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Country Discussion Topics
To add your comments to this topic, click on one of the 'Reply' links below.

How do we get started? (from a new poster)
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Melissa    Posted 03-25-2002 at 06:16:41       [Reply]  [Send Email]
We are looking at a piece of land to buy in Colorado. It is mostly undeveloped land in a subdivision but not much else there yet.

We want to build a straw bale house, solar energy and have a well drilled. I have some qustions.

Can solar provide ALL of the electricity or must we have SOME electricity and therefore need lines put in? I understand it is VERY expensive and we really cannot afford it (I heard $25k per mile).

Next, where would be the best source to buy the solar energy equipment?

We want to raise chickens and goats. Is there anything else you would recommend that children can help us with and isn't a huge financial output in the beginning?

Can you really order chicks through the mail?

I know I must sound ridiculous. My husband and I have lived in the country all of our lives (his Dad was a dairy farmer) but neither of us participated or learned the farm life.

We really want to get away from this rat race (Maine coast a.k.a. tourist capitol) and get back to basics. We want to be able to stay home with the kids (I do already but DH wants to work part-time as well).

Basically what websites can we research? Recommended books, etc...need to read to learn what country life is REALLY about.

We know it will be hard...but feel we are ready for the challenge.

Thanks for your kind responses,

cordwoodguy    Posted 04-09-2005 at 09:52:12       [Reply]  [Send Email]


Spence    Posted 03-25-2002 at 19:19:47       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Colorado has a lot of standing timber. The thought of hauling and hoisting logs for a log cabin turns many away with good reason unless you
do it another way.

Bale houses are fire safe and warm and it turns out the ones that were set on dry foundations have endured. They require lime in th e straw to deter insects and need to be adobed on
each side after being built.

The other way is to cut up the logs into 16in
cordwood lengths and built a stackwall home. Very inexpensive to build and will last a long time.
In these parts, snow country similar to where your going, stackwall buildings are still standing built prior to 1900, and some outlasted the house
where all that remains is the foundation.
These are so solid and massive that you can't hear anything on the outside. Makes interesting window bays as the windows are recessed far into the wall, but imparts the old castle look to the house by diffusing light into shafts. Unlike log houses built the conventional way, they have an advantage in that it allows insulating to be
added along with the lime while it's being built.
The warmth of such a wall with it's dense wood and insulation is remarkable. To give the number of cords needed, determine how many square ft of interior wall and multiply that by .015. For rectangular single story house measuring 30X40 with 8 ft walls would have 1120 sq ft of interior walls or 16.8 cords of wood.

Mortar to put between the logs is 6 parts sand,2 parts Portland cement, 1part lime.

The roof rafters will have to be built in the conventional.

Contact me if you need more info.

Fred Dolores Nagel    Posted 03-05-2004 at 20:06:18       [Reply]  [Send Email]
We are interested in building a stackwall home and garage. Any information that we can get for this project would be most welcome.
Thanks in advance.

hay    Posted 03-25-2002 at 13:04:49       [Reply]  [No Email]
i just want to add something i forgot before. if you can get a book titled: "LIVING THE GOOD LIFE" by scott and helen nearing, that may help you a lot.

Hal/WA    Posted 03-25-2002 at 12:36:37       [Reply]  [No Email]
Melissa, I would suggest getting access to the early issues of The Mother Earth News from the 1970's and early 1980's. Moving back to the land was what that magazine was all about during that time period, and they presented most of the subjects you asked about in what I think was the best thought out way I have seen. Libraries may have the magazines or they may be available on ebay. Expect to pay something for a complete collection, but they are worth it; you will enjoy them for the rest of your life.

Have you been to the property? Colorado has many different areas, from very flat to ridiculously steep and with elevations that allow growing things well to way beyond the treeline. If not, do not buy until you have seen the parcel you are interested in. Sometimes sellers are not as honest as they should be. The trip might answer some of the other questions you have. I would be interested in how close neighbors can or will be, if there are existing roads to use, how close existing or planned power lines are, if or what the zoning or mandatory covenants are, what kind of water system exists or what will be needed and what kind of sewage system is required.

As far as solar electric goes, I would only do this if the property is so remote that there is no way to get on the power grid. It is just too expensive at this time to go solar and grid power is too good a deal now in comparison, in my opinion. Usually, you only have to pay for power lines from the closest existing pole and the developer may have already put in those lines along the roads. If you did go solar, you would also want a reliable generator system to back up the solar.

Water systems can cost many thousands of dollars or not much at all, depending on where the water is at that location. Having your own system makes you more independant, but if the are is being developed into small parcels of 5 to 10 acres, and if everyone drills a well and uses a lot of water, probably the water table will drop from where it is now. Without access to relaible water, property is not worth much.

Septic systems also can be extremely expensive. In my area, the environmental folks have decided that the regular septic tank and gravity drain line systems will no longer be allowed in most areas. They require pressure mound systems that need an electric sump pump and hundreds of cubic yards of gravel and fill brought in. A friend of mine has spent $20K on such a system, and it still does not work right!

Have you considered a mobile home as a starter home on the property? Building any new home takes a long time, especially if you are doing a substantial part of the work yourself. Just setting up the electrical, water, septic and driveway/road systems is a big job, just to get started on new property. You do not want to be trying to live in a tent or camper for very long.

Before I went too far considering a straw bale house, I would personally contact the building codes people that you will have to contend with. They might tell you that they would not approve such alternative building ideas, and they probably have the power to prevent you from doing what they don't like. I also would consider the resale aspects of alternative construction. You may not like living in that location for the rest of your lives. If you have built something that no one else will buy, your investment in time and money may be worthless. I would look into a high quality modular home and putting it on a basement, if they are available in that area.

You do not mention how old your children are. Uprooting high schoolers may be very hard on them and in my opinion would be a good reason to wait to make such a move, unless problems with their present school are a reason for the move. City kids may have a real problem with the change in what there is to do in the country as opposed to what they are used to in town. There is a bit of culture shock in moving across town; moving to a different state halfway across the country may be too much. I have seen older kids in such situations become discipline problems, even running away. Younger kids seem to do better. I would check out the local school system very carefully. It may not be up to your standards. Home schooling is an option, but is not for everyone. A lot of what you learn in school is not in classes.

And lastly, are there jobs in the new are that fit your qualifications? Unless you are independantly wealthy, you still have to earn a living. There are computer based businesses that a person can do from home, but you almost have to have a phone line, and it sure makes things easier if high speed internet is available (I wish!). I would strongly consider travel distances to work and how you would get there in all weather. Some parts of Colorado get lots of snow. If you have to have an apartment in town in order to get to work during the winter or risk a 4 hour commute in a 5 mile per gallon large 4x4 with chains on, you might reconsider your location.

You may want to consider moving to near the potential area and renting for a while, to see if you like the area and to see if you can make it there. Then you would have less investment if it did not work out for your family.

I love living in the country and hope to never live in town again. But doing what you have suggested in your post is scary to me. I suggest you carefully think things out and consider all the potential aspects of such a move. It could be the greatest adventure of your life, or it could be the worst nightmare. Dreams are like that. Good luck!

F14...Subdivision???    Posted 03-25-2002 at 10:58:36       [Reply]  [No Email]
First, I'm on the Maine coast too, but waaaaay Downeast where we don't get many tourists. I have a little hobby farm with a few sheep and chickens. See the link.

More importantly, SUBDIVISION??? I'd be REAL leery of that. If it's a subdivision, chances are very high that it's zoned. If it's zoned residential, chances are about 100% that you're outta luck with animals. The other thing to be VERY careful of is covenants. Some subdivisions have covenants covering everything from how many "pets" you can have to what color you can paint your house and whether or not you're allowed to park your car in your own driveway.

Ya won't see those problems up heah in Downeast Maine...

Ludwig - yep I noticed that too.    Posted 03-25-2002 at 11:54:25       [Reply]  [No Email]
See my post, I figure this is somebody that
calls Bangor "northern Maine."

BB    Posted 03-25-2002 at 10:24:44       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Here is a rather lengthy discussion on the subject from another board.

hay    Posted 03-25-2002 at 08:39:04       [Reply]  [No Email]
i think we all have that dream, melissa. seriously, like becky said, go to the library and get as many homesteading and back to the land book as you can and read and study and ask questions from people that have done such a thing. there are several companys that sell solar setups, but they are NOT cheap. they take many years for a decent payback and then there is the constant maintence of the system. as for the animals, just be careful of what and how much you buy. they eat constantly and need lots of care and protection from predators. i guess what i am trying to tell you is be prepared for constant work. good luck to you.

Ludwig    Posted 03-25-2002 at 08:30:49       [Reply]  [No Email]
#1 Moving across the country like that is a BIG
change think carefully. How do the kids feel
about it. I presume you're living somewhere
like Freeport or Kittery to consider Maine the
"rat race" why not look for somewhere quiet in
the state you're in, try Northern Maine. If you're
on the coast it isn't Northern. Take a vacation
someplace like Portage, Sinclair, or Eagle

#2 Yes solar power can provide all your power
needs, is a great
resource. That said if you use 169Kw per
month like we do in our apartment be
prepared to pay upwards of $10,000 to get
setup with panels and batteries. Some states
will help you with a buy back program, Maine
won't, California will. I don't know about
The thing to do is to cut your use, every dollar
you spend cutting consumption is $5 in
production. This means gas stove, maybe a
gas fridge, or at least a much more energy
saving model. Energy saving washer(Staber
has a great reputation), gas dryer or drying
outside. Compact flourescent lighting fixtures
and careful construction to minimize the
number of fixtures needed. A/C would have to
be gas(propane) powered, you'd need a huge
battery bank to handle the startup load.

Think about your kids in this equation too, if
they watch any amount of TV or play video
games thats going to push up your usage
numbers fast.

Cheaper power can be created with micro-
hydro or wind power, but an ideal system
would incorporate solar with one of the other
two, micro-hydro being preferred in my book,
but more dependant on geography.

Its all doable, but will be expensive no matter
what. Plan carefully and remember to put in a
big safety factor. We use 169Kw now, but I'd
plan on 220Kw or so were we to go off grid. I'd
also plan in expandability so as not to limit
future growth.

Becky    Posted 03-25-2002 at 06:55:48       [Reply]  [Send Email]
My best advise is to go to the library, gather as much info as you can on what you want to do, like 'Homesteading'. Maybe check out the zoning rules for the area of property you are looking at. You can order poultry through the mail, a good place is Murray McMurray Hatchery.
Try not to do too much right off the bat, it can be overwelming to the point of wanting to give up.
Do lots of research, and keep your goals realistic. Starting small and working up tends to work better than going whole hog and loosing your shirt. Good luck to ya, and I'm sure some of the more seasoned members of the group will have lots of tried and true advise for you.

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