Homesteading Forum banner
1 - 20 of 26 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
84 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, everyone. My husband, 12-year homeschooled son, and I are finally ready to take the leap after discussing it for years. We're going to homestead baby! :dance: I figured I'd better introduce myself because I'll probably be pestering you with questions for....well, I was going to say a couple of years, but the truth is probably closer to forever. ;)

We're currently looking for at least 5 acres of land with a structurally-sound, fixer-up type home that keeps my husband within a 30-minute drive to his work. Who knows how long it will take to find the ideal property, but the search has now started. We've spent the last couple years bouncing ideas back and forth, and this is what we're currently thinking we'd like to do with the place (obviously over a few years' time):

* A good-sized vegetable garden
* A small orchard with mostly dwarf fruit trees and a few full-size nut trees (located away from the fruit trees)
* One or two bee hives
* Enough rabbits for us to eat and the fur for craft use
* Enough chickens for us to have eggs and meat
* 2 or 3 dairy goats
* Two small-sized pigs for meat (these would be the last animals added)
* Separate, fenced, rotatable pasture areas for the goats and pigs
* A field for supplemental hay and corn
* At least 1 acre reserved for a wooded area that can supplement firewood.
* Oh, and my son wants me to add 1-2 Great Pyrenees to this list. (I promised him a dog as soon as we get the house, with the stipulation that it is a breed trainable to not eat all the animals.)

Now for the questions:
1) Assuming we don't get anything bigger than 5 acres (I'm hoping we'll get a couple more though), does the above sound doable in regards to the amount of space?
2) Does this sound like an effective combination of animals for a small family? I will be responsible for most of the daily upkeep, with some help from my son.
3) In your opinion, would it be better to build one large barn for all the above animals or build multiple smaller buildings for each animal type? It seems to me like one barn would be the most convenient and possibly cheapest, but multiple buildings could allow more expansion. Of course, I might get super lucky and find property with a workable barn, but I'm assuming for now that it will not have one or will not be in good shape.

Okay, that's all for now. Please throw any opinions or advice you can my way. I'm trying to get the best idea possible of what we can do, so I can ensure we buy the most suitable property.

THANKS!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,524 Posts
When I started looking for land, I had a few criteria that you might want to consider.

1. Is there water near? Think along the lines of if TSHTF, would you be able to get water. Sure you might need to filter it, but can you get it.
2. Is there adequate exposure to sun such that you could do solar if you wanted to? This same need is there for gardening but solar adds an additional level of need for sunlight.
3. Is the land such that it could be defended? I know you might think this is paranoid but if you need it, you will be glad you have thought ahead. Think about lines of sight and methods of entry.
4. Is all the land useable? Is it flat or on a hillside?
5. What is around you and what could the surrounding land be used for in the future? I personally didn't want to be next to a highly populated area at any time in the future.
6. If a view is involved, do you own it? If not, that view could go away over the years and you would have no control.
7. Stive for as few covenants as possible. You don't need anyone telling you what you can do with your land.

Just some thoughts.
 

·
Happy Scrounger
Joined
·
13,634 Posts
Welcome to the world of Homesteading :)

Other than the field for hay or corn, you could easily do all that on 5 acres. You could use 1 acre for hay or corn...but it's probably more economical to use the land as pasture/trees/garden and buy what hay/corn you need. Unless you want to mow and gather hay/corn by hand, you'll need equipment and that's expensive.

bees. they'll need a source of water close to the hives, and you'll want the hives away from the animals and most people. They're a great thing to have on a farm tho, and only need to be looked at once a week. :) We love ours...very fun to watch, and the honey is THE BEST!

I'd do just the one big barn. You can always separate it into stalls/areas for various critters. Piggies really only NEED a hoop house outside so they can get away from rain/wind.

chickens...easy to add a few for eggs into a barn. Meat birds you might want to put in an area with a small mobile coop.

Make sure you have a GOOD water supply for the critters (and yourself, of course). Make it easy on yourself for doing chores, etc. Keep everything centralized. No hiking off to the other end of the field to water the turkeys or something. (We did that...it's a pain and gets old REAL fast)

I'd plant some fruit trees right away, and/or nut. Nothing like your own apples, pears and plums..but they take a few years to get producing.

START SLOW! Do NOT just jump in with both feet, particularly if only 1 person is responsible for all the chores. Go slowly, add as you go.

there. that's my 2 cents worth :)
 

·
Be powerful. No other option exists.
Joined
·
42,247 Posts
Dairy goats don't want pasture, as they are browsers, not grazers. They need brush, shrubs, etc.

I think my dairy does would have a fit if I put them on pasture that pigs had been in. EEWWW! Smelly pig poo!

Is one acre adequate for a lifetime firewood supply? I suggest ten acres, five of those with timber and undergrowth. That way, you'd have more firewood and a place for the goats to browse.

The problem with separate small barns/sheds for the critters is food storage, food handling, water (especially in winter), and electricity (to keep the water from freezing.) Keeping it all centrally located is MUCH easier.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,585 Posts
We have about 7 acres of wood, which does not provide us enough wood. Fortunately we have some friends with acreage that also let us clear their property of dead trees. We live in middle Alabama, which may be a little warmer that most places in Tennessee, so I don't think an acre is enough for your wood needs if you are using it as a heat source. We run a wood stove in the basement which heats our school room and recreation area and a fireplace insert upstairs for about 3-4 months of the year and although we have a heat pump consider our wood our primary heat source. If you're only wanting a small fire now and then, an acre of hardwood might be enough.

Chickens don't need a lot of land, so they aren't really a problem on small acreage. The only problems we've had with chickens has been raccoons and possums will try to break into the cages at night, so having a good sturdy place to keep them may be important. We've also recently had problems with hawks, but our recent acquisition of a great pyrenees seems to have resolved that problem.

My personal opinion for all you want to do is a minimum of 10 acres, but preferably 15-20. That way you could have a large acreage of woods for both firewood and goats, then a couple of acres for your orchards, gardens, pasture and such. Our chickens prefer the woods or the garden, so you may want to try to place the garden far away from where your chickens are if you want to free range them.

I haven't had goats (yet), but several of our neighbors have and they have all been killed by foxes or coyotees or wild dogs. I'm hoping that if we decide to get some that our Great Pyrenees will prevent that.

Dawn
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
84 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the ideas and things to ponder. I definitely plan to go slow. I figure I'll start with a smaller garden the first year (and some fruit/nut trees) and add one animal (probably chickens first), then expand the garden and add another animal once I'm comfortable with caring for the first one.

I know that 1 acre will not even begin to offer enough wood, but I do want some wooded area to break up the landscape, hide neighbors, etc. and keeping it healthy will provide supplemental firewood.

As for the dairy goats and pasture, umm...I'm confused. I understand they are browsers, but I thought a pasture could be created for them with a seed mix of clover, grasses, etc. Is that called something other than a pasture? I know that's not all they need for food though.

I keep reading that pigs really don't need space to roam like other animals, I just feel so bad about cooping any animal up. I like to see them have some freedom. Not that I'm saying anyone who does keep them in small areas is wrong, it would just make me sad to see mine that way each day. I need to read up on them more. They're a recent addition to our "plan."

Thanks again!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
84 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Dawn, are your woods fenced or do your chickens just naturally stay on your property? I was thinking of giving the chickens a smaller fenced "chicken run" to stretch their legs/wings. I know some people just let them run free, but I fear I'd be the one person who's chickens pack little napsacks of feed and head for the hills. LOL.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,981 Posts
Five acres is not really room enough for a Great Pyr. He will be roaming. Buy as much land as you can afford. The price per acre drops as the parcel gets larger. I know that five acres sounds like a lot, but you will very quickly wish you had more, especially if you have animals. If you have nearby neighbors, you might want to reconsider the pigs. You can probably find a farmer in your area who keeps pigs and you can buy a whole pig once a year,maybe half a pig- depending on your needs. Your chickens need to be behind electric wire. Well, all of your animals will probably need to be behind electric wire to keep them in, but also to keep dogs out. If you keep your chicken house within the confines of the electric wire, you don't need a predator proof chicken house. The chickens can free range during the day. If you have a chicken run, the run will quickly turn to dirt. If the chickens free range they will gladly eat bugs all over the area. They will only range as far as they need to. Chickens will keep the fly population down.

Pigs don't need a large area. Think about a nice size yard for a big dog for a trio of pigs. They need shade.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
13,158 Posts
1) Assuming we don't get anything bigger than 5 acres (I'm hoping we'll get a couple more though), does the above sound doable in regards to the amount of space?
I'd really want 10-20 acres min but yeah 5 acres is doable.
2) Does this sound like an effective combination of animals for a small family? I will be responsible for most of the daily upkeep, with some help from my son.
Pigs are serious animals, or at least you don't want to make pets of them. Just keep in mind pigs need a serious (not cruel just physical) method to handle them.
3) In your opinion, would it be better to build one large barn for all the above animals or build multiple smaller buildings for each animal type? It seems to me like one barn would be the most convenient and possibly cheapest, but multiple buildings could allow more expansion. Of course, I might get super lucky and find property with a workable barn, but I'm assuming for now that it will not have one or will not be in good shape.
There are benefits to individual barns but I think I'd prefer to just have one. Its worked for centuries.

Welcome to HT!!!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,585 Posts
Dawn, are your woods fenced or do your chickens just naturally stay on your property? I was thinking of giving the chickens a smaller fenced "chicken run" to stretch their legs/wings. I know some people just let them run free, but I fear I'd be the one person who's chickens pack little napsacks of feed and head for the hills. LOL.
We have about 2 acres fenced that the chickens mostly stay in. We own about 8 acres that surrounds this, so if they fly over the fence they are still on my property, although sometimes they go visit my father in law when he is out and about (he feeds them when we are gone so they are familiar with him). Most of my neighboring properties are 8 acres or more, so don't have any subdivisions to worry about our chickens getting in to.

Dawn
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
665 Posts
My grandfather would let his chickens run free but they always stayed within 50-100' of the coop. The only exception were his Guinea hens. If they got loose they would go a longer distance from the coop but they would be back in the coop before sunset.

Since it doesn't sound like you will have a lot of livestock, you could probably just build a small 8x10' shed for each kind of livestock. A small shed is fairly easy for 1-2 people to build. A large barn is more convenient but you would probably need to hire someone to help you build it. Most goats prefer being outside unless it's raining so 1/2 of an 8x10' shed should be good for 2-3 goats. For the rabbits, 1 buck and 3 does should give you all the meat rabbits you would need for a small family.

For goats and pigs, most of your effort will have to go into building good fencing. Both goats and pigs are escape artists. Pigs will push through a poorly built fence and goats can jump a fence that is less than 5'. I would probably go with electric fencing. Just be sure the electric fence is working reliably before letting the livestock out to pasture.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
355 Posts
Five acres is plenty to do what you want to do, except keep you in firewood. Goats are browsers, not grazers--their nutrition/mineral requirements preclude them doing well on grass alone. But the bulk of their forage can come from alfalfa hay OR pellets. They need little grain if they're not milking. Don't buy ANY goats that aren't blood tested for CAE & CL. Look at the test results & match them to the tatoo numbers on the goats. Good goat info is at dairygoatinfo.com. Great Pyr. will NOT function as both livestock guardians & pets--it's either/or. As for a barn, you'll be absolutely miserable if you don't have water AND elec. run to ALL your livestock housing

Madfarmer
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
84 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Madfarmer, I understand to actually guard the animals, the Great Pyrenees cannot be treated as both pet and guard dog. The first one we get would be my son's pet. I just assumed since it is a guard animal, it could be trained to not chase and eat the animals easier than most other breeds. Am I assuming too much here?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
84 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks everyone. It seems the majority opinion is that 5 acres is doable, though not ideal. I agree, but I have to be realistic as well. To keep my husband close enough to his job, I'm limited in where I can purchase rural land. I also want to keep the mortgage cost as low as possible so that I have plenty of extra money to build a barn, buy animals, feed, fences, etc. without overextending ourselves. There are some 10+ acre properties in my search area within our budget, I just haven't found the right one for us yet. However, there are even more 5-9 acre properties. I'm trying to keep my options as open as possible. When it comes down to it, my primary goal is to ensure we can meet at least most of our goals without putting ourselves or the animals at risk of starving. That sort of defeats the purpose. :)

I do admit to seeing many large properties (10-30 acres) just slightly above our budget and thinking, "Well, we could manage that..." Then I have to kick myself and remember that more is not always better. Sure 20 acres would be wonderful. It wouldn't be so fantastic empty though. In fact, it would just be sad.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,075 Posts
Any breed can be trained not to chase and eat the animals; I think it's more about the individual dog. Having said that, Pyrs are my very very most favorite dog of all. However, in general (mine anyway) they don't really listen and obey like most dogs. They assess the situation and respond accordingly. It may be different if they're raised as pets.

We have coyote problems with all of the animals for which we do not have guard dogs. Never a problem with either of the goat pastures with a Pyrenees in each, but the unguarded chickens suffer a loss or two. If we could let the Pyrs roam outside of their pastures, I imagine the chickens wouldn't have a problem either. But - roam they do... far and wide. An absent guard dog wouldn't work either. :)

As far as goat pasture goes, think less along the lines of clover and grasses and more along the lines of weeds. Our herds love small trees, honeysuckle vine, blackberry vine, anything I don't want them to eat, cedar, etc.

I think the things you're wanting to do could be done on five acres, but would be much better on 10.

Good luck and way to go on working toward the dream!
 

·
Be powerful. No other option exists.
Joined
·
42,247 Posts
Do not think "pasture" for goats. Think "browse area." Forest with lots of undergrowth.

Mine don't like clover.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
257 Posts
Not sure about the statements about Pyrs can't be both pets and guard livestock...ours do both. We put in an underground fence around our 8 acres to keep them in and it works great. They don't even really need the collars any longer since they know the boundaries and rarely test them. Before the underground fencing, we lost one Pyr and yes they will roam if not confined somehow. Pyrs can be trained, they just have very dominant and stubborn personalities and are difficult for some people, but we have used electronic training collars with ours and they learn each task or whatever it is after only one or two sessions.

Our chickens have never been fenced in and they stay within the area around the house and the animal "compound"...maybe a one-acre area.

My only thoughts about having one barn is that if you are going to put pigs in it...they STINK...no, I mean they REALLY STINK!!! :eek: Might want them in separate housing at least so you're not dealing with nasty pig poop in your barn.

We raise chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, pigs, a milk cow and her calf, and 2 Pyrs, and have a large garden, and we are only actually using maybe 5 acres of our land to do it, including the house. Right now the rest is just woods. We don't raise any feed though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16,519 Posts
I think you will be much better off to focus on what you can afford and then see what you can do with it. some land will come with a nice house, some without. some with a barn already or some kind of shed. I think it is much more important to stay within what you can afford, than to say that you have to have such and such. You can do a lot with 1 acre, if it is the right acre. You might also luck out and find a plot of land with a like-minded neighbor and buy/sell/trade with them.

Set up a budget and when you go out to look, stick to your budget. Get as much as you can, but keep control of the finances. This will be the biggest benefit to your plans in the end.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
84 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
We're looking for a place in NW TN, ideally within 30 minutes of Clarksville and 1-1/2 hours of Nashville.

I see a lot of people using underground fences around their entire property for their dogs. If noone minds answering this, how much does something like that cost? I can't help thinking it costs A LOT, but it is a good idea.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,981 Posts
If you go to the pet board you can find numerous posts about Great Pyrs needing large territories. Remember, they stayed with the shepherd and sheep in mountains, migrating across miles and miles.

For a dog, I think you would be better off with a rough coated collie (Lassie), but you have to be careful and get the old fashioned kind. A friend of ours has had luck finding old fashioned collies with the traditional temperament and I can probably get a breeder's name if you want. A collie will stay around the homestead, can be an indoor/outdoor dog, is easily trained, and obedient. Your son can do a lot more with a collie than a GP. Collie means, literally, "good farm dog". A sheltie would also work for you, but probably not a border collie.

If you buy more land than you really need, you can sell off part of it, say a two acre lot, which you can use to pay down your loan and put you in a better financial place.
 
1 - 20 of 26 Posts
Top