Designing a homestead: If you knew then what you know now...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by farmy, Dec 6, 2003.

  1. farmy

    farmy Well-Known Member

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    My fiance and I are spending part of the winter designing new systems for the old farm we've moved to in northern New York. We need to decide how to get water to pastured critters, whether to be on the grid or off, where to site our future home, barns, pastures, gardens, hayfields and orchards, what materials to fence and build with....and so on.

    For those of you who designed a farm or homestead, what do you know now that you wish you'd known at design stage? What mistakes did you make? What were the decisions you're most happy you made? Are there any good books or other resources out there we could learn from?

    -Kristin
     
  2. earthship

    earthship Well-Known Member

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    "Are there any good books or other resources out there we could learn from? "

    Check out Ken Kern's Homestead books (he has two) they are older and you may have to get them at the library or Ebay. Good luck
     

  3. bulldinkie

    bulldinkie Well-Known Member

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    I wouldnt jump into anything.see what the land has to offer or what parts are say wet lands poor draining etc. where house would go,work around that.we bought ours and restored it so we had about 2 years to see where garden would go,where new barn there is an old barn here its one of the oldest in the county so he wanted one for his equipment etc,our garage,we too put a fruit orchard in.It all takes time.
     
  4. Dawndra

    Dawndra I'm back

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    Carla Emery's Book Encyclepodia of Country Living is a must....

    one suggestion I have is to collect as much rain water as you can... run your eves so they empty into a bucket or container of some kind. Use this for watering animals....
     
  5. Darren N.L.I

    Darren N.L.I Guest

    The two best thinking out of the box books are Permaculture by Mollison and Pattern Language. If you want conventional wisdom read what everyone else does. If you want a money and time saving approach look at the Permaculture book first. Pattern Language is so common sense you'll have a hard time figuring out why things aren't always done that way.

    Use the principles in the Permaculture book to layout your homestead. Use Pattern Language for laying out your home and the outbuildings. Both are expensive. Both have the potential to save you large sums of money and psychic energy. A university library should have Pattern Language. You'll probably have to buy Permaculture to get a copy. Both books had over the top reviews in Whole Earth Review years ago. After reading the reviews I had to buy both of them. It was money well spent.
     
  6. Soni

    Soni Well-Known Member

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    After trying to keep the seedlings from freezing in a standard cobbled-together greenhouse when we lived out in the country - next time it's going to be an in-gound pit greenhouse, with just the clear panels above ground.
     
  7. Mutti

    Mutti Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Having bought an old farmstead we have alot of thoughts about what we should have done differently. We didn't leave enopugh room around our barn lot and bringing in trailers is a tough job. We should have arranged things so we'd have a circle drive of some sort to make this so much easier. Always do a job the way you want it the first time...for example,put up the best fence you can afford. We originally had sheep so have 7 strands barbed wire...now have cattle but they aren't going anywhere with the stout fence we built the first time. redoing a job is an aggravation not to mention a waste of money/time. Never enough of either on a farm. Even the wild areas of our 120 acres require some care...thining,taking out dangerous dead trees,keeping the blackberries from taking over the farm. We like to spend the winter months with a notebook making a plan for the next year...projects we want to tackle,areas that need worked on like we just filled in an old dump while digging a new pond. It is so exciting to have a place to do all that you have dreamed...best advice is to live there awhile before you start changing things....stuff that you thought needed doing right away might not be as important as you thought when you've lived with it awhile. We could have lived in our house without remodeling...granted it was an ugly Inselbrick monstrosity but it was dry and stout. The deep well was the best investment; many of our neighbors haul water weekly. Good luck.DEE
     
  8. Homesteader

    Homesteader Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm - I wish we had run hot water to the barn. We have electric in there but just had so many projects going - we kept saying we'll do it later. Elec and hot water in the barn to me is the biggest thing. We have a hot water heater in a small outbuilding close to the barn, which heats the water for the clothes washer - and will dig a trench to bring water to the barn from there.

    Second biggest mistake, and it runs a real close second to the hot water issue, is we didn't put in a windbreak til this spring, 4 1/2 years after getting the place. Terrible spring winds here and it has been very damaging to gardens, and the sand movement problem we have here. Would have put that in immediately.

    Third is I would have planted about 20 fruit trees the very next season after losing 5 trees :( . Obviously fruit trees are a difficult thing to grow here (it's not just us, it's a local thing) and so we should have just planted tons of them in order to end up with the 5 or 6 we want. Now, it'll be much too long a wait for fruit.

    Also, we should have built in a door into each critter's pen that would open outside for easier cleaning, we did three out of four, should have done all four.

    Things I almost daily appreciate: electric (lights) in the barn, an automatic bowl type waterer in the goat pen and the hay manger DH built which works soooooo incredibly good at keeping hay off the ground, pictures of them at: http://community.webshots.com/user/homesteadernv . The cool brooder (pictures of this above too) DH built for baby chicks - LOVE that thing as it sits inside their pen, and it just works so well, when they're feathered out they just can go in and out of it to stay warm/cooler :D .

    Also little things I've done or am doing to make the daily chores faster/easier: bought an automatic plug-a-garden-hose into it type waterer which now suppies water to the dog, outside cat and the 6 hens that roam the place. Much easier than changing water daily. We also provide water to wild birds and will be placing a hose at drip rate to keep it full rather than filling daily. Update to the last sentence - placed an electric bird bath warmer under this water, set hose to drip and I already appreciated not having to turn on the hose to fill that water, or, if frozen, bring hot water to it. Love it!

    The daily repetitive stuff gets to you after a while, and after 4 1/2 years the "automatic" features that we've added really make a huge difference to me. Any way of automatic watering, feeding, etc. it worth every penny to me.
     
  9. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I really appreciate the large gate the previous owners put into the fence. Sooner or later you WILL wat to drive into an enclosed area.

    Our henhouse is on skids so I can move it with the lawn tractor. I have found that close to the house is best in the winter. The house acts as a windbreak for both man and beast, and stock need care at -10 degrees just like they do when it is in the 80's. More care, in fact.

    However, the chickens DO leave bare, muddy areas that get smelly in the spring rains. Very annoying.
     
  10. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Bulldinkie's right about the need for patience in doing anything - it's very important to have a good understanding of the actual land itself, how things lay, how drainage works, things like that.

    It's natural to be excited, but try very hard to temper that excitement with lots of patience so that you'll be sure to build and alter things in accordance with the land.

    And GET TO KNOW THE OLD TIMERS IN THE AREA! Trust me, the people who've been there a lifetime will know things you can't even imagine right now that you need to know! They're goldmines of information and can save you lots of grief, $$$ and time!
     
  11. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    A 5 year business plan for your homeplace is a must. I developed my 5 year plan in 2000 and am completing it a year early .
     
  12. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    The only thing you can't replace is lost time. Think footsteps and labour, save as much as you can and don't put up with minor inconveneances. Hinge all gates and make em wider than you'll ever need, (which will be the second time you go through them) automatic water fountains pay instantly, Think what is needed where and how close can you get those things together. Dual purpose equipment is great but when broken means multiple jobs are at risk. Plan for 4X the storage you think you need. Then you'll only be behind by twice what you need. If your keeping livestock, plan for an isolation barn and yard away from the home stock. Trailers make trucks out of any car. (I have 6 and wouldn't say no to another) Think outside the box but with your feet on the ground. Simple is best, simple minded is bust. Ask for outside opinions, pay for them if needed. Fixing mistakes is fine but you're almost always better off starting over. Buy in bulk, sell in singles. Seriously a 50 pound box of nails won't go stale if kept dry. As for water to stock we ran a quarter mile of under ground water pipe (on the surface) to put water in the furthest pasture. Before that we used a tank on a trailer. Talk about a time killer! Hire help when needed and especially if you can earn more doing something else, or it will save you greater expenses. Sounds silly but I used to clean my yards with the tractor myself. No more, now I get an excavator in do it in a day and my tractors don't get worn out shoving manure around. I'm sure my loader tractor's clutch will last twice as long now. In saved parts money I'm behind but in saved down time I'm way ahead. Five days late in cutting 20 acres of alfalfa will cost you over a grand in lost protein. Buy a bigger tractor than you need. It will eat a little more fuel but last a lot longer.
     
  13. Swampdweller

    Swampdweller Well-Known Member

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    Holy cow, Kristin, I could go on for weeks.

     
  14. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

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    A few thoughts (fortunately we had the experience and advice of others on these things):

    1) If you are putting in gates going up your drive make sure they are plenty wide...wider than the drive. If you want to get a haybine or other large equipment in you will want the room. We are putting in a double farm gate (total width 20 feet) at the bottom of the drive and another one at the top.

    2) If you are running electric on poles and it crosses your drive make sure it is high enough to get a cement truck up, etc.

    3) I agree with others that a circular turnaround in your drive really makes things a lot easier.

    4) If you are planning orchards, get your trees as early as possible. It will take a couple years (in less you want to spend big bucks on larger trees) for them to start producing. Ask your neighbors what varieties work for them. Consider the terrain of your property. If you plant on south facing slopes you may run the risk of damage from frost (the south exposure gets the trees budding earlier).

    I'm fresh out of ideas at the moment.

    Mike
     
  15. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    The Wife is always saying that she wish our House was down in the Holler.In some ways it would be better for one Brush Fires burn slower going down hill.But it Frost down there faster.

    Oh Well I like the veiw.

    big rockpile
     
  16. farmy

    farmy Well-Known Member

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    Just wanted to thank each of you for the thoughtful replies. The collective knowledge on this site is amazing.
    All best,
    Kristin
     
  17. j.r. guerra in s. tx.

    j.r. guerra in s. tx. Well-Known Member

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    When you layout your outbuildings and fences / accesses to them, picture yourself going about your chores. As said above several times, you should try and make sure you only lift materials once, rather than moving them from place to place. Make sure your pens are not downwind from your home - you'll know when it rains. :haha: Also, if you will have a drilled well, the pens should be far enough away not to poison the water.

    I think every farm house needs at least one porch, a space where you can sit under it when it rains or snows and you can enjoy the spectacle.

    Have fun making your plans.
     
  18. earthship

    earthship Well-Known Member

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    I posted earlier on this. I want to add a couple thoughts. Planning before doing is so very critical. If you are building a garden shed or a 3000 sq.' home think before your build. Someone above mentioned "Pattern Language" (by Christopher Alexander btw).

    http://www.patternlanguage.com/

    This is a complicated book as it is a long term study of building community as well as the best place to put your silverware drawer. It is a GREAT resource. More realistic and logical than Feng Shui. Feng shui soncepts are a good resource too, but a bit obtuse at times.

    Spend some time on your space (land). Consider which way the wind blows, earth contours (drainage, access etc.) and probably the best advice you can get is to think long and hard about solar orientation. The sun is your best friend. You will save 30% on energy use if you merely point your structures in the right direction and get the ratio of windows to walls and overhangs correct. This is all for free - it simply requires planning. We have yet to use ANY heat of any kind in our home this winter. It is 67 degrees in our house this morning and we just got 4" of new snow last night. By 11 AM we will be opening windows (even when it is 20 degrees outside). Use compact flourescent lights and learn about phantom electric loads. Here in Colorado "we" are running out of water and building like crazy. Consider the resources like water, electric, fuels and black and gray water systems. Permaculture books are also terrific. Take responsibility for how you use your land.

    OK end of rant ;-) I'm excited for your opportunity. Good luck.
     
  19. mamagoose

    mamagoose Well-Known Member

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    Plannng for a greywater outlet to flower and veggie beds. We have no basement and it will be harder to incorporate separate plumbing now. I hate not being able to recycle bath water, etc. Actually, living in an unfinished house has had its advantages. We've done about 1/2 room a year and DH makes most of the furniture/cabinets and we've have changed our inside plans in some cases from the original.
     
  20. For the worst tasting veggies, pump your raw washing machine & dish water & wash water into your garden. Once your soil gets sufficently saturated with phosphates & soap, you can scrape off your precious top soil and have it trucked away. It takes a few years to build up the soaps in the soil, but getting rid of it requires drastic measures.

    For a pre-taste, don't rinse out a cooking pot, and go ahead and boil or steam some veggies in it. Really awful taste! My sister made that mistake and paid to have half a foot of beautiful looking black loam top soil removed 10 years later. You've got to treat it before you use it!

    Use the water off the roofs of your buildings instead, it's easy to filter, pump and store for the dry spells. To see the systems in use, visit a lighthouse, they make extensive use of roof water and most have a method in place to dump the initial dusty cloud burst and collect the rest in cisterns.