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Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency

Brandon Greer


Joined: Apr 22, 2012
Posts: 190
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
    
    1
Hi everyone. My name is Brandon I'm 28 years old living in Dallas, TX. In recent months, I decided that I will buy about 10 to 15 acres of land and learn to be as self-sufficient as possible. I have several reasons for doing so: healthy and productive life, sense of accomplishment and obtaining knowledge or perhaps I'm just a country boy in my soul. I'd also like to have the knowledge and resources to survive on my own if life ever came to that point, but I am not basing my life on that possibility.

So my plans are as follows:

Note: Everything is based on buying outright without any loans or credit so that everything is 100% mine.

I will buy 10 to 15 acres of ag exempt land, build a house and dig a deep 1 or 2 acre pond stocked with fish. I want to have about 6 sheep grazing about 2 acres of land. If I get a good deal on land and get a large plot, perhaps I'll get a few cows too. I'm considering chickens too.

I would like to start growing wheat and perhaps some other produce on a small scale to learn the art of growing. It would be so nice to eat only all-natural bread grown from my ground and not someone else's!

I'm not real sure where all this will lead and whether or not at some point I will be trying for 100% self-sufficiency or just half and half type thing, but I do know that I am interested in at least learning and having the ability to survive 100% on my own if I ever needed to. Therefore, I want to learn all about preserving food, keeping the animals fed in the dry season and drought and anything else related to survival.

I guess I'm wanting some of you to draw some things to my attention that I probably have not considered, like potential problems or things I might overlook when buying land or raising animals etc. Or perhaps refer me to some online articles to set me on the right path. Any advice or tips are welcome and greatly appreciated! I have never even stepped foot on a farm so I have a lot of hard lessons to learn I am sure, but I am ready for the challenge!
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3464
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  63
Welcome to the forums Brandon, you're in the right place to find answers to your questions
I'd be very careful about taking ideas of 'self-sufficiency' too far. In my future, I see people really needing to learn more, um, 'community inter-reliance'. There's no way for each individual to have the skills, tools and time for everything and I think we really need to share.
I'd look hard at people in the area I wanted to buy in. I wouldn't be after people 'like me', but strong, interconnected communities with good support systems.
Or alternatively, does it seem like an area where 'the locals' would be ok with an influx of...weirdos? I would not want to live in a place where I was worried about security/animosity.
Are you planning to look for land in Texas? I think drought is a real problem in many areas and stocking rates can be little-to-none, so grazing animals really depends. I'd have chickens way up the list.


Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5320
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Brandon Griffin wrote: I want to have about 6 sheep grazing about 2 acres of land.


Make sure your land can actually carry 6 sheep on 2 acres. Here in my locale 6 sheep can be overstocking on 20 acres of land, especially during this drought.


Idle dreamer

Brandon Greer


Joined: Apr 22, 2012
Posts: 190
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
    
    1
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Brandon Griffin wrote: I want to have about 6 sheep grazing about 2 acres of land.


Make sure your land can actually carry 6 sheep on 2 acres. Here in my locale 6 sheep can be overstocking on 20 acres of land, especially during this drought.



Good point. I did some research on the net which led me to my figure, but after reading your post I'm thinking I might be way off. I'm looking to buy land about an hour outside of Dallas probably in Hunt County. Where can I get actual figures for stock rates by region?
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5835
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  87
A good point to get generalized info on regions within the state is the Extension Agents. Each county has their own office, and they are co-ordinated thru the state's Land Grant College...in Texas, I believe they are all under the banner of A&M.

Go here for a county-by-county listing:
http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/

Welcome, and good luck.
Brandon Greer


Joined: Apr 22, 2012
Posts: 190
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
    
    1
John Polk wrote:A good point to get generalized info on regions within the state is the Extension Agents. Each county has their own office, and they are co-ordinated thru the state's Land Grant College...in Texas, I believe they are all under the banner of A&M.

Go here for a county-by-county listing:
http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/

Welcome, and good luck.


Thanks for the info. I'll look into this
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5835
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  87
This link should get you closer:

http://counties.agrilife.org/

William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 510
Location: Northern Italy
    
    6
If I was trying to go full-on survival mode, I would be thinking about community, as strange as that might seem. You need to grow the people who will support you, people who will come through for you when the harvest might not. Also your potential for survival is greater when you are surrounded by people who know what's up, know what the challenges are, and know how to navigate them.
William
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
seeing as how you are posting on a "permaculture" forum, I might suggest that you read as much as you can about permaculture. I suggest Gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway, as well as all of Bill Mollison and Sepp Holtzer's books. I also suggest Country liviing Encyclopedia by Carla Emery


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Lori Evans


Joined: Sep 26, 2011
Posts: 104
Location: Amarillo, TX.
    
    1
Some things to think about as you are planning your land design would be:

1) Are there some people nearby that have sheep and would be willing to take an exchange of eggs, vegetables, or fruit for wool. Or, if you produce the wool they would spin it for you in exchange for a portion.

2) Some grains ( such as quinoa ) require about 300 square feet of space to produce nearly 1 loaf of bread per week for a year. Plus it is wind and drought resistant and may be a better option for you than traditional wheat. Or, could you keep bees and trade honey to a neighbor who has a surplus of wheat to offset the ancient/non-traditional grains that you grow yourself.

3) Could you set up a portion of your land as a "pick your own" area ( like in Sepp's book) and have people from Dallas area pay by the basket to earn money for your yearly property tax. Perhaps allowing people at certain times per year to fish from the pond to pay for property tax, gasoline exchange, or an electric bill if you think you may go that route.

4)Look at what you buy now from stores. Can you learn to make these things yourself rather than needing to purchase them. Once you learn to make them, can you produce these ingredients yourself. Will they require a refining process that you will or will not be able to reproduce on you acreage.

5) Make a plan as to what you reasonably think you can get accomplished or implemented on this land in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years. At what point do you think the system will start sustaining you with no or little outside input. Make sure you plan for how you will pay your expenses from outside inputs until your land can fully support you.

6) Research or tinker with the amount of time it will take you to individually sustain yourself. How much time will it take you to cook each day, harvest food, cut wood for winter, make soap, plant, make laundry detergent, make bread, and so on for each task. Will you have the time yourself to accomplish everything you need to in a day, or will you need to bring others in (community-housemates, family, etc.) in order to do the necessary work.

This list could continue almost indefinitely. Everyone that is speaking of community for self-sufficiency really understands what all it takes to be truly sustainable. There is just too much to do if you do not want to have to purchase anything from elsewhere. Life isn't meant to be work, work, work. You need to make sure that you have free time to enjoy yourself and the fruits of your labor. Having others around, either on your property or in surrounding properties ( or neighborhood/town) helps you to accomplish this. Good luck in all your endeavors!
Brandis Roush


Joined: Apr 16, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: Central Minnesota
I second the importance of community. I've stumbled onto some survivalist and emergency prep blogs and message boards because I am mildly interested in the area- ever since the atrocities that accompanies hurricane Katrina, which happened right before my first was born, I've realized the importance of being able to provide for and protect my children in the case of an extreme emergency- and the attitude on most of them is absolutely astonishing. I've read of several "survivalists" who do nothing but stockpile guns and ammo because their plan is, in an emergency, to simply take what they need from others who had the foresight to stockpile. I think that kind of attitude is appalling. Too many people, especially those concerned with preparing or with being self sufficient, are still infected with this individualist mentality. The people with the stockpiles of guns will probably survive the short term, but if there is ever a long term situation (and I don't really believe there will be, but I also know there could be- I've studied history enough to know that) it will be those who form interdependent communities who survive and thrive.

I'm not saying I'm doing a great job of this myself- I'm kind of a hermit. I have a close neighbor who pretty much shares my views of things, but many other neighbors I don't talk to much. But I do agree that if you want to be self sufficient (as in eliminating corporate inputs) you don't have to learn everything- focus on a few things first, and see which of your neighbors can fill in the blanks. I am nowhere near self sufficient (maybe 50/50... although it might not even be that as I don't raise any of my own grain) and I feel like there is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything I need to do- simply preparing and preserving food probably takes up 30% of my waking time. I only have chickens, so caring for them on a daily basis only takes me about an hour total (except for when I need to clean the coop or something). So far as food production I strongly recommend you check out Gaia's Garden as said above- it's a really simple intro to permaculture. Among other things, I love the idea of nearly no-maintainence food production. A traditional vegetable garden can be pretty work intensive, but the permaculture model, other than the initial work of planting and caring for the young seedlings and plants, provides food with very little work. I just got into permaculture myself and still have a traditional (well, it's raised bed no till at least- a little easier) vegetable garden which I have worked for 3 years now- it's about 50'x60' and from pretty much now until August I spend 90% of my day working on it either directly or indirectly- planting, weeding, mulching, digging pathways, moving compost, starting seedlings, planting cover crops, preserving food (which is an animal unto itsself- I love doing it, but preserving food takes a LOT of time), prepping cold storage, harvesting, sorting... There is always something.

I second the chickens as being higher on the list than sheep- they are super simple to keep, the only real complication being keeping them safe from whatever predators are in your area, which can differ widely. But depending on the quality of your pasture, if you get the right breed (I recommend a heritage breed specifically suited to your climate- don't go for the traditional bird, not even the more common ones like barred rocks. Go with something more suited to the Southwest, like cubalaya, jungle fowl, or something similar- look for a slim bird with a very large comb, as the comb is the main way a chicken cools itself) you can raise them with little to no outside input of feed. You may need to buy some at first, especially when they are chicks, but it is also relatively easy to grow feeds for chickens- they like pretty much any of the small grains, and if you feel the need to add protein (which you may need to depending on your housing situation- they need less if they're pastured/free range, more if they're in a permanent run) you can raise worms or soldier flies for them. In fact, in Harvey Ussery's "The Small Scale Poultry Flock" he even recommends maggot feeding- he puts a freshly killed animal (has to be fresh, old carcasses can carry botulism) in a 5 gallon bucket with large holes drilled in the bottom, and stuffs the area around the carcass with leaves (mostly to cut down on the smell). He then hangs the bucket where his chickens can have access to the falling maggots. I know most people would react to this by saying "gross," but I think it's pretty ingenius, and an essentially free way to increase your chickens' protein.

Sorry, I got a bit off topic

Also, so far as grain production goes, make sure you plan and budget for equipment as needed per your site. If I were to be in your shoes I would get a horse and horse drawn equipment and use a hand scythe, but I'm a bit of a masochist But grain would also be the last thing I attempted. Granted, I live in MN not TX, so our climate and soil is very different, but I would grow potatoes instead of grain (along with a flock of guineas to keep the potato beetle population manageable), at least for the first few years while I got my other systems established.

Just food for thought- I strongly encourage what you are doing. It can be very gratifying. Just remember that we can all give you advice until we're blue in the face, and you should even heed some of it, but you will know what is best for your site and situation much better than we do. Good luck!
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5320
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Horses take an enormous amount of land to support, more than a cow and calf (1 animal unit). If you're going to farm with a horse you need enough land to support the horse. Down here that would be 25-50 acres per horse. Here is a link to animal unit equivalents used to determine stocking rate: http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/forages/bjb00s17.html

R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 1826
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  19
Maggot feeders (and bug zappers if you have power) are great for chickens.

10-15 acres could completely support you and your extended family and every friend you have, or could not support a single person---you need WATER. You can fix soil (eventually) but you NEED WATER!!! After water, everything else is easy(ish). Make sure you have the water rights.

There are TONS of good ideas around here, you just have to choose the ones that match your climate and materials and goals.


"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Brandon Greer


Joined: Apr 22, 2012
Posts: 190
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
    
    1
R wannabe wrote:Maggot feeders (and bug zappers if you have power) are great for chickens.

10-15 acres could completely support you and your extended family and every friend you have, or could not support a single person---you need WATER. You can fix soil (eventually) but you NEED WATER!!! After water, everything else is easy(ish). Make sure you have the water rights.

There are TONS of good ideas around here, you just have to choose the ones that match your climate and materials and goals.


Wonderful replies here. I can't even thank you guys enough. I'll need some time to absorb this info because it's a lot, but any other advice anyone wants to offer is gladly welcome!
Steve Furlong


Joined: Nov 10, 2010
Posts: 40
Hi Brandon. Just wanted to pitch in a little addition. You say you know nothing about farming as yet. Well, the best way to learn is hands-on practical experience. I strongly suggest you work on an organic/permaculture farm for a little while, whether paid or intern (e.g. WWOOF). You'll be much more confident that way!!
 
 
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