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Planning Your Homestead Layout
Planning your homestead is one of the most important steps that you’ll take before you begin building. How you layout your buildings and take advantage of your space is crucial. It’s what helps you enjoy the natural surpluses and avoid deficits of the land you’ve purchased. It is totally possible to build a homestead on a parcel of land almost any size. After all, you can build a garden large enough to feed a family of four on just a quarter of an acre. However, no matter what size acreage or land you have, you want to make the best use of every square inch. This is especially true if you intend to follow permaculture principles. A permaculture homestead will require that you set aside the outermost edges of your land as wild and untouched.
The first step in planning your homestead is to create a land map. A land map is actually a series of maps that are most often used in preparing a homestead using permaculture. Whether you intend to pursue a permaculture friendly homestead or not, these maps are a valuable resource.
The six maps that create a land map are:
Base Map – the most basic layout of your land. You can even go with a plat map. However if your land is sloped or on a hill, you should spend a little time going over a topographical map.
Sun Map – done over a few days, or with an application you can easily search for online. A sun map tracks the sun’s path over your property showing you where the greatest exposure is. This is crucial for successful gardening and landscaping.
Sector Map – sectors are the land areas you have no control over. A sector map focuses on natural effects such as wind direction or wildlife patterns, flooding, and drainage.
Zone Map – most useful in permaculture homesteads. You can use this to divide up your land based on proximity to your home so you can more easily figure out where you want to have your outbuildings.
Master Map – this is where you’ll plan out your buildings, plot pastures for livestock, and designate gardening space.
Water Map – this map is used to help you plan water infrastructure. This is a crucial step that ensures you have water access wherever you may need it. This map is done last so that you can see where you’ll need water to go. The water map helps with planning irrigation as well as outbuilding plumbing.
For more information on these maps and how to create them check out this great link from Tenth Acre Farm – https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/6-maps-permaculture-farm-design/
Your Master Map is where you’ll spend time planning the layout of your homestead. When planning your homestead, you want to create a list of the buildings that you’ll have on your property. Then, using your zone map, you can figure out which buildings need to be close to your house and which can be further away.
Because of the mobility issues we face, Husbando and I strongly suggested that we create short, paved walkways between our house and Big Jim and Grammie’s. Covered walkways are an even better option but we won’t be able to achieve that for all walkways and distances. On our property, I am planning to have our barn and greenhouse back to back and ideally connected via a closed walkway to our house. We don’t want anyone to slip in snow and ice.
Don’t be afraid to throw a plan out and start over again. Every time you realize why an idea won’t work or remember something you forgot, make a note and start over. Give yourself enough time to work through the plan a few times over. Take your plan and talk it over with friends and family to get their insights and input. Sometimes a second or third pair of eyes will spot issues you didn’t even think of.
Think of efficiency – it’s not just cost savings you want but time-savings. Consider how long it will take you to do your chores and think about the most likely route you’ll take each time you go out to care for your animals. These are even considerations for your home. One of the biggest mistakes Husbando and I made with our home plan was not making sure we have a play area for children. We’d thought we were through and ready to finalize, then discovered we’d forgotten that and had to go back to add that space in.
Remember, this isn’t the time to take shortcuts. A homestead is a life-time commitment for many, so you want to have the building and plan that will last you for the rest of your life.