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Tips for noobs

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What are your best work-smarter-not-harder tips for homesteading? What do you wish you would have known going in?
Posts: 11799
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
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For me and my situation:

Make at least a provisional plan for the entire piece of land, integrating water harvesting earthworks, roads, buildings and gardens so they all work together instead of in conflict.  Start at the house and work outward.

Put a smallish vegetable garden ("kitchen garden") as close to the house as practical.  Larger "crop gardens" can be installed later at more distant locations.

Make as many outbuildings movable as possible

Install fencing that can be moved (avoid concrete)

Plan for aging in place if one intends to stay "forever"
Posts: 3204
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
forest garden trees woodworking
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Don’t ever lose track of or allow to fall to the ground and be left there any significant length (in inches) of plastic rope or metal wire. It will get lost in the grass or soil and turn up wrapped tightly in a rotating mechanism: rototiller, brush hog, axel, wood chipper, hay bailer, snow blower...  

The time you spend policing up loose bits of rope, wire, and twine is never wasted. No job is higher priority than cleaning up old wire. Once you’ve spent a day cutting rusty barbed wire out of a rototiller, you’ll see...

Corollary to this rule is, use only natural fiber string and rope for all jobs where these will serve, precisely BECAUSE twenty-six lost inchsd will harmlessly rot away into the soil instead of coming back to haunt you years later.
Posts: 86
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Soil test. Try and get the history of the land use of the place. It's amazing what folks wont tell you. Go super sleuth, old papers, old neighbors, council land allocation/zoning.

My house, it is on top of an old rubbish dump. Luckily it is considerably old, pre-plastics... but... Neat aye! They don't tell you that stuff in the lease.

Under my house, was shelves full of 'gardening materials' 2-4-D! DDT! They don't mention that in the lease either.

Better safe than sorry. Lots of homework. Not so boring as it sounds when it is your home.

Posts: 122
Location: NEPA
chicken food preservation building
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Some great tips already given. Here's a few I have found helpful.

Besides advice you get on this or any other forum, blog, YouTube, etc., seek out mentors in the area in which you live. There is no better advice than from someone who is familiar with your area and conditions who has already gone through what you are trying to do.

Look into your local university extension...another source of invaluable information and help from folks that know your area.

You don't need to buy everything new. Yard sales, Craig's list and freecycle.com are good sources to find tools, equipment and other things you may need.

Check out your local vo-tech to see what free or low-cost classes they might have that will add to your skill set.

Keep a journal. You need to get into the habit of writing things down because you won't remember everything. It can help you learn from you past mistakes and successes, keep track of your budget, inventories, seed starting/transplanting dates, etc.

Stay in the best physical condition you can...not out of vanity, but out of necessity. You are going to be putting in a lot of hard physical work and long days.

Save. Learn to be frugal. There will always be unexpected expenses.

Posts: 888
Location: 6a
hugelkultur dog forest garden trees cooking woodworking
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Great advice.  I'm still pretty new to food forestry here are some things I've learned.

Start nitrogen fixers or something to create biomass. I went from 5 pieces of comfrey I bought on Etsy to probably 100 comfrey plants in two years.   Comfrey is great for creating edge and keeping your islands free of grass and weeds.   I find that you can't have enough comfrey. (Some don't like comfrey so you may want to see if you like it first.)  All of my fruit trees have comfrey planted close by.    At first, focus your planting in a small area and use it as a springboard for learning and propagation.

 Find a trio or group of plants and just start.  I have black locust, raspberries, hazelnuts, sunchokes, mint and a few other perennials that I use to start new islands.  I replanted fifteen volunteer seedlings this year that came up from what I have planted.  

    These are all pumping out so much biomass that I can easily propagate to another area without spending a dime.   Mulch, in place, as much as possible. If something struggles to grow don't be afraid to chop it down and plant something in its place.  

     I have a couple of varieties of heirloom apples that are just too tender but I've kept them alive going on five years.  A new variety of apple that is very disease resistant and hardy is overtaking these heirlooms in growth.   The new variety has only been in the ground a year.

I find that small areas that are heavily planted with biodiversity do much better than sparse plantings.   You are creating a mini nursery by planting heavily.

I have an Island that is probably 50ft x 50ft and it just pumps out life.   In this one area I have black locust, apple, black currant, mint, calendula, willow, seaberry, alpine strawberries, nasturtium, mint, daylilies, comfrey, Radish, Alliums, you get the point.   The black locust in this area put on almost 6' this year.  The locusts in less biodiverse areas put on 1/2 that growth.

I see this as a way to do less work, smarter because this growth keeps the grass back and the weeds down.  It's kind of like having a nursery on autopilot.   Planting less dense islands with less biodiversity has meant doing work over as grass and weeds get a foothold and the plant in place are less vigorous.
Posts: 3564
Location: Toronto, Ontario
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
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Observe as much as possible without letting it become a stumbling block. Active observation will let you notice evidence of water action even when it's dry.

This has been mentioned at least once, but do your earthworks first. In the same vein, do any disruptive installation of features that will make it easier to maintain your system, even if it's just roughing it into the landscape, or even just marking the features on the land with string and pegs. This includes semi-permanent to permanent boundaries, access paths or roads, and main buildings (ones requiring foundations, for instance).

Remember to stack functions wherever possible. Roads and paths are rain collectors, and appropriate water distribution and road design turns the washed-out road problem into increased rain irrigation.

Also, don't play Jenga with the stacking of functions. The point isn't to see how much responsibility you can pin on one moving part of your permacultural system, but to see how efficient you can make the system as a whole. Besides, what happens if you miscalculate and that piece fails? Remember the hugel-dam-swale-road, and the trip it took downhill to see the neighbours' house.

Remember that often problems of excess (too much water, shade, sun) are really just problems of too narrow a focus. Turn your waste into the feedstock of another process.

I have said it before in another thread, but don't build your greenhouse in the shade. I mean this literally, but figuratively as well.

If you have no direct sunlight, plant for the shade. If you have no shade, best to grow things that like full sun. If you don't intend to irrigate, make planting choices that work with that decision. If you choose to plant things that require support, don't skimp on the support.

Oh. And compost. Compost everything you can. Start a worm bin. Encourage the conditions worms love in your soil, including appropriate organic matter and appropriate constant humidity. Healthy soil critters are the unsung heroes of the gardening world. They make things work so much better if you put them to work for you, which essentially means nurturing them so they can do their thing.

To that end, learn to make oxygenated compost extracts to put the soil life you want where you want it. While not exactly light reading, this list of Dr. Redhawk's soil threads has so much information, usually conveyed in a straightforward manner, that even the noob will benefit greatly. Compost extracts are in there, but more importantly are discussions about how to look at soil, and the difference between soil and dirt, and dozens of other little things that have shaped the way that I look at soil.

Lastly, read and do, in that order. Read, because there's just so much to learn, and do, because learning will only do so much good.

Posts: 17
Location: Crescent City, Florida
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I have greatly benefited from reading these posts over the last year.
It was said "there is so much to learn", and that is the case.
Again, I am grateful for the experts helping us noobs.
That being said, as a newbie (1 year into our permie project) I frequently find the info difficult to break down (composting humor?)
Please remember, experts, that when a newbie asks for newbie advice, give the newbie advice that a newbie can process, please?
Now get back to your thermal neutron flux oxygenation extract principle coefficients!
Posts: 296
Location: Carbon Hill, AL
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Earthworks. First. Always.  Otherwise you’ll be digging up or bulldozing trees later on when you need to put that off contour swale along the hillside to funnel more water toward your pond(s).

Unless you live in a swamp I don’t believe you can ever have to much water on your property.

I very rarely plant a single type/ variety of tree.  Unless it’s a tree to grow out to harvest scion wood from.

I plant trees by the 10’s,20’s, 100’s.  

Learn to graft, airlayer, and any other means of propagation you can for your perennials.

Plan for for your kids/ grandkids/ great grandkids.   Not just for yourself.

If you have that average plant large planting of black walnut, white oaks, and other nut trees.

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