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I think I'm about to do something crazy....  RSS feed

 
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OK, this is my first post on this website, though I've been a periodic lurker for years. The homesteading/permaculture/off-grid bug bit me back in 2008, and I've just never done anything about it. But now, I have two little ones, who I HATE leaving in the morning to go off to a job that, while not disagreeable, just isn't where my heart is. So......

I'm thinking of buying some land this year - soon - between 1 and 10 acres (depending on what I can find and how much it costs), south of Fort Worth, Texas. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, but I figure most of you who are doing this had little idea what you were doing when you started. What I know is that I want to build with earthbags, generate whatever power I may need myself, and build a permaculture-influenced small farm that generates enough food, etc., to feed my family and support most of the cost of operation. I also want to home-school my kids (which I can't do now, because I'm away from home for most of every day).

I could perhaps buy a house the old-fashioned way, but I really don't want to do that. I have always loved natural building, not just because it's cheaper (generally), but because it is achingly beautiful. Also, it will most likely be cheaper for me to get the amount of land I want by buying undeveloped land than by buying land with a house on it. And with land, building an earthbag home might be physically taxing, but it won't be nearly as taxing on my wallet.

Now, for help with construction, I have myself (some experience with light construction and carpentry) and my younger brother (no experience, but a strong back and highly motivated, as he was totally born in the wrong century). MAYBE some of the guys from church occasionally, but this would be mostly done by me and my brother.

Plan? What plan? What is this "plan" you speak of?

Actually, that's why I'm here. I want to do this with the minimum amount of headache possible. So, I'd like as much advice as everyone here (particularly those of you who have done, or are doing, any of this stuff) can give me on laying out a plan and carrying it out. This is what I've come up with thus far:

I figure I'll have to begin (after purchasing the land) by buying a 1500 gallon water tank and having that filled, so the site has water (in case the place I buy doesn't have water on-site). After that, I'm thinking that I'll have to build a small building for my brother to live in (he's willing to remain on the land and do light chores during the week while I'm at work), and for me to stay in while I'm out there. Then, we'll have to build the power generation capacity. I'm thinking wind, solar (I can build the panels myself, though I'll need to seek guidance on the rest of the system), and biomass gasification through a rocket burner, which will provide me with syngas to run a generator to supplement the other systems. Also, I think we can begin setting up at least chickens on the land (and maybe some goats or something) to start preparing the garden areas. Then comes construction of the main house, and then construction/setting up of the rest of the farm.

I know I'm skipping a LOT in here, and there are probably a zillion things I haven't thought of, any one of which could kick the legs out from under me. But, I'm willing to listen and take advice, and I'm also willing to host people on my land, if anyone wants to come help with construction so we can all learn about earthbag building together. Same with getting the farm set up.

But, land and plan first. (Honestly, I think finding the land will be the hardest part).

Thoughts?

Edited to say: As far as house construction goes, I'm interested in earthship/wofati/solar pit house (Owen Geiger design) type houses, so any thoughts on that would be great. My area of Texas has AWESOME soil for earthbag building, so I can pretty much use whatever I excavate for building, and have some supplementary material delivered as needed.
 
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I just bought 1.8 acres. So it is not a crazy idea.
Also here is a wonderful earthbag house plan 25ft X 42ft
Stucco/ferrocement the wall. You can probably ferrocement the roof.
If not a beam+lumber trusses and metal sheet roof.


 
S Bengi
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For a solar pit house let me know what you think of this one

 
pollinator
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Glenn,

I love your adventuresome spirit, but I would enter into this just a bit more cautiously.  I trust that you are determined to undertake your plan.  I have to ask how much money do you have and how much are you willing to spend.  The reason I ask is fairly obvious.  I think this undertaking, though an attempt to make a break from our money-oriented society, will still require a substantial amount of money.  Many expenses will not be upfront expenses and will have to be paid over time.  In particular I am thinking of property taxes.  It is almost like you never really own your own land--you rent it from some local municipality.  So for starters, I would make certain I would still have some money squirreled away.

Do you have a plan for temporary shelter?  Could you build a stick-built building that is later used for storage, but you can live and operate from while you are building your "dream home?"

If I was buying 10 acres of land that I planned on working myself, I would want a small tractor to help.  A tractor would also be extremely valuable for some basic earth-work you will need for your home.  Think foundations and land leveling.  Since this is likely going to be an expensive proposition, I would focus on small tractors in the subcompact to small compact size (20-30 hp).  These can be extremely useful machines, but they are not free.

I would think that maybe you could start planting and working some of the ground before you start your house.  This way you will have some productivity on the land, some resources, before you make the full commitment to building your house.

What do you plan to do for income?  Do you plan to have an off-farm job?  If not, how will you pay bills associated with your farm.

These are just a few thoughts I have.  You have a dream, I say chase your dream.  But at the same time, I would also be prepared for a rainy day.  Maybe you can give us a bit more information on your background and what you have that you can bring to the table.  I hope you will keep us informed.

Eric
 
master pollinator
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How exciting Glenn!

Here's a video I recommend you watch before looking for land.  I wish I had understood permaculture before we bought our place.  


Longer version:  https://vimeo.com/168769052
 
S Bengi
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I would get a cheap used RV for temp shelter possible for as cheap as $5,000 if you are willing to take a plane or drive to where it is cheap, it's winter and I see some going for $1,000. In summer the prices go up alot.

Permits are needed. Possible structural engineer try these guys: https://www.structure1.com/
Septic will be needed.
Most likely a well
Electric ($3k for panels, $3k for battery, $3k for charger controller+inverter, $1k for misc)

Alot of times building a simple studio by the book (permits) and then a 'barn' without a permit is easier.
 
garden master
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S Bengi wrote:For a solar pit house let me know what you think of this one




One concern would be one way in and out.  From a safety perspective it would be good to have at alternate way to get out in an emergency.
 
S Bengi
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Both bedrooms could have a window that goes to the 'greenhouse'. The Living room already has a door to the greenhouse and a window could be added in the kitchen.

Now the Greenhouse itself only has 1 door. But the entire green house is made of glass aka glass windows so the glass windows could be opened and one could crawl out or just smash the glass and excise.

I think all greenhouse need two windows/opening in the summer. So it makes sense to make it where one could climb out.

An extra door could also be added at the other end of the greenhouse too.
 
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Building a home is a full time job, starting a business is a full time job, and when you add the hours spent homeschooling and parenting THAT is a full time job.

Are you a single parent or do you have a partner? Will your brother be your full time partner or a source of part time help? I can just see 2 full time people who also work at the project on weekends accomplishing all that, but as a single person? That sounds like way too many hours.

I once attended a farm show, and I asked a speaker how I could learn to sell when my skills were in my hands. His reply was to take a job in sales, as the basic technique was the same regardless of what you were selling. Well there was a recession on, and I could not find a job in sales, and so I visited a popular nursery, found the person who was assisting the most customers, and I watched her out of the corner of my eyes, and then I practiced in front of a mirror. THEN I started selling at Farmer's Markets for the experience.

Tell me, since you wish to sell your produce, have you ever sold anything or is this also a skill you need to learn first? I learned a LOT from watching that sales lady!
 
master pollinator
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We all know that feeling Glenn. Or we wouldn't be here. Please heed Eric's caution though. Bad things can happen fast. As you said, there are a zillion things to consider. Sounds like you're on the right track just proceed carefully. A step or two at a time. Getting land is actually pretty easy. Keeping it can be the challenge. Plenty of good land near Ft. Worth. There's a lot of hard work after that. Home schooling is a major chore by itself. That being said ... go for it. It's NOT crazy to folks here. Follow the old carpenter saying though. Measure twice, cut once.

Solar panels work great in Tejas. Year round gardening if the crops get some summer water. Winter heat is not a huge problem there. Passive solar design & a RMH would work fine. There's some good Texas specific threads in case you haven't seen those. I like your idea of starting with a few chickens & rain water collection. Only allowed to have it filled by truck once:) Might be a good idea to build that first building you mentioned with the idea that it will become a workshop or storage after the earthbag/wofati is finished. Good luck & welcome to permies.  







 
steward
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Howdy Glenn, welcome to permies!

First thoughts...
Have you looked at land in the area yet? Can you afford it ? Can you keep your job for a while and commute?

Know what your taxes and any other fees will be! Know what covenants, codes and rules will be enforced! If there are neighbors nearby pay attention to what there places look like. Are they doing the things that you want to do?

Craigslist is your friend! You can usually find anything you might need for a good price or free.

Look for a camper trailer, or two, in good shape for housing. Plan for refrigeration, sewage  and a shower. Build a metal roof over the camper to protect it, shade it and collect rain water. Store the rain water in the tank. Buy some ceramic filters for drinking water filtration.

Protect tools and garden areas from thieves and animals.
 
pollinator
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Let me second the suggestion that you buy an RV.  You can get something really large and nice for 10K if you don't mind something that's a bit older.  Frankly, if you don't care that it runs well, I'll bet you could find something that has a bad engine or bad trans that would be very inexpensive.  RV's are not a long-term solution, but you could set it up and use it for 5 years, easily.   It would be very easy to build a large deck off of it and even a lean-to/sun room that could serve as a green house.

Keep you day job and see if this is really what you want to do.  If not, you can always sell the land and hopefully get your money back, plus possibly make a bit if you've improved it (like drilling a well or other improvements).  But if you find that you love this lifestyle and that you can make some cash, then you can quit and go for it full-time.  But it costs money to set yourself up and the novelty of being off the grid quickly wears off.  It seems like 90% of the people who start off with solar and want to unplug from the grid end up realizing that its much more cost efficient to just hook up to the grid.

Best of luck -- keep us informed with how it goes.



 
Glenn Mayo
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S Bengi wrote:I just bought 1.8 acres. So it is not a crazy idea.
Also here is a wonderful earthbag house plan 25ft X 42ft
Stucco/ferrocement the wall. You can probably ferrocement the roof.
If not a beam+lumber trusses and metal sheet roof.





That's actually not a bad design. I need 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms, and, most important (for my wife) a HUGE (by our standards) kitchen. Heck, we can make do with 2 bedrooms, since our kids are small, so long as they're two decent sized bedrooms. I've been giving serious thought to looking over mobile home floorplans and just stealing features from them that I like for my earthbag construction.
 
Glenn Mayo
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S Bengi wrote:For a solar pit house let me know what you think of this one





That is EXACTLY the plan that I had in mind. However, because of where I live, the type of soil we have, and the amount of rain we get a couple times a year, I think I'd end up having to modify the design into something build above ground and then bermed - something like a modified wofati, perhaps. I definitely want an attached greenhouse for both growing food (EVERYTHING that I allow to grow on my land has to have either a food or utilitarian purpose or it's just weeds to me, no matter WHAT it is), and for helping to moderate the temperature in the house. Not sure how to go about modifying the design yet, but I have a few ideas. My thoughts all end up with the design looking like an unholy cross between the solar pit house, a wofati, and an earthship.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Miles Flansburg wrote:
Know what your taxes and any other fees will be!



This is super important in Texas, which has high property taxes.  Each county to a large extent makes up its own rules.  Personally I would make sure to know the rules of the counties you're looking at, and make sure you can get agricultural tax status on the amount of land you want to buy.  In some counties it may be as little as 5 acres, in others 20 acres or more.  Having agricultural tax status can make a huge difference in your taxes down the road.  They might not be high when you purchase the land, but if your area becomes popular, they may rise dramatically.  
 
Tyler Ludens
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Glenn Mayo wrote: (EVERYTHING that I allow to grow on my land has to have either a food or utilitarian purpose or it's just weeds to me, no matter WHAT it is)



Many of those weeds may be habitat for beneficial native pollinators and pest predators! Some utilitarian purposes are not immediately evident.
 
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My only real input here is this:

The house is just the start. You'll need shelter for your animals. Fencing for your animals. Garden beds to be made. A greenhouse will likely be needed to start plants. Etc.

I bought land with a house on it. Renovated the house how I liked it but....the big but. It had a barn. It had a lean-to. It had fencing. It had plumbing and electrical to the barn. It had an established tree line. I was already set up and it's still been crazy amounts of work to get gardens and a greenhouse and swales and kraters and on and on.

You're wanting to start from scratch with 2 littles. Not impossible but TONS of extra work you could just pay to already have done.
 
Eric Hanson
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Glenn,

I have a thought for the floor plan for your house.  I built my home back in 2004, after having purchased a perfect little slice of heaven.  My wife and I got some architectural software and started building a floor plan.  We got a plan we liked, but knew there were a few problems that we just couldn’t work out.  We knew if we built the house we designed, it would be a very big, expensive mistake.

What we ended up doing was hiring an architect.  This person was amazing.  He took our floor plan, listened to our thoughts and concerns, and basically corrected our mistakes.  The floor plan we got back was about 85% of what we gave him, but it was so much better.  Without doubt, this was the best money we spent on the house.

I am making this recommendation because it could help take out a little uncertainty in your plans, and an architects touch can make the difference between a house that is wonderful and one that has permanent, unforeseen mistakes in it.  Like you, I had a dream for my house.  It had to get eastern and especially southern exposure while having northern and western protection.  The great room had to have a warm, inviting feel to it and if I had built what I designed, I would have regretted it.

As usual, this is only a suggestion, but I am speaking from a position of experience.  I admire your dream and want it to work out for you and this is one of those critical areas to consider.

Eric
 
Glenn Mayo
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Eric Hanson wrote:Glenn,

I love your adventuresome spirit, but I would enter into this just a bit more cautiously.

I agree about caution. That's why, even though I've known about homesteading and permaculture, etc., since 2008, I haven't done anything or bought any land. I have been TERRIFIED of making a HUGE mistake. But I keep watching all these videos where people are like, "Well, we had NO experience, and we did it...", and others are like, "Look, just DO IT and figure it out along the way", and at some point, I have to do SOMETHING, right?

I trust that you are determined to undertake your plan.  I have to ask how much money do you have and how much are you willing to spend.

I actually have very little money. I have just enough to buy either land or a house on land, and that's it. Everything else is going to be scavenging, DIY, and "ass-pulling" (excuse my French). But, I'm 44 years old; if I don't do something soon, I NEVER will.

The reason I ask is fairly obvious.  I think this undertaking, though an attempt to make a break from our money-oriented society, will still require a substantial amount of money.

Agreed. That, or a LOT of creativity. I have little money, but lots of ingenuity and the ability to learn VERY quickly.

Many expenses will not be upfront expenses and will have to be paid over time.

You know, I'm actually counting on that. Stretching things out over time will be a big help for me. It's only actually getting the land that is absolutely urgent to me.

In particular I am thinking of property taxes.  It is almost like you never really own your own land--you rent it from some local municipality.

Have you been listening to my conversations? LOL I swear, that is one of the biggest complaints I have, my friends and family have, and just about everyone I know has. It is a constant irritation that we have to pay repeated taxes on OUR property. When we buy land, that should be it. I don't mind paying a sales tax or something on it when I buy it, but after that? Grrrr...... Luckily, where I'm looking, property taxes tend to be relatively low.

So for starters, I would make certain I would still have some money squirreled away.

If I do that, I will NEVER get started. That's why I finally joined up here to seek advice on the best way to do things for the least amount of money, and to avoid making stupid mistakes by benefitting from hundreds of years of collective wisdom.

Do you have a plan for temporary shelter?  Could you build a stick-built building that is later used for storage, but you can live and operate from while you are building your "dream home?"

YES. Actually, the plan was to build a very small (shed-sized) earthbag building at first - as a place where my brother could live full-time, a place where I could stay while I'm out on the land, and a shelter for when we're building, not to mention getting that all-important experience in building with earthbags.

If I was buying 10 acres of land that I planned on working myself, I would want a small tractor to help.  A tractor would also be extremely valuable for some basic earth-work you will need for your home.  Think foundations and land leveling.  Since this is likely going to be an expensive proposition, I would focus on small tractors in the subcompact to small compact size (20-30 hp).  These can be extremely useful machines, but they are not free.

I was actually thinking of renting Kubota machines or hiring people to come out and do any heavy digging. I know it will be more expensive than doing it myself, but I figure that I can afford to pay for that more than I can afford to buy even the most basic, used earth-moving machines.

I would think that maybe you could start planting and working some of the ground before you start your house.  This way you will have some productivity on the land, some resources, before you make the full commitment to building your house.

THAT is the plan. We'd like to get my brother's shed built (I'm actually even thinking about just buying a tuff shed from Home Depot to put out there at first), and then get the chickens going on the land. One they've worked over the garden area, we'll go in and mulch and plant. If we can get some productivity off the land, that will give me extra money to start doing the bigger projects I have in mind (I have an idea for generating a LOT of power from the sun, no solar panels necessary, for example).

What do you plan to do for income?  Do you plan to have an off-farm job?  If not, how will you pay bills associated with your farm.

I do have a full-time job, which is why I need my brother to be the caretaker and chore-doer while I work. I can continue working for another couple years, but I'd like to get this thing up and running and mostly self-supporting, so that I can either quit my job and work the homestead full time (which will also let me stay home and REALLY educate my kids - don't get me started on what i think about our "education" system in this country), or at least, so that my wife and I can each take part-time jobs that are sufficient when added to the income from the homestead. But, the ultimate goal is to simply be a husband and father first, and everything else second, and ONLY if it supports the ultimate goal.

These are just a few thoughts I have.  You have a dream, I say chase your dream.  But at the same time, I would also be prepared for a rainy day.  Maybe you can give us a bit more information on your background and what you have that you can bring to the table.

My background... Well, my Mom was a single mom, so I was taught to be a man by my grandfather and my uncles. My grandfather grew up on a farm in Forrest, Wisconsin. He was born in '22, and just died in 2014 (right before my son was born). He was a fighter pilot in WWII, and always had a very strong work ethic. He was a master carpenter and metal worker...actually, to be honest, there really wasn't much he COULDN'T do with his hands. He always had a very large garden; at one point, they owned a duplex that we lived on one side of, and the footprint of his garden was the same size as the footprint of our house. We'd go out into the garden and just munch away, and my grandmother would do canning and stuff. They had chickens, a guard goose, and I had a rabbit. Our next-door neighbor had ducks - lots and LOTS of ducks. I helped care for all of that stuff (except the ducks), from the time I was old enough to carry a bucket, well into my teens. My Uncle also had a HUGE garden, as well as fruit trees, berry bushes, and hundreds of rabbits. He would have us kids feed the rabbits, and then, when it was time to eat one, he'd send us out to pick the rabbit, and then butcher it in front of us. We loved it, and it taught us early where our food came from and which animals were pets and which were lunch. From my grandfather and my uncles, I learned basic carpentry and wood-working, basic gardening and animal husbandry, and - especially from my grandfather - a LOT of old timey farm wisdom. I have never had the chance to put what I know to work, and I wouldn't claim that there isn't a LOT that I still have to learn (watching videos proves that to me every day), but I feel like I'm less unprepared for the hard work than some others who've gotten into homesteading have been. I mean, although we had city sewer, water, and electricity, except for that, my grandfather was basically a homesteader - right down to having the woodshed for the cast iron woodstove to heat the house during the cold Connecticut winter. This is in my blood, and although it wasn't until 2008 that I began to understand it, homesteading is what I've always wanted to do. I want to be close to the ground, to my food, and to my family, the way things are meant to be. Honestly, I think a HUGE factor in our societal problems is that we've been divorced from the earth and removed from too much of what it means to be truly human. Just my two cents.

I hope you will keep us informed.

I will, as things progress. Like I said, right now, the focus is getting the land under my feet, whether I have to buy a house with it or not.

Eric

 
Glenn Mayo
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Greg Martin wrote:

S Bengi wrote:For a solar pit house let me know what you think of this one




One concern would be one way in and out.  From a safety perspective it would be good to have at alternate way to get out in an emergency.



I was thinking that a slight modification could be made, so that we'd have a rear entrance in through the mechanical room.
 
Glenn Mayo
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Marco Banks wrote:Let me second the suggestion that you buy an RV.  You can get something really large and nice for 10K if you don't mind something that's a bit older.  Frankly, if you don't care that it runs well, I'll bet you could find something that has a bad engine or bad trans that would be very inexpensive.  RV's are not a long-term solution, but you could set it up and use it for 5 years, easily.   It would be very easy to build a large deck off of it and even a lean-to/sun room that could serve as a green house.

Keep you day job and see if this is really what you want to do.  If not, you can always sell the land and hopefully get your money back, plus possibly make a bit if you've improved it (like drilling a well or other improvements).  But if you find that you love this lifestyle and that you can make some cash, then you can quit and go for it full-time.  But it costs money to set yourself up and the novelty of being off the grid quickly wears off.  It seems like 90% of the people who start off with solar and want to unplug from the grid end up realizing that its much more cost efficient to just hook up to the grid.

Best of luck -- keep us informed with how it goes.





I know of a man, the former assistant pastor of my church - whose motto is also "Post Tenebrus Lux". He is an extremely kind and intelligent man, so you are in very good company! ;)
 
Glenn Mayo
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Miles Flansburg wrote:
Know what your taxes and any other fees will be!



This is super important in Texas, which has high property taxes.  Each county to a large extent makes up its own rules.  Personally I would make sure to know the rules of the counties you're looking at, and make sure you can get agricultural tax status on the amount of land you want to buy.  In some counties it may be as little as 5 acres, in others 20 acres or more.  Having agricultural tax status can make a huge difference in your taxes down the road.  They might not be high when you purchase the land, but if your area becomes popular, they may rise dramatically.  



I'm looking mostly in Tarrant county, but I haven't heard or found anything about an agricultural tax status for land - only for certain purchases for doing work on land (which will also be VERY helpful, as I fully intend to raise bees among other things).
 
Posts: 41
Location: Southeast Brazil
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If I can give you only one piece of advice when buying land then it would be: ACCESS. In my experience, good road access can make the difference between failure or succes  of homesteading.
When I bought my land eight years ago I had visited several pieces of land for sale. Then I had to decide between two: the small piece of land I bought and live now with no spring but good access...  or a piece of land three times larger,  with two springs but bad access.  Now I know If I'd choosen the second one I would have commited a huge mistake.
 
master steward
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Glenn Mayo wrote:

S Bengi wrote:I just bought 1.8 acres. So it is not a crazy idea.
Also here is a wonderful earthbag house plan 25ft X 42ft
Stucco/ferrocement the wall. You can probably ferrocement the roof.
If not a beam+lumber trusses and metal sheet roof.





That's actually not a bad design. I need 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms, and, most important (for my wife) a HUGE (by our standards) kitchen. Heck, we can make do with 2 bedrooms, since our kids are small, so long as they're two decent sized bedrooms. I've been giving serious thought to looking over mobile home floorplans and just stealing features from them that I like for my earthbag construction.



This is actually almost the exact same design that my manufactured home has. Mine's about 950sqft, which is just enough room for my husband and two kids and I. One of the bedrooms is actually our computer/sewing/TV/music/craft room, and the other room is my kids' room (I have a 5 year old son, and 2 year old daughter.)

I can say that homesteading with littles is hard, but if yours are both over 1.5, it's a WHOLE lot easier than if they're younger. Once they can walk around and play by themselves/together, you can get stuff done while they play, and they can actually be helpful by brining you stuff or other small tasks. I pretty much do all the homesteading on our property while my husband works. Make sure to give your wife relief from the kids now an again, because having them all the time while Dad is busy building and working can be really draining and not-so-good for a mother's sanity. Your family is important, which is why you want a homestead (and that's a great thing!), just be careful not to be so busy that the kids never see you. I often find myself so busy working on things that I don't have time to play and read with my kids. It's hard to balance everything!

I would also say to not bite off too much at once. Wait on the chickens, and maybe even the garden, until you've got the house made. Maybe your wife and kids can get a garden bed made while you work on the house, but with little ones, expect everything to take 10 times more time to do! We've been here on our homestead for 6 years now (of which I was pregnant twice) and I'm still working on getting things done. There's a lot to do, and it takes a lot more time than one might think. But, just keep plugging along, don't quit your dayjob, and slowly things will get done. And, even if it's slow getting done, it IS getting done! That's the important thing: that it is getting done. And while it may seem like it's taking forever, in 5 years you might be able to look back and say, "We built that house, and those garden beds, and that chicken house and put up that fence and planted those trees. Wow, we've done a lot!"
 
Mike Barkley
master pollinator
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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bee chicken homestead
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I was going to suggest bees but I see you have already considered that. There is a fairly steep learning curve with bees so it would be good to start that early in the process. They also require very little care once they are established. It would be hard to find an easier & more profitable crop to sell than honey. Once you recover the initial cost of equipment of course. Used hives are considerably cheaper but risk spreading diseases. Beware.
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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I would say get at least 3 bee hive. and expect a 50% death rate per year. Aka at least 1 of the 3 hives will survive and then you can split the surviving one to restart the empty/dead beehives.  

Let the bee make their own foundation every season. I like the idea of less inputs/no-till/cull the weak hives/animals of the bunch.

also like the idea of only visiting twice or three times a season. One to check on them at the start of the season to split/supplement the hive and another 1 or 2 times to harvest from them. And to spray with sugar water vs smoke during harvest. I also don't like to deed them sugar water throughout the season. but I might be tempted to try water kefir (Also Amakaze/Koji) for bee health and also to make the honey the best probiotic honey, I still haven't tried the warre bee hive any water kefir/koji but I think one of these days I will to see what happens.
 
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Hey Glenn,

My wife and I homesteaded a raw piece of land ourselves, so the best advice I can offer is to build your house well within your means so you can own your homestead outright without becoming a debtslave to a mortgage for the rest of your life! (lol)
 
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I have thought about this quite a lot. I also tried building something with earth bags, it is labor intensive and I was unsatisfied with the result I have decided that if I build a house I will use sceb's, look at http://www.gracomaq.net/index_archivos/manualhydraulic.htm .
Price seems to be sort of variable but in building a house, using sceb will save you thousands and thousands of hours and give you as good a natural building as you can build. If I had 2 cents to rub together I would be inclined to buy the machine and loan it to you in exchange for help building my place. It also seems that building a natural house by any method in a reasonable time is going to take more than a crew of two. If I have learned anything from permaculture it is that every project must begin with careful observation so when you do buy property, plan on camping for at least a year to let your building plans develop in relation to your situation. If your family is not supportive there will be grief so talk a lot about your dreams and ideals, make sure every family member is at least unopposed.
 
G Moffatt
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http://access.tarrantcounty.com/en/administration/staff/assistant-county-administrator-governmental-affairs/rules-regarding-residential-constructionin-unincorporated-areas-.html
once upon a time the earthship blog maintained a list of 'friendly' counties, I do not think Tarrant was among them. The rules seem not to be enforced against owner built structures but contractors are subject to the International Building Code
 
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