Episode-966- Developing Raw Land into a Homestead or BOL Over the Long Haul

A Pre Fab Mini Cabin at a BOL

A Pre Fab Mini Cabin at a BOL

One of the more complex questions I was asked at Ben Falk’s PDC course was about a “long term bug out”, which I needed clarification on because it can mean so many things.  What the student meant turned out to be something very relevant for the TSP community so it has become the focus of today’s show.

This person found themselves in a situation many of us face.  They have a job, not a super job but one that pays the bills.  Said job requires life in a city/town of some size and they want to be prepared to get out someday (by design or possibly by need).  They can or have already scraped up enough money to buy some raw land, say a few acres or more.  However this land has no house on it, no infrastructure, no utilities, etc.

The question was given I have such a piece of land and can only put a few thousand a year into it, what should I be doing first and where should I be heading long term.  I partially answered this question at the evening fire though a proxy who explained all this, the student was apparently beat and went off to catch some sleep in his tent.   As I answered it I realized how much my answer had changed over the past 4 years and how some of it has stayed the same.

Join Me Today to Discuss…

  • Selecting a piece of land
    • Distance from your permanent residence
    • The consideration of climate
    • Utility access
    • Size of the property
    • Surrounding community
    • Ability to appear undisturbed
    • The value of water
  • The most critical infrastructure you can set up
    • Ponds and swale structures
    • Storage facilities
    • Shelter
    • Permanent plantings
  • Taking it to a higher level
    • Earth sheltered homes in the south
    • Timber frame homes in the cool climates
    • Water catchment for every roof like structure
    • Island gardens for land locked homesteaders
    • Design the end and work backwards
    • Don’t kid yourself about what can or will be done

Resources for Today’s Show…

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41 Responses to Episode-966- Developing Raw Land into a Homestead or BOL Over the Long Haul

  1. RationalHusker

    Awesome, awesome topic, Jack. Speaking for myself and others that have been posting on Homesteading in the Forum, this could not be more timely. Can’t wait to listen to it. I’ve called in several times the past year, and nearly all those calls were related to this very issue. I hope this podcast generates lots of discussion here, but more importantly, ongoing in the Forum.

    Thanks tons,
    –RH

  2. RationalHusker

    For those not familiar with the Homesteading board on the forum:

    http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?board=7.0

  3. Calichusetts

    As a relative newcomer to the prepping lifestyle, this has been on my mind for the exact reasons the PDC student stated. This has never been more relevant, as more and more people are getting switched on to the reality of troubled times ahead. Great subject Jack….can’t wait to listen to this Podcast andI hope it leads to more discussion. I will be checking out the homesteading board as I have a lot of the same questions.

  4. so cool and wet northern temperate? sounds like washington. You and your entire extended family are most welcome. Oh to have you guys as neighbors would be great! I know you have TX in your heart. lol

  5. Funny. I was just looking at your word cloud yesterday and thought the homesteading topic was a little small. Might be good to refrence related topics like how to find low cost land and selecting land for your BOL in the show notes. The downside for me and buying land in Oregon is the farther away you go from Portland the cheaper the land gets. I can go 5-6 hours south or south-east and find land in the $500-1000 an acre range, which makes it hard to justify the $5-10k per acre closer to town.

    On a side note, in the last year or so I’ve been seeing a lot more land postings with owner/creative financing options. Kind of a buyers market right now if you can scrape up the cash.

  6. Excellent topic Jack! You could be describing what I’ve been up to for the last 8 months, so cool to see how similar our thinking is.

    Two things about poly water storage tanks… First, my local Orscheln Farm & Home store (there are 5 of them in northern Arkansas) has the white 1500 gallon tanks for $650! I guess I better go get one before they sell out and bring their prices up to Tractor Supply levels with the next order. Second, I can’t recommend highly enough Art Ludwig’s books on water storage and greywater usage (oasisdesign.net). Very, very good information on these topics in his excellent books, including this suggestion: Take a poly tank (translucent white is fine) and cover it with a layer of ferrocement (chicken wire and portland/sand) for an inexpensive tank that will last virtually forever as it’s protected from light and physical damage. (I’m about to do this — if any readers have experience with it, I’d love to pick your brain. Would like to incorporate some insulation between the poly and cement — a straw wrap like a thatch roof?.)

  7. Fantastic show today! Lots to think about. On a couple of side notes, Jeff Gleason will be at Hickory, I asked him a couple days ago. Looking forward to meeting him and you. I’m speaking 3:30-4:30 on Saturday, pretty stoked about it.

    I was not multicolorcarguy in high school, but I was old convertible with no canvas on the top bows and a transmission that won’t let the car go over 40 mph guy.

  8. Nice timely show Jack. The wife and I are starting to get the itch to move. Would be nice to have some guidance in what to look for with property.

    Also, you talk so much about Texas, we are looking into moving to the Houston area. You just make Texas sound so awesome.

  9. Would love to hear more on this topic as I am working up my land plan too.
    You did leave out one essential tool for our new homesteads: trains!.
    :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=6VAuPPufNro

    Randy

    • Ha ha!

      One of my own convictions as far as finding the ideal post-shtf town is the need for such a town to be on both a riiver AND a rail line. That way commerce can continue via the river and the rails. (This priority arises from concerns that trucking could break down and roads fall into disrepair.)

      Most large cities are on either a river or a rail line or (usually) both. But the trick is to find a small town which is on one or both, and which is simultaneously quite far from a huge city.

      • As energy prices increase (presumably in many scenarios), water and rail transport have the advantage of being much more efficient than trucking.

      • On my list also. =)

        As is diverse local food production and municipal water based on local rainfall.

  10. Awesome show! I would love for you to cover this more and maybe even record a round table with some of your listeners that have decided to start a homestead. Some of the best knowledge is hearing about mistakes and successes people go through in this process.

    • RationalHusker

      If Jack likes Rhino’s idea, I’d be a willing participant. I’ve learned a lot, much of it the hard way, on my homestead endeavors. I don’t claim to have as much knowledge as a lot of folks, but I could certainly share my successes and failures as a homesteading newby.

  11. On the resale issue. I am curious what you think about stabilized compressed earth block? It has many of the advantages of earthbags (time, cost, efficiency, etc.) and similar alternative constructions, but could it be considered as masonry and be as salable as a standard home?

    • Modern Survival

      @Josh I doubt it, find one and ask a bank about getting a loan, that is the only way to know.

  12. Great show. I totally agree about the importance of establishing a water source straight away. I built a pond, tapped into ground water, installed a ram pump ,and buried a cistern all before any construction began. I use a 500 gal. poly tank that the ram pump delivers water to and just keep it covered with some black poly sheet to keep the algae from growing. I’ve considered ferro-cement encased 275 gal UBCs for underground storage of water or dry cache.

  13. I had to chuckle about Multi-Colored Car Guy. That is so true.

    On the plus side, I do have to appreciate that people try to do things… There are so many people today who would be hopelessly intimidated by the idea of doing something like that themselves. A la “Save Our Skills”.

  14. VW Beetle Baby Blue with one white door
    91 Chevy Cavalier Z24 flaking red paint mixed with bad orange peal collision repair
    90 Nissan 300ZX TT wood 3 shades of white, primer, and Bondo as well as a Cracked Fiber Glass front bumper.
    I loved them all and had such great plans for all three. Sold them all in worse shape and at a loss. Still miss them all. But you should see my Yamaha FZR1000, once I paint it and put the fixed fairings back on, it is going to be so sweet.

  15. NotoriousAPP

    Jack, you were describing my property exactly until you got to the part about water…there is no municipal water near the property and a well will cost $12-$14k to install! I’ve installed berms and swales in the mean time but in the heat of the Texas summer the plantings are still struggling. I would love a pond but that would mean that I have to give up the wildlife exemption and hence the tax break. I’ll just have to install the well when I save the money.

    I want to bring up one point for anyone that’s considering building a retreat with a significant other who is fine with you doing that but isn’t really into it and won’t participate in the work. It can be a struggle to manage time between the family and time working on the retreat/BOL….especially if you have a small child at home. The result is that you have to choose between staying home with the family or working out at the BOL; generally this means less time working at the BOL and getting it setup.

    One thing that worked for me was to bring the wife to the neighbors property on which they were building a nice cabin, my wife’s first question after seeing the cabin was, “That was nice, why don’t you build a cabin? If you did we would come out there with you.” I should have thought of the from the beginning! While Jack says his first thing to do to a property is to setup the water works and you have limited resources/finances, you may want to instead consider putting a structure and utilities first (i.e. shelter + AC) to make it more comfortable for those significant others who aren’t so outdoorsy. You may find that this provides you with more time at the BOL and with the family which sounds like a great compromise. Those same neighbors with the cabin bring a 130 gallon plastic tank of water with them every weekend and they never use the whole thing. I plan on getting a 3000 gallon poly tank for rain collection, they’re ~$1250 in my neck of the woods (central texas).

  16. NotoriousAPP

    Jack: you ever consider land around the Bastrop/Smithville Texas area? Land is ~$6k/acre (if you want burned land you could probably get it much cheaper). Additionally, this is the Houston toad preservation area so you can get a wildlife exemption for essentially doing to the land what you would do anyways if you weren’t working towards the exemption (i.e. building wildlife habitat, providing supplemental feed for wildlife, etc.). With the exemption you’ll pay around $140/year in property taxes for land valued at ~$100k.

  17. This was a great show. We are in the process of buying some raw land to build our homestead. So far the biggest hurdle is we are looking at land 18 hours away and cannot go visit it so most of our search is being done online. We do have family in the area, the primary reason we are looking there, that have been willing to visit the lands of interest, but I think we have narrowed our selection and hope to finalize and purchase the property by the end of the year. And the first thing we are going to do is plant some fruit/nut trees and dig a pond.
    Thanks Jack.

  18. Haven’t listened just yet but, great concept for a show.
    Glad to see the title “for homestead OR bugout” as clearly people approach this from these 2 common angles.
    Some are looking for a BOL, others are looking to move and setup a homestead on some raw land.
    Of course a lot can’t be covered in one show, but it’s a nice start.
    Setting up a homestead from scratch of course entails a lot more.

    Maybe it could be good to do a sort of multi-part series on homestead establishment from raw land to either cabin or mobile home to the finishing touches of livestock, etc.

    There are numerous homesteading podcasts, but I haven’t come across any which go in depth discussing excavating, foundations, building materials, general codes (eg, get around codes by going the “Tiny Home” route, composting toilets,…), and the bigger topic: cabin / small house or RV / Mobile Home.
    Lamar’s Simple Solar Homesteading youtube channel and book have done a good job presenting this. Just looking for more of this kind.

    Thanks for the continued contributions!

  19. When i was a child in Michigan I remember all the windmills on the farms. Nobody used electricity to pump water. A windmill and a water holding tank made a good reliable system. Great for homesteading off the grid.

  20. Thanks, Jack. Show was very pertinent to where I am in the process of setting up a homestead. One question, though. You mentioned putting up a link in the show notes to source on underground homes; do you have that link handy?

  21. Just got around to listening to the show.
    Happy to hear you get into details because there are so many factors.
    The point about either being in a rural / suburban area with an acre or less, or being more remote with more lower-cost acreage.
    And discussing setting up a cabin or modular / mobile home, or rv’ing.
    Also clearing your own land or hiring equipment.
    That’s a first stage that people can be intimidated with. Especially when there are larger trees in the way.
    Some people coming from city / suburb living still have fears of being yelled at when they begin hacking away at their own land.

    Also find it ironic how I was just contemplating basement or not just last week and there you were discussing it.
    I think if anything alone they make for good root cellars for food storage (dry, cool area of course)
    I would think they’d be costly and need a pro to do to meet codes, but it would be nice if a small size as you mentioned could be done on your own although still a daunting task for the average DIY’er.

    As mentioned in my earlier comment, it would be nice if you could make a mini-series about this subject, keeping still with the two main approaches, small budget homesteading or BOL.

    As well as more details like building a cabin and the extra work and planning that involves vs putting an already prepared shelter such as a mobile home or RV for long term, homestead living.
    Costs of one over the other. Pros / cons of each. Durability, resale value if applicable, etc.
    Iirc you are in a mobile / manufactured home. Could you provide tips and suggestions when going that route? Some are real flimsy, fall apart and hold no value. Others are decent. Of course too it’s a home already setup.

    You mentioned the 3 acre minimum, would be nice to discuss more in the future of the crowd going 1 acre or less in a rural / suburban area for homesteading, raw land, but most resources available nearby.
    A sort of combination of permanently bugging out from the city meanwhile setting up a decent budget homestead, still having access to basics and not going super rural.
    I believe more and more people will be doing this. Not having a lot of money to buy an already setup place outright, but instead buying small pieces of land, not super remote and needing to build up something there for living doing so in pieces over some time.
    A large chunk of people will not be moving too remote.

    Sigh.. so many factors.

    Thanks for helping to lighten some of these burdens by shedding some light on the various considerations.

    Highly recommend more shows in this area to include reader calls and feedback of their tips, suggestions and particular routes they’re going.

    Shelter is a very real survival topic. And most likely the reality is we will not be resorting to tents and lean-tos, so houses, cabins, mobile homes and RVs make more sense to be discussing.

  22. Really great show, but just one think I’m missing…

    Jack talked about storing rainwater in a tank above the house to allow it to gravity-feed down to you. But if the tank is high enough for that, won’t it be impossible for it to also collect rainwater from the roof? It seems like you’d need two tanks, so you could pump the collected rainwater up from a collection tank to the gravity-feed tank on a hill.

    • Modern Survival

      @BeninMA, nope, not exactly. Understand we only need a few inches of head to make water go where we want. So there would be several ways to do this.

      1. Place the tank on a tower of sorts. Bill Wilson did this at his suburban house in Illinois with a 250 gallon tank. As long as the top of the tank is below the roof line by even an inch and as long as the bottom is above the tap you plan to use you are good to go

      2. Another way would be to use slope to the same end. Say there is a slope up from the house in one direction. You can locate a tank or many tanks as far up that hill as you can and still keep the top of the tanks just below the roof ledge. Gravity will do all the work to take it “up the hill” as it is still going down in reality. So long as the tanks are a few inches higher then the taps, you are golden with bringing it into the house or around it for irrigation.

      3. We can even use a different structure. For instance Marjory Wildcraft has over 50,000 gallons of tanks around her very large barn. As she didn’t build the house or the barn she had to deal with things as they were. Well the barn is well above the home. So she put her zone one garden right behind the home and has all the pressure you could ever ask for coming down from the barn.

      Thing is here, I actually think you were keying on my comments about ponds above your house and gardens, not tanks but never the less it still works. Do make sure to set up a “first flush” system though, something I should have talked about.

      • Jack, thanks for all the details on how this would be done. I read that providing enough pressure for home plumbing would require the tank to be much higher than the house (as in, over 60 vertical feet higher!). That’s what I was thinking of.

  23. Shipping container homes are maybe another option for BOL housing.
    http://www.treehugger.com/modular-design/port-a-bach-shipping-container-holiday-home.html

  24. Another option is finding land with an old house or one that has issues. Years ago we bought a HUD house with about an acre. Have a cheap mortgage and monthly, but keep in mind that you’ll have 1,001 issues with repairs/remodel projects. If you’re not a fix-it person or have extra money set aside for those, you will be frustrated.

  25. Christopher de Vidal

    Great show! I would think owner financing would be an option for selling earthships, geodesic domes, etc. Especially since the owner is likely to own it outright, having built it cheaply. (Forgive me if this was already mentioned in the show.)

  26. I agree with the statements that it is easier to heat than cool. I live in a 1000sq log home and in the summer, it heats up like an oven. Now in PEI, we dont get hot summers but this year, we touched 90 a few times. I heat exclusively with wood in winter and I have 4 acres. Mostly spruce, and heat comfortably with about 3 cord a year, maybe a bit of birch thrown in.

  27. really great Jack. love the emphasis put on the exit strategy. At the end of the day, there’s no reason not to put a little extra forethought into the property and increase it’s appeal (read “value”) as an asset to others.

    Thanks so much! Love the multi colored car analogy…