Privacy as far as the eye can see, a self-sustaining forest garden to feed an army, and a room with a view: the ultimate homesteader dream. While we haven’t moved onto sprawling land to homestead just yet (not too long, though!), my husband and I are having lots of conversations dedicated to getting clear on what our desires and needs are for our property and home in preparation for our next move.
There’s a spectrum of homesteading out there — from people who are 100% self-sustained and never step foot in a grocery store to the casual backyard gardener who can provide themselves fresh salads all summer. Truthfully, our preferences fall somewhere in the middle. To ensure we’re on the same page and maneuvering this process deliberately, these are some of the main questions we’re asking ourselves now.
How much work are we willing to put in daily?
In the forefront of our discussions is the intention that we don’t want to create jobs for ourselves that keep us tethered to our home 99% of the time. I’m not an early riser nor do I want the workload of a full time farmer.
While we do want to produce the vast majority of our own food year round, my vision has been shaped heavily by the concept of forest gardening — a self-sufficient system that requires little maintenance. Forest gardens take longer to develop and require much more planning on the front end. However, this seems like a trade I’m willing to make if the alternative is constant weeding and watering.
Plants aren’t the only consideration here. Maintaining animals such as chickens, goats, or sheep requires daily attention that is not as straight-forward to automate over an extended period of time. That means having someone available to check on the animals during vacations or even a long weekend away. Since we’re not quite ready for that type of complication, animals will probably be a much later addition.
What climate do we want?
Two years of living in Orlando has us not wanting to leave Florida any time soon. The mild winters and beach access is heavenly. Plus, most of the state front here down enjoys an 11 month growing season. Since north isn’t an option, moving a bit farther south seems inviting. Narrowing in on a geographical region has allowed us to keep an eye on the market and helped us get more clear on what a homestead would require based on the weather and seasons.
Build or buy?
There are plenty of properties out there that would enable us to move right in. However, our preferences for our home lend better to building a house. Therefore, we’re only considering undeveloped properties which is a critical search criteria.
What are our demands of the space?
Privacy is a top priority for us. In fact, it’s very much a deal breaker. When we view properties and consider the acreage, proximity to neighbors and the ability to obscure certain views (like the house from the road) are key. At this time, 10 acres is an average size we’re okay with. Ultimately, I’d like to be on several hundred acres; however, the market in Florida isn’t really compatible with that type of space availability, and it doesn’t hurt to start small and move if we choose to grow.