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

What's the perfect size for a homestead?

Great blue heron

After a week of research, Mark and I are starting to arrow in on our land-hunting priorities. They're different this time around than they were when I sought out our current farm a dozen years ago.

Counterintuitively, we're actually looking a lot smaller --- 58 acres was awesome for experimentation when we didn't know what we wanted, but we'd rather contract and move closer to a city now that we know which aspects of homesteading are our favorites. Currently, we use about 2.5 acres of our existing homestead, and even that feels like more than we want to manage as we grow older, expand our interests, and turn into more
weekend homesteaders.

What's the sweet spot for a mature homestead? I'm guessing somewhere between 5 and 10 acres will give me the isolation I crave, room for extensive gardening, and still fit within our price range. Perhaps the classic Five Acres and Independence was on the right track?

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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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You can never have too much land! Even if you don't use every acre, extra land acts as an important buffer against pollutions (noise, light, air). It really depends on the individual property, but if you end up near industrialized agriculture you will need more than 5 acres to buffer against the endless spraying. Also, having the luxury of walking in a private forest, in your backyard, is good for the mind etc. So I would think 25-50 acres with a few cleared would be perfect, and at this size you could rationalize keeping Kubby!

Comment by Chris Sun Jul 9 08:41:09 2017

It seems to me that being near a city center might be interesting. Close to customers. In NH you need 10 acres to call yourself a farm. But who cares? Aquaponics and using the runoff for fertilizer, you don't need much land at all. Acres had an article about goats and chickens on a small city lot. Seemed like a good idea to me.

Good luck to you both, John

Comment by John Sun Jul 9 08:45:22 2017

When we first found our place in upstate NY, we bought 9 acres out of 44 that the seller owned, because most of the other acreage was a federal conservation easement. But the next year the other 35 went on the market and out of self defense we bought that too-- which only added 5 acres to the land we could actually use, but gave us some guaranteed distance from our nearest neighbors. They're good neighbors, but it's nice to step out on the porch at night and see no other lights.

We are only really using a few of those acres, but we have a big woodlot, so will never run out of firewood. We also have a big grove of sugar maples we can tap. And of course, the property is a little like a wonderful state park that we never have to pay admission to.

However, we are not wealthy, and this was only possible because we bought in the far North Country, where winters are extremely harsh and land consequently cheap. We paid 30,000 for the 44 acres. If you are going to buy near Athens Ohio you will pay a lot more for a lot less. You might consider a place with a lively intellectual community like ours. There are 4 colleges within 20 miles of our front door, including the one my grandmother attended in the 1890s. There are lots of elderly hippies (my people) here because of a big back-to-the-land movement in the 1970s.

Finally, we've been here for 4 years now, and I have yet to meet a jerk. That's never happened to me before.

Comment by Ray A Sun Jul 9 14:44:56 2017

Being familiar with the area you are currently in, a lot of the 58 acres you have are so steep a mountain goat wouldn't go there. And I think you'll find an interested party and make back what you paid and then some.

I can totally understand the desire to have some change, and the desire to tone it back to weekend homesteading, and not have to ford a creek to get home!

It's not like Athens, Ohio is exactly the frozen tundra (some have issues with anything across the Ohio river, like my southern bred spouse...) and it's not like you are moving to a huge metro area either.

I support what you are doing and look forward to updates as to this move. Onward!!

Comment by Eric Sun Jul 9 20:20:05 2017
Ha! Ray makes a good point. We have almost 5 acres in suburbia and although there are definite perks from the convenience of being close to "civilization", the trade off of more seclusion would be preferable.
Comment by Karen Mon Jul 10 14:03:51 2017

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