What to look for in a homestead?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Jex99in00, Jun 30, 2006.

  1. Jex99in00

    Jex99in00 The Angry One

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    Hi everyone, I've been on the forums "lurking" for awhile now and came up with a pretty big question. My fiancee and I are looking to get out of NJ within the next 3 years and move onto a farm/homestead somewhere where we can get alot of land. We both want to be self-sufficient as far as electricity, food, etc. MY question is, what should we look for when searching for property to buy? What are the pro's and con's of certain types of land and stuff? Just fishing for some info here, so any answers would be appreciated. Thanks!
    Jim
     
  2. electronrider

    electronrider Well-Known Member

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    They make books and books and books on just that subject. Your best place to start is by defining your end goal of what this homestead would be. Once you have done that, it makes it much easier to define what your looking for. Good luck, and welcome!
     

  3. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

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    The pro's and con's of certain types of land depends on what you want to use the land for. If you want to raise goats you can buy land with lots of scrub brush, if you want cows, you'll want to look for something with less weeds and good pasture. If you want to grow a large garden you'll want the blackest dirt you can find. There are a lot of variables. After you decide what you want, then you will look for land with those characteristics.
     
  4. AnnaS

    AnnaS Well-Known Member

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    A soil test is important. If you're planning on self sufficency, you HAVE to have fertile soil to grow your garden and pasture.
    I would also look for a house/homesite with good trees. You get shade in the summer and a windbreak in the winter.
    These are both things I wish I'd looked at before I bought my place.
     
  5. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

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    Jex, welcome!
    You have gotten good advice. You have to define your homestead before you can define your land. You mentioned electric self sufficiency. One of the things you should look at, then, is whether the land is suitable for wind/hydro/solar. It seems like you could do solar anywhere, or wind, but you can't.

    A pretty good book for you to read would be Storey's Basic Country Skills.
    amazon.com link
    Booki review in my blog
     
  6. Mutti

    Mutti Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Good water....well or rural water...can't do much whether it be gardening or livestock raising without water. Soil can be built up...our rocky acres here in MO have been green manured and we can grow anything now. A woodlot. A house with a root cellar or basement is a blessing. And our advice would be to live there for a year or two before you start making big improvements. We;d have never built our big barn where it is if we'd have given it more consideration as it is in a position to make manuvering trailers very difficult. Also, you need to look into future plans of the area you live in...highways, factories,etc. You never know who could turn out to be your neighbor. And last, get as much land as you can to keep neighbors out of your face! DEE
     
  7. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Buy the best that you can afford. While goats can live on very poor land, if you buy poor land for goats you are stuck and won't be able to do much else with it. If you are buying bare land (or plan on selling the house on it and building your own), think about what you want down the road and what you will need to get there. We put in a pond in the wettest spot on our land. The pond enables the area around our house to drain. Are you going to need shade trees? How are you going to get to the back forty? How soon is suburbia going to encrouch on you? Even if you plan on homeschooling, you want a decent school system. How many students from a give district go on to college? This will tell you how much the locals value education.
     
  8. Calico Katie

    Calico Katie Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You also have to consider how far out from a town you're willing to live. Do you need to have at least a small town fairly near? Do you need to live within commuting distance of a city where you can find work? How much physical work are you going to commit to? If you want to keep animals, consider what kind, their size and needs.

    This forum is a good starting place because just reading the posts and 'listening' in on the discussions here will help you start to realize what is involved. Welcome!
     
  9. FourDeuce

    FourDeuce Five of Seven Supporter

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    A good resource to get started is the book How to Find and Buy Your Place in the Country, by Les Scher. :cowboy:
     
  10. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    The heck with soil fertility... that you can build up. Check PERKability.. see the thread "what's wrong with septic people" for a sad object lesson in how fast your dream of a little place can go *POOF* when it fails to perk!
     
  11. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

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    Once you figure out whereabouts you want to live, talk with the zoning department to make sure you can do what you want to with your land.

    Also, look long term at the county growth statistics and try to figure out where the county is wanting to put all the new people. You don't want to move onto your piece of paradise, plunk 200 trees in the ground, plan a business and get all the necessary permits and licenses for it, and then realize that the county wants to have a developer plunk a subdivision 5 miles away from you - complete with a good sized strip mall.
     
  12. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    So many things.

    Wow

    I did not want to pump water over 1000 feet up each time I wanted a drink, or to water the garden. So to me ready access to water was important.

    Then a rural area: which generally means lower taxes, less zoning, less bother, and no snooping neighbors.

    Then price per acre. If it is wood lot, it can be cleared. If it is pasture, you can always plant trees. But if you get stuck on a small piece of land, then your stuck.

    A big thing that I learned was that you MUST go there. Talking to realtors long distance is dumb, and they really dont want to be bothered. Then I spent weeks with realtors. A couple times, I was inside little diners and talking to the folks, when they would open up with who was selling land locally. Realtors want to make a profit! They will bump the prices as much as they can, and you can not 'blame' them, everyone is greedy. But it runs the price up everywhere. I started seeing land for sale by owner going for half the price that realtors wanted for MLS listed properties.

    Within a mile of my new house, I fellow just dropped a pre-fab modular home. He just bought that land, and he paid over twice the price [per acre] that I paid. But he went through a realtor, I did not.

    Fertile land, forested, with year-around maintained paved road and power on a property line, river frontage, out in the county with lower taxes, within 7 miles of I-95 so I do have ready access to a hospital/etc; I paid $900/acre.

    Good luck.

    :)
     
  13. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

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    What MC Said. Sigh.. Maybe something will work out... But back on topic.. What MC Said :)
     
  14. Unregistered

    Unregistered Well-Known Member

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    You can narrow your search down a little. To be self-sufficient as far as electricity will narrow it down some. What way are you going to produce the electricity. If by solar your choice should be limited to those areas with sufficient sunlight. Not all areas are equal. There are maps available that show the best areas.
    If you plan on using water for elect. You will have to live in a place with a stream, river, or lake with sufficient head.
    You could make a list of the most important requirement for your homestead and go from there.
     
  15. Wolf mom

    Wolf mom Well-Known Member

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    MC is right on! Perc & I don't mean coffee.

    I'd start out making want lists, then pare that down to what you're capable of doing. Figure out if you can live without electricity. If you have the money for solar including the expensive energy saving refrig, etc. That'll give you direction. Don't throw the want lists away. That'll give you ideas on what kind of land to get & your goals.

    If you're young I'd be land greedy.

    Remember, most people are not totally self sufficient. Let me tell ya' since I went back to work, projects around here have come to a crawl. Can you live with the chicks in the bathroom, because they've outgrown their cage & the larger pen isn't built? There's always those odd things to consider like impatience.

    Welcome to here. Take it slow, get the knowledge, ponder a bit & you'll get it right.
     
  16. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

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    Better yet move to a realitively free county/place where you dont have to worry about septic tanks and other red tape buiilding permits inspections and other hassels that is my first priority in picking a place.
     
  17. Shepherd

    Shepherd Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to Homesteading Today. There's a lot of great, knowledgable people here.

    Great advice here. And yes, as others have said, it's important to have a general idea of what you're going to want to do on your homestead. We just wanted a place in the country far enough away from the city that city ordinances and people didn't infringe on our privacy so much. We were living only a couple miles from the city limits at our last place. Within 3 years, the city was already trying to involuntarily annex us in; they openly admitted they'd more than double our property taxes. And that was just the beginning of all the changes they planned to make. We decided to put the place up for sale and start praying God would guide us to the perfect place, farther from the city.

    We wanted a fair amount of land without neighbors crowding us. We found a house build in the middle of 40 acres... surrounded by heavy timber, and the house couldn't be seen from the road. The timber provides us with storm protection and filters our air. This was just what we were looking for. We also wanted a place with a well and a pond... but we had our own pond excavated a few years later, after living there awhile and deciding where the pond needed to go, based on the lay of the land. The timber provides us with fuel to heat the house and cook with, if needed... and gives safe haven to wildlife (deer, wild turkeys, rabbit, etc.). We have enough pasture land for grazing and gardening, small crops, etc.

    The disadvantages? Few. We're 45 miles from the city, 20 from a couple small towns. You're more isolated, so it's important to get to know & befriend your neighbors (and know who you want to keep at a distance). Commuting to work costs more in time and gas, but to us it's worth it. Those jobs are what's paying our place off faster.

    Using caution with expenditures is important. We decided in the beginning not to take on more than one thing at a time to make sure we could handle it and not become overwhelmed. The first thing was just getting used to the longer commutes. We had no choice but to get a used tractor with a blade so we could blade ourselves out after winter storms... so we shopped around till we could find one within our price range. Meanwhile we paid someone to blade us out. Then we decided to put up a small chicken coop and get our chickens for fresh poultry and eggs. When we saved up the money, we had our pond dug and then we stocked it with fish. A year later, we built a dock.

    Every year we've been planting a minimum of 2 fruit trees and assorted fruit bearing bushes/plants. The deer and rabbits are hard on all of these, but we'd rather not fence everything off, if we can get by without doing that.

    Last year was our first year at raising our own steer and pig for the freezer. We and two other families went in together and each had 1 steer and 1 pig. We took turns with the choring and 1 of the couples had the experience to teach the other 2 of us. This was a great way to start... it gave us the knowledge and experience to know we can do it on our own next time if we want.

    Our hopes are to install a windmill and solar for power eventually, altho this will be a major expenditure for us. I also want to get cisterns installed to collect rain water for gardening, etc., and an emergency water source. I'd like to dig a root cellar because our home is fairly small and doesn't have much storage. Then I'd like to make an outdoor kitchen that's screened in so I can do food processing and canning outside instead of heating the house up in the heat of the summer.

    Hope this helps you.
     
  18. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    This sounds good in theory, but in practice can result in some relatively unpleasant surprises. If you can do anything you want on your land... so can your neighbor. Including putting in a junk yard, potentially fouling water (rather like jnap is suggesting obliquely by urging you find a place where you don't "have to worry" about septic tanks), popping several trailers up to house their dog breeding "program" etc.

    While I'm all for "live and let live" Vermont's motto is "Freedom and Unity." The freedom to do your own thing.. responsibly. Because you have to live within the Unity of a community. And when you do funky things on your property it impacts on those around you. Since some people don't "get it" New England tends to be rich in zoning laws and permit processes. This would be one reason why the entire state of VT is on the National Register for Historic Preservation's "watch" list. Keeping it clean and green is no accident. We work at it. And there is no doubt that some people suffer for it. A few years ago my entire property was reclassified into "high elevation."

    This means it went from being "worth something" as building lots to worth virtually zip (which should be reflected in my property taxes but isn't.. go figure) because they changed the density and building limitations making them much more stringent. All because a few rich and piggy people denuded the tops of hills so they could have 360 degree views. Sure, it was their property to do with as they pleased... but the rest of us had to look at the ugly.

    So.. zoning laws.

    Be aware of what you're gaining by buying in an area with no zoning and no regional development plan... you could find yourself living next door to a landfill. Be aware of what you're giving up by moving to an area with zoning... there will be limits to what you're allowed to do with your property, but you'll also have some future security as development (inevitably) happens.
     
  19. Jex99in00

    Jex99in00 The Angry One

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    Wow, thanks everyone for the great ideas! My fiancee and I have discussed a few of the things you guys suggested. First off, we wand alot of land (150+ acres or so). We both want to raise horses (my fiancee has been around them all her life) and keep enough chickens, cows, and others to provide most of our protein and dairy (meat, eggs and milk). We also want to dedicate some land to crops to feed our family. We also hunt, so I would like some game animals to supplement our diet, so I believe having a good amount of trees, streams (or river) is important. As far as jobs go, my fiancee is finishing her education/history degree and I currently work as a carpenter and have about a year to go for my biology degree, so we're both flexible in that area. As far as projects go, I have experience in alot of construction work (carpentry, electrical, masonry), and both my fiancee and I do most of the work on our cars and her parents tractors and such, so I think we have a leg up in that department. Thakns again everyone for the advice and I would welcome any more suggestions!
    Jim
     
  20. Shepherd

    Shepherd Well-Known Member

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    Are you thinking of relocating to a different area of the country?

    We're looking at getting fencing up in some of our pastures so we can keep a couple head of cattle, pigs, and some milk goats. A couple of our neighbors have beehives and we have a small dairy farm down the road.