Homesteading today in America
By 1873 if you planted trees you could have an extra 160 acres of homestead land. This was because it was believed at the time that trees produced rain, and rain was always welcome. If you were prepared to move into the more arid regions of the country you were allocated 640 acres. However, by 1973 the Homestead Act was repealed although the practice continued in Alaska until 1989. Today there are no more land grants anywhere in the States.
Homesteading today still exists. It is the yearning to scratch around in a little bit of dirt that is your own, even if you have to pay for homestead land these days and try and be as self-sufficient as possible. Many people are going back to the land due to food issues, current use of pesticides and how they affect our health.
Buying land that has not
before or even has a homestead, allows you to have a blank canvas to
work off. If you are working with an existing structure and fields you
will need to analyze how efficient the farm has been laid out and
whether there is room for improvements.
Look at your needs and what it is you want to raise on your homestead. Remember that you are hoping to live off the land. Therefore make sure that the crops and animals that you want to raise will make you enough money to be self-sufficient. For far more details than can be made here go to our page on Homestead Land showing you how to avoid the pitfalls of buying rural land and where to position your homestead.
Locate your animal housing far enough from the homestead so that you don't get nasty smells wafting by, but not too far away that you will have to make a arduous trip every time you need to feed, water and care for them. Build their enclosures big enough to allow for more animals if you need to expand.
Locate your vegetable garden and herb garden close to the house for convenience sake. Both should have good access to a constant water supply. Herbs are great to plant not too far from the kitchen door.
Think of your homestead as a unit. Each part should benefit the other and work together in harmony. For example raising chickens will produce excellent, nitrogen rich manure for your vegetables and compost heap. By placing them in your orchard they can feed on the fallen fruit, fertilize the soil and keep the bugs down without damaging your trees. Fruit tree prunings, vegetable peelings and vegetable matter can all be used in your compost heap to be returned back into the soil for enrichment and goodness.
Your ducks could be allowed to forage in your vegetable garden. Unlike chickens, they won't do a lot of damage and will definitely keep your snails and slug population down, along with other insects like grubs and caterpillars that would otherwise feast on your plants.
Land should be set aside for green manures and cover crops to disc back into the soil. Crop and land rotation for both plants and animals should be practiced to minimize disease to both.
Land is not your only resource you need to care for. Water is a precious resource that seems to be getting more and more scarce these days and therefore we need to conserve water. When you have run-off harvest that by placing a dam at the bottom of the run-off. Put in underground water tanks and rain barrels to store excess water that comes off your homestead roof. This is free water that you can use on your vegetables and herbs.
Think about your power needs and whether you want to rely on municipal power or if you want to live off the grid. More than 200 000 Americans live off the grid, and you could be one of them. It does mean a little bit of planning and investment upfront for the solar panels and other equipment, but this money is generally recouped within 3-5 years.
To be totally self-sufficient you will need to think about keeping pigs, goats or cows for milking and meat and a few sheep. Barley, wheat and oats can also be grown in addition to your fruit trees, nut trees, soft fruit and vegetables.
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