Land quantity

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by P&B, Dec 29, 2004.

  1. P&B

    P&B Member

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    I'm new to the homesteading thing and I'm bad at math. How much land is realistically needed to have a homestead that supports a family of seven (five children)? What size should the garden be? How many hogs, cows, goats, etc.?

    My parents own forty acres in the Midwest, but my husband and I live in New England and land is much more expensive, so I'd like so suggestions on a minimum land quantity. We have young kids, so we also need to have room for them to run and play without worrying about trampling the garden or getting bit by the pig.

    Thank you.
     
  2. timmcentire

    timmcentire Active Member

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    We also have a family of seven and so I've taken a look at different gardening techniques to make it easier and provide more. I'd recommend a book called: "Square Foot Gardening". With careful planning and such, you can harvest a lot of food from a very tiny bit of space.

    As far as animals, I'd think a lot of it has to do with the conditions that you want them to live in. Commercial meat producers usually cram the animals into unhealthy living conditions and have to pump them full of antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to market them. It's generally better if you can give the animals enough space and healthful living quarters so that you can raise them well and get better results.

    You should be able to get by on 5-10 acres or less and be able to feed your family as long as you have a good plan.

    You might want to read some of the articles from the Mother Earth News archives: http://www.motherearthnews.com/index.php?page=archindex or Countryside magazine. There's lots of helpful material in those.
     

  3. FrankTheTank

    FrankTheTank Well-Known Member

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    You'd be suprised with what you could do with a 1/4acre...but anything over an acre would do fine (unless you plan on having many large animals)...
     
  4. BamaSuzy

    BamaSuzy Well-Known Member

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    I just this morning interviewed a couple who have 40 acres which includes space for three chicken houses (they raise broilers for a processor); and plenty of space for the Border collies they raise and sell as sheep dogs (currently therre are 11 adult dogs and 21 puppies) plus one pet dog and about six cats; PLUS three or four sheep they use in training....

    I'd say they're not using one-fourth of their land.

    We have 13-15 acres. We have a BIG organic garden on either side of the chicken house, a bunny barn built onto the side of another outbuilding, a three-bedroom brick house, two large fenced enclosures nearest the woods; a large fenced enclosure beside the goats big enclosure for our "goat" dog; five fruit trees and two grape arbors.....and we probably don't use two acres....although we do intend to fence in about six more acres for goats and sheep....

    We raised four kids and no have seven grandkids....

    I've heard of folks who raised intensive gardens to feed huge families and still had enough to sell---on only two acres!

    So the best thing to do is plan plan plan!

    I wouldn't want to have less than 10 acres (that would be five acres per human kid in your case! ha!) best wishes!!!!
     
  5. Siryet

    Siryet In Remembrance

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    Order the Book "The Have More Plan" from Amazon .com or see if your local library can get it for you.

    The book can help you in deciding what and how much to do. Although it has outdated material in it it is a good starting place. After you decide where to start you can get updated material for what you want to do.

    Good luck and don't forget to have fun along the way.
     
  6. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    The Have-More plan IS a good place to start. They not only say what they raise, they say how many square feet they raise it in.

    A little cleverness comes in handy, too. My MIL had a large avacado tree, under that she had rabbit pens, and under the pens she had compost for the garden and earthworms that she once sold.

    Other people will trellis whatever they can, so that they need less room to raise their veggies in.
     
  7. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    Quality of ground is more important than quantity. The growing zone the property is in is extremely important. I can support a cow/calf on a single acre and I can grow some type of crop at least 10 months a year in NC. Some places cannot support a cow/calf on 80 acres and cannot grow a crop more than 5 months a year.
     
  8. sancraft

    sancraft Well-Known Member

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    Check out "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It", by Jonh Seymour. He gives you plans for 1 acres, 5 acres, 10 acres and more. It doesn't take as much as you think.
     
  9. insanity

    insanity Well-Known Member

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    Welcome~!
    I read all these type post with enthusiasm.As i to, one day hope to have enough land to be if nothing else a little more self sufficient and happy.So just to add to the? I ask are you plaining on burning wood also? And if so how much wooded land would it take? (any one).Figuring at least ten to twenty already (hard) wooded acres myself.
    Since my grandfather used to raise pigs (for fun) i can say they don't require very mush space(4hogs =1/4 acre at most).They just require a bit of mud to be happy. :D And all the left over or rotten/bruised veg's. as you have on hand ;) . Figure on raising extra for them myself.
    Also as a small gardener ill agree it doesn't take much space,there either.(Altough im still learning to preserve what ive grown myself).Also wondering about the cow thing myself.Im sure it wouldn't take much room for goats,but I'm figuring cows would require much better and bigger grazing land. :confused:
     
  10. Ed in S. AL

    Ed in S. AL Well-Known Member

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    Here is a link to "The Have More Plan". The whole book is in Mother Earth News' archieve section. Go down to issue #2. This is the book.

    The Have More Plan
     
  11. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Insanity, I THINK that my husbands Uncle in Tennessee cut down 2-3 trees a year for his heating wood.
     
  12. YuccaFlatsRanch

    YuccaFlatsRanch Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It will take more than 2-3 yrees to heat in Connecticut.

    As for animals - what do you plan to feed them in the winter - buy hay or raise it yourself?? Buy grain or raise it yourself?? Everything alive has got to eat.
     
  13. CarlaWVgal

    CarlaWVgal Well-Known Member

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    If you find you can afford to buy enough land to raise large animals (cows) you might want to think about smaller ones. I think (and someone please correct me) it takes 5 sheep to make up one animal unit, so you could raise 5 sheep on the same area as one cow needs. This would greatly help with breeding. Or even smaller, rabbits and chickens do not take much space at all, breed and grow rapidly. You might not get 500 pounds of meat at once, but you could have a constant supply of fresh meet.

    This year I am moving my garden from the field to the front yard, all in raised beds (to keep the dog out) and am working on square foot gardening. I'm going to plant about twice as many different plants as last year. To keep the kids out, I am going to give them their own bed to care for, but I expect them to help with weeding and watering and harvesting. (four kids, ages 8-2) I have never had a problem with them messing with my plants before.

    You could incorporate food plants into your landscaping. Fruit trees in the yard, herbs grown in your flower beds, berry bushes mixed in. HTH

    Carla
     
  14. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Land is not Land. You need to know what kind of land, quality of the soil, water rights. Also how much work are ready to do? With Cows in the mix thats means lots of hay, So you need to decide is is cheaper to buy hay or have the land to grow your own. How much of the land work are you doing by hand, how much by machine. Again there is no easy answer

     
  15. Bigfinn

    Bigfinn Member

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    Move to the Midwest :D
     
  16. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    Get as much land as you can possibly afford. Read as many of Gene Logsdon's books as you can. You can do wonders with 1/4 acre, but so much more with 10-40 acres. If you have a good permanent job, buy the maximum amount you can afford, even stretching yourself financially. Notice the word stretching. A little hardship financially will get easier very fast; a lot of stretch = bankruptcy. Two acres with good fertility and layout is better than 20 acres of rock, clay and hillsides. Do you own the house you are in? If so, you may want to build on the new property. That briings in a lot of other things to think about--well, septic, etc. You can even do plenty with a small back yard--see www.freeplants.com.

    Take a few years to get established on the land, putting in a small garden and getting a few chickens. Be patient. Homesteading is not an exact science and is loaded with variables. Learn all you can about building up your soil with organic material. Give yourself a few years to learn what you need to know. You also need to learn what your own capabilities are. Once you get the gardening and critter raising figured out, you will be in a much better place to figure out what else you would like to do.

    Several of the good seed companies (Johnny's, Territorial) can help you with how much to plant in order to yield x amount of veggies. Their catalogs have tons of info like that. A number of books also have charts etc. with all kinds of stuff. I would go back as far as possible in this and other forums and read old posts. There is an incredible amount of info here plus access to many other sites for more tech assistance. Every state has one college which does the ag studies. They have web sites with a world of info. You can access any state's site.

    I hope this is helpful.

    P.S. Good books: The New Seed Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel; Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza; Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew; The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. I may be off on some of the titles as I am downstairs and too lazy to go upstairs to be sure. Check out the authors on Amazon.com or Half.com used = good prices.
     
  17. dreadstalker

    dreadstalker Well-Known Member

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    do a google search on RUTH STOUT she wrote the book on sustainable gardening.you might find BackWoodsHome.com to be of interest
     
  18. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

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    A friend of mine who is a "master gardener" title granted by the University of Idaho and Washington State University combined or separately i cant remember.... told me that a family of four can be fed in a 350 square foot green house in central Idaho, so where you are would be similar, add a couple hundred feet for the additioanl members of your family of course. Good size greenhouses can be bought or built from scratch, none with plastic will last very long so the price has to be calculated against short term replacement factors.... Farmtek supply has small to HUGE green house setups availbe to purchase, give them a looksee.

    Contacting the country agent [usda county agriculture agent] or the local land grant university [if you have such back east] will help you figger out the land/ acreage requirements for your specific area..... most places out here in central idaho wont run a cow to 3 acres, yet a few places here can run one per acre in a small acreage.

    as a general rule of thumb if you can run a large animal like a cow or horse, you can run 5 sheep or goats, but you cant really run the smaller cattle like dexters in any larger quantity like some people would purport, a large simintal or limosine will eat more, but not that much more to run 2 times the smaller cows......

    You can graze sheep and goats and cattle on the same pasture, the YO ranch in texas has been doing so over 100 years and not hurt their rangeland.... however you must be careful and have what each will eat and not a planted pasture of only one edible plant. Over wintering animals can vary from place to place, larger stem hay will go farther as it takes longer to digest than small fine stem grasses and legumes.... so in cold weather the coarser grasses are better for stock with grain supplemented. It can take generations of practice farmingto git it all figgered out to a science, and i aint no where got it all figgered yet..... gentics aslo make a difference in how animals eat and maintain, as other factors do as well, put up a hoop house for thec winter and your stock will do better, this fact was researched after the war of Northern aggression in the Virginias, including colored glass to make the stock healthier and more content, of course that study has been overlooked and is just now being tested again...... so everything old is new again in stock raising.

    If you have small holders around you, and they have product for sale like hay, grain and straw, you can have smaller acreage and get by, until they go out of business and you are forced to get it from someone farther away, costs factor into everything, and producing your own requires more than a person thinks in time, machinery and storeage..... each added segment requires support of some kind, buy a tractor..... build a machine shed to keep it dry, buy a combine and you need a drill to seed the ground with, and a grain bin of some sort to store in or face paying storage costs at the elevator.... have aminals, you need shelter, water, pasture, winter feed storage...... barns and sheds require space, and space cost dollars and require thought as to how long before it is paid for and how many beef steaks, lamb chops, or goat shakes will it take to pay it out.....

    but do not get overwhelmed, other people have done it, and are making it work, questions get answers we dont expect, being prepared for the harshest of times ahead is better than a sugar coated version and the sudden attack of realism at 20 below zero that the water is frrozen and the stock is thirsty.....

    You question is common, and is also a good question, my answer is not the best but will maybe make a person think a little.

    William
     
  19. reluctantpatriot

    reluctantpatriot I am good without god.

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    Just because land is a bit rough or lacking in deep fertile soil doesn't meant that it isn't worth buying. I have 40 acres that is hilly and had many ravines, but it provides good wildlife habitat for hunting, has plenty of timber for wood stoves and plenty of brush for the goats and sheep to eat for a varied diet along with grain and some hay.

    Goats and sheep will be better off on poorer land as their systems are designed for poorer quality feed. Sheep can easily get overweight from too much protein in their diet. This works out well for here as brush needs to be taken care off anyway and this saves fuel for a weedwacker or lawnmower.

    If the soil is thin, work a good flat patch and put moldy straw and hay that can't be used for feed along with kitchen scraps and manure and work that into the ground. Over time you will build up the soil there and have a progressively better garden each year.

    Often it isn't the quantity or quality that matters, but how well you can make what you have suit your needs. I prefer to have the land here even if it is a bit less than ideal because it give me privacy and seclusion. What it lacks I can work on improving.
     
  20. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    If you have limited resources (money, time, labor) you may actually be better off to get a smaller place than you think you'd like to have. It's better to have one or two acres that you can manage with available resources, than to have a hundred acres that you can't afford to fence, don't have the equipment to hay, and so on. On the other hand, if you can find a larger place that you can afford, and start by using only a small piece of it -- what you can actually manage to do well -- then maybe you can add a little more each year into your usage. But, if in the meantime you've got cropland or hayfield growing up into brush because you can't work it, then it's going to take a lot more work to reclaim that land later.

    I hope to someday have around seventeen acres -- seven acres wooded, and ten tillable, rotating through pasture, crops and garden. With an efficient masonry stove and a passive-solar house, that amount of woodland (in a humid part of the country) would supply plenty of firewood, plus poles for garden trellis and things like that. The crop/pasture land would feed my goats, poultry, rabbits, and maybe a few sheep. But, currently we have one acre, and while I have to buy most of our animal feed, and we don't have any firewood, we can grow most of our own food here.

    Kathleen