There are a lot of articles out there about how to be self-sustaining on a 1-acre property. Now, while most urban dwellers don’t have one full acre, many people who live on the outskirts of town or in more rural areas do. So, can you be self-sufficient on one acre or even less than an acre? How much can you really do with one acre?
Some articles about creating a self-sustaining property are a bit misleading. They make self-sufficient homesteading on an acre sound simple and even glamorous. The truth is you can be self-sustaining on a 1-acre property but it takes work, education, dedication, and time.
So, if you have an oversized lot or small acreage and want to be as sustainable as possible, here are some ideas and suggestions on how to get started creating a self-sufficient homestead.
1 Acre Homestead
Check zoning regulations. Most areas have regulations about what kinds of structures and what types of animals you can have on a 1-acre lot. Chances are great that you cannot have a cow, goats, pigs, and chickens on a small property, but if regulations do allow you have, some, or all of the above you will want to know what the requirements, restrictions, and ordinances are. With farm animals comes noise, so you will also want to know what your area’s noise ordinances are for animals that moo, oink, or cock-a-doodle-doo.
Be a good neighbor. It is not always our first thought but getting along with your neighbors will make life easier and more enjoyable for both of you. You will want to be aware of how having these animals might impact your neighbors, this can help you plan and design where your animals will be housed and they roam.
Self Sustainable Living
Set your priorities. One acre is approximately 215 x 215 feet. Presumably, a quarter of that is reserved for your house and yard (unless you are going in the tiny house direction also). So you’ll have ¾ of an acre left, and that can get eaten up pretty quickly. And we mean that literally – for example, if you have 8 goats on ¾ of an acre, that space will get torn down and overrun in no time at all. Failure to set your priorities will result in land that is overgrazed, overworked, and lifeless.
Figure out what’s most important to you and go from there.
- Chickens & ducks need 3-5 ft of coop space per chicken and a minimum of 10 ft of enclosed run space.
- One goat requires at least 250 sq. ft of space, but goats are pack animals and are happiest when together so you will need at least two. Each goat requires an area of about 30 to 50 sq.ft. for grazing. You will also likely need space for additional food. Goats typically need supplemental foods, such as hay and grain if they cannot get enough fresh grass to eat each day.
- Pigs aren’t the most active it is recommended that you plan for around 100 square feet of space per pig.
- Vegetable Garden. Vegetable gardens are versatile, you can grow in-ground, in containers, or in raised beds. You can add vertical elements to save space and even grow inside.
- Fruit Trees. Depending on the tree you could need anywhere from 8 ft to 35 ft of space per tree. Dwarf citrus for example can grow in as little as 8 – 10 ft, semi-dwarf trees 12 – 18 feet, while most standard-sized fruit trees need 18 – 20 ft of space to grow properly. And then there are trees like apple and sweet cherry trees that need around 35 by 35 feet of space.
- Nut Trees. Nut trees vary even more than fruit trees, depending on the nut you can need 8 – 80 ft. of space.
- Native Landscape. You should always leave room for native plants are best suited for your micro-climate which makes them resource smart and they will keep beneficial bugs and insects in your yard and garden.
- How much space do you need for a beehive? Beehives are relatively compact but you may have local ordinances and requirements for how close your hives can be to other dwellings.
- How much food does a honey bee colony need? A honey bee colony needs about 50 – 75 pounds of pollen a year. Bees forage about 2 miles for pollen and nectar, though they can and will travel farther if they have to. You can’t rely on outside food sources alone so plan to have plenty for them to enjoy close to home
- How much water does a honey bee colony need? Water, especially in the hotter months, is essential if you want to keep bees. A bee colony will need more than a birdbath size, think animal trough instead, and you will need to make it safe for them to visit by adding water plants and rocks for them to rest on.
This is all doable on one acre if you plan, research, and build accordingly.
Be Realistic. Total self-sufficiency means that you would grow your own hay to feed the goats, have enough chickens for meat and eggs, and have a fairly large garden for fruit trees, berry bushes, vegetables, and herbs. One acre isn’t likely large enough to accomplish all of those things and be completely self-sustaining, but it is certainly large enough to be sustainable and practical. And anyone can feel good about that.
Collect Water: Rainwater collection is an easy and valuable way to recycle rainwater and increase your self-sustainability. An easy way to get started is by using a stand-alone tank or rain barrel attached to gutter downspouts. Rain barrels are set up on a platform to allow gravity feed of the water. Multiple rain barrels can be connected to create a linked system which is great for rainwater storage. Check out this blog post if you’re interested in learning more about rainwater collection systems.
Attract Pollinators: Pollinators play an important role in many aspects of homesteading. From growing your own food to creating a healthy environment to live in, we all need pollinators. Some great ways to attract and help our pollinator population is by planting flowers that attract pollinators and by building mason bee houses. Attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden will help increase your yields and overall garden success.