Sunday, September 21, 2014

What do you want from your Homestead Property?

What do you need for a functioning Homestead. We started by making a list of regions of the country we wanted to live in.
To select the area we took into consideration, growing season, afford-ability, land type, zoning regulations, taxes, proximity to health care, environmental concerns [commercial agriculture and the chemical use that entails, high voltage power lines, power plants, chemical plants, open pit and deep mines etc.] water access, flooding, the local economy and job opportunities.

We made a list and checked it a lot more than twice!

1- Size of property.
  • We wanted it to be bigger than we needed. That would allow us to use the extra land as a natural barrier from other people.
  • Having more land that we need would let us use the extra acreage like a bank sell if needed.
  • Use the extra acreage to have livestock to sell for income.
  • We decided on no less than 50 acres and preferably 80 to 100 acres.
2- Type of land.
  • We looked for land with a woods and open land mix. This mix would allow us the open land to farm and garden and the wooded acreage can be worked as a woodlot for potential timber sales and firewood to heat the home.
  • Check the history of the land. Has it had a lot of chemical use in its history?  Have previous owners dumped chemicals or other hazardous goods on it?
  • We also included raw land in our search. It is cheaper to buy per acre but would need more time to become productive.
  • In our search we decided that the land could be ridgetop or rolling. Ideally it would have some bottom land or flat areas as well.
  • Water sources were a requirement, either ponds or a run of some kind that we could build ponds in. If there was a creek what does it run through or by, we wanted to be sure of the potability and safety of any water source we might use.

3. The House.
  • After a lot of research we decided it would not be cost effective for us to build a home.
  • We prefer one story.
  • 1500 to 2000 square feet was a good usable size.
  • We wanted metal roofing as our first choice but newer asphalt shingles were acceptable.
  • What kind of heat does the home have.  We both prefer wood heat as a low cost renewable heat source.  
  • If the home does not currently have wood heat can it be converted to it?
  • Is there a basement and what kind of shape is it in. 
  • Does the basement have an outside entrance and could it be used to store canning and household supplies.
  • We decided we could invest in a property with a home that needed some work but not major structural renovations.
  • Manufactured or Modular homes would work if they were not too old.
4. Barns and outbuildings.
  • we want one large multi purpose building or a series of smaller structures? We decided that we would deal with this question when we looked at properties and how the yard layout was.
  • How much money can we put into repairing and restoring an old barn?
  • Is restoration cost effective?
  • What kind of buildings will we need?  

4- What are we going to use land for.
  • Small livestock and their needs.
  • An Orchard with a wide variety of fruit and nut trees [Check out chill hour requirements]
  • A big production garden for growing food to preserve.
  • A smaller Kitchen garden with an area for herbs for daily use.
  • An area for Perennial crops such as asparagus,horseradish, and Rhubarb.
  • Small fruit production. [Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and grapes]
  • An area to grow some grains. 
  • Some acreage for feed production.
5- What kinds of livestock does the land need to be able to support?
  • Waterfowl:  Ducks, Geese and Muscovy Ducks.
  • Small ruminants: Sheep, Goats.
  • Rabbits
  • Pigs
  • Grass Cattle
  • Poultry: Chickens, turkey's  and guinea hens
  • A Milk cow
6- Woods for potential Timber Sales and firewood.
  • We need enough woodland to supply firewood for our winter needs.
  • It will need to be fenced to allow the pigs to forage for nuts in the fall.
  • Some marketable timber would be a good resource.

7-Water sources.
  • We would like a good well with potable water.
  • Can we adapt the well to get water if there is a power failure?
  • In planning on keeping monthly expenditures down we would prefer not to have to have county water but if we have to how much does it cost and are there other options on the property
  • If there is a spring is it safe to drink and has it been developed for use, has it ever gone dry?
  • We wanted a pond or two if possible. In looking at them we want to find out how they are fed, is it just run off or is there a seep or spring? Is there anything up from the pond that would contaminate the water.? Are there any signs of leakage such as a high water ring or soft marshy areas below the earth works of the pond. Is the pond already stocked and if so with what and how recently?
 8- Odds and ends.
  • Graveyards....we found out that if there is an old graveyard on a property your looking at you are not allowed to disturb it and may be required to maintain it. If it is maintained by an outside source you have to allow them access.
  • We use tools such as Google maps and Delorme Topo USA to "look" at properties and see things like elevation and topography. This often allowed us to find issues like High Voltage Power lines and large Commercial Agriculture sites like pig barns and chicken barns. We do not want to be downwind from a 6 barn commercial chicken operation.
  • We checked out things like Mineral right and timber rights. Some property owners do not sell them when they sell the land and that means they can come in at a later date and mine or timber "your" trees or land.
  • We researched tax incentives and costs. Taxes can be  huge issue so look into the options in the region you like as to your tax commitment.
  • When you do find land you like do not limit yourself to one place...give yourself some choices and compare them.  Ask questions of the realtor and visit the closest town, find out about the area. There are so  many resources to use to help you.

9- Resources.

This is just a very basic list of things we have looked at and researched. Buying a property is a major undertaking and you want to get it right the first time. Mistakes when your planing your future on this land are hard to correct. Most of all do not rush in without looking into every detail you can think of. Decide before you buy what you really want of the land now and into the future, after all it is your future you are dealing with and the future of your family and those around you.

Most of all realize buying land and living off of it is hard work. It is not glamorous like the media can present it. You will work hard, you will get dirty, you will sweat and yes you will bleed! There is an old saying on the farm...Where there is Livestock there is deadstock". However the simple act of sitting down to a meal that you have raised is incredibly satisfying. It is GMO and hormone free. It has not been shipped from halfway around the world and it is the fruit of your labor.

Now to let you chew on this information...the next post will cover your garden and all the joys and travail gardening can bring into your world.



  1. Great list!
    Good luck on your venture :)

  2. We did something like this when we moved here....reality is most times different than our dreams. Good luck in finding what your looking for.....

  3. Hello, Fiona. Nice blog post about things to consider before buying land. I will be following you on your journey!

    1. Oh - I forgot to mention that Frank and Fern sent me here!

  4. Good list of lists, Fiona. There is a lot to consider, and sometimes you have to settle for a place that doesn't quite meet all of the requirements on your wishlist. I look forward to more of your journey.


  5. Excellent resource - I wish I had read this before I bought my place. Or had thought to use Google Earth to see what was actually behind the gate - not the "fields" the realtor told me, but a gravel pit. I'd also think twice about living next to a corn field. Especially one that gets sprayed with Roundup and where the corn is harvested at night. I like your idea of buying too much land. It's a good insurance plan.