LOCATION SELECTION - Backyard Farming: Homesteading: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency - Kim Pezza

Backyard Farming: Homesteading: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency - Kim Pezza (2015)


When it comes to selecting a location for your backyard farm or homestead, there are essentially two paths to choose from: either you select the location, or the location selects you. To be honest, it usually ends up being somewhere in between; the location you end up choosing will be determined by constraints such as distance to one’s job, your budget, etc. Perhaps one of the most restrictive variables to consider is finding a location suitable for the project you have in mind. Some people may be lucky enough to be able to choose any location they want, but unfortunately not everyone has this luxury. Even those who can pick and choose whatever location they want will usually not find a property that already has everything they want. Even a so-called “dream property” will not always be perfect; there is almost always some little thing that isn’t quite right, some compromise or room for improvement.

But before you go property shopping, there is still some planning to do to ensure that you have all your facts in line, and your wish list finalized.

A Wish List Questionnaire

An example of some things to consider when putting together your wish list:

✵ How large do you want your homestead to be? Remember: if you are limited in space, your options may be limited in this aspect.

✵ What do you want to grow, and how much? (This can always be adjusted year to year.)

✵ Are you just growing for yourself, or do you hope to sell your produce as well? (Again, this may depend on space available.)

✵ Do you want to grow organic? If so, do you have all the resources you will need (organic seeds, fertilizers, etc.)?

✵ If you have the space, will you have one large garden or a number of smaller ones? Sometimes making a few smaller gardens instead of one big one can have a positive impact on the look of the landscape, without affecting what you can grow.

✵ Do you want a simple garden or a more elaborate one? Just remember: the more elaborate, the more time (and money) it may take. A simple garden can produce just as well (and as much) as an elaborate, highly decorative one, and may even be a bit easier on the wallet and schedule. However, if you decide later on that you do want something a bit fancier you can still make the necessary changes at any time.

✵ Will you be doing companion planting? If so, then you will need to keep in mind which plants will do better together and which plants will need to stay clear of each other. You will need to take this information into consideration when planning your garden, even if using the container method.

✵ What shape do you want your garden to be? If you are building a traditional or raised bed garden, you can make it in almost any shape you want. The usual shapes are square and rectangular, but some are round or oval, while some raised beds may even be tiered (if you have the time to spend).

—From Backyard Farming: Growing Vegetables and Herbs

Your Dream Location

We’ll start with the dream scenario of being able to select the exact location that you want, one that has everything that you will need to create your homestead or backyard farm, and work backwards from there. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the rural homestead and backyard farm.

To be clear, just because you choose to set-up your farm or homestead in a rural area doesn’t mean that you have to pull out all the stops, with herds of livestock, huge gardens and an orchard all sharing space on a large acreage property. On the contrary: you can just as easily decide to have only a few gardens and a few apple trees on a small acreage farm. Similarly, you can choose to purchase a large piece of property, consisting of many acres, but choose to dedicate only a small spot for your personal food use.

With rural acreage comes a lot of flexibility, as well as a lot of hard work, depending on the size of your operation, the number of buildings, whether or not you choose to have animals, and so on. Please keep in mind that in the end, the actual acreage that you will need will depend on what your plans are. The best bet is to figure out the acreage that you need and, if possible, add a few extra acres to allow for future expansion. It never fails: no matter how well you plan, you will always find something later on that you want to add to your farm.

Planning Your Wish List

But before you start house shopping, it helps to have a good idea of just what you want to do, as far as farming. Do you want huge gardens of food and flowers, or just food? Are you thinking about keeping animals? If so, what type? You’ll need much less space to keep 20 chickens, for example, than you would to keep two or three head of cattle. How about fruit trees? A small number (depending on what trees you get and their size at maturity) are manageable in a small space, but if you are planning a small orchard (see Chapter 7), and particularly if you’re thinking of marketing yourself, you will definitely need more open space (you may even want to consider looking at existing orchards that are for sale).

Adding Trees to Your Wish List

If you are planning on adding trees to your backyard farm, the first thing to do is decide what size tree you have room for, and determine which variety is best suited to your wants and needs. Trees come in three general size categories: standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf.

Growing 18-20 feet tall, the standard tree is the large tree that we are all familiar with. Although it may be a number of years before some fruit/nut trees produce, this concern can be alleviated by planting dual purpose trees, using them for shade, firewood and/or lumber. Space-wise, you will need about 22-26 feet between rows for multiple trees.

Semi-dwarf trees can be both commercial and backyard producers; however, many still grow too large for the average backyard farm. At 12-15 feet tall, they are about 50-75 percent of the size of a standard tree, and need about 18-20 feet between rows for multiple trees.

Dwarf trees are the smallest of the trees, and excellent for small spaces. However due to their shallow root system, some dwarf trees may need additional support, especially if they bear heavy fruit—some trees may not be able to totally support themselves during heavy bearing periods. Dwarf trees can run 8-10 feet in height, needing only 14-16 feet between rows. (As a side note, there are six stages of growth on fruit trees.)

This potted pineapple tree is already beginning to resemble its larger counterparts. For best results, container gardening should be used with dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties. Photo by Carly Shell under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

The best time to plant is during complete dormancy, those times when the plant is very much alive, but is not actively growing. This period is usually early spring or later fall, but it is best to check with your local nursery or extension office for your area, if you are unsure.

Another important point is to check as to whether or not the selected variety of fruit is self-pollinating; if not, remember that you will need a second variety to serve as a pollinator.


In terms of livestock, your land selection should depend on what type of animals you plan on keeping. For example, chickens do well in open areas, slightly wooded areas and even wooded areas (although heavily wooded areas present the additional problem of predators, so housing will need to be especially tight and secure). The main consideration when selecting a rural location (while planning on keeping birds) is the number of birds you’re planning to keep (covered in more detail in Chapter 7). If you plan on free-ranging your birds during the day, letting them roam your property, you will probably want to make sure that you have no close neighbors, and avoid being too close to any road that the birds can wander into. Remember, most or even all of your acreage could run behind your home, plotted in a long, narrow lot, leaving you with lots of land, while still having close neighbors and houses only a few yards away.

If you decide to keep ducks or geese, keep in mind that both animals have unique needs that require advance consideration. Geese are large birds—one adult goose requires roughly the same amount of space as two large, adult chickens. (This is just an average estimate, but it should give you some idea of a guideline for necessary space.) And, although they do need access to water, you don’t necessarily need a piece of property with a pond or other water feature (although it can make your life a bit easier). Even just a hard plastic child’s pool will do (depending on the number of birds), though it will need daily cleaning.

If you want to keep larger animals, like cattle, goats, pigs or horses, you’ll need as much room as you can get. Although we will cover this in more detail in Chapter 6, the main reason for needing more space is that you’ll want at least a little grazing area for your animals. Not only is natural grazing better for them, it’s better for your pocketbook, saving you an appreciable amount in feed costs each year. It’s fine if some of the pasture area is wooded, but keep in mind that goats will nibble on trees or bushes (they especially love pine trees), so you may need to figure out some kind of fencing for any trees or shrubs that you want to keep. However, fencing can be expensive, and its installation can be a big job if you do it yourself (especially with no help), while professional installation can cost a pretty penny in its own right. In short, it will be to your benefit if you can find a place that is already properly fenced for the livestock that you plan to keep.

Finally, if you plan to keep larger animals, make sure that there are appropriate outbuildings (such as barns or some other type of shelter) already on the property, as you really don’t want to have to build for yourself, especially if you have animals waiting. You’ll also want to make sure that the property has easy and consistent access to water; you don’t want to have to haul water to the barn or pasture multiple times per day (even a hose hooked up to a faucet in the barn will be a great help). On that note, if there are faucets in any of the outbuildings, make sure that they don’t freeze in the winter. Your real estate agent should be able to answer these questions for you, along with what the current owner does to prevent freezing.

Rural Food Gardens

The one thing all backyard farmers and homesteaders in rural areas will want is a good-sized food garden. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure your soil will work for your needs. Sand and clay can make projects difficult, as you will usually need to blend in other soil before it becomes suitable for growing. If you need assistance in adjusting your soil, your local extension office or a good nursery can usually help. You could also consider installing raised beds (covered more extensively in Chapter 6). Although raised beds do carry an initial expense, they can be a great solution when the soil or drainage is bad, as well as help with water conservation in areas of little rain.

In selecting a property for gardens, make sure that it is not overly shaded, with at least part of the day’s sun shining on the area you want your garden to be in. Partial sun is fine, as many plants will do well in partial sunlight/partial shade conditions. However, few food plants will thrive in 100 percent shade, and some do require full sun, so unless you are ready and able to do a lot of tree clearing for your garden, choose your spot appropriately. On the other hand, if you are planning on keeping livestock, a few trees (protected from animal nibbles when necessary) in the pasture will provide much needed shade for animals grazing in summer. Some trees around the house are good as well, as the shade can help to keep things cool in the summer (and keep your air conditioning bill low!)

Choosing a Rural Property

Finally, look at the property itself. Say you’re looking at a property with 20 acres; is all that acreage usable? If not, is enough of it usable for your needs? For example, half of that acreage may be wooded, and thus not suitable for a pasture or garden. If you want a woodlot or woods, this may work for you, but not if you’re looking for all open land. On the other hand, if all the open land you need seems to be there, is part of it swampy? Are there wetlands, or is it prone to floods? Swampy areas are not good for livestock and areas that flood will be of no use once they’re underwater. Some wetlands have government regulations attached, even on private property. In short, it’s important to pay close attention to the land.

If you are looking to be fully self-sufficient, including heating and cooling, then you will want to look for properties with a large, preferably hardwood woodlot which, when harvested and used properly, will heat your home for many years to come (see Chapter 6 for more information.)

Architecture and Facilities

Selecting a property by its architecture is more common than you may think. Even when looking for the perfect farm, the first thing that will usually catch your eye is the house and any outbuildings (especially large barns) on the property.

You’ll want a beautiful big farmhouse, of course, but it also needs to be functional and suit for your needs. For example, if you plan to do a lot of canning, freezing and cooking, you don’t want a kitchen that looks like an afterthought. That cute little farmhouse on the hill with the two tiny bedrooms will do you no good if you have three kids. While either of these situations may be remedied through a remodel or an addition, this adds to your bottom line cost-wise, to say nothing of the stress and hassle of living alongside extensive renovations. In the end, you should hope to find a location that addresses all of your specific needs, letting you move into a home that is exactly what you want.

Historic Homesteads

In your house hunting, you may come across an old historic house or farm just begging for restoration. You may also find old, abandoned farms (in varying condition) that, should you have the time and money (and the place is worthy of restoration), can be very rewarding purchases. An old, restored and working farm can be a beautiful place, as well as an attractive backdrop and marketing draw if you plan on having a business there. Make sure to have the location professionally checked out before you put in your offer, to make sure that it can be restored. Just about any place can be restored, but there is a difference between a “fixer-upper” and a “money pit.” It all comes down to what kind of money and time you are willing to spend, and if you can find the right people to do it.

Check to see if there is any assistance available in your area when restoring a historic home.

When considering any outbuildings on the property, similar considerations apply as when looking at a home. Will the buildings fit your needs? Are they in good condition, or will they need some work? If so, do you want to be responsible for it? No matter what your plans, you can always use a nice big barn, even if you’re not raising animals. A good barn is great for storage, drying, hosting a farm market, etc. But upkeep can be expensive, especially when it comes time for a new roof. Small, carriage house-sized buildings can also work, depending on your needs. A decent-sized carriage house can hold a few goats, a horse, or even a milk cow or two (depending on the size of the building). If you’re not keeping animals, it also serves as great storage for garden tools, tractors and such. If the building is located next to the house, some carriage houses can make for good garages, if they are wide enough. If the property has some structures you can’t find an immediate use for, don’t worry; there are plenty of great ways to repurpose unused structures. For example, an old corn crib can be turned into chicken coops or storage sheds.

Miniature Barns

What if you find that perfect country property, with the perfect garden sites, the perfect house in the perfect location, but it only has a garage and a small outbuilding with just enough space for cars and tools? If it is a property that you really like and want, you can build a barn, but if you are only planning on keeping a few goats, a couple of horses or a dairy cow, many people purchase the miniature barns that the Amish and Mennonites build, instead of building a big barn they may not really need. These come in many sizes and styles that blend with almost any existing architecture. Usually built off-site, they are trucked in already completed (including exterior paint or stain) to your prepared spot, ready to use. They’re well built, less expensive than full-scale construction and easier to care for than their huge counterparts. They can even be moved to another spot later on, if necessary. They’re an excellent alternative for any number of uses.


There are a final few considerations to keep in mind when purchasing a rural homestead or backyard farm (for those who are planning to be totally self-sufficient, or as self-sufficient as possible). For self-sufficiency, the property will require some basic amenities, including a septic tank, a well and a wood stove (with on-site fuel, such as a hardwood stand). If your property has these features, you are well on your way to being self-sufficient (or at least free from the power company). If you are quite fortunate, you may even find a home with solar power. A property with all of these elements doesn’t necessarily mean that the home is off the grid, but it does mean that it could be, if the homeowner chooses.


A well provides the house and farm with water. Many older farms (as well as some newer farms) have wells located at both the house and barn. When purchasing a home, some potential buyers will opt to have the water tested to make sure all is okay. This is certainly important, but another item to check (which many buyers neglect) is whether there have been any problems with the well, such as running low or even going dry. Your realtor should be able to find this out from the owner, especially if they have lived at the site for many years. A well going dry doesn’t necessarily mean that it has run out of water; there could be any number of problems, including issues with the pump, which could be causing it. However, if there have been problems, it would be a good idea to have the well checked by a professional. Many times, it is something that can be remedied without the expense of having to dig a new well. If it is a problem with the well itself, you’ll need to decide whether or not you want to purchase the property and spend the money to have a new well put in (which could be a big expense).

Drawing your water from a well is not like having town or city water. You need to use more caution when on a well, such as not letting faucets run continually. No more 20 minute showers; you’ll need to use caution in times of low rainfall, when the amount of water in your well can go down. That being said, there really is nothing like good, cold well water. If your farm house has a working hand pump outside over the well, it can come in handy, especially at times when your pump goes down due to a mechanical problem or power failure. It will allow you keep drawing water from the well by hand.

Septic Tanks

Most rural homes will also have septic tanks. A septic tank is basically an underground tank where waste water from the home—sink, shower, toilet, and bathtub—is stored until the homeowner has it pumped out by a professional and removed. How often the tank is pumped depends on how many people live in the home, overall water usage and waste generation. Septic tanks should be checked before a purchase is made; however, as many do not want to have to go through the trouble and expense of digging the tank up in order to make sure everything is in working order, the check is often skipped. Thankfully, some areas require the owner to have septic tanks checked before the home goes on the market.

With a septic tank, you will not have the expense of town or city sewers to deal with; however, when something goes wrong, it can be an expensive job. Regardless, for the self-sufficient homestead, the septic system is important.

Self-Sufficiency Heating

A working fireplace or wood stove, though not necessary in the home, can come in handy. For the self-sufficient homestead or farm (which also has a good hardwood wood lot) a wood stove (interior or exterior type) can mean heat for the home all winter long. While you will have to chop and split enough wood to last you through the winter (which can be a lot of work) you save yourself a lot of money heating your home this way. Do not—I repeat, do notattempt to fell trees in your wood lot unless you know what to do and how to do it. If you are still learning how to topple a tree, always have an experienced person with you. Even after you have become experienced in felling a tree, there should still be a second person with you at all times; every year, around 200 individuals, professionals included, are killed by a tree they were trying to take down.

A fireplace is good for supplemental heating when you are home, but won’t work as well as a wood stove if you plan to heat the entire home. Plus, it isn’t safe to leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. For those who are living on the grid, a fireplace presents a great cooking alternative during a power failure (if you don’t have a gas stove). It also makes a great alternate cooking area for general purposes, and a number of retailers now sell the equipment and tools needed for open hearth cooking. It is possible to make full meals in a fireplace, or just keep a pot of water boiling or some coffee percolating.

Note that continual cooking in a fireplace means having to keep a closer eye on your chimney, as it may need more frequent cleaning as a result. Chimneys should be checked yearly for creosote, animal nests, animals who have taken up residence in the chimney (raccoons love to do this) and soot; if you do a lot of cooking in your fireplace, you are adding grease to the buildup on the sides of the chimney, which can contribute to a chimney fire, and which should be checked for as well. This should not prevent you from having a fireplace, or a wood stove for that matter; it really is no different than having your furnace checked and cleaned for safety.

Although fireplaces and wood stoves are primarily seen by most of the population as just a useful decoration, the backyard farmer and homesteader can find useful purposes for both. If given the opportunity, make sure you have at least one in your home.

Urban and Suburban Locations

While having a homestead or backyard farm in a rural area is the ultimate goal for many—they see food freedom, space for the family and the ability to raise exactly what they want as being the key benefits—some choose (or need to) live in urban areas. While urban and suburban farmers are somewhat more limited in what they can do, compared to their rural counterparts, there are still a lot of options available.

When looking at urban or suburban areas with the intent of creating a small urban farm, you’ll start by considering many of the same points as you would for the rural farm. You still want good soil, if you can get it; a house in good order, with a few outbuildings if possible (although chances are they will be small, even tiny); and as much space as you can get, yard-wise (although you won’t have quite as much as on a rural farm).

Making the Best Use of Urban and Suburban Spaces

For space, if the size of the yard matters more to you than the size of the house, you can ask your realtor to show you homes on extra-large lots, even homes that have an adjacent empty lot for sale. Keep in mind that, if you are searching for a property within the city itself, you may need to consider using vertical and/or container gardening, along with traditional or raised beds, in order to maximize your growing space. As you search, look around each yard to see what you can do with what is already there, and whether or not you will be able to add in whatever else you may need to accomplish what you want.

If you are planning to take full advantage of the property’s existing space, front and backyard both, be sure that there will be no problem with growing vegetables in the front yard. As mentioned earlier, some cities, towns and homeowners associations frown on vegetable gardens in the front yard. While unfortunate, until there is more education available on the fact that a vegetable garden in the front yard, when managed properly, can look as attractive as any other garden, backyard farmers will continue to run into these sorts of obstacles.

One more thing: don’t discount a property if there is already an existing, non-food garden in the yard. It is more than possible to plant vegetables within existing gardens and flowers—in fact, many food gardens utilize flowers as a form of companion planting.

Companion Planting

Companion planting is the age-old method of planting plants together that will “get along” and can be beneficial to each other during their time in the garden. It also takes into consideration those plants that would not get along due to, for example, competition for the same nutrients. That being said, companion planting isn’t necessary in the garden unless there are plants that are truly incompatible. However, you will find the extra time and effort put into this arrangement to be worthwhile.

Some examples of plant companions that work well together include:

✵ Tomatoes and onions: Onions help keep slugs off tomato plants.

✵ Beans and corn: When given a head start in growing, corn will become the support system for the beans, with the bean plant growing up the corn stalk. These are not only good companions, but also a great space saver in a small garden.

✵ Cabbage (and cabbage family): Plant aromatics such as sage, thyme, or lavender to keep cabbage worms away.

✵ Garlic and roses: Garlic keeps the Japanese beetle away from the rose bushes.

✵ Peas and squash: Trellis well together in vertical gardens.

✵ “The Three Sisters”: Corn, beans, and squash with beans using corn as a support and squash planted around the bottom.

✵ Basil and tomato: When planted together, basil is said to improve the flavor of the tomato.

—From Backyard Farming: Growing Vegetables and Herbs

Urban and Suburban Water

In terms of water sources, most urban gardens will need to rely on city water. For those unhappy with their water provider, it is possible that some areas will allow either a well or cistern to be installed, which can be quite helpful with watering, as well as helping you avoid running up your water bill. This is also a solution for those who do not want to use chlorinated or fluoride-spiked water on their plants.

In areas where wells and cisterns are not permitted, a rain barrel can also work. However, if you plan to collect rainwater, be careful and check your area’s regulations. Although rare, in some areas it is against the law to collect rainwater from your roof; this water is not considered to be your water to use, and actually carries penalties for its use. As far as sewage goes, unlike rural areas you will most likely be hooked into the city or town’s sewer system. That being said, newer suburban developments that are far enough outside of the town or city limits may have septic systems, along with wells.

Urban and Suburban Heating

Your house in the city or suburbs may have a fireplace or wood burning stove; but, unlike living on a rural farm, you will need to purchase your wood or pellets for burning, unless you happen to own a woodlot somewhere else. However, keeping modern heating costs in mind, I would say it is well worth working out the cost comparisons between heating with a wood burning stove or gas heat. Even if you are not supplying your own fuel, you could still save money depending on what you pay for oil, gas or electric heat.

Urban and Suburban Livestock

Even in the city or the suburbs, it is possible to have some livestock (although not to the extent that you can in a rural area). A number or cities and suburbs are now allowing chickens, and some are beginning to allow goats and honey bees. In most cases, the number of animals you can own will be limited (sometimes strictly limited), but it’s a start. We can only hope that as more people begin to raise their own food and understand more about smaller livestock, and how they can easily live in a backyard, the easier it will become to keep these animals in urban locations. If you are set on keeping livestock, check your local zoning laws first to avoid disappointment and any situation where you might need to sell your animals, or your property. And, if zoning laws prohibit your keeping animals, there is nothing that says you can’t fight to make changes!

Although many urban and suburban farmers are beginning to keep bees, be prepared for some big questions from your neighbors, many of whom may not understand your bees. Some might even fear them, afraid that they will be attacked by swarms, or stung as the bees wander into their yard during pollen and nectar gathering. Although bees can be aggressive at times, honeybees are usually quite docile; unless the neighbor disturbs the hive, they have no more of a risk of being stung by your bees than by honeybees in the wild.

Should you choose to keep urban bees (and are allowed by your city to do so) it will be up to you to educate your neighbors. It may also help if you can keep your hive out of view, in a fenced backyard or similar. When the neighbors begin to come around and understand, try sharing a bit of honey with them to make them appreciate your bees even more. Who knows; they may even start looking forward to their visits!

Urban and Suburban Gardens

For those who live in an urban or suburban area, know that there are plenty of opportunities to raise (at least some of) your own food. Although you may not be able to reach self-sufficiency, many people have found ways to do a lot on just a small plot; all it takes is a little planning.

Many of the scenarios we’ve discussed in this book have assumed unlimited funds and a wide range of available properties. In reality, most cannot purchase or even find a property that has everything they’re looking for. So, what do you do when you can’t buy your fantasy property? The best thing is to prioritize. What do you want or need the most from your property? What is most important to you? Can you purchase a property with the space that you need land-wise, and add the buildings, fencing or garden space that you need slowly, over time?

Proper planning and smart layouts can turn even a small backyard space into an efficient, productive backyard farm. Photo by Woodley Wonderworks.

Are there things on your wish list that you can actually do without? In other words, are there things that you would like to have, but which are not necessary to accomplish your food and farm goals? (These items would be considered more of a “luxury” rather than a necessity.) Do you really need to live where you are looking? Sometimes, it can be cheaper to live outside of the city than in it. Look to get as much bang for your buck as possible in terms of property; you might find that you can meet, or even surpass your goals, especially if you are willing to drive a bit farther to work. Zoning regulations will also likely be more farm-friendly outside of the city.

Working Your Existing Property

What if you want to, or even have to work with the property that you already own? This can be a challenge, but likely not as bad as you might think—especially if you have lived on the property for quite a while. You know the property well; over the years, you may have been thinking about where you would put certain things on the property, gaining an idea of what will and will not work, what can be changed easily, what can be changed with some effort, and what can’t be changed at all.

The easiest first step is to sketch out the footprint of the lot, complete with where each outbuilding is, and any trees, bushes, etc. This does not have to be to scale, so long as it gives you an idea of the shape of the grounds, the locations of buildings and existing flora, so that you can plan out where you can put your gardens (you can also do this once you purchase your new property). If you have a septic tank on the property, you’ll also want to mark the leach field on your map (the septic drain field area where the liquid will flow to from the septic). This is where the liquid is cleansed before it has a chance to meet up with the ground water. It is not recommended to put food plants on the leach beds—not even raised beds. Though the job of the leach field or septic drain is to filter and remove the harmful contaminants from the liquid that comes out of the septic tank, you can never be sure that the liquid is absolutely clean of harmful bacteria and contaminants. Adding soil for planting can also have an effect on the efficiency of the field, and turning the soil can be damaging to the leach field. If you can’t locate your leach field, try to find someone who can. Otherwise, you risk contaminated food and damage to your leach field that can be expensive to repair.

Once you have the area roughly sketched out, you can work to start laying out your gardens. Photos can also help, especially when going to a nursery to select plants. These can help you remember any unusual spaces—those little corners where you can tuck something in, and all the little obstacles that you’ll need to work around.


Speaking of obstacles, when you have things in the yard you need to work around, regulations to deal with, and plans that don’t quite pan out, it is important that you do not allow yourself to become discouraged. Plans can change in mid-stream; this is your chance to learn how best to quickly revamp your homestead layout. Worst case scenario, this is the point when you start over and redesign.

Anything can become an obstacle. A tree in the wrong spot that you don’t want to remove, a leach field straight down the center of your property, permits, plantings that don’t work the way you thought they would … any number of problems can pop up during development. While some of these are obstacles that can cause major problems, many are simply a nuisance that can easily be corrected. For example, if you find that you don’t have a good spot in the ground for that blueberry bush you wanted, see if it will work in a container on the deck or by the door. If that particular blueberry bush won’t work in a container, find one that will. If you want some flowers in the garden but you don’t want to spare the space, select edible flowers. Is a tree that you want to keep shading the garden area? See if it can be trimmed. If that won’t work, watch to see how much sun and shade the area gets; it could be a good spot for the more shade-tolerant plants that you want to use.

Problems that you can’t figure out can quite possibly be solved through the help of a nursery professional or extension agent. They can explain to you why something isn’t working, and whether the glitch can be fixed. Or, they could tell you that something won’t work at all, and suggest a good substitute, if one exists. Extension offices usually have a master gardener program, where highly experienced gardeners may even be able to come out to your home, at no cost to you, to assist in assessing your situation and make appropriate suggestions.

The internet can be a good resource as well when trying to get through (or around) the problems that you have run into. There are dozens of gardening and farming forums with members who may have had the same situations as you, and who might have some idea as to how to help. In addition, there are a number of informative websites created by individuals describing their experiences on their own farms, homesteads or urban farms.

Last, but not least, create a good physical library for yourself. While the internet does have wonderful resources, you can never go wrong having your own library of gardening and homesteading books and related periodicals. That way, the information is always at your fingertips, even when the Wi-Fi is out. When you find good information online, print it out and create notebooks with what you’ve found.

So, now that you have found your property (or you’ve decided to use the one you’re on), you’ve got the gardens figured out, and you know where your animals are going, it is time to decide exactly what you will be raising and growing on your fledgling homestead.