with sulfur dust.  Helped keep both ticks and rattlesnakes away.  I've had a hard time finding sacks of it in South Dakota but grab a bag of it if you can find it at your hardware or garden supply store.

Assume you have a smartphone, maybe a tablet.  If so, since you will have WiFi, a Kindle Unlimited account to download tons of books might be a good idea.  I discovered lots of authors that were not top sellers, lots of great indie writers - while having a smartphone but no WiFi or TV.   Or maybe you can WRITE a book yourself!  :)

I have lived the past 28 years without running water in my house and it is quite doable.  For the last ten years, I've had access to a hydrant in my yard so feel kind of spoiled at not spending half of every weekend hauling water!  [They will not hook up water to my house as I do not have a flushing toilet and septic system]  :)  Your home owner proably has some systems pretty well set up to deal with no running water so don't panic.

Since you will be there in the summer, you will get to learn about the beauty of outdoor showers.  I tolerate my winter showers inside in a construction tub by the wood stove, but adore my summer outside showers!  In the summer, I keep a black 30-gallon trash can out in the sun.  Top it off each evening and by the time I am done with the next day's work and ready to wash off the grime then next day, the water at the top of the trash can is generally quite warm and ready for my shower.  I have an electric water kettle inside to use to heat water quickly when needed.

For me - the 64oz container for Pace Picante Sauce has been my faucet and shower for these past 28 years.  I had learned to love them for camping before I left the city and they have held up well over time.  The container has a nice built-in handle, the amount of water in just one is enough for a shower if you use a soap that washes off easily [I use diluted Dr. Bronnerrs].  Just wet down, soap up and rinse.  I keep two of them filled by my sink and that is generally enough to get me through my handwashing needs each day.

As others have noted, a first aid kit is a good idea, sunscreen, candles, flashlight, batteries - stuff you'd want for any extended camping trip.  :)  You didn't say how far from a town [or your own home] you will be, but if it is close enough for a trip in each week you won't have to be so paranoid about not forgetting anything.   Learn to make your shopping list so when you do go to town, you are not berating yourself for what you forgot ten minutes after you get back. 

Good luck!  We are just next door via WiFi if something pops up.  Your friend is so very lucky to have someone like you to babysit his home and fowl while he get a bit of a vacation.  Hope you have fun as well.
 
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Location: Northern AZ
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Howdy!
I don't know much about ticks, but I live off-grid and raise chickens.

Chickens:
Bring some work gloves. You'll be glad to have them while collecting eggs if one of the hens gets broody. (That's when she won't get off the eggs and acts like she might attack when you get too close.) I also wear them if I need to catch a chicken.
Roosters can be mean. Show them you are boss right away if they confront you. "Get big" by raising your arms and barking (or whatever noise) and do not run from them. If you have to, kick him with the side of your foot or swat him with a stick. Most roosters will leave you alone for weeks or months after one hit - don't hurt it, just show it you're the one in charge.
Most of the time, chickens are wonderful, funny, peaceful creatures. Enjoy their company.

Living in the boonies:
Bring a camera, wide-brimmed hat, great shoes or boots, binoculars/ telescope, a want-to-learn attitude. Since the place is already set-up as a home, I'd guess all the essentials are already available other than say, specific allergy meds or food you might want. Don't worry about the water situation - again, if someone lives there full time, there's probably a decent system set up already. Do make sure your vehicle has good tires and is reliable. Try to meet the neighbors. If you are a distance from town, remember it will take awhile for help to arrive if you need it... make sure you know how to give someone directions to find you.

Good luck, have fun, ask lots of questions.
 
Posts: 26
Location: Eastern North Carolina, United States
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First of all, what a wonderful adventure opportunity!  And a kindness on your part.  Win-win situation.

A couple of other suggestions from having lived (and still living) in tick-land:

A good, quality Oregano oil (Oreganol P-73 and Plant Therapy are two I have experience with)  Treat any tick bite with this immediately and for a couple of days.  I had an actual Lyme tick bite (bulls-eye and all) and treated it with such and to my knowledge, eight years later do not have Lyme.  Oregano oil is very good for a lot of things (tooth abscess, infections, shortening the length of a cold, food poisoning, etc.)  Make sure whatever you use, to mix with a carrier oil as it is strong and will burn topically :)  Garlic should always be kept handy as well.

Probiotics - shifting to spring water where you may not have encountered the particular bacterial environment of the area, a probiotic might be helpful.  You can also have a drop of oregano oil in water or tomato juice as a daily preventative as well.  Sometimes our bodies do okay with a new water source, sometimes not.

Headlamp - your friend probably has these, but if not, I always find them handy in a new place where I'm unsure of trip hazards or paths and want my hands free to flail about or knock down spider webs.

Enjoy!  I suspect you'll come back with a new appreciation for many things, mostly, your ability to enter a new environment and prosper.
 
Posts: 12
Location: New Mexico USA
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Frankly, while I enjoy your enthusiasm to come here and ask us, I think the most important person to ask is your friend, who knows his homestead and knows all the tricks (and where the ticks are) and most likely has come up with tick and other pest solutions.



 
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