Start a 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead

Expert advice on how to establish self-sufficient food production, including guidance on crop rotations, raising livestock and grazing management.
By John Seymour
August/September 2011
Add to My MSN

Your 1-acre homestead can be divided into land for raising livestock and a garden for raising fruits, vegetables, plus some grain and forage crops. 
ILLUSTRATION: DORLING KINDERSLEY
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

Why I'm Attending the Growing Farmers Workshops

Robert White explains why he's attending the Growing Farmers workshops, and describes what he learne...

Growing Up Poor on a 1-Acre Farm

Gene GeRue relates the lessons he learned from a childhood of frugal living.

2015 Homesteaders of the Year Nominations Call-Out

It's time for our fourth-annual call for nominations for outstanding modern homesteaders! Organic ga...

Creating a Homestead: Where to Start

Tips to help you get started planning your very own homestead. With proper planning you don't have t...

Everyone will have a different approach to keeping a self-sufficient homestead, and it’s unlikely that any two 1-acre farms will follow the same plan or methods or agree completely on how to homestead. Some people like cows; other people are afraid of them. Some people like goats; other people cannot keep them out of the garden. Some people will not slaughter animals and have to sell their surplus stock off to people who will kill them; others will not sell surplus stock off at all because they know that the animals will be killed; and still others will slaughter their own animals to provide their family with healthy meat.

For myself, on a 1-acre farm of good, well-drained land, I would keep a cow and a goat, a few pigs and maybe a dozen hens. The goat would provide me with milk when the cow was dry. I might keep two or more goats, in fact. I would have the dairy cow (a Jersey) to provide the pigs and me with milk. More importantly, I would keep her to provide heaps and heaps of lovely cow manure to increase my soil fertility, for in order to derive any sort of living from that 1 acre without the application of a lot of artificial fertilizer, it would have to be heavily manured.

Raising a Dairy Cow

Cow or no cow? The pros and cons are many and various for a self-sufficient homestead. In favor of raising a cow is the fact that nothing keeps the health of a family — and a farm — at a high level better than a dairy cow. If you and your children have ample good, fresh, unpasteurized, unadulterated dairy products, you will be well-positioned to be a healthy family. If your pigs and poultry get their share of the milk by-products, especially whey, they likely will be healthy, too. If your garden gets plenty of cow manure, your soil fertility will continuously increase, along with your yields.

On the other hand, the food that you buy in for this family cow will cost you hundreds of dollars each year. Compared with how much money you would spend on dairy products each year, the fresh milk supply from the cow plus the increased value of the eggs, poultry and pig meat that you will get, along with your ever-growing soil fertility, will quickly make a family cow a worthwhile investment. But a serious counter-consideration is that you will have to take on the responsibility of milking a cow. (For different milking plans and estimated savings, see Keep a Family Cow and Enjoy Delicious Milk, Cream, Cheese and More.) Milking a cow doesn’t take very long — perhaps eight minutes — and it’s very pleasant if you know how to do it and if she is a quiet, docile cow — but you will have to do it. Buying a dairy cow is a very important step, and you shouldn’t do it unless you do not intend to go away very much, or unless you can make arrangements for somebody else to take over your milking duties while you’re gone. So let’s plan our 1-acre farm on the assumption that we are going to keep a dairy cow.

1-Acre Farm With a Family Cow

Half of your land would be put down to grass, leaving half an acre arable (not allowing for the land on which the house and other buildings stand). The grass half could remain permanent pasture and never be plowed up at all, or you could plan crop rotations by plowing it up, say, every four years. If you do the latter, it is best done in strips of a quarter of the half-acre so that each year you’re planting a grass, clover and herb mixture on an eighth of your acre of land. This crop rotation will result in some freshly sown pasture every year, some 2-year-old field, some 3-year-old field and some 4-year-old field, resulting in more productive land.

Grazing Management 

At the first sign the grass patch is suffering from overgrazing, take the cow away. The point of strip grazing (also called intensive rotational grazing) is that grass grows better and produces more if it is allowed to grow for as long as possible before being grazed or cut all the way down, and then allowed to rest again. In such intensive husbandry as we are envisaging for this self-sufficient homestead, careful grazing management will be essential.

Tether-grazing on such a small area may work better than using electric fencing. A little Jersey cow quickly gets used to being tethered and this was, indeed, the system that the breed was developed for on the island of Jersey (where they were first bred). I so unequivocally recommend a Jersey cow to the 1-acre farmer because I am convinced that, for this purpose, she is without any peer. Your half-acre of grass, when established, should provide your cow with nearly all the food she needs for the summer months. You are unlikely to get any hay from the half-acre as well, but if the grass grows faster than the cow can eat it, then you could cut some of it for hay.

Intensive Gardening

The remaining half of your homestead — the arable half — would be farmed as a highly intensive garden. It would be divided, ideally, into four plots, around which all the annual crops that you want to grow follow each other in a strict crop rotation.

An ideal crop rotation might go something like this:

— Grass (for four years)
— Plot 1: Potatoes
— Plot 2: Legumes (pea and bean family)
— Plot 3: Brassicas (cabbage family)
— Plot 4: Root vegetables (carrots, beets, and so on)
— Grass again (for four years)
 

Consider the advantages of this kind of crop rotation. A quarter of your arable land will be a newly plowed-up, 4-year-old field every year, with intensely fertile soil because of the stored-up fertility of all the grass, clover and herbs that have just been plowed-in to rot with four summers’ worth of cow manure. Because your cow will be in-wintered, on bought-in hay, and treading and dunging on bought-in straw, you will have an enormous quantity of marvelous muck and cow manure to put on your arable land. All of the crop residues that you cannot consume will help feed the cow, pigs or poultry, and I would be surprised if, after following this crop rotation and grazing management plan for a few years, you didn’t find that your acre of land had increased enormously in soil fertility, and that it was producing more food for humans than many a 10-acre farm run on ordinary commercial lines.

Half-Acre Crop Rotation

Some might complain that by having half your acre down to grass, you confine your gardening activities to a mere half-acre. But actually, half an acre is quite a lot, and if you garden it well, it will grow more food for you than if you were to “scratch” over a whole acre. Being under grass (and grazed and dunged) for half of its life will enormously increase the half-acre’s soil fertility. I think you will actually grow more vegetables on this plot than you would on a whole acre if you had no cow or grass break.

Tips for the Self-Sufficient Homestead

A dairy cow will not be able to stay outdoors all year. She would horribly overgraze such a small acreage. She should spend most of the winter indoors, only being turned out during the daytime in dry weather to get a little exercise and fresh air. Cows do not really benefit from being out in winter weather. Your cow would be, for the most part, better if kept inside where she would make lovely manure while feeding on the crops you grew for her in the garden. In the summer you would let her out, night and day, for as long as you find the pasture is not being overgrazed. You would probably find that your cow did not need hay at all during the summer, but she would be entirely dependent on it throughout the winter, and you could plan on having to buy her at least a ton. If you wanted to rear her yearly calf until he reached some value, you would likely need a further half-ton of hay. I have kept my cow on deep litter: The layer of straw gets turned into good manure, and I add more clean straw every day. I have milked a cow this way for years, and the perfect milk made good butter and cheese, and stored well. Although more labor-intensive, you could keep your cow on a concrete floor instead (insulated if possible), and giver her a good bed of straw every day. You would remove the soiled straw daily, and carefully pile it into a muck heap that would be your fount of fertility for everything on your acre.

Pigs would have to be confined in a house for at least part of the year (and you would need to provide straw for them), because, on a 1-acre farm, you are unlikely to have enough fresh land to keep them healthy. The best option would be a movable house with a strong movable fence outside it, but you could have a permanent pigpen instead.

The pigs would have a lot of outdoor work to do: They would spend part of their time plowing up your eighth of an acre of grassland, and they could run over your cultivated land after you have harvested your crops. They could only do this if you had time to let them do it, as sometimes you would be in too much of a hurry to get the next crop in. As for food, you would have to buy in some wheat, barley or corn. This, supplemented with the skim milk and whey you would have from your dairy cow, plus a share of the garden produce and such specially grown fodder crops as you could spare the land for, would keep them excellently.

If you could find a neighbor who would let you use a boar, I recommend that you keep a sow and breed her. She could give you 20 piglets a year, two or three of which you could keep to fatten for your bacon and ham supply. The rest you could sell as weanlings (piglets eight to 12 weeks old), and they would probably bring in enough money to pay for the food you had to buy for all your other livestock. If you could not get the service of a boar, you could always buy weanlings yourself — just enough for your own use — and fatten them.

Poultry could be kept in a permanent house in one corner of your garden, or, preferably, in mobile coops on the land, so they could be moved over the grassland and improve soil fertility with their scratching and dunging. I would not recommend keeping very many birds, as just a dozen hens should give you enough eggs for a small family with a few to occasionally sell or give away in summertime. You would have to buy a little grain for them, and in the winter some protein supplement, unless you could grow enough beans. You could try growing sunflowers, buckwheat or other food especially for them.

Goats, if kept instead of a dairy cow (or in addition to), could be managed in much the same way, however you would not have as much whey and skim milk to rear pigs and poultry on, and you would not build up the fertility of your land as quickly as you could with a cow. You would only get a fraction of the manure from goats, but on the other hand you would not have to buy nearly as much hay and straw — perhaps not any. For a farmer wanting to have a completely self-sufficient homestead on 1 acre, dairy goats are a good option.

Crops would be all of the ordinary garden crops (fruits and vegetables), plus as much land as you could spare for fodder crops for animals. Bear in mind that practically any garden crop that you grew for yourself would be good for the animals too, so any surplus crops would go to them. You would not need a compost pile — your animals could be your compost pile.

Half an acre, farmed as a garden with wheat grown in the other half-acre, is worth a try if you kept no animals at all, or maybe only some poultry. You would then practice a crop rotation as described above, but substitute wheat for the grass and clover field. If you are a vegetarian, this may be quite a good solution. But you could not hope to increase the soil fertility, and therefore the productiveness, of your land as much as with animals.  


This article is an excerpt from The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, written by the late John Seymour and first published by Dorling Kindersley in Britain in 1976. The book has become a treasured classic for back-to-the-landers and is now available in a beautifully illustrated 400-page edition. 


Previous | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Next






Post a comment below.

 

Beresford11
10/18/2014 3:43:31 PM
One thing to keep in mind - check your zoning before acquiring any animals. Where I live I consider rural but the powers that be here mandate 10 acres minimum to have a pig and 4 acres to have any cows. And I am allowed 2.4 horses if I so desire. How'd anyone come up with that?

brocly
10/1/2014 5:09:43 AM
http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/the-real-estate-market-in-egypt.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/real-estate.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/real-estate-markets.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/real-estate-market1.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/Small-projects.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/real-estate-market.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/training-courses.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/studies-in-marketing.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/training-courses1.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/a-training-course-in-marketing.html

brocly
10/1/2014 5:08:19 AM
http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/the-real-estate-market-in-egypt.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/real-estate.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/real-estate-markets.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/real-estate-market1.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/Small-projects.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/real-estate-market.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/training-courses.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/studies-in-marketing.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/training-courses1.html http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/a-training-course-in-marketing.html

brocly
9/21/2014 8:20:15 AM
[url=http://www.nile7.com/services]البيع والشراء[/url] ”
  • http://www.nile7.com/services
  • [http://www.nile7.com/contentتجميل البشره] بديل التالت http://www.incommarketing.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=194

  • brocly
    6/9/2014 8:17:43 AM
  • http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/?option=com_content&view=article&id=194
  • http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/?option=com_content&view=article&id=195
  • http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/?option=com_content&view=article&id=196
  • http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/?option=com_content&view=article&id=197
  • http://www.incommarketing.com/ar/?option=com_content&view=article&id=203

  • Farmgirlintennessee
    5/25/2014 5:59:45 PM
    I want to butcher a cow for beef. My Dad used to raise Black Angus. What do you think? What is the best beef cow in today's world? We live in Tennessee.

    bignreel
    4/29/2014 7:48:04 AM
    I see that some people like to criticize and others are just brainwashed...You don't need a pasteurizing machine, and you can not raise a cow on such a small plot either...I was raised on a farm that was completely self sufficient and it was bigger than most can afford. But it also was a cotton, bean, corn, wheat farm. We had herds of cows and horses...pecan orchards, and my family of 8 had a 2 acre garden every year. We raised 200 chickens each year. We killed 1 cow per year. We had a milk cow. We DID NOT have to have a pasteurizing machine...(LOL!!!) We ate chicken MANY different ways... We raised 1 pig in 32 years (4H club). We had a neighbor who raised pigs and we shared or bounties...traded eggs, beef, vegetables(sold lots of them also). You can not do what is in this 1 acre idea...the cow alone would eat all the vegetation. I forget the number, but it's something like 2.5 cows per acre...for the feeding of them... IF you supplement the cow, then yes,cbut it would not be self sufficient then... You would have to have a male and a female in each instance on the animals to re-supply the population after you eat a cow, pig, or chicken... I could ramble on about how this would not work, but then I would be telling you all something that I don't know. I DO know that there are a lot of holes in this formula...If you have good neighbors, who will barter with you, you might be able to make this work...feed for the animals would be my number 1 concern...

    ahmedabuzeid
    3/19/2014 1:52:17 PM
    http://egyptdrugs.wordpress.com/
    http://egyptdrugs.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/rehabilitation-programs/
    https://www.xing.com/profile/Ahmed_Saad14
    http://www.tv.com/news/--1395251859/
    http://egyptdrugs.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/%d8%ad%d9%82%d8%a7%d8%a6%d9%82-%d8%ad%d9%88%d9%84-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%aa%d8%b1%d8%a7%d9%85%d8%a7%d8%af%d9%88%d9%84/
    http://egyptdrugs.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/tramadol-and-sexual-health/

    sustainablelive
    11/1/2013 1:12:29 PM
    Mother Earth News http://sustainablelivestocknutrition.com/ This article reveals the writers consciopus approach for an happy and healthy society.

    BrittneyT2
    8/27/2013 12:04:43 PM
    I don't see how anyone could call this system "self-sufficient" when the author constantly mentions having to buy feed for the animals. If you are buying feed, you are dependent on someone else, and therefore not truly self-sufficient.

    ejsilver26
    7/25/2013 9:27:48 PM

    My wife, 3 kids, and I moved to a 5 acre farm in Ontario. I look to this article often as inspiration and a place to gather ideas when I need to. I am writing a blog to help others who are trying to do anything related. From gardening or chickens to hay and sheep. silvermanfarm.ca/blog/ 


    Anonymous
    4/18/2013 2:55:59 PM
    Oneacrehomestead.net Come join us as we build a small homestead and raise a family on a frugal budget. We will explore the topics of organization, budgeting, crafting, saving money, recipes, gardening and canning...but please don’t think this is all we will be discussing. There is so much to learn on one acre.

    James Edmonds
    4/6/2013 12:48:17 PM
    LOL? its cause they want to be your only source of meat I suppose, but Ive never seen one city that didnt allow chickens. You know every year they try to push a bill through congress to outlaw gardens? They want a dependant nation, People who dont know how to grow a bean... it really sad.

    James Edmonds
    4/6/2013 12:42:05 PM
    I do think this guy is dreaming, he should buy the book about homesteading on a minifarm, to the people who think you have to keep a cow pregant to get milk from it, your idiots, at least research something before you post. As long as a mammal is milked it will always produce, even humans...Till old age anyways. when a milk cow runs out of milk it either slaughtered and made into grain or sent to a glue factory.

    Marianne Meyer
    3/31/2013 12:23:03 PM
    I couldn't figure out how to add to my post! Check out DIY fodder sprouting systems. Keep researching, don't get discouraged by what other people say when they haven't tried newer/efficient ways to keep animals. Consider keeping smaller breeds as they will consume less food in the winter, but still provide your family with meat, milk, etc. If you have time and acreage, you can harvest grasses, etc to store for winter feed. Again, research. I know someone who sewed huge bags of lightweight material to store her grasses and hand cut hay. I hand harvested buckets of leaves, weeds and orchard grass for my small goat herd to cut down on feed costs. I dried it all in a rotating system made with pallets.

    Marianne Meyer
    3/31/2013 11:44:07 AM
    My take is that you would need a minimum of five acres and 10 would be better. The bulk of that would be in grazing area for your animals. Butchering in the fall will result in lower feed bills through the winter months. The rabbits are a good idea as they take less space and plenty of offspring. Clippings from the fields would supply a lot of food plus bedding for them, manure is easily managed. Check out paddock systems and permaculture for more information. For gardening, I'd suggest compact gardening and edible landscaping around the house.

    Nissa
    3/31/2013 9:33:38 AM
    Ok, getting very frustrated with this posting system, this is my 3rd. try..... We would eventually like to keep, 2 milk cows, 2 lowline Angus, 1 sow (keeping 2 piglets every year), 2 twinning sheep (preferrably, 2 for meat, 2 to sell, the original's to keep for wool), 2 - 6 turkey's for the holidays and winter, 50 chickens rotating 25 out and 25 in, every 6 months (for food and for eggs), the kids want a couple of rabbits, which I am not opposed to using the fur, hair for spinning or the meat, a decent garden with fruits and veggies, fruit trees around the edge and berry producing plants in between. Some of the extra produce would go to the animals, as well as the extra milk. We are a family of 9 at the moment and I would like to produce enough for our family, so that we control what is being put into our bodies. I have heard that this is possible on smaller amounts of land, when you rotate your stock properly. A woman came and talked to us about this, stating that her bees keep her foraging food healthy and plentiful, whilst rotating the stock allowed her to keep pathogens (ie: bacteria, germs, pests) in check so that her animals required less, to no antibiotics. Can anyone advise me on 2 things, how much acreage do I need? and About how to do this rotation properly? I would certainly appreciate anything you might add to my thought process, so that I know what needs to be done or what I should expect. Keep in mind we are doing this all gradually..... Except the bees, chickens (small numbers to start) and gardens. They will be on hand ASAP..... Thanks.

    Kathlene Shumway
    3/4/2013 6:33:22 PM
    I would really really LOVE to see an idea or plan like this for the average city lot. Those of us in the city, have our yards for land, and I would love ideas to maximize the space I have. In most towns, city folks are allowed to have 4-6 chickens and usually about the same about of rabbits. Larger livestock is not allowed. But as most of us who subscribe here, we are looking for ideas to use our ground to grow as much as possible. I love the urban homestead website where in Pasadena, CA they grow enough on their city lot to sell extra produce to support their other foodstuff purchases.

    Aibreán Ó Gréacháin Pankratz
    2/28/2013 10:58:15 PM
    pretty silly artical i worry about how many folks have taken this to heart and bought just one acre only to be living in nasty feed lot conditions...

    Linda Holler
    2/28/2013 3:29:51 PM
    Have you actually done this? I find it highly unlikely. Your words seem to indicate that this is what you "would do" if you were so inclined. It looks OK on paper, but from someone who has homesteaded on 10 acres for 35 years, I doubt many of your recommendations. You plan on keeping a cow and 2 or more goats on a half acre of ground. We kept 4-5 goats on about 2 and a half acres of pasture and had to supplement with hay. Your contention that you would not need any hay or straw for goats is ludicrous unless you live in a winterless area. And even so, what are you going to use for bedding? Your strips of pasture would be eaten down in about 3 days from 1 cow and 2 or more goats. A few pigs are OK as long as you mean 3 or less. And no one with only 1 acre should have a sow. Chickens are fine. They eat nearly anything. But don't expect eggs without grain unless you can grow high quality protein for them.The biggest issue that I see, however, is your manure management from all of these animals. Your garden would be toxic if you put all of the "dung" on it. On a 1 acre homestead, I would concentrate on gardening and have some chickens, some meat rabbits and maybe a goat, but only if I had children that would drink that much milk. Since mine are grown, I would rather have bees and not have to worry about the goat eating my garden!!

    Cassandra Heartwood
    2/28/2013 3:24:20 AM
    When I was 14, I stayed one summer on a chicken farm. But every couple of days, I was sent across the village to the woman who kept the cows. She would mik the cow and pour it into the jug I had brought with me. And then I'd return back to the chicken farm where someone would pour the jub into a dutch oven, put it on the stove, and then heat but not allow it to boil. I never could get it right without the thermometer, but everyone else knew it by sight. You want about 70 Celsius. This is the "pasteurization" process. Simple!

    Kim Amanda Edwards
    2/27/2013 9:05:56 PM
    What about rabbits there fat free meat and rabbit pooh is good for the garden

    Mary Jo Foster
    2/27/2013 6:19:23 PM
    This is a great idea, but even though we have 2 acres in the country, some "city dude" made it law that you have to have at least 5 acres to have any type of "farm" animal.

    Anonymous
    2/27/2013 4:49:53 PM
    I agree, cow milk is for baby cows not humans anyways. Grow more veggies!

    Laura Yanne
    2/27/2013 2:54:49 PM
    Agreed. Additionally, most animals prefer to be in the company of their own species, and cows are herd animals. It is cruel to keep just one. There's nothing quaint about keeping a cow on a relentless cycle of pregnancy and calving and lactating. To keep her indoors (and on that small space, the barn would have to be mighty small) for long winter months is also not kind. Think about what will happen to your cow when she gets old, and think about what will happen to the sweet little calf born right in your back yard. You may be reminded that his mother's milk was meant for him.

    Cheryl Kucer
    2/3/2013 11:37:48 PM
    A person with a small farm would buy their own pasteurizing machine if they wanted to...otherwise, if its your cow and you feed it and keep it healthy there should be no reason to worry

    Harry Kuheim
    12/16/2012 1:58:58 AM
    All do able ...but more than a full time job...better to have some kind of career to finance a hobby farm...have a nice garden some chickens and bees maybe. This plan would be totally overwhelming for 99% of people.

    Sammu Dandottir
    11/21/2012 1:21:33 PM
    I wouldn't want animals on my land. Keeping a cow constantly pregnant and bordering on mastitis just for the sake of having milk isn't worth it at all.

    Vanessa Watson
    8/11/2012 4:58:57 AM
    I am a little concerned that this article advocates for unpasteurized milk to be feed to your family including children. There is a reason why milk is pasteurized: Q fever, TB, and brucellosis. It is one thing to choose to drink it yourself but why put your children who have more vulnerable immune systems at risk?

    Shreesh Ponkshe
    12/29/2011 3:45:12 AM
    I came to the comments section to say that buying a ton of cow feed a year is by no means 'self sufficient'. Then I saw all the anti-cow comments. I am not an experienced homesteader but am studying to be one. I am from India so you can imagine I am pro-cow. The manure cows provide is by far the biggest advantage. Many Indian breeds are such that they provide very little milk (of course there are breeds that milk well too ... this is the standard source of animal fat for all vegetarian Indians). Further, they are smaller cows so need much lesser feed. An Indian cow on 1 acre is easily possible ... possibly more cows ... but I will have to check. The Indian tradition of treating cows as sacred leads to caring for old non-milking cows till their death .. and yet they are valuable in terms of the manure they provide. I do agree with the inclusion of goats, rabbits. Pigs are something I am struggling to decide ... I like the fact that they dig up your field for free, I don't mind the meat, but the culling of a pig is what I cannot stomach. I'll probably keep 2 boars for the digging ... not for the meat.

    Dan Day
    12/26/2011 5:37:55 PM
    This article has some good ideas. But putting a cow on the acre is not one of them. As to whether or not you can raise all your food on one acre - yes. Almost all people did that 100 years ago. Ninety out of one hundred people lived on the farm. No they did not eat beef, except for special occasions. My great grandparents ate rabbits (wild and tame), sheep, goats and other wild game, and of course the pigs. They had a hard time raising chickens seems the weasels and other wild things liked them too. Carrots, squash, and cabbage were common. They told me they dried a lot of vegetable stuff and hung it from the rafters. In fact you can get some grow lites and grow much of what you need in your house.

    john m_3
    7/31/2011 5:05:58 PM
    i do not know of any partial acre anywhere in the world that is fertile enough to feed one or two cows. so that means you buy their food, bailed hay? that costs money.chickens are probably the most cost effective. they like pigs will eat almost anything. a garden is not a consistent producer of food. there are good years and then bad ones. early or late freeze, no rain or too much rain. i have been partially homesteading since 1970, i have always worked to make ends make and buy food when it was needed, read most of the time. being close to the nature of real life is the great reward. we lost half of our peach trees one year and the ag agents could not find a reason. oh, by the way, i have always been organic.. good luck, keep your day job.

    April Zumbaum
    7/30/2011 7:04:29 PM
    Chalk me up as another with experience who'll tell you that this is likely an impossible scenario. I could see it possibly being done with a pair of goats, but even then, a lot of the feed for lactating does would have to be brought onto the farm, along with most of the grain and hay for winter. While the author talked about cows being a better source of manure, he doesn't speak of the need to compost it for at least 6 months so that it doesn't burn the plants; and wet cow manure piles are not the most pleasant things to have in close quarters! The dry manure of goats and rabbits can be used immediately without harming plants, making for a much tidier farm. If I had one acre with the goal being a balance between food self-sufficiency and actual farm self-sufficiency, I'd go with free-range chickens and rabbits for protein, a good sized garden and small orchard.

    Keith Karolyi
    7/23/2011 7:32:35 PM
    This scenario for a one acre plot to be truly self sufficient while raising large animals is pretty much out of the question. You can't grow a winter's worth of silage, hay, or whatever on a plot that size, which also contains your house, outbuildings, and gardens, and still raise enough food to maintain yourself. One of them has to go and my guess is that it would have to be the large animals. Chickens and rabbits would work, as would a goat or two. but you'd have to be careful about striking a balance between growing food for them and growing it for yourself while ensuring they have adequate space to be healthy.

    Carla
    7/21/2011 9:10:03 PM
    I completely agree with the thoughts on adding rabbits! They are amazing little critters and their manure is excellent fertilizer. In fact, I'd prefer it to dealing with cow manure (I've done both, so I know for certain). Though I did love our Jersey, cows can be very labor intensive - too much so, if you ever reach a point of health issues of your own. Also, one acre would be do-able for many, but in some regions, the soil is not so loamy as in others, and this makes an enormous difference in this feasibility of a one acre self-sufficient farm. Personally, I'd opt for chickens in a moveable coop, rabbits, and only *possibly* a goat or two, more perennial, bush and tree fruits and veggies, fewer plow-dependent crops and little grass, other than what I'd 'graze' the hens on, and cut for the rabbits. Or even put the rabbits in a similar moveable hutch, like the chickens. I love the 1 acre concept, but for most people, it would be purely idealistic.

    Carla
    7/21/2011 1:40:24 PM
    I completely agree with the thoughts on adding rabbits! They are amazing little critters and their manure is excellent fertilizer. In fact, I'd prefer it to dealing with cow manure (I've done both, so I know for certain). Though I did love our Jersey, cows can be very labor intensive - too much so, if you ever reach a point of health issues of your own. Also, one acre would be do-able for many, but in some regions, the soil is not so loamy as in others, and this makes an enormous difference in this feasibility of a one acre self-sufficient farm. Personally, I'd opt for chickens in a moveable coop, rabbits, and only *possibly* a goat or two, more perennial, bush and tree fruits and veggies, fewer plow-dependent crops and little grass, other than what I'd 'graze' the hens on, and cut for the rabbits. Or even put the rabbits in a similar moveable hutch, like the chickens. I love the 1 acre concept, but for most people, it would be purely idealistic.

    Ariel Redmond
    7/21/2011 12:40:04 PM
    I agree that on one acre you could not graze a cow without buying food. But consider that the author is from England and it rains there everyday. And in the book, he admits that one would need to buy food for the cow and that its entirely up to the person in question whether they consider it proper for a self sufficient farmer to buy hay and grain. All in all I love this book and find a treasure trove of good advice in it.

    Roland Green
    7/21/2011 12:29:12 PM
    John Seymour's book is brilliant in its simplicity, but those embarking on the self-sufficiency road might be interested M. G. Kains', Five Acres and Independance, first published in the 1940's. My father used a copy as a reference when market gardening in the 1960's. Though dated, still full of useful information.

    marci357
    7/21/2011 12:16:23 AM
    PS - just for reference - I am on 2/3 acre - garden & orchard, and am content, for now, without the animals :) Less responsibility at the moment, and less restrictive on my having to be home at certain times. Maybe rabbits and chickens when I retire and have time for their care.

    marci357
    7/21/2011 12:09:02 AM
    Agree with first poster - rabbits are the way to go for the most meat the fastest, and add manure. Chickens also are great, plus can help with bug control. On 1 acre, here it rains 300 days a year, I would not attempt a cow. ...... Would suggest additional reading of "Five Acres and Independence" by MG Kains, 1935, if you can find a copy of it :) Gains advises that a cow requires a minimum of one acre of pasture, plus more room to make hay and sileage. The other objection to the cow is the twice daily milkings, at the same time every day - much harder to find a relief milker than someone to feed rabbits, chickens, or even pigs. Then your article suggests a Jersey cow - and I for one find a Jersey's yellow fat very objectionable to my taste and the meat, to me, has an odd flavor. I would suggest a mixed beef breed, like angus/guernsey cross, would can also be milked, or a smaller cow like a Kerry or Dexter or Gloustershire even. ............ This is not to undermine Seymour's other thoughts tho - I actually own his book and find it very informative on gardening, sheds, garden layout, and crop rotation, and a lot of other features. Having been a dairy farmer, I just don't agree with him on the place for a cow is on a one acre plot that includes a home, outbuildings, a garden, and fruit trees - not enough room for all without buying feed - and therefore you would loose the self-sufficiency aspect that Seymour is striving for.

    Damian Norwood
    7/20/2011 4:38:04 PM
    I just finished reading the article "start a 1-acre self-sufficient homestead" and the only thing I think was missing was rabbits. With just three 10 pound rabbits you can raise around 200 pounds of meat per year and their manure is great for the garden. I also like to use their furs for hats and mittens. I think any homestead would do good to add a few rabbits!

    Charles Tutt
    7/20/2011 10:34:46 AM
    My experience says the author is dreaming. It is not possible to have a house, outbuildings, a cow, goats, pigs, chickens, fruit and vegetables all on one acre here in Missouri where I live. The ONLY WAY you could do that would be to pay cash and import ALL their feed. I've always thought it possible with 10 acres though.








    Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

    First Name: *
    Last Name: *
    Address: *
    City: *
    State/Province: *
    Zip/Postal Code:*
    Country:
    Email:*
    (* indicates a required item)
    Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
    Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
    Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

    Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

    MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

    At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

    You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.