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Thread: Seeking Helpful information: new substanable homestead project

  1. #1
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    Question Seeking Helpful information: new substanable homestead project

    Hi, I joined this forum after reading some article online and it stating this is a good place to get information for a project my partner and I want to start.

    I am a full time student, mom, and work, while my partner is pretty much a full time caregiver to my son whom has disabilities. For the better part of the past year we have been saying to each other we want to live on a little farm. We had a little veggie garden in our apartment, had a compost bin, and spent good amount of money to make our apartment as sustainable as possible. Then last winter right after Christmas we were kicked out of apartment with no real reason. So we moved into the first place that we could get that had a little yard in a rush. We were only going to spend 6 months here, and since we pretty much had to leave behind all of our garden, soils, hard work etc. we did not plan to start over that much at our new place.

    So this summer we did weekly farmers market shopping instead of our own garden which really only had strawberrys and peppers. But had to re-sign the lease for another year (this comming summer). We were thinking about restarting our garden, but never did. And now we dont want to stay here... because it costs to much and they put up a new fence in our yard that overtakes the area for our garden. Now between the 4 people that live in our house someone has a food allergy to something, but we have little waste because our pet rats end up eating left overs.

    Here comes our bright idea... we instead of wasting another year paying high rent, would ideally like to find a acre or 2 of land and build our little dream farm! We would like to build a Self sustaining homestead, with veggies, some fruit, chickens, nuts, and what nots... Organically of course, and build a self sustaining house, made from recycled materials found/given to us here in Oregon. Since we are not rich by any means, and have less then ideal credit, we have to try and talk the parental's into co-signing a land for us. But we COULD and WOULD make it work.

    We have a plan of sorts... being I finish my school (online) and work pt out of home and pt from home. Since my son has had problems with school this year we feel it may be better for him to stay home and be home schooled as well. Between student money, my work income, and his couple hundred a month... we have a combined income that is substitutable to live minimally. The Mr would be doing a good amount of the manual work, as would I when i am home, with nights for homework and study's. My son wants to do this and HELP out more than anything. After taking my environmental sociology class I more then EVER want to get off the grid and away from the chemically inclined world with all the issues they bring. We want OUT!!! Someday I would like to open up our land to a commune aspect for Expectant moms who feel they have no where to go and are being forced into placing their children for adoption. I want nothing more then to be able to help get on their feet to be the best parents possible. But that's a ways down the road... (Im a mom who has placed, and It hurts me daily I had to, and had no where to turn for help.. thats why i went back to school!) When I ultimately finish my degree (aiming for a Phd) It will be more fiscally possible.

    But where do we start???? This is where we need help... what is the best types of materials? my friend moved to NM and is building a sand bag house, i see staw houses, and tire houses filled with dirt. But we Live in OREGON... near PORTLAND and we get lots of rain. I was thinking about using Old bricks for a foundation and then tire walls for the outlining walls, and other materials for the inside. And then Covering them the outlining walls in a type of plaster good for our weather conditions. I will utilize the Habitat Store (as my mom works for one, and I feel they are awesome) for items we cant get for free.

    But even if we come up with a design and submit it for a building permit, we have to have a way to dispose of waste? We are very stumped on this one. We plan to use rain barrels for water, and filter them to make them drinkable. How about electricity? We wont have solar panels to start with, so how do we generate it? Is there a water system to generate electricity... being in the area we are at, we have a never ending supply of rain... a good 8+ months of the year we have constant downpours (thus rain barrels). We feel like were running around with our head stuck in the mud on a treadmill to No WHere!!!

    So please if anyone can help us figure out what to do and how to start it I would be so grateful!!

    Helpful Info: We live in Oregon near portland and want to homestead in clackamas county (Around 30/40 min to downtown portland), We will have maybe $3000 to start, probably closer to $2000. We may be able to use the Mr. parents travel trailer to live in till a homestead is built. We want to be able to have animals (sheep, goat, chicken, dogs, cats, rats, bunnies,lizard) we want to farm organically.

    thanks Bethany

  2. #2
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    You need to do a lot more research. Find out the average price of land where the building codes allow for the type of building you want. Find out what you need to have to live on the property regarding water, sewer, electricity, etc.

    I think you will find that there is NO land where you can build what you want to build and have it allowable (due to minimum building codes) in all of Oregon or at least anywhere with access to any services or any jobs of any kind.

    PS, you dont have enough assets to do it either.

  3. #3
    Low Tech grunt iris lily's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweetana3 View Post
    You need to do a lot more research. Find out the average price of land where the building codes allow for the type of building you want. Find out what you need to have to live on the property regarding water, sewer, electricity, etc.

    I think you will find that there is NO land where you can build what you want to build and have it allowable (due to minimum building codes) in all of Oregon or at least anywhere with access to any services or any jobs of any kind.

    PS, you dont have enough assets to do it either.
    Agreed. What does land go for within the driving distance of your job? I would think that what you describe is just about the most popular property in Oregon and given that market, very expensive.

  4. #4
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    What you might be able to do as an intermediate step is work on qualifying to live in a green oriented Habitat for Humanity house. This would allow you to garden.

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    Once you own land (and animals!), you're pretty much stuck there, wherever there is. The people I know who've earned PhDs have all moved cross-country, or in one case cross-planet, to find work; a lot of them moved for graduate school as well. Unless the graduate program is local, with a strong local job market for part-time employment, your career plans might not mesh with starting a farm there and now.

    I also think building up a safety cushion (6 months' expenses) and then savings is a good starting place. And lots of research! The building codes will be important.

  6. #6
    Member Laser_Cat's Avatar
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    First off welcome bethssammy!! I can definitely understand your dream of having your own little plot of land that you can call your own (and I don't have mine yet either) but I think you guys should really start thinking and doing research to see where you could do it and if you have the money etc etc. (everywhere I've looked online land has been well over $3000) Everyone's suggestions here are really good! Personally I've had to move around the country for jobs and for college so if you set up a homestead you would definitely be locked into an area. Have you considered renting a house together or even with friends? If you found someone that would be willing to let you put in raised beds you could start your own little garden! And if you liked it you could stay for a few years. Also another thing to consider is a community garden plot. The garden is already there, you just plant it out to your hearts content!! Do your research, settling down is a big commitment!

  7. #7
    Senior Member lhamo's Avatar
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    I agree with those that have posted above -- don't want to shoot your dreams down, they are great dreams, but you are setting yourself for a lot of risk and possible financial disaster if you don't think this through, plan carefully, and protect yourself for the unanticipated.

    In terms of the farm idea, could you work on someone else's farm first to get the experience you need and save housing costs/save up some money to invest in your own. I've toyed with the idea of a small sustainable farm myself, and good agricultural land in the Pacific Northwest is EXPENSIVE, especially anywhere in proximity to a major metropolitan area. But there are probably people out there who are trying to bootstrap things who would value your contribution.

    In terms of homeschooling, this also takes a LOT of effort. She's kind of a trainwreck and many people don't like her, but I like PEnelope Trunk's homeschooling blog a lot -- she writes a lot about how to combine a career with homeschooling, and has several people who comment regularly on her blog who are homeschooling kids with various disabilities (primarily autism spectrum disorders). Good place to think and discuss how you would practically juggle this. She lives on a working farm in WI with her partner (he is in a farming family and had access to the land via his parents -- lots of drama there and might make you think twice about getting the 'rents to cosign) and is homeschooling her two boys who are on the spectrum.

    In terms of further educaton, what field are you studying? Think long and hard about pursuing a Ph.D.-- it can be great if it is fully funded and you have the time/energy, but it can be pretty miserable otherwise and if you come out the other side with tons of debt you may be in a very bad place. The academic job market has tanked. Go read the posts and advice on theprofessorisin.com for a glimpse of how hard it is to get into academia, and how miserable it can be after you get there. The blog and consulting service is run by a woman who used to be a professor/department chair and gave it up to return to Oregon (she's in Eugene) for a number of reasons.

    In sum, I'd say slow down, think things through, plan well, look at why things that have upset your plans in the past have happened (why did you really lose that first apartment -- and why did you resign a year lease on a place you aren't happy with?) and try to come up with ways of avoiding lurching from one crisis to another. A young couple with a disabled child running off to live in a trailer on some bare land that they then have to turn into a profitable farming enterprise with no experience farming while simultaneously building a house and keeping gas in the car and food on the table sounds like a HUUUGE amount of stress and risk to me.
    "Seek out habits that help you overcome fear or inertia. Destroy those that do the opposite." Seth Godin

  8. #8
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    We are looking in an area that still has good pricing for the areas. By the in laws and have found 1 acre lots for under 30,000. My mother said she would help pitch in for the land plot as well (she and my uncle have properties in washington and california) and want one in oregon, we just have to leave open enough space for them to build a house on somewhere down the line. Plus I have inheritance from my grandfathers trust coming my way with in the next 5 years or so.

    We are still doing the research we know its going to be awhile, but we were hoping that by next summer we can have a better idea of what we want to do, and how to get there. Thats why I am looking for help and information now.

    My school offers my masters/Phd program that I want, and I have good ties with faculty and professors to get me in with any luck as well as research projects behind and in front of me. Im going into social services with at the very least my MSW, but I am going to be doing research more then working practice in the long run. Possibly teach a subject... but I am not counting my chickens on that one.

    Oregon will be my/our home forever no matter what, even if I had to leave for a year. My daughter (whom I dont parent) is here and we have a open adoption that is in a good place, and I cant take my son away from his sister forever. The Mr. son is here,as is his family. Oregon will be home, and that's why we want to homestead here. Its not something we have not thought over and about. I mean I was asked by other university's to come study with them, and have declined because I cant be that far from my baby girl at this point in my life, nor could I imagine to do so until she is 18.

    The oregon metro area has a good public transportation system with lots of park and rides with in not to far driving distances from where we have looked. And its pretty much only a bus ride from them to where my work is. The other job is pretty much telecommuting. And we are not looking to make a real "profitable" farm, just one sustainable enough for our family (and some friends who want to help and grow their own crops).

    We were asked to leave our old apartment after 6 years, with out reason but we highly feel it is because we asked if we could make simple accommodations for my son (like locks on cabinets and higher locks) it was right after that when we got notice. Our apartment we are at now is ok, we like it to an extent of an apartment, but its more then we were paying, and we can not do as much with the yard as we would like. We stay here because my sons school is close and in district so the bus will pick him up. But this year with the teacher he has and will have next year... its not a good match is all. He comes home crying more then ever before. (he is bipolar/Aspergers)

    Needless to say, we understand the finance issue and are looking into all aspects of that, and have people looking into it for us from the university. We are going to save all we can this next year, and start minimizing our life more then it is. We have stayed in the travel trailer before for an extend amount of time, and we did fine... it has a bedroom and a kitchen, bathroom, and extended space areas. My inlaws like me and we have no issues even when we have asked to barrow money or live with them. They love us, and know we bust our butts everyway possible to better our lives.

    Im looking in the codes and laws, and sent emails out already. But I wanted help with the building aspect of it all...I guess.

    thanks
    Bethany

  9. #9
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    Didn't have time to read everything so sorry if I'm repeating. You don't need acres and acres to be fairly self sufficient. Its not that hard to get close to it on an average city lot if you have a little time to invest. Check out the Path to Freedom blog for all kinds of great ideas. A mid-sized, well managed garden and a small flock of chickens can go a very long way. Small towns a little farther from the cities often offer better values for housing than the burbs. Buying an existing house has several advantages over building if you don't have at least some construction experience. If you do that you could concentrate your efforts on the garden rather than the construction so would see that benefit much sooner.
    "Back when I was a young boy all my aunts and uncles would poke me in the ribs at weddings saying your next! Your next! They stopped doing all that crap when I started doing it to them... at funerals!"

  10. #10
    Senior Member jennipurrr's Avatar
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    The part of the post that stuck out to me was the statement - "We were thinking about restarting our garden, but never did." I think it would probably be a good idea for you to start small and go from there. See if you will actually follow through with a small vegetable garden, etc, before jumping into a full blown agricultural life style. What made you not pursue the garden but be so gung ho now? It seems like you are focusing a lot of the ideal situation but its going to take a lot of toiling to get there...and you already have a lot on your plate.

    I also hate to be harsh, but if your credit is so poor you can't get a loan for this, you don't need to do it right now. You need to get your financial house in order. Living in the travel trailer while you save up the downpayment (or full amount) of the $30,000 for the land sounds like a potential plan that could get you on solid footing. Also, I don't know if you have other debt, but I would not pursue this venture while I had other debt hanging over my head. I would also be taking a long, hard look at what behaviors got you to the point of bad credit and working not to repeat them. Have you read Your Money or Your Life? Dave Ramsey's book? This is a huge financial venture you are considering. It is one thing to be planning out the fun stuff, but you have to consider the logistics too. Personally, I would only borrow money from family as a last resort. Your family may be different, but in my experience and most others I hear or read about, it creates a lot of problems in the family dynamic.

    Also, I would be concerned if you are financing your schooling with student loans. This may not be the case, but the salaries in social work very likely will not support the student loan payments for advanced schooling in that area and any sort of contribution to the household. I would make sure to have your ducks in a row to get your schooling funded before pursuing it. I know several folks pursuing MSW degrees who are working at employers with tuition reimbursement specifically for that reason.

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