View Full Version : How many acres could a family of 6 people live off?

17-07-2011, 09:38 PM
I watched a documentary not long ago on the BBC which was called "A Farm For The Future", and one of the segments of the documentary was an interview with a man called Martin Crawford who had designed a forest-garden. He claimed that if the forest-garden was designed for maximum yield, it could actually feed 10 people per acre. I was quite astonished by that claim - given that it contradicts everything that I've been taught about the possibilities of subsistence agriculture.

I've been having a heated argument with an organic farming advocate recently about the nature of permaculture. He claims that permaculture is actually an over-hyped "cult" and that it is impossible for one family (of about 4 to 6 people) to even live off 3 acres. He cited an example of when he lived in Nicaragua for a year and helped some families work on their 3-acre plots and he found that some of the children were occasionally malnourished (families averaged 4 to 6 people in total). So he uses that experience against my example.

Yet...I've seen statistics from governments claiming the following:-

"A family of four could live ten years off the bread produced by one acre of wheat."

http://wbc.agr.mt.gov/cons​umers/basics_wheat.html (http://wbc.agr.mt.gov/consumers/basics_wheat.html)

Now...if that crop was turned into buckwheat you can get several yields per year, because it's fast growing. Also - if you have a forest garden and space the trees carefully (or just grow in natural oak and birch woodland), you can inter-sperse a variety of root-vegetable crops as your staple diet, grow peas and beans as crawlers, as well as a variety of other things. You could even surround your 3-acre plots with borders of nut tree's. Obviously good food storage techniques would be essential. So, it is possible to live off 3-acres even in a temperate climate without getting malnourished.

However, the guy I'm arguing with keeps insisting that it's not possible and that you need much more. I'm starting to doubt my own arguments.

What are your thoughts or experiences?

18-07-2011, 07:51 PM
There is a lot more to do than grow Veg and fruit crops , there is food preservation and storage , seed saving , the list goes on , probably the most critical is planning ahead , there will be crop failures (last season our peas got disease , the previous year we had peas to burn , this can and will happen ) so if your not prepared and have no back up crops , and have no reserves then yes you can go hungry . You could have a ton of crop almost ripe and lose the lot to fire or hail or drought or frost or birds or insects / disease , if your life depends on your crops then everything must go right . A well set up garden / orchard / animal property can produce plenty and 3 acres run to capacity would need plenty of man / woman hours , you would certainly need reliable rainfall and water storage , plenty of permie properties already doing this , there will always be those that say it cant be done , i suspect they either cant be bothered , dont have the knowledge / or are just plain lazy .

18-07-2011, 08:39 PM
Have you heard of bio-intensive agriculture? It seems they are able to get a lot of production from a small amount of land:-


(The Kenyan initiative is worth checking out...albeit they need more money for outreach to farmers, etc).

Also - I think a carefully spaced forest garden is far more resistant to drought and heavy rainfall than a conventional kitchen-garden. This is because the forest soil consists of several inches of leaf mould intermixed with clay soil that acts as a big sponge and can hold water far more efficiently than normal soil. Martin Crawford elaborates on this:-

"Cereals, agroforestry and droughts: an interview with Martin Crawford"

It's amazing how little work he puts in per year compared to an annual-vegetable garden.

The "Greening The Desert" series by Geoff Lawton was also interesting, given that the project that used heavy mulching and composting survived a seasonal drought, whereas the conventional crops did not.

18-07-2011, 09:00 PM
""A family of four could live ten years off the bread produced by one acre of wheat.""

They're not talking about that being the only thing you eat though (otherwise you'd be malnourished alot sooner than ten years).

"He cited an example of when he lived in Nicaragua for a year and helped some families work on their 3-acre plots and he found that some of the children were occasionally malnourished (families averaged 4 to 6 people in total). So he uses that experience against my example."

Were they using permaculture? Either way, one example doesn't prove anything.

I have no idea about how much land you would need. Doesn't it depend on the land, the climate, the kinds of plants that grow there etc?

Also, this whole notion of the garden as having four walls is not conducive to humans learning to be sustainable. We are never going to grow all our own food, even the staunchest people import something.

19-07-2011, 03:22 AM
this comes under "how long is a piece of string", to many variables to say with any certainty, first of course type of soil and average rainfall, also what climate.

on paper a family may live 10 years on that amount of bread, but how do you keep the bread fresh and edable between crops of wheat? got to calculate in the bad years as well. then harvesting an acre of wheat by hand would need a certain level of stamina, then the husking and grinding.

and as for fruit trees food forest if you wish, most hard wood fruits only produce a crop once a year, pawpaws and bananas more so but returns can be variable, pawpaw oftgen affected bym that black spot as well as fruit fly and fruit bats, bananas produce variable fruit quality and affected by fruit bats. so to be sure you get a fair share of the food you may have to resort to some form of chemical, unless you can have space i would suggest up to twice what is needed on paper. then there is meat and eggs to calculates in as well. if beef is on the menu tghen the grazing rate is important, buying in food all year gets pretty expensive, also a good way to bring in unwanted weeds.

better if you can live somewhere and find others who will share produce. i've written a bit of an essay on how i see it, it may help it may not help. the quality of the land is so variable.

if the land won't support a dam that is hold water then look past it i reckon, keeping moisture in and having good water as the saying goes very important. so you maybe looking at from 40 acres to 100 acres? dunno.

about the best case scenerio is to be supplementry to varying degree, you will nearly always have seasonal gluts, yep preserving or drying can be done but it is another energy user.


19-07-2011, 04:44 AM
Just double checking what you mean by your question. Do you mean feed 4-6 people off of 3 acres, or grow a crop to sell on 3 acres and make enough money to support a family of 4 to 6? I would say it's easy to feed that many people on 3 acres (vegetarians), and it's not enough acreage make money off of to support that size family.

It also depends on where you live. If you live high in the mountains and only have 3 months of growing season, it would require canning, drying and freezing to store food all winter. If you have a crop failure in a short growing season, all bets are off. :) If you can grow something most of the year, it's much easier to keep producing food.

I have 3 fenced acres that I grow fruits and vegetables to sell in the summer, and we are inundated with leftovers that don't sell, I can them, dry or freeze them. It would be easy to grow enough for 4 on one acre.

If someone calls Permaculture a cult, they have no idea what Permaculture even is, or how successful it's been around the world. have them look at YouTube farms where growing conditions are tough, Permaculture often succeeds there where conventional farming does not. :)

19-07-2011, 07:33 AM
we grow food for twenty families on a little more than half an acre using the permaculture design Mandala market garden and though it does not produce everything for those families it grows our pluses and legumes to a great degree and three acres could grow wheat and grains.
Accounting for the things Terra mentions like preserving and interdependence and trade makes it a workable system. Climate and soil will definatly affect the outcome but careful planning and the improvements to soil moisture retention and drainage as well as fertility that comes from the Pc application make it more doable than any other system.

19-07-2011, 07:37 AM
That won't be all the food for those families though surely, even allowing for the grains? What are the main sources of protein and fat?

19-07-2011, 09:47 AM
I agree with the the others. There are just soooooooo many variables.

But one that gets missed very often is the Experience/Skill level of the practitioners...

If you took 6 average city folks and plonked them down on a decent piece of land and that was all they had (even with a good supply of seeds etc), I reckon most of them would starve within months. My guess is that if you took 6 conventional farmers and took away their chemicals half of them would probably struggle to put a meal on the table too. However, if you took 6 experienced and skilled growers and permies and shoved them on that same piece of land they would be up and running reasonably quickly. Even so, In my opinion it takes at least a few years to get a system up and running, and the permies would probably still be pretty hungry to start with, they would be eating weeds and all sorts of things that your permaculture-is-a-cult man would not consider food.

You can't take experience and intention out of the equation and get any meaningful result.

As for my experience... After nearly 4 years of struggling along, basically doing this myself, with very little capital, a wife and two young daughters. With modest off farm income to keep us ticking over, there are still time when we need to buy in some things. But for most of the year at least a percentage of our food every day is what we have grown. The fruit trees started to give real returns last season and with preserving we have managed to have some sort of fruit for most of the year. If I miss some plantings with sickness, laziness, poor organisation or just plain not enough time to do it all myself, then the vegetable gap is very obvious. Preserving and curing is a big part of it and we are gradually getting the hang of that too.

But I look out there and see the fruit and nut trees, I see the Mandala gardens and put my hands in the soil and I think to myself, this spring is going to be a real leap forwards! It's even starting to 'look like a permaculture garden'. This stuff takes time, effort (a lot) and persistence. It requires you to develop experience. It really requires partnerships and communities. If your lazy, angry, dogmatic and overly idealistic the chances are you won't be able to do it with any success.

If we don't do it we are screwed anyways.

19-07-2011, 10:16 AM
That won't be all the food for those families though surely, even allowing for the grains? What are the main sources of protein and fat?

Dairy, eggs. lentils and chickpeas, avacardo, olive oil??, beans, guinea pigs!!cockroaches!!

19-07-2011, 10:32 AM
PP, are you saying that you are growing most of the food, except for grains but including Dairy, eggs. lentils and chickpeas, avacardo, olive oil??, beans, guinea pigs!!cockroaches!! for 20 families on half an acre?

Grahame, most permies in my climate would starve in that situation too (maybe it's different in tropical or sub tropical). You can't start from scratch and expect to produce protein and fats in enough quantity to enable physical work within that time frame. What's the quickest source of meat? Rabbits? How long until they produce enough meat and ongoing babies for 6 people?

19-07-2011, 11:08 AM
Thanks Pebble, Having re-read my response I see that it was sort of pointless.

So I have changed my response to the (reworded) question "Can a family of 6 grow enough food to live off 3 acres?". My answer is...

Yes. Provided the climate is not too extreme, there is enough water and you know what you are doing.

It would however, be a much more satisfying existence if there were a community of like minded people pooling there resources to do so together.

Further to that (because for some reason I can't summon up the energy to go out and work right now) I would say that anyone who calls Permaculture a cult, a) has no idea what permaculture is and b) has no idea what a cult is.

Don't doubt yourself Hossein and remember that permaculture is much much more than just growing food and self sufficiency. Does the organic dude think he can feed a family of 6 a nutritionally balanced diet on three acres using mono-crops?

Tell 'im he's dreamin'

19-07-2011, 01:12 PM
no no no pebble that would be over the top. we provide a box of food including seasonal fruit and vegetables for the twenty families we have a house cow and grow lentils and other pulses for ourselves. The cow is on 10 acres outside the half acre garden but the guineapigs are in the garden (they keep the paths mowed) but we don't eat them but could if it became necessary.
We have olive trees (14) and avacados in but not yet producing as well as pecans and almonds but again outside the half acre but we do produce peaches apples pears and apricots as well as ten citrus in the half acre.
I think that perhaps (if authorities allowed we could provide for most of the needs for our twenty families from our 14 acres and maybe double that when the trees are mature.

19-07-2011, 08:45 PM
I'm looking twice before I tried the crunchy fried side dish when I'm coming to visit. I'd rather feed the cockroaches to the chooks than save them for me....

I dunno the answer. It takes years to set up a garden to get it to reasonable productivity. Most fruit trees are going to take between 2 - 7 years to START to yield and may not hit their peak for a long time after that. There's a difference between giving someone a blank bit of dirt and saying feed your self with that mate, and moving them into a village environment where food production had been a way of life for generations and there are established productive plants.

I've spent the day at the Yandina Community Garden today. They have an area about 3 regular suburban blocks that has been planted up for 10 years. It would easily feed 2 families of 6. There's chooks - they could keep more but are limited by council regs and can't keep a rooster, but in an ideal world you could probably eat a chicken every week from a garden this size. There's an aquaculture system that would give a fish or 2 a week. You'd need to have a neighbour with a goat or a cow for milk. There's more than enough in the way of carbs and greens in the garden though.

20-07-2011, 03:56 AM
"They have an area about 3 regular suburban blocks that has been planted up for 10 years. It would easily feed 2 families of 6."

is this supplementing or total food sufficiency, in a what i would imagine to be a seasonal garden, without intense gardening and a pest management plan that may at least include natural pyrethrum's all take diligence to make sure one gets to eat more than the bugs. there is always peaks and troughs not to mention failed wet seasons and bugs etc.,? mulch getting dearer as is mushroom compost that the farmer once paid to dump.

it does take a long time to develop gardens a fruit trees along the way then once productive they need to be kept that way especially gardens, for 2 of us we had 16sq/mts of vege' garden no room for more and all that did was provide seasonal supplements, i buy seedlings and the quality is very variable, so plant losses can be high, then progressive planting starting very early in teh season gives one a kick start but going from late summer/autumn to winter if you plant late may and into june july for brassica the days too short and the night too cold even with much for those seedling to get a kick off, solution might be to plant seedlings into larger pots and keep in warm protected place until they kisk of and recover from teh initial transplant, then plant them out, never tried it but a possibility. same with summer crops plant august into september then a follow up about novemeber december but then gets too hot so stressed plants don't produce so well, ok put shade cloth over garden all costs time and money. netting toms' and cap's a bit of a pain. and mild winters mean the brassica grubes are around nearly all year then.

we are on the move back to rural up to 2 acres of 2 much to keep as lawns and gardens and too little to do else with, can't grow beef/lamb/goats, might have to resort to a goat for milk if no one enar by doesn't have a house cow. can't raise chooks for eating as even in the bush yuppie councils won't let you have a rooster so you can't create cockerels for eating. they provide little in the line of services but much in the line of dominating what one does. need to ask why no rooster if we have a night box?

as for fruit trees it all comes back to growing what birds, bats and fruit fly don't like, for us that is citrus and that only produces best around now a year. just going to do a couple beds at a time (going to cost now got to raise bed heights minimise bending another variable), always have a glut of citrus in season, so hope ther are other gardeners who want to trade.

so the original question si quite a question, no one who ever asked it before has done anything to update the groups on progress or otherwise. might be able to get mulch hay for $50 a roll and mushy compost for $50 a tonne?? going to need absolutely oodles of both, as where we are moving to noted for shaley type eucalypt scrub country grows factory pines well and won't hold water so no dam and no bore as water can be brackish at best and salty enough to for tiger prawns, love prawns but not as a mono diet.


21-07-2011, 12:55 AM
So much land being tossed around when IMO all you need is 1 acre for a family of 6. 1/2 acre as a food forest paddock where a cow, chickens and pigs can forage is not out of the realm of possibilities, with the other half for veg production.

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham is a book about doing what you described and the gent grows 85% of his food for his family with making $10,000 annual. The man also lives in New Hampshire which is one of the northern most states in the USA which gets snow. Lots of snow. 1m+ storms of snow is not unheard of as are very short summers.

21-07-2011, 07:25 AM
you won't graze a cow on a half acre!

21-07-2011, 12:45 PM
you won't graze a cow on a half acre!

You could on a 1/2 acre with supplemental feed, less actually. I mean I personally wouldn't, but it can be done and there is a wonderful illustration of such in the book: The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour. The book has been in print for over 25 years with multiple editions. I am currently referring to page 32, edition 2009.

22-07-2011, 05:09 AM
grazing rates per acre comes directly back to the quality of the land and the pasture grasses it grows and a healthy raifall, so it is possible to find land that grazes as 1 to 1 or 2 or more acres but it won't be cheap land and usualy it comes with the price of controlling ticks in our areas up here. when thinking of grazing my thought is once you bring in food on a regular basis you are then not sustainable and that food can cost lots. i think the average grazing rate up here for tree changers is about 1:4a out to 1:10a.


22-07-2011, 06:32 AM
i think the average grazing rate up here for tree changers is about 1:4a out to 1:10a.

That seems about right - we have two jerseys on about ten acres and they can run out of tucker during bad periods. We are doing some hand feeding atm and you are right that this is not part of sustainability.

23-07-2011, 02:43 AM
Well, what of dairy goats in that same 1/2 acre in a mixed food forest system w/ fowl?

23-07-2011, 05:56 AM
when calculating grazing rate i convert goats to 1/2 beast size so in the case where PP has a grazing rate of 1:5 acres best season probably going to go out to 1:7 or so in worst season, then you might run 2 goats per 5 acres, again lots of variable to consider like rainfall, and soil fertility and supply of water. graziers often over stock in the good seasons but then they milk it for what they can get and overgraze too long after the good season has ended denuding the pasture and causing lots of errosion, a vicious circle. so even in a situation of 1:5 you still need to have that bit more so you can rotate grazing. chooks a different thing you have them or you don't. so a cow needs to go to calf every what is it? 18 months maybe, then you have that calf to feed up for whatever purpose, food or for sale more grass eaten.


23-07-2011, 07:37 AM
You might do a goat if you majored in fodder trees in the food forest. There are some ways to import stuff that sit with me. We used to leave a big box at the Organic shop and they put outer leaves from cabbages and older veg and fruit in it and we would pick it up each day. You need to be going past each day on your bike to make it work.

23-07-2011, 08:10 AM
yep comapring goatgs and cows different cows graze adn goats brouse don't they not sure how to factor that in, but goats like cows put their heads down to the ground to chew grass that is a common action.

in pc we need to do waht we need to do to be sustainable and eco' friendly, so yes get whatever food source you can from wher ever, especially for the chooks, could be a lot of other in front of you as well. attended and intro' to pc course at a tafe and she said best to create all you need on site as much as you can, that is tricky to do, she did say as you do nopt know the origin of what you bring in, a friend bought fodder in for his beasts and ended up with kahki weed, nasty weed, not that rats tail grass around as well.

when we buy in rural again soon hopefully we may consider a milking goat but then that would depend on quality of soil in a noted poor quality soil area (good soil areas lots dearer to buy), and only be around 1.5 acres so would need to grow good fodder for the goat, and we buy all mulch. so chooks vege's fruit that will likely be it. might do gteh how many gardens do i, need to be as sustainable as then better info for otehrs in similar situ', only going to grow citrus mainly as tghey ahve less predators so to speak and need less water.


Fernando Pessoa
23-07-2011, 05:29 PM
Interesting thread,Permaculture is an over hyped cult sad but true.
As a design science it is unsurpassed,using design given free access to all the necessary inputs and then having a dream run of Halcyon days,in a perfectly designed system I have no doubt that you could create abundance on a few small acres with good management.Nutrition is the important factor, what quality of nutrition could you provide?
As far as the food forest thing goes,big yields not much work, sustainable, stable systems it's hype.
I have seen a few(more than 1 dozen,(5 countries)3 climate zones),some make a fair attempt and input to yield ratio is probably quiet good.
I think however if you have a good solid mixed orchard run on sustainable lines you will exceed the yield by 10 fold.
If someone has a good example of a working you beaut food forest in Australia I would love to be pointed at it because I have not seen any that approach the yields your friend is talking about.
Best wishes fernando

24-07-2011, 12:15 AM
I think the question regarding food forests needs to be rethought in the above post......
Surely a food forest should in fact be a solid mixed orchard run on sustainable lines?
But whereas in a traditional mixed orchard you may maximise yield in the trees planted through careful plant selection, feeding, mulching and possibly even intermittent irrigation if conditions dictated, if a the seven layers of a FF are stacked and planted appropriately then not only would yields be near to optimised in the fruit trees but yields would also be generated from each of the other layers either directly or indirectly.....
Once a system is established would the necessity for feeding not be to the greater part be achieved through a combination of leaf and fruit fall, appropriate use of dynamic accumulators, animal outputs and attraction of missing minor nutrients through attracting wildlife from elsewhere?
Water supplementation can be reduced through increasing biomass over time, self mulching and cut and drop mulch plants in the system, ground covers etc (all of which may also provide useful food and medicinal outputs for human and animal use)
Careful use of niches in time and space will ensure non-competitive production of yield which will not reduce the output of the over-story or under-story and obviously this stacking takes place in each of the other 5 layers.
I think we'd all agree that a well planned and executed guild planting will have a greater net yield than a single planting of trees with fewer external inputs required.
Obviously I have not even mentioned pest control or protection of yield through diversity or any number of other benefits of a well planned guild planting and that is all we are talking about in a FF a carefully thought out guild planting based on a forest ecology which at best should make use of each niche available to increase total yield?

24-07-2011, 06:40 AM
sounds good to me, macey.

24-07-2011, 09:55 AM
It would be interesting to know how many acres it takes with conventional methods as a baseline.

24-07-2011, 11:23 AM
As a side point of trivia that you may or may not have heard, apparently the reason for the classic Australian 1/4 acre block was to provide enough land for each Aussie family to grow their own food. So that was the original thinking of regional planners in the 50's. We've kind of lost the plot in recent decades, especially with subdivisions and Mcmansions. Sadly.

24-07-2011, 11:53 AM
That's interesting ebunny.

Of course it wasn't to grow their own food exactly, but to grow SOME of their own food. A point that seems to be being lost in this and similar threads. Like FP said above, it's about nutrition and when I see people talking about growing their own food but not talking details it always makes me uneasy. There's nothing wrong with not growing all of one's own food of course, it's just that most of these discussions don't talk about nutrition for a family over decades and how to sustain that.

On the other hand, I'm not sure about FP's criticism of food forests. It seems like we haven't had nearly enough time to learn how to do this. Aren't forest systems decades old? So we've had maybe one full cycle so far, certainly not enough to sort out the kinks.

PP, thanks for clarifying earlier, it's very interesting to see what mix of things you are growing. Are any of the families eating meat? Where is that coming from?

24-07-2011, 05:12 PM
PP, thanks for clarifying earlier, it's very interesting to see what mix of things you are growing. Are any of the families eating meat? Where is that coming from?

Pebble I perhaps need to clarify further as I am sure our customers do buy other vegetables and fruits apart from the ones we supply. I am sorry if I gave the impression that I was supplying all the needs of twenty families from a half acre but meant to give an indication on volumes available.
We can not supply meat or pulses even if we wanted to from our fourteen acres but we could supply enough for a family of six.

25-07-2011, 01:04 PM
Maybe a well stocked dam or an Aquaponic system could help too by supplying a limited number of fish per month. The good thing about Aquaponics is that the plants don't need to compete for nutrient so you can plant more into a limited space. Its also good for dry areas as it is a closed system so the water gets re used and you only lose water to evaporation and whatever the plants take up. The drawbacks are that pests can be more of a problem because you have to be careful what you treat them with. Also there is the initial outlay to set it up.

25-07-2011, 05:52 PM
Hi All,

We bought 50 acres in the Adelaide Hills in March 2010. My wife and I have four children, with our fifth and final child due near the end of the year. We chose 50 acres rather than a smaller block because we understand that likeminded community is so vital to long term success. So, we wanted to have enough land for our extended family to join us in the future when things get tougher than they are now.

I figured that rainfall and northerly aspect were both more important that soil quality, since you can improve soil but it's impossible to change aspect and nearly impossible to reliably influence rainfall. We limited ourselves to SA because that's where our extended family (aka potential likeminded community members) are. We bought the 50 acres in the highest rainfall area we could afford (avg 800mm) which isn't much by Eastern standards but isn't half bad for SA. We also placed a high value on an existing dam or two, since State govt water management boards are really making life hard for rural property owners to construct new surface water storage in any form. Apparently the rain that falls on your property is decreasingly yours, and increasingly claimed by the govt to supply the urban centre of choice.

I was expecting that 50 acres would be enough for 5 families of say 5 - 6 people per family. We don't expect to be completely self sufficient, but we do expect to be able to produce all of our water, all of our shelter, all of our firewood, most of our veggies and fruit, most of our grain and a good chunk of our meat from this property. Any surplus from the things we can produce, the plan would be to exchange/barter etc with other nearby communities for the things they have (hopefully surpluses of different things!)

We're using the "Linda Woodrow" Chookdome Mandala system for zone 1, plus a zone 2 fruit and nut orchard. We plan to establish alleycropping on our lower paddocks, with Dorper sheep being our primary meat source grazing between cereal crops and tree shelter belts. If anyone knows of a better general purpose orchard interplant and alleycropping tree than Tagasaste for cool temperate permaculture application, please tell me before I start raising thousands of Tagasaste tubestock this spring!

So, my answer is, in the Adelaide Hills, you should be able to feed a family of 6 from 10 acres.

David Holmgren has gone on record as saying that Graham and Anne Marie Brookman's "Food Forest" in Gawler SA is probably the best working permaculture Food Forest in Australia at the moment. They have about 34 acres from memory, from which they feed themselves and 4-6 WWOOFERs year round, plus supply a stall at the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmer's Market for cash income.

25-07-2011, 07:57 PM
nchattaway, please share photos and stories when you can.. looking forward to it.

26-07-2011, 05:52 AM
so many variables hey? yes aspect very important but then not many know waht you mean when you say aspect they think it is ths way the house faces on the block, and as aspect hunters affect land sales real estate don't want to know about, we always buy the right aspect usually northern, but this time around beggars can't be choosers we will have to take what we can afford and do our best with it. hard thing to cop when you have had the opportunity to look for aspect above all. then the enxt thing those who buy aspect do they then research the type of home design needed to get that wanted winter sun into warm the house up? that is the next thing hey many locked into that littel log cabin dream with smoke spyraling out of chimney, not eco' friendly at all and not sustainable. so on aspect alone as much as 75% of all houses built could be on the wrong aspects.

not only aspect for aspects sake teh further south maybe the higher up that aspect one needs to be? take a compass when looking at land to buy.


26-07-2011, 08:55 AM
Here is what you can do on 1.5 acres.

26-07-2011, 09:56 AM
Hi Len,

If you can find land that slopes gently towards the equator, it seems you'll have the potential for a textbook permaculture demonstration site, but more importantly for removing some of the barriers to growing plenty of produce.
But, you can do something to improve any land and it does have to be affordable. What's the point in borrowing a huge sum to buy a perfect north facing property if you then need to have all available people working fulltime off the property to meet the mortgage payments? Much better to reduce the size or "desirability" of the setting so that you can service the debt and still have some time and energy to improve it.

What works for us permies at the moment, in my opinion, is the fact that a lot of cashed up would-be "treechangers" are after the idyllic looking property. They've spent their entire lives focused on appearance, facade and the image they portray to other people and these habits are hard to shake so they make their rural property purchase from this perspective. A quaint old cottage (or stately farm manor), some detached stabling, a roundyard and dressage arena, a picturesque dam, maybe a little B&B cottage and lots of perfectly mowed green pasture seems to be what they're looking for. These properties sell for big bucks regardless of aspect or suitability to permaculture applications.
So, the more basic "diamonds in the rough" can be selected on different criteria.

If I was 10 years younger and we hadn't started having children yet, I would definitely have gone with a property with no existing dwelling. I would build a big zincalume shed with concrete slab foundation on an east-west axis halfway down a north facing slope and surround the east, south and western walls with rendered strawbales, and build much of the northern wall with glass. Thick insulation to the roof and line the inside with concrete besser blocks or bricks. I'd rough it with no grid connected electricity or mains water. I'd spend the least amount of time and money possible on the house initially, then spend all my time and money establishing infrastructure for water and food production. The best time to plant trees is ten years ago. Then, only when these were sorted out and a regular food supply was being successfully grown, I'd think about making the house nicer.


26-07-2011, 05:54 PM
The best time to plant trees is ten years ago.

Just read this not long ago, but slightly different.

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now".

I like your vision.

28-07-2011, 01:50 AM
Grasshopper, thanks for the video link! love that! :)