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Self-sustained homestead on 12.5 acres?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 24
Location: Texas
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Hello permies! This is my first time posting here.  I am looking at a piece of land that is about 12.5 acres (rectangle shape).  It is flat, has open pasture (I don't know what type of pasture it is), clusters of Live Oak trees (in apparently undesirable areas, like in the middle of the pasture area), no natural water source (thinking about seeing if I can get a well made), and already has a house with a pool (located at the back end of the property. probably 90% of the land is in front of the house) as well as an old open sided barn structure (on the rear border of the property. might be best for hay storage?).  It also backs up to a large nature preserve. My question is, would this be enough land for a self-sustained homestead?

First: my definition of self-sustained - Being able to produce 100% of our food from a combination of Livestock/Fruits/Nuts/Vegetables while also being able to provide in a time of crisis our own energy sources (like electricity, water, heat/cool) for a minimum of 5-10 years but preferably perpetuity.

Things we would like to have/do on our homestead:

pastured Dairy cow - thinking having an A2 jersey.  Though when breeding I'd like to try to breed with an american milking devon bull.  It sounds like a great cross. Would like to own that bull outright eventually for self-contained reproduction.

pastured Chickens - I'm thinking black Australorps.  Maybe have buff orpingtons as well.

pastured Ducks - khaki Campbell and Muscovy

pastured Sheep - thinking icelandic sheep.

pastured Pigs - American guinea hog

Bees

Food tree Orchard - fruits/nuts/sugar maples - this also includes all the bushes and such for berries.

Fuel orchard - probably small, but enough to provide seed for replanting in time of crisis - was thinking black locust. Obviously the tree packed nature preserve would be available during dire straits but replanting with black locust might be good.

Greenhouse - We have considered draining the pool and turning that into a solar powered aquaponic garden pool (like the garden pool dot org one)

Pond - for the ducks and stock fish

Hay - for winter feeding of livestock

Garden - in the style of JM Fortier raised beds - including the walking diesel tractor.  Maybe a hoop house as well?

kitchen garden - the common "every day use"  herbs/vegetables

water well

root cellar



Is there enough space for all of that to be there?  We don't need large amounts of the livestock. a permanent breeding pair at a minimum for the sheep/pigs.  How many acres should I try to devote to Hay to get enough?  If there is not enough room for all of that, then how many acres should I look for instead?  I don't plan on starting all of that all at once, and I do plan on hiring a permaculture designer for assistance in farmscaping and figuring out what to get and where to put it.

Any assistance/insight would be appreciated.
land.png
[Thumbnail for land.png]
Google Map of land
 
gardener
Posts: 1599
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Hi Randy Welcome to permies!

I think that 12.5 acres would be large enough for all you want to do ...EXCEPT... growing Hay . Growing, cutting, baling hay, takes a lot of land and specialized equipment that is not cheap. Possibly if a neighbor is growing hay they might be able to cut and bale for a price... Depending on how much livestock you have .. you may need more than you can grow. Buy it from a neighbor.
Water or the lack of would be my main concern. Wells can go deep and still hit sulfur water . They also are not cheap. A windmill pump for livestock might be something you could do.
Your A-2 heifer (does not have to be a jersey there are others) is an excellent idea , however your bull must also be A-2 if you want / need  A-2 milk products.
Your in Texas... it gets hot... I might just leave that pool around for the hot dusty homesteaders to relax in after a hard day ... :)  just a thought.
I am a big fan of growing black locust !  Firewood , fence posts the only downsides are the thorns and needing new chainsaw chain because the wood is so hard your chain constantly needs sharpened.
Electricity,  solar works well, wind is also a good tool in windy Texas.  Battery's are the weak link.  If you are 100% self sustained you will need a large battery bank.  If you go grid inter tie then you will be dependent on the grid staying active...  
Cooling in Texas will be a biggie. I'm sure A/C is king down there.  With off grid living A/C is a power sucker...  some folks make do with a home built swamp cooler. Others just use a fan...
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Welcome, Randy.

Sounds like a nice piece of land, especially next to a nature reserve.

I like most of your ideas. I think you should be very aware of the social natures of some of the livestock you want. A Jersey cow, for instance, isn't really going to be happy by herself, or even with just her calf, or a bull in an adjacent paddock. I think you'd need a minimum of two cows to keep each other company.

Incidentally, I don't think you should prioritise the bull. You should get to know your neighbours who have bulls first, and find out what options are available to you there. Buying a bull outright basically sticks you with those genetics, whereas you can diversify your bovine gene pool by using a neighbour's bull for stud. Stud fees are cheaper than buying and/or raising an individual bull of your own.

Also, be aware that you will only retain A2 genetics if the bull also has A2 genes. This certainly seems possible with such an old breed as the American Milking Devon, but it's no where near guaranteed, as it is a recreated breed. They are also exceedingly rare, so be ready to compromise on this point, and have a list of acceptable back-up breeds.

As to land, it depends very much on how you use it. Let's say you have space enough for 10 one-acre paddocks. To give sixty days of regeneration in that paddock, the livestock would have to spend a week on each paddock. So your stocking rate would be limited to how many of your largest livestock could live comfortably on an acre for a week without denuding it.

This assumes that you want to do paddock shift with your livestock, but as you're on this site, I assume that's a safe bet.

Why would you think that groves of oak trees in your pasture are a bad idea? They provide shelter from the sun and wind and mast for your non-ruminants, as well as transpiring moisture into the air. I would work around them, as you want pigs, and mast-fed pork is both delicious and very happy while they're eating.

I would think about transforming your pasture with rows of food forest, the alleys between the rows being your paddocks. That way, you cut wind dessication by adding texture to your land, and you provide as many benefits of a food forest as you can fit conceptually in rows. You already have some oak, as mentioned, so I would add all the trophic layers of a food forest, from the nut trees that will be your canopy in decades to come, to perhaps hazels, mulberry trees, apple, pear, all the stonefruit, cane fruits, currants, and all herbaceous and woody-stemmed berry plants you can think of.

Intensively managed food forest rows could provide much of your nutrition, and probably pack much more in than an orchard. In addition, windfalls and insect-predated food gets turned into added feed right there on the pasture paddock.

Incidentally, you could use the alleys between food forest rows for field crops, or even intensively managed gardens, if you had more room than your livestock needed.

Also, where in Texas are you? What are your winters like? I remember one New Years, when we went down to visit my aunt, and there was an ice storm. Or at least that's what the locals called it. There was a shell of ice on the ground, maybe a couple of milimetres, and the main problem was their lack of planning. I am surprised that you couldn't graze your cattle all winter long, but I may have assumed incorrectly.

I would consider a shelter belt of coppiced fuel wood species. Black locust is a really good pick.

Do sugar maples survive in your climate? The harvesting of sap is closely tied to the freeze-thaw cycle, so I wonder how that would work if it never freezes.

Bees are a great idea, as they will essentially forage for their food further than you could manage; keeping bees for honey essentially lets you benefit from their foraging in a three-mile radius around your property.

Also to the heat thing, are Icelandic sheep going to survive your summers?

Just a few thoughts. I have many more. If you could give us a few more details about where your property is, what the hardiness zone is, your elevation, basically anything that will let us in on what kind of climate and seasonal difficulties with which you will have to contend, it will help to narrow the focus of our suggestions. Also, the soil type would help as well.

But keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK

 
pollinator
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How many times have you eaten sheep and duck in the past year? If the answer is 0, put yourself on a diet of both for a month. Eating it once is a novelty, eating it everyday is different entirely. We (Americans) eat beef, chicken, and pork. Trying to keep your same eating habits by substituting meats(steaks, spaghetti, etc) may be a change you wont like. Or worse yet, your spouse wont like. If you dont eat it, whats the point? This is the number one thing about being self sufficient. If you don't eat it, they become pets. Pets are competing for the resources on your limited amount of land.

I'll ad more later. Im in texas with 17 acres. I have chickens, cows, sheep, turkeys. Fruit trees. Home garden. Pond. I am not self sufficient by any means as far as no inputs. I have good insight that may help. Things i would do differently to be self sufficient.

 
pollinator
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Grid tied solar is cheap, off grid solar is probably 5-6 times as expensive, but still doable.  Don't waste your time or money on wind.

Fruit and nut trees require huge amounts of water.  Depending on where exactly this land is, you might get enough from rain, or might not.

As for livestock, you can be self sustaining with chickens for sure.  Maybe with ducks, but ducks generally want a pond and that may or may not be a problem.
Eggs are an excellent source of high quality protein, and the feed conversion ratio of chicken (meat) and eggs close to the best available.

You're not going to be self sustaining with any of the larger animals, not on 12 acres.  You can certainly raise a few of them, with a lot of external inputs, but you don't have enough land to sustain a viable breeding population.

If you were to use the entire 12 acres for pasture and hay, you might be able to support ONE milk cow, and nothing else.  A milk cow goes through about 100 lbs of food per day.  A dairy goat (especially a dwarf) would be a better option, assuming you can tolerate the taste.  I wouldn't bother with a bull, that's a LOT of food just to support breeding once a year.  Although you could buy a bull calf, raise it up to breed once and then slaughter it.  But that's still a lot of feed that you'll need to get from somewhere else, and beef has one of the lowest feed conversion ratios.  It takes 4-5 times as much food to raise a pound of beef compared to a pound of chicken/eggs

The feed conversion ratio for pork is about 1/2 way between chicken and beef.
 
pollinator
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1 acres can be used to grow all the nuts/oil + fruits + vegetables + herbs + mushroom + tubers + honey that your family needs.

House + Well + Pool + Septic + Solar + Root Cellar + Firewood Lot + Solar Dehydrators + Outdoor Kitchen + GreenHouse + Fish Pond can all fit on another 1 acre

Ducks + Chickens for Meat+Eggs will need another 1 acres.
I would make this very similar to a regular food forest with a pond.
And store nuts/tubers/grains + dehydrated fruits for winter.

ROTATIONAL GRAZING (30 sub-pastures with daily moving)
Pigs ((1dad, 2mom, X babies) will need another 2 acres
They will eat grass and hay, might need a sheep to train them.
You can also plant nuts for them too and store that for the winter
Or maybe you can just fatten them up and kill them for winter

Sheep (1dad, 2mom, 2babies) will need another 2 acres

Cow (mom, calf) only have 6.5 acres.
Winter Hay is 3.25acres
Summer Self-Feeding is 3.25 (this is the carrying capacity for most of East Coast USA)
This assumes a zone 6 or warmer, and east coast amount of rainfall, perfect pasture/seed mix

Carrying Capacity/Animal Unit Equivalent Chart

 
Randy Coffman
Posts: 24
Location: Texas
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I have updated the original post with a google map screen shot of the land in question.  the boxes are from ms paint. I was intending to label the areas for possible use.  the far right side near the street is I think 3 acres (for hay), the middle section is the pasture which I think is 4+ acres. the top/left box is about 1 acre for garden.


the land is claimed to be in hardiness 8b.


I don't have the time right now to answer all questions, but I will come back later tonight to answer as much as I can.



a quick note is, I love trees, but from my view, those big clusters may be taking up too much potential pasture is all.  If they were more spread out or less of them that would be better I'd think.


I intend to do the Joel Salatin method of rotational grazing with a mobile chicken coop following the cows and sheep that I plan to pasture together, so the cow shouldn't be lonely.  mobile electric fencing is my current idea (premier one)
 
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lots of great ideas here - I'll add my thoughts:

I concur about sheep not being the best choice, unless you LIKE Mutton/Lamb AND plan on using the wool. otherwise increase your beef/pig/chicken numbers to compensate for loss of sheep.

consider adding Mulberry and/or Honey Locust to your pasture and/or fuel forest - mulberry coppices yearly for fuel, provides delicious berries, and the leaves are animal fodder. Honey Locust is Nitrogen Fixing(I know there are competing studies about this, but, it certainly doesn't hurt) and the pods can be fodder as well.

Interspersing these trees (as well as the existing Oaks) into your pasture will not necessarily decrease pasture grasses yield; some species like the wind break, moisture collection, etc that trees provide(think savanna biome), and you can also seed shade-tolerant pasture plants nearer the trees.  (also the acorn mast will be fodder for pigs that someone else mentioned.

12.5 acres is plenty of room to provide a year's worth of food for one family, as long as you maximize use of space with inter-cropping, guilds, paddock rotation etc.  I hope and pray you succeed!!
 
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I think self-sufficiency for any length of time is a myth, unless you are talking about a community.  I love your enthusiasm and you have some really great goals, but I would recommend nurturing some good neighbor relations if you want to get anywhere near true self-sufficiency.

Personally, I would work on building my soil and getting trees and gardens in first, and go very, very slowly with animals.  Chickens and bees are a great start.  As Chris mentioned, most animals are not happy being by themselves, and 2 or 3 cows is a pretty big responsibility,and I would agree with others that said you don't have enough land to support them.  Chickens are super easy, but get people used to the day-in, day-out of keeping animals.  I would pick about a tenth of an acre and start my food forest and gardens.  Trying to do too big an area too fast and adding in animals to the mix is a recipe for doing a half-assed job and having areas get away from you.  When that happens, you kind of start again on those areas and lose a lot of time and progress compared to starting with a much smaller area, doing a really good job, and expanding from there.  That has been my personal experience anyway.  The zone theory of permaculture, starting at your house and working out is a good one, and one I have ignored.  I shouldn't have :)
 
pollinator
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Here's some thoughts from my experience and perspective.

Self sufficiency is doable, but it depends upon your definition. It's been argued that self sufficiency is being able to meet all your own basic needs without outside help. BUT what if I sell my excess vegetables for cash, then use that money to buy a tractor and gasoline? Is using a tractor being self sufficient? Or using that money to hire someone to install livestock fencing? Some argue that it's not. Sigh.....to each their own ideas. In my own mind I've decided that using the money my farm earns and spending it on the things I need is indeed my being self sufficient. Based upon this definition, I'd say the self sufficiency is very doable.

Could I be self sufficient on 12.5 acres in Texas? Perhaps, but I have no experience in Texas, so I can't be certain. But I have learned that I can be almost self sufficient on 20 acres in Hawaii where I can grow food year around, access additional food via hunting/foraging/trading, and have much reduced energy needs.

Let's look at food. As long as you have access to water, fresh organic green material to make compost (your source of fertilizer), and knowledge of how to grow it, your 12.5 acres should be able to produce all your own food. But I surely wouldn't turn my back on hunting, foraging, and trading. No one piece of property can provide all the dietary variety we have come to expect for our good health. Nor would I strictly adhere to the 100% goal, because life gets really boring and frustrating without the spices, salt, coffee, chocolate, and non-acclimated foods one enjoys. For example, I can't grow most nuts and stone fruits where I live, so I do buy things like walnuts and peaches with my farm income. Remember, that's still being self sufficient as far as I'm concerned when I sell my pumpkins and beans to buy peaches......or when I trade peas and cabbages for cow's milk. One thing I don't grow is much in the way of grains. So I trade for homemade breads.

Speaking of milk, do you need several gallons of milk a day? Cows can give a lot of milk, so unless you know that you can sell your excess or feed it to a pig (even a pig would be hardpressed to consume the milk from two cows a day), having two dairy cows may not be your best solution. Even with my 20 acres and not having to feed cows during dead winter, cows don't make sense for me. Thus I trade for the cow's milk that I want. And I keep 2 dwarf goat does (and a buck who resides on a back pasture away from the does) for fresh milk. It's a lot less daily work, less pasture needed. And keep in mind that a bull is needed somewhere along the line for your cow to produce milk. Why feed a bull when you only need him for a day or two each year? It's too expensive to maintain a bull year around for one or two cows, and it's also very dangerous. Bulls can be problematic. Besides, as pointed out, cows require a lot of feed, so unless your 12.5 acres is currently lush pasture, you've got a problem to start with. And getting them through the winter will require purchased feed. Skimp on the feed and you'll lose your milk supply.

Chickens - always a good small homestead animal. Your breed choices are fine. 6 hens and one rooster is usually enough unless you're using them to process compost and supply fertilizer. I maintain 50-60 chickens for eggs (they are good for trading), our meat, and to provide fertilizer, and process our garden and donated waste foods. That's most likely far too many chickens for most people, but it works fine for my situation.

Rabbits - another good easy homestead animal. Good for meat, selling some babies as pets, providing fertilizer. If you learn to tan your own pelts, then the pelts are a plus.

Ducks - If you like eating duck, then they are fine. Muscovys don't need a pond and are far less messy and quieter. They give a decent amount of eggs and a decent meat return.

Sheep - good small acreage livestock. Can provide milk for cheese or cooking. They don't give much milk at a milking, but the milk freezes well. I stockpile mine until I want to make cheese. They provide meat. I find that some breeds taste far better than others. Plus we harvest our lambs very young (40 lbs) for better flavor and tenderness. But I have turned older sheep into ground mutton which is fine for casseroles, barbecue sandwiches, shepherds pie, etc.  I raise hair sheep so I don't have wool as a harvestable product. But I can sell the hide to local crafters who tan their own. Not much cash in it but it's better than turning it into compost. By the way, sheep are far easier to fence in than a cow, goat, or pig. I really like not having to track down wayward escaped livestock.

Goats - good for milk and meat. Harder to confine than sheep, so you have to invest in better restraint.

Pig - I find that a pig or two is perfect for my homestead farm. They turn a lot of my waste into edible meat. If not well managed, they will ruin your pastures. You just have to keep that in mind.

Between the 50 chickens, 4 ducks, 4 rabbits, 2 pigs, 3 goats, dozen sheep we have plenty of meat and dairy, with lots of excess to sell and trade. It get good variety right off the farm. Plus we trade for fish, beef, mouflon, and cow's milk.

Bees should work fine. I use to keep my own, but when my neighbor across the street got into bees, I gave my hives up. Let him do the work. I'll just trade for a pint of honey now and then.

Fruit and nut trees. Makes sense. Sugar maples? Will they produce in Texas? Maybe look into sweet sorghum instead.

Pond and fish? Sure. Greenhouse? Sure. Hay? You won't produce enough to feed a lot of livestock, especially if two cows are in the formula.......unless your land  is lush. A wood lot? Sure but it will take years to establish, just as will your food orchard. Root cellar? Sure unless you're on bedrock. If your house has a basement, then you can create a root cellar there. Water well? You'll have to check with your local authorities and well diggers. They could give you the necessary info.

Energy needs? That depends. A solar or wind system will initially cost a lot of money, depending upon your energy needs. And it costs money and experience/knowledge to maintain. It isn't free energy. I'm totally off grid. I'm happy with it. The system isn't completely self sufficient of course. I have to buy batteries every 6-7 years, distilled water on a regular basis, repair components as needed, and have a generator for topping up the battery bank on no-sun days. The farm doesn't earn enough to go buy a total replacement system. And since one has to go buy all the parts, people will argue, just how self sufficient is that?

From my own experiences, I find that it takes a lot of learning and doing to have a self sufficient homestead. And it takes work to maintain it. But it's a great experience!!! I love having a homestead farm!!!
 
Randy Coffman
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Chris Kott wrote:Welcome, Randy.

Sounds like a nice piece of land, especially next to a nature reserve.

<Cow question>

As to land, it depends very much on how you use it. Let's say you have space enough for 10 one-acre paddocks. To give sixty days of regeneration in that paddock, the livestock would have to spend a week on each paddock. So your stocking rate would be limited to how many of your largest livestock could live comfortably on an acre for a week without denuding it.


<oak trees>

<Silvo pasture?>


<weather>


Do sugar maples survive in your climate? The harvesting of sap is closely tied to the freeze-thaw cycle, so I wonder how that would work if it never freezes.

Also to the heat thing, are Icelandic sheep going to survive your summers?

Just a few thoughts. I have many more. If you could give us a few more details about where your property is, what the hardiness zone is, your elevation, basically anything that will let us in on what kind of climate and seasonal difficulties with which you will have to contend, it will help to narrow the focus of our suggestions. Also, the soil type would help as well.

But keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK



cow question - My plan is to have the cow graze with the sheep in the same paddock, so they can keep each other company and the sheep will assist in the pasture maintenance.  I only plan on breeding with A2 bulls, and would only use those types.   While using a neighbor cow could be useful, My quick trip to the neighborhood recently showed that there might not be anyone else nearby that has cows.  I saw horses only.  If I can support a bull, it too would pasture with the cow and sheep as well.  I am aware that this can make breeding a little unpredictable, but I'm willing to live with that.   I also am choosing jersey because of milk production with the cream production.  The extra milk can be shared with the rest of the livestock, and we can use all of the cream for cheese/butter/cream things.  I considered just going straight american milking devon, but I am not sure we'd get enough milk production for family consumption and enough for the cream things as well as other livestock support.  If someone can make the case that it WOULD be enough, I will kick the jersey to the curb and go straight AMD.

Oak trees - I added a picture of the land.  you can see the tree clusters I am referring to.  I am with the belief that that amount of them is a hinderance to effective pasture rather than an assistance.  Maybe a thinning of them would be an  overall improvement.  I don't want to remove everything if I don't have to.  I like trees. even trees that don't directly supply food for the farm.  I like that having some can be shade too.  I just don't want my general love of trees to be the reason I don't have enough pasture for my livestock.  I actually want to plant as many trees as I can around the border of the property

Silvopasture - I am very interested in doing silvopasture with food producing plants/trees coinciding with my pasture and such.  As a tie in with the oak trees, I just don't think the oak trees are the right tree for the job, and if anything, they're taking up the space for the trees that are.  I am hoping that the permaculture designer I hire will have some good ideas and plans for incorporating such ideas into the land.  

Weather - I preface this with the fact that I do not know for sure about this, but with that said, here we go.   I am with the understanding that when late fall and winter come along here in the san antonio region, grass goes dormant, which I would then believe that would mean that animals eating them then would make it difficult or impossible for them to come back, and then I'd have no pasture come spring.  I could be completely wrong about this, or there could be pasture grass that just don't care and stays lively in our climate year round.  If that is so, then I want that grass, and I can throw away the idea of needing so much hay for wintering the animals.

Sugar maples - if it were up to me, I'd be moving our family to sheridan, wyoming.  In their climate, sugar maple will work fine.  I may have gotten some things crossed up when thinking of texas and thinking of wyoming.  This land is supposedly in 8b, which might be too much for sugar maple.  I may need to give up on these, but I can look for other large gorgeous long living trees that can replace it I guess.

Icelandic sheep - I've read that if you shear them, they'll be ok in hotter climates.  They're also just fine in wyoming (which is why I found them appealing originally).  I'm open to changing breeds as long as they're a hardy breed that can live off pasture alone like the icelandic.

Pool - my wife (and I to a lesser degree) do not want to have to maintain a pool.  The garden pool idea could allow us to use it without destroying it, in case we move some day and the buyer wants a pool.

Pond - we would like to have a pond for the ducks and stock fish. we are ok with having one created that can self filter and such. use duckweed and other things to keep it clean.  Who knows, if it's big enough it might be swimable/bathable, but that's so far down our concern at the moment

Solar - we're ok with purchasing a solar unit.  a solar unit that can run independently would be good for obvious reasons, but it just depends on price/feasibility

hay - the BCS tractor has implements to cut and even bale hay.  if all else fails, I could scythe and stack it.   If there is a way for me to reduce the acreage needed for hay, I want to do it.  Even if that involves growing certain vegetables/fruits for feed, or some kind of pasture grass that can be grazed year-round.  Ultimately, I just want my livestock to survive the winter!

Community dependance - I don't plan on being an isolationist, but I do want to be able to feed my own family myself, and I want to be able to give/sell extra to others.  If I ever actually know a thing or two about a thing or two in regards to farming/homesteading, I'd love to have farm work interns.  I think there's room for me to put a barn on the property that has a barndominium attached to it for living quarters.

Self-sustaining pasture - This is another part where maybe I'm reading all the wrong things(books/online), but I was under the belief that rotational grazing a cow would only need 1-1.5 acre of pasture for a year for space/time to recover.  a bull, if I got one, would need 2 acres for a year. having 3-5 sheep would need 1 acre for a year.  This equates to 4-5 acres (with 3 other acres for hay).  The egg mobile chickens following behind use the same pasture (and I'd only have like at most 30 chickens I'd think in there).  maybe my numbers are wildly wrong, or maybe they're close.  If I did have a way to go with only like 1 acre of hay, I could have 7 acres for pasture I think.    Also, I do not have a problem with supplementing their diet with non-grain food like pumpkins and such if I can grow enough.

Sheep in general - I liked the fact that they'd be assistant lawn mowers that don't need as much as cows, while also providing meat/dairy.  I've had lamb before and it's fine.  However, they could easily be a source of income since if not needed we'd like to sell them, and could sell their wool.  I'm not dead set on them, but thought they'd be a good compliment to the homestead.  if no sheep, then I'd want another cow I guess but that might not be possible due to space.

Self-sufficiency is a myth - if you think my provided definition of self sufficiency is a myth (producing enough food/fuel to support your family year-round using your own farm closed loop eco-system), then please explain to me why?  If this goal is utterly unattainable within reasonable expectations, then explain how that is so.  I did not and am not saying that I want to do everything ever myself. Just food/energy.  I just don't see it, but I'm open to having my mind changed, and if so, that'd change all sorts of things.  Also, my ultimate goal would be that I can produce so much, I would be the source of food for other families as well, but that's not as important at the start.


I tried to answer most questions here.  If there is something you think I did not cover or want me to expand on, please let me know.  I appreciate all of the responses I've received.  This is a big life change and we don't want to do embark on the journey unless we're comfortable with the reasonable outcome.   I mentioned moving to Sheridan, Wyoming.  Why?  Because it has some of the best weather for Wyoming, is a small town, relaxed gun laws, small government, more cows than people, no state tax, and has an AMAZING public school district for Sheridan ISD #2.  While the winters can be brutal, the spring/summer/fall are actually nice weather, and the price there isn't too bad.  There are some areas here in texas that look fantastic and are far better, to me, for accomplishing our goal, but my wife is dead-set on having a good school district with enough resources to help struggling kids, and I have no way of guaranteeing that in those areas (like the fayette county area which has some really appealing lots for sale).  So I'm a little hamstrung on just going for the best farmland I can find, and moving out of Texas is improbable.  The further it is from the san antonio region (family), the far less likely my wife will say "let's do it."
 
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You want to be able to provide all food/energy needs for 5 years or more etc...  Is the goal here to be able to survive social upheaval or other long term disasters? Because if it is then the surrounding properties/community would be an important factor to consider. Who are the neighbors? Are they farmers/ranchers with a reasonable degree of self-sufficiency? Would they work together in a crisis, would they be people you could barter with etc...

Often folks looking to do that type of homesteading move to areas (like the Ozarks, the PNW, etc...) where they will be surrounded by like minded individuals.
 
Randy Coffman
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:You want to be able to provide all food/energy needs for 5 years or more etc...  Is the goal here to be able to survive social upheaval or other long term disasters? Because if it is then the surrounding properties/community would be an important factor to consider. Who are the neighbors? Are they farmers/ranchers with a reasonable degree of self-sufficiency? Would they work together in a crisis, would they be people you could barter with etc...

Often folks looking to do that type of homesteading move to areas (like the Ozarks, the PNW, etc...) where they will be surrounded by like minded individuals.




my desire for homestead farming - I think the lifestyle is more rewarding, and is a better upbringing for my kids who can learn how to be able to take care of their own basic needs instead of depending on other people for them.  I believe it is empowering when you know that you don't "need" someone else just to live a sustainable life worth living.  I believe a well run farm/homestead is a gift that can be given to my kids and their kids and their kids' kids  as long as they want to keep it maintained.  Understanding the value of life and the way the life cycle works as well as where food comes from.  If a successful business model could be formed, they'd know that there was already a path forward in life that they could succeed in if they choose or need to do it.

My original desire for self-sustainment was for the potential cause of something like, power outage, supply shortage.  If someone were to say, bring down the energy grid in a way that couldn't be fixed for a while, or some other hopefully only temporary disaster, my family would not just perish immediately.  My desire, as I stated above, is to move to Wyoming, or at least out to the small town areas of Texas with good farmland, where we'd be far enough away from most big city areas and close to other homestead/farm type families.

Unfortunately, I have to compromise on my desire of location to the point where it's most likely not going to be out away as far as I'd like.  However, this opportunity could still present a chance to at least START doing these things and learn, in hopes that sometime down the road maybe we will move to a more desirable location (size and surroundings).  From my quick trip by the area to view the lot, I noticed that the houses around it were all also on relatively similar land.  the only animals I saw were horses.  I do not know if anyone else does livestock.  With that said, if there IS someone nearby who knows more than I do (not hard right now!), I'd hope to have a chance to learn from them, and on the reverse, if I'm the only one doing the stuff, I'd be willing to teach them what I know.  I understand that it would be best to have a close knit community rather than just my family unit, but I want to make sure, as a man and a father, that I can provide for and protect my family first.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Randy Coffman wrote: I understand that it would be best to have a close knit community rather than just my family unit, but I want to make sure, as a man and a father, that I can provide for and protect my family first.



Well community, and also in the event of a lengthy grid down situation neighbors that work together to shut down the road and provide security. If you are in a rural area well outside of Austin that may be the case.
 
wayne fajkus
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There is no self sufficiency without breeding.  There is no meat without the ability to separate the babies from the bull. This is the point most people miss in their planning. Salatin buys cows at 500 pounds and sells them at 1000 pounds after finishing them on grass. Its great for his land but misses the point of being self sufficient. You have to decide your own definition. You will never run one string of electric fence to rotate the cattle  AND finish out  the babies. The bull will get to them and they will be bred.

Sheep will eat what the cows dont. Without the sheep, you will be mowing so the non desirable (to cows) plants dont take over. A true chicken tractor system should do the same thing though.  They  will knock everything down.  

Cows and sheep will eat the leaves they can reach. I wouldn't do anything drastic as those spaces will open up. Cows will use the cedar trees to rub flies off their body. Some are needed.

Any cow can be milked. One cow will produce so much for a family that getting a specific breed  bred for milk production seems overkill. Its like having 20 chickens when 4 will give you 2 dozen a week.

You will get periods of heavy rain.  Plan a corral to keep them in so they dont destroy the pasture.  
 
wayne fajkus
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I have found no reason to have a greenhouse in texas. You not only have a long growing season, you have 2 growing seasons.  You will soon find out that the fall garden may be more productive than the spring season. Come july/aug you start deciding whether to expend energy keeping the tomatos alive (after a great harvest) vs starting again Sept 1. You get second chances here.
 
wayne fajkus
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Winter grass is pretty good here. Oats, wheat, rye grass. I think the freeze this week got to 26 degrees. My fall tomatos, okra, lettuce, potatos are gone but the pasture grass was not effected. If you want to improve the pasture, get winter deer food plot mixes. They will be either oat or rye based, but will have nitrogen fixers (peas clovers) and the drillers (radishes and turnips). Read the label. I prefer oats or wheat to rye grass. i time it out after it rains, just spread it with a cyclone hand crank seed spreader(amazon) when the ground is wet.  12 acres is nothing to do by hand.

The issue is keeping the animals off long enough for it to get established.

 
Randy Coffman
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wayne fajkus wrote:There is no self sufficiency without breeding.  There is no meat without the ability to separate the babies from the bull. This is the point most people miss in their planning. Salatin buys cows at 500 pounds and sells them at 1000 pounds after finishing them on grass. Its great for his land but misses the point of being self sufficient. You have to decide your own definition. You will never run one string of electric fence to rotate the cattle  AND finish out  the babies. The bull will get to them and they will be bred.

Sheep will eat what the cows dont. Without the sheep, you will be mowing so the non desirable (to cows) plants dont take over. A true chicken tractor system should do the same thing though.  They  will knock everything down.  

Cows and sheep will eat the leaves they can reach. I wouldn't do anything drastic as those spaces will open up. Cows will use the cedar trees to rub flies off their body. Some are needed.

Any cow can be milked. One cow will produce so much for a family that getting a specific breed  bred for milk production seems overkill. Its like having 20 chickens when 4 will give you 2 dozen a week.

You will get periods of heavy rain.  Plan a corral to keep them in so they dont destroy the pasture.  



What would the minimum amount of cows needed to safely perpetuate breeding?

In your bull scenario, it would only matter if the baby was a female, right? so when another male is born, that can be steer'd (unless you need a replacement bull?) and raised for meat (or draft oxen?), but the female will be the one in danger of being bred.  Is there a reason the female being bred would be a problem?   Is this because it would ruin the meat or delay the chance for meat?  I ask because I do not understand what risk you're trying to avoid.

your comment about sheep is why I thought they would be a good tandem livestock and friend for the cow.  I'm guessing when you say the chicken tractor you're not referring to an egg layer mobile coop but like one of those ground sliding cages that I see people putting meat chickens in?

I do not understand what you mean by space opening up or "do anything drastic".  Are you referring to the removal of some of the trees, or do you mean don't remove all of them?  or something different completely?

for the cow, a jersey has, arguably, the highest fat percentage, and a good amount of volume means a lot of cream, so by comparison a AMD cow has close to the same fat percentage but less than half of the milk production (I think. unless jersey numbers for pasture/grass raised are similar to AMD), which means a lot less cream.  the skim milk can be fed to other animals every day if need be.  the cream can be used for all the things it can do.  If the case can be made that the amount of cream from an AMD that you get every day is enough to do anything and everything you'd ever want to do with cream, and there will be enough milk leftover for supplemental feed for the pigs/chickens after family consumption, then please prove that to me (even basic fuzzy math from real experience would convince me. I don't need some scholarly research study) so I can drop the jersey.  I really like the AMD, but don't know if it would give enough.

I was thinking a barn would be a good outbuilding to have that can be their haven during the heavy rain.

the greenhouse over the pool is for the aquaponics system, like the garden pool dot org guy's.  he's in arizona which is also hot as blazes, and the greenhouse helps regulate the heat I'm guessing.  It would also allow you to grow off season things and maybe some things that normally don't grow in texas, like avocados maybe.

Like I said, a winter grass option that can be done rather than hay would be great.  If there is a perennial pasture I can use that would rock and roll all 12 months that would be great.  If I have to use an annual pasture grass every year and reseed it, then I would need to know how to replenish my seed storage to use the next year.  I do want to stay away from grains, so oats/wheat/rye I think would be ruled out right?  I would like to stay grass fed.

How long would it take to for the seeds to get established?
 
wayne fajkus
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I am talking about a female. Mainly it being pregnant at time of slaughter. Something i would like to avoid. There are also issues from the bull getting to the calf too soon. I dealt with this recently.  She was 9 months old when the bull got to her. Probably not good for the calfs health to be pregnant that soon,  but i need to do more research. I guess there are times when separation is needed. I explained it this way recently- if you are 18 and theres a willing good looking female on the other side of an electric fence, could you get to her? The answer is probably the same for a bull.

A chicken tractor is what i am referring to. But anything that concentrates a chicken into one area. They will knock it down. Whatever salitan is doing knocks it down. I think you mentioned his system.

On the trees i was saying dont get in a hurry to clear cut. They will eat the leaves.  As they do their work, more light will get in and grass may grow.

On the milk, I have no firsthand knowledge of milking. That will happen in 2019 at my place. I have bought raw milk and have the centrifugal thing that separates the cream. 1 gallon of milk a day would supply all the cream and butter my family would use plus some. I am unclear how to manage a dairy herd for meat. Maybe someone can chime in. Are you getting less quality meat in exchange for higher quality milk? Would i get less quality milk but better meat with my cows? I would guess that both of us will have milk with higher cream than store bought "whole" milk. Its a matter of how much better. If you have to bring in alfafa to get that extra production, is it worth it? I dont have answers but this is an interesting subject. What breed is best for dual purpose.

Good answer on the greenhouse. My dad has a grapefruit tree in a greenhouse. I'm talking 100 or more fruit on it each year. He has had to add height over the years. My mind was on annual stuff like tomatos.

On grass, i doubt wheat will get tall enough to seed with cows on it. The main point is that winter grasses grow here. We are not covered in snow. Hay will be needed though.
 
Randy Coffman
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According to my research on milk cows: Jersey has the highest fat content, hence the most cream per gallon.  They also produce above average volume of milk.  However, I can't peg down whether their higher production is grain based or not.  On the other hand, AMD has high fat, lower than jersey, and produces less volume.  The thing is, AMD are pretty much all on grass-fed, and it seems to be possible to get 1 gallon a day from them if you calf-share.   It's possible that a jersey on a grass-fed diet does similar volume output, which would then tell me to get an AMD.

research has shown that you don't "need" to keep impregnating a cow to be able to milk them continuously with a reduced output.  So with this in mind, maybe I wouldn't "need" a bull as long as I just keep milking the cow.  With that in mind, maybe just one/two females would be better, and I can get AI from well bred AMD bulls whenever I want to reset their milk and/or get a steer.  You can sell the calves/heifers and hope for a larger population of AMD! AMD are also bred for being able to survive on forage alone and not-so-great forage at that.

the AMD is a triple purpose breed.  it is for milk, meat, and draft.  If you are looking for a tasty-beef milk cow, AMD is apparently a great choice.

Some more research shows that maybe "stockpiling" of pasture for winter feed may be a possible answer.

I don't want to take out the trees if either 1) everything can work fine with them in there as is OR 2) taking them out would not make a significant enough difference
 
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I think your plan is great! Try a little bit of everything: you will learn what works for you, your temperament, your family and your landbase with all its site-specific variables.

Over the course of 10+ years we have tried all of the following: gardening, growing grains, growing hay, miniature pigs, geese, bees, goats, cows, horses, quail and chickens (layers). Oh and a rabbit but that was a pet, though we did try to spin her wool (it was a wool producing rabbit), adding it other people's sheep wool.

Now we're at the point where we are specialising on gardening, bees, goats and chickens (or ducks, still have to give those a  try )

12.5 acres is plenty. With all the manure you're going to get from those cows you don't need a lot of land to produce all the veggies your family can consume. Especially if you're buying hay. One idea would be to start with a smaller land-base (less expensive) and buying all of your hay. Then buying more land and hay-making equipment later, when you already have your "home base" in good order.


 
S Bengi
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I think that you could do everything but the pig+sheep+cow on just 2 acres very very easily.
Without having to worry too much about how to go on vacation, aging in place, water usage, farming time/equipment, etc.

So I think your real question should be:
How much cow+sheep+pigs can I grow on just 10acres in Texas, Winter Zone 8b, Summer AHS:??, Rainfall:??
I would like to have at least 1 male + 2 females + kids of each species.
How much irrigation will I have to do, what other inputs will I have to add to get max soil/pasture fertility/productivity?
What should my pasture species mix look like, what else can I do to help my pasture.


If you are willing to buy some hay, just 1acre sub-divided into 30-sub pastures is good enough for your pigs+sheeps+cows with irrigation.

Now if you are not willing to buy any hay, you are going to need alot more pasture.
And I think this is your biggest variable. Pasture size will depend on how many animals you plan on having.
I recommend at least two females of each species. You can't have the dads procreating with their own kids.
So you will have to sell the 'bulls' every year and buy some fresh blood/genetics.
Or just 'rent a bull' or do some artificial insemination.
Or keep the mom+dad and always eat the offspring

Assuming that you are going to heavily water your pasture and add seeds every 3month to re-balance the pasture species mix.
You can probably get away with your quoted 2acres per bull/cow. But it is going to take alot of time+inputs to get your pasture to that level of fertility.

I recommend starting small. Doing just plant+bee+chicken+duck. Then after 3 years add your female only herd (pigs+sheep/goat+cow). Then after an additional 3yrs finally start adding your bulls to your herds


 
Lucrecia Anderson
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wayne fajkus wrote:I have found no reason to have a greenhouse in texas. You not only have a long growing season, you have 2 growing seasons.



Actually he would be in zone 8b and we have four growing seasons. Our fall/winter crops will grow and produce until they are replaced with spring crops. Though I see your point, most would plant 3 crops not four (since spring/summer covers 2 plantings with the third in fall).
 
Trace Oswald
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Su Ba wrote:
Self sufficiency is doable, but it depends upon your definition. It's been argued that self sufficiency is being able to meet all your own basic needs without outside help. BUT what if I sell my excess vegetables for cash, then use that money to buy a tractor and gasoline? Is using a tractor being self sufficient? Or using that money to hire someone to install livestock fencing? Some argue that it's not. Sigh.....to each their own ideas. In my own mind I've decided that using the money my farm earns and spending it on the things I need is indeed my being self sufficient. Based upon this definition, I'd say the self sufficiency is very doable.



Let me first say that I have no ax to grind with regards to any of this.  I believe strongly in personal responsibility and personal freedom, and I think you should do whatever makes you happy.  Nothing I have to say is meant to dissuade you.  I do think that being realistic is a big step toward success.

I think Su Ba hit the nail on the head here.  How you define "self-sufficiency" is everything.  The "mainstream" dictionary definition is "able to live or function without help or support from others".  The way Su Ba defines self-sufficient, I would just call being a farmer.  Being a farmer is your occupation.  If you follow that logic, then having any occupation that allows you to buy all the things you need makes you self-sufficient.  If that is the definition you choose to use, then yes, being self-sufficient is possible.  

Of far greater importance than how much land you have is what you know how to do.  There is a learning curve to everything, and when you throw living creatures into the mix, the curve is greater.  Have you ever raised animals?  Butchered them?  Hunted or fished?  Set up a solar or wind system?  Know how to fix machinery or carve a handle for an ax?  All these things and thousands more come into play.  Knowledge is the biggest factor in being even partly self-sufficient.

I've been "working" at this for about a decade.  I don’t grow anywhere close to 100% of my food, or my animals’ food, and I have far fewer animals than you are talking about raising.  We are only two humans to feed.  I'll give you a couple examples from my life.  I have pretty big (for me) annual gardens, roughly 1/2 acre.  One year, shortly after things came up and were just starting to grow well, a neighbor's sheep got loose and went through my garden and ate every single thing.  A weasel got in my chicken coop and killed all my birds.  That would have been a tragic year if I couldn't go to the store for food.  I have food stored and I wouldn't have starved, but I would have been awfully tired of eating the same 10 things for the next year until my gardens took off again.  Since I started doing this, I've never had a year where something didn't go wrong, whether it was no rain, or too much, or animals getting sick or killed, or pipes freezing, or some bug that wiped out part of my food.  

Fruit trees take 3 or 4 years to produce generally, nut trees are 10 to 15.  If you coppice trees for whatever reason, they don’t fruit that year.  Building good garden soil takes a few years generally.  Outbuildings take time and material to build.  Unless you have your own sawmill, you need to buy or barter for lumber.  It’s very hard to make nails and screws.  You need tools, and they need to be purchased.

I personally don’t believe a person would have time in the day to do all the things you would need to do to farm 12.5 acres and raise that many animals if you don’t use equipment.  Equipment needs fuel, maintenance, and repairs.  Oil, diesel, tires, parts, all have to be purchased.  Doing those things takes time.  That is time that can’t be spent fixing fences, canning, or any of the thousands of other things that have to be done.

I point to the Amish communities here as an example.  They are a community that I would say can be self-sufficient.  They aren’t really anymore, and they shop at Walmart and ride in vehicles and use cell phones now just like everyone else here does, but they could revert back to their traditional way of life quickly and with minimal inconvenience.  Not single family among them is self-sufficient.  They are as a community, but no single family unit is.  They all trade and share.  If a family needs a barn, the whole community gets together to build it.  The Amish have been living without electricity or help from the rest of the world forever.  If an Amish family is not self-sufficient, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone is.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Trace Oswald wrote:
I've been "working" at this for about a decade.  I don’t grow anywhere close to 100% of my food, or my animals’ food, and I have far fewer animals than you are talking about raising.  We are only two humans to feed.  I'll give you a couple examples from my life.  I have pretty big (for me) annual gardens, roughly 1/2 acre.  One year, shortly after things came up and were just starting to grow well, a neighbor's sheep got loose and went through my garden and ate every single thing.  A weasel got in my chicken coop and killed all my birds.  That would have been a tragic year if I couldn't go to the store for food.  I have food stored and I wouldn't have starved, but I would have been awfully tired of eating the same 10 things for the next year until my gardens took off again.  Since I started doing this, I've never had a year where something didn't go wrong, whether it was no rain, or too much, or animals getting sick or killed, or pipes freezing, or some bug that wiped out part of my food.  

If an Amish family is not self-sufficient, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone is.



I 100% agree. If the goal is in part to ride out a serious disaster that could last one or two years, then STORE A YEAR'S WORTH OF FOOD and have a modest amount of livestock along with gardens to supplement it. Then slowly add on to the gardens and animals when the time is right.

It should be a wonderful time that the family enjoys and the kids remember fondly for a lifetime, the last thing you want is for them to remember "homesteading" as their parents being overwhelmed and tired/arguing, and the crop failures or animal mishaps/losses that occurred because the learning curve was too steep.

The type of homestead the op is envisioning would typically take many years to achieve and the plans would change several times as things progressed. Course kids aren't at home that long so the prime experiences need to be prioritized.

As a side note, if the family isn't huge (i.e. 10 kids) I would be looking at the jersey mini-cows. They turn out a nice amount of milk (1-3 gal a day) and they are much smaller and easier to manage and feed.
 
Nina Jay
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For sure there is a learning curve to everything but if you're full of energy, have enough start-up capital and don't use it all up but keep significant chunks saved for disasters, you will get through the learning curve. And we are here to help

I agree with Lucrecia and Trace in that community is important. I'd suggest getting to know your neighbours. Everything Joel Salatin says in You Can Farm about "Being neighbourly" is true, in my experience. You will get so much good advice and help from those wonderful folks next door and it will smooth your learning curve tremendously.

Many, many, things have gone wrong on our farm. Too many to list. We have lost many animals and crops. But, as we always grow/ keep a wide variety of things, there has never been a year when everything fails. For example, one particularly rainy summer when there were lots slugs and diseases and many animal escaping incidents I felt like nothing had succeeded in my garden. Then I did a spreadsheet listing every single plant species and how they had done and the conclusion was that I had managed to get a decent crop of 15 crop plants. Despite the slugs, the constant rain, the cows escaping to the garden and the goats having "tasted" quite a few seedlings and I can't remember what else

Anyone who keeps animals will lose some to diseases and accidents. All the experience in the world will not change this. For example, I have been riding horses and working with them my whole life. Still, my last horse got sick and had to be put down. Don't get discouraged, do your best, you will learn but when it's about living things you will never get "perfect". Just take this into account when you do your budgeting: add a huge "cushion".




 
Randy Coffman
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Posting from phone here.

For those above that appears to me to not have read my simple definition I provided, here it is again.

I would like to be able to sustainably provide 100 percent of food and energy within a closed loop ecosystem for at least 5 to 10 years but preferably perpetuity.

This does not include any initial purchases required to build and set up the system.  

I am also not saying I would get all of this on day 1 and Sally forth with no plan or experience.  I would like to ramp up as quickly as is prudent and safe.

There will be lots of external input in the beginning, with plan to wean off it.

My goal is to be not dependent on gas as much as possible when there is none. Manual tools can be bought.

I can buy soil. I can buy solar generators. I can buy outbuildings.  This is all infrastructure to get the system in place.

Again, I am not shunning neighbors and don't want to be isolated.  However, I'd like to not need anything from them if possible in regards to feeding my family.

I'm not making tools or clothes. I want the ones I buy to be able to last the desired time frame under normal circumstances.

Rome wasn't built in a day,  and neither will this homestead. The ultimate question here, is if there is enough space for it to be done.  You can include any reasonable infrastructure and external input required for preparation to get this ready, including knowledge and training.
 
Chris Kott
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What answer were you looking for, Randy? I think we've run the gamut.

-CK
 
wayne fajkus
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A 10 year store of ammo would supply 10 years worth of deer, squirrels, etc. I came to the realization that a deer that shares the adjacent lands for their nutrients is much more efficient than raising animals such as sheep.

Im kind of tossed with your scenario though.  Different options can be argued successfully. With sheep you can milk them. You can slaughter them more frequently for continued meals. You generally get twins after the first birthing. Full butchering is accomplished with a knife and a bone saw. You can harvest as soon as 6 months old.

With a cow you can milk. You get A LOT of meat. By a lot, in an offgrid situation, that means A LOT of freezer space. Butchering would be a bitch. Its generally 18 to 24 months to slaughter.

Im kind of leaning towards sheep with no cows in a total self sufficient situation. More frequent turnaround from pasture to table.  Herd can be managed up or down quickly based on pasture conditions. They eat more of a variety. In a pinch you can down some limbs so they can eat the leaves. Fencing doesn't have to be as strong,  etc etc.

A lot of 30 pound harvests vs fewer 600 pound harvests is something that should be considered.

 
Randy Coffman
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Meat sources would come from chicken eggs and meat, duck eggs and meat, fish, sheep, pigs, cows.  There should be plenty variety and no real reliance on one source

In the situation of forced self sufficient,  I may not have a bull cow for reproduction,  and the females will just be milk.  Needing them for meat should only be a last resort in that scenario.

I would not mind hunting  however I would not want to rely on it as a guaranteed source, rather view it as a bonus.
 
master steward
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Peter VanDerWal wrote:As for livestock, you can be self sustaining with chickens for sure.  Maybe with ducks, but ducks generally want a pond and that may or may not be a problem.
Eggs are an excellent source of high quality protein, and the feed conversion ratio of chicken (meat) and eggs close to the best available.



Ducks (even mallards--I only have mallards) don't need a pond. They do need bathing water of some sort, but depending on how many ducks you have, a few trays of water that are a few inches deep, or a kiddy pool is sufficient. It's actually a lot more hygienic for the ducks, as they get their water dirty FAST, and a big pond becomes a cesspool pretty quickly with a flock of ducks (mine got wet feather and some died because of it). A tray or kiddy pool can be easily emptied and refilled daily. And, if you put the kddy pool by a new fruit tree everyday, when you dump it out, you water and fertilize the tree.

I like my ducks because they don't destroy my garden like my chicken did. Though, ducks don't seem to like the heat as much as chickens, and may have a harder time down in Texas than they do here in the pacific northwest. I'm not sure if muscovies do better in the heat than normal mallards, but I have a vague feeling that they do.

Pond - we would like to have a pond for the ducks and stock fish. we are ok with having one created that can self filter and such. use duckweed and other things to keep it clean.  Who knows, if it's big enough it might be swimable/batheable, but that's so far down our concern at the moment



Ducks and fish and swimability probably wouldn't mix. I had a flock of 8 ducks who turned my 1000+sqft pond into a cesspool just from spending a few hours in it every day for a few months. We had no filtration on it, as it's a natural pond. But, when we had a large hot-tub-sized concrete pond, that we tried to filter with a giant pump, the pump gave up and we stopped using the pond. It had a drain at the bottom, too, and that clogged so bad we couldn't drain it. I've read other people who gave up on their duckaponics systems for the same reasons. Ducks really dirty their water quickly. Pools/trays of water that you can easily tip over and refill are so much easier and better for the ducks, in my opinion, unless you have a pond filled by a stream.

I'd keep ducks out of any fish ponds unless you have a REALLY big fish pond and very few ducks and they have relatively limited access to said pond.

Im kind of leaning towards sheep with no cows in a total self sufficient situation. More frequent turnaround from pasture to table.  Herd can be managed up or down quickly based on pasture conditions. They eat more of a variety. In a pinch you can down some limbs so they can eat the leaves. Fencing doesn't have to be as strong,  etc etc.



This is what I come back to, too, when thinking about my own 5 acres. I don't LIKE lamb that much, but that's largely because it and turkey were literally the only meat I ate for 3 months due to an elimination diet I went on for my son's colic. It's been 4.5 years since then, and I'm just now starting to like lamb again. But, it is a very versatile animal, with fibre, milk, and meat all in a convent package, and not as hard on the land--nor needing as much land--as cows. I also like that they are smaller and more manageable. It's easier to have a sustainable herd if it's just one type, rather than cows AND sheep.
 
Mother Tree
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Randy Coffman wrote:In the situation of forced self sufficient,  I may not have a bull cow for reproduction,  and the females will just be milk.  Needing them for meat should only be a last resort in that scenario.



Um, how do  you intend to keep the cows in milk unless you let them reproduce?
 
S Bengi
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If the world is about to 'end' and society has collapsed, and there is no more doctors/medicine/internet/tv/cellphone/new clothes or update about if my grandchild is alive or not. I am not going to be too worried about the creaminess of my milk or if I am getting my calories from sheep milk or cow milk.

But I will not get too distracted about the whole zombie apocalypse, 110% self-sufficiency, and instead focus on
How does one maximize the fertility/productivity of a 10acre pasture in Texas zone8 with 'unlimited' water+inputs
More like 7acres for pasturing (spring+summer+fall) + 3 acres for hay(winter)

SOIL
-Swales for rain water  + well and irrigation pipe.
-Carbon (hay/straw, sawdust, biochar, manure, all the woodchip once you clearcut the oak trees)
-Soil Life (worm tea, mushroom slurries, composting, etc)
-Minerals (Rocdust/Sea90, etc)
-Pasture seed Mix (40% Legumes, 40%Grass, 20% mint family, carrot family, tubers, daikon radish, weeds)

PASTURE+EXPERIENCE
Chop and Till under two to three times a year for 2 year. (You could just graze with sheep if you don't want to till it under.)
Then on the 3rd year, do rotational grazing with sheep only.
(30 sub-pastures for 'spring+summer+fall' pasturing with an additional 10 sub-pastures that are hayed for the winter)
On the 4th year I would add pigs. And cull some sheep.
On the 5th year I would add cow, no bull. And cull even more sheep.
On the 6th year I would add males/bulls. And cull even more sheep.
I would add pasture seeds ever 3 month to re-balance the pasture species throughout the entire 6years.
I hope someone can post a wonderful texas zone 8b pasture seed mix.
I would also always keep some feed available on-hand for emergency & reward-training
I am not too sure how you will water the pasture.
Flood irrigation once a week via the swales. Or maybe overhead sprinklers.

ANIMALS
I would also look into getting dwarf/smaller breed of cow/sheep/hogs.
You can fit more per acre, and dressing and storing the meat is easier.
Now the animals will need shelter and water while they are out in the pasture.
Shelter could be from one or two oak trees/nut tree (silvopasture). The pigs will esp love the nuts.
Simple moveable 3-sided structures could also be used.
As for animal water, irrigation pipe+tub can be used or some type of pond/water hole.

PROTECTION
Perimeter fencing from deer/etc.
Sub-pasture electric fencing
Guard Dog for possible Coyotes, herbivore rabbit.
Pest/Ticks Management Poultry (Guineafowl, Chicken, Ducks)
I would keep these birds as semi-wild and have my food birds (meat+eggs) on the 2.5 acres that is near the house house.

CARRYING CAPACITY
7 acre pasture for spring/summer/fall+ 3acres hay-field for winter
Sheeps 1/7 of pasture (1dad + 2mamma + babies)
Pigs 1/7 of pasture (1dad + 2mamma +babies)
Cow 5/7 of pasture (1momma+yearling calf)
 
Randy Coffman
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Burra Maluca wrote:

Randy Coffman wrote:In the situation of forced self sufficient,  I may not have a bull cow for reproduction,  and the females will just be milk.  Needing them for meat should only be a last resort in that scenario.



Um, how do  you intend to keep the cows in milk unless you let them reproduce?



If they were already producing,  you just can't stop milking. It can continue indefinitely.

http://ansci.illinois.edu/static/ansc438/Lactation/otherfactors.html

It is not ideal, and would not subject the cow to it in normal circumstances,  but if needed,  it can be done.
 
Trace Oswald
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Chris Kott wrote:What answer were you looking for, Randy? I think we've run the gamut.

-CK



It seems like any answer other than "sure,  that's plenty of room and it will be easy" is going to be met with increasing irritation and defensiveness.
 
Randy Coffman
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S Bengi wrote:If the world is about to 'end' and society has collapsed, and there is no more doctors/medicine/internet/tv/cellphone/new clothes or update about if my grandchild is alive or not. I am not going to be too worried about the creaminess of my milk or if I am getting my calories from sheep milk or cow milk.



I agree, except for that if the apocalypse happened,  this spot is too close to highly populated areas and I'm sure we'd be over run by desperate people.  I've conceded that.  But for a temporary issue,  maybe we wouldn't.    This idea directly competes with the opposite side of, Nothing happens and we just choose to sustain from our own source because we want to, and we want to be able to have homemade cheese, sour cream,  butter, cream cheese,  yogurt,  etc.  The AMD cow, which I believe I'm sold on, is a triple purpose breed, is hardy, thrives off minimal pasture.

Thank you for your insight on a possible progresion plan for build up.



For the pond, maybe there won't be enough room for a big enough pond for the ducks to use regularly.  I don't know enough about it yet,  or if there's any way to make one that can handle it all.  It is just a desire and hope to have.

Ducks live down here. You are correct that the muscovy should be fine,  since it originates from south of the border.
 
Nina Jay
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Randy Coffman wrote:

I am also not saying I would get all of this on day 1 and Sally forth with no plan or experience.  I would like to ramp up as quickly as is prudent and safe.
. The ultimate question here, is if there is enough space for it to be done.  You can include any reasonable infrastructure and external input required for preparation to get this ready, including knowledge and training.



Thank you for clarifying your needs

I will try and answer your question and then others can continue where I left off and add what I forgot to mention, if they want.

Is there enough space for it to be done? - Yes, there is.

Infrastructure needed (not including equipment found in most normal home kitchens/ homes)

Milking/ dairy
A milking station: a clean place where you can tie the cow and feed her while you milk her, preferably with a box for the calf beside her so they both remain calm.
A clean room preferably near the milking station where you can filter the milk. With running water, hot and cold. Or at least cold running water + means to heat the water.
A milking bucket, stainless steel
A stool to sit on while you milk
Towels to clean the udder before milking
Antiseptic/ herbal antibacterial cream to treat the udder after milking to prevent mastitis
Filters
Big canisters to store the milk in, stainless steel.
A separator
A cheese press

Animal shelters and other buildings
A hen house , a duck house
A barn for the cows and/ or sheep for bad winter weather when you don't want them to go on pasture.
A place where you can store hay: airy place with a roof.
A shop
A cellar for storing vegetables
Storage room big enough so you can store your BCS or a tractor if you need one plus all the garden tools and equipment

Butchering
A hatchet
A sharp knife
A human killer of a rifle
A clean room where you can plug and process your chickens/ ducks, with hot water and stainless steel surfaced table.

For butchering a cow I think it's very good if you have a tractor so you can drag the corpse near a suitable tree and hang it from a suitable strong branch. The processing can then be do outdoors and the only tools absolutely necessary are a sharp knife and a bucket full of hot water for cleaning the knife. Grease makes it not cut so well so you need to clean it all the time.

I think a tractor is almost a must, if you have cows or horses. There are many jobs that are so much less back-breaking with a tractor.
I think you can get away with a BCS if you only have smaller animals like sheep, goats and poultry. Or possibly with just a wheelbarrow and hand tools.

Garden:
Two wheelbarrows, one for compost/ muck and the other for carrying produce/ equipment.
A stirrup hoe
A rake
A knife
Planting tools
Seedling trays
Seeding compost
Irrigation system
Row covers
Shade cloths
Plastic mulch or other material/ system for keeping the weeds on the perimeter from spreading into your beds.
Insect netting
Bird netting (if you grow strawberries or other such favourites of birds)

Knowledge needed:
How to grow vegetables
How to butcher and process animals
Fertility management, milking techniques, animal handling, animal diseases & prevention & treatment
Feed rationing, estimating nutrient requirements and intake for different types of animals
Grassland management
Welding, carpentry, building, plumbing
Setting up electric fences
How to drive and maintain a tractor and all the implements.

Somebody please continue I'm getting somewhat exhausted I hope this was of at least some help














 
Randy Coffman
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Chris Kott wrote:What answer were you looking for, Randy? I think we've run the gamut.

-CK



It seems like any answer other than "sure,  that's plenty of room and it will be easy" is going to be met with increasing irritation and defensiveness.



It appears to me that you are being selective in your reading.  There have been what I think is productive discussion on what this could maybe sustain, like the winter problem and lack of room for hay production.  We discussed alternatives that still might not work, I don't know if it will.  

People have provided possible progression ideas and have suggested there isn't enough room for a cow (s) regardless of winter issues.  This leads me to believe we won't have enough room no matter what we do, if this is true. This does not say to me I think "reaffirm me or I ignore you".

I take the points brought up about these things seriously,  and when we have differing information, I want us to resolve that because I could be wildly wrong. I'm here because I don't know everything,  and don't have an answer for everything, so I'm reaching out to you all in hopes of insight.  

The problem arises when people are assigning to me goals I don't have, or bring up factors that are not related to the question. Here is an example.

I could have 100 acres of perfect land that can sustain easily anything I want. That doesn't mean I can't just lose it all to someone/thing killing all my animals and plants, me getting terminally ill, an asteroid cratering right on top of me, zombies overrunning me, or any of those things. Those are not the question though. The question was about there being enough land.

I came here because I was leaning towards there maybe not being enough space, but maybe it was possible and some people here would have ideas I didn't think of or know about. I could also be told that no matter what I do to improve that land, I was correct in my thinking I just wouldn't have enough.  In either case I'd like to see some data/numbers to back up either/both so I don't make a bad decision by passing on it or trying an inevitable failure.
 
Randy Coffman
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An example, that is just made up for this only and no factual basis:

For winter, If you were to do 1 acre for hay with 3 cuts a year, you would only have x amount which would support x amount for x time. You could grow pumpkins to store for winter and feed those with the hay but you'd need x amount of pounds of pumpkin and x amount of storage space, and x amount of land to grow that much.  You can do winter pasture in texas so add to that but needx amount of pasture for this combination to work. This is/isn't doable with your space. You would be betterrible off if you had at least x amount more land.

That would be telling me things I should know or think about. I don't expect anyone to know the exact answer, and I can do the legwork on some math, but I could use those types of ideas/insights.  I've already reconsidered owning a bull from the conversation about needing separation, which needs more land than I'd have.
 
S Bengi
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1 sheep = 1/4 of a cow (250lbs)
So dad and mom sheep+babies = 1/2 of a cow (500lbs)

1 pig = 1/4 of a cow (250lbs)
So two pigs + babies = 1/2 of a cow (500lbs)

Momma cow (1000lbs) + baby(65lbs) = 1.065 cow.

So at this point we need enough pasture for '2 cows' (2000lbs)

Zone 8 Texas have 3 out of 12 months of 'winter" so we are going to need an additional 30% of 'pasture for a hay field.

So enough pasture for 2.6 cows.

According to the Texan government it takes 3acres to feed each cow on tame pastureland.
https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/habitats/post_oak/habitat_management/cow/

So 3acres X 2.6 = 7.8 acres
Less that 10 acres ..... Awesome

In the equation above we uses 2cow unit.
But as the baby calf turns into a yearling it will go up to 2.55 cow unit
(1000lbs momma cow + 600lbs yearling calf = 0.95 + 0.6= 1.55 cow unit)
So 2.55 cow unit * 1.33(winter hay) * 3acres/cow = 9.9 acres
We are still looking fine

Tame Pasture is still semi-wild, if you really put in the work you can bring the number to 1acres of super improved pasture per cow during the growing season (3/4 of the year) You will need another 30% for the winter.
 
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