The Self-Sufficient Life & A Five Acre Farm - Mothering Forums
Country Living / Off the Grid > The Self-Sufficient Life & A Five Acre Farm
KariM's Avatar KariM 02:33 PM 04-17-2007
DH and I have been dreaming about moving to a homestead for a few years now. I picked up a copy of The Self-Sufficient Life from the library and have been reading it.

The section where he discusses a five acre farm has really got me hooked!

Are there any mamas here who farm/homestead on a small plot, like five acres? Can you come close to being self-sufficient with such a small amount of land?

mtn.mama's Avatar mtn.mama 02:56 PM 04-17-2007
I believe that we can come close to being self-sufficient on small parcels, but this is really more effective in a community of such. The kinds of foods that we buy in town are mostly nuts and grains, some spices, a few fresh vegetables in winter, and olive oil. We choose to hunt rather than raise animals for meat. All our dairy comes from our goats. A neighbor raises free-range chickens for eggs. Big gardens and greenhouses go a long way toward feeding us. A couple of neighbors make soap. We produce our own power. All the logs and lumber in our buildings came off our land, or the surrounding state land. We buy used clothes whenever possible, or make them at home. Can it be done? Yes. Is it a whole lot of work that actually becomes a lifestyle? Yes. Is it all worth it? Yes. DH and I just laugh about getting a condo in town when we're overwhelmed by projects that most of the people in developed countries don't ever think about. Then we go back to work.
Conteuse's Avatar Conteuse 10:06 AM 04-18-2007
There's a book, Five Acres and Independence, that also discusses this. Don't have the author's name handy, but it should be easy to find on Amazon. I seem to recall he had a couple ideas about berry-picking and beekeeping and such.
KariM's Avatar KariM 12:24 PM 04-18-2007

Thank you so much for the book recommendation! We'll be going to the library tomorrow.
lightheart's Avatar lightheart 01:09 PM 04-18-2007
we have a pretty big parcel of land but honestly most of it acts as a 'buffer' from the outside world. I doubt we actually 'use' 5 acers but we are not totaly self sufficiant, don't produce our own hay, we "could" produce most of our food w/ the garden and pond if we really worked it, and we would need to put out more fruit trees to really make it, but it would be doable.

I think hay would be the big thing for us, takes alot of work if you did it by hand and would need even more if you used horses/mules to help out, but I'm sure folks have done it before/now so ...
newcastlemama's Avatar newcastlemama 01:58 PM 04-18-2007
We have 5 acres and it seems really large. Like pp said we could not grow our own hay, but we have free firewood, enough space for lots of small livestock (goats, sheep, poultry) and garden/orchard. Plus there is a lot of wildlife here for hunting. I will have to try and find these books for inspiration.

Our goal is not 100% total self-suffiency though. That is too overwhelming of a goal and I personally don't feel like that is necessary. Our goal is to have a simple, frugal life where we obtain/grow a large portion of our own food and feel that we could survive, if necessary, on our own.

speairson's Avatar speairson 04:41 PM 04-18-2007
We also have 5 acres and while we're haven't reach our goal of self sufficiency by a long shot, I think it's doable on 5 acres.
AngelBee's Avatar AngelBee 05:53 PM 04-18-2007
Taking notes as dh and I are planning to purchase land in the next 2 years or so.
DreamsInDigital's Avatar DreamsInDigital 05:57 PM 04-18-2007
livingfree's Avatar livingfree 07:35 PM 04-18-2007
yeah, you can definitely do it with only 5 acres. this family does it on less than an acre...
heatherdeg's Avatar heatherdeg 10:45 PM 04-22-2007
The Path to Freedom people are on 1/5th of an acre and they're in zone 9 or 10 (read: year-round gardening). Plus, they're vegetarians or vegans--so it's easy for them to do.

I don't mean to diminish their accomplishments--because it's incredible. But it's not the same as a meat-eating northerner's plight! LOL!
Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 12:29 AM 04-23-2007
We had 10 acres and IMO there is no way to become close to self sufficient on even that w.o a huge change in our eating habits.
Ravin's Avatar Ravin 02:09 AM 04-23-2007
Seems to me it definitely depends on what sort of land/climate you're talking about. Terrain, rainfall, temperature variance, temperature average, soil type, length of growing season, and access to groundwater are all factors. Five acres in Iowa can be sustainable easily, I would think, or a fifth of an acre with ready access to water piped in in SoCal, but it would take more land in a semi-arid or arid part of the country such as the High Plains or much of Arizona.

When we get a chance to homestead, I have visions of date palms, mesquite bosques, prickly pear patches, milpa gardening (corn/beans/squash), chickens, and maybe a couple of goats. But I live in Arizona and it's still just a 'someday' for me.
Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 11:57 AM 04-23-2007
We lived on 10 acres in CA central valley which is very fertile with a long growing season. We had 30 goats, horses, a jersey cow, chickens and other poultry and we raised pigs and turkeys for meat. We also had fruit trees but not nearly enough quantity or variety and it takes years to get good production off new plantings. We had a HUGE garden, but it always ended up being feast of famine from it. Same thing with the eggs and to a certain extent the milk either I had tons or not enough. We had the ability to irrigate our back pasture which was about 7 acres. We didn't have the equipement or the money to invest in it to grow hay or grains though. We still ended up buying meat on a regular basis, along with flour, sugar and a decent amount of produce plus nuts and seeds, dried beans. I never seemed to manage to get all the things I needed for a recipe to be available in the right quantity at the same time so I almost always ended buying stuff. There were somethings I never mastered making that we didn't want to give up. Like certain cheeses. I did bake my own bread and made homemade yogurt and butter ect. The chickens barely layed in winter so we bought eggs for example.

Like I said, it's doable but only if we wanted to drastically change our eating habits.
kittywitty's Avatar kittywitty 12:51 PM 04-24-2007
I am just dying for some land. I want 90% self sufficiency. My problem is that we are moving to No. IL where land prices are outrageous and from what I have seen you have to be a millionaire just to buy 2 acres. I found a couple of parcels of land that need the houses torn down and new ones built for about $140k on 1-2 acres. Other than that, average is 15k an acre, but I have yet to see anything under that $140k.

It is getting very depressing. I am veg. but need to buy meat for dh and my animals.

I want some sheep and chickens and a pig to just root and till and be around. I also want some fruit trees, pumpkin patch, wheat field, and a huge garden and some big trees to climb.

So far it looks like I am going to get a .25ac parcel with a house and not be anywhere near 10% self sufficient. *sigh*

Sorry, it's getting depressing. But I love The Self Sufficient Life. I read through it all the time.
kittywitty's Avatar kittywitty 12:59 PM 04-24-2007
Originally Posted by livingfree View Post
yeah, you can definitely do it with only 5 acres. this family does it on less than an acre...
OMG that site is AWESOME!!!

THank you for that! We are mostly veg, but we are moving way up north (zone 4?), so that will present some challenges. But wow, what an inspiration!
julielenore's Avatar julielenore 03:42 PM 04-24-2007
We bought 5.3 acres in the fall, and were very dissapointed when the township told us that our property was zoned "residential" and thet we are not allowed to build a barn or have any farm animals. This is really silly, because we are on a back road, with no other houses around and ten mintues from a town. We were hoping to have some chickens and a few goats for milking.
We will probably have some chickens anyway, just not tell too many people about it
This summer/fall we will be planting our fruit trees and berry bushes and finding a good spot for a garden. My inlaws have two vegetable gardens, one on high ground, and one on low, that way if it is unseasonable wet or dry, you will **** have a good crop.
Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 04:48 PM 04-24-2007
have you applied for a variance? That is bizarre though.
julielenore's Avatar julielenore 05:01 PM 04-24-2007
Originally Posted by Arduinna View Post
have you applied for a variance? That is bizarre though.
No I haven't, I want to see what I can get away with first
antannie's Avatar antannie 05:41 PM 04-24-2007
We have 5 acres. We do not currently grow most of our own food but we hope to this year. I have on my previous 5 acres.

This year we will grow our own lamb, wool, eggs, chicken, fresh veg and fruit and some storage for winter fruit and veg. We also trade for salmon and other veg.

We grow our own firewood but also get salvage firewood as there are lots of mills around here.

In future we hope to get bees and put in more fruit.
Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 02:58 PM 04-25-2007
Originally Posted by julielenore View Post
No I haven't, I want to see what I can get away with first
I hear that!
4lilfarmers's Avatar 4lilfarmers 07:07 PM 04-25-2007
we caretake 6 acres and are able to do quite a bit with it. we have a two acre sugar bush where we tap b/t 100 and 200 trees (depending on available time to sugar) and also get some of our firewood from it. we have a milk cow and raise one steer/yr for meat and one pig/yr too. we have two turkeys, ducks, chickens for eggs...

a beekeeper keeps bees on our land.

we have a one acre garden and grow all of our veggies for the year and extra for farmers markets.

we can rotationally graze our milk cow and her calf on the other three acres.

someday we'd like more land but we want to have a larger market farm. we definately can do a lot with 6 acres.
lucyem's Avatar lucyem 08:59 PM 04-25-2007
Originally Posted by julielenore View Post
We bought 5.3 acres in the fall, and were very dissapointed when the township told us that our property was zoned "residential" and thet we are not allowed to build a barn or have any farm animals.
not surprising. around here it is becoming more and more common especially if you are in a subdivision with restrictions. Even with 10-20 acres if you fall in a subdivision you often cannot have livestock at all. near here a couple bought 100+ acres for their horse farm. they did all the right things and made sure they could have horses and run their business and one neighbor is fighting them tooth and nail. seems that neighbor prefers a subdivision to a working farm. anyway I just wanted to point out that you should always do your homework before buying land/house. make sure you can do what you want to do with it before you buy. just because someone has 3 horses on the land does not mean you can too (happened to a friend of mine). always check for any deed restrictions, call the town hall etc. I have been seeing odder and odder restrictions. know another woman who can have horses on her property but has to have the manure hauled away at great cost. found out after she built her beautiful barn.
WoadAbode's Avatar WoadAbode 10:06 PM 04-25-2007
This was a large part of the reason we moved to VT. They just don't seem to have _nearly_ as many restrictions about livestock as PA. I couldn't find one blessed place in PA that I could afford that I could own a single chicken!
Morwenna's Avatar Morwenna 06:14 PM 04-29-2007
Does anyone have any more book recommendations besides the 2 mentioned? And, believe it or not, all the libraries in our county are closed for lack of funding : so I will have buy any book that we want to read--I need suggestions of really really good ones! We are new to everything also, never gardened (much) or took care of livestock. I would also, of course, like to do everything with organic / sustainable methods.

If we are to stay in this area, we will likely be limited to around 4-5 acres, so this topic is very interesting to me!
Arduinna's Avatar Arduinna 11:06 AM 05-01-2007
Carla Emery's Encylopedia of Country Living.
WoadAbode's Avatar WoadAbode 02:22 PM 05-01-2007
check out for free books too...thus far it has seemed like a pretty good resource.