How To Build A Self Reliant Homestead

February 5, 2015

Permaculture Food Forest

In this post I wanted to share with you my plans for turning some VERY unproductive areas of my property into valuable assets.

While I certainly hadn’t been wasting all of my property, as you can see in this video of the first food forest I built, I had been squandering some serious opportunities for FAR too long, and a few weeks ago I decided to take some serious steps forward into turning these opportunities into valuable components of what will one day be my own Self Reliant Homestead.

This video shares the process for how the plans for my Self Reliant Homestead were drawn up… and I pray that by watching my planning process that you come up with some wonderful ideas for your own property.

See My 5 Acre Farm In The Making:

>NOTE: You can see the plans mentioned in this video for building what I believe is the ultimate portable Chicken, Goat & Pig Shelter here.

Did this video give you any new ideas?

Got any ideas of your own you’d like to share with me, or my readers?  If so, feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

20 Responses to “How To Build A Self Reliant Homestead”

  1. Dawn Montague Says:

    Hi Chet. What a fantastic plan! Do you mind sharing who your permaculture designer is?


    • Chet Says:

      The one who worked up these drawings is Sean Corwin. He’s in the Pacific Northwest, Washington area.

      Glad you liked the plans :-)


  2. les klus Says:

    you must be wealthy…I have 8 acres and there is no way I could ever afford anything like this


    • Chet Says:

      Don’t let how much money you have get in your way les klus. I don’t yet have the money to just install this whole system either. But I set my dreams big, and then step by step I work towards them a phase at a time. I believe we’re put on this earth to do all that we can with all that we’re given. It was that I even have a plan, and how that plan can integrate accross my whole property that I thought was the important part to share. Hopefully it at least gave you some ideas.


      • tbascom Says:

        agreed, chet.

        les, an inexpensive way to build out your acreage is to learn to propagate from existing trees and shrubs. that’s how i’m doing it: i have a 75′ x 26′ south-facing bank along my driveway that i am turning into a propagation food forest. it’s where i’m initially planting the things i want to spread across my 9 acres. it’s close enough to care for and monitor, with easy access for creating new plants each year that i can then use to spread my food forest across the land, working from close in, outward. my initial investment is a bit less than $1000 in plants, and could have been half that (which in turn i could have phased in over several years). i got more duplicates than was strictly necessary because i had a budget to quick-jump it.

        the way i see it, each food bearing tree, bush, and vine is a bit more food security.

        plus, i expect to sell some of the second and third generation plants to help offset future expenses. also, there’s the ability to sell excess produce – just as i sell excess heritage veggies from my garden, giving me net free veggies all year.

        this summer i’ll start growing chickens, having learned to butcher them last year from a farmer friend. i believe i can grow and sell enough in my short vermont summer to pay all of my annual chicken expenses, including my own freezer full, and support a permanent egg-laying flock. again, that provides me more free food and food security – with another small positive cash flow.

        each time i integrate another element, i think about how to make it (a) easy to maintain, (b) pay for itself, and (c) contribute cash flow. if i break even, i’m happy because that’s free food. any added cash makes it easier to pursue the next part of the long-term plan.


      • Cayla Says:

        Great dream and a smart person once told me, A goal without a plan is a dream worth taking.


  3. Mark Says:

    Looks like a great plan, Chet!

    The key question for anyone wanting to give this a try is, what growing zone are you in? Your terrain looks a lot like a property I’m considering. What grows where is sometimes a big variable.

    Thanks for sharing!


  4. John'e Johnson Says:

    Great stuff! We are working on our property as we speak and have put our first swale in. Waiting for the 45mil liner to put in the bottom and sides. What software did you use to build the map? I would love to have something nicer than what I am currently doing with paper and pen…




    • Chet Says:

      Swales are awesome! Watching how they move nutrient and water around makes all the sense in the world. Feel free to share links to picks in your post if you’d like.

      And to answer your question, this is actually done with paper and pen John’e. We don’t use any software at this time, but I think it’d be a great idea. I’ll keep my eyes out.


  5. Philip Martin Says:

    What about future soil depletion or over nitrates?What are the potentials for your current designs on how you plan to mitigate either of those.


    • Chet Says:

      So Philip,

      As far as future soil depletion, we are taking a couple of different approaches.

      One, we use mostly a Food Forest model, where we plant BIOMASS plants underneath our trees. We plant three basic types.

      1) Plants like Comfrey, who’s roots go further down then the trees roots can reach to pull up nutrients from DEEP in the soil, which we then ‘Chop n Drop’ to help continually add nutrients back into the soil.
      2) Plants like Siberian Pea Shrub, which are a FAST-GROWING woody material plant that basically lets us grow our own mulch “in place” as long as we ‘Chop n Drop’.
      3) And then Nitrogen Fixing plants to constantly feed the soil. I believe the Siberian Pea Shrub is actually nitron fixing as well.

      We have a fourth as well, but its for handling pests, not soil.

      As for handling Nitrates. I’m not an expert at this stuff yet, but if you’re referring to having too much nutritional build up, then our plan at this point is to plant heavy feeding plants like Corn in the pastures where there’s a lot of Nitrogen. If that’s not what you’re talking about I honestly don’t know yet.

      Hope that helps!


  6. Connie Says:

    Wonderful. I have a question though. Why would you divert water onto ROADS? I know you know about swales and presumeably your roads are something like swales, but why put water onto ROADS? Are they concrete? Do they have tiny ridges in them to direct the flow of water? I’m so curious!


    • Chet Says:

      Thanks for stopping by Connie.

      When I say roads, I don’t mean actual concrete. More like a dirt path. My property has particularly high levels of clay soil, so the reason I put it on the “road” is just like you guessed, because it will act exactly like a swale to soak the water into the whole landscape.

      Hope that clears it up.


  7. JJM Says:

    Not to be critical but:
    I hope that when you plan the roads as waterways you actually mean a ditch along the side. Wet clay becomes a mess.
    The landscape will require water when the ponds are not overflowing. Do you plan for valve controlled drains?
    Rather than double or quadruple my fencing, I would plan to allow the livestock access WHEN I wanted them there.


  8. Cathi Says:

    Looks nice on paper, but there is not enough pasturage to raise goats. It takes 1 acre for 4-5 animals, and that’s not counting the buck pen. If you are going to have either goats or pigs, you need either cattle panels or field fence ( for goats) or something equally sturdy for pigs. Don’t count on electric fences. They could short out, and kids can get caught in them and die.chain link is good too. But the fencing is expensive. In the event biodiesel doesn’t work, what about horses? They need 2-4 acres per animal( we have 5 acres, with 4 devoted to pasture alone and still have to feed hay 9 months of the year because we have shale soil.) I think your estimates for production are too optimistic, as I’ve been homesteading here, and don’t break even. I’ve been here for 10 years, and my orchard( and only the apples, pears,and Asian pears) has only been producing for 4 years. The squirrels get the cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums before I can( we live across the street from a 100 acre mountain, fully forested). I would love to see an update in 2 years! :) the good news on my land, is that grapes do great! I should have enough to sell to the vintner in another year. But everything else is taking 3 times longer than my original estimates. Hope yours does better.


  9. SB Says:

    Where are the blue prints for the animal shelters you mention in this post. I looked around but could not find them. Thank you for sharing, we really appreciate your work.


  10. Jimmy Smith Says:

    Hi Chet,
    That’s a great plan! Would you mind sharing how to contact your designer? I’m in the process of looking for land and never considered using a permaculture designer. I can see there would be great benefits to using a designer and getting them involved early on in the land purchasing phase. Thanks for sharing your ideas with everyone.


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