How much land do you feel is necessary to live self sufficiently? - Mothering Forums

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Old 11-14-2007, 11:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Just for the sake of discussion.

For those of you who are living self sufficiently--at least producing the majority of your food--how much land do you have? Do you feel it's enough?

Dh and I won't be in the market to buy land for years yet (we have a lot of debt to pay off), but I'm curious how much land we will need when the time comes. What we want is to grow a lot of vegetables and fruits, maybe some grain as well; raise chickens and pigs, perhaps have a cow; and have a wooded area as well that dh can use to harvest wood for his woodworking business, and that we can use for firewood.

For such a scenario, would we need 5 acres? 10 acres? 25? I have no idea.

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Old 11-15-2007, 01:38 AM
 
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Sounds like 5 would do you. I've heard a cow needs an acre of pasture and an acre of grain/hay. I'm not sure about pigs, but you can put them in your woodlot and suppliment them with scraps and extra milk. Chickens can run free and it doesn't take many fruit trees to supply a family.
We didn't want the expense on our time or wallets of owning 5 acres, so we went for one acre. We have family who farm and give us great deals on beef, but I have plans to grow/raise all the food we need except milk and grains here on our property (though there's been talk of a family milk cow!!). If we wanted to be completely self-sufficient I would say we could do all of it here if we weren't in a small town with contrary codes (of course we'd have no lawn). However, people have always needed to at least bartar for some goods, so I feel that doing all but milk and grains (plus things we can't produce like baking soda, vinegar, lye etc) Is quite a feat.
When we first started looking for land I was certain that we needed at least two acres to make it, now I'm really glad we only have one.
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:39 AM
 
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Abour 5 bare minimum but 20 would be perfect.

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Old 11-15-2007, 02:26 AM
 
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I have found a wonderfull plan that requires 2.5 acres but I would like little more for trees so we are looking at 5.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:57 PM
 
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I think you could be pretty self sufficient on five acres, especially if you have goats in liu of cows.
That said, it is always nice to have more, even if the extra land just serves as a buffer to neighbors. You never know what their plans may be.
We have 30 acres that we don't live on yet. I think this will be perfect, because about 15 acres are wooded, which will be important for our wood heating plans.
Also to be REALLY self sufficient, I think you would need a sizable garden. Like an acre at least. And you would need to have pasture for any cows or horses, or whatever (I would like to have oxen someday for field work/ wood hauling). Two acres per animal seems right.
I guess it all depends.
If you just kept chickens and a few goats, had a small orchard, you wouldn't need as much as if you are going the cow route.
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Old 11-15-2007, 06:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your thoughts. I'm happy to hear you guys saying 5 acres is probably enough. We'll get the most land we can afford--we do like our privacy--but it's good to know that you don't need a large acreage to produce a lot of a family's food. Because realistically we'll probably only be able to afford a few acres.

I've thought about goats rather than cows, but can you make butter from goat's milk? I'm a butter lover...that sounds funny.

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Old 11-15-2007, 07:22 PM
 
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I think you can make butter from goat's milk. Certain breeds are better for this. Also you may need a cream seperator, but this is not a big deal.
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Old 11-15-2007, 07:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, that's cool! I didn't know that.

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Old 11-15-2007, 07:52 PM
 
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I agree, 5 acres sounds about right. How many people would be sustained from the land?
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Old 11-15-2007, 11:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Four, maybe five.

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Old 11-15-2007, 11:56 PM
 
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Hey there... you might like reading some of Elliot Coleman's writing, who suggests that a small amount of land, farmed in the right way, can feed way more than we would think (sorry-- too tired to remember the details). Anyway, he has tons of good and practical info. We are in the same boat as you, by the way!
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Old 11-16-2007, 12:37 AM
 
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Have you heard of the book "Five Acres and Independence"? We own it, I haven't read it , but the title implies five would do it
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Old 11-16-2007, 01:16 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mochimama View Post
Have you heard of the book "Five Acres and Independence"? We own it, I haven't read it , but the title implies five would do it
My dad owns this book, he has read it at least 50 times, so it must be a good one!
You might see if your library has The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it by John Seymour
or
Country Life by Paul Heiney
Both have a section in the front where they give ideas for planning different sized farms. I LOVED looking at those pictures while we were house hunting, I found them really inspiring (still do!).
Both were at my local library, but I would also love to own them!
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:19 AM
 
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This link has some great ideas for 2.5 acres
http://www.carbon.org/microfarms/microfarmpage1.htm
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:29 AM
 
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these folks do it on 1/5 of an acre (no cattle though) and produce 3 tons of food annually :
http://www.pathtofreedom.com/

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Old 11-16-2007, 06:56 AM
 
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Random thoughts from me....I would say get as much land as you can afford. If you have grazing stock, it helps to not have to buy in feed in the winter. Some winters, in those months when the grass stops growing & everyone runs out of hay or when hay gets real expensive towards the end of winter it can be a major PIA. From an organic stock management POV, it helps to be able to leave part of the land fallow each year & it is also good to not be overstocked & have to be continually dealing with parasite issues. The other reason, which is only slightly relevant, is sometimes you get attached to an animal that is not productive, if you can't carry any passengers this can be very hard. If you find the extra land hard to manage, you can always do low maintenance stuff like plant it out in timber trees, regenerate it to the native naturally occuring vegetation, make a bigger orchard & so on. I am sure you could sell any extra fruit at a local farmer's market for extra pocket money. If you have more land too, you can always divide some of it off for the kids when they are older.
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Old 11-16-2007, 03:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by mochimama View Post
Have you heard of the book "Five Acres and Independence"? We own it, I haven't read it , but the title implies five would do it
I have read this book, and I found it wasn't very helpful, because the author is speaking of financial independence, not really living self-sufficiently. The book focuses on how to make the most profit from your crops or livestock. There is some good advice in it, since he's talking about small-scale farming, but on the whole I was glad I only took this book out of the library. It is not a book for homesteaders.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GoddessKristie View Post
My dad owns this book, he has read it at least 50 times, so it must be a good one!
You might see if your library has The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it by John Seymour
or
Country Life by Paul Heiney
Both have a section in the front where they give ideas for planning different sized farms. I LOVED looking at those pictures while we were house hunting, I found them really inspiring (still do!).
Both were at my local library, but I would also love to own them!
The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live it is the one book on homesteading that I actually own! I love it...those pictures are great too. But I noticed that in the 5 acre one he mentions having woodland as well from which to harvest wood...the 5 acres is only the food-producing part of the farm. Which is why I am wondering if 5 acres is really enough.

Thanks everyone for the thoughts!

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Old 11-17-2007, 02:44 PM
 
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you also might look into miniature cattle if you are limited on space.

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Old 11-17-2007, 08:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Really? I didn't know there was such a thing as miniature cattle...sounds cute.

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Old 11-17-2007, 08:37 PM
 
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http://www.miniaturebull.com/

I read somewhere that a miniature jersey can produce 4 gallons of milk a day. they sure are cute! I wish we could have some!

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Old 11-18-2007, 04:21 AM
 
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How much land you need is so dependant on the individual parcel. You really can't go by an arbitrary number. How fertile is the soil? How many people do you need to support? Are you going to be feeding that cow only bought hay, or do you need it to be 100% grass fed? How much meat do you eat? How much rain do you get? How long is the growing season? How much is wooded and how much is open pasture? Are you expecting to supply all your own wood for heating your home off your land?

IMO 5 acres is not enough. We had 10 acres of fertile land in a warm climate but not enough water to get the grass high enough to support our herd of goats, cow and calf and couple horses. If we could have afforded the electric bill to run our well pump to irrigate we could have got more grass. We had to buy hay to supplement. The pigs don't take up much space, so they aren't an issue. We had no wood as it was all open pasture so we had to buy our wood. We had a huge garden.

If you are expecting to supply your own wood I'd figure out how many cords a year you think you need and then figure how many acres it would take to do that sustainably, making sure to take into account the type of wood it is and how many BTUs per cord.

If I lived in a northern climate and expected to supply my wood and pasture my animals and possibly grow grain, hay and have trees and a garden I'd want 25 acres.
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Old 11-18-2007, 04:26 AM
 
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I've thought about goats rather than cows, but can you make butter from goat's milk? I'm a butter lover...that sounds funny.
You need a cream separator to get the cream as the cream doesn't rise to the top and get thick like it does with cows. Goats milk is naturally homogenized
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Old 11-18-2007, 01:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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That's great advice Arduinna, thanks.

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