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Old 11-12-2016, 07:59 AM
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Default HELP! Need Advice for 5 Acre Homestead



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I'm in need of some advice from some homesteading experts. My wife and I have a 5-acre tract in the hills of Central Florida, and its really a blank slate. The land is void of any trees to the point that we are buying trees to line the property to give us some privacy.

Outside of screen, shade, and fruit trees we really need advice on how to build our homestead. We are looking to have a garden to take advantage of the fertile soil as well as get chickens, goats, a horse, ducks, and maybe some turkeys. We have raised chickens and ducks before so we know what to do with them.

My main question is how should we arrange the barn, the pastures, how many pastures do we need, etc. etc.

Since the property is a blank slate its really overwhelming I guess. I have been looking online for an ariel view of another 5-acre farm to see how someone else arranged their homestead.

Any advice or pictures would help. I think I have read hundreds of posts about what to do, but without a visual aid as far as arranging goes its hard to grasp.
Old 11-12-2016, 09:23 AM
Freebirde Freebirde is offline
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You have a good start. First piece of advice, get to know your county Extension Agent.

Now some questions. What is your water source, purity, and ease of access? Livestock, especially in central Florida, needs a lot of good water.

Since it was clearcut, did you now own the timber rights to this tract?

Is any of the property subject to flooding? Avoid these areas for building unless you build on berms or piers.

How much time do you have in a day to devote to caring for the land and animals? How is your and your wife's health?

How much of your animal feed do you hope to raise and do you plan on pasture for your poultry? Turkeys can fly, so you will need good fences and shelter from predatory birds. Are there problems with predatory mammals and reptiles in your area?

As to placement of house. Do you want the house in clear view of the road or secluded? Short driveway or long? Do you want the barn convenient to the house or away from the noise and smells of the animals? Which way does the wind blow most of the time? If you get outside utilities, where are they accessed and what do you have to pay to have them run to your buildings? How deep of a foundation will you need for your soil type?

Let the adventure begin!
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Old 11-12-2016, 09:51 AM
LoveLife LoveLife is online now
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Florida has some nice weather and sane taxes.
Unfortunately, it also has poor soil and a problem with water (too much water while not enough high quality water).
So, determine your planned water usage and your ability to obtain that much water.
Next determine your level of sustainability and the cost to obtain that sustainability.
You may find that 5 acres might not support a husband and wife cost-effectively.
5 acres in Florida is significantly different from 5 acres in Tennessee.
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Old 11-12-2016, 10:29 AM
Don H Don H is offline
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I have an old book titled "Five Acres and Independence". It's still available on Amazon. Might be a good place to start.
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Old 11-12-2016, 10:40 AM
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I know you said you have trees covered.
None-the-less..... you might want to look into.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulownia_tomentosa

As far as layout. Without knowing the terrain, slope, where roads, utilities, water etc are situated.
Its tough to make suggestions.
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Old 11-12-2016, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LoveLife View Post
Florida has some nice weather and sane taxes.
Unfortunately, it also has poor soil and a problem with water (too much water while not enough high quality water).
So, determine your planned water usage and your ability to obtain that much water.
Next determine your level of sustainability and the cost to obtain that sustainability.
You may find that 5 acres might not support a husband and wife cost-effectively.
5 acres in Florida is significaently different from 5 acres in Tennessee.
Your Florida experience may have included sandy or poor soil, but FL does have some high quality soil in many places. My own yard is made of dark rich soil and will grow almost anything. Another advantage FL has is that it has 3 growing seasons, possibly even a 4th if you include strawberry's, blue berry's, and a few other fruits and nuts. Also, the water table in FL is not nearly as deep as in other parts of the country. My own father was able to use a water hose and a piece of steel pipe to make a shallow well that he used for years to irrigate several acres of nursery and farm area. Central FL should be an ideal location for growing most crops. Even some that do not grow just a little further South such as pecans and peaches. The only draw back I am seeing is that it is downwind of the Crystal River Nuclear power plant. If they would shut that place down, you would have an ideal retreat location. A good resource is an old book I purchased years ago from Reader's Digest called Back to Basics. Made for just such a property that you are talking about. Best of luck and keep us informed of your progress.
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Old 11-12-2016, 11:42 AM
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There was a previous post just a few months ago with the same question. Look to see if you can find it. A lot of good advice. Jerry D. Young gave his good opinion and it's worth looking at. (I have no idea if he ever put his ideas into reality but he certainly researched and pondered such subjects with his prolific story writing.)

Myself, I'd piddle around and plan and plot for a year to see what the land does from one season to another. Study the contour to see the water drainage pattern. Get graph paper and cutouts of buildings so you can move them around and study what pattern would work best for you. You'd hate to put the barn somewhere that you regretted forever after, or put the house in a place that has a tarantula migration every April.

Check for any Fed wildlife or wetlands right of ways. They like to hide these things from you. Talk to the neighbors!!! This is important. Know what they know of your little world.

And good luck. Hope it becomes your little piece of heaven.
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Old 11-12-2016, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don H View Post
I have an old book titled "Five Acres and Independence". It's still available on Amazon. Might be a good place to start.
This........very good start.
Best $7.50 cents you will ever spend.

https://www.amazon.com/Five-Acres-In.../dp/0486209741
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Old 11-12-2016, 02:15 PM
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Check out general info on the internet and especially Youtube. A lot of people are homesteading and there are tons of videos showing how to physically arrange things, build chicken coops, and anything else you can think of. Many people are trying it on even less than 5 acres. Good luck.
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Old 11-13-2016, 12:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Fett View Post
I'm in need of some advice from some homesteading experts. My wife and I have a 5-acre tract in the hills of Central Florida, and its really a blank slate. The land is void of any trees to the point that we are buying trees to line the property to give us some privacy.

Outside of screen, shade, and fruit trees we really need advice on how to build our homestead. We are looking to have a garden to take advantage of the fertile soil as well as get chickens, goats, a horse, ducks, and maybe some turkeys. We have raised chickens and ducks before so we know what to do with them.

My main question is how should we arrange the barn, the pastures, how many pastures do we need, etc. etc.

Since the property is a blank slate its really overwhelming I guess. I have been looking online for an ariel view of another 5-acre farm to see how someone else arranged their homestead.

Any advice or pictures would help. I think I have read hundreds of posts about what to do, but without a visual aid as far as arranging goes its hard to grasp.
The soil in many places in Florida leaves much to be desired, but if you look at tropical rainforests, they have the least fertile soil on the planet. The reason they teem with life is because of the vitality and diversity of the ecosystem. The nutrients transfer throughout the ecosystem so interrelatedly that the soil is not the primary source of nutrient flow. This is a good natural system to mimic.

I would recommend that you plant an overstory of tall fruit trees along one edge, preferably the Northern edge, and from that line, create a "forest edge" ecosystem. Perhaps a sparse date palm and banana overstory with a citrus understory as you progress a dozen yards south. Edging southward, a shrub and bush and cane layer. Each layer starting in the layer abive, and continuing a bit southward, you create a canopy slope facing southward, to catch maximum sun.

Plant perennial herbs as groundcovers. Companion plantings of herbs can repel pests and attract predatory insects. Perennial vines up the trees are more robust than annuals, but can grow out of control. In total, this forest edge ecosystem can be established just across the one border, maybe half an acre, or stretched out across the whole parcel.

In grazing land, partition it off into very small plots, and rotate the livestock throughout the grid. You can plant a tropical savanna of Dunstan chestnuts and not lose much grazing capacity, but gain the valuable nut and mast crop, with grazers providing the herbaceous clearing needed for you to harvest fallen nuts easily. The rotational grazing will not only support more animals, but also build soil fertility instead of depleting it, and also keep the animals from ingesting microbes from their feces.

For areas not dedicated to grazing, not only should you terrace the hillsides, but also undulate the flatlands. That is to say, dig furrows/trenches and create linear hills. Where it is desirous to retain water, do it along the contour lines, but where desirous to shed water, do it somewhat perpendicular to the contour lines. In a sunny area like Florida, undulating the land provides more surface area to absorb the sunlight, effectively adding more acreage. Think of it as rippled land that, if it were stretched flat, would be bigger.

Consider everything that is unproductive as an opportunity to discover a productive alternative. Fences, for example, are unproductive, but the Belgian fence, a fence on which vines or trees are planted and lashed, over time turns into a living fence providing fruit or fixing nitrogen or providing foliage for browsers like goats.

Best of luck.
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Old 11-13-2016, 12:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by makobytes View Post
Your Florida experience may have included sandy or poor soil, but FL does have some high quality soil in many places. My own yard is made of dark rich soil and will grow almost anything. Another advantage FL has is that it has 3 growing seasons, possibly even a 4th if you include strawberry's, blue berry's, and a few other fruits and nuts. Also, the water table in FL is not nearly as deep as in other parts of the country. My own father was able to use a water hose and a piece of steel pipe to make a shallow well that he used for years to irrigate several acres of nursery and farm area. Central FL should be an ideal location for growing most crops. Even some that do not grow just a little further South such as pecans and peaches. The only draw back I am seeing is that it is downwind of the Crystal River Nuclear power plant. If they would shut that place down, you would have an ideal retreat location. A good resource is an old book I purchased years ago from Reader's Digest called Back to Basics. Made for just such a property that you are talking about. Best of luck and keep us informed of your progress.
Dark soil can be a symptom of rich soil, or poor soil, and for partially the same reason. I would recommend the OP take several samples of soil from different locations around his property and have it tested. Dark soil sometimes denotes organic compost and adequate moisture. It is dark partially because the minerals are moist enough to undergo redox reactions, making them bioavailable to the plants.

Beware, however, that the same redox reactions can happen in poor soils simply because the soils are wet for part of the year. These are called redoxomorphic soils, and are usually exceptionally poor, despite being black.
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Old 11-13-2016, 11:09 AM
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Haven't read all of the replies to your post but I wanted to recommend lining your property with Leyland Cypress. I sell them here in the Northwest but my plugs (starts) actually come from Florida. I think they are used as Christmas trees in that part of the country. Anyway they are very fast growing. I call them a spite hedge. Hides the crack house next door in about 4 years. No disease or pest problems and the deer won't eat them either. Plant them on 5' spacing and stand back. They are evergreen and look like a Cedar but stay full of branches all the way to the ground.
Good luck with the rest of the property. In my experience with several new to me small acreages I would draw up at least 3 or 4 different plot plans then take the best ideas from each plan as your base plan which you can add to and change as you go.
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Old 11-13-2016, 11:53 AM
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Water is #1 that dictates everything you do.

Is it well or city. Does the land have a slope, where is the house located on that slope, can you use rain/gravity.

Understand the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, that will dictate where buildings and trees/garden should go.

A big delima for a sunshine state like Florida will be IF you're thinking of future solar on the roof or shade trees on the south side of the house, you cant have both and be efficient. (yes people here will tell you to put your panels 100' from ur house derp derp)
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Old 11-13-2016, 04:35 PM
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Plan and design for a 'net-zero' house. You can not be self-sufficient if your house requires outside inputs for electric, heating or cooling.

Consider hurricane-proof construction methods.

Annual crops require that you go through the entire process from soil prep to harvest every year, over and over again. Give serious thought to perennial crops.
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Old 11-13-2016, 05:32 PM
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I'll tell you one problem with our "farm". There is a gravel area in front of the house, granary, garage, well, and an incline. There is NOT enough room for more than one vehicle at a time, and is very difficult to turn around in.

Make sure you give yourself enough room for machinery and multiple vehicles to maneuver at the same time.
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Old 11-13-2016, 05:58 PM
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Quote:
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I'll tell you one problem with our "farm". There is a gravel area in front of the house, granary, garage, well, and an incline. There is NOT enough room for more than one vehicle at a time, and is very difficult to turn around in.

Make sure you give yourself enough room for machinery and multiple vehicles to maneuver at the same time.
ditto

As time goes by we collect more things that need to be parked.

My vehicle,
her vehicle,
tractor,
trailer for the tractor,
disc harrow,
snow blower,
dump truck,
small utility trailer,
now I need to get a livestock trailer.
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Old 11-13-2016, 06:21 PM
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Unless having a horse is an absolute requirement, and you have sufficient additional income to afford it, do not consider it. Horses are expensive in general, and high maintenance in time and resources. Especially if you plan to have much more than the horse pasture, horse barn, and house.

As to the rest of it, go with a two story barn, set up so things can be easily stored in the upper story. Some type of manual or powered lift for feed, hay, and other items.

Use movable/portable fencing panels for the pastures so you can keep the animals moving regularly without needing to have fixed fences everywhere. Figure at least two pasture areas at a time.

For the garden, do one a bit larger than you might think, for you want 1/4 of it fallow every year, on which all compost and other nutrients are added, and a green manure crop grown.

Have a decent sized greenhouse for specialty plants.

Consider an outside multi-fuel furnace/hot water heater with solar power system controls/fans/pumps

Consider a small pool or large water feature to have large quantities of water available.

Do defensive landscaping to reduce access to the house.

Consider earth sheltered or ICF construction for the house and barn.

Design and build in shelter space in all buildings.

Install large cisterns and gutter the house to capture all the water you can.

If possible, capture all the water that falls on the property with a catchment system that feeds a cistern or pond.

Incorporate armored cupolas on the house and barn roofs.

Incorporate living barrier fencing wherever possible.

Use wide overhangs on the house and barn if possible.

Install whole house fire sprinkler system and roof, wall, and under-eave sprinklers for fire suppression, both natural and Molotov cocktails.

Incorporate a harvest prep kitchen on the patio, if at all possible. Make provisions for one, even if it can not be installed now.

Install provisions for future technology and other types of options that might be wanted or needed in the future. Retro fitting is expensive. Adding onto existing systems is much easier.

Incorporate dedicated storage rooms in the house and barn, not just standard closets.

Try to have at least one air-lock entryway/exit on the house. On the personnel door of the barn, too.

Have plenty of outside water and power outlets, as well as home automation type wiring for alarms, controls, lighting, and such.

Just some things off the top of my head.
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Old 11-13-2016, 07:10 PM
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One slick set-up I saw in TX was a cow pasture with a stream and a few large pecan trees. Grazers fertilized pecans, pecans shaded the cows in summer. You might be able to replicate with smaller orchard and livestock, provided trees are big enough that the critters don't eat them. Here, we have 8 or 9 months to grow food outside. Our 1/4 acre provides about 10% of our food, but it comes in big slugs such as bushels of apples within a two week period. Organizing your productive areas with native vegetation around them to attract pollinators and 'good bugs' can improve your harvests and reduce your pest problems. Include a room with plumbing other than the kitchen (or building) for food processing, like butchering, cooking, canning and dehydrating. I often end up cooking jam on the grill side burner or running the dehydrator on the covered porch to keep from heating up the house, as an example of why this would be good. If the water table allows, have a root cellar or other cool subterranean storage area. It will eventually pay for itself. Jerry covered most of the major stuff very thoroughly.
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Old 11-13-2016, 07:23 PM
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Default Have More Plan

You can check out the "HaveMore Plan". I first saw this in the Mother Earth News many years ago - you can download this document at https://archive.org/details/TheHaveMorePlan
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Old 11-14-2016, 03:04 AM
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I live on 5 acres and I have 2 horses. you should have at least 2 pastures so you can rotate them. Five acres is a good sized acreage for 1 or2 horses. as far as the other animals go they would not require much pasture.
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