What I Have to Work with
Last summer, I purchased a property with an acre and a half of land with a house built in the late 1800s. The house was the original homestead for the family that owns the several hundred acres surrounding me and was moved from the original location to a corner plot that had been industrially farmed. A big bonus of the house being moved is that it sits on a brand new, well constructed foundation with a big crawl space! Unfortunately, with the house being so old and the previous owner (not from the family that built the home) having treated it so poorly, I've had to spend significant amounts of money for repairs and remodeling.
Predictably, the soil is compacted, has no structure, contains few microorganisms and is likely devoid of key nutrients and minerals. About an acre of the land is overgrown with weeds and has undegradable remnants in 2 or maybe 3 burn piles. The half acre immediately surrounding the house, shed and driveway has a couple ornamental bushes and trees and one undetermined species of oak. The land is extremely flat and has tiling running through it so that water won't pool. The nearest stand of trees is at least a half mile away and there are very few stands in a 5 mile radius. The good news about that is I've not seen the first deer and won't likely have problems with them until after the forest garden is solidly established. The downside is that the wind can be brutal.
With the house having been moved, a new well was dug and placed safely away from the septic system. The water was tested and doesn't have any large particles or serious contamination but is, as expected, hard. It tastes quite good. Neither the house nor the shed has adequate water runoff drains. The nearest waterway is about a half mile away and was recently redirected to support the industrial farms it runs through. The nearest rivers are the Salamonie and the Wabash and both are approximately 5 miles away. The Salamonie Reservoir is about 10 miles away.
The septic system is very high quality, made of pre-cast concrete and placed well away from the house according to modern building code.
The house has electrical service, is directly across the road from a local telephone company's CO, and has a large propane tank for heating and cooking. Verizon is the only wireless service provider with 3G coverage and I get a nice signal thanks to the nearby tower next to the interstate.
I'm within walking distance (well bike riding distance) of a really cute, old town that has no strip malls. It has a great little bike shop, too! The downside is that the nearest grocery store is about 15 miles away.
90% of the wind and storms come in from due west. I'm still within tornado alley, but near the northernmost extent of it. The winter temperatures can easily (and have) reach subzero Fahrenheit while the summer temps easily get hotter than 90° F. Summer humidity easily exceeds 70% and frequently reaches 90%. Over the last week, we've experienced a 70° temperature differential. So, although I'm solidly in zone 5, cold and frost sensitive plants are at risk of weather damage.
I love it! The house is solidly built and will be around for at least another 100 years. The land also presents a great opportunity for remediation. And finally, the community is just the right size and just the right distance from large urban centers. Hopefully, I'll even have an opportunity to introduce new genetic material to the area and get local families interested in permaculture!
Tomorrow I'll post and discuss the site plan.