Are you heartily sick of the weekly trudge to the supermarket in a gas-guzzling vehicle? You’re not alone. More and more people are turning to living off the land by planting, rearing, cultivating and ultimately eating their own wonderful produce, much as their ancestors did many generations ago. Why not follow the trend? Here are a few details to consider before you start.
It’s obvious, but you will need land, and lots of it. Space for somewhere to live, somewhere to grow vegetable and fruit produce, and patches for animals, should all be considered. Frugallysustainable.com recommends at least five acres, adding: “When considering where to purchase cheap land you must consider things such as acreage, amount of timber, quality of soil, presence of water, cost of property taxes, and weather.”
Agrarian Organics also carries some useful advice on getting the most of your produce’s growth.
Don’t forget that if you’re building large structures such as greenhouses, additional rooms and/or a new house you will need planning permission. But you may be lucky – sometimes people choose to sell ready-made farms or eco-structures through auction and local property sites.
You could always approach the seller with a few questions.
Building will take time, so you may need to consider where you will stay in the meantime. A camper van, large shed or even tent are all possible dwellings!
Think about creation of electricity, perhaps created through water-powered generators or solar panelling on the roof, and although this will initially be expensive you can then store the power and live through the winter months bill-free.
Your whole life and the platform it is based on will need to be looked at. Consider the soil type in your prospective area, and whether your preferred crops can be grown with it. There are many plants which cannot grow in acidic or alkali conditions, or high sand or clay content.
A good, close supply of wood is handy. Plan a calendar for growing throughout the year, and factor in the storage of the food.
A family of four needs to consume somewhere in the region of 9-10,000 calories per day, at least. One Block Off the Grid has prepared an infographic on planning resources for sustainable living, calculating that food production alone will take up 90,000 sq ft, of which 77,000 sq ft is vegetarian produce. It says: “If you wish to add a little bacon to your self-sustained diet then starting off with three pigs can feed a family of four twice per week for a year.
If you wish to add some piglets to the mix allow 9 square feet per pig or piglet. If you wish to add dairy, forget about getting a cow for they are not land efficient Think about a nubian goat, which can produce 1,844lbs of milk a year.”
Your plants will need water from somewhere, so keep an eye for natural resources. Digging a well will cost somewhere in the low thousands, but will then provide free untreated water ad infinitum.
We all create waste, and its safe disposal is vital for a healthy environment. It is possible to compost it and re-use it, or use an incinerator.
The road to total sustainability will not be an easy one, but it will be a rewarding, healthy and life-changing exercise. Health educators Liza Barnes and Nicole Nichols write at sparkpeople.com that growing all your open food keeps you healthy and fit, gives you pride, and provides better tasting food: “Comparing the flavour of a homegrown tomato with the taste of a store-bought one is like comparing apples to wallpaper paste. If it tastes better, you’ll be more likely to eat the healthy, fresh produce that you know your body needs.”
Having your own land could be just the start – depending on your location you could take a course in plant, vegetation and berry identification, or shooting, and go out foraging into the forests near your home. And if it goes well you may wish to expand, and buy more land. It’s all a lot of hard work – but you’ll never knowunless you try.