Ideal land size?

gardenpro_ca(7)January 24, 2004

I know there are many people here with city lots, and many with acreages. Is there an ideal property size that covers basically everything necessary to almost completely self sustain?

I would imagine climate would be a factor, I live where last frost is June 1, and there is often snow by Halloween. Summers are hot but ideal for veggies.


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jrw17(z5 NM)

Where I live, it takes 60 acres to produce enough forage for a single cow!!! You are darn right that it depends on climate! You could easily be sustainable in a favorable climate like Ohio, but in colder and drier climates, its a totally different scenario. I don't think there is an answer to your question. Maybe you could set some limits on your climate to get an answer? Are you in zone 8 and get frost in June?


    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 7:07PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

i go with JRW,

we live on just under 70 acres in the sub-tropic in queensland australia, we pretty much get what could be described as an 8 month summer with some frosts in the 4 months of winter period, we are in a micro-climate on the east coast. at present australia is going through a drought that has persisted for the most for 10 years. our property is in what is termed as a drier area we are not in a wet belt that is.

currently just using natural pastures our land could carry 1 cow to between 4 and 10 acres sustainably that is without having to buy in feed, this would be determined by what rainfall was happening in any given year.

in my opinion sustainable is too big a word there are too many variables involved, i tend to refer to it as how well we can supplement the food we need to live on. and from what i have learned so far and with the work that would be needed it could be a near on full time job if a family wanted to produce enough fresh produce so that they only need to purchase processed items for the household. and setting up your system to get to anywhere near that level is going to take a number of years eg.,. app' 6 to 8 years.

be glad to chat further through e/mail if you wish we could swap ideas etc.,. at present for us there just aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week, here all work is done before 8am it is then way too hot outside for any work activities, and the heat continues into the long afternoons ntil 5.30pm or so by then it is time to get ready fro the evening meal and bed as we rise early we go to bed early, we are not as young etc.,. as some.


mail len

lens garden page

    Bookmark   January 31, 2004 at 2:07PM
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seraphima(z4 AK)

Agreed, climate, water, sunspace, number of trees shading plants, traffic patterns, drainage, waste disposal: lots of things make a difference in choosing what size lot you get.

Complete sustainability includes water, wet and solid waste recycling/composting, grains, beans, animals, animal feeds and bedding,vegetables and area for vegetable seed production,(which can take two years), areas for perennial foods like fruit trees, berries, rhubarb, asparagus, etc.
Area for composting, house, greenhouse, solar/wind/water power, woodlot for cut wood and for game animals (how many acres for it to be sustainable? How many cords of wood do you need per winter, and do you cook on wood?)Are you making your own cloth (think sheep, cotton, linen, deerskin,leather) or shoes? HOW sustainable do you need to be?

Quite frankly, one is talking about many diverse acres. One option is to seek sustainability as a VILLAGE, which gives much a much better interrelated spread of land, crops, expertise, and hands to work.

Another option is to start wherever you are, take many small steps to greater sustainability, and just keep walking.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2004 at 9:41PM
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Very interesting responses thanks. I'm actually Z6. I think Seraphima hit it. My main issue is I have an acre of very fertile, 'perfect' land, but more would be ideal. Prices in this neck of the woods are skyrocketing, being close to an international holiday resort, and chances are slim I will be able to buy anything arger. I am actually terribly lucky to have this piece. My land assessment went up $115,000.00(Canadian) from the previous year, imagine that.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 2:28AM
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greenacres(OR z8)

"Completely self sustain" is tricky, as was mentioned
above. When you think deeply about it, one sees the need
to compromise.

One acre is plenty for veggies and fruit (at least in my
climate); and chickens for eggs/meat, for a couple of
people; probably enough grain too, I haven't tried grain
crops. If you want sheep or dairy goats, and not buy
hay/supplements, one acre is not nearly enough. But it's
likely you'd run out of labor before you ran out of land.

The real estate prices are skyrocketing here, too. We
could never afford our land if we had to buy it now. We
talk about selling this place for $$$ and buying something
cheaper further out, but after putting in all the fences
and fruit trees I really don't want to move. Of course,
it means we'll need to keep our day jobs to pay the
property taxes.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2004 at 9:14PM
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madspinner(z7 WA skagit)

I figure buy what you can afford and make it work for you. I would have been happy with an acre... I lucked out and inherited some money, combined that with my husband and my mother and together we managed to buy a place that seperately we could never have afforded or taken care of. We can barely manage the work as it is. We got 25 acres, which to me is just huge!

Because of having much of it up front (I thank my grandfather every day for having helped our dream, though I I do miss him) we have it almost paid for. Sometime in the next couple of years we hope to start building our two houses (one for us and a smaller one for my mother.) Our current big joke is that once we have our homes and the land paid for, we will all have to keep our jobs just to pay the taxes! By the time there are two houses, a barn, a two story shop, a small lake (private) with bass, an island and a bridge, two smaller ponds, wetlands, forrest, a small river, views of the forrested hills, lots of wildlife, fenced pasture, an orchard.... well we just can't imagine what the taxes will end up looking like! Much of what I mentioned is already here... and we are adding the barn soon, and rebuilding the bridge.

I have great sympathy with you having just one acre and your value up that high. Your taxes must be terrible too! Must be scarey to make any improvements!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2004 at 12:26AM
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PanDeMoNiuM(Melb OZ 9/10)

Im jealous .... acres! ..... i have barely quarter of one ... could you nevertheless develop zones on a suburban blocks... i have just thrown together a four bed vegie patch and am starting on the herb garden.... my goal is to have 100 varieties of plants within five years

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 4:32AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

those word self-sufficient & sustainability are huge words they are very broad words, so it can be hard to fit each others ideas into what it all means.

to be sustainable whereever you are you need to look at how you are doing things and what resources you use to do those things then start asking if i had to do without this or without that how long would i last?

for a start not many perma' people talk about building eco' friendly more sustainable housing they live in the same indoctorenated run of the mill style homes that dreams are filled with.

so if you absolutely need heating and cooling then how sustainable would you be if the means to keeping cool or warm were removed?

could you live without the car or the phone or the tv or all those modern icons in a modern society?

can you grow enough grain to make your own bread can you grow enough wool or cotton to make your own clothes? eg.,. for 8 months of the year we don't realy need clothes on our property we wear them because that's what society dictates.

for me your climate your aspect and all those other things that dictate where you live control your sustainability within your system. i think the best we can hope for is to supplement ourselves and make sure that to some degree we can grow food that isn't laced with chemical residues.

even on our 70 acres in the sub-tropics i'd hate to suggest we could be sustainable, we would still need to buy stuff and power and fuel for the car and tractor are just a part of that.

we can do without heating and cooling we don't have any the house does that for us, on the full moon periods the moon lights up the house at night time, we don't need any lights to be turned on through daylight hours, and for a period we could do without power but then long term food storage becomes and issue, can you see where i am coming from. a better term could be supplementary living.


mail len

lens garden page

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 3:24PM
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I think it is possible to be self-sustaining on your land, whilst being interdependent within the greater community. We don't need petrol, but we use petrol. We don't need to buy some of the things we do in town, but we do because of convenience. If there were to be a necessity to be less involved in public commerce we are able to do that. But, we had to purchase our photovoltaic panels...which give us power to light our home when it is dark, to refrigerate and freeze our produce, to connect with an outside community through this computer, to listen to radio, to see images on a screen.
However, do we "need" to do this? No.

As for grains. We are fortunate to have an abundance of wild rice growing on two small lakes within a kilometre of our home.
As for meat. We are fortunate enough to have deer in abundance, grouse in our woods, woodchucks, waterfowl, squirrels, rabbits...etc.
As for fuel wood...we have an abundance of that as well.
Water...we have 4 wells on our land. A solar pump irrigates our gardens/orchards/vineyards...a handpump is in our house and there is a handpump in Cheryl's holistic health studio.
We live in a climate where 6 months of the year is fairly to extremely cold. However, we have no problem being able to supply our own sustenance for that period.
We appreciate that we are much more fortunate than the majority of people in this world. Some of it is by virtue of where we were born, some of it is because of our hard work.
We have 50 acres, but actively use perhaps two acres...and passively use the rest for wood gathering and wildcrafting.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 6:20PM
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According to Anna Edey who wrote "solviva" you can be sustainable on 1/4 acre if you do it right.

You might learn a lot by seeing my favorite website called "Path to Freedom" where a family is doing just that in Berkley.

BTW, has anyone read the book "Solviva?" I'm thinking of buying it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 1:46PM
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"Simplify, simplify, simplify!" as Thoreau wrote. Ask yourself "What do I really need?"
Milk? Well why have a cow when a goat will do? You use less land that way, goats are browsers rather than grazers so they can be "pastured" on rougher land, take much less space for sheltering, easier to care for due to size and on and on.
Making ones own clothing sounds like a good idea but if you are like me and anywhere near a city go thrifting! The V.O.A. here on Thursday has all clothing at $1 a piece. How much clothing do you really need? Heck $20 on a Thursday will keep you clothed for a season at least. So you save money not raising cotten, sheep or what have you.
Think solar. We have a well on the land. Oh I wish I had gone with a solar pump but for now the expense of a conversion makes no sense. When this pump goes out (15 years old with no repairs so I can't complain) you bet I'll go solar. Remember too that the sun's energy can work against you. Here its the hot humid summers that are killer so we have a white painted metal roof on the house to reflect the heat.
I'm building my own house. That is I'm using my own hands to drive nails. No nail guns but a hammer and nails. The only power tools I've used to build the house with are a skill saw, reciprocating saw, drill and a table saw. Power tools of the other sorts are most to save time.
Use that grey water! And recycle your human waste by composting it on a pile or with a composting toilet. Waste not ...
Look into alternatives for food storage (canning, drying, a root cellar) other than freezing or a fridge.
Here in the south grains means corn. Forget the wheat here. Don't fight you enviroment rather make your life easy and go with what has historically been good producers in your area.
We are lucky here in that we can grow produce of some sort all year round. Go with the seasons. For instance I don't plan on having a lettuce based salad in the summer here. Lettuce is a winter crop.
If you can't grow it you don't need it! Coffee and tea are not essential. I grow various mints and other herbs that I make teas with. You would be amazed at the variety of herbs and other plants you can use this way.
Our winters here are mild so I'm heating the house with a wood stove. I have an area of oaks that I'm developing into a coppice lot. Using large mature trees only for fuel is a waste! Think of all the effort needed to bring a large tree down (let alone the time for that tree to reach such a size), cut it into pieces you can handle, split and then you have to find yet another mature tree for more of the same. A coppice lot uses the same tree to produce wood over and over and you harvest the wood at the size you will use, no chainsaw needed and no splitting. This can be done by hand and will cost you nothing but your effort.
Also think of how big of a family you have. Don't grow more than you need. That is also a waste of space, and your energy.
Simplify, simplify, simplify! Think small and live large!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2004 at 3:33PM
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Oh forgot the most important thing in my life has been zero debt!!! Living debt free is the ultimate freedom!!!
O.K. I'll stop my ranting ;>

    Bookmark   November 14, 2004 at 3:40PM
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Rant on, bigeasyjock...that's what this forum is for, right? I agree with you, wants and needs are two very different things. We are mortgage and debt free, and have an abundance within our reach.
Simple elegance.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 1:24AM
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JudithKD(z5 NH)


I've been trying to find a ratio of how much land it takes to raise fuel (through coppice). I have contacted the state Ag service and the local university, with only marginal luck. Any ideas? Contacts? Books?


    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 9:59AM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

I discovered the permaculture group through googling 'coppice' last night. I recall that we cut down a walnut tree at our last house (started by squirrels right by the house) and the next year it was at least 20 feet tall. So a coppice seems like a great idea for obtaining firewood in the future on our 5 acres with lots of trees. Many are fruit trees, and we also have a lot of vegie gardens and berry bushes. Would get chickens, but we travel too much. We can't keep up with the 5 acres despite not having other specific employment, although we do have two rental properties that sometiems take up a lot of time.

But what I wanted to addres specifically is getting things free. People mentioned the village concept, but how come no one has mentioned freecycle? It is the greatest thing, just today I gave away a few sets of drapes to someone, and from another person on the same street I got wrapping paper, new books, seashells in a basket, stuffed animals, cow decorations, and these will make Chrismas presents. :-) DH and I have recently been cutting down someone's fallen tree for firewood. We learned about it via freecycle through a woman we have given produce to several times. I have gotten almost all my 'new' clothes and shoes this year free on freecycle. Just have to buy socks and underwear.

I also have free supplies of wood chips and horse manure nearby. There is so much we can get free, depending where we live again. Trading and bartering can also accomplish a lot. I am never going to try to grow my own wheat, but I have traded fruit for bread, another person I give produce to sometimes gives me eggs or vegies, etc. And to tell the truth I get most of the produce I give away free from another place. I also make it into jam and sell a little.

Seems if you are willing to buy some fuel for a vehicle you can swap for a lot of what you need if not get it free. I bake and can and dry my clothes on a line, but why go so far as to grow your own clothes? I like to be organic and am proud of my shelves of preserved foods, but I also like to fly to other continents, and go places in my (hybrid) car that needs some gas. So how could I ever manage to get the car and fuel from my own land?


    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 6:05AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

Roughly, it takes a 10 acre woodlot to heat a home with wood. I do not know the size of the home, but that is in a Midwest climate. It also depends on how warm you need it and if you are cooking with wood too. Different tree species give off different BTU's, so the composition of the forest on the 10 acres counts too. Also if and what you supplement your heat with. Ten acres isn't with a management system like coppicing, it is just harvesting the wood at a sustainable manner and keeping the woodlot community going too. Just a ballpark.

40 acres and a mule, that's what you need, lol!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 11:27AM
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The 'ideal land size' is less important than finding the 'ideal land.' A three acres of highly productive land near an urban area --and a ready market for your produce-- is far more useful than a 100,000 acres of desert in the middle of nowhere. Think in terms of quality, not quantity.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 11:19AM
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