How to Clear Your Land and Make Way for Your New Homestead
By James White
Do you dream of moving to the country and living in a simple homestead? If the hustle and bustle of city life isn’t where you want to be, living close to the land is a viable alternative. Choosing to give up modern conveniences in favor of self-sufficiency is a choice that can be deeply satisfying.
But before you start clearing land on your lot, you’ll need to make a plan for at least the first year on your homestead. For starters, take a sheet of paper and plot out where you want to place everything you’ll need. Make sure you include space for:
- Your home
- Water source or well
Keep in mind that you’ll probably be adding to your pasture and farm/garden over time. However, for the first year or two, you’ll want to focus on getting your land cleared and your homestead up and running.
How to Clear Wooded Areas
In order to make space for all of the structures on your homestead, you’ll need to clear your land. Depending on the size of your lot, you can start by focusing on only what you need to start and gradually increasing the area over time.
For this type of heavy-duty work, you’ll need to use a skid steer loader or something similar. It’s tough enough to take on the challenge of moving earth and debris to clean up your land, but remaining highly maneuverable while working in tight spots adds an extra layer of difficulty.
Contact the local municipality a few days before you plan to dig, and have the local utility companies indicate where underground cables are located. They may send a technician out to spray-paint the ground to indicate where gas, phone and water lines are located, so you can clear your wooded areas without damaging any of these lines.
How to Find Water and Determine Where to Dig Your Well
If you want to find out where the water is on your property, there are a few things you can try. If your neighbors live close by, ask how long they have lived in the area and whether they know how far down you’ll need to dig before you reach water.
You can also try placing a weight on a string and putting it into a neighbor’s well to conduct your own test for finding water underground. Mark the string at intervals, so you can determine how long it is when it gets wet.
Local officials are another great source of information about the best places to dig a well. You’ll want to avoid areas made up of hard clay or rock. Decomposed gravel, sand and silt under the soil, on the other hand, are good choices. Make sure you choose an area that’s away from where you plan to keep your animal pens, as well as sewer lines or septic tanks.
Make Yourself at Home
If you plan to move into your homestead right away, you’ll likely have to use temporary housing until you can build a permanent home. Many homesteaders make the decision to move a trailer onto the property until they’re ready for a permanent home.
If you choose to go this route, make sure you can get hookups for electricity and heat, and that your well is operational before you move.
Choose an Area for the Garden and Livestock
One of the first things you’ll want when you buy land is to decide the best location for the livestock/pasture, garden, storage and your home.
Before you start digging your garden, think about site selection. The area you choose should get direct sunlight for at least six hours per day. When you have a spot in mind, observe it for a few days and track the sunlight patterns to ensure the spot gets enough sun.
Next, test the soil to determine whether it’s the best choice for your garden. Start by picking up a handful of moist soil and squeezing it. Ideally, it will hold its shape until you give it a poke and then it will crumble. If it holds its shape when you poke it, you have clay – sandy soil falls apart when you open your hand.
Check to see how long it takes your soil to drain by digging a hole 6 inches wide and 1 foot deep. Fill the hole with water, let it drain and then fill it with water again. Keep track of how long it takes for the water to drain a second time. If it takes four hours or more, drainage may be an issue.
Be Patient With Pasture Land
If you have recently cleared the land on your property, you won’t be able to introduce goats or cows to graze right away. Leave stumps in place and let grass grow around them for the first year or two. You may want to focus on raising smaller animals, such as chickens or ducks, during this time instead. If you do plan on raising cattle or horses, make sure you put down good livestock bedding in an appropriate area of your field or barn.
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