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Designing a Wild Home

Foundations That Are the Best Options for Your Farmhouse

Megan WildWhether you’re buying, building, or renovating a farmhouse, the first place to start is the foundation. If you’re rebuilding, you might get lucky and be able to keep the foundation that’s already in place. But if it’s sustained damage or you’re are starting from scratch, then you need to choose your foundation.

The foundation you get depends on what you need. When deciding what kind of foundation to choose for your farmhouse, you must factor in a number of things, including the weather, your needs, your family, and the topography of where you live. There are many options, so choose carefully.

This is your home, or it will be, so don’t make these crucial decisions on your own — consult with the contractor. They should be able to recommend the best options and let you choose from there. Here’s some info on five of your best options:

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Source: Pexels

Basement Foundation

If you need extra storage or living space, a basement foundation might be the solution for you. If you do create a finished basement, then you’ll have effectively doubled your floor space. A basement foundation is also the deepest option for a foundation. If you live in the Midwest, especially in hurricane valley, you’ll want a safe, underground space.

Once you decide on a basement, you have further options. For example, you can have a regular basement, which is completely underground. This is an excellent option for anyone at risk of tornadoes or hurricanes.

In areas where high winds aren’t an issue, a daylight basement is a good option. It’s built into a slope, so part of the basement is below ground while the other part is above. You can put in doors and windows to the outside, which can help increase natural light and airflow.

Footing and Stem Wall

A footing and stem-wall foundation is similar in construction to a foundation with a basement. The difference is that it won’t exactly be an “open floor plan.” The footings are being buried deep into the ground like a basement, but their exact height and width will vary depending on the terrain. They’re built to the appropriate height to support the slab.

Once the footings are built, you can choose what kind of finishing you’d like. A slab is one option, which is a great, basic choice for anyone who wants ease and simplicity. The other option is to have a crawlspace. Crawlspaces are less expensive than a full basement, but they can lead to moisture problems. However, you can seal up the crawlspace and prevent this issue altogether.

Precast Concrete

For a simpler solution, precast concrete might do the trick. Typically, precast concrete is done for the walls of a full basement foundation. It has some pretty impressive benefits for the walls as well, especially when compared to traditional cinder blocks. For one thing, it’s a lot faster to install. Each wall section is manufactured offsite and has built-in concrete footing and concrete studs to make it load-bearing.

Precast concrete is typically a lot faster than other methods. The concrete that’s used tends to be a higher density than concrete poured on-site, which makes it stronger and more water tight. Because they are stronger, they tend to have low maintenance and life cycle costs, which is a further advantage. With less costs to shell out in the future, you’ll end up with a foundation that costs less in the long run.

Raised Foundation

A raised foundation isn’t necessary for every home, and it might be a bit strange to have one on a farmhouse, but it is an option. Raised foundations are usually what you see at the beach, where homes are raised off the ground to prevent damage from flooding. If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes, then a raised foundation might be the best option.

On the flip side, this is not a good choice if you’re concerned about tornadoes. It makes your home less stable against such forces and with almost no added benefit. Foundations need to both support the home and protect against moisture, which can be a tricky combination that far off the ground.

This is a more technical option, so make sure you have a contractor who is familiar with them.

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Source: Pexels

Permanent Wood Foundation

Wood foundations have been around for a long time. They were actually popular in the 1960s and are now being recommended again for crawlspaces and basements. They’re made from plywood and lumber that’s been treated with a preservative.

The wood is lightweight and waterproof, but they don’t tend to last as long as concrete foundations. But, if you plan to sell the farmhouse in the future, this could be a great idea.

No matter what you choose, there are plenty of options. You’ll have different ones no matter what you need or where you live, so it just comes down to what you envision for your farmhouse. What works best for your situation might be a basement or just simple, precast concrete.

8 Tips for Leasing Land for Events

Megan WildLeasing your land for outdoor events can be beneficial. Owning a farm means owning lots of land. For most of the year, your land is used to grow crops. When the growing season is over, it might not serve a purpose. What if you could do something with your land during the off season or during rotation, so you’re earning revenue instead?

Leasing your land for outdoor events could be a beneficial prospect. After all, Woodstock was held on a dairy farm, and that turned out mostly all right. With a little planning and foresight you can overcome the problems that Woodstock incurred and create a memorable and comfortable experience for guests.

There are many elements to consider when leasing your land for outdoor events, and the following tips will help you through the process.

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Source: Pexels

1. Make Sure You Have the Proper Permits

Depending on what type of event you want to host, you must make sure you obtain the proper permits. Without them, your event will be shut down immediately, which can lead to unhappy people and extreme embarrassment.

2. Educate Yourself on Local Ordinances

Every town has noise ordinances, and you should know yours. It’s possible that noise is prohibited after a certain time, so if you’re planning a music event you’ll need to know how late the bands can play.

You’ll also need to know what fire and safety codes are required, along with whether there are restrictions on how many tickets you can sell, how much seating you can offer, and what type of advertising you’re allowed to do. You can find these answers by talking to local and state authorities, as well as your local fire and police departments.

3. Plan the Layout and Logistics

Where will everything be set up? Are you going to have vendors? If so, where do you want them? If it’s a music festival, where will you position the stage? What about access to restroom facilities? A map of where everything should go will help keep setup and takedown simple, as well as help maintain an orderly flow of people through your property.

Knowing how the event will be set up allows you to know what type of equipment you’ll need, such as generators to help power the event, and where it needs to be placed.

4. Make Sure Your Guests Will Be Comfortable

You can’t control the weather at outdoor events. If you’re planning an event that will take place rain or shine, you should make sure there are tents or awnings to keep guests cool or dry. Make sure water is available throughout the venue to keep people hydrated.

It is also incredibly important to have enough sanitation and restroom facilities for guests. Nothing makes an event more miserable than not having enough bathrooms. You may also need to think about taking care of pests in the area. You can call an exterminator or make repellents available to guests.

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Source: Pexels

5. Keep Certain Areas Well Lit

If the event goes late into the night, it’s important to have lit paths and exits so guests can safely find their way out of the venue. The parking area should be lit, if possible.

6. Communicate

Communication is crucial between you and those helping you put on the event. You need to ensure that everything is running smoothly and properly. If it’s not, you’ll need to be able to have someone to fix the problem quickly. Communication will also come in handy if a guest needs medical attention or other assistance.

7. Insurance

It may be prudent to obtain insurance for your outdoor event. Doing so will help protect you, your land, and the guests. There are various places to find insurance, including online.

8. Cleanup

Once the event is over and the guests are gone, you have to clean up your site. If you’re going to be using the land for farming again, you’ll have to restore it to pre-event condition. You may want to have a local sanitation company help with your cleanup efforts.

Leasing your farm land for an outdoor event can be a lot of work, but there are plenty of benefits to the process, one of which includes extra income.

Common Machinery Mistakes After a Long, Cold Winter

Megan WildWhen spring comes around, the work you do starts to change. Now is the time to start hauling out some of the big guns — and some of them may not have been used all winter!

Depending on where you are, that could mean your large equipment has sat idle for months. If you leave anything sitting long enough, you’re bound to run into some problems. Those issues can be exacerbated if you don’t take some precautions. Fortunately, those steps are pretty reasonable and common-sense. Here are the common problems:

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Source: Pexels

Failing to Do a Full Check

Check everything out before you start work. You don’t want to get out there and realize you have no heat in the cab! Make sure you double-check anything you’ll need, even if it’s something as simple as a radio.

It's also easy to forget the filter and tires, but both of those things really need a double-check. Tires frozen to the ground can be irreparably damaged, especially if they get ripped straight up. Most of those tires cost a pretty penny, so try to protect them. Your air filters also need to be checked. Contaminated air from outside the vehicle can cause engine failure. So check and replace any air filter that’s damaged or dirty. Otherwise, you'll be stuck getting nothing done until you do.

Be Careful When Fueling and Charging the Battery

These are two aspects that can be dangerous. If you’re getting everything ready when it’s still cold, you need to take extra precautions. Fueling can be more dangerous than usual, especially if you have contaminants in the tank like water or snow that can eventually ruin your engine. Getting water in your fuel tank can also lead to your engine stalling out, so take care to keep it covered!

The same goes for the battery. You should never attempt to charge a frozen battery. This can cause it to explode, which is something no one wants. If you’re doing the check with someone else, which is a good idea, always let them know when you’re getting ready to charge the battery. Safety comes first!

Not Having a PPM Program

“PPM” stands for “planned preventative maintenance.” This is something that pretty much all large machines can benefit from, even if they're used year-round. For those that are only used seasonally, however, it's vital. You want to set up a strict maintenance routine and stick to it. That means regular oil changes, tire rotations and changes, and checks on bolts, nuts, electrical wires, and hoses. You don't want to be stuck in the middle of a field with a broken hose.

Even when you aren’t actively using your equipment, you still need to do maintenance. It doesn’t have to be daily, but checking on it regularly can prevent major problems before they start. For example, making sure the coolant concentration is a steady 50 percent will help keep your engine ready to start up.

Forgetting to Let It Warm Up Thoroughly

The engine and hydraulics may warm up quickly, but the hoses and wires can take a bit longer. Trying to make them move while they’re still cold and brittle can make them break. If you’re starting and it’s cold out, your engine can already run smoothly. However, if you get up and go without letting the rest of the engine warm up as well, you’ll just break something.

The issue is that you’re dealing with more complicated machinery than just a car. Replacement parts are not cheap, so this is a really important aspect. It goes doubly if you’re a new homesteader or farmer and you may not be able to fix the part yourself.

Not Doing a Daily Inspection

When you are using your machinery, it’s really important to check it each day before you use it. A full physical inspection before you head out can stop you from running into issues or worsening one that already exists. So each day, check the hoses, wires, tires, connections, fluid levels, and battery electrolyte levels.

Once you’re all ready to go, just take a quick trip around the area you plan to work. Keep an eye out for any potential hazards. It’ll be much easier to make a mental note of them and come back to get them taken care of. Otherwise, just remember that prevention is the best medicine. It’s also a lot cheaper

What Material Should You Use for a Patio?

Megan WildA patio is a wonderful addition to any home. It can be everything from an outdoor garden space, highlighting dwarf plants around the edges, to an outdoor room with a fire pit for cooking and a cluster of comfortable chairs and tables.

The versatility of patio uses is reflected in what is used to create it. Patios can be made of a variety of materials, from a simple concrete rectangle to ornate curved and patterned stones. They can be designed to harmonize with your home or to form an outdoor accent.

The choice of materials can also determine how you use your patio and affect its size and shape. Each one has a distinct maintenance profile.

Wondering what you should use? Here’s an overview of five most common materials.

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Source: Pexels

Gravel

Gravel, usually from river rock or crushed stone, is one of the simplest and least expensive patio materials. A patio can be made with gravel laid carefully atop a fabric liner. Gravel has a rustic look that can harmonize very well with a surrounding garden. A gravel patio can also complement a casual home or farmhouse. It’s an environmentally conscious choice, since gravel can easily be repurposed and recycled if a new buyer has other plans for the backyard, or your family outgrows the need for a patio.

Gravel can have disadvantages, though, if your family will be heavily using the patio as a space to congregate. First, it can be somewhat uncomfortable to walk on, especially with bare feet or summer flip-flops. Second, gravel’s uneven surface, attractive from a distance, may make furniture unstable and therefore uncomfortable to sit on.

Concrete

Concrete is a versatile and inexpensive patio material. Because of these qualities, it is also one of the most popular materials for patios. It can be poured in any form, from a standard rectangle to circles and paths. Concrete can be painted different colors or covered in decorative glazed material like tiles. It’s also an environmentally conscious building material, as concrete production causes fewer CO2 emissions than other patio materials.

Concrete has few disadvantages. It should be sealed to prevent against weather damage and discoloration. It can develop cracks from winter freezing and thawing, so regular inspection and maintenance should be performed.

Bricks

Clay bricks make a charming and rustic patio. Bricks can be laid in any pattern, from rectangles to circles. A patio made of bricks does not require mortar, because the bricks are simply laid closely on an even sand bed. Reclaimed brick is an environmentally conscious choice because of its repurposed nature. It can give a patio an antique look as well.

But a brick patio can be slightly challenging as a place for furniture. While the bricks are even, the space where each meets can make chairs and tables sit unevenly. Moss and small plants can also grow between bricks. The challenge there is that plant growth can make the bricks slippery in rain. Like concrete, brick can also begin to crack due to cold weather. Regular maintenance for plant growth and cracking is necessary.

Natural Stone or Flagstone

Natural stone or flagstone is an attractive and durable patio material that can be chosen to harmonize aesthetically with a home. Flagstone is a term used to refer to natural stone cut into flat, interlocking pieces. If your home has limestone on the exterior, for example, a limestone patio can be a nice complement. Stone patios made from Arizona sandstone, Pennsylvania bluestone, limestone, and slate range in color from red to blue to beige to black. The colors can be chosen to accent your home.

Natural stone and flagstone are among the more expensive patio building materials, partly because of the transportation and quarrying costs required. The transportation required also makes it one of the less environmentally friendly materials. Flagstone can split and erode, so proper maintenance is necessary.

Pavers

Pavers are interlocking flat pieces joined together to construct a patio. They differ from bricks in that the pieces are not necessarily uniform, and the material is not clay but concrete, stone, or plastic. Because the pieces are not uniform in size or shape, pavers can fit into many different patio shapes. They can also be made in a patterned design, such as herringbone.

Pavers can spread over time. Homeowners should make sure a patio made of pavers is ringed with pressure-treated material to prevent any spread. Pavers require annual maintenance to prevent cracking and discoloration.

Choosing the right materials for your patio depends on how you plan to use it and how you want it to look. Once you decide what’s right for you, you can fully enjoy your patio for years to come.

Rebuilding Field Equipment vs. Repairing

Megan WildHomesteaders often struggle with the issue of rebuilding vs. repairing old or damaged equipment. On one hand, repairing or replacing common parts can serve as a quick-fix that keeps your property up and running. But rebuilding outdated equipment can absolutely give your equipment a second chance at life.

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Dig Into to the Pros and Cons

As you can probably tell, there are pros and cons associated with each approach. While there are the typical benefits and drawbacks — such as costs and downtime — to consider, the world of farming is seldom that simple.

Estimating your total costs regarding ownership and regular maintenance against your profits to gauge your farm's overall sustainability and profitability requires in-depth mathematics. However complex or archaic the subject might be, it's essential when making the decision whether to repair components, rebuild machinery, or buy brand-new equipment. These figures are important when determining whether farming is right for you.

Component Rebuilds and Repairs

Depending on the current condition of your equipment, you might be able to rebuild or replace individual components and parts. This is especially useful with newer equipment, as it allows you to boost your hardware's lifespan and preserve its showroom condition for as long as possible.

Component-specific rebuilds and repairs can be implemented on older machines to draw as much usage as possible before they bite the dust for good. Some systems are more frequently rebuilt or repaired than others. Vehicle engines, transmissions, and powertrains are among the most common.

Although your farm implements are useless without this infrastructure in place, the cost for an outright replacement isn't viable in many cases. Dealers and mechanics use different strategies when rebuilding or repairing components. Most start with a thorough cleaning and in-depth inspection, which is necessary to determine any specific problems. Components suspected of being faulty will then be tested, removed, and rebuilt or repaired as applicable. Certain components, like the alternator, are far more complex than others. While a mechanic might be able to repair failing parts of the alternator with relative ease and affordability, the process of completely rebuilding this essential part requires incredible skill.

You can repair or rebuild multiple parts, too, which ultimately improves the condition of older or outdated equipment even further. This is an excellent option for novice farmers and those who lack the funds for a brand new purchase or a complete machine rebuild.

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Complete Rebuilds and Repairs

Some farmers decide to completely rebuild their old equipment. This is especially helpful with reliable machinery, hardware that has been passed down through generations, and in situations when the difference in an outright purchase simply isn't worth it.Both a complete rebuild and a complete repair can be costly endeavors, but they're typically far more affordable than replacing the machine outright. If it’s more expensive to replace than repair, it might be time to invest in brand new equipment.

During a complete rebuild, the equipment in question is often stripped down to its fundamental core or framework. All components will be replaced before finalizing the project, ultimately leaving the owner with a machine that functions as if it's brand new.

A complete repair would follow a similar process. Instead of stripping your equipment down to its frame, only the damaged or worn pieces are removed and repaired. The remainder of the parts and components are usually untouched.

Both processes involve a lot of time, but a complete repair job is typically much faster than the alternative. Plus a complete repair is often cheaper than a complete rebuild, but this is dependent on the scope and scale of the project as well as the initial condition of the machinery.

Determine Your Best Option and Follow Through

To maximize your productivity and minimize downtime, determine your best option and follow through as soon as possible. Rebuilding or repairing individual components might keep your tractor afloat during the current season, but machines that frequently break down or malfunction will need to be replaced eventually anyway. In this case, investing the time and money into a complete rebuild of your critical machinery might keep you up and running for years to come.

Tips for Settling Land Disputes

Megan WildIt can happen to the best of neighbors or even with an adjacent farm whose owner you’ve never met — a land dispute. You think a stand of trees is on your property. He believes it’s on his.

Land disputes can affect multiple actions. Perhaps your neighbor wants to plant on treed property you’ve thought for years was yours. He may even begin removing the trees! Neighbors may begin new construction on land they assume is theirs but actually belongs to the adjacent property.

Property disputes involve homes and yards, but don’t worry. There are many ways to settle land disputes. Most people are reasonable. In addition, there are ways to avoid or minimize the chances of a property dispute. Here are some tips for settling them.

Before a Dispute Arises

The best plan is to make sure you eliminate any circumstances that might lead to disputes later on. A few things to that may prevent future disputes include:

1. Have a Written Record of Your Property.

The easiest way to resolve a land dispute of any kind is to have a written record of your property. If it has been surveyed, the details of a surveyor’s map can be used. If has not been, the most prudent course is to have it surveyed before you buy. Determine ahead of time who should pay for it.

Have records with the boundaries and any identifying features of the boundaries clearly marked. This is especially prudent if no records exist, or if existing records are old and no longer reflect the property accurately.

2. Put Verbal Agreement in Writing.

Many boundary agreements in rural communities have traditionally been verbal — a buyer and seller’s word and a handshake. If that’s the case, the best course is to change a verbal agreement into a written one. Many older farmers and homesteaders may resist this, preferring traditional ways. But once one of the parties dies or moves, there is no proof a verbal agreement existed beyond the other party’s word.

Verbal agreements generally aren’t sufficient for a court and may not be considered in less formal methods of arbitration. An attorney can help you draw up papers that reflect existing verbal agreements.

3. Know Your Rights, Local Laws and Property Regulations.

Land disputes sometimes occur because certain rights do not belong to the purchaser of property but to someone else. Does your land have any gas, water, or mineral rights that might be owned by another party? Might there be easements that ensure another entity’s rights to your property?

Zoning is another consideration. Not all land is zoned for residential buildings, for example. Finally, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or even the U.S. Department of Agriculture may have certain rights on your property. Check zoning before any potential dispute, or before you want to make an improvement not allowed by rules or regulation.

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Photo by Wjmummert (:wmc:File:Indy farmland.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Do If a Dispute Arises

Even when you’ve done all you can to prevent a possible dispute, disagreements can still occur. If you find yourself in the middle of one, know what to do.

1. Show Official Documents About Property Lines.

The first course of action in the event of a property dispute is to show the other party your official documents about where the property lines are. If you have a surveyor’s map or deed, that is fine. But documents that show ownership and property lines can also be found in a tax map, assessor’s map, deed description, subdivision map, or other documents. Official documentation should resolve any dispute.

2. Talk to Your Neighbor.

There are times, though, when a property dispute continues. There may be a genuine lack of clarity about where your property extends, or where it ends and your neighbor’s begins. Perhaps the documents you have are old and not reflected in newer documents issued to your neighbors. The other landowner may have an easement that gives some rights of access to your property.

If that happens, stay calm. Schedule a sit-down meeting, not an argument in the open. Present your case. Hear the neighbor’s case. See if a fair and suitable resolution can be reached.

3. Consult Outside Mediators/Attorneys.

Sometimes, talking a dispute over won’t work. Maybe work has been done before the dispute was even discussed. If that’s the case, consult an attorney. Attorneys can work as mediators in disputes so that all factors are considered in the resolution. Mediation may especially be helpful if there are multiple parties, such as the Federal government or states, in addition to the private parties.

Best Machinery Attachments for Farming

Megan WildThink of machinery attachments as "apps" for your farm equipment. Instead of crushing candy or finding Pokémon, the machinery attachments make farming easier. When a farmer can streamline their production, everyone benefits — especially the farmer who just might catch a break in a day that will always begin at sunup and end at sundown. Here are some of those must-have apps ... attachments:

Rotary Cutters

A rotary cutter is a lawn mower on steroids. It is hooked to a tractor and turns the machine into a super-charged power mower. This helps clear acres of grass in a matter of moments. This is beneficial if that land is going to be turned into a field for planting. Grass also needs to be trimmed in order to manage consumption by cows. A rotary cutter is also a good "starter" attachment for a young farmer in training, as it provides a good workout on a tractor without putting much at risk beyond the grass.

Plows

Can you imagine a tractor without some kind of plow? Many folks might think a plow is a permanent attachment for a tractor, but there are as many plows as there are plants to grow ... once the field has been plowed.

A moldboard plow is the go-to attachment for churning up soil that hasn't been planted in a while. It has large wings meant to cut deep into soil to give it the once-over. A disk plow also cuts the soil but doesn't turn it over as deeply as a moldboard plow. The disk plow works fields that are used to plant rotations. A chisel plow uses its long shanks to turn over a foot of soil with each pass. This is best used after a layer of nutrients is applied to the topsoil. The chisel blow then becomes a riding "mixer," thoroughly infusing that soil with much-needed additives.

Bale Grabs

A good portion of a farmer's day involves moving hale bays from one spot to the other. It’s important to quickly bale hay when the weather is just right, because too much (or too little) moisture can cause nutrient loss and increase leaf shatter. Whether you're unloading from a truck at the barn or picking up from the field, bale grabs reduce machine stress. That reduces expensive machine maintenance down the road and improves your final product, a true win-win.

Broadcast Seeders

Legend has it that Johnny Appleseed wandered the country spreading seeds from a bag around his neck in the hopes of getting apple trees to grow. If only Johnny had used a broadcast seeder attachment — then he would have been a lot more productive. Like plow blades there are many variations of broadcast seeders, but the basic goal is the same: Disperse seeds across a wide patch of plowed field. Most broadcast seeders can be adjusted for width, which makes them very versatile attachments.

Transplanters

A transplanter attachment will be the closest thing you can get to turn your tractor into a living video game. Transplanters are for planting seedlings. One variation of this attachment has seats for occupants to operate either a foot-pedal or hand-lever drop of the seedlings. Those seedlings are in trays that have to be constantly swapped out by the seated operator.

Front-End Loaders

Next to the plow, the front-end loader is the most popular attachment for a tractor. It is an extremely versatile piece of equipment as it can dig, move heavy objects, lift bulky items, grade soil, and transport dirt. It’s kind of like the Swiss Army knife of attachments.

Backhoes

The front-end loader's cousin would be the backhoe. The primary function of the backhoe is to dig and dig deep. The excavator bucket is smaller than than front-end loader. A backhoe can typically dig a trench down to nine feet. You can also swap out the bucket for different types of functions.

If you're just starting out farming, you might be wondering which attachment you should get first. Sooner or later, you'll probably find benefits for all of them. Before buying, you might be able to rent or lease an attachment for a farming season to see if it is a good fit. There are certainly lots to pick from — just like apps.

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Photo by Fotolia/Franco Nadalin