Planning the Homestead

Digging and chopping and planting, oh my! It’s officially time to start laying out the homestead – to get out the tape measure, stakes, and hammer and start strategizing. With just under a third of an acre of usable land to work with, and a lot of projects on the list, we need to plan very carefully. Where does the property get the most sunlight? Where are we putting the house addition? How many outbuildings are we talking about, really? Some of our projects and ideas will need to be melded to others, some will need to go above the house, or under it, and we are going to need to be very organized so that we use every available square inch in the best way possible. That being said, we also want to leave plenty of space for the kids to run and frolic, and for us to kick back at the end of a good, busy, homesteading day (one of the main reasons we moved to the country in the first place!).

Plotting the Garden

Pegging the GardenThe first order of business is pegging out the garden, a project that we started working on last week. There is a municipal reserve directly to the west of our lot, so we obtained a property survey to ensure we stay within our own boundaries. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that our land extends an extra 4’ to the west than initially assumed (clearing up some confusion about where the reserve started and our property ended, and why the corner posts were where they were).

The space for the garden has moved three times thus far, and we think we’ve finally found the perfect spot. It may not be a great location aesthetically, but in terms of functionality, it’s ideal. The original plan was to put the garden in the northeast corner of the property, where there was lots of sunshine and plenty of room for possible expansions. However, for the pros it had in terms sun and space, it lacked in access to water. (Also, by shifting the garden from the northeast corner of the lot, prime real estate would be freed up for other projects.) Thus, a move was in order, and the garden was relocated to line up with the west side of the house.

Once we had the plot pegged out, we noticed that the house shaded the area quite a bit more significantly than previously thought. The only thing to do was to move the pegs one last time – directly south of their current location and away from the shade of the house. So, even though the garden will now be pretty much in our front yard, the sun will hit it perfectly, and it will be close to a free ground water source via our sump pump discharge. (Gaby’s promised to make the area look pretty, so fingers crossed!)

Making Space for a Composter

Clearing BushThe next order of business is building the composter – a great way to reduce our food wastage and to naturally add nutrients back into the garden. Gaby is currently working on clearing the rest of the bush area on the northwest corner of the property to make room for this project, and to make our yard a bit safer for the kiddos (there are a lot of sharp thorny bushes in there!). This should be a fairly inexpensive piece to build, and a great way to get our feet wet with our spring plans.

Thorns
The brush on the west side of our property is filled with thorny shrubs.
Mechanical and Tool Shed

Every homesteader needs a place to store tools and other paraphernalia, so a shed is a must. Though there’s still a lot of things that we need (if you haven’t checked out our Facebook page yet, you need to see the video of Gaby cutting logs without the proper tools – check it out at www.facebook.com/tradingdesksfordirt!), we are starting to overflow our garage space. We are hoping to start working on this project later in the summer, but a lot will depend on budget and available funds.  And, if we’re already building a shed, I would love to make it a two story structure, and add a playhouse on top for the kids, complete with slide and swing set coming off the sides of the building.

Greenhouse (and Possible Woodworking Shop)

Another video you need to check out on our Facebook page is the one we shared from Verge Permaculture on passive solar greenhouses. We think that it would be a terrific fit for us and what we’re trying to accomplish here, and are hoping to implement it sooner rather than later. We’d also love to add a heating source to it (maybe a rocket stove?!) so that we can grow fresh vegetables all year round. And, if we’re planning on putting a greenhouse facing south somewhere on the property, why not join another outbuilding to the north of it, and put on a woodworking shop.

Smaller Projects with a Bigger Budget

There are loads of other smaller projects that we’d like to accomplish on our homestead, but budget and space will have a say in what’s possible, and in what order.

  • Solar Panels – there’s enough real estate on the garage roof to power our entire house, and possibly even put some back into the grid.
  • Water Cisterns – with almost 18,000 litres of potential water storage under our front porch, it’s a perfect place to install insulated water cisterns to capture the run off from our sump pump for use in our garden and other projects around the property.
  • Root Cellar – my most wanted project, and the one that will take the most planning – a place to store all the fresh garden vegetables for longevity, canned goods, and anything else that benefit from a cool, dark, dry space. Though there is currently no planned area for this project, one possible location would be to put it under the house addition whenever it’s built.
  • Backyard Oasis – an idyllic spotfor us to sit and relax around a crackling fire after long and fruitful days on the homestead. (I’m pretty sure we’ll need to erect a woodshed this summer to house the deadwood from our spring cleanup.)
Chopping Logs
Don’t try this at home! Not the safest way to cut logs, but it got the job done.

As you can see, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but as long as we work together as a family, budget properly, don’t spend money before we’ve earned it, and put in a lot of sweat equity, we will be able to take our little piece of land in the country and transform it to the homestead of our dreams. What kind of projects are you guys working on? We love hearing about different ideas and goals, and who knows, maybe we can collaborate to increase the value of all our properties.


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