No matter where you live you can homestead! However what you can do on your homestead may be determined or limited by where you live.
In this article I will go over how to evaluate your property to determine the possibilities and limitations that will help you decide what homesteading will look like for you.
Finding out what the ordinances are in your area
- Municode (nationwide)
- American Legal Publishing Corporation (nationwide, with some state exceptions)
- General Code (nationwide, with some state exceptions)
- Code Publishing, Inc. (nationwide, but focusing largely on states in the West)
- Sterling Codifiers, Inc. (focusing largely on states in the West and Midwest)
- Quality Code Publishing (focusing largely on states in the West)
- Coded Systems, LLC (focusing largely on New Jersey, but has content for a collection of other states)
- Franklin Legal Publishing (focusing on Texas)
- Colorado Code Publishing Company (focusing on Colorado)
Ways to get ordinances changed
- Line up your allies.
- Try to identify a potential champion on your city council who will work on your behalf.
- Arm yourself with some information. Find ordinances from other city that allow for livestock and gardens for comparison.
- Start a petition to get the law or ordinance changed.
- Familiarize yourself with the procedures of the local government by attending council meetings and getting to know local politicians.
Gardens require plenty of sunlight so if you plan on having a garden you need to evaluate your property for the proper amount light. In the northern hemisphere this will more than likely and ideally be a south facing part of your property away from outbuildings and tall trees.
Even if you don’t have a lot of space with the right amount of sunlight don’t be overly discouraged. First see if there is anything you can do to increase the sunlight on a patch of land by perhaps removing some branches from a tree providing to much shade or moving a structure such as a shed. Even if this isn’t a possibility there are many creative ways to have a garden space such as balcony or even indoor gardens under grow lights.
Generally a place north of a garden area is a great place to grow trees, specifically fruit trees not only because they will provide you with an abundance of food but also will draw in pollinators.
Also look on your property for ornamental trees that could possibly be replaced by a food production tree, whether fruit or nut.
Having some shade is good if it’s in the right places. Providing shade for livestock is a plus especially in warmer climates. Whether livestock is small or large they will appreciate a place where they can escape the direct sunlight for a few hours a day.
Having spotty shade for some crops also is great to have. I intentionally planted a row of fruit trees south of a garden on the south side of my house because it was too hot for the plants there. By spacing out the trees it allows for breaks in the direct sunlight but also provides them with enough sunlight throughout the day to grow well without burning up and withering in the sun.
How is the soil on your property? Is it hard and compacted? Is it clay based? Is it made up of “fill dirt” with lots of rock and possibly other unwanted particles? Maybe it’s near perfect, dark, rich, loomy soil and you won’t have to do much to it at all. All these things are necessary to know about your property so you can know which direction to go.
You may want to start by getting a soil test. These can usually be done at your local County Extension Office. These tests will tell you what deficiencies you have in your soil, they will also tell you if you have any heavy metals present you need to be concerned about.
Know matter what your soil type or soil problems there are things you can do to correct or overcome the problem. Amending the soil may take a little time, energy and resources but in the long run it’s worth it. In extreme cases bad soil can be overcome by building raised beds and bringing in new soil.
Having access to good water is extremely important for your homestead for your garden, your livestock and you.
Access to well or municipal water is where your probably going to begin. Municipal water supplies have a lot of problems for drinking so I recommend a good water filtration system like a berkey that filters out nearly all of the bad things. Wells can also have problems so get your water tested regularly.
Rainwater collection is a great way to go for watering gardens and livestock. If you have gutters on a house barn or other outbuildings you can set up a rainwater catchment system that can provide you with all your homesteading water needs.
Evaluating your property for poor drainage is important as well. Unless your growing rice, most crops don’t do to well in standing water nor do livestock.
Knowing how water flows into and across your property will be valuable information. This will help you decide how you will control that flow and utilize it in a way that will benefit your homestead. Many properties, especially urban and suburban are set up to divert or drain water as quickly as possible. A properly designed property will be set up to utilize that water for the land. You may decide to put in swales on your property to slow down and control the water flow and make use of the water while allowing for maximized growing space. A swale is a ditch on the contour of a property that holds water and slowly releases it back into the land.
Perhaps you think this isn’t something you need to think about especially if you live in more condensed areas but those who homestead in wide open spaces understand the struggles with wind.
Wind can damage crops, infrastructure and make for some brutal winters. Evaluating the wind situation on your property can help in homestead design, knowing where to place gardens to minimize wind damage, planting trees strategically to provide wind blocks. Outbuilding can also be strategically placed for wind blocks that will benefit your homestead.
What outbuilding do you already have? Are they in the right places? Can they be used for something other than their original intended purpose. Are there places to put other outbuildings such as sheds and coops and greenhouses?
Good fences serve all kinds of purposes and it’s important to evaluate you fence situation on your property. Do you already have fences? Are they in good shape and in the right places? Are there places where you need to put fencing?
Fences can provide very useful infrastructure as they can provide security, privacy, trellises, and make homestead life easier in many ways. But only if it’s the right kind of fence in the right place.
Do you have room for other infrastructure such as a compost bin or perhaps an outdoor cold smoker. Evaluating your property for the possibilities of future building projects will help you make plans for your homestead as you grow and help you to understand your possibilities as well as your limitations.
What are your neighbors like? Good neighbors are worth there weight in gold, bad neighbors can ruin your life and make you miserable. Knowing this will help you make possibly hard decisions about your homestead going in. It will help you decide what kind of security or privacy you may need for your homestead.
Root cellars, basements or just a large cupboard can provide a place for storing canned goods and root vegetables. Do you have such places on your property already, can you have such a place? The answer is probably yes in nearly all cases which shows that nearly anyplace can be made to accommodate some aspects of a homestead.
Do you have a kitchen? I’m guessing you do and that’s why i wanted to point this out. So many overlook the important of this homesteading skill but they shouldn’t and you can do it no matter where you live.