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Friday, January 04, 2008


From Robbyn

Hi Phelan :)
Oh I have loads of questions. One of them is if you knew THEN what you know NOW, and you were like my husband and myself, poised at the point where we ALMOST have some land, what would you be doing to prepare for starting out. We're trying to make some gradual lifestyle changes towards what we hope will be permanent. I'm wondering what you'd be focusing on as far as how to set up your first "homestead"...what things you wouldnt do at the outset...what things have proven invaluable...what you'd not waste time and money on in your initial excitement.
We don't anticipate being a large producer of anything or having a substantial income from our property when we get it...but we do want to substitute our present outgoing expenses with things that are self-sufficient and sustainable and can be done ourselves. And we're willing to work hard (we do anyway in other ways right now). Anything advice-wise, anything from what kind of structure you'd build to live in, if you'd begin with focus on the garden and then add animals, etc...what basic tools (I know you did a series) would you begin with...etc
We certainly have ideas on all these things, but they are just that...and arent proven. We'd like to know what mistakes you'd NEVER want to repeat and what things you would ALWAYS be glad you've done.

:) Thanks! As if you can fit all that into one post?? hee hee

I think the question is a post itself. HA!

Lets start with the land hunting. If I knew that I would be homesteading, we would have done things a little different. First we would sit down and make a list of the things that we would like to have ( a wood lot, a pond and/or creek, etc. . .) Once we found a land that was close to our needs we would ask for some info like if the top soil had ever been stripped, how high is the water table, the quality of the water, what animals had been there, what crops if any had been farmed there, what were/are the building codes for the county, what are the animal restrictions, does a covenant come with the land? (this is besides the basic questions) If all the answers were correct for my needs then I would want to pay cash straight out, no debts.

Fencing and barns would be one of the first priorities after a house (if one wasn’t already on it) As for what type of house, that would be the Underground home that I have talked about here before.

Immediately I would place in a garden, before any animals. If you are not use to organic gardening, you should really try your hand at it before getting animals. A trained dog and a couple of cats for the house and barn. Then move on to the types of animals that we deemed “needed” to survive ( donkey, sheep, chickens, and cows are on my priority list. I love our goats, but won’t eat them)

Items for canning, and just about all the tools I have listed in the series are musts for me. I am sure there are some out there that I have yet to try, but the basics are the best. I would highly recommend an expensive pair of field scissors and knife. You will use that more then any other tool.

Some things I wouldn’t waste my money on are some of the so called homestead helpers. If it is made of plastic, don’t bother. Scrimp and save for the metal items. Also be aware of your seed purchases, sometimes you can go a little crazy with them. A good rotor tiller is also something I would go ahead and spend some money on, depending on the soil you can break the cheaper ones blades (fun fun) I would have purchased a small tractor as well (something I hope we can some day have)

You will need to work hard, and if you are like us with limit income, you will be unable to do everything you want. Start out slowly, and by all means talk to people. I know I have said it so many times, but telling people your plans will earn you their free junk. All my canning things I got for free. Look through papers, and garage sales as well as auctions, a lot of the items needed to homestead can be found cheaply in those places.

There are many thing I would never want to do again, like shocking myself, or butchering a bird for the first time. (But I will do it the 2nd time on) As for things I will always be glad to have done, simply pick a post. I am glad to have been able to do all the things, at least once, the good, the bad and the oh so very ugly.

You will make mistakes, many mistakes. And this is why I blog. Those homesteading books (and yes even Carla Emery’s) don’t tell you everything that can happen. We will do stupid things (Hey it sounded good at the time) we will fall, only to brush ourselves off and fall again. But if this is the life you truly wish to have, it is all worth it in the end.

Now Robbyn, talk a deep breath, and ask a more specific question, please, I feel like this answer of mine is no answer at all. (look to my sidebar, there is several drop down boxes, any of which might clarify some of my answers, like the housing) If we can take one subject at a time, I may be able to help more.

All weekend I will be answering questions.


Robbyn said...

LOL...thank you!!! ok, I'll work down my list of specific questions. But you did a terrific job with the enormous non-specific one (thanks!) What kind of tiller would you get...front end tines, rear tines, how many horsepower? If you covered this in your Tools section, I'll hide my head in a paper bag and go back to those posts and reread...there's so much good info there, it outta be a book :) And any idea what sort of small tractor,such as what attachment options you'd want? Ok, there's more, but I'll hush for now, ha!

Wren said...

I have a couple of things to add. First, when looking for land, pay attention to your neighbors and to the status of surrounding land. When we bought our land, there were 9 houses on the road. The large acreage across the road was zoned to 3+acre plots, no mobiles, and homes only over 1200 sq feet. In other words, keeping it nice. What we didn't know at the time was that the deed restrictions also stated (unless 70% of owners of that land agree to change the restrictions. What happened after a few years was that the land didn't sell and the original owner still owned 70%, so he erased all of the restrictions. What we ended up with out there was half to 1 acres plots with one room cabins made out of storage buildings, mobile homes, and shacks. We went from nice, quiet country to dope dealers, people who thought it was "fun to live in the country where there are no rules", meaning they let their dogs run loose to chase our cattle and kill our piglets and spend weekends shooting guns just because they could. There are close to 40 residences on that little 2 mile stretch of road now, 20 years later.

The other thing is recommend be really high on your priority list is good fences around your perimeter. You will eventually want to cross fence, based on the livestock you acquire, for for starters, get a good perimeter fence. We always wanted a barbwire with hogwire on top to keep many predators/neighborhood dogs out, as well as our animals in. We never did get the whole thing done, but it was always a part of our master plan that we were sorry we didn't finish.

Good luck!! It's a wonderful life if you aren't afraid of hard work!!!

Robbyn said...

Just read Wren's comments...thank you, too, for your showing it to hubby.

A second specific question for Phelan and all: I have very little experience running my own business. We had a corporation for a while, so I have a little exposure. I was wondering about if there is some tax advice (no, i'll not hold anybody liable) about having something considered even on a small scale an "official Farm." I mean, do you have to declare something a farm or ranchette? Does this require different tax considerations? Who do farmers ask for advice on such things? I see that in some places you have to have licenses to sell produce at a roadside stand or there some advantage or disadvantage in being an "official farm" or can an individual just do it? Is it better to NOT be an "official farm" as far as not having to jump through government hoops and regulations?

A lot of questions, but we're in unfamiliar territory, and would like to be reading up...and learning from those who know already from experience.

Robbyn said...

P.S. I can't access any of the articles or subjects you have on the pulldown menus on the sidebar for some reason...they don't send me anywhere, the computer just sits there on the same page...

Kelly said...


You mentioned owning a donkey. I've noticed that other homesteaders also have donkeys and I have been curious to know what their practical purpose was on the farm. What are your reasons?


Phelan said...

Robbyn, working on some answers for you. As for the drop down box, once you click on the subject you want a new page should pop up, at least it does when I do it. Might want to check your secrity settings on your browser.

Wren, thank you for helping. :D

Phelan said...


What kind of tiller would you get...front end tines, rear tines, Rear tines are easier to manage. That is what we have. rsepower I will need to ask my husband.

Small tractor is also something I will need to ask my husband about. He knows best. I will have to et back to you will more definitive answers.

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