Dog on the Run

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This dog has no collar and has dug a trench in this man's yard.  It costs him time, money and effort to fix it.  Irresponsible dog owners remove collars to prevent dogs from being identified.
This dog has a collar and has dug a trench in this man’s yard. It costs him time, money and effort to fix it. Many irresponsible dog owners remove collars to prevent them from being identified as the dog’s owner.

Farmers have an issue in common with small towns and large cities.  Stray dogs running lose without proper supervision by their owners.  In communities and countrysides all over the world people have come to blows with neighbors over stray dogs.  This has been a problem as long as dogs have been domesticated.

As you read this article, bear in mind that not only do we have livestock, we have three dogs and two cats.  We love our pets.  But they are required to remain on property at all times and under our supervision at all times.

Dog owners who allow them to run loose are responsible for the actions of their dogs just the same as they are responsible for their children and in the same way employers are responsible for their employees.  Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t care because they think the property damaged or the livestock and poultry killed will never be traced back to the dog owner.

Irresponsible dog owners also have a notion that “dogs should be dogs” and be allowed to run free.  That is absolutely not true, and they don’t believe it themselves.  How do we know this?  Because you can bet they have house broken their dogs and taught them how to live within the human environment with acceptable behaviors in the family home.  These owners simply don’t care about anyone else’s property or well being.

The overriding theme here is that these particular dog owners do not respect the property of others and believe they are immune to the law.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter where you live, you see this behavior in all places of the world.

For city dwellers, you have recourse of the law.  It is illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits in almost every city in the country, except in the dire need of self-defense.  Cities are slow to react to complaints about unsupervised dogs and do it in increments only after many steps by the property owner, or after serious injury or death of a person.  Farmers, who live outside city limits are allowed to protect their property, family and livestock in the same manner.  Farmers don’t have to wait for the dog to actually do anything to take preventative measures.

All too often we hear of a farmer trying to be “nice” and “agreeable” with their irresponsible dog owning neighbors when trying to settle the matter permanently.  This is usually ineffective in most cases and allows a bad situation to get worse.

Think of it like this, the neighbor is doing wrong by allowing his dog to run loose onto your property to tear things up, dig holes for people and livestock to turn an ankle in or to have lawn mowers fall in, and then wander off to your cattle lot or chicken pen to see what’s for fun or dinner.  Dogs will chase cattle until they die.  The owner doesn’t care, but also bets that you will never shoot his dog for fear of possible repercussions.  After all, he isn’t going to be the big mean person who shot a poor defenseless dog, as he tells this to every neighbor and the sheriff.  You can see it now can’t you?  Them all talking and shaking their heads to the shame of your senseless act?

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Shooting an owner-less stray predatory dog is the absolute right thing to do because you can’t stop the dog yourself with out risking your own life or limb.  Choosing to use anything less than a lethal attempt is ineffective.  Using a B-B gun, pepper spray, rock salt, or paint balls only teaches the dog to check to see if the person who uses those things is on the property.

If the dog really wants what you have, he will watch and wait for you to leave and then go after it.  Also, many dogs will tear up your fence, barn, or chicken coop to get inside.  Don’t believe that?  Think about what a male dog will do to get into an enclosure of a female in heat.  A family member had a dog in heat, so while they were at work they put it in the closed garage. They came home to find their garage destroyed by male dogs trying to get to the female.  Which they did, and she was no where to be found since she got away because the double car sized door was destroyed.  How much more will it do to get a meal to survive or feed it’s puppies?

Next, you don’t know for sure if the dog on your property is a healthy neighbor’s dog or a wild dog that could be infected with any disease or parasite.  Actually, you don’t really know if the neighbor’s dog is healthy because irresponsible dog owners may not practice good veterinarian care either.  Using non-lethal force on a wild or sick dog might get you sick, injured or dead too.

Using pepper spray will cause the animal to salivate in great amounts.  I would not want a rabid or otherwise sick dog salivating all over my property to spread his infection to my pets or any animal that might encounter it and then spread it to my livestock or me.  Just because a dog doesn’t look sick does not mean it’s healthy.

Once a dog has found great entertainment or something yummy and exciting to eat, he will return, time and time again unless the dog owner takes action or the property owner does.

One way to prevent battles with neighbors over dogs is to send a certified letter to all neighbors notifying them that you have had trouble with a dog harassing or killing your livestock or poultry, or is menacing to your family, or damaging your property, and that you are going to use every legal means necessary to protect your investment, including killing the dog.  For some reason, using economic terms gets their attention and they pay attention.  Since they have signed for the certified mail they can not ever clam they did not know their dog was an issue.

This letter could also include a price list of your livestock should their dog damage or kill it.  Reasonable prices would include money spent, time, and future loss of the animal and future products from that animal.  So if the neighbor’s dogs run your prize milk cow to death, not only do they owe you for the vet bills and disposal of the animal, they also owe for the purchase price of the cow, and the loss of milk and calf production over the life of that cow.   Why?  Because now you have to start over investing time and money for a new milk cow and calves.

As you can see, the dollar amounts are now quite large.  When the dollar amount is presented to the irresponsible dog owners, they are suddenly motivated to keep their dogs home.  You can’t be where all of your livestock is all the time, but your security camera can.  Having images captured by your high definition security camera of the dog in the act will go a long way towards getting them to settle out of court and persuade law enforcement officers, county commissioners, or city council members to enforce the law.

photo by: OakleyOriginals

Summer Heat Causes Garden and Bird Blues

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By cindy

It’s that time of year again.  The garden is withering in the summer heat.  It won’t matter how often I water the the garden, it’s still going to die from the beating the sun gives it.  Providing shade only provides minimal relief.  The tomatoes are still producing, but not as well.  Everything else is pretty […]

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Birds, Birds, and MORE Birds!

By cindy

With our ducks and chickens getting older and pretty much on auto-pilot, we are ready to add to our flocks.  I wanted some pretty birds, so I ordered several chickens just to look at.  The pretty birds we ordered are silver-laced, buff, and gold Wyandotte pullets.  We also chose Barnevelder and gold laced Polish pullets. […]

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The Value of Chickens and Ducks (A guest Post)

Ducks are a great source of protein.
Khaki Campbell Ducklings at

(A guest post by

On our quest to be independent we decided to get busy with livestock.  We have had chickens in the past and know how much fun they can be and about their easy care.  Well, almost easy care.

This time around we chose Australorps for eggs and meat because they are a great dual purpose bird.  They are docile, meaning they usually are not going to give you any trouble by pecking you.  They lay well, up to 250 per year (or more).  With ten hens, production should be about 2,500 per year.  Feed costs . . . Read more

Getting Poultry: Choosing a Hatchery and other Important Decisions

Choosing chicks from a hatchery or to incubate your own?Choosing to keep poultry is a big decision.  Adding another responsibility to anyone’s life is life changing.  If you already have other livestock to tend, the change is mostly minor in that it will add to the amount of time it takes to do the morning chores.  But, if livestock is a new addition to your quest for self-reliance, then consider it seriously.

Having livestock will change the way you live.  No longer will you be able to take an impromptu trip overnight.  Every trip will require planning in advance to find someone who is reliable to feed, water, and check on the well being of your animals.  Making sure you have enough feed on hand and so on.  Sometimes it will seem easier to just stay home or take day trips.

Be sure you are ready to invest in the equipment, feed, and the proper structures for keeping your birds safe and healthy.  Most of the equipment is not expensive and some you can make yourself.  Just like human babies, chicks need equipment based on their aged and development.  Purchasing the equipment as you need it is one way to go about it.  Also, planning ahead and shopping to get the equipment you need as it fits into your budget is best.

Once the decision to raise poultry, it is important to choose what is right for you.  Chickens are considered easiest to raise by many people.  While that may or may not be true, perhaps more people raise chickens than other poultry.  The most important thing is to do your research before choosing which poultry to raise.

Consider your purpose.  Are you raising poultry for eggs only, for meat only, or for both?  For eggs only, choose a breed that will provide a large number of eggs.  Layer breeds tend to be small breeds and while you “can” eat them, they won’t have much meat on them.  Meat birds are larger, but don’t lay as well, and some don’t naturally reproduce.  There are the dual purpose birds as well.  These breeds typically lay an acceptable number of eggs, get a good weight, and are ready to cull at about 12 weeks of age.

Are you going to set eggs to hatch?  Will you be letting the chickens raise their own brood?  If so, make certain the breed you choose has a reputation for being good mothers and go broody often.  Not sure but think you might?  Perhaps choosing a breed that meets your other requirements and is also broody is the thing to do.  Later if you decide you want to let them go set their nest, you already have the breed you need.

How many birds do you need?  That depends.  Think about how many dozen eggs you use in a week.  Twelve chickens will not provide twelve eggs every day, but will average enough for a family of four.  The laying cycle is 25 hours on a perfect day.  The process is slowed by cold weather or even something that scares the chickens enough that they hold their eggs until they think it is safe to lay.  If they don’t get enough food or water, that slows them too.

Your climate is as important when choosing breeds too.  Many breeds stop laying eggs when it gets cold.  Others will lay longer into the cold season, and some will lay all year around.  Colder climates may require a heater in the chicken coop.  During the Mini Ice Age it was recorded that people brought their livestock into the house to keep them from freezing to death.  Even so, make certain your birds will have adequate heat for the cold months and adequate air-flow the rest of the year to prevent over heating.

Now that all those things are decided, choose the hatchery carefully.  Hatcheries are like any other business.  They need to make money to keep the doors open.  If they have diseases in their flocks, they will quickly go out of business if they don’t get it under control.  All the same,  if in doubt, check the C.D.C. website to see if the hatchery you are considering has been listed as having been the source of an outbreak like salmonella.  Most likely they have not.

Consider the distance from the hatchery of your choice to your location.  Most hatcheries can can ship healthy birds to your location if you are inside the 48 contiguous states.  With a 72 hour maximum between hatching and first feed and water, it is smarter to buy your birds as close to you as possible.  If the particular breed you want is not offered close enough to arrive withing the 72 hour window, there is the likelihood that many or all of the chicks will die.

When the distance is too great for live chicks, consider ordering fertilized eggs and incubating them yourself.  Some hatcheries won’t ship Incubating eggs from a hatchery can be rewarding.eggs because the success rate can not be promised.  Other hatcheries take every precaution to ensure the shipment arrives in good condition.  Even so, they may not arrive in good enough condition to incubate.  If the eggs get too cold or too hot, they won’t be suitable for incubating.  Not to mention what happens if the package gets dropped and the eggs break.  Incubating eggs produces “straight run” chicks, which means likely the birds will be about half male and half female chicks.  Unless you are a chick sexer, you won’t know which are which until they are old enough to develop their respective characteristics.  People who order eggs for incubating do well with the process and have favorable results.

After having chickens for a while, consider adding ducks and other poultry to the family homestead.  Heck, you might as well.  In for a penny in for a pound, right?

photos by: quiddle. & rkimpeljr

H7N9 is Over; New Discoveries About the Bird Flu

The H7N9 (Bird Flu) virus is a concern, although none has been reported in the United States.  World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan stated the H7N9 outbreak is over.  No new cases are being reported in China.  Dr. Chan said,

“At the end of March this year, China reported the first-ever human infections with the H7N9 avian influenza virus. Within three weeks, more than 100 additional cases were confirmed. Although the source of human infection with the virus is not yet fully understood, the number of new cases dropped dramatically following the closing of live bird markets,”

Swift action on the part of the Chinese government, and the voluntary actions of the farmers before the government inspectors arrived on scene are to be credited for the short duration of the epidemic.  Farmers were so frightened at the possibility that their flocks might have  H7N9 that they destroyed their flocks without prodding by the government.  As government health officials announced the regions where infections had been found, farmers quickly responded.

Chinese officials are working closely with the World Health Organization and other international experts to attempt to find answers about how this particular outbreak started and ways to prevent future outbreaks.  They are also looking into it’s unique genetic sequence.

Migratory birds blamed for H7N9 Bird Flu

Studies of the virus bring to light additional concerns about H7N9.  Arising out of the H7N9 outbreak is that the virus is resistant to Tamiflu and that the human immune system does not strongly fight the virus.  Also concerning is that 21% – 24% of those infected were fatal cases.  Other findings include the disease is spread by direct contact with the virus and less effectively by breathing the same air as those infected.

Even though the outbreak in China is seemingly over, they believe it was caused by migratory birds.  There is no guarantee that wild birds are not carrying the virus.  Since wild birds migrate from China to the U. S. west coast, the article by Stephanie Gayle is worth a look.


The Asian Scientist

World Health Organization

NBC News

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Weekly Reports)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)


photo by: Koshyk

The Snake Dance

Coral SnakeIn this part of the country, there is no “cold” season where snakes hide underground until spring time.  Not at all.  Snakes can be seen year around if you know where to look.  Sure, there are a few cold days, maybe even below 30 degrees three to five days in December or January.  This part of the country it is common to see tall brush even inside city limits.  The soil is sand, not soil.  These are ideal conditions for snakes.  There are all kinds of snakes here too.  There is the usual plethora of non-poisonous snakes but more than that, there are several species of poisonous snakes too.

Yesterday there was a coral snake on the front step.  In the United States there are sixty five species of coral snakes and there are eleven species in the other parts of the world. I’ve also seen water moccasins, diamond back and sidewinder rattlesnakes,   Mind you not all at the same time.  They seem to take turns about which one is the venomous snake on the property.  But, there is always something on the property, or near by, that is dangerous if not respected, if not a snake then scorpions, killer bees, wasps, and others.

Therein lies the rub.  If you don’t respect the fact that snakes are going to be more present in our environment because we have encroached on theirs, they will take us by surprise.  Which is what happened to me yesterday.

It had been months since I saw any kind of snake up near the house.  I waltzed right out the front door to look after the chicks and ducklings when right at my feet, a mere three inches away, was the coral snake.  YIKES!!  Talk about doing the snake dance.  And I didn’t know I could scream like a pro.

When I jumped up on the freezer in the garage, my husband came running out.  “Where’s the snake?” he asked.  Now for most of us that is enough.  But later I asked him how he knew it was a snake.  He said there is only one thing that truly frightens me and that is snakes, so it had to be a snake.

How many times have you gone to your garden or hen house only to find snakes of some sort?  For me, that’s an immediate about face and find my husband reaction.  It’s happened often enough that I don’t go to less frequently used parts of the land without his careful check for snakes.

There’s not much you can do to keep snakes off your property.  If you don’t want to do The Snake Dance, the best you can do is be respectful of the fact that they are there some where.  Pay attention to habitat.  Keep the yard mowed, and mow extra wide paths for walking so that you can maximize your ability to see snakes before you get too close.  For me, I like the paths to be at least fifteen feet wide.  Watch your where your footfalls will land and survey the surrounding areas too.  Watch ahead and behind and to each side.  When you come back through that same path, don’t assume there are not snakes because they weren’t there the first time.

(the other half!)
photo by: Bird Brian

Food Production Planning – Not Your Grandmother’s Garden

A bountiful garden can provide produce to last all winter.If you are like most of us, you have a day job.  For some people that makes gardening and livestock chores just a little more like work than fun.  After all, the number of days you have are limited and other demands such as family and friends consume your time, too.  Never mind about the unplanned or unexpected events that soak up that last free minute.

For these reasons, and even if you don’t have a job outside the home or farm, the most successful people plan their meat and produce production.  While the process is simple it’s also complicated.  Canning a year’s supply of tomatoes while you hear the noisy chickens in the backyard that need processed could add a little more stress than you need.

The most important things you need for planning your food supply are a good memory, a pencil with a good eraser and a calendar with large spaces for writing.

Keep your calendars from year to year, making notes on the results and what you do differently each year.  Did you run out of your favorite veggies last year? Was the bean yield worth the cost of production?  Did you end up giving away more produce than you wanted?  Could you have sold them instead of giving them all away?  How about chickens?  Did you have more or less than you wanted?  Could you have given to charity or needy people instead of employed people?

Once you have written down how much of each produce you will need, calculate the anticipated yield for each product and plant accordingly.  If you live in a climate that doesn’t allow you to stagger your planting, you might need to do it the old fashioned way and share your bounty with trusted friends who are willing to can for you in their kitchens.

While harvesting, keep track of how much you harvest daily.  When you grocery shop, check and record the grocery store price of the produce or meat. If the produce is not available locally, look up online ads for big chain grocery stores to help price those things.  It might seem like a chore, but do it anyway.

Pricing information is important for a few reasons.  First, it allows you to see the fruits of your labor in terms of dollars and cents.  That is important because you need to know that your efforts pay off.  Second, if you decide to sell your products, you will know how to set your prices.  Be sure to set prices higher than grocery stores because your products are a higher quality product.  Third, you will know the value of losses should a disaster destroy your crops.  This is most important if you register your farm stand business for tax purposes and buy insurance for this purpose.

Is this beginning to sound like a business?  Yep.  You bet it is.  Why?  Because if you look at it from a business perspective, even just a few times a year, you will quickly figure out what you need to change to get the most out of your livestock and garden with the least time and money investment.  People think you need many acres of land to grow produce to sell on the market.  It’s not true.  Both chain and independent grocery stores purchase produce from local growers.  It’s a win-win for them.  They get good will, freshest and highest quality produce and you get money and appreciation for your crops.

In my region, we only have two grocery stores to choose from in a 40 mile radius.  One of them, H.E.B., also has a woman-owned business policy to encourage women to become entrepreneurs.

While most of us know we don’t garden or raise livestock for business purposes, we also know we need to be as efficient with our resources as possible.  It would be nice to know if we could make a living doing what we love.  By running your garden plot and barnyard as a small business, registering it as a D.B.A., and getting a tax number, you can also take advantage of buying some items wholesale which will drive down your costs and increase profit.  Everything from seed to livestock feed may become less expensive. Business expenses are deductible too.  Sure, there are some extra pieces of paper to file here and there, but the benefits could far outweigh the effort.

To make it easier to plan your garden both Johnny Seeds and Veseys provide assistance.


photo by: faith goble

Keeping Predators Away from Your Chicken Flocks or Other Birds

No matter where you live, if you have livestock, there are predators.  Well, okay, there might be some places where predators don’t go, but even dogs and cats can be considered predators if you live inside city limits. The way to protect your flock is to fully understand each species your birds are likely to encounter and act on that knowledge.

Skunks like chicken or other bird eggs.Because humans have encroached so far into the habitat of wild species, many towns now have a showing of skunks, opossums, raccoon, snakes, predatory birds, coyotes, bob cats, foxes, alligators, and last but certainly not least, bears.  To this list of native North American species add the list of exotic species in Florida and other states where such things have escaped and made their home.

Many species of wildlife carry deadly rabies, lice, fleas, ticks, and other unwelcome parasites that can be spread to other living creatures such as your birds and you.  The less exposure they have to these things, the better.  Ever since the discovery that you don’t have to get bitten by, or even seen, a rabid animal to get rabies, it should cause everyone to stop and think about how they manage their animals.

Lets start with the smallest of creatures and work our way up to the biggest.  Snakes.  Make sure you know what species of snakes live in Snakes love chicks and eggs.your region and what they like to eat.  All parts of the U. S. has some form a rattlesnake and most of the country has cotton mouth snakes (also called water moccasin) .  Some non-venomous snakes are also predators and will enjoy your flock as much as you do.  Snake are interested in eggs and baby chicks.  Many move so slowly into the hen house that hens don’t notice them until the snake is in the nests waiting for his dinner.  When gathering eggs, make certain there isn’t a snake in the nest BEFORE you put your hand in there.

If a snake is in one of the nests the birds won’t have laid any eggs in nests near the snake.  Which means they will be fighting amongst themselves to use the other available nests.  You might even hear the commotion from a distance.  The snake is only interested in the food it can eat, eggs and chicks.  It usually won’t bother a hen if the hen does not act aggressive towards the snake.  The snakes wait until the nests are unattended and slither over to enjoy an egg.  He then slithers back to the other nest and lays down for a nap until next meal time.

To keep snakes out of the hen house make certain there are no holes a snake can fit through.  Cover openings with wire mesh with a small enough grid to prevent snakes from entering.  Check from floor to ceiling.  If you see daylight, cover it up!  The good news is that what will keep out snakes will also keep out skunks, raccoon, opossum, foxes and coyotes.

Is this raccoon just coming out of a hen house? Skunks, raccoon  and opossums bumble along and pretty much eat what ever they find.  But they do hunt for eggs, among other things.  However, if a skunk were to wander into a chicken yard during the daytime, the chickens will peck it and the rooster will spur it.  At night, chickens are almost helpless because that is when they are their most docile.  Raccoon and opossum will kill your birds as well as eat the eggs.  If you find any of these in your hen house, culling them is the best solution because they will return.  Since they already know where the good stuff is, the animals might work until they get a hole in the screen or even the wood.  For this reason, inspect the hen house every day as you feed and water the birds or collect eggs.  Which brings us to the issue of pen or no pen.

If you do not have a pen for your birds, since they are free to come and go from the coop as they wish, so can other animals.  The only way to keep out invaders is to have a pen enclosure.  Animals that can’t get into the pen will not be able to get into the coop.  If you are concerned about your hens having a large enough area to roam, just make the pen bigger.  It’s our opinion that it’s not worth letting them roam free if it means they will attract predators and get killed, or worse, a human tending them gets injured or sick from wild predators in the coop.

Alligators… yikes!  Just because you live in an area with alligators doesn’t mean you can’t have chickens. If someone tries to tell you Alligators won't go very far from water to find food.different, walk away.  We had a six foot alligator in our pond for almost two years.  He was happy there too.  He ate all my ducks and geese. Then he ate my cat and any dog or other creature that went to the pond.  Never once did he come out of the pond and wander around the property.  However, we never did know how he got there.  He could have been there a lot longer than two years and was just not noticed until he was big enough to see from a distance.  Just don’t put your chickens near the alligator habitat.  It’s their home and anything you put there should be considered food for them.

This hawk is eating a bird.Now that all the four legged and slithering creatures have been dealt with, it’s time to turn our attention to flying predators.  Hawks, eagles, owls, osprey and other predatory birds enjoy chicken, chicks, ducks, eggs and other prey they can find.  They even eat other birds of any species.  There are hawks and osprey who like to bring their meals to our back yard to eat them.  When they have killed a bird or squirrel and left the feathers or skin and bones on the ground below, it really upsets our dogs.  But, it serves as a reminder that even flighted birds can’t escape from the swiftness of their predator.

To protect your flock from predators, cover the pen with chicken wire or any other light weight fencing.  Depending on the size of the pen enclosure, it might be necessary to place posts under the fence in places to make sure it remains suspended.  It works and it’s easy.

Foxes are just like any other egg sucking dog.Which brings us to coyotes and foxes.  These critters will dig a hole under the fence to get to your flock.  The easiest way to make sure they don’t get to them is to close the hen house at night.  Simply shut the door.  Just remember to open it in the morning.  Chickens want to go outside at the crack of dawn and go to roost at sunset.  Coyotes and foxes like to show up when the birds are sleeping.  They will circle the coop to look for vulnerabilities.  Any thing they can dig or pull to make a way inside.  This is why you inspect the screen you put up to keep out snakes.

Our solution was to simply pour concrete in the areas of the barn floor where you could see daylight.  Since the barn does not have a floor, it’s fine.  We put chicken wire and wire mesh in areas prone to other critters.

Where we live, there are no bears.  However, in parts of Texas, small bears are reported.  Bears are Black bear scrounging in the dump.  Dumps are not far from human habitats.common in many areas of the country, so take them seriously.  Just because you have never seen one in your area does not mean that you won’t ever see one.  If you get a report that a bear has been sited within a reasonable distance from your property, take action.  Male black bears have been known to wander a 15 to 80 square mile territory.  Bears will tear down your chicken coop and fences.  They will eat your birds and eggs.  If you try to defend them, they might attack you too. Once they know there is food there, they will come back for more.  Momma bears will bring her cubs along on the second trip.  So far, the only effective deterrent seems to be an electric fence outside the perimeter of the coop and chicken pen.

There is another purpose for protecting your flock in a responsible manner.  Wild animals tend to be executed because they managed to find their way into human and livestock habitats.  By using barriers to protect your flock, you are also protecting wildlife from becoming endangered or extinct.



Beginners Need to Plan for Off Grid Living

Recently I received an email asking for advice.  It got me to thinking about people who want to live off the grid but have no idea where to start.  It can be overwhelming to think of all the things a person needs to learn before they can become off grid and independent.

The person who sent the email will be buying undeveloped land and wants to start out being off grid all the way.  This is a plus for them since they are not already tied to some property  they might not be able to modify because of where they live.

Because each family has similar and unique needs, it is important to evaluate all those needs before land is purchased.  Persons with medical conditions which will require frequent medical attention or may have life threatening attack probably should not choose to live 120 miles to the nearest hospital.  The longer it takes for an ambulance to arrive, the lower the survival rate for some emergencies.

With that being said, what you need depends on both your lifestyle, number of people and the ages of those who will be living in your home.   Factoring in how usage might change as people age.  You can get a rough estimate by gathering the annual usage statement for water and electricity.  Remember, older people often like a home that is warmer than a healthy 30 year old.

Search the internet for suitable locations in your state to put up windmills.  If there isn’t going to be enough wind, you won’t be able to Wind is important to living off grid.generate electricity.  Your windmill should be taller than any trees that might be near it for maximum output.  That being said, some generators will work at  wind speeds as low as 4 mph.  The department of energy put out this wind map. Solar panels to be roof mounted need to face the proper direction.  That determines the direction your home will face too.  
Choose your contractor wisely.  One who doesn’t know about off grid housing is probably not for you.  Quiz him.  Ask him questions that beginners wouldn’t know. The contractor who is building your house, if he is reputable, should be able to finish your home with those things in mind.  Perhaps with solar panels and wind generators included.

If you have not purchased the land, you will need to be sure to put a condition on the land purchase that the water and soil tests within acceptable levels of contaminants.  Likely the seller will want you to pay for those tests, but check with the local land office to see if there are tests on record.  

Given the water and soil test return a safe result, a water purification system will still be necessary for household use of Hand water pumps are important to off grid planning.well water.  The cost of having a well drilled on your property will not be cheap.  The deeper the well, the more it costs.  The more water you want to pull from the well per day, the more the cost.  There might even be a need for two wells if you are watering livestock.  Don’t fool yourself, cows drink a great deal of water.  Be sure to have a hand pump ready in case your pump stops working.  If you are moving to a community, you need to check the local laws because some cities don’t allow private wells.

If you are not going to be hooked up to city sewer services, you will need to consider what kind of septic system you want. Get a good one, and larger than suggested.  Having guests for a long period of time will increase the demands on your septic system significantly.  If you plan for two people, and some event causes another couple to move in, the demands on the septic system, and water resources, have just doubled.  Be sure to place the location of your septic system according to which direction the water will flow once it leaves the septic system.  
Do not put trees near a septic system because the roots will clog up the system and you may have to dig up your yard and have it routed out.  Look at mature trees of the type you want because what you see above ground is what you will see below.  Where the yard grows the best is where to put your garden.  
If you purchase land with maple trees, you will be able to tap the trees and sell the syrup for a good price.  We have friends who do it every year.  Some years they sell it and some years they have just enough for their use depending on annual rainfall.  The same holds true for fruit trees, if there are any on the land, you can sell the produce for money as well put up the harvest for the year by canning and making jams and jellies.
Try to get flat land, with no rocks.  If you get rocky ground, gardening will be difficult at best.  Removing rocks from the soil is tedious and time consuming.  Fortunately, you only have to do it once.  Try to look up online the regions you are interested in in terms of geology of the area.  This will tell you where good soil is and where the land is rocky and difficult for gardening.
Before you decide what kind of house to build, check out land prices.  The better the quality of land, the more expensive the acres are.  Five acres can make a great homestead to raise food for your family and to sell in farmer’s markets.
If you are going to go full off grid, consider livestock.  You might be able to include barns and what kinds of housing and fencing for your animals.  Remember to consider the winter months in your state.  Some animals might have to have at least some heat in winter.
The worst thing people do is not plan before they buy land and build.  Once you find out how much it all costs to get started, you might decide you want to build a much smaller home than anticipated, or maybe even buy a modular or pre-built home.  Some people even choose a mobile home because of the amount of space for the money.  It is best to dream big and then bring it back into the budget.
Lastly, don’t let all the planning issues overwhelm you.  Take it one step at a time.  Choose and buy land one year.  If you aren’t ready to build or move, you can at least decide where the house is going to be located. Which makes it the optimum time to plant your fruit trees.  Do just a little as time goes and you will see in a few short years you will be living off grid and be independent.
By no means is this intended to be a road map for every person who wants to become independent and off grid.  This is strictly a narrative on how to get started.  Everyone who wants to get off grid has to get started some how.  Hopefully this will at least give you some food for thought and some good ideas.  Good luck!