My family and I have been looking at purchasing property outside of the metropolis we are in, here in Dallas TX. With the current housing market, this has been disheartening. Everything is over valued right now, including raw land. Our goal was to find some acreage, preferably with a fixer upper on it that we can take on as a project for the next couple of years.
I wanted to explore other ideas on what we might do with a property for it to work for us (should we ever find one). Plan B is to find acreage with no house on it. If we find one at the right price, here’s a list of projects we could put in that would help us transition a home into it:
DOCUMENT THE SITE AND GET A PERMACULTURE CONSULTANT
I would consult with a reputable local permaculture designer with lots of experience in larger lots. Having a permaculture consultant will help expedite the time needed to observe the site and allow me to do broadstrokes of work that will get built in phases. I would also set out to get a LIDAR scan on the site so I have a detailed digital map for reference as we study the site. I’ve seen rates billed by the acre, so for my target size of property this is feasible to do.
In addition, we can vet the feasibility of the listed options below with an experienced broad scale permaculture consultant.
CHECK WATER, ACCESS AND STRUCTURE
With potentially no structure yet, we would go with access and water-then find a reasonable location for a structure. The structure could be a temporary work area, a campsite or a shed. The access would be pretty easy for the type of property we have been exploring.
PUT IN INITIAL EARTHWORKS
This is a long term play. It would start the property on a regenerative path and will accelerate the site improvements even before we build there. I wouldn’t go and do something large like a pond, but smaller swales might work. For the size of land I am looking for, this won’t be a whole lot – I hope.
One of the other side benefits is that nothing can be stolen while we are away from the site. Cons? If not done right, I will end up spending time on it when I come to work on a house, and it would take time away from the house part of the project.
INSTALL A SHED OR SHIPPING CONTAINER
Having a basic structure on site would have a lot of advantages-mainly I would have a base of operations. It would make trips out to the property easier and things would be set up for continuity of work from the last visit. I’d have tools, materials and some basic needs there.
One of the main risks is that this will be prone to vandalism. All the resource I put in to get things set up for my next visit could be stolen or damaged when I return. There are ways to reduce this concern, but I think this risk is just something we would need to accept to a degree.
As an alternative to this, to avoid the concern of vandalism and looting I would consider a cargo trailer where we would keep most of the tools. This removes the ability to store materials on site though, but may work for high value equipment and storage so I can keep those portable.
CLEAR OUT A CAMPING SITE
A camp site now would also be a long term benefit. Besides, this will probably be where we park on each visit, and will be close to where the house would sit. It would allow us to observe the site over the course of time and visualize if that spot makes sense for a permanent structure. This would also be the work area as we build the home.
It can also be rented out as a campsite thru Hipcamp and other similar services.
INSTALL RAINWATER HARVESTING AND IRRIGATION
I really like the idea of putting in plants ahead of construction. May not be the best idea considering the logistics of a construction site, but for a home project of this size it may be feasible. After all these are plants more likely on my permaculture zone 2 and zone 3.
Again, there are risks of this being stolen and vandalized so I would keep it minimal. A used IBC container on some cinder blocks, some recycled roofing and timber to build a shed to gather rain water. A basic timer to turn the hose on and off. I might be in it for $200 maybe. The plants might be more expensive, depending on what is put in.
One problem would be visibility, this would be easy to spot in an open field since the structure would be well above the ground (just the IBC gives me away). Maybe there is a lower profile option available-that might not be a bad idea.
PHASING THE WORK:
The order of how these are put in will vary with the property. Maybe there’s already water features there. Or a camp site is already in. I am certain that each person will have their own ideas and that even for us, once we see the land we would have another set of ideas to consider. The point of having general ideas now is that we can supplement those later influx of options with some familiarity.
Before I forget, one of the most important things we can do as early as possible is to meet the neighbors and slowly get to know them. The value of having a community would only grow as I spend more time on this kind of project. They would also be a potential resource, allowing me references to local businesses that would help my project.
Now that I look at it, before I got started with any of the other steps I would go out and mingle with the new community first. Eat at a local establishment, or buy from a nearby store and chat. I’d get a feel if it was warm or if it was indifferent. At the very least I’d have one of the easiest ice breaker conversations about weather, and I’d get some understanding of what the local weather tends to be like. I would also have an opportunity to introduce myself and hopefully meet other likeminded people.
Alt-Ark‘s goal is to make architecture more permaculture. We seek to empower the creation of forever homes that families can design to match the lives they choose.