September 2, 2012

Homestead Master Plan, 2012 Revision

Although we continually seem to be analyzing what we're doing and evaluating what we've done, once a year we try to put it all down on our master plan. We drew up our first one in 2009, the year we bought the place. Every year we get to know the place a little better, and what we want to do with it a little better. I actually didn't think we had many changes to make, but after talking about things, we did make a few. Things in red on the sketch below are what's on the drawing board.

Revised homestead master plan for 2012
Copies of all our master plans are available in my book, 5 Acres & A
Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient
. For more information, click here.

The biggest change is in where we've been growing our grain. (Compare to last year's master plan, here.) This year, it's labeled "pigs". While it seemed a logical place for grain at the time, the ground was neglected for so many years that it seems impossible to overcome the morning glories, blackberries, kudzu, and other unwanteds established there. Goats do a good job of brush clearing, but after reading Sepp Holzer and Joel Salatin, the best solution for getting to the root of the problem seems to be pigs.

This would not be a permanent area for pigs, but will be where we'll put them this spring. If that goes well and we want to continue with them, rotating their location with temporary fencing makes more sense. Ever since reading an article about Australian pasture cropping in the July issue of Acres USA, I've been wondering why we couldn't modify the concept with pigs; fence off a pig area in one of the pastures every year, and follow with a grain & legume crop right there in the pasture (keeping the fence up of course;). After harvest, the goats and chickens feast on the remains and we can reseed as needed for pasture.

Our previously designated pig area, will be fenced for a doe browse. We will enlarge it by extending existing fences to meet along the property line. This will make a triangle shaped area, as you can see on the plan. This area is of particular concern because it is loaded with invading kudzu and poison ivy, all creeping our way. The goats will keep all that at bay.

A barn (or maybe barns, we haven't decided yet), is always under discussion and we really haven't settled on "the" spot. A central location makes the most sense, with fences and gating to give all animals access to various pasture and browse areas. Having a pie shaped piece of property makes that a little more challenging. Our current outbuildings (one for animal housing and one for workshop/tool storage) are becoming increasingly dilapidated with use, and eventually we're going to have to replace them both. Our carport is also in deplorable condition, so that neither of us will be surprised if we wake up one morning and find it tumbled down!

Current thinking is to tear down the "coal barn," and rebuild in the same footprint. This would become a real workshop for Dan on one side, and a milking parlor over the existing concrete slab. We could run a water line to it so I'd have running water there. (Add a small point-of-use water heater and it would be absolutely deluxe). We could also add a carport onto the front. The old carport could become an outdoor room, with an outdoor oven, barbecue grill, smoker, picnic table, etc.

Loafing shelter and hay storage would be a separate building. I'm thinking movable fencing could make pens as needed (kidding, kids, etc). Poultry housing would go here too, though not the guineas. From what I've read about guineas, home is home is home. They don't take to being moved around so I figure we might as well start them where we want them, near the buck barn because the woods are full of ticks.

Fencing is an ongoing project. We've pretty much finished the privacy fence / wood storage, and eventually hope to add a gate across the driveway and finish it to the house. We'd also fence the other side of the yard so that if we ever get a dog again (sigh), he'll have run of the back yard.

The other fencing concern is the red line you see on the left side of the property. Currently it's wire mesh and a row of crepe myrtles. The rental house though, sees lots of folks come and go. While everyone always seems nice enough, young children especially are attracted to the goats. They want to see the goats, pet the goats, feed the goats, throw things at the goats, hit the goats, hang on the fence, pull on the fence, climb the fence. You get the picture. Since the incident last spring with the neighbor's dog, we've been thinking "out of sight, out of mind" is the best solution. A privacy fence along here however, would be neither cheap (long stretch) nor easy to install (tons of tree roots). It's on the plan however, even if it's just one panel at a time.

We've left the pond on the plan too, though that isn't even on the radar. Still, it's good to have these things in mind as future plans are made. Honey bees too. Also eventually digging out the old swimming pool and building a greenhouse over the top. The pool itself could be the foundation for the greenhouse and a good spot for a root cellar in the greenhouse "basement."

One thing in the planning stage that I couldn't fit on the sketch, is the greywater areas we've been discussing.

sketch of ideas for utilizing greywater
Sketch of ideas for greywater.

With the hall bathroom scheduled as our next indoor project, we've been trying to finalize a plan. All the plumbing is at the back of the house. Part of it we'd like to drain and filter with a greywater wetland. This would be used to irrigate the field on the other side of the fence. Next to the house, laundry water would drain into a raised bed greywater garden. This side of the house is where the bedrooms are and faces southwest. I'd like to frame the two bedroom window with pergola type trellises, and plant deciduous vines there to shade the windows from the hot summer sun. These would be watered with the laundry greywater.

This is a long term plan and will likely change again next year. What it does for us though, is gives us a framework for decision making. It keeps us from spontaneously building something that would be in the way a few years down the road. If you're interested in seeing the original master plan and our progression of ideas, check out the following links:

Copies of my homestead plans can also be found in 5 Acres & A Dream The Book.


Tombstone Livestock said...

My suggestion would be to move the pigs futher away from your house/BBQ, outdoor area. Pigs are smelly and unless you want to follow them around and clean up behind them you will have a bigger fly problem than you have with goat manure. If you only plan on a pig or two and raising them from weaners to butcher size they will not need that large of an area. Although I do not know what your scale is on your drawing.

Laura said...

I echo the above comment - I had my pigs behind my house one year, and everything was covered with dust (and whatever else they stirred up). I'm still finding it on things and I moved from there a year ago!

Consider using electric netting to contain your pigs (and poultry). It's relatively inexpensive if taken care of through the winter (like not leaving it out...). I've used it for years with sheep and pigs and now poultry, and it works well. For goats, not so well - they can jump over it, but I suppose if they had lots of stuff to eat, they wouldn't be quite so interested in what was on the other side!

It's always fun to see what someone else is planning - you get/give great ideas!!

Sue said...

Ambitious plans, as always. Very inspirational.

The years that we did pigs (4-H for the kids), we used 16' welded wire panels and rotated the pen around a portion of the yard. They did a great job of rototilling the area that became my vegetable garden. I did not find them overly smelly, but the pen was cleaned on a regular basis. I'm thinking of getting a couple of piglets next year when I start milking the goats.

Bernadine said...

Hi Leigh, Looks like you have a great plan in place. I can't give you practical advise because... well, I don't have pigs, goats or a barn. Just an indoor rabbit, a nasty dog and a first year veggie garden. However, the one thing I think I can comment on is I really like your plan to let the goats graze where the kudzu is creeping into your property. They will keep anything at bay. I love reading about all your great plans for your home and land.

Leigh said...

TL and Laura, having never had pigs, I appreciate the info. I have to say that both Joel and Sepp say pigs aren't smelly if managed properly :P

As I said in my (lengthy, I know) explanation, this would not be a permanent pig area. This is where they are most needed to start. Nor are specific details worked out, that comes next. As I said, the plan will likely be to rotate them every year, partitioning off a portion of the area with temporary fencing, so that they can "till" and we can have pork.

The barbeque area likely won't manifest itself for at least 3 to 5 years, assuming we get that far!

Sue, it's a long term plan, not something we think we'll get done by next year! I reckon because of that we don't think of them as ambitious, just a means of not making more work for ourselves down the road. The plan keeps us from spontaneously building something that is in the way a few years later. :)

Bernadine, the plans are never meant to be written in stone and they change every year. Mostly we just want to be good stewards of our 5 acres and this is the best way we know how.

Natalie said...

I love the idea of a greenhouse with a root cellar in the "basement". What a great use of space. And labour saving too...why dig a root celllar when you already have the hole in place. It' genius.

famousthecat said...

I LOVE seeing your plans. Thank you for sharing - it gets me excited for the future when one day we hopefully have a bit more land to work with! We are doing up our own plans right now for postage stamp-sized backyard. :)

Mama Pea said...

We've had good luck keeping pigs happy behind electric fencing. They are smart and fast learners.

Our large poultry pasture is also fenced with electric fencing. Not that the poultry tries to get through it, but for us it keeps the bears and other predators looking for a chicken dinner OUT!

I wonder if a root cellar under your greenhouse would always remain too warm for the proper storage of veggies?

As always, Leigh, your plans and planning (organization) are amazing and enviable!

Laureli said...

Leigh, for some reason I put a comment on your 2011 goal page...not sure how that happened, but it applied to this post instead! It was about your invasive Kudzu.....

LOVE seeing your layout- although it makes me quite jealous! One day I hope to have one to share that isn't just empty

jengod said...

Awesome. Can't wait to see what happens with the pigs!

Amy Dingmann said...

Amazing plans. You sure do your research. This is our first year here and I feel like we've really been punting as far as what to do...your plans make me want to do a lot of reading this winter. :)

As far as pigs, I would say the ONLY time we have any concerns with the smell is when the sunshine gets to their poo and its hot and humid and generally YUCK outside. Otherwise we have no smell issues. We were concerned about that, having grown up with an uncle who raised pigs and his place ALWAYS stunk, but we haven't had any issues...except for those really hot and humid days. Just my two cents...

Leigh said...

Natalie, it does seem logical doesn't it? Because of our climate, I'm not sure we actually need a root cellar, but I do need a place to store potatoes in the winter, so this might be just the answer. It's going to be a few years before we get to it though.

Christie, even a postage stamp can benefit from a plan! Our plan does change from year to year, as we get to know the land better. A plan helps us fit all the steps into place along the way.

Mama Pea, seems electric fence, (for us probably netting) will be the best solution for pasture management, especially when some areas need to be dual purpose from time to time. We've actually gotten lots of good ideas from Sepp Holzer in this regard.

I have no clue as to what the temps might be in a greenhouse "basement" root cellar. Our winter lows get down in the 20s, highs above freezing. How having a structure above will effect that, I don't know. I do know that storing potatoes in the house hasn't worked, even in my unheated pantry. That is definitely too warm. The other option would be to bury a barrel, or even put a barrel in the crawl space. We'll just have to experiment to see.

Illoura, the kudzu we actually cut for hay, what we can get at. Since it's mostly in the woods, it tends to climb & engulf the trees, eventually smothering them. We've found that once established, its impossible to get rid of. We have some in a thicket in that very pig field that I can keep back somewhat, but it grows so fast and the roots are so tough, I worry about it taking over. If they can get to it, the goats keep the leaves back. We're hoping pigs will help root it out.

Jengod, me too!

MamaTea, funny how the smell of pigs became a part of the discussion. People seem to have different experiences and I'm guessing it has to do with the pig to space ratio and management techniques. We've only had experience with chickens and goats, but I do know that management technique can either make it better or make it worse. I suspect your uncle kept his pigs in a relatively confined area(?) I've talked to a number of folks who think chicken houses stink and are surprised that ours doesn't. When they find out I only clean it out twice a year, they're shocked.

Michelle said...

I need to know more about your chicken house management technique! Mine stinks! I wash it out frequently, but it doesn't help at all, IMO...

I love when you share your plans. We are working in parallel in many ways, but we don't have a plan written on paper. Actually, I have done that some, but Wayne isn't interested in it at all, so we just have lots of open discussion. :-)

Farmer Barb said...


There is a guy out there (AZ, I think) who has a greenhouse/chicken house over his old pool. He lets the chicken droppings go right into the water below and it helps fertilize the water for the Tilapia he is raising. As far as the mobile goings on--I move my chickens every day and it REALLY helps with the keeping things clean. Mobile pigs would be easy and hog panels are cheap. Luckily, they don't jump!
Which ever way you slice it, two people alone need animals to keep an area clear and to keep the fertility high. Symbiosis is essential to any thriving ecosystem. Best of luck for a long healthy life!

Clint Baker said...

Looks Like A very good plan, pigs are smelly!

Leigh said...

Barb, sounds like a great utlization of resources. We've wondered about using the pool as a rainwater cistern, but the question is whether or not it can hold water. We didn't even know it existed until a neighbor told us he swam in it as a kid. It's currently filled with dirt and overgrown with all manner of things.

Animal mobility and pasture rotation really seems like the way to go. Next summer will be our year to "just see" about pigs. We learn so much from experience. After that, we hope to incorporate them into our regular homestead routine.

Clint, thanks! I should do a poll, pigs are smelly yes or no, LOL. Not that the results would make a difference in our getting them. ;)

trump said...

Happy Labor Day to you and your readers! Richard

CaliforniaGrammy said...

You two are so organized in your thinking, and you seem to have the ambition along with the talent to make your dreams happen. I love peeking into your life!

The Cranky said...

Thanks so much for sharing your plans; I tend to do the same thing...hence our three year plan for getting back out into the country, etc...

This truly is an inspiration and I'll be going back through your post for ideas.

Julene said...

I am not unlike your other blogging friends and find you and your husband very encouraging! The plan looks good and you have some wise input about the pigs. Making adjustments along the way and letting us in on the decisions is a gift!! Thanks!
Today we have split wood, and worked on the fence....the long fence. It's a one time fence and when it is done we will have a party!
About wealth....if I can live away from the rushing world, see the sky and grow a few flowers....I am rich. I'd like to say..grow a lush garden but something happens between growing and lush!! The tomatoes are getting the blight!

Chuck N. said...

I found your site and love it. We have just bought a 10 acre farm and plan to move permanently to it hopefully within a year. I have been working on the layout and where to put animals, garden, etc and it is nice to see I am not alone. The information in your links is invaluable and have downloaded tons of info. I just hope to be able to read it all. We have so much to learn I sometimes feel overwhelmed to say the least. Thanks again for a wonderful site.

Leigh said...

Richard thank you and same to you!

Janice, we have to be. Dan especially needs to have the big picture, so this helps tremendously to give us a sense of direction.

Jacqueline, that's excellent. We've modified ours every year and some things, like the pond may never happen. But, we like having the sense of possibilities as we forever take the next step. :)

Julene, thanks! I so agree with your mindset. And even when it seems overwhelming or discouraging, I quickly remember how much I have to be thankful for.

Chuck, welcome and thank you! We felt very overwhelmed at first too. In fact, after 3 and a half years, it finally seems like we're getting a glimpse of a handle on things, even though we still have a long way to go. Have you considered blogging about it? It's a wonderful way to keep records and interesting and encouraging for others to read as well.

Leigh said...

Michelle, apologies! I had mentally answered your comment, but I see it never made it in print.

We're using the deep litter method; I believe there is information in my sidebar under animal links. I'm finding the key is to keep it deep, with loose, absorbent materials, also to keep it stirred frequently. If it begins to smell I give it a stir first, if that doesn't help we add more grass clippings or dried leaves. We have good ventilation as well. Some sources say it has to be dry, but I find a little moisture helps keep the dust down. I have a dozen chickens and we clean it out about twice a year, or more if we want the litter for something else.

I have to say that I'm the one motivated to draw out the master plan. Dan wouldn't. But he's willing to take a look at it when I ask for clarification or feedback, and agrees it's a helpful tool.

SmithGang said...

Leigh what inspiration!! My hubby says my motto is .....bring the animals the housing Will follow!! Lol.well he is true ,so after seeing such beautiful laid out plans from you and your hubby we are going to sit done this weekend and really do visible planning for our 10 acres in hopes not to overwork ourselves and learn to be better stewards of our property. I was loaned a copy of You Can Joel Salatin on the Polyface story . Can't put it down!! Hopefully this Will help in our vision as well. As always your blog is Awesome with helpful knowledge , sharing your property plan is such great " food for thought".
As for the pigs I guess I love em so much I don't smell them:)

Thistle Cove Farm said...

You are so wise to have a plan and to have it in writing. I am sorry but my eyes aren't good enough to read the sketch but it sounds as if younger eyes have given you good ideas.
You've learned an important's nice to have a plan, it's nicer to be flexible -smile-.

Michelle said...

Leigh, thanks so much for answering my question. I am going to check into this some more. Deep litter was horrible with the goats, but maybe it would be better with the chickens with their scratching instincts.

Leigh said...

SmithGang, glad you think so and I appreciate your encouraging comment. We find the master plan invaluable. It's fun to do and fun to revise. even more fun to look at it every year and see what we accomplished. :)

Sandra, you have to either double click the image or open in a new window. It can be clicked once more after that, to zoom in. I agree that it wouldn't work without flexibility!

Michelle, you're welcome. I didn't like deep litter for goats either. I think it's because their volume of urine is so much more than chickens. I like that they have straw, but it needs to stay dry or pee-yuu.