The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Assess your new homestead

Fields of broomsedge, while pretty, are a sign of poor soil quality.When we finally moved onto the farm, I had spent years dreaming and planning about what I wanted our eventual homestead to look like.  I was so excited to be realizing my dream that I started planting things willy-nilly, with the result that a lot of my early effort went for naught.  I wish I'd had the foresight to spend a few days assessing my property before beginning on any of the projects.

If I could go back in time, my first step would be to make a map of the farm.  Since most of my property is wooded, I'd just focus on the areas we plan to to farm for now.  Within that area, I'd map existing structures, water sources (well and creeks), power and telephone lines, septic systems and/or sewer lines, and driveways.  I'd also keep my eye out for existing cultivated fields, orchards, or pastures.  Fences are very useful --- put those on the map.

Next, I'd start thinking about the land as a farm.  Which areas are flat or have little slope?  Which areas have good soil or poor soil?  It's very much worth it to send off some soil samples to the extension service to find out if your soil needs help in certain areas.  But you can also learn a lot by just looking at what's currently growing in an area --- blackberry brambles are a good sign because they mean your soil is relatively rich, while broomsedge is sign of worn out soil.  You should use high quality soil for your garden and orchard, if possible.

This post is part of our Starting Out on the Homestead lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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