How many acres do you think is the minimum needed?

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by Dawg-fan-in-TN, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. Dawg-fan-in-TN

    Dawg-fan-in-TN Monkey+

    First off apologies if this has been asked before. I looked and didn't see this thread so I wanted to get some ideas on what yall think.

    I'll admit that I am new to the prepping idea. I guess I've had my head in the sand to long but finally see that our great country is to close for my personal comfort to failing economically and ending with widespread "problems". So in order to plan and try to protect my family and myself I'm running 90 miles an hour playing catch up.

    Over the past couple years I have tried my best to simplify my life and have gotten rid of a lot of debt and excess frivolous material things. This was initially due to being laid off when a company I worked for closed up shop and caused me to take another position making less money.

    Anyway I am now looking for a piece of land to build a simple but comfortable home on and that I can use as a bug in location. So with that being said I want to know your opinions on how much land do you think is the minimum needed to be able to raise enough food with a garden and raise a few animals for food? I plan to raise some chickens for meat and eggs, I'll also have some rabbits and a hog or 2 every year. I will have to possibly feed as many as 7 but probably no more than 10 people if the SHTF. I grew up out in the country and have had these animals before so I'm confident I can keep enough to keep us in food. That is of course unless the boogey man comes and kills me and takes them all.

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Here is a great book...The Backyard Homestead. I am reading it for the third time. The author suggests you can effectively homestead on as little as 1/10th an acre all the way up to half an acre. Based on the book's data on a quarter acre alone a "Backyard Homsteader" can produce: 50 pounds of wheat, 280 pounds of pork, 120 cartons of eggs, 100 pounds of honey, 70-75 pounds of nuts, 600 pounds of fruits, and 2000+ pounds of vegetables.

    I am revising the way I have been living/growing food for OPSEC purposes. A smaller footprint makes it easier to defend, easier to maintain, and easier to harvest. Our experiment this year will use only 3 raised bed gardens, rabbit hutches, an apiary (bees), and our fruit and nut trees. I will report on our successes/failures once the garden boxes get planted.
  3. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    Pick up a copy of "5 acres and independence". Written quite a while back, but still very good info today.

    Also keep in mind a decent woodlot for fuel. In TN, an acre of 20-30 year old timber ( most trees in the 12-18" diameter ) will produce a cord of firewood a year forever. Figure you will need 3-5 cords/yr for heating/cooking for a medium sized, well built house.

    From what we use ( I have 100+ ac, but much of it is very steep, unusable mtn land ), I would say 5ac of woods and 5-10ac of tractor driveable, cleared pasture type land would be ideal, and as much as most people would want to handle.
  4. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Along with the land you need for sustaining the homestead with crops and fuel, consider the visibility from whatever direction. A bit of wild border might serve to conceal the fact that you have resources. ('Course, that can also reduce or constrain your field of fire if it comes to that.)
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    and if you select land that abuts to National Forest Land, you can have the trees that are wind blowdowns for firewood. 5 acres ought to do you well.
  6. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    Keep in mind that if you want to eat three times a day, that's 1100 meals a year per person. In a survival situation you'll be under more stress, you'll be working harder than normal and doing it all on less sleep. Since you'll be relying a lot on vegetables, which are low in calories, figure on a pound of food per person per meal.

    You're talking about 7 to 10 people, so you need between 7700 and 11,000 pounds of food per year. If you want some meat in your diets, killing one grown chicken a day won't give 7 people more than a few ounces of meat each, and that meat is rather low in fat. We Americans get too much fat in our diets, but it's easier than you'd think to get too little. There's a reason bacon was such a prized staple on the frontier.

    (Let's just call this food for thought... ;) )

    I haven't read the backyard homestead book Falcon's referencing, but I will say that I don't know how you could prosper long term on a plot of land that small without external inputs - meaning things like fertilizers, which are petroleum products that could be in short supply if not non-existent during a break down.

    Something like Joel Salatin's "salad bar" crop and grazing rotation (search polyface farms, books on Amazon) is probably as intense as you could get without any external inputs, and to keep things going with that would require a few acres (five acres is a fairly standard small plot, and that should be enough) but that would be with nothing more than chickens and goats and perhaps a pig.

    A lot of the actual answer depends on where you're homesteading, the quality of the soil and your annual rainfall or ability to irrigate. I'm hoping your answer to this isn't Phoenix...
  7. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Utilizing "The NEW Square Foot Gardening", planting 100% heirloom varieties, seed saving, and composting, you should need zero fertilizer. As to the yields, that is yet to be determined. This will be an initial experiment. Homesteading small acreage areas with efficient animals like goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits etc. one should be more than capable of keeping meat on the table in quantity. This is completely discounting any hunting or fishing you may do, which again keeps meat (albeit low fat) on the table. Experience with goats shows you can keep 50 Nubians on 2 acres, harvesting meat, milk and hides. Goats on average increase their population by 200% every birth cycle - which is every 5 months, if managed properly.
  8. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    Interesting stuff. I'll be interested in your updates, Falcon. You're spot on about the security ramifications.
  9. fedorthedog

    fedorthedog Monkey+++

    you fail to say how much grazing area or fodder raising area you have for the live stock. Depending on soil conditions and rain it can require a great deal of area.

    I have been actually gardening toward raising most of what I need for the last two years. Our garden covers about a quarter acre for vegetables. This yeilds most of our fresh produce for summer and fall and we canned about 30 quarts of canned goods and 150-200 lbs of potatoes. The strawberry's and berry vines are in another area that does not get rotated as they are perennials. the vines will take 2-3 years to get well established.

    We raise tomatoes, lettuce, three types of squash, pumpkin, corn, radish, carrots, peas, beans, green beans, potatoes, chard, spinach, onion and garlic.

    I would want at least four producing apple trees factored into the garden area for fruit and juice. Apple store well and are easily canned. One five gallon bucket of presses to about a gallon of juice.

    If you need to find someone who know how to garden and can teach you try your local Grange. This is where I met my gardening teacher.
  10. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Goats are browse eaters that prefer woody bushes, leaves, and berries etc. over grass. The fodder they consume is what many animals do not eat, and you always supplement with hay - GOOD dry hay. Goats given adequate feed, which can be pelletized goat feed require little in the way of space. As I stated before...2 acres is adequate for graze/browse for 50 animals, as long as you supplement their graze. Goats are closer to deer in their eating habits. Rabbits are also a very high feed/output animal. They also use very little footprint of space.
  11. oth47

    oth47 Monkey+

    "One Acre and Security" by Bradford Angier gives some good ideas about small places.Personally I'd like to have 10 acres with 3-4 acres wooded,a good spring and a small creek running thru.Since I don't have that,I get by the best I can with what I do have,almost 2 acres.I can raise a tremendous amount of food here.
  12. Equilibrium

    Equilibrium Monkey++

    "Utilizing "The NEW Square Foot Gardening", planting 100% heirloom varieties, seed saving, and composting, you should need zero fertilizer." Even without adopting square foot gardening practices.... there should be no need whatsoever expending precious financial resources purchasing synthetic fertilizers if we compost. We do NOT need to buy into BigAg's scam that the world needs synthetic fertilizers. Our ancestors did not have synthetic fertilizers and they did quite well without poisoning the soil. These chemicals are leaching into our water supplies. The more we reduce our dependencies on them.... the better off we are. Monsanto and Dow's stockholders won't be happy once we start composting but that's none of our concern. If we all began composting we would be that much less dependent on BigGov and that's why we're all really here anyway.... to learn how to become more self reliant... no?
    Composting does not have to be fancy. Attach some chicken wire to some stakes and start throwing all kitchen scraps and coffee grounds in the composter. Add grass clippings. Add leaves. Turn it when you remember. You can literally compost just about anything organic to include cotton tampons.... dead mice from ratzappers, and whole telephone books. The ink used for newspapers and telephone books is soy based now.... well... except for the glossy pages and we can rip those out. Since we started composting.... the amount put out to the curb is so little we barely set out one garbage can every 3 weeks. We do put out recyclables every week.
  13. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Don't forget...NEVER, EVER put cooked ANYTHING in your compost pile. Whether that is meat, veggies, ANYTHING.
  14. Equilibrium

    Equilibrium Monkey++

    Oh my gosh.... I admit it.... I do it all the time. I know you're right and we're not supposed to and all but I do... something to do with the salts and fats but it's hasn't been a problem for me... at least not yet. It will attract critters so I won't dump it in the composter out my back door but I do keep it in a bucket in the kitchen and add it to the jumbo composter out back all the time. Another thing I do is I toss all that's left over from chicken and turkey straight into the back yard. My vultures like to pick at the bones in summer when they're around and what ever's left indigenous rodents use to file down their teeth. The bones go *poof* within a few weeks and.... we like watching the vultures.
  15. oth47

    oth47 Monkey+

    Why not?
  16. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    High fat contents, smell, and pest attraction are #'s 1, 2, & 3. Raw meat can have E. Coli that may or MAY NOT get killed by the temperatures in the compost pile. Same with manure. Be very careful. E. Coli in your compost = E. Coli in your food.
    Link to a great easy guide:
    Complete idiots guide to Composting
  17. Dawg-fan-in-TN

    Dawg-fan-in-TN Monkey+

    Thanks for all of your insight. I will definitely look into the books and articles mentioned.

    I have my eye on a couple pieces of land right now ranging from 9 acres up to 17 acres which is about all my skinny ie "empty" piggy bank will allow for now. the 17 acre tract is what I really think will be best in the long term if all works out. It is heavily wooded along the road front, which also probably doesn't see more than 100 cars per day. My plan is to put a drive in that is winding so no one can look straight down the drive and see anything. I'll also leave a couple hundred yard worth of trees along the front so it will help hide my home etc from passeresby in the winter when the leaves have dropped. The other edges are wooded and if I'm smart and lucky, which my history tells me I'm neither, I'll be able to leave a good ring of forest around me and have a somewhat natural fence line to hide my place and things. I'm torn on the idea of opening the area around the house too much for fields of fire and view but that may be a necessary evil.
    Currently the middle area has an opening of about 3 acres which I think will be a decent start to for a small grazing area and a garden. I want to eventually open it up to about 6 - 7 acres and build a small pond in that area somewhere near the small seasonal creek. I'm thinking that the pond will have to be deep since the creek does run dry in the summer months. My plan, or should I say my hope is to use the pond for most of the animals and garden irrigation. I've been told that the area has a good water table and hopefully I will be able to get a well drilled for water needs.
    One of my main concerns now, other than working out a fair deal and price for the land, is the soil and rock content. I'm hoping to build a basement for the house and eventually some underground storage etc when time and money allows.
    As I mentioned before I'm not an expert and am late to prepping so shoot my ideas full of holes and help me to plan accordingly if you will.
  18. Disciple

    Disciple Monkey+

    Make sure to get ahold of the local college ag extension office so you can run some soil samples to see just what you can grow on your property. now if your lot is extremely wooded look at doing some barter deals with local farmers expecially with cattle maybe firewood for a ton or two of cow manure. maybe look into getting a small sawmill to cut your own lumber for various projects, just ask tnn andy about how useful that can be, I'm considering buying one myself for that very purpose.
    as far as hogs go you can keep them confined in a building and they will be fine, and you can feed them your food scraps and it wont hurt them. along with a small roosting building for the chickens you can get by putting more chickens on a smaller piece of your land. Animals that use the most land like cattle you can always barter
    with the guy farmer down the road a hog for a steer is a decent trade. The nubian goats are a great idea as are a couple variety of sheep. The crops that may take up the most space for a food crop are your potatoes and sweet corn. Take advantage of the property as you may have some great bedding areas for deer, and depending on what area you are in you may have a ton of wild hogs in that area and there is an excellant food supply.

    But I wish you the best with your Homestead.
  19. hank2222

    hank2222 Monkey+++

    I have zoned out my land to where four raised bed gardens and a small covered area for me to sit and enjoy things along with haveing a working cattle ranch in the area where i live and a deal i made with them for the land that i get a full grown cow to butcher out once a year for beef when they do there butching of the one of the cattle they do for there family ..

    Iam now down to a 100.ft wide-x-100.ft long area inside a cattle pasture with a cattle gate road into and out of the pasture with my place inside the pasture is fenced off from the rest of the pasture and the area layed out ready for a four 15.ft long x-4.ft wide-x-4-ft tall raised garden beds for growing of the foods i need .The rest of the area is going to be taken over by solar panel system and wind turbine for off grid life .

    so with the beef i get from them once a year and garden and another deal with a friend over helping with the seed money for fuits trees that will grow in Az ..i should be doing ok in the long run
  20. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    Yeah, I'd pick the 17a piece too. IF you have any decent sized timber, you can build a heck of a lot of stuff from your own lumber on your place while clearing some of it.

    The curved drive is good also. I did that too...from where the road ends at our place, you can only get a glimpse of the barn/shop, and not the house at all. Be sure you set up something like the Dakota Alert MURS driveway system for early warning of visitors. I also HIGHLY recommend a gate.....tends to keep out tourists, crooks, and tax assessors !

    Good start on cleared. I had nothing to begin with. 6-7 acres will keep you in food, easy. Pond is also excellent. I built 2 small ones here, and stocked with catfish. More protein and variety.

    Soil almost anywhere in TN is acceptable, and can be enriched with local manures, etc. Some of the worst ground I've every seen was in the Ozarks that some folks seem to think so highly off....rocky, dry....never see that in TN, even in the mountains where I live.

    Getting a homestead up and running the way you want is a LONG term project....anybody that's done it will tell you....but we all started somewhere. The trick is to START, and learn what works and doesn't as you go. I usually tell folks I'm 25 years into a 50 year project, and that's not too far off accurate.
    ColtCarbine likes this.
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