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Dairy Sheep, kicking ideas around

 
Ryan Hobbs
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I have found info on dairy sheep from several sources, and am about 60% settled on getting 2 East Friesian ewes and having them serviced by an English Milksheep ram. I am having a hard time finding local breeders however.

I was originally going to get goats, but I did some asking around, and sheep can actually be more productive than goats (wool and milk) and are not the rebellious little escape artists that goats are.

The plan right now is to convert a small (cow) dairy barn on my land into my sheep barn. I am adding a lean-to shed on one side to store straw. The hay loft appears to be adequate. An area near the front door will be filled with steel drums of grain. I only have 2 acres, but I can give the sheep 1 acre. I would be rotationally grazing them in a half acre pasture and under my half acre orchard. My chicken tractors would be going all over the place depending on what crop just got harvested or if the fruit trees are in need of cleanup. I will have to use woven wire to fence off the pasture. Electricity is unreliable and the solar chargers at tsc cost more than the roll of woven wire.  
 
Kris schulenburg
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There’s are several Dairy Sheep groups on Facebook. Dairy Sheep Available and Dairy Sheep and Goats. I’m sure there are others that may help you find sheep. Also Homestead Dairy Sheep has a lot of great info.
 
Kris schulenburg
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How is your search for dairy sheep going? I had someone back out of buying a ram lamb and was wondering if you would be interested in him. I would trade him for help holding holding 12 sheep while I trim feet. Looks like you are less than 3 hours away.
His mom gives 1 gallon a day. His dad is Icelandic from milking lines. He is a triplet.
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Andrew Mayflower
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Have a pretty fool-proof enclosure to start them in, and have a plan for recapture if they still escape.  Once they know you and associate you with treats you be a little more open to other fencing options.  But when they're brand new to your place they'll be very skittish.  DAMHIK.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Kris schulenburg wrote:How is your search for dairy sheep going? I had someone back out of buying a ram lamb and was wondering if you would be interested in him. I would trade him for help holding holding 12 sheep while I trim feet. Looks like you are less than 3 hours away.
His mom gives 1 gallon a day. His dad is Icelandic from milking lines. He is a triplet.



I would love to accept. I don't have the pasture fenced yet though. If you can hold onto him for me until then, I will help with your next shearing as well. I'm not available on the 28th of this month or the 1st of next month.
 
Kris schulenburg
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I’m in no hurry. He is a nice ram and I would like for him to have a good home.
You probably know they are vulnerable to dogs and coyotes as you are planning your fence. Good luck with the fence. Lmk if you want to know anything else about him.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Kris schulenburg wrote:I’m in no hurry. He is a nice ram and I would like for him to have a good home.
You probably know they are vulnerable to dogs and coyotes as you are planning your fence. Good luck with the fence. Lmk if you want to know anything else about him.



I don't check a gift horse's teeth. But if you want to you can tell me more. He looks good and sounds good and him being sn icelandic triplet is great for starting a multipurpose flock. I bet his wool would be good for hand spinning.

I can probably come down to pick him up the first or second week of august. When do you need hep with the foot trimming?

I do have a question about fences. My original plan was to construct a permanent fence with sheep panels and barbed wire and permanent posts. However I can't afford to do that all at once on short notice. Would electric sheep netting be good enough for this year and build the permanent fence next spring when I buy ewes?



 
Andrew Mayflower
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:

Kris schulenburg wrote:Would electric sheep netting be good enough for this year and build the permanent fence next spring when I buy ewes?



Only if they're trained to the fencing already.  Look for my thread on "Help with Lamb Containment".
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Nicole - thanks for adding that link.  I was on my phone for that post, and it was a bit of a pain to get that link.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Not a problem! I understand that sort of problem. I'm often on permies with my daughter sleeping in my lap, so I can only cut and paste, not type (typing wakes her up)--which is why I just threw the link there rather than saying anything!
 
Kris schulenburg
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He is not trained to netting but as long as you have a good charger it should be fine. May take some training like Andrew said. He will be lonely. Do you have any other livestock?
I trimmed feet 2weeks ago so August or September is fine. As long as my husband knows they are going it’s all good.
You will want to read up on barber pole worms. They are an issue. A 60 day pasture rotation helps keep them at bay. His mom tested negative for OPP and Johnes. His granddad was a East Freisian x Lacoun from Good Shepherd Dairy in Owingsville KY. They got their first sheep from Vermont Shepherd. He does have nice fleece. I was thinking of keeping him for a wool pet but I don’t need any more. His horns look like they are growing wide but it’s hard to tell what they will end up like. If they will be a problem later. I think he will make a good herd sire.
Have you ever milked before? It is a commitment.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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I strongly recommend that you not have a single lamb, especially in electro-net when he hasn't been trained on it.  Their wool insulates them from the shock, so if they don't know what it is they'll just run through the net.  And a solo lamb will be unhappy and more likely to be unpredictable.

For a short term solution get 4 of the 16' x 50" welded livestock panels.  Zip tie 3 of the corners and use Velcro to hold the other one.  That will provide enough forage (assuming good and long grass) for 3-5 days for a single lamb.  I have 3 lambs in that set up and 1.5 days is about right for their appetite.  It takes 2 people ideally to move it, but in 30sec you can have them on fresh grass.  Surround that with electro-net and they'll have secondary containment, plus protection from coyotes.
 
Kris schulenburg
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If it’s too soon for sheep, I may still have him in the spring or chance are good there will be more lambs next year. It’s better to take your time and make sure it’s a good experience.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Kris schulenburg wrote:If it’s too soon for sheep, I may still have him in the spring or chance are good there will be more lambs next year. It’s better to take your time and make sure it’s a good experience.



I want him. Can you save him for spring and I will buy him properly? Grandma is really excited and already named him Ragnar.
 
Kris schulenburg
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Yes. They will need their feet trimmed this spring also. Or I was asking $150 for him. Which ever works.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Kris schulenburg wrote:Yes. They will need their feet trimmed this spring also. Or I was asking $150 for him. Which ever works.



Thank you so much!

If you don't mind my company, I would like to help with shearing too. I am a complete noob when it comes to sheep and I learn best by doing. And you get an extra pair of hands.
 
Kris schulenburg
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Icelandic ‘s best fleece is in the fall so I will be shearing some in early October. If you want to come down and see Ragnar and get some hands on sheep experience that would be great. Or the spring works. With only a few sheep you can shear with a good pair of scissors.
Got a couple of pictures yesterday.
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Ryan Hobbs
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Kris schulenburg wrote:Icelandic ‘s best fleece is in the fall so I will be shearing some in early October. If you want to come down and see Ragnar and get some hands on sheep experience that would be great. Or the spring works. With only a few sheep you can shear with a good pair of scissors.
Got a couple of pictures yesterday.



That sounds great! I will mossage you my phone number and you can text me closer to the time.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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I got the fence posts half put up. 15 t posts driven today. I feel the burn. I have another 5 to do tomorrow. I need another 2 bundles of t posts, the wood corner posts, and the wire. I can only carry so much in my 4 door sedan. LOL


The wood posts are going to be interesting.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:I got the fence posts half put up. 15 t posts driven today. I feel the burn. I have another 5 to do tomorrow. I need another 2 bundles of t posts, the wood corner posts, and the wire. I can only carry so much in my 4 door sedan. LOL


The wood posts are going to be interesting.



I realize it is semi-taboo to quote yourself, but oh well.

I might be getting a truck. That will make bringing the 8 ft long wood posts and fence wire home faster and easier and will let me take my mini tractor to get fixed. My mom has one and is supposed to bringing it over next weekend if my stepdad agrees. That means I'd be able to come get Ragnar faster.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Cattle panels are great for small pens (I use them for goats).  But rather than velcro, I use carabiner clips to hold the panels together.  That way you can open the pen at any point where two panels come together.  The panels are awkward to move -- easiest with two people so you can have one on each end.  It isn't so much the weight, but they do bend and the ends drag on the ground, so moving them solo is a pain (worse for me because I'm short!).  But they are by far the best type of fencing for goats or sheep.  Just too expensive to use for large areas.  
 
Marie Repara
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Ryan, you will have to change your signature from "no goats, no glory" to "ewes it or lose it." Sorry, couldn't resist...
 
Amanda Parker
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I am raising dairy sheep right now and I love it! I have several east friesian ewes and some Finnsheep ewes who are also known to be quite milky.  My ran is a Finnsheep/friesian cross. I did it because I raised goats when I was younger and im just not a fan. I am also a spinner, Weaver, felter, and knitter so I really wanted an animal that could pull double duty. They actually pull triple duty as I get milk, wool and meat ;) from ram lambs that we don't need or cull.

I wouldn't go back to goats for anything. I love the taste of the milk and the wonderful cheeses I make. Their wool is beautiful and provides an extra source of income for us. And sheep are much easier to care for than goats in my opinion.

I did have trouble finding breeding stock as well. I had to have my babies transported from the Midwest and I paid about 400 per ewe lamb. The Finn's were much cheaper.
One of my EF ewes will give about 3 quarts per day (on average) at peak milking, one of my finns gives about 2 quarts. One of my better ewes gives 5 quarts a day, so the amounts vary from animal to animal. Our family goes through a gallon of milk about every day and a half to 2 days, and that's not cooking, just drinking.....we love milk. I have about 12 girls and that gives us enough for cheeses and yogurt.

I also get lanolin from their wool. I boil see of the lower quality cuts from their fleece and remove the lanolin for using in salves and ointments and cosmetics. The fat from slaughtered lambs (we butcher them ourselves) is rendered down and used to make soap. Sheep are incredible and just an all around amazing homestead animal. They are the foundation of our farm, along with the alpacas and Angoras, and bees <3.

I think your set up will do fine if you do rotational grazing but you will need a place for your ram unless you choose to keep him with the flock, I don't because I don't like not knowing when lambs are due. Just be diligent with parasite checks and field hygiene. Small acreage can be bad for parasites as they tend to build up.

Best of luck with your dairy flock!!!
-Magnolia Knoll Farm and Fiber
 
Marie Repara
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Amanda Parker wrote: I wouldn't go back to goats for anything.


Aside from fencing/escaping, is there anything else in particular that made them undesirable? Having the triple of purpose of sheep sounds like a major plus, but I'm wondering what about dairy goats turned you off as I've been considering some for a while.
Also, I've heard that sheep tend to be nervous animals which can make them a bit more of a challenge: have you experienced this? I've only raised hair-sheep and that was for meat purposes, so flightiness didn't make a difference. As for fiber, what type of products are you able to make of it? I've always figured the dairy sheep fiber would be rather course compared to wool breeds, but I really don't know much about the subject. You said you raise Angoras, -do mean Angora goats?
 
Eric Hanson
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Ryan,

I love the idea of dairy sheep.  I think they would be a great small holder all purpose animal.  I really don’t know, is an acre enough for two sheep and their lambs?  I like your idea of rotating in half acre sections.  Would you use any of your remaining acre for growing hay, feed, straw, etc?

I am just spitballing here, but if you bought in some hay you could create a lot of manure to increase your total fertility.  Could you occasionally, say in fall, let your animals graze on your garden area just to let them dung and urinate the beds?

Again, I think that you have a great idea, I am really curious to see where it goes.

Eric
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Eric Hanson wrote:Ryan,

I love the idea of dairy sheep.  I think they would be a great small holder all purpose animal.  I really don’t know, is an acre enough for two sheep and their lambs?  I like your idea of rotating in half acre sections.  Would you use any of your remaining acre for growing hay, feed, straw, etc?

I am just spitballing here, but if you bought in some hay you could create a lot of manure to increase your total fertility.  Could you occasionally, say in fall, let your animals graze on your garden area just to let them dung and urinate the beds?

Again, I think that you have a great idea, I am really curious to see where it goes.

Eric



I have abandoned this project entirely because of my illness. In fact, I just got out of the hospital for that illness. However, Once I plant up the food forest, I'm planning to have some semi-feral livestock in the food forest like Holzer.
 
Eric Hanson
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Ryan,

Sorry to hear about your illness.  Dare I ask what happened?  Not try to pry and if I am being too pushy, just say so.

It’s too bad, I was really curious as to how your mini herd was going to work out.

Eric
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Eric Hanson wrote:Ryan,

Sorry to hear about your illness.  Dare I ask what happened?  Not try to pry and if I am being too pushy, just say so.

It’s too bad, I was really curious as to how your mini herd was going to work out.

Eric



My main illness is Schizoaffective Disorder. I can't always work every day, so I'm sticking to things that either take care of themselves or are plants. I was powering through and ran out of steam. I can't do that. I have to take better care of myself.

I'm bummed about it too tbh. I really wanted sheep. The milk and wool would have been good income too. My new income strategy is fruit and nuts. They're a lot less work, esp in a food forest configuration. I have a long list of over 200 species to go in the food forest, but it will be dominated by heirloom apples, stone fruits, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. I have a list of 35 wild edibles and 6 kinds of mushrooms I intend to transplant in. I found 2 already present: wood sorrel and oak. Honey locust and black locust are going to be the main legumes. Those 2 trees are super useful, and grow their own nails (frontier carpenters often used the long thorns to nail shingles to roofs and Indians used them as awls and fish-hooks).
 
Eric Hanson
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Ryan,

Really sorry to hear man.  I have a background in psychology so I know a bit about schizoaffective disorder, and I am sure that the stressors put you in a bind that few understand.  

And a shame for the sheep too!  What you were planning really sounded like a unique idea and I would have loved to see it in action.

Take care of yourself.  I have my own burden:  insomnia.  I feel like I can do anything with sleep but nothing without.  My sleepless episodes can really knock me on my ear, to tbh, it put me into disability which I am struggling to overcome.

Again, take care man.  You can’t help anyone else until you help yourself first.  Get well.  Contact as you feel the need.

Eric
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Eric Hanson wrote:Ryan,

Really sorry to hear man.  I have a background in psychology so I know a bit about schizoaffective disorder, and I am sure that the stressors put you in a bind that few understand.  

And a shame for the sheep too!  What you were planning really sounded like a unique idea and I would have loved to see it in action.

Take care of yourself.  I have my own burden:  insomnia.  I feel like I can do anything with sleep but nothing without.  My sleepless episodes can really knock me on my ear, to tbh, it put me into disability which I am struggling to overcome.

Again, take care man.  You can’t help anyone else until you help yourself first.  Get well.  Contact as you feel the need.

Eric



My hope is that someone will use my ideas. That's why the thread is still here. I also thought it was a solid plan. Schizoaffective can be a blessing as well as an obstacle. I'm very good at patterns and paying attention to details. So I like puzzles, esp complicated logistical ones. I can crank out ideas given enough parameters, and would be pleased to do it for any asker. If you gave me a prompt once a week, I would actually enjoy working it out. We could run a series if you are game.
 
Eric Hanson
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Intriguing!  So far I am game, I guess the first puzzle would be to figure out a puzzle?

Eric
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Eric Hanson wrote:Intriguing!  So far I am game, I guess the first puzzle would be to figure out a puzzle?

Eric



Make a Farm with certain parameters such as:
Desired main crop/critter?
starting acerage?
existing vegetation and topo?
climate zone?
has house already or build a house?
budget?
water access?
off grid or no?

can you think of other parameters?
 
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Ryan,

Ok, give me the night to think on it.  I am game.  Game On!!

Eric
 
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Ryan,

Ok, I am up early, have coffee so my brain is working again!

I say we start off fairly simple just to test the ground rules so to speak.

So my thought for starters is let’s go fairly primitive.  How about a 1 acre homestead (that is 1 acre of land, this does not include buildings, driveway etc.).  So maybe 1.25 acres total.  Very rural, no utility hookups.  Midwestern, zone 5-6.  Clay-loam soil.  Good rainfall, but summer droughts happen every 5-10 years (BTW, my personal metric for drought is the drought starts on the 3rd week without any significant rain during times of high heat. My reasoning is that it seems to take this long for vegetation to start looking yellow and stunted.  So what do you think?).

Lets also assume no buildings whatsoever so we build the house using bale construction, of course equip it with a RMH, and go off- grid electric.  A/C is possible but optional.  We also will have to dig a well.  The property is 90% clear, but has a living hedge fence line around 3 borders and s few respectable hardwoods along the back.  Let’s assume that the initial budget is pretty tight so we will build everything using materials on hand or build with outside materials using our own labor unless we absolutely need someone else.  Fortunately, we don’t really desire much that money can buy.

Ok with this in mind (Sorry if this is confusing, I will try to get a better format), with only an acre of land and minimal woody vegetation and not much money we need to produce most everything on site.  I say that we make 1/2 an acre as a huge intensely managed market garden and the other half as a small pasture for a small number of ruminants such as a couple goats, sheep, or s jersey cow.  Let’s go from there.

Eric
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Eric Hanson wrote:Ryan,

Ok, I am up early, have coffee so my brain is working again!

I say we start off fairly simple just to test the ground rules so to speak.

So my thought for starters is let’s go fairly primitive.  How about a 1 acre homestead (that is 1 acre of land, this does not include buildings, driveway etc.).  So maybe 1.25 acres total.  Very rural, no utility hookups.  Midwestern, zone 5-6.  Clay-loam soil.  Good rainfall, but summer droughts happen every 5-10 years (BTW, my personal metric for drought is the drought starts on the 3rd week without any significant rain during times of high heat. My reasoning is that it seems to take this long for vegetation to start looking yellow and stunted.  So what do you think?).

Lets also assume no buildings whatsoever so we build the house using bale construction, of course equip it with a RMH, and go off- grid electric.  A/C is possible but optional.  We also will have to dig a well.  The property is 90% clear, but has a living hedge fence line around 3 borders and s few respectable hardwoods along the back.  Let’s assume that the initial budget is pretty tight so we will build everything using materials on hand or build with outside materials using our own labor unless we absolutely need someone else.  Fortunately, we don’t really desire much that money can buy.

Ok with this in mind (Sorry if this is confusing, I will try to get a better format), with only an acre of land and minimal woody vegetation and not much money we need to produce most everything on site.  I say that we make 1/2 an acre as a huge intensely managed market garden and the other half as a small pasture for a small number of ruminants such as a couple goats, sheep, or s jersey cow.  Let’s go from there.

Eric



Well, Eric, seems like you've figured it all out on your own. I would have gone with a cob round house personally. The midwest mostly has clay soil and straw bales are expensive. If there is a tight budget and straw has to be bought, the cob house is much cheaper. I would suggest smaller livestock. I think you need at least 4 half acre sections for sheep if you don't have the energy for moving them daily. You might have to buy in hay too. So ducks. I recommend ducks because duck meat is rich and tender, they can be herded, and they protect themselves from small predators. You can use a simple barbed wire fence and a couple of mean turkeys or geese to protect them from Coyotes. You can also render duck fat into something like lard. I recommend silvopasture of productive trees randomly placed to shelter ducks and add fruit and nuts to the productivity of the pasture.  For the house, 12v solar lighting and appliances made for RV camping. I agree with the RMH for heat. Water table is assumed to be shallow, and a hand dug well is therefore assumed to be the best option. A single commercial greenhouse is bought in for reliable seed starting, and is heated with compost.

The pickle is the big garden. To do it right, and to stay on top of it, some mechanization is needed. Is it dig or no dig? That is what's tripping me up.
 
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Ryan,

Ok, I was thinking bale construction because I was thinking much could be harvested on site, and it has awesome insulation properties, but you make good points.  So cob it is!

Regarding animals, fair points.  I don’t have all that great a feel for land stocking ratios, so probably birds are better.  I would not have thought of ducks, but this sounds like a really good idea.  Personally, I find geese to be mean and aggressive, but that might be perfect for a sort of guardian animal.

I wholeheartedly agree that some form of silvoculture is important.  I would want to add in some fruit trees and small fruit.  For small fruit I would suggest blackberries, blueberries and strawberries.  I would add in raspberries but these need considerable separation from blackberries so there is some potential their.

Upon reading your comment about ducks, perhaps a cash crop/market item could be soaps.  Fat from ducks combined with perfuming agents from flowers, fruits etc. could make little dainty soaps that sell for obnoxious prices?  Just a thought.

Another thought I have would be to maximize production by making the garden portion of the land into raised beds.  Perhaps we could get by on a quarter acre of raised beds and let the ducks “mow” the grassy paths?  I would want to fill the beds partially with soil, and partially with woodchips which I would Inoculate with mushrooms.  I would start with wine cap mushrooms for their amazing ability to break down woodchips into high quality compost.  I would eventually branch out to other mushrooms.  Mushrooms would be great for several reasons.  First, they make the bedding much more fertile.  Second, we would get a crop at no expense to vegetables (in fact, they would help one another).  Third, this is a potential cash crop, especially if we diversify into different types of mushrooms.

Regarding compost, I would only want to make compost piles inside a garden bed, raised or otherwise.  This is because the compost pile will shed nutrients and micro organisms into the soil beneath.

We could “harvest” part of the fence line to make woodchips and fuel.  One of the best fuel trees is Osage orange.  This grows fast, is occasionally used as a living fence, produced outstanding, long, slow, hot burning firewood.  Might be perfect for a RMH.

I love your idea of using a 12v motor home style electric system.  I would therefore recommend building a small house with open floor plan with ample southern exposure and a single piece roof facing south at the optimal angle for whatever latitude the house is built upon.

So what are we missing?  Is there any need for power equipment?  A riding mower?  A 4 wheeler or small utv?  These might be handy but are not strictly necessary and cost money, both up front and for fuel & maintenance.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts.

Eric
 
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Ryan,

BTW, I suggested a living fence for personal experience reasons.  When I look out through my south facing windows, I look directly at a living fence.  Today that fence is about 25-20’ thick on average and easily 20 feet high.  It wasn’t always so.  When I moved in, the “living fence” was a mere 2-4’ high and 1-2’ thick and straddled a barbed wire mesh fence.  I deliberately wanted more privacy from my neighbor.  At the time he was thinking about subdividing and building right next to the fence.  I went and planted hybrid poplars to give me visual protection from what I feared would be an eyesore.

As fate would have it, he realized that the site was unbuildable.  And it turns out he is a really great guy and I am extremely lucky to have him as a neighbor.  The poplars all died from neglect, but no matter, the living hedge grew like mad.  Today I have to actively trim it back, but this is fine with me as I get the wood for woodchips.  I think a fence line silvioculture has real potential.

Eric
 
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Ryan,

My coffee is flowing!!  I am writing!!  For the large garden, I would go massive numbers of raised beds and no-dig.  This is eliminates mechanization, but entails substantial building.  If we are building with on-site materials, can we make a raised bed from cob?

Raised beds are highly productive, and easy to tend, especially without mechanization.

Eric
 
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Ryan,

I should have mentioned this earlier, but would raised beds or huglel mounds be preferable?

Eric
 
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Woah, calm down. You have to factor in labor. Time is the same as money. I think if you are doing an in-ground garden bigger than 100x100ft (the size of my garden) you should just till it to start and slowly convert to sheet mulch no dig. It's labor saving in a big way. The tiller can then be sold when you no longer need it. For raised beds, you will probably have to buy in materials for them. That isn't ideal on a budget. BUT You can build them as you go instead of all at once. Just dig up your top soil, put it on a tarp, fill in your raised bed, put the topsoil back on top and you will be good to go. If you're worried about the seedbank, you can cover in copious mulch.
 
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