That actually sounds almost identical to this property. Here's how it was done, as best as I've been able to piece together. Mostly through oral family history. About 1900 this was a heavily wooded forest with nothing much else around. The nearby railroad track might have been here then, not sure. Original homesteader (let's call him great grandpa) came here with an axe & some serious woodworking skills. He picked the most level place on top of this ridge & built a small cabin & outhouse. The outhouse still exists but was filled with dirt & rock many years ago. As the cabin was built he planted chestnut, hickory, & pecan trees. If I had to guess the cherry & pear trees came some time after. As land around the cabin was cleared he built split rail fences, dug a water hole which has never gone dry, & started keeping a few cattle. Then built a small barn & a chicken coop large enough for about 50 chickens. Those are both still in good condition. The coop is still used for chickens. To the best of my knowledge building the initial homestead was his only job. He died & his son inherited the place. Then around 1940-1950 the cabin was expanded & slowly converted into a more comfortable house with electricity from the newfangled hydroelectric dam. Grandpa did have an outside job with the railroad. People called him Bull because he could carry two railroad ties around on his shoulders. He never drove in his life but rode a donkey everywhere. (no law against donkeys while intoxicated) Pastures got larger so there were more cattle. Then in the early 60's Bull died & left everything to his nieces & nephews. Only one niece was interested in the property so she gradually bought her cousins out. She had a city job but on the weekends, every weekend for many years, she & her friends gradually replaced the cabin & built a fully modern house. One room at a time until the cabin no longer existed. It's amazing what beer, BBQ, & good friends can accomplish by working together. A larger barn was built further away from the house. Then the small barn became home to a horse & a pig. Some small outbuildings were built using the old techniques. The horse & pig eventually died & are now buried directly under a hugelkultur bed. Their pasture is now my garden area. I'm fairly certain no vegetables other than maybe a few tomatoes were grown here until I arrived a couple years ago. I started by building a traditional kitchen garden & basic soil improvements. That has continuously expanded & is quite productive now. Starting to focus more on fruit, perennials, animal foods, & food forest type of things. We have enough pasture & cows. We also have a lot of zone 5 areas but I'm going to plant many more trees along one part of the perimeter that doesn't have enough. We have a few chickens & want a few more. There is wild game (deer, turkey, duck, goose) on site & fish nearby but so far I have only observed it. Have better places to hunt & fish.
120 years later. Still a work in progress. In some ways we're going backwards in time with it. Smothering lawn with food. Planting trees. Restoring some pasture & edges to forest. Restoring wildflowers & pollinators. Sequestering carbon. Soaking up water. Gradually getting off grid functional again. Filling in a long neglected homesteading gap with a wide variety of food crops. Then if I'm still kicking the pastures need permie-ized.