Here is the layout. 45ish acres. More or less rectangular. The narrow side boarders a semi busy road while the back side boarders 1000' of river.
The down side is the river side is as close to vertical bluff as you can get with less than 50' from the bottom of the hill to the actual river.
The land has been pretty much clear cut. Short of a few larger oaks near the property lines and all if the trees from the top of the hill to the river.
But if it wasn't for that I would not have been able to afford the property. Due to the fact the timber was of such a high value and the steepness of the cliff to get to the river.
My question for you guys and gals is what would you do first?
I know first off I'll be cleaning up the rest of the hardwood limbs for firewood and forming up REAL Sepp Holzer hugelculture berms. 6ft tall+
I'll be forced to go off grid so sad :*)
mainly for the fact I don't want to be up anywhere near the road and to run power to the back of the property would break me financially.
IMO. It'll be easier to just start off from the very beginning offgrid.
It really depends on what you have (equipment, money, etc.) and what you want to do in terms of animals, trees, buildings, etc. That being said, if you are going to eventually use heavy equipment it is a good idea to bring it in before the trees are planted and the fencing is installed.
I've just done this myself and would say for this time of year I would plan and prepare.
For myself I like to build off of a service road - imagine something like this:
Plan a road running through your property through the widest part. from this road (1) picture the perfect spot for your homestead, house's long side facing south if you can manage it. (2) Now draw paddocks set back a few feet coming off the road and running to the property line(s). Somewhere, uphill preferably, off the end of your road look for the perfect spot, layout wise, to dig your well, or to place storage tanks for pumping river water to (water rights?). (3) Now your road of rock becomes where all your other infrastructure like: water lines, solar power lines, sheds and other out buildings will come off of.
The animals movable shelter can be located in their paddock just off the 'road'. So to care for your animals is a easy trip down your road, with water access every other paddock or so. With several paddocks established rotational grazing is easy. You can add workshop, equip storage and such to your plan across the road from the house - here make the road 3x has wide for turning around and parking options. Near the house you can section off an area for the orchard, plan recreation and relaxation areas and your water garden to clean grey water and roof water. . . . gardens, wood storage, it all turns out better with a plan.
Everything running off of your service road. Yes, this will be a big expense with rock and such but you can always build as you go, dyi style. however, dream and plan first. Your road can curve, loop and take advantage of good spots on your land. Giving you year round easy access to get the most from your land.
Of course I live in Oregon where you can't really go off road in the winter, at least not easily. So roads for access is important for land-use where I live.
North central Alabama. (Nauvoo, AL) The land was clearcut and the loggers put in a good road down the left hand property line so they could get their log trucks down to the backside to be loaded.
So there is a pretty good road system in. Mainly fist sized gravel embedded into red clay with smaller gravel over the top. It's well packed and crowned from a month+ of logging trucks running over it.
Jami we don't have to worry about water rights or any of that stuff you guys have to fool with out west (just yet)
This land is out in the country where you can, do what you want, build what you want, without any interference from anyone (gov't or locals) just as long as you keep it on your property.
I have access to a loader, dump truck, and a few tractors.
But have to wait my turn on the loader and dump truck as my youngest brother is in the process of building his pond.
The big tractor, same position different brother. Having to wait my turn. He's digging up stumps with the backhoe.
Most of my work this winter/ spring will be with a 35hp 4wd mahindra tractor.
I would add to observe and write down on your plan sheet things like - what direction(s) your weather (wind, rain, storms) comes from & surface water or soggy wet places slow to drain during your wet season. At this point some would say to get soil samples tested and your water source tested, and I would agree on having your water tested, but with soil and clear cutting you already know your going to need to improve your soil and it sounds like you've already have plans toward that end. For myself I like to get animals on the land as fast as I can to start the enriching process, but it sounds like you need to start with construction.
Other things I would consider at this point, that may or may not apply to your land situation, are:
Where and if you'll need to put in drainage around your main buildings. Where to dig trenches for pipes, and foundations for larger buildings like the house/shop/garage. Put in a nice root cellar near or under the house (wish I had one). Basically infrastructure. It's so much easier when future land use has been thought about and planned for. It's romantic the idea of a cabin in the woods, but living on a homestead without the basics of a good road, easy water access, pipes for water or cable you want to run, etc. isn't romantic at all IMHO. You haven't said if your going to use the river or solar to generate your electricity. Either way you'll need to lay some cable to move collected energy to where you need it, so plan this out now. Both water and electric are so much better buried away from people, animals and the elements. Even if all will have to be done in stages plan for it now like your going to do it in one shot.
Speaking of construction - I would start with good foundations (rubble or whatever type works for you), good stem walls (block, rock, again whatever you can get) and then add the pole building with a good roof. As you know these 3 pieces will be the most expensive part of your building construction. Good boots and a good hat, now your ready for whatever design and finishing of your house (or other out building) you like, and you have a nice place to store tools and materials while you work. Buildings will sink in clay over time unless you live in a very dry area, or have very good drainage system built in, so don't skimp on a good foundation.
You may have to wait on putting in a full garden, but if you can decide where the orchard should good you can start planting trees now.
You have to wait for the equipment to be free (are you the baby of the family *grin*), and you need to clean up the wood and brush on the ground. Since you have your road and no equipment you could start on some out buildings - open shed for wood storage, pump house/electric house, hand-tool shed, chicken tractor, etc. All of these can be on piers or skids and require no foundation. What are your plans for your property? What order of things do you want to proceed with?
Research cheap tree sources like the state nurseries. See which ones you can raise cheaper and do it!
Plan it out. I would be doing silvopasture/alleycropping. If you want to run row crops or hay, space the swales so you can make one round with the machinery.
Water!!! What are you doing with water? Plan out pumps, pipes, and ponds.
"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
I agree with others - plan, plan and plan. (Plan twice build once maybe??? :p )
I used google earth to plan my place out...its a free and easy tool to use. Here are some notes on how to use it:
...and I would walk all over the place as many times as you can and especially after a spell of wet weather and dry weather. See where it gets boggy. See where it gets dry first. Plan around thr wet places.
Think a LOT about water...where does it come from? Where does it go to? Can you capture some for drinking, gardens, animals...
It also depends on how much time and resources have on your hands.
Here is what I would do. I learned this from people who made the transition successfully.
Start straight away with learning some plant propagation skills and start a nursery as R Scott suggested. You will plant trees so have a head start there by propagating your own plants. Literally you can prepare thousands of plants for next year.
Year 1. Observation and Basic Infrastructure Works
-Put temporary accommodation like a camper, small cabin or yurt
something you don't need permit for and something that can serve you while you are improving the land
-Observe and do surveys, make a basic plan and test out different designs
Use this time to test out different designs and get feedback from people about your plans (including posting on this forum)
-Do just basic access and water works and focus on building soil Make basic access and water works based on the plan, but resist jumping immediately into big earthworks. In this stage you simply can’t tell what is right or wrong without observation.
Rather, focus on building soil from the get go. You can do that simply by growing green manure cover crops.
Year 2. Big Earthworks and Planting, Making a Business Plan
-Big earthworks focusing on water and access
As Mark Shepard said: “No matter where you go and what mineral deficiencies you have there are plants who adapted to that, but no plant can live without water.” Think how can you slow, spread and soak water into the landscape. Use your big machinery.
Next, you already have the roads so you have to decide where buildings are going to be situated.
-All at once extensive planting
Ben Falk said that the best time to plant is after the disturbance, so it’s time to spread seeds around and put plants from your nursery into the ground. You already have areas where you improved the soil and decided to put the trees last year.
-Making a plan on early cash flow and doing market research
If you want this farm to be more than just a hobby farm you’ll need some sort of a business plan on what can provide you with an early cashflow while your system matures. Start this by doing market research in your area. Initial market research is important because you want to produce things or offer services that people want to buy.
In case you want to make your farm profitable next year is crucial. However if you plan to keep your off the farm income you don't need the business stuff and can happily enjoy homesteading.
Year 3. Early Cashflow and Starting a Business
-Focus on getting one enterprise up and running
Joel Salatin recommends: “Get 1 enterprise going and well established, run 2nd by using money from first one and get it well established - run 3rd one and so on….” The idea is to focus on getting one thing right before moving to next one
-Choose one of the early cashflow models
Growing Annuals and quick yielding perennials - Market gardening or alley cropping
Raising Animals - Grazing sheep, cows, and meat birds amongst the growing trees, laying hens also.
Nursery business - Selling other nurseries trees for a commission or buying wholesale and selling 50% to cover costs and making profit from the other half, also developing your own genetics by using Mark Shepard's STUN method.
Education on the site - If you can do it, other can learn from you. Think courses and workshops
-Minimise expenses and grow what you eat
The easiest way to make more money is to lower your expenses first. Look at your biggest expenses and then try to minimise those. Start with what you can do. In most cases that is going to be cutting the food bill by growing what you eat.
-Do whatever it takes to make it
That might mean putting in a lot of hours, making a lot of sacrifices, cutting expenses and taking some odds jobs to earn money on the side. Plan for the first year being very lean and prepare for that in advance.
Update: Still to wet to do anything with machinery up at the land. As soon as it dries out we get a cold front and a few inches of rain.
Good news I came upon a house that someone was needing to be torn down. 1200sqft. Dry as a bone with no problems. 1x6 flooring
Tongue and groove interior walls and ceilings. 1x6 wood lap siding on the exterior. True 2x6x12 rafters and true 2x8x12 floor joist. Old school heavy gauge tin roof with 1x12's of various lengths as the roof decking.
So needless to say my next few days are booked.
Worked on it yesterday. Remove all the interior tongue and groove from the walls and ceilings along with the non load bearing walls.
The next step is the front half of the roof the rafters then siding the studs then flooring.
Doing the house in halves as I'm but one person and I don't want to get the roof off and it rain for a week straight and mess up the flooring.
Going to build a cabin up at my place first. With the lumber situation solved I can now focus on layout.
Leaning toward the look of this place.
http://tinyhouseswoon.com/potomac-cabin/ Just not the dimensions. (8x12) is a little to tight.
Going 12x18 with the highest point facing toward the river. Will do tin siding for at least the lower half the house. Maybe use the 1x6 lap siding for the upper. Will know for sure when I get to that point.
I have a nice oak log picked out to cut the stringer from and will round up some true 2x8x24" white oak treads from the sawmill soon.
Will post some pics soon of my ever increasing reclaimed lumber pile and of the piers I've set for my shack.
Well it's been about 6 months since I purchased my land. The house is nearing completion +/-400 sqft.
Installing the last of the windows hopefully this weekend and making my layout to build the door.
A friend purchased a pallet of solar panels and I'll be doing some tile work in exchange for a few.
The goal is to be out there fulltime by the end of July once its blacked in and i have limited power. Then 100% complete on the cosmetics by this fall.
I have a decent "grove" of sunchokes growing fairly well despite the rocky and shallow soil of the formerly strip mined land. Thank to Joseph Lofthouse
Once I'm there fulltime my American guinea hogs will be put to work clearing out the kudzu that is everso quickly creeping from one side of the property to the other.
I believe I will do a few smallish timber frameddirt floored gazebo type areas and let the kudzu provide a little shade for the animal.
Next step is getting a small herd of goats going in the spring to reclaim sections of the clear cut land from the chest high mass of privet, blackberries, mimosa, and kudzu that grew from bare ground in just one summer.
I may put the scythe to a good bit also once the house is complete.
With the 100f heat here the past few days not much has been accomplished.
Added nailers over the beam and on the end walls for the reclaimed 5 1/2" tongue and groove boards that will cover the ceiling and the walls until it runs out.
Scored a load of 2 1/4" hardwood flooring a few months back from a remodel that will hopefully finish off the first floor flooring.
The entrance door will be made from some reclaimed 60yr old+ 2"x6" oak boards that came off a house I demo'd.
Anyway progress now is somewhat slow because of the heat ,humidity, and then working in the heat all day for my paying job.
Update: The cabin build has been put on hiatus for a pretty good reason. The land adjoining mine has came up for sale at a very good price. To good a deal to pass up. So hopefully will be closing on that property by the end of the month.
It'll add a few more acres, a -900sqft house, another pond, and 330' more river frontage.
Pretty excited about the opportunity opportunity to purchase this place.
After the closing, work will continue on the cabin and then the house on my off days.