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Planning a Homestead

2/2/2012 2:22:00 PM

Tags: homesteading, neighbors, Cheryl in Texas

A Wanna Be PioneerThere’s a lot that goes in to planning a homestead from scratch. While we’ve seen a lot of books on homesteading skills, especially old-fashioned ones, I haven’t found many resources on really pulling this whole thing together. What I have found is some wonderful blogs about this lifestyle choice in general (and have even made some new pen pal type friends through these blogs) and some blogs that are more specific, such as about chickens or bees.

This past weekend, we tried to find a general plumbing resource book to have on hand as we lay out our homestead, but no such book seems to exist. They were several choices for new and repairing existing plumbing once you get inside the house. But we’re not there yet. I’m taking lots of photos as we go. Maybe we’ll have to write our own darn book. I have to say, I’ve always dreamed of writing a book, but I never would have thought it would be about plumbing a homestead.  :)

Now granted, in planning a homestead, there is no one size fits all. Lots of things factor into your homestead’s layout – location, climate, size, topography, geology, access to resources, etc. What kind of house will you have? Where will the garden go? What kinds of out buildings are you going to have? Where will you plant trees?  What kind of animals are you going to raise? The list of questions goes on and on.

We have just over 10 acres, but a portion of it is considered flood plain. So while that does put limitations on our suitable building area, we still have plenty of room to work with. At first we chose a site closer to the road, and then wondered if it was too close. It’s around 300 feet from the road and the house we live in now is 20 feet from the road … isn’t it interesting how your perspective changes?

Then as we worked the land, we started considering a spot farther back. It is flatter and has no drainage issues, but then you have to consider that you have to pull utilities that much farther, build a driveway that much longer, etc. From that location, it’s much more open and closer to the only neighbors we can really see (more about them later). Again, it’s a matter of perspective. We can look out a window now and straight into the neighbor’s house if we wanted to (eeeek). And we didn’t want our new neighbors to feel that way – walk out their back door and “Whoa! There’s the neighbors!”

After several rains and getting a better feel for the lay of the land and its drainage patterns, we were drawn back to our original site (which, thanks to a flood event, we were able to determine had no drainage issues either). It just has more of a “homey” feel with trees and grass there already – you can visualize a house, yard and garden sitting there. All this floundering back and forth can frustrating. Really, we only get one shot at this, so it has to be right.

And about those next-door neighbors … can you say candidates for sainthood? Last weekend they loaned us their tractor for the day and we managed to completely clear the entire future homesite area of all the trees, cut wood and brush that accumulated from the dead trees we had to cut down. In about six hours’ time we completely cleared it all out. We think it looks amazing! And we think our neighbors are the most wonderful, kind and generous people we could possibly know. 

Here are before and after pics. What a difference a day and the right piece of equipment make!

 Homesite before 

Homesite after

We’ve encountered a lot of that out there – folks who respect hard work and are always ready to lend a hand or equipment. We even had one older gentleman stop and ask if we needed to borrow any tools when we started digging our water lines last weekend. He didn’t know us from Adam, but he’s a neighbor (that we hadn’t even met yet). It’s just nice to know you’re amongst people who will come running if you ever sound the alarm. 

We have our work cut out for us, but I think I’ve mentioned before that we wouldn’t trade a minute of it. It’s hard work, but it’s honest work. And we are getting to see something special take shape, one day at a time, and the satisfaction of knowing we did it all.

Until next time, worms rule and bees rock. 

For more on Cheryl's country adventures, visit her website, Pasture Deficit Disorder.

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Richard DelPivo
9/9/2013 10:32:03 AM
Your local zoning regulations will determine your options for the layout of your water and sewage systems. With part of your land being in a flood plain, it sounds a lot more complicated. I would talk to the building inspector to see if he can help you or if he can recommend someone to help you. The last thing you want is a septic system that constantly backs up or contaminates your well. Once you know where you should or shouldn't put a well and septic system I do have a book that could be useful in showing you how to build them. The book is "Country and Cottage Water Systems" by Max Burns.

2/9/2012 10:35:10 PM
Cheryl, I absolutely love this story! Definitely the last thing you want to do is get 1 or 5 or 10 years down the road and think, "Rats, I wish we'd done THIS instead of THAT." As for the neighbors, there's a lot to be said for "country hospitality". Isn't it wonderful to know there are still people in the world willing to lend a hand for no other reason than because it's the neighborly thing to do? :)

2/3/2012 2:08:47 AM
Cheryl, there's no folks like country folks. Well, unless you live on my city block. My block is an unusual block where outdoor game parties happen, block parties happen, watching over each other happen. One time I was gone during a snow storm and came home to find my drive and sidewalk all cleared. Another time when visiting relative in Las Vegas a spring storm came through and dropped a big branch in my front yard. Upon arriving home a few days later there was no evidence that a branch had been in my yard. I love to hear about folks that pull together to get through life. Have a great country life day.

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