Too much land (for now..)

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by hagiography, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. hagiography

    hagiography Junior Member

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    Hi,

    I'm considering buying a property with around 2 hectares (~5 acres) of flat land, which is currently used for growing grain. If I were to buy it, I wouldn't have the time to do anything productive with it in the near future. And I certainly wouldn't want to spend much if any time maintaining it.

    Would a good approach be to sow cover crop seeds on it, and just let them grow? Is there a recommended way to do this, where the birds don't get the seeds?

    Cheers.
     
  2. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day hagiography

    Interesting name. Are you a hagiographer?

    Some points you may wish to consider before buying land.

    Cheerio, Markos
     
  3. spottedram

    spottedram New Member

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    Too much land

    If it was me !!!.....
    Check the fencing...if in good condition put some stock in and let them turn any regrowth into compost until you are ready for the next stage....when you are ready...

    Cheers....Ernie...
     
  4. gardenlen

    gardenlen Group for banned users

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    don't worry about it being too much land 5 acres will soon shrink when you move in, if local laws allow for that, being flat land it is not part of the flood plain i expect. a good fence or any fence can be an asset, better to repair and existing fence that start from scratch may require some survey?

    len
     
  5. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    What do you want to do with the land long term? Why do you have it? How long before you plan on being there? Or is it just an investment until you can sell it? I guess i wouldn't put any animals on it if no one is there. One cow needs 10 acres, and a 24/7 water source, and 5 acres really isn't that much land when you're trying to feed animals.

    Either way, developing a water source is valuable for your use or if you're going to sell it. If you need to get water rights, get them while you can. If there is a water source, have it tested to be sure it's safe. It really helps a lot to live on a piece of land for a year and see what happens there, stay objective and really observe what is going on in terms of light, weather, wind, temperatures, plant growth, wild animals, rodent, water/rain runoff and neighbors.
     
  6. hagiography

    hagiography Junior Member

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    To be able to grow a wide range of edible plants and perhaps some animals, mostly for personal consumption, ideally in the long term providing all my needs and more. And equally for the satisfaction of having it, and working on it. The end goal would be to have all the land used in a combination of the approaches detailed in different permaculture books and videos. At this point, I don't really know much so my inclination is to look into crops and other suitable methods to lazily prepare the unused land. But in the long term, maybe a food forest on part (like in the Lawton videos), maybe an fruit orchard (like in the Mollison Permaculture book) with other matching guild plants, maybe use of ponds (like in the Sepp Holzer permaculture book) to create warmer sheltered areas where plants that might not otherwise grow in the mild climate can be cultivated. And if there are animals, where it looks feasible to do so, to try and feed them with crops grown on site (like in the Mollison Permaculture book and the Tree Crops book).

    At this point, as I say, I am inexperienced. As such, I imagine that this is all something I would have to work up to with experimentation over time. And perhaps work out what will and will not work or even be possible as part of the process.
    Why would I buy a property with it? Because as I understand it, you need to spend time improving the quality of the soil building up a mulch layer which certainly isn't there given the current use the land is put to. And because I know I would use it in the long term, and having the land around the residence to work my way out into, is convenient compared to buying some later at some other location. It also creates a barrier around the residence, giving privacy and isolation.
    Indefinitely. I would aim to live there for the rest of my life, or until circumstances arose that I had to move on. And to that end, as mentioned above, I would want to reach the point where I was growing most, if not all, of what I would eat.
    I know nothing about this, although I do know people with more than one cow on less than 5 acres, let's say 1 acre if I had to estimate. I imagine there's some expectations about those 10 acres, for that to be true.
    Most of the replies while appreciated have just concentrated on land suitability, and judging if land is suitable. "Is there fencing? Is there water? You know if you do A, you'll need to do B. etc" I know I didn't provide enough detail for people to tell, but these are not subjects of interest to me and are not helpful. Properties here, of the sort I am considering with a residence and some land, are pretty much guaranteed to have water and to be fenced. This is established New Zealand farmland, where crops are generallly grown. I have no interest in growing crops in this industrial manner, what I want to do is let the land that I cannot or am not ready to use in a permaculture manner (as I understand it) prepare itself as best I can with minimal effort.

    I'll try some more questions :)

    People here say when you have land, even if you are not making use of it, you have to maintain it. You need to cut the grass under the fences. You need to mow the field to prevent the grass growing long and going to seed. Is there a permaculture solution to this?

    This is actually my primary concern. I don't want to have to continually maintain two hectares that I would not be using in the immediate future. I'd also like the solution to be one that while not requiring work on my part, also prepared and improved the ground by building up a mulch layer or whatever.
     
  7. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    You can always lease the land to a neighbouring farmer for agistment. You could have an agreement where they are only allowed onto the property when it is due to harvest and allow for the recommended "rest" period for the pasture to reach its full expression. High density grazing for short periods will increase the swards viability by manuring and trampling effect a tight herd will have. The key is to rest after this disturbance.
     
  8. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Thanks for all the details, that helps a lot :) And since you say you are inexperienced, here are some highlights that might save you money. Developing a piece of land to live on is a serious commitment and very expensive, even if you don't make mistakes. But we all make mistakes and things have to be redone, so hold onto your pocketbook :) I've had to re-buy things because I did it the cheap way first.

    I live on some pretty large acreage on the side of a hill, so I am up against Mother Nature every single day. I sell vegetables to the public, so often people looking to buy land here ask me about the area, and I've pulled together some basics. Living in a rural place is about protecting what you put there from insects, rodents, the weather and critters.

    I'm not trying to discourage you, but it is a serious undertaking, and it will keep you busy for the rest of your life. It is very satisfying to co-exist with Nature, but She keeps us on our toes, sometimes in scary ways. It's a great learning process, and when you can sit back and see the fruits of your labors, and the beauty of where you are, it all becomes worthwhile.

    Let me mention the water thing again, because it's everything. When you say "pretty much guaranteed" are you sure? Have you seen the source for a whole 12 months with your own eyes? Does everyone pull from this source and there's enough for everyone? Are there water rights to protect it into the future?

    Are they saying you can drill a well (for a few thousand dollars, BTW, and an expensive pump - plus electricity 24/7 - $$$$ - to make it work? There's no guarantee connected to that. If someone made the bold statement of, "Oh, there's plenty of ground water," that's no guarantee. You don't want ground water, anyway. It has to be from deep below to be clean enough to drink. Even then it has to be tested and sealed against contamination.

    If the power goes out, the pump won't work and you won't have water even for coffee. (I've learned I can deal with just about any disaster if I have something hot to drink :) To get a permitted well here the well has to produce 20 liters a minute, that's not huge, but the more land there is, the easier it is to find. How deep it is, is important, (for clean water as well as expense) and what kind of soil it's in is important, (so it won't cave in) and if it's got iron in it or other things.

    If there are old oak trees, pine tree clusters, or wild berry patches, you've got underground water. Developing it is another issue, but these plants are a good sign. Often the trees grow in a line and show you how the underground water is running. You can look on Google Earth and see your place from above, and surrounding places, and look for plant patterns and how the land formations are, how rain runoff flows.

    If people are keeping large animals on small acreages, then they are feeding them with bales of expensive alfalfa, etc. Animals need very specific kinds of food, not just the wild weeds and grasses that grow randomly.

    As far as seed mixes, I like to grow vetches and clovers that fix nitrogen. They are usually pretty drought tolerant, have good flowers for the bees and other pollinators. I live where there's no summer rain, and have clay soil (which holds moisture), and they thrive here. There's even a nice perennial, low-growing one that dies back in late summer, but comes back as soon as it rains, birdsfoot trefoil. It has little yellow flowers, the bees love it. but vetches and clovers can't survive unless I keep the other weeds mowed and out of the way.

    As far as suppressing weeds on fencelines, it's not something you can walk away from, particularly in spring when there's lots of vigor in growing plants. Mowing around fences is about all you can do. Deep mulches only do so much, because weed seeds love mulch, too, and have to be picked before they get too well established. Mulch breaks down and becomes a great food source for weeds if not maintained monthly.

    If a neighbor has a goat or two, they can help keep the weeds down for a few days, that's a possibility. But in the spring and summer it will have to be once a month as long as it rains. Having a rural place means keeping up with it if there are rules you've agreed to. In the spring I don't walk anywhere without a mower in front of me, that way I don't have to set aside separate time to just mow, and the weeds don't get too high and make it too hard on the mower.

    Figure that a house, garage or carport, sheds, septic tank, water tanks and driveway will take up one acre, especially since you probably won't want it right on the road. So that leaves you 4 acres, and if you put a wide road around the perimeter of your property, you can have easy access to the fences, and go around it with a mower, whether it's on foot or a pull-behind mower. That road will also act as a bit of a fire barrier if kept bare. Where I am I have to mow until mid summer when it stops raining and the weeds stop growing.

    Rats and mice eat through fabric, plastic (garbage cans and storage containers), thin plywood, and they love to chew electrical wires on mowers and cars. The minute there's an upside down bucket or a board left on the ground, not to mention a shed or a house, a mouse will move in under it. Bees, wasps and ants will get into outdoor electrical boxes and walls of sheds and houses. Snakes then smell where the mice are, and if a mouse can fit through, so can a snake. Once I found a gopher snake up on the top shelf of a set of shelves. Being eye to eye with a 2-meter snake unexpectedly is a real adrenaline rush!

    An aside here, I assume you know that yellowjackets and hornets live in the ground, and when a mower goes over their nest (which is usually in high weeds) many of them come after you. I didn't know this when I first got this place, and my pants were on the outside of my socks and I was actually standing on the nest while mowing, and I thought I backed into a thistle. I looked down and had about 10 yellowjackets on each ankle and many going up my pant legs. I had to run about 600 meters to the car, and by then lots of them were following me. Almost every year I get stung by at least a couple yellowjackets or paper wasps that make huge, turban-looking nests under the eaves of
    the roof. It's part of being here :)

    Invest in a good mower, one that is capable of mowing more than just a lawn, because small lawn mowers can't handle real weeds. I bought 2 regular mowers that I blew the engine on before I finally got a professional one, and it made all the difference. Don't get impatient and try to shove a mower over weeds, it will blow the engine and that dreaded blue smoke will start flying out of it.

    Metal sheds don't work where I am because they get condensation on the inside of the roof and drip down onto the contents, and at the bottom of the sliding doors there are open spaces where mice can get in. The prices are tempting, but for me it was an expensive mistake. The floor wasn't thick-enough plywood and the rats chewed through it, and destroyed the contents. Taking apart that metal shed and hauling it to the recycle place was a real nuisance. It's also easier to add onto a wooden shed as your needs grow.

    And most of all, you will pretty much be on your own, so when the power goes out, when things break down, when there isn't enough gravel on the dirveway and they won't send big trucks out with more because it's too wet, and it's not likely you'll get a quick response from a repairman, you've got to know how all these things went together, and how to fix them. I've never felt so capable/inept/clever/naive/proud/foolish in my life. :)
     
  9. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I think what sweet pea is saying, and what I would say is - if you don't have the time at present to maintain the site why buy it? Why not invest in doing a PDC and gain experience growing things where you currently are (community garden if you don't have land) or learn by helping others out on their properties first. THEN make the commitment to own and work the land.
     
  10. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Yeah, what eco said :) Hi, eco, how's it going?

    A couple other things I thought of. Something you said made me think there might be homeowner association fees. Those fees are forever, and they usually go up. There's an association not far from me, and in rainy years one part of it always has serious issues, and it costs everyone to keep that section okay. A truck driver got in an accident on one of the roads and was killed, and that lawsuit affects everyone's dues. They often ask for extra assessments if something unexpected happens. Although they try to sell the feature of anHOA by saying everyone pays into the major maintenance of the whole area, and there's cheaper insurance, everyone uses the roads/water/rec areas/security, etc,, too, so it often needs maintenance more often than if it were just you going up and down your driveway and the County maintaining the main road in a non-HOA situation.

    I know in my situation, we've been here for almost 20 years and we haven't had to put $200-$300 a month into maintenance or insurance.

    You can pay off your land eventually, but HOAs and taxes are forever, and they are often big enough to be a problem. My sister-in-law's association president stole all their money and left the country, so weird things can happen.

    The only thing about putting off buying land is that it's not likely to get cheaper. I couldn't afford my place if I hadn't bought it when I did. And where I live the taxes are connected to how much we paid for it, now how much it increases in value, so buying it sooner than later here works to our advantage.
     
  11. hagiography

    hagiography Junior Member

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    There is likely a lot of ambiguity about my information and questions, I know, either because this is text or I just don't know enough to know what is relevant to make helping me easier. So the highlights are much appreciated.

    I understand that this would be a commitment and expensive, hence my interest in reducing the effort needed if it is possible. Just reading about what I need to know and deal with regarding farm animals is somewhat concerning, and reinforces that educated choices need to be made.

    Your information is good for putting things in perspective. Fortunately however, there are no snakes in New Zealand :)
     
  12. hagiography

    hagiography Junior Member

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    I would have the time to maintain it, but would prefer to spend it doing other things :)
     
  13. hagiography

    hagiography Junior Member

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    I thought HOAs were an American anachronism :) We don't really have these here, but of course if you buy a property with conditions attached I guess it is similar. But I don't think it is that common.
     
  14. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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  15. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Hi sweet pea. HOT. And wishing it would rain. Apart from that pretty darn good. Did I mention hot?

    Homeowner association fees? Really? That's another reason to add to my list of reasons why I don't want to move to the US. That and the NRA....
     
  16. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Hagiography, could you allow others to 'work' the land for you? Perhaps an arrangement where they can use it to grow there own stuff in return for managing some other the other issues, such as 'weeds' etc.? Landshare might work for you?
     
  17. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    There aren't any snakes in New Zealand? Wow, how interesting! Yeah, you can't hide on 5 acres, so your neighbors will still be close enough, with their noise and vehicles and animals, and watching you. Ah, no HOA fees, but if anyone else reads this that is being told it's easier to pay for maintenance and insurance as a group, they might want to look into it more. I haven't found them to be an advantage, although I am a do-it-yourselfer.

    Oh, one other thing I thought of. I guess you guys call them caravans, and we call them motorhomes or trailers, and I inherited my parents' motorhome, and they might seem handy but there were always leaking issues with the skylights (they are pretty common), and roof seams, and I couldn't for the life of me keep the mice out of it. They ate upholstery, curtains, chewed through closet floors to make bigger openings, ran around in the walls and ceilings, it just never worked for me, and it never could be left alone. It was really creepy crawling underneath it to try to fix things or try to hunt for mouse openings. It needed constant care.

    Eco, sorry to hear it's so hot. I hope you have a giant fan. We're in mid winter, some frost in the early morning, but days are very warm, and I've got an apple tree in bloom....craziest thing. I guess I'm going to have to put a hoop house over it.
     
  18. hagiography

    hagiography Junior Member

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    I spent about 2 hours following the wormhole of linked PDF documents and it sounds like you can't do much of anything unless you pay the council upwards of $500. Even a greywater system needs a resource consent :)
     
  19. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day hagiography

    All the more reason why we should incorporate resource (planning) consent issues and considerations into our permaculture property/project pre-purchase decision-making processes. However, it reads like you have a good handle on it. Please let me know if there is anything I can help you with in the future.

    Further information: NZ Government (no date) Buying a section

    Cheerio, Markos
     
  20. kmob

    kmob Junior Member

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    Got this in the wrong thread initially!

    Where abouts in NZ are you looking? As ever location is a key factor, and also the militancy of the district councils here differs from region to region .

    Pay careful attention to the zoning of your potential property (Residential/Rural-Residential/Lifestyle/Rural etc) and carefully read your council's district plan noting for your zoning the so called "Activity Lists" which divide up what you can do into categories from "Permitted Activities" to "Non-Complying Activities" with designations in between.

    Also, your options are going to be quite different if you for a bare block versus one that's already got a dwelling on it. Given the amount of red-tape and regulations there are here in NZ, I'd try to get one with at least a few buildings on it already that way you'll also have electricity and access all sorted beforehand. This will give you and indication of how much hassle it's going to be to get the things done you want to .

    As you'd expect Rural zoned properties don't have many restrictions compared to Residential. Make sure you check if there's any developer covenants over the place too - they can add even more restrictions!

    Water is certainly not guaranteed here, make water one of your main questions when looking at places. At 5 acres you'll most likely be looking at sub divided lifestyle block sort of place, often the water for those is delivered via an easement from one of the neighbours. Thoroughly check the details of any water easements especially noting any restrictions on usage (often they're restricted to domestic and livestock only - i.e. no irrigation), also be aware you will be liable for shared maintenance on the neighbour's pump etc - but this will be in the details of the easement. If you're on (roof) tank water, make sure there's sufficient capacity in your tanks and pump(s) for what you've got planned. If you’re planning on sinking a bore this requires not only a lot of cash (and ongoing pump and electricity costs) but also at least two permits, one for actually drilling the bore and another for the right to actually take the water..

    Check out the neighbours as much as you can, relationships with neighbours can make or break a place.

    And of course fencing, ideally you want decent fencing everywhere especially if you're going to be keeping animals. Also pay particular attention to the boundary fences and understand your legal obligations under the fencing act - this can potentially be a large liability.

    All of that said, for the establishment of a permaculture style block here, consider starting with your windbreaks/hedges get those in ASAP (but watch out for powerlines and potential ongoing future costs of constantly trimming shelterbelts). If you're not planning on using the block for a bit I'd consider planting over the pastures in Nitrogen fixing natives (we have some but none that are standouts from a permaculutre point of view - Kakabeak looks great though!) to start the soil building process. Also think about getting any earthworks done now.

    Cheers.
     

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