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Homesteading in Michigan's Upper Peninsula Options
John Stiles
#1 Posted : Saturday, January 06, 2007 8:26:20 AM
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Posts: 134,494
If you garner a a University Education you better get a job somewhere where you can make it pay. With a steady income all the rest will come.
#2 Posted : Wednesday, January 10, 2007 1:31:41 AM
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Posts: 134,494
Yooper girl,first off you''re asking all the right questions :> Ok,first off for one or two people I hear five acres is best.Ouch you say,5 acres..well most of it will be
woodlot.The last acre handles the garden (1/2 ac per person is a guess)and the house.
My brother lived for years in a 15 x 20 cabin heated with a wood/coal chubbie stove,but it gets small when additions to the family come,human or otherwise.You will want a barn,
a building to house equipment because you will want to keep certain things out from under the snow,esp. in emergencies a barn is very important.Whether it be animals or equipment,or veggies you''ll want a barn.Greenhouses are good,they extend the season a few months either side of winter and they have their pluses an minuses also.We live by them here in NH.Give yourself years to work on it,it will never be done,lol.Mines always a work in progress,day in day out.I heat with wood,outdoor boiler;heats my 20 x 30 house nicely.The UP is windy,windpower would be best.The sun never shines up here during winter and so would be useless and not worth its initial investment.6-10 cords gets me thru a NH winter,that depends on how well you insulate and how big of a house you have,and how warm you wanna be :)
The septic needs to be 100'' from the well minimum.The well supply line needs to be buried 6 feet down,the septic 2 feet.Cellars work,they flood,make a root cellar instead.
Cut ice get sawdust,set veggies and meat to overwinter there.Nahh,cellars are;nt too cold they make it actually warmer if the heat ducts or pipes are under there.You''ll want that heat to keep the pipes from freezing.Put plumbing on interior walls only no exterior walls.Nahh you can do the well yourself on a good lot,of not well drillers charge $6 a foot here.Foundation to the house must be below frost level.in the UP thats 5-6 feet.If you do outhouse 3 foot hole will do you 3 months.Wellhouse can be in the garden if you like.
#3 Posted : Tuesday, August 12, 2008 2:54:48 AM
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Posts: 134,494

First off, let me introduce myself as a Troll (for you non Michiganders, that's someone in the lower half of the state "under the Bridge". 

You'll have to carefully research the zoning laws wherever you want to build.  Michigan has some really restrictive laws, so you may find out you cannot build the cabin you want. 

Chances are you can't have an outhouse legally, you will have to put in a septic system.  Around here, a septic system goes in excess of 5K.  And although you may find you can sneak by the law on this, when you get caught, it will cost you plenty in fines, and they'll still make you put in the system.  You may be able to put in a composting toilet, but they will still require a system. 

The state will also tell you what kind of well you can use.  Most of Michigan is covered by wellhead protection laws - I know, because when we had a minor problem with our 2" well with an above ground pump that gave us plenty of good water, the state made us put in a 4' with a submerged pump.  That was 5 years ago, and cost 4k, that was considered a good deal, and our well is only 70 foot deep.  Yours could be much deeper.  The house I grew up in around here had a well 245 feet. 

Solar power anywhere near the lakes will be super expensive due to the cloudiness from the lakes.  You would need a huge collector. I know, we've looked into it.  Wind might be a possibility, but that means you need a clear spot on a hill with the wind unbroken by trees, unlikely where you want to settle.  Also expensive.  So make your house as energy efficient as possible.  Money on good windows, doors and lots of insulation is money well spent.  That still leaves you with good old wood for heat.  If you're not extremely fond of chainsaws, you will have to buy it.  But in the UP it's still cheaper than propane or oil.  If the woodstove in is the house, it's nice warm heat, but if you intend to have children, remember children in a house with a woodstove have a higher incidence of asthma.  That research was done in the late 70's, early 80's by Dr Honiky (sp) at MSU. 

Remember you will have a very short season for growing gardens and food for any livestock you want to keep.  Even chickens will require good shelter against Old Man Winter.  Frostbite is not what you want to see.  On you or your livestock.

On the other hand, as you well know, it's downright beautiful up there.  You'll be able to harvest some fish, but keep in mind if you're planning to have children, it's not recommended that women eat much if any of it.  People up there are kind if you're earnest and honest.  Just be realistic about what may be possible. 

#4 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 12:26:08 AM
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Completely forget about building a $4000 cabin suitable for residential occupation.  Yes, its possible to build a $4000 cabin.  It will NOT be anywhere close to building code standards.  It will be VERY similar to a hunting cabin, strictly meant for temporary occupancy a few days/weeks out of the year.   The $4000 cabin is actually a very misleading figure.  It makes a lot of assumptions.  Basically, its possible to build a $4000 cabin if you have a piece of property with a cleared building site, access to a tractor or bulldozer, have existing electrical service, have an existing water supply (drilling a well can easily run $10,000), have a free source of logs or lumber, have a free source of used doors/windows/etc, have friends/relatives that are willing to donate their labor in the building of your house, etc.  Then your heat will likely come from a wood stove.  The cabin probably won't be insulated or properly vented.  Of course, there will be no indoor plumbing.  But yes, its possible to get a roof over your head for $4000.  Not much of a roof, but a roof.  Mother Earth does a great injustice to people when they prattle off stories of $4000 cabins. 

I built my own log house.  28' x 42'.  I did nearly all the work.  Its a fully modern home.  Here are some of my cost figures.  Building permits $500.  Water delivery system $9200.  Central heating system $5000.  Septic system $4200. Electrical service to house $360.  Excavation costs $2500.  Road to building site/gravel/etc $2000.  I have the figures somewhere but would estimate material costs in excess of $40,000.  This includes block for the basement, concrete, rebar, nails, lumber, logs, stain, paint, caulk, backing rod, doors, windows, floor coverings, trim, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets, lighting fixtures, electrical wiring, interior walls, wall coverings, insulation, soffitt, fascia, roof framing, roof sheathing, metal roof, etc.   In addition, I probably paid out $10,000 or more in paid help....concrete finishing, electrical services, interior plumbing, framing help.  The finished house is a 3 bedroom house with a full bathroom on the main floor and a half bathroom (toilet, sink, shower) in the basement.  A 3 car garage set 50 feet from the house is the finishing touch.  The house is probably worth $150,000 - $175,000 on its 3 1/2 acre land parcel.  I live in Northern Wisconsin just 25 miles from the upper peninsula. 


 Michigan now has strict zoning standards throughout the state.  You'll need building permits, building inspections, a state approved septic system, etc.  It will need to be built to code.   Realistically, even the least expensive modular home set up on your land with a water delivery system, electricity, septic system and the like will run you a minimum of $60,000.  Probably a great deal more.

I would love to see you succeed in your dreams.  Unfortunately, a $4000 house is just that......a dream.



#5 Posted : Sunday, February 08, 2009 12:26:08 AM
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Posts: 134,494
I am a senior in high school right now but once I graduate

from University I plan to pursue my dream of making a

homestead in a few miles from the southern shore of Lake

Superior. I read how to build a $4,000 cabin on this site,

and I already know how to hunt, fish, sew, cook, chop

wood, and do basic gardening/lawn care, but there is a LOT

that I don't know, so I hope you can help.

First of all, how much land would I need to purchase? It

will be just me and maybe my significant other living

there, but I might need to use more land if, years down

the road, I have children or need to take care of my

parents in their old age. Plus, I would be a recent

college graduate, so even though I am fiscally responsible

and my parents are paying for my tuition, I won't really

have a lot of spending money.

That brings up the issue of further finances; how much

would the rest of the homestead cost? I realise that I

don't have to build it all at once, but I'd like to live

there year-round as soon after I graduate as possible, so

I'd need a cabin, shed, garden, and outhouse. The cabin

plans listed on this site say about $4,000, but the

materials could cost more, and I'd need to pay for the

land, the people that help me build the thing, seeds, and

some basic home furnishings.

Speaking of furnishings, what is the best way to heat my

cabin? I'm planning it to be about 20x20x15'... about 6000

cubic feet in one room. From what I've seen, solar panels

seem way out of my range, and although a wood stove looks

like a great idea, I'm worried about the amount of

pollution that it could cause. Plus, I have no idea how

much wood I'd need.

Yes, I still have more questions! As I mentioned before,

there would initially be one or maybe two people living in

the cabin, and I intend to use the vegetable/fruit/herb

garden on the homestead as the primary source of food. How

large would the garden need to be to feed the homesteaders

year-round, assuming that aside from some fruit trees (how

many should I plant?) and the occasional fish or small

game animal from Lake Superior/ the local forests are the

only other food sources? I need to figure that out before

it's the middle of winter and I realise that I don't have

enough food.

Speaking of food, would it be a good idea to build a

greenhouse at some point (not necessarily immediately) so

that I can grow food in the relatively long off-season, or

would the blustery cold of the long U.P. winters offset

all possible gains from that? Also, would it be wise to

build a cellar in which to store food I've canned, wood,

and tools, or not? I wonder if a cellar would negate the

physical integrity of the cabin, and if the cellar would

get too soggy or make the house less heat-efficient.

I promise, I'm almost done. I just would like to know how

often I need to dig a new outhouse hole, how far that

needs to be from the well, if I can dig the well myself or

that needs to be a commercial job, and how I can get water

from the well in wintertime. Also, how far do the well and

outhouse need to be from the garden, and how far does all

that need to be from the cabin?

Finally, how far ahead of time do I need to start working

on the homestead so that it's ready to move into when I

graduate from university? I will be attending class

full-time and working part-time, so I shall have to work

on the homestead in my spare time, and that is going to be

a LOT of work. Though I will have the summers off from

school, I'll be working full-time then. So when do I need

to start working on it... the summer between my sophomore

and junior years? And what do I need to do to protect the

area when I'm not there/through the winter?

Thank you so much for putting up with all of my questions!

I hope that you can answer some, maybe even all of them.

Thank you so much again. -Liz
#6 Posted : Monday, June 24, 2013 1:53:46 AM
Rank: Newbie

Posts: 1

yooper girl have you gotten anywhere on building your cabin?

#7 Posted : Monday, November 10, 2014 6:47:06 AM
Rank: Member

Posts: 9
in our country we don not pay money to study in university or schools....
Graduated from Soran University with First Class Degree with Honours in Computer Science.
#8 Posted : Thursday, December 04, 2014 11:23:44 PM
Rank: Newbie

Posts: 1
How is the project going?
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