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Glenn Mayo

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since Jan 07, 2019
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homeschooling homestead wofati
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Recent posts by Glenn Mayo

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).
3 months ago

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! ;)
3 months ago

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.
3 months ago

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.


3 months ago

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.
3 months ago

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.
3 months ago
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).


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.
3 months ago