This article is a guest post by Daphne Nelson. Daphne homesteads in the Northeastern US. With interest growing in self-sufficiency and self-reliance, many are looking to move out of the cities and suburbs to rural communities. Being an experienced homesteader, Daphne points out some of the important things that you need to consider. And at the end of the article, Daphne even points out how you can move into a ready made homestead without a lot of work.
Are you looking to get away from the congestion of urban living? Are crime rates too high? Are you simply looking for a slower pace of life? Does the premonition of coming doom haunt your dreams? Buying a homestead might be the answer for you, but what things should you consider when looking for just the right place? If you’re reading this, then you already have a certain mindset that you need to get yourself and your family away from the urban setting you are in, to have a place for all of you to go if there is need. So that covers the first one…the need to escape.
You can do a ton of research, think you have it all figured out, and then spend the next several years “unlearning” it all again! Let’s think about what you really need. For most of us Americans, bigger is better, but unless you are going to have a large herd of livestock that pasture’s out, or you are going to produce large quantities of hay, you don’t really need a large plot of land. Just taking care of the fences on a large plot of land, can be an exhausting endeavor, and a smaller plot can be more readily maintained for your needs. From my own experience, three to ten acres is actually more than adequate.
Again, depending on what you think your needs are, a large garden is also not necessary. A person can grow a lot of food in a very small space, and most homesteads generally have established fruit trees, and yearly producers. My own six acres has apple, cherries, plums, raspberries, Hops and asparagus, not to mention the several local wild varieties that grow here like elderberries, huckleberries, service berries, etc. If one becomes familiar with one’s surroundings, food sources are abundant, and all the natural herbs are available to provide a decent sampling of Mother Nature’s pharmacopeia. In addition, local wildlife, which is usually edible, can be harvested to add to your larder.
The USDA says it takes one acre of land for a cow/calf pair, and two acres for a Mare/foal pair. True, if you don’t plan on supplementing their diet, but hay is generally produced in abundance in these areas, and can be found for a decent price directly from the farmer and as long as they are branded, cattle can open range in the summer, if you are near national forest. Of course, one should always check the local regulations regarding this practice.
While not my personal favorite in the animal world, goats are truly the best investment for any area. They don’t take a lot of care, will eat anything, and a person can use just about every part of the animal, from their fur to their meat and milk, Just be careful turning your back on them!
Water is always important to consider. How abundant is it, does your well produce at a decent rate, and is it potable? My property borders a seasonal lake and has a year round stream. This guarantees that my well is replenished on a yearly basis, and the lake is beautiful, playing host to several species of waterfowl, until September when most of it disappears until spring. Three miles up the road is a beautiful year round lake that allows fishing, camping and other summer time activities. This allowed me to basically have waterfront property, without the high price! So, just because a water source is seasonal, does not mean it should be discarded out of hand.
Buying an already existing homestead generally means there are already serviceable outbuildings present. Even if they need some repair, in the long run they can save you some money. Remember, older homesteads were designed to be used in just the manner you are looking for!
My general observation over the last twenty years has been that the older homesteads were built with attention to the best placement in a given area. My own, being the oldest in the area, gets the best sun year around, and in my opinion, was specifically built where it was to get the optimal effect. This makes it a great choice for solar, and being next to the lake, also makes it a great candidate for wind generated energy. At one time, it even had water driven energy, which at some point in the fifties was traded for regular electric that came through.
Ultimately, only you can decide what your needs and the needs of your family are, but purchasing an older homestead might be the answer for you.
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Due to the death of my husband and my children leaving home, I have my homestead for sale: remote but accessible 6+/- lakeside acres; year round stream, 3,000 sq, ft, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, ¾ basement, large pantry, wood floors throughout, large 2 story barn, fenced and cross fenced, older work shop, wood shed and small tool shed, fruit trees, fenced garden, partially landscaped, two decks, hot tub (needs to be installed), good well, good community, good schools. 2 ½ hours N. of Spokane Washington, Northwest Stevens county, 1 hour north of Colville, Washington. Lake Roosevelt within ten miles, 10 miles to Canadian Border… (re-model unfinished due to death of husband, so the kitchen is ready for your touches, all appliances included: Refrigerator, freezer, w/d, mower, all fencing tools and farm implements currently here, (no tractor), and spectacular sunsets!!!. $250,000.00 OBO