Month: November 2021

Order of Operations

This post is a living document and will be altered as new information comes to light.

Buying a place to build a homestead is a mentally monumental task. As a student of permaculture, I am using my training to avoid Type I errors and, hopefully, design a homestead that is fun and efficient to live in. Here I attempt to prioritize our property needs.

  • Internet Access
  • Acreage
  • Gentle slopes
  • Road Access
  • Shelter (materials, animals, people)
  • Water
  • Sewage
  • Electricity
  • Heating/Cooling
  • Fence
  • Pond/s
  • Streams
  • Pasture
  • Forest
  • South-east facing


Internet access is an absolute must. My husband works in the IT field and in order to do his job, he must be able to dial in at a moment’s notice. The children and I also enjoy connectivity for socializing, learning, and leisure.


We have outgrown our five acres in Ohio and wish to expand our operation to include more and different kinds of ruminants. We would like to have twenty-ish acres to work with. More AU/Acre=good.

Gentle Slopes

My design ideas all work better with some gentle inclines/declines in the landscape. Flat land would work, but I’m a bit leery of flooding. Steep land could work but it would have to be limited. I don’t want to need a 4×4 to get onto the land. There are designs in mind that would need public access to at least part of the land.

Road Access

We would like to get onto our land without crossing someone else’s land. Being able to build a two-lane driveway at the road would be a major plus. Having space to put a small parking lot would be ideal.


We will be needing shelter of some sort quickly but we can add it ourselves if necessary. A barn for building supplies and livestock shelter would be a good start. We have an RV we can stay in until living quarters are available.


I can haul water if we need to. I intend to place water catchment up as soon as is practical. From what I have read, Tennessee tends to have a high water table so a well might be an option depending on the mineral content. Municipal water, if available, will help us get on the land faster but will be relegated to a luxury at this point.


If there’s a septic on the land, awesome. If not, the RV black tanks will be useful in the short term until we can build our composting and grey water systems.


Again, if it exists and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to hook up, great for the short term. We have intention to install alternative power systems as soon as practical. We already have a generator to use while we set it up.


Tennessee has less of the cold and more of the warm than Ohio. My preference is to build a geothermal system for both needs and augment heating with a rocket stove/mass in occupancy zones. Augmented cooling may be fans and portable or window AC units. Super-insulation will be key to maintaining comfort.


Fencing is a no-brainer. If it exists already, that’d be amazing. If not, I’ve got some experience putting it up and can probably knock that out quickly once the property lines have been cleared.


One or more ponds would be ideal for watering livestock and irrigation of the pastures. This is a giant plus if they already exist but they will be built if not.


If water runs through the property and the deed comes with water rights, this would be pretty darn cool and useful for building a ram pump to push water uphill and maybe a hydro-electric turbine. Cool, but not a deal-breaker.


Pasture is something we really need but are willing to develop over time. We already own sheep and they will need a place to graze when we move but a stash of hay will help.


We want trees on the property. Not ALL trees, but enough to make some silvo-pasture and a place to raise some happy pigs. Being able to produce some of our own building lumber and heat our home with our own firewood would be darned useful.

South-east Facing

This would be the ideal facing for plant-growing sunshine without getting cooked by the western sun in the summer.

Daydreaming the Possibilities

Now that we’ve made the decision to move, we’re in a hurry up and wait limbo. As we wait for the stars to align between job prospects and available land, I choose to be mentally constructive and start planning if/then scenarios, priority lists for the properties, moving timeline, structures we will need, and pouring through building code to keep the theft department at bay.

Today’s thoughts were on: How big of a barn do we think we will need?

After pouring through multiple websites featuring barn designers, tractor specs, garage specs, shop suggestions, etc., I think we’ve boiled the process down to a manageable theory. And that’s all it can be at this point is a theory, but having one will let my brain relax and work on something else.

Here’s how the theory goes. Height is probably the easiest number. We desire a utility size tractor to work our farm. It will be powerful enough to run the implements we’ll need on a regular basis. That mean we will need a nine foot door to get into the barn. A 10×10 is a standard size door and that will probably give us a twelve-foot ceiling though we may need to go taller to be able to use the tractor to stack pallets inside on racks. We may also want a second story for a hayloft so the final height is still TBD. But!… we do have a minimum to start with. =)

I tend to think of my storage needs in terms of “Will this fill a whole bay of a garage?” It’s something I can easily visualize and I have numbers to work with, thanks to internet surfing. A standard two-car garage is about 24×30, leaving room to open doors and work around the vehicles. Want to have a shop too? 30×40.

Thinking about what we need the barn for helps us figure out how many “bay spaces” we might need. Currently, I can easily store all the animal feed sacks, minerals, fencing supplies, and tools in one bay. The woodworking equipment would fit onto one bay, but sometimes needs the flex space of a second bay for long pieces and assembly. Perhaps, the second bay might also hold wood scraps and dimension lumber for other projects. A bay for vehicle maintenance and tools. Storage for the tractor implements may possibly be on pallet racks. Temporary shelter for livestock should the need arise or storage for the livestock shelters not in use…

You can see why this is a puzzle that is taking me a while to figure out. Discerning what is necessary in the main barn and what can be relegated to another outbuilding is a confounding factor.

One thing I definitely want for the barn is to be the place that any large shipments are taken to and put in for storage. I want that easy accessibility of being able to unload with a tractor and put it away quickly in any weather.

If you all have any suggestions or think I missed anything important, feel free to contact me here or on MeWe.