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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


We Bought Land! Now What?

The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.

Jackson WinterMy husband and I sealed the deal on a piece of property – a beautiful, 42-acre rectangle of northeastern Kansas – that met all of our land requirements. It has a nice wooded area from which we could cut wood for our wood-burning stove; plenty of open space on which we could build a house, put in a large food garden, start an orchard and graze animals; and more than plenty of space to roam, build running, biking and hiking trails, and even create numerous campsites. The land was located close enough to bike into town if we wanted – less than 7 miles from the local downtown brewery (important detail), and near the local running trails I love to frequent. We’d been watching the land for more than a year as we also searched high and low for country homes and other pieces of land. The price dropped enough for us to make it work, and we jumped on the property. It wasn’t until we were celebrating with an impromptu picnic after signing the official papers with the bank and the title company that we realized we didn’t really know anything about what else stood between us and the future we’d been hoping for and working toward.

We figured that our needs and wants were simple enough that we’d be able to make it all work out. We had a vague idea of how much a small, energy-efficient home would cost to build in our area. Although we knew our bank would extend our land loan to cover building a new home, the full loan was contingent upon us selling our current home and figuring out all of the building permit details. We didn’t know then, but we soon discovered – and are still discovering – how many big, important, difficult decisions we have to make in order to build our simple, small country home and, later, farm.

As the Managing Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I have access to a lot of great content (you do, too — it’s all at available on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS website or in a print and/or digital subscriptions) and great people who have experience with a lot of the topics my husband and I are working through as we build. By documenting our journey, we hope to help other future homesteaders know more than we did when we dove in. We also hope some of you out there have walked a similar path before, and have answers for all of us young modern homesteaders looking to move to the country and make a go of the self-reliant, DIY lifestyle. We welcome comments, questions and advice in the comments section on any post in the series — my experience is only one approach, after all.

Next in the series: Should We Go into Debt?

Photo by Jennifer Kongs of our black lab, Jackson, wandering, sniffing, romping and ultimately approving of his future rural home.


Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer by leaving a comment below.

collen
10/26/2015 1:22:24 PM

Dear Jennifer, I'm very excited to follow your journey. My husband and I also bought land in NE Kansas (about an hour west of Topeka) and have spent a year watching what the land does each season and getting to know it, the area and people. We have about 23.6 acres and are beginning with very little knowledge about agriculture in this area - or any area - other than a hobby garden. With both of us working full time or better we know we have to do things with discernment, incrementally and with an eye for sustainability or else we will be wasting a lot of labor. Any advice you have in getting plugged in to area groups, forums or networks would be greatly appreciated. Looking forward to the next installment! Collen McGee


jkongs
12/19/2014 1:30:08 PM

Fraser, Thank you for the kind words and encouragement! We are doing our best to be very thoughtful and plan ahead - we have good help, too! Best, Jennifer


farmwellfraser
12/18/2014 3:27:31 AM

Way to go Jennifer! As I see it, the "Now What?" question depends on if you want a productive farm, sustainable lifestyle, your experience, budget, goals, etc. You're "lucky" in that you have a blank canvas on which to paint. You can position/build a house and design the property for max energy efficiency. You know, like south-facing windows for passive solar gain, tree planted wind breaks and ponds to create a micro-climate, position gardens, orchards and animal system so they support each other and save you work and money... A little forethought pays in dividends later... Wishing you all the best! Cheers, Fraser


jkongs
11/30/2014 4:01:03 PM

Mark, best of luck with your property quest - I hope it works out for you and they our experience can be helpful for you with your adventure.


mark
11/28/2014 6:44:13 PM

Looking forward to learning from your experiences. Hoping to purchase 20+ acres in Michigan this spring and begin our journey towards a more self reliant lifestyle. Going to be following your Blog closely.


jkongs
11/24/2014 9:32:27 AM

Thanks for your comment, @thebrokelifeorg. I hope your journey is a fun adventure that ends in success. :)


thebrokelifeorg
11/18/2014 5:42:10 PM

How exciting! I can't wait to follow your journey! We're working towards a similar goal.....very, very slowly. :)