A Realistic Plan and Time Line for A Survival Homestead

This is a guest post by Todd Detzel, known on The Oil Drum as Todd. You may find his ideas very ambitious. There are other approaches as well, but this post does point out some of the issues you will want to think about.

My guess is that almost all city people underestimate what goes into establishing a homestead. And, most importantly, how long it will take – if you start the process today, you should be ready some time in 2016-2017 -- if you work like a dog and are lucky.

This is part of the orchard. There are 15 varieties of apples, 4 varieties of pears, 2 varieties of peaches, 4 varieties of plums, 3 varieties of English walnuts and 2 varieties of persimmons.

It looks like we still have a problem with word counts. We will get tech support to look at it. There is a post below the fold, if you click "There's more". Word count fixed.

No doubt someone is going to look at the following time line (a total of 7 years – 2 years getting ready for the move and 5 years actually building the homestead) and believe they can beat it. In fact, I consider the time to be highly optimistic but if you think you can beat it, I wish you all the best.

I also have no doubt that other people might do things differently or in a different order. That’s fine with me. Nothing is written in stone.

The purpose of this plan is to allow you to continue to live in the 20th century for 10-20 years in the event of total disaster upon completion of your homestead. We rely on a lot of technology and that technology has a given lifespan. Most things like motors, lights, batteries, inverters, and refrigerators eventually die of old age and it will (may) be impossible to replace them so there is no point in planning for a longer period. Although abandoned cities might be “mined” for replacements, this hardly constitutes an acceptable plan for generational survival.

This 10-20 year timeframe can be extended indefinitely by the simple expedient of incorporating generational/sustainable technology right from the start.

This plan assumes that you will be starting with raw land with no improvements. The advantage is that you can tailor things specifically to your needs while allowing time for your skills to develop. Yes, you could buy an old farm. However, I believe that old farms will ultimately cost you more and require significantly more time to rehabilitate than starting from scratch. Further, trying to fix up old stuff is more difficult than new construction. Things are rotted, out of square, foundations and roofs are shot or lack insulation.

The plan also assumes that all property is owned by a single family and that the work will be done by that family (a husband and wife or partner). I know a lot of people believe that a sharing/commune-type structure is the way to go. However, a community timeframe will be little different from that of a family and my experience is that most communities eventually fail.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons since moving to the country over 30 years ago. I should add that I also lived in a rural area until I was 12. However, I sure as hell don’t know everything and some of my suggestions are guesstimates. For example, I grew up around my neighbor’s draft horses but I’m not a teamster. There are thousands of others out there who live far more self-sufficiently (self-reliantly) than my wife and I. But, I’ve also had the opportunity to observe the successes and failures of other people.

The plan below gives a time line that allows time to develop necessary skills, spread out the cost and, most importantly, allows a long enough period to be certain country living is for you before investing everything in something you hate.

Let me begin with the psychological aspects since no one seems to ever discuss them. Not everyone has the personality to survive truly rural living. The vast majority of city relationships break-up within five to seven years because one of the partners absolutely hates everything. It might be the isolation. It might be the mud or having to put on the chains every day to get through the snow (we have friends not that far from us who have to ski or snowshoe out a few months a year from their place to get to their truck almost a mile away). It might be that there is never any time when there isn’t work to be done. It might be having little income. It might be the two-half hour trips each way to the school bus stop if you don’t home school. It might be personal growth. It might be the lack of cultural events. Or, it might be the difficulty of shopping or only being able to afford thrift store clothes.

There are also sex specific landmines: For men, it is the loss of image/status. There is no business card with the grand job title. They are just one more guy in jeans and work boots driving an old pickup truck. For women, it is the loss of support structures/friends.

So, here goes:

First, before you do anything – How much money do you have? Unlike buying a functioning place, starting from scratch means you can’t spread the cost over the period of the mortgage. For example, a septic system in my area of northern California costs between $20-40K including engineering, permits and construction. This money has to be paid out front.

Be sure you have enough money to cover all your living expenses for a minimum of two years in addition to money for construction, etc. In addition, you should have enough basic food for at least a year. This is a good way to learn food preservation skills.

Second, you need to gather information. You need to know about riparian rights/water rights. You need to understand Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. Are there any local or state ordinances or laws that may impact you? For example, there might be a grading ordinance that requires you to prepare an Environmental Impact Review and hire an engineer if you want to do significant grading such as putting in a long road. You have to find out how much things like power line extensions cost. In my area it is over $50/foot. Real estate ads might say, “Power nearby” or “power available” but it’s not at all unusual for lines to be more than 1,000 feet away (in fact miles isn’t unusual). A thousand feet is 50 grand or more, likely making putting in an alternative system more sense. I have a neighbor who can see my power line but can’t afford to get hooked up.

Third, you have to realistically assess your relationship and whether you both share the same vision. Don’t even think about a country move if there are any problems. This is one area where total honesty is a must.

Fourth, you have to assess your marketable skills and whether you and/or your partner are willing to take any job. Jobs of any kind are hard to come by in the boondocks. It is not terribly unusual for men to work so far from home that they live where their jobs are and come home only on weekends-–not too good for relationships.

Fifth, you need to begin to learn needed homestead skills at least two years before you move. These include things such as engine mechanics, wiring, plumbing, carpentry, animal husbandry, crop production, food preservation, etc. You do not want to have these kinds of things become “on the job” learning experiences. You will go broke if you hire people for work you could learn to do.

One important point; “Learning” homestead skills doesn’t mean reading a lot of books (although you will buy and read a lot of books). It means putting skills into action right now.

Although you will begin using motorized equipment for fieldwork, it is assumed you will use animals once you are established. My preference would be draft ponies with a forecart/hitchcart.

You need to learn that there is no such thing as “man’s work” and "woman’s work.” I can sew if necessary and my wife can run a chainsaw. Sexism is a good way to kill a relationship. I taught myself to sew on a treadle sewing machine when I was 8 or 9 so I could make packs for my trap line and I also do most of our cooking today because I love to cook whereas my wife hates cooking.

Sixth, if your kids are currently going to regular school, it might be a good idea to begin to transition them to home schooling (if that’s your plan). You can buy one of the many programs available and have him/her spend an hour a night on it. I might add that mom and dad should take this time to study their own stuff rather than watching TV/DVD’s while the kid works. In fact, I would suggest that you investigate community colleges for appropriate courses so you can really study too.

Seventh, your plan needs to be designed to do things in small steps so that failure won’t be a disaster. Start with 10 chickens not 100. Start with a small garden not a half an acre. Build a small building before you tackle a major building.

If at all possible, find a mentor! Yes, it will be difficult but it will save you unending periods of re-inventing the wheel. It might be a good idea to ask the real estate agent about this when you are looking for land.

Steps by Year

Year one –
Buy land
Buy basic tools
Clear land
Buy used mobile home
Establish domestic and Ag water systems
Establish septic/cesspool system/outhouse/composting toilet
Establish power system or bring in power
Fence future garden
Plant permanent crops (trees, vines, etc.) in the fenced area
Establish small kitchen garden
Have someone custom fit and drill a high organic matter cover crop into future
pasture and crop area
Build a combination chicken coup (and/or goat shed) and firewood storage building
Cut firewood

City people seem enamored by land quantity rather than quality. The land will be your lifeblood and you cannot skimp on it. It is far better to have 20 acres of well- drained land with Class I soils than 200 acres of land with Class 3 soils that lay low and needs tiling.

Meadow - This is part of the area where the 4 families by me
will expand food production if it hits the fan.

Further, since wood will be of major importance for heat, cooking, future construction and, perhaps, woodgas, the land must currently support a sufficiently large wood lot to supply all your needs in perpetuity.

The mobile home is the key to your first year’s success. It provides instant dry, warm housing and a bathroom. Don’t buy a camper or fifth wheeler! They are too cramped and cost too much. Under no circumstances should you begin building anything large the first year.

Fertilizer costs money and may not be available. Although a great deal of increased soil nutrition can be achieved with legume crops, you really need animals for their manure. Yes, you could make compost from grass and plant waste. However, the nitrogen level of compost is not high enough to help many crops and should be viewed as a soil amendment that improves tilth but nothing more.

The chicken coup/goat shed/firewood storage building will give you a chance to practice your building skills.

Since feeding and taking care of your animals is labor intensive, it only makes sense that they provide some return for your work whether as food or by providing power for things like plowing.

The cost of tools is likely to be an issue. I’m not talking about little home stuff like a couple of screwdrivers. I’m talking about big, expensive stuff that you will have to buy. How do you deal with the reality of saying it is imperative that you spend close to a thousand dollars for chainsaws when your family can’t afford new clothes?

Hammers - Gotta have hammers.

Year two –
Look for work and get a job
Assess finances
Build barn/shop
Fence pasture into paddocks
Begin working fields on your own. (probably with a tiller)
Plant full garden and preserve excess crops
Get chickens or milk goats
Complete house design and any final clearing
Build cold cellar
Decide whether you are going to use corn silage, green chop/haylage or hay along with grains
for animal feed, how you plan on harvesting them and how you plan on storing them (hay
stacks, bins, silos, bunkers, Ag Bags)
Cut firewood

This is the make or break year in many ways. You’ve had your fun playing in the country. You’re starting to talk big bucks to build the barn/shop correctly – anything less than 30x40 or 40x40 is a waste of time. Be sure the door is high enough to get large equipment in and out (Know what equipment you might buy. Some equipment like combines require a 13 foot minimum height – and yes, I have heard of ground driven combines.)

I’d consider using a large plastic septic tank or water tank for the cold cellar. They are watertight and all you need to do is stick it in a hole and cut in a door/hatch.

Someone has to start bringing in money. Someone has to build the barn/shop. The garden and orchard require significant work. Food preservation takes time and money. Someone has to be responsible for the animals every day. Deer and varmints are no longer cute and cuddly but have to be killed or fenced out. Cutting and splitting firewood is no longer fun. Sorry - forgot the kids. Time is always short.

You have to make a final decision as to what you are going to use for plowing and fieldwork around your place until you switch to animals. You could buy something like a Polaris Ranger 6x6 rather than a tractor. It can be fitted with a forecart/hitch cart for fieldwork but is safe for jobs like hauling firewood out of the woods. Tractors are good at being tractors but not much else. The only thing you’ll miss about not having a tractor is a loader. Incidentally, a forecart is a two-wheel cart that incorporates a manual, hydraulic three-point hitch and a place for the teamster to sit or stand. The advantage of the forecart is that regular three-point implements, rather than horse drawn implements, can be used.

However, I would personally consider a different tractor alternative at this point. I’ve had a wheel tractor and crawler and what I would do were I doing it again is buy a beater, manual trans, non-emissions full-sized 4x4 and convert it to a “tractor” much like was done in the 20’s and 30’s with Model T’s. It could also be easily converted to wood gas when petroleum becomes expensive and scarce.

Don’t buy draft ponies at this time even if that is your final means for fieldwork. And, sure as hell, don’t even consider a draft horse. Large animals are going to be another burden you don’t need at this time.

I guess I should offer my rationale for draft ponies. In the old days, standard productivity was between 11 and 50 acres of crops per horse. The difference relates to the size of the farm – the bigger the farm, the more efficiently horses could be used. Your homestead will be quite small making the use of any large draft animal inefficient for the simple reason that big animals eat more than small ones and require more pasture. This, in turn, requires more work to produce the food for them. Also, draft animals get lazy if they don’t have work to do. By the way, I have mixed feelings about oxen – in a way it’s a good idea but not so good in others.

Typically, all the cutesy-pie, city ideas of making money like selling organic vegetables (right – make $100k per acre growing “greens”) or arts and crafts prove to be non or minor money makers for the time they take. This is when city folks think “Let’s grow dope. All we need is 10 pounds per year…” I don’t care about this morally or even legally. However, everything you have including your land, car, generator, everything, could be confiscated, you could go to jail and your kids could end up in a foster home. Suit yourself.

Now, if you can’t make enough money to live on and can’t build the barn because you still lack the skills or are afraid of making mistakes while you learn, common sense says MOVE BACK TO THE CITY NOW!

Years three and four –
Build the house
Establish permanent pastures including any additional fences and row crops like corn, grains
and hay
Go to work and keep on doing what you’ve been doing
Cut firewood

Woodpile - Gotta have chainsaws. Extra points for anyone who knows what the cable is. (It's a choker.)

These are really the years from hell. By this time you may be wishing you had purchased the piece of crap house on the old farmstead with the falling down barn. You may be right but in the long run what you have will be better off if you can stick it out.

If money is getting short (It’s always getting short), it might be wise to think about something other than a conventional house. There is rammed earth, straw bale, soda can, yurts, domes, stone using the Flagg method and used tires. These can take a long time to build.

However, one idea I have is used mobile homes. You can buy used 10/12’x50/55’ mobiles for under five grand. If you bought three more, you could form a square with an atrium in the center. You could strip off the tin skin, sheet with rigid foam insulation and then wood sheeting (or, maybe, Hardie (cement) board) and put on a regular insulated roof over the tin one. This doesn’t take much skill. Since there are no interior bearing walls, the interiors could be gutted and reframed to whatever configuration you wanted. An added advantage is that they won’t be taxed as a permanent improvement like a house. Think about it.

If I had lots of money and the right location, I would seriously consider building the house, including the roof, out of poured concrete below grade. With a sun scoop, light pipes or atrium, it wouldn’t be like living in a cave. There would be many advantages; essentially no exterior maintenance; little air infiltration; fire-proof; the soil would moderate the internal temperature; plus many more.

Year five –
Add any final animals such as sheep or confined meat animals like swine (although swine can
be run on pastures if you ring them)
Try to finish what you started
Probably try different varieties of vegetables
Build a silage bunker if that’s your trip and grain storage bins
Buy a team of draft ponies and learn to work them (a forecart/hitch cart will work fine with
them and a team can easily pull a one bottom plow which is all you need)
Cut firewood

This shows blueberries on the left and some grape vines on the right. There are three varieties of blueberries and a total of 10 varieties of grapes.

Well, that’s it. I’ve left a lot (a whole lot) out but you get the idea. Trying to do it all in a short period of time guarantees failure. Lack of money guarantees failure. Not taking the time to educate yourself before your move guarantees failure. Thinking your partner isn’t working as hard as you are guarantees failure as does telling your partner what to do. A poor relationship guarantees failure. Being afraid to make mistakes guarantees failure as does someone bitching about not meeting some preconceived notion of perfection.

And, last of all, and most importantly, not taking time for yourself guarantees failure. I cannot emphasize this enough! When we were building our houses (I built three for us and a few more for other people), my wife and I made a decision to stop work from 2 to 4 PM and go down to the creek to skinny dip each afternoon. Then we would work until 6, have dinner and then work until it was twilight and go to bed at 8:30 or 9 (in our 6’x9’ tent for the first house). You have to do something like this because there are always 28 hours of work each day when you are establishing a homestead. You might like to read or sew instead but you have to force yourself to take a break or you’ll break.

You might ask how much a homestead like this will cost. All I can say is, “It depends”: It certainly depends upon the geographic location. It depends upon the skills you have or can develop. It depends upon the climate since this will influence how much food you can grow easily and your heating demands. It also depends upon whether you just want to establish a framework for survival without living a survival lifestyle.

It also depends upon how willing you are to “make do.” Those of us living in the country often “make do” for the simple reason that there is no financially viable alternative. For example, one of our cars is 5 years old, two are 25 years old (they are all used for different purposes) and my main truck is 19 years old. They’ve been well taken care of and should last many more years. Same thing with chain saws – one is 2 years old, one is 5 years old and two are 29 years old. Why replace them when they run since the money can be used for something else… and I don’t believe in debt.

So there you have it. Time is getting short. Let me close by saying that I intentionally haven’t provided a book list and only one Internet link. Most of my books are old (like me) and there might be difficulty getting them. As far as the Internet goes, I think it’s far better for each individual to do his/her own searches since what might be of interest to me might not be to you.
Be that as it may, here is “the” link: http://www.fastonline.org/CD3WD_40/CD3WD/INDEX.htm (A companion link is http://www.cd3wd.com but the titles are not visible unless you download each section.) This will take you to a page containing about 4,000 titles, a total of 13 gigabytes. It can be downloaded a book at a time and given its scope, you will probably want to put it on a flash or external drive and then select what to print out (see below). Most of the material is oriented toward the third world; perfect information for a homestead.

One last, last thing: On Internet information, print it out and put it in a notebook(s) when possible. Information comes and goes. If you only download it your hard, flash or thumb drive, there is no guarantee that your computer will still be working when you want it. You can also just sit in a comfy chair and peruse printed material and it requires zero technology to assess regardless of where you are. I’m not saying this for effect. I have five 4”, 3 ring notebooks of stuff relating to survival; certainly over 2,500 pages. The power can go out and it’s there. I can throw it in my truck and not break it. And, because each one has a contents page, stuff is easy to find.

Happy Homesteading!

I read all this and think "I'm not gonna make it..."
It's not that I don't think I have it in me it's just that I will never feel justified to start before it's way too late. My balcony tomato plant and plan to make home made jam is just pissing in the wind...

Yes, it has been said before.

It's already too late.

It has also been said that civilisation is 5 square meals from anarchy. I feel this is even more true now. In fact I suspect that if all takeaways ceased home deliveries many would starve in days... :o)

I thought it was 9 meals away.

I think the term is chaos---
Anarchy is a natural belief in order without external control or influence.
As, no state is needed, as nature naturally organizes itself.
I know the elite is terrified of that much freedom, and have conditioned the sheep to a knee jerk negative response.

I think every man woman and child should be terrified of Anarchy not just "the Elite". I watched a program about The Manssons last night, they had an internal consistent set of beliefs... In a world of no over arching control terror would reign IMO, especialy during a transistion to more localised control.

Yes, Anarchy certainly gets painted with a black brush. What Todd is doing is anarchy or at least as much as he can get away with in our modern world.

Not 1 in 100 Americans has the time, resources, or physical ability to do half of the things described above.

In other words, 99 out of 100 Americans will be forced to turn to the larger 'system' for survival. A system that, as Mr. Kunstler puts it, will be lucky to be answering the phones.

First a general comment, I'm going to only post here and there because I have to set some snares to trap something that is getting into my garden - yea, you have to know how to trap too if you want to live in the boondocks.

Matthew - All of my post is based on actually doing it with certain exceptions like draft animals. Yes, it IS damn, damn hard which is why only a few people make it in the long run. I started our first place when I was 35 and our current place when I was 40 (I'm 70 now and still adding stuff). It is the ultimate psychological, physical and financial commitment anyone can undertake.

My hope in this essay is to enlighten people to the reality of what is involved. This is not something that people should take lightly. And, they may, indeed, find government camps (if it comes to that) a good deal.


Todd,I have just one question.

Where were you over the last few months when I could have used a few backup comments when the discussions turned to subsistence farming/homesteading /large scale survival gardening?;-)

I really don't have a clue as to how much money you think most people may be able to sink into a homestead but your plan seems like it will take a lot.

A septic sytstem typically costs only 5000 to 6500 bucks here lock stock and barrel.

A drilled well here is 8 bucks a foot plus pipe wire and pump.

You will have one hell of a hard time trying to follow your general plan with building inspectors and zoning in most places if you don't know how to game the system.Gameing the system may not be possible.

Here in Va being on a working farm is a get out of jail card when you need to build something-or do something-a card that can be played many times over.

Shipping containers-the kind that are offloaded from the container ship directly onto a trailer truck are currently by far and away your best storage option.

Believe me, a good tractor is worth every other tool you will ever own put together,if you have the right implements.Namely turn plows,two wheel wagon (or trailer),boom pole,disc and harrow,bush hog type mower,post hole auger etc.

If you will make friends with a retired country mechanic-one who has several years of dealership experience,you can use his help to locate and buy a very good tractor for five thousand bucks or less..one that will last as long as you do ,if you can get fuel for it.

The time will come when you will need the draft animals of course.

You can do more heavy work with a tractor in a day than you can with a tiller or draft animals than you can in two weeks,such as turning soil with heavy plows.which is precisely what you need to do to get undesirable growth buried to rot and the ground bare and ready for seeding with clover and grass for instance.Or auger ten nice deep post holes every hour,easily,with a five hundred dollar attachment-which you can either rent or buy and resell when your fences are up.

I think that most people would be better off starting with a small rundown farm myself.It has been my experience that residual problems such as exhausted soils are more easily and cheaply corrected than starting fresh on "new ground" in this area.I can't say about other areas.

I think that considered all the way around you have done a great job.If anything you may have made it look a little easier than it really is going to be.


One of the very few posts I will make on TOD.

Ok...I would have been 'here for you' and I was more than a few times.

As a member of the class of '57 and very close to TODD in sustainability,,and far far more advanced than you are or will likely ever be....I think I can speak with candor and truth about what it takes to do what TODD does...and I did speak of it many,many and many more times .....all to very little avail and with almost zero assists from others , including you mostly,,as your the one who tried to be the 'wise and knowing oldster' of the group trough gathering

So I am gone now and never to back up anyone again..yet this one caught my eye...the whining part that is. I really hate a whiner!..I much prefer a doer and one who does not splash his rather wornout academic creds in almost every post.

Airdale-my coattails you see as I once more exit,,yes I do read a very very few of the essays..this one of Todds I was waiting for and its a keeper. And the honest gospel I might add.

PS. A few too many bitching about the 'civility' here as well, IMO. Civility is far far too late and civility to a representative? Just so they can once more bury you in BS and drown out your voice and others? No way Jose. Flag away fellas. I know it beyond that civility ruler in your hip pocket. I wrote it after all. Its how we used to once speak until PC came into vogue.


I'm sorry I offended you or anybody else by mentioning the fact that I have a degree but my opinion in that respect is that some of the cornucopians flaunt thier certifications the same way that doctors and lawyers do and if you don't indicate when you oppose them that you too have credentials,you are nobody in lots of peoples eyes.

I have thought of you as a personal friend and will continue to do so,and if you ever ride the BRP I'm only five minutes off of it.

I'm not sure about the whining part,I have posted stuff very much like yours and Todd's afaics.

I have disputed nothing in his post today,but I have ADDED some relevant comments that I believe he will not find objectionable viz building inspectors,hurricane zones,earning and hiring and getting things done faster,prices in other places,etc.

Maybe you refer to my being concerned that the better minds might leave the Oil Drum if things get too raunchy and personal.I could be wrong about that,maybe it won't happen,but the rauchiness and personal venom gets so bad on many sites that nobody with anything to say comments.

I can handle it personally no problem,I normally cuss about every other word.

The only real exception I take is the tractor versus horse issue,and I will stick to my guns there.
If things go all the way to hell before a homestead is ready, being one quarter or one half way there will be no good.

Any body acquainted with an automobile can learn to care for and operate a tractor in a quarter of the time it takes to learn to handle horses,and you can get so much more done so much easier that only a fool or an idealist would even try to use a horse for work that can be done with a tractor,if time is of the essence.Of course some people can get everything done with only a draft animal or two,all of my grand parents and greatgrand parents did it,starting from scratch in a mature second growth hard wood forest building two room rough sawed board and batten green oak houses,shitting in hand dug toilets, and working like coolies for the first ten years,and nearly as hard for the next ten.I can remember when the bathrooms went in myself,at my grand parents houses.

(If you don't let people in this world know that you have credentials,and remind them constantly of that fact,you are just aren't taken seriously)

I don't see too many women who have been used to ac and clothes dryers buying into that.

A tractor is the single greatest labor saving,cost cutting tool that has EVER existed
on a farm.Of course the time may come when tractors can't be bought or repaired,or fuel may be impossible to find.My guess is that that time is some time off yet,probably more than ten years at least,if it ever comes,barring ww3.

My Old Pa never went to school a day in his life,excepting Sunday school,and I HAVE SEEN THE WHOLE PICTURE from both sides of the fence as I spent half my afternoons and most of my summers in the fields with him from the time I was six until I left home for good.

Now as a matter of fact I have a lot of time on my hands these days as a result of staying in the house and tending the constant needs of an invalid who may live another day or another year.I didn't even have internet service until this little job popped up.

After the funeral,I won't post a comment here probably more than once in long while myself.I have satisfied my curiousity as to the facts of the energy picture,and there are other sites that now hold more interest for me,and I really am an old style book worm at heart anyway.And like you,I have a hell of a lot of things to do that are more important and getting farther behind by the day.

You probably have indeed gotten father along on the sustainability path than I have or will,my plan is for no more than the next ten to fifteen years,and after that the odds are VERY HIGH that nothing else will ever matter to me.If things get really bad and some of the nieces and nephews show up to stay,maybe I can do some home schooling for thier kids and then try to help then get the place ready for the dark ages.

Good luck!

The worms will get us both soon enough,no fire or formaldehyde for me,thanks,just a pine box and a fieldstone will suit me fine.

ps a very short post occasionally?please?
pps There IS a winky face at the end of that question to Todd.

I think that most people would be better off starting with a small rundown farm myself.

There isn't new ground for everyone. Old ground will be harder. Which is why the Amazon burns.

This is a wonderful post. Year two sucks. So does year three, four and five. Maybe by then much of the culling will be done. Good men will have no status but they will need good wives/women/partners/whatevers.

The renegotiation of the dance between the sexes will be a little bit of joy. I've always found competent women sexy. Now sexy is going to be survival sexy. Works for me.

While the role of the competent woman will increase, so will the count of authoritarian men - 2.5M from the military alone, presumably returning home. [There I depart for Orlov - LEAVE the military wherever the hell they are. DON'T bring them home, I say. We don't need or want them.]

And no, there won't be money for the tractor or the well.

Too much to do.

cfm in Gray, ME

This post should be under Delusionals comment.


Anyone who is remotely talented enough and handy enough to make it in the country mainly by being self sufficient can learn how to operate and care for a tractor in short order.I am sure that you will agree.

And there are a lot of good used tractors available that will last for decades in the four to six thousand dollar range.Tractors engineers do not incorporate planned obsolence into thier drawings-at least they didn't until recently,when lots of fancy hard to repair oddball features have started showing up.

I don't know where you are located but here in Va you can hire a local guy with a fifteen to twenty five ton dozer or front end loader to clear land in mixed hardword forest(very few trees over 16 inches dbh) for less than 1500 dollars per acre ,and they leave it clean and smooth,although a lot of topsoil is scraped up with the debris.

Digging out stumps left behind by loggers is a very tough job and costs a lot more than digging out standing trees,which normally take less no more than a couple of minutes each,unless they are really big trees.A couple of cuts into the roots with the bucket angled down and a shove with the bucket high up against the trunk and a 16 inch dbh oak is on the ground in two minutes if you have a twenty ton plus frontend loader.(Nobody HIRES land cleared any more with a dozer,unless it's mostly just overgrown fields/ scrubby trees.)

The best solution is to COMBINE clearing and logging by having a front loader with a "four way"bucket do the pushing and haul and drop the trees with good logs or firewood off to one side where they can be "worked up" by a couple of guys with chainsaws .

The loader can also stack the logs on a loggers truck for the trip to the sawmill,meaning it is practical to sell only a load or two of logs-not enough for a logger to show up with his own equipment.

You can recover the topsoil and spread it by burning the debris or waiting for it to rot,but that's a decades long wait.

You must have the energy of a lab puppy and the determination of the guvanotors terminator character!

Or maybe you are just having a good time in spite of the difficulties?;)

I am impressed by the amount of equipment you have and guess that you help justify the ownership by hiring it out occasionally.

Have you ever read "Time Enough for Love" by Hienlen?

I got lost in the pronouns, oldfarmermac. Which post is delusional? My observation that this is "too much" and every year is going to suck more than the year before? The top post itself?

How do you clear stumps? With pigs and corn. The trade-off is between the D-9 and time. the D-9 is orders of magnitude more emergy.

BUT - even thinking like that no longer works in a world of limits.

And yes, I am having a good time in spite of the difficulties.

cfm in Gray, ME, trying to lay out the long house

I have lived the life you describe. Starting with fully stocked forest land. No house, no water, no phone, outhouse and power(nice)
I bought an old Foley bellsaw A-14. It made 3 piles - 1 each of lumber, slabwood and sawdust. Better sawmills are available. Sawing lumber is rewarding but very, very hard work, I buy most of my lumber now, but still own my mill.
I used dynamite to blow the stumps but the hurdles to obtaining and storing stumping powder today is beyond practical. Even after blowing the stumps you still need a cat or similar to move them and level the ground. The last 2 patches of ground we cleared I hired a D-8 with a stump splitter, and then a track hoe with a claw/saw attachment. The cat will be cheaper, the claw leaves less clean up for you. Enjoy hours or days of "pick up sticks" either way.
Locally you can rent a small trackhoe 2' or 3' bucket 18' reach for $1,000.00 a week. Bigger ones are also available. Bigger is better for stumps(required?).
I own both a D-2 cat and 2- 4 wd tractors( 21 and 48 hp with loaders, loaders are a must!!). The tractors are more versatile, period. The cat is nice but could also be rented. All this assumes you want to run heavy equipment.
My short list of essential start up items.
-An old 3/4 ton 4 wd pickup.
-A stihl chain saw - I still have my first one and use it, from 29 yrs ago and now own 2 more(stihl). Starts quickly, runs dependably. I cannot say enough good things about Stihl - more expensive yes - save your money and get something that will last. A chain saw is NOT an item to save money on.
-Oil laps- kerosene wick lamps- very dependable with out power, batteries etc. Makes your eyes burn so more or less emergency item.
-Mouse/rat traps- I cannot agree more with Todd here. Add a few larger ones for - rabbits, coons, porcupines, etc, etc, etc. Your house, barn or what ever is nicer than any old log in the woods. Get used to i-trapping, because they will come and in large numbers. Consider a Jack Russel or other rodent hating dog. I lavish praise on my dogs for their hunting, it saves me countless hours(!).
-Cable and snatch blocks(preferred), or rope and tackle. No actually both. Add clevis's, slings, chokers(if moving logs).
-Chain and binders.
-12 ga pump shotgun.
-30-06 or larger rifle.
-Daisy model 760 pump BB Gun- Rats, squirrels, rabbits, etc, helps persuade deer from eating stuff. VERY useful and quiet.
-Strong work ethic.
-A good woman. This IS important, I'm blessed to be married to one.

This doesn't include orchard/food issues.
Given that fruit trees take many years to bear fruit I suggest strawberries and raspberries to get something on the table or in the cupboard quickly while the trees mature.

Stihls are inferior to the Scandian saws: Jonsereds & Husqvarnas. I've owned, operated & worked on 'em all, so I know. Stihls are better than any American made saw but give me a Huskie any day, over a Stihl.

I personally prefer Japanese CS brand Shindaiwa. Marvelous piece of technology. It starts rain hail or sunshine.

I have no experience with Shindaiwa saws. Japanese made Echo saws used to be crap. Maybe they're better nowadays.

You are too optimistic..........try........... 1-10,000

Wow! We're in year two. I agree about old farms being a lot more work. I was able to check a number of the year one and two tasks off the list and I hear the chain saw running as my spouse cuts down trees. We are using the standing dead wood for heat and hot water and planting another 4 acres of multi-purpose trees on our farm. Getting some maples and boxelder (syrup), wild plum, chokeberry, chestnuts, hazelnuts, (nuts obviously) and some pine for some aesthetic green in the long, hard, cold winters.

We've found that the Soil and Water Conservation District has cost-share for pulling down old groves and planting new. So we'll break even on the tree project.

We've got lots of fence going in next spring and will be doing multi-species grazing (beef, chickens, sheep, just got offered an alpaca from a neighbor).

But I'm telling you this has taken a physcial toll on us. It is never ending work- hard work- heart pounding work. I joke that my husband now has the body of an 18 year old- lean and hard. But he walks like he's 70 (in our forties). It's good for the kids- they work hard too and then jump in the pool because they are still little.

We're lucky to have good, fun, bright, creative and innovative community. Although you could never find us on a map- I'm surrounded by artists, home biofuel brewers (and I mean biofuel), old timers, innovators (by neccessity) and workers with a can-do attitude. And I live in an area with LESS than 1/2 frontier levels of population (6 per sq. mile).

Thanks for the post--

my parents built a small house after my dad retired. the land was full of wild plants...and that's it.

ps: it's never as simple as "build a barnyard". you always need more "something". also money and time are not limitless resources.
all in all, after seven years, they have a wooden 2 room house, a cellar, a garage, a greenhouse and about 20 fruit trees, on about 1200 sq meters

in retrospect, it feels good now, but they say if they knew how much work (and money) it involves, they probably wouldn't have done it. such a big plan scares some people and makes the procrastinate. dividing things in small steps helps, but the big picture is scary

I think this post illustrates why I have been saying we need to keep fossil fuels going as long as we can. It will be terribly, terribly difficult to transition to any kind of reasonable lifestyle without fossil fuels. There is a reason that world population was only about 500 million prior to fossil fuels.

In a transition period, I think it is possible and doable for most of us to grow little gardens, near where we currently live--especially if we have fertilizer, and cars to transport things in, and water for irrigation. But once things start to slide downhill, even that will be difficult, especially in parts of the country where the soil is not very good.

But if we want to become self supporting without fossil fuels, I think for the most part we will be limited to government resettlement programs and reused buildings (or simple shacks built with available materials). Most people will have life much harder that we have it today. I really doubt that most people will be able to do a two step change--first to tractors, then to horses, because of the cost involved. Once TSHTF, our only change may be to doing what we can by hand, with the wealthy being to afford horses or oxen.

One of our big problems now is not knowing what to do. We have lost the body of knowledge and customs that goes with families growing most of their own food. Many of the traditions from the past--like property being passed to the oldest son--came from a need to keep agricultural property intact. We somehow will need to develop new traditions, to support a new lifestyle.

A typical urban cowboy or cowgirl realistically isn't oging to make it without a mentor and a supporting community,there's just too much to learn and too much to do,unless he or she gets started soon and has great staying power.

I will suggest a faster strategy that might work for a few.

First get located in a place with favorable climate,geography,demographics,etc,.

Proximity to navigable rivrs ,good highways,small towns is desirable,proximity to large cities probably not desirable.

stay out of hurricane zones,flood plains,etc.

Buy an sound house on a few acres of farmable land,after finding jobs.

Find and make friends with a retired one horse farmer.

Hire him to build your fences,establish your pasture,help organize your place,learn about what works locally from him.

He will get the big jobs done faster and cheaper than you can dothem yourself.Work in town as a teacher programmermechanic whateverand pay him .

Buy whatever implements he may not have,and you will find that he will loan you his in exchange for the loan of yours.

Use your imagination.Old trucks (over the road) are cheaper than barns and harder to break into,more weather tight too.

I have one that I am using as a tool shed that is eight by eight by twelve all steel and aluminum that cost me only two hundred fifty bicks delivered.It will last at least a hundred years plus,probably twice that long.

A good spring or small stream is simply priceless.Gravity feed water will be worth its wieght in gold.My grandparents selected land to buy with springs located to get free running water a hundred years ago and there has not ever been a pump or plumber on the old home place.All you need is a pipe and a spring uphill from your house.

Almost any house built to a modern code will last indefinitely if you keep it DRY AND INSECT FREE.

Todd is dead right abouit old houses and barns ,lots of times they are on thier last legs and just not worth it over the long haul.

This means wrapping all exposed wood with al siding,metal roof ,etc as the time and money are available and when the roof is ready for replacement install metal.A metal roof kept properly painted is a lifetime roof.afaik unopened roof paint will keep indefinitely.

You can't spend too much on getting your house right-the time saved cutting firewood,etc, in the future makes extra insulation,double or triple pane windows etc now a no brainer.

take it from here yourself if you can't go Todd's route due to age or infirmity or lack of energy

You should be able to hold down the jobs in town and get the smaller homestead jobs done yourself,such as establishing an orchard,getting gardens going etc.you will still be plenty busy.

Gail, don't deceive yourself, it's not terribly terribly difficult: it is impossible. But it may not be impossible to replace FF at great cost while maintaining a semblance of the current value chain. 99% of us will not become farmers, we either die-off or end up paying vastly more to support a food infrastructure based around renewables and much lower EROI methods.
From this perspective the small % of farmers that do the hard work to feed us face a brighter future than the current grubbing for cents of the factory farming system...
I think farming is likely to have a renaissance as a truely prized endevour as it should be.

Subsistence farming has never given a good standard of living, the productivity is too low. Even in middle ages with no FF the middle men had the high incomes or those who employed labor to work large efficient farms.

Why would the US have less renewable and nuclear in 20 years than it has now. That's 4,000 kWh/person/year, plenty to provide food and essential services.

There is a much larger overhead gap (Total Energy - Food Energy) in the West that we can 'draw down' on as we transition to a lower Net Energy regime. We also have technologies that can aid productivity.

But what about the average person in sub-saharan Africa who is already devoting 25%-50%+ of their resources to basic foodstuffs? We have already seen high energy prices (a signal for shortages in these places) causing riots and putting basics out of reach of many poor.

The first places to be hit post-PO will be the usual suspects: Africa, India, perhaps rural China, other parts of the world that are reliant on food, oil imports with very little to export and poor agriculture and most of all -TOO MANY PEOPLE supported and enabled by a regime of cheap energy....

It will be messy and I will see it all in HD Quality...



This is the reason that I investigated a Western Industrial Democracy that went through a 7 year, 100% oil embargo with about 11 months of oil in storage and NOP doemstic production. Most of the oil went to the military (for VERY good reason).

By the end, they were using less oil/capita IN A YEAR than Americans use in a day.

Electric trains (powered by renewable electricity) and bicycles took able bodied urban dwellers out into the country side (two weeks during planting and at harvest, several weekends in between). Food rationing at "weight loss" levels.

But they made it, their economy, society and democracy survived !

Hint: They started preparing about 15 years before the oil embargo.


Can you share this investigation with us?

I really would like to see a write up.


It does sound interesting, doesn't it? It can't be Cuba as this isn't a Western Industrial Democracy. Could it be pre-WWII Germany he's alluding to?

Alan referes to Switzerland in WWII. Fascinating story.

Gail, Delaying the need to switch to sustainable economies is key, but I think you're leaving out the main good opportunity to do that, and the most workable strategy for conversion. Going back to the ways of the past would only be a small part of it. The main part would be improving system wide energy efficiency (our knowledge of how to make good use of energy), so we can afford to use renewable resources. It seems we're a good ways from that. Look at my comment on Jeff Vail's recent post.

That the learning needed will take time, and attention, and money, is the bind we're up against now. The main complication is how our systemic growth model is steadily accelerating the depletion of the remaining oil while it also continues to increase our dependency on inefficient uses of it. If you don't see the real dilemma with that, read it again till you do. We're in a bad trap that is closing.

The real key to achieving some level of real sustainabiliy for the system as a whole is to unplug the automatic exponential growth drivers. It can't be done without really understanding how they work, of course, but it definitely could be done. What virtually all of economics, finance and business are focused on, of course, is exactly the opposite, sustaining the growth drivers (to exhaustion).

Ending growth the peaceful way is what would buy us the time, to do the learning needed, to make good use of sustainable resources. It would also... because it means diverting growth resources to sustainability learning tasks, provide a steady large source of funding for it. If you want to study it I can give you the pointers.

Well I am jealous in the UK homesteading is not an option.
Totnes the original Transition Town has recently put out a .pdf using a simple GIS to give a rough estimate of land required to feed London using Permaculture techniques.
Conclusion being all the land as far north as Birmingham.
Emigrating is the only plan that would give me a homesteading option if required.
I am building up a basic stock of a years worth of carbohydrates, animal protein, vitamin pills and working on plan B;¬).

Dag, I think you would be able to get a croft in Scotland if you were serious...

The limited growing season has limitations but a diet high in potatoes, milk and kale will keep you healthy...

NZ seems like a better option.
Windy but warmer up around Auckland, the snakes, spiders and the water problems put me off Australia.
Scotland is getting wetter as it gets slightly warmer.
It would probably have to be a weekend set up and leave permaculture solution as a retreat that could be scaled up in extremis

the snakes, spiders and the water problems put me off Australia.

The snakes and spiders aren't really a problem. Both have their place in keeping pests under control. You are right about the water problem though and this is something we are going to have to address very soon. We have an almost open door immigration policy which keeps fuelling urban sprawl. Supplying water to these vast metropolises is now getting so ridiculous that our state governments are doing lunatic things like building desalination plants for billions of dollars with the smokescreen cover that it will all be powered by wind?? Brown coal more likely in the case of Melbourne. All so Aussies can keep their nice English gardens going. Ludicrous.

What we need is an immediate halt to the population growth but that would be anathema to the economic lumpens that currently run the place. It's also hard to be anti-immigration in this country without being immediately labelled as a Nazi, regardless if you have a sustainability argument. Funnily enough it’s the Greens who are the first to jump all over anyone who dares mention that Australia just may not be able to accommodate anymore people if we want to even have a shot sustainability. I don't get it.

The snakes and spiders aren't really a problem. Both have their place in keeping pests under control.

Yeah...one of the "pests" that funnel webs keep "under control" is people. Try finding one of those inside your mosquito netting!

I couldn't recommend anyone from the US or Europe consider moving to Australia, it's not just the deadly snakes and spiders, the water rationing, the hot summers where people have to spend their days on the beaches to stay cool( even work days) and the intense sun UV, requiring sunscreen on exposed skin. Fuel prices are over $4/gallon, taxes are high and you have to put up with an expensive universal heath care system. Unemployment is over 5% and a lot of people don't even have full-time jobs and that's without a recession, imagine how bad it could be if we had a recession like European and US economies are experiencing. To add insult to injury, you can't even walk away from your home mortgage because home prices have hardly dropped. The banks are making so much money ripping off customers that they actually have to pay taxes to the government rather than receiving hand-outs.
How I long for the years I lived in the US and Canada, those peaceful long winters, no lawn moving for 6 months of the year.

I know of Brits who have moved to France and Ireland to set up doomsteads. Plenty of cheap land if you can get round language and cultural problems.

Might be nice some of the French are half ways civilised.
Peasants in France typically resorted to virtual hibernation during the winter to minimise calorific consumption.
I prefer starting somewhere that has unused land before population starvation or warfare population crashes.

I assume plan B involves bricking up your doors and ground floor windows!

I have just returned from a short vaca in Germany/Czech.

Iron bars in the ground floor windows is a common feature in older buildings (and by older, I mean a century or more). Sometimes the bars were replaced with modern "roll down" steel blinds. While a saw a number of 'farm houses' with iron grills, none of those houses were a working farm.

In my experience, signficantly dysfunctional organizations hold on a lot longer than you would think they would. Also, people who highly abuse their bodies will also often keep going a long time. The market (or the life force in the individual case) is much stronger than many people give them credit for. So, barring too many loose nukes or nuclear plants going pooey, I think there's time .... Call me an optimist.

Todd I agree it takes some time - but you can save a lot of time by deciding to live simply..

Like you we bought grazing land - it has light granite soils.. We are 15 Miles (25 kilometres) from town. My part time job is half way to town and the better half has a government clerical job but has cut back to a 7 day fortnight.. We are lucky not to have debt and the only bills we get are rates (taxes) from the local authority and for the telephone. Combined these amount to somewhat under AU$2k PER YEAR.

We have 4 British Alpine goats and two jersey heifers that will have their first calves around Xmas, thus another source of milk. The British Alpines are great and they came into lactation this year without being in kid!!!

1. Housing - we bought two American Barns - steel sheds - the one we live in has a 77 square metres footprint and a mezzanine loft for guests and storage. The rainwater collection shed is 180 square metres or so. They were both up in 10 days including slab. We put in a composting toilet - worm driven and cost less than AU$6k
THE BIGGETR SHED IS UP HILL WE HARVEST THE RAINWATER - it is our only source of potable water and works very well.

2. The garden took 1 year to get up to scratch.. as vegetarians and gardeners we have developed a simple peasant cuisine. Basically we eat at our feet. In the food line we only buy in some fruit, pulses and spices and some veg once a year or so if we run out - like this year our onions started sprouting early!!

3. By buying more advanced trees they will begin to bear much earlier - full production within 5 years - which will be more than you can handle...

4. Power (e) - why bother - we will be hitting brownouts in a few years. We have a small generator and some solar - which we have started to expand... At the end of the day we can survive well without power of any kind. The earlier you go to bed the greater the health outcomes - more melatonin is produced - one of the very best antioxidants!!

5. Chainsaws - I agree - alough we have bought some cross cut saws if need be - I figure the little fuel they use we could run them on 100% ethanol...

The model we are working on is gardening NOT FARMING - we will not be ploughing the soil - it is too fragile and the block is too hilly -
With fruit and nut trees as our permanent crops, potatoes & pumkins as our starch, beans and our on croft milk and eggs as our protein.
Scarlet runner beans are the best - they make much better Mex dishes than red kidney beans, and they are perennials!!

Some form of family based community would be the best for most as work shared is work halved...

plowing the earth is a disaster, and hard work to boot. a book all here should read: 'tree crops, a permanent agriculture', by w. russel smith. (maybe a different first initial, my memory is vague on it now).
Keeping trees is not zero-work, but it is a very different kind of work than plowing fields, and it is much better for the land.

Tree Crops; A Permanent Agriculture, 1950, J. Russell Smith.

Thanks you for this informative piece.

1) No weed. OK. How about opening up a brewery? I'd imagine it would be extremely capital-intensive, though it may pack back if your site becomes a nucleus of a growing post-peak oil community.

2) This is a really hardcore solution, for hardcore people. I think for most the more realistic option is to remain centered in the cities, but try to acquire a piece of land 50-150km from the center and build a dacha for yourself?

Thanks Todd for the info

question on draft ponies, wife and I decided to raise light draft horses. the horses run from 14-3 to 16 hands. the market for them is like nonexistence. so hold out or bail?


I wish I could give you an answer but as I said, I'm really not a teamster. The best I can offer is to try to find some Amish sites.

In my area (coastal northern CA), a lot of people are selling their horses (like barrel racing and trail riding horse) and range horse have been almost totally replaced by ATVs.


I will say that it is easy to underestimate how much time and money it takes to keep horses so your advice to go slow getting draft animals is wise. I suspect that horses may well be very valuable and useful in a post oil world but by the time we get there, there will be so few horses left that horses will not be a big part of the early transition period.


Nice, Todd.
My neighbors (cowboy) have 6 horses (+several ATVs); some are grazing on my place right now, so I figure I'll get the use of one for transportation if it comes to that. In the meantime, I get some fire protection, and free haircuts.

Re power lines...PGE will let you put the line in privately (except for the final hookups), which can cut the price by 50-60%. My son told me there is a fellow in Willits who does it for about half price.



Did you hear about this?
Long Valley Health Center (L'ville) was awarded $365,290 in Federal Recovery Act funds which will be used to repair and improve the facilities with the overall goals of stabilizing operations and maintaining quality of care to its patients. The centerpiece of this project will be the installation of a 38KW Solar Photo- Voltaic system which will supply all of the electricity used by the main medical facility over the 30 year life of the system.

Bail. No money potential. Prices will drop for a long-time to come. They will suck away your time and energy. You should be able to pick up a couple of untrained horses for nothing during the collapse if there are any near you. I've thought long and hard about this one. Only do it if it is a hobby that energises you.

Cold Camel

Agreed. Horses take an incredible investment in time and money. The only reason to have them is if you love them so much you can't bear to part with them. But they are a distraction.
I recommend an older, smaller tractor with a 3 point hitch. I have a 1948 Ford 8N, and I can't overemphasize how useful it's been over the years. It's easily fixed, low tech enough to understand, parts are still cheap and plentiful, and most importantly, when it's not being used, it consumes nothing.
Ford advertised that it will plow an acre per hour on a gallon of gas. I'd say that's about right. For a large garden or a small farm, it can't be beat.
Remember, you are preparing for a future where there is limited fuel, not a future where there is no fuel at all.

A small tractor would be my recommendation too, especially for the start-up phase of setting up, they're incredibly useful. If things went from push to shove then I'd use a small tractor for heavy duty preparation work and small draught animal for maintenance work.

Things in the future are going to be less black & white, and a lot more grey (like using horses and tractors, rather than horses or tractors). I think this slight change in thinking is going to prove very hard for people to get used to. What they've been taught of as inefficient and therefore undesirable suddenly becomes the opposite, but the prejudice will still remain. Then there is the psychological shock as things begin to look increasingly Third World and the illusion of living in an advanced modern society gets shattered.

Advancement may even look like collapse to those stuck in the past.

8n 's are simply one of the best tractors ever built and ideal for small scale farming no doubt.We used one for many years and it still does yeoman work for a nieghbor.
Since it is used only a few hours a month it will probably last another two generations if it is well cared for.
But they get so much good press that they are hard to buiy at a reason able price.

I suggest that another extremely polular tractor is nowadays a better deal both as it can be had for not much more but it is far more capable in general-more powerful,much better hydraulics,live pto,more fuel efficient.

Just as dependable and very easy to work on and will plow twice as fast or drag a log twice as heavy.

That tractor is the Ferguson 35 or 135,either gas or diesel.
It never sold like the 8n but it was one of the best selling tractors in the world.

That's our primary tractor these days(we are small time orchardists and don't need a BIG tractor) and we bought one in excellent condition recently for less than some asking 8n prices.
It's at least fifteen years newer than any 8n and has relatively low hours,much lower than most 8n's,given thier age.

I really don't think there were very many if any "lemon " tractors built in the past but many makes and models are hard to service due to lack of parts.

I have my doubts about the imports, visavis parts availability in ten or fifteen years in ANY CASE.

Even the newer domestic models seem to change from year to year like cars,and there are a dozen models now for every one model twenty or thirty years ago.

This does not bode well for fixing one of these newer tractors thirty or forty years down the road even under the best of circumstances.

There are enough old Fords and Fergusons (of the more popular models)around that the odds are good that you will be able to find one recently scrapped even firty years from now with the part you need still on it.

As a matter of fact the aftermarket for the 8n is so good that you can get nearly anything overnight that you might need for it.

It might take two days for the parts to arrive for the Ferguson but the market is alive and well.


That would make a nice post.

cfm in Gray, ME

I had a Ford 8N, they are great machines if you cannot afford better. My little Kubota with 3 cylinder diesel and front loader outworks any gas tractor, and it is so cheap running, reliable and easy to maintain, NO SPARK PLUGS, no carburetor.
I have been 40 years in the same place, for years "survived" by milking one or two jerseys, while raising 2 healthy children.
My advice on horses: they are a ridiculous affectation for people with too much money. They are being given away every day of this "great recession". I love horses, and if I lived where I NEEDED them to get around, I would have them. But they are way too much work and money unless that is what you really want to be doing with your life, comparable to sailboats (which I also love). My jersey cows paid for themselves many times over, can't say that for any horse I know.
It is a great satisfaction for me to live in a house I started building 40 years ago, with my little garden, with my fruit trees, with my shop, with my endless projects. I learn something every day, my life here is far more interesting than any job or office ever was.
For those of you who do have jobs, good for you, keep up the good work, you have my respect, consider yourselves fortunate to have such opportunities, imagine what it is like to be trapped in Gaza for generations.

Diesels are definitely nice,and a front loader is a tool you will never give up if you once ever own one.

We run diesels.

But for those who may not know:A diesel is indeed somewhat more reliable than a gasoline tractor,but it is many times as expensive to repair if there is a serious problem with the fuel injection.

Niether you nor anybody else can rebuild an injection pump outside a sophisticated machine shop kept as clean as an operating room at a hospital.

A diesel will generally outlast a gas job,but this is no longer a sure thing.Some import diesels run at high rpm and we are seeing Kubotas that need overhauls at two thousand hours,and I personally would much rather listen to a good English built Perkins at 1700 rpm that will last four or five thousand hours plus(thats what my 1972 Ferguson has) than a Kubota that sounds like a race car all day.

But there sure are a lot of new Kubotas around here!

A gas engine built the way tractor engines are built will also generally last well past three thousand hours,sometimes twice that,with no serious repairs.

A typical tractor carburetor has maybe twenty five partS and only five or six are subject to wear.A car carb,if newer than a mid sixties,has five or ten tomes as many parts,which is why people hate them for thier constant failures.It is not unusual to talk to someone with a fifties or sixties vintage tractor that has never had a carb problem-if the fuel is kept scrupulously clean and the filter bowl cleaned regularly-which takes only a minute or two every week or so of actual use.

I can install plugs in almost any tractor for less than eight bucks in about ten minutes or so with one wrench,and unless it's worn badly worn ,the plugs will last at least two hundred hours,probably much longer..

A gas tractor in good condition will do anything a diesel will,pound for pound,as a general thing.

So The moral of this story is A gas tractor is just fine and actually cheaper to buy as a rule and much cheaper to repair if you have engine problems and the total cost of operation is actually less if you don't run it a LOT.Most homesteaders gardeners/hobby garmers use a tractor about as much in a year as a typical commercial farmer will in a week or a month,and they will never save enough on diesel to recoup the extra cost ,as a rule, of buying a diesel.Unless the relative fuel prices change in favor of diesel of course!

And it's not unusual to see someone towing a diesel to get it started on a zero day,but the newer ones are usually not TOO HARD to start on a cold day.

Bailing is sounding better and better everyday. Prices are at 1/2 to 1/3 of production cost and dropping. We have a very nice young mare for sale that we have around $3500 (fixed cost only) invested in and have dropped the price to $1800 with no response.

These are Canadian light work horse. They are a rare breed that is one of the strongest pound for pound horses on the planet. They are extremely hardy and would seem to be one of the best post oil horses breeds. So I think we made an excellent decision on our choice in breeds.

Even so they have sucked away tons of time, energy and money. It cost around $100 a month just on hay and bedding. We live in the mountains of western Maine so our pasture season is short and we have ended up with too many horses for the pasture we do have.

Our hay supplies for this winter look dicey at best. Since the first of June our longest dry spell has been about 60 hours. Climate change effect? So weather is one concern with getting hay, the other is the concern that hay might find a market as biofuel. Bedding already has.

Training is another big issue. Even if you get a free horse getting it trained will cost some serious money. Take a free horse and invest $2000 in training and you will have a horse worth maybe $900, so paying a little for a trained horse is a good investment. I have seen a trained pair of large draft horses for sale for $2000.

Admitting that we have made a bad business decision is hard. But it is just as hard to bail and cheap sell our herd because of how attached you get to them. Horses can be very energizing. Having baby horses playing out in the pasture is a beautiful sight.


Don't feel bad, I'm sure you've had a good run. I for one wish I'd lived through your mistakes. $2K for a trained pair is insane.

Cold Camel

Thanks for the post, I may be referring to it often in the coming years. I am currently saving cash for land-buying which is a step before your step one. I don't think taking a mortgage is a very good idea. For very good land in Indiana, I am looking at 5k an acre so about $25k to purchase the land.

Great post, thanks.

In addition to the 3rd world library another useful link for homesteading skills books is the Soil and Health library: http://www.soilandhealth.org/index.html. I warmly recommend the book "Gardening when it counts" by Steve Solomon, the owner of the Soil & Health library.

A somewhat easier way to download books from the 3rd World library is provided by Journey to Forever: http://journeytoforever.org/

To have e-books available after it hits the fan consider the new e-readers which only use power to turn a page and can store 1000s of books. The can probably be recharged with a solar charger.

For those thinking it's already to late to start consider this family that started an urban homestead on a smallish suburban block chocka full of veggies, goats and more. They are actually selling produce. Pretty inspiring. http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/ They have some informational youtube links as well there.

You can also use your ipod/iphone to store those books. And 13gigs isn't really a significant amount of space on it. I remember reading elsewhere that you can fit the entire contents of Wikipedia on an ipod easily as well. Not the greatest source of detailed info, but it makes a fair emergency encyclopedia on just about everything you could imagine.

Alright, I'm gonna throw this out there and it's gonna sound extreme, but given the crowd on TOD I'm sure I'm not the only one to have thought about it. Confession - I'm a 28yo bodybuilder who is probably in the top 99.9% of the population in terms of strength and fitness (and looking around at the local population...that bar is getting lower by the day).

Since we're talking really extreme measures in this post, how about this? If a fast collapse were to happen and it was a worst case scenario...have any of you contemplated whether you'd have what it takes to utilize the most common and easily available source of food that would be present in such a scenario? You know what I'm talking about. I've done mental thought exercises (but no more than that!) on such a situation and to be honest if life was that crappy it might be the only route to get food. It would certainly be easy to obtain for someone who is strong and fast.

Yeah it's extreme, but if it were *that* bad and one was *that* hungry, it would seem a rather easy last resort.


I would suggest that the chemical toxicity of the average human body is such that this might not be such a great option. Also I hope you are not serious and if you are I sure hope you live a long way from Maine.


I don't know, hunger can do weird things to people. If the alternative was to starve to death I think I'd certainly do it, especially if I was also trying to provide for my wife. I also suspect that the long terms affects of any chemical toxicity from the human body would be a distant concern if one was hungry enough. But yeah, it's just a thought exercise I've done, there's certainly no shortage of food around these days.

There are some things human beings just don't do. You're going to die someday no matter what. Do you really want to spend your last days a pariah from any civilized person?

You read The Road by Cormac McCarthy?

I just checked it out and it sounds exactly like I'm talking about! Plus it's an Oprah Book Club book so you know it's gotta be good :rolleyes

Don't know if I'll go so far as to read it though, sounds rather depressing.

It's a very good book. Make sure you read the part where the one of a group of cannibals tries to grab the man's son. Think about what the man does to the cannibal.


Yeah.If the collapse comes and any well fed body builder not dragging a wife and kids shows out in the country some farmer watching his cows from a deer blind will use him for pig chow or fertilizer no questions asked.

I think that after this one reply to this one comment I will flag comments that indicate the poster is seriously advocating cannibalism.Simply discussing it is another matter,it may very well happen.


This is The Oil Drum, right? I haven't been re-directed TO ANOTHER PLANET, have I?

Regards, Matt B
Kinda confused...

There is a good reason that evolution has designed our bodies to create fat more easily than muscle. In a famine situation body fat will be used before muscle is converted to energy. Therefore a lack of body fat would put you at a competitive disadvantage. Your fatter neighbors would band together for protection against the strong and fast. In a famine situation you would lose muscle mass long before your fat neighbors and if there were a cold winter to deal with you would freeze more quickly than your supposedly less fit overweight neighbors.

Best not to address that statement for fear of being flagged

I am not going to flag a discussion of cannibalism but if anyone says outright that they INTEND to actually EAT somebody else,in my humble opinion they SHOULD be flagged.

I'm a long way from pc myself and a Darwinian as far as my world view goes and I realize that cannibalism has been a reality,probably is a reality today,and will almost certainly be a reality in the event of a hard crash.

But there is also such a thing as keeping an eye out for the odd remark that the enemy can use to good effect to make the Oil Drum look like a bunch of nutcases.

Remember the joke about OBama taking Biden along for lunch at a burger joint?

He had to put the duct tape back on as soon as Biden finished his burger.


You definitely have your biology straight.

Three of four weeks of cold weather with nothing to eat except may be some leaves and grass will finish of Atlas almost for sure but if a real lard butt like me has some water and is in good health initally he will come thru fine for as long as six weeks according to some accounts I have seen of people stranded .

Well, this is one elephant in the room.

If the human population winds up having to reduce itself by 80% or so in a slow grind, without benefit of mushroom clouds or super-plagues, there's no question it will occur. Quite simply, there will never have been circumstances in the history of the world in which eating human flesh was more important to survival. When life gives you lemons....

Of course, as Nixon said into his microphone, "it would be wrong, that's for sure". On the other hand, the pope exonerated the Andes soccer team for eating their fellow passengers, so clearly the Catholic church, at least, acknowledges that anthropophagy is only a sin if the context doesn't require it for survival. Sorta like transsubstantiation without an intermediary bisquit.

Inasmuch as some people may actually be planning on this as a postpeak strategy, it probably should not be offlimits for discussion, if only to avoid becoming someone else's dinner. Subsistence farming scenarios become spicier if one considers that "armed cannibal bands" may be an open ecological niche in the future, with local warlords to counteract or collaborate with them. In addition, there will be "covert cannibalism" of some sort if only to solve what to do with the bodies of those who unsuccessfully attempt to prey on others. (This might involve using them for chicken food or dogfood rather than cooking them up directly).

Indeed, the current trade in "bushmeat" (illegally killed great apes) probably already includes a fair bit of human tissue. Bushmeat is considered delicious, and is rolling out as the fate of other extant ape species.

For every competent farmer in the USA, there may be a hundred heavily-armed raiders in some scenarios. Looking at it in biological terms, those who opportunistically eat human flesh will have a competitive advantage.

It may also wind up coexisting with something like contemporary culture, practiced but not acknowledged.

We're all descended from cannibals many times over, which occurred in conditions less radical than the overshoot we've set ourselves up with now. Bummer, but there it is.

Homo is a genus of cannibal ape, as is Pan. Our congeners H. erectus and H. neandertalensis were cannibals. Cannibalism, both subsistence and ritualistic, was the norm in many human societies. Cannibalism crops up routinely in survival situations, mental illness, religious ritual and sadomasochism. Fellatio & consumption of the placenta are forms of cannibalism. Personally, I don't advocate the eating of meat at all, but to say that discussion of cannibalism is taboo is silly, and displays a great deal of denial over who and what we are.


Last night I had a friend over for dinner.


AKA Hamilton Albert Fish.

I'm an old Hannibal Lecter fan but your last line escapes me.

What does AKA Hamilton Albert Fish refer to,or perhaps
I should say WHICH "guest"?

I hope I have missed one of these books,that means I can stll enjoy it for the first time!

Albert Fish was a notably wacko individual who was, unfortunately, nonfiction. A perv, not a nutrition advocate.


The event that was in part the inspiration for Herman Nelville's Moby Dick lead to cannabilism for the survivors.


I can't believe nobody else has even put thought into this situation. Maybe I've been reading TOD for too many years and it's doomer'd me out. Although I knew DD would at least recognize the plausibility. I don't know, one of the first things I thought of when I considered a catastrophic collapse was:

"gee, if there's no food what the hell am I gonna eat to keep from starving? Well all the wildlife will be hunted in a matter of days so that's out...there aren't enough farms around to sustain everbody in my area...hmmm I guess if worse came to worse there'd be at least one food source that's reliable..."

Frankly I don't think anyone can call themselves *truely* ready for survival unless they're prepared to take that on.

Although one thing that might prevent (live) cannabalism is that so many people would be dying anyway that for a long time there'd be plenty of dead people around. Surely that shouldn't be taboo. What's the old saying about only needing to run just faster than the slowest zebra? You just have to outlast your neighbor!

There is no question that cannibalism will exist in the slow-grind collapse scenarios. Just as slavery will make a big comeback, along with many other non-PC things. Stuff like that is a bit edgy for TOD discussion, but what will prevent it?

I've often found a good conversation filter is "what do you plan to do with the bodies?" without specifying which bodies. Compost? Chicken food? Sausage? We've already done it to nearly all other animal species.

So who here remembers the draft lottery? I do. As official policy of the USA, they used a single shoe box to determine who had to go to war in Vietnam (or jail) and who had no such legal responsibility. Made for a stimulating radio program for those of us in the lotto. Surreal, and surreality has a way of coming back around.

"The days of the year, represented by the numbers from 1 to 366 (including Leap Day), were written on slips of paper and the slips were placed in plastic capsules. The capsules were mixed in a shoebox and then dumped into a deep glass jar. Capsules were drawn from the jar one at a time."

I actually expect an "ethical cannibalism" movement to spring up in the coming decades to develop guidelines, since cannibalism itself is written into most probable future realities. I have an "organ donor" card in my wallet, and stand by it. If they want to fry me up once I've snuffed it, I have no objections as long as they weren't impolite about how I gave up the ghost.

Probably best not to carry on this discussion in this section after Todd's post, so I'll stop. It might be an appropriate "campfire" topic though. Certainly our forebears discussed it around many campfires while knawing the bones of our other relatives.

It's a lot more likely than space solar power.

Just as slavery will make a big comeback, along with many other non-PC things. Stuff like that is a bit edgy for TOD discussion.

It's only edgy in that many on TOD are too optimistic and "current-context" to consider it. And different people have different time-scales.

I will agree that discussion of what the decline might look like isn't really a TOD strength. Such a discussion gets far stranger than "World Make By Hand" very quickly. So good posts like this one by Todd what it looks like in the current world view - is maybe as far as TOD can go.

And why I'm writing sci-fi now. And why I NO LONGER carry the organ donor stamp - it's a matter of WHO benefits and how impolite they are, yes.

More likely than space solar power. That would make a great poll - rank these various scenarios.

cfm in Gray, ME

What about disease? How healthy are we going to be if it gets that bad. How many pandemics have been averted that won't be in the future? I seriously believe disease will reduce our numbers drastically. The stench from rotting corpses, the flies and maggots, the diseased flesh, feral cats, no antibiotics, no medical care. Disease has always been with us. It's just that we have held it back for too long, the pendulum will swing the other way.
Best of luck.

Ok, but are you fast enough to dodge a bullet? Do you have eyes in the back of your head? Can you take on 5 or 6 reasonably sized guys? I do martial arts and can tell you that this is very difficult even for a pro. You should run unless pushed into a corner even against 2 people, particularly if you do not know their capabilities in advance. Size is not a guarentee of success, but neither is skill.

If no is the answer to the above, and it gets that bad, it's you that might be the one getting eaten.

Here I thought it would be prudent to prepare for a Great-Depression-style economic event of indefinite duration, and now I see I may need to consider a full-on zombocalypse.

Silly me.

Realistically thinking (if that is possible) I would say sociopathic bahavior will not be tolerated even in the conditions we are talking about. Not that there won't be sociopaths.

The whole society will be - already is - sociopathic.

I couldn't agree more.

There's always somebody smarter, faster, more skilled, or just luckier out there and if you put yourself in situations where it matters you won't find out that it isn't you until it's too late.

ISTM that stealth would be a highly relevant factor.

Well obviously it would be a highly risky activity, which is why I expect it would probably be a last resort activity that would spring up where the only other option would be starvation. Talking strategy it appears would be a bit too extreme for this audience, and also not very appropriate...so I'll just say that one would have to look to nature on how to deal with those risks. Tigers vs. Lions or Wolves for example.

"have any of you contemplated whether you'd have what it takes to utilize the most common and easily available source of food "

You mean organic grain-fed PETA bread?


Donner, party of 4...

Excellent post Todd, sure to be a TOD classic...
was wondering if you could elaborate a little on this...

Have someone custom fit and drill a high organic matter cover crop into future
pasture and crop area

I'm currently trying to rehabilitate some pasture in E Wash and really want to avoid spraying.

Hi Sldulin,

Ok, first check out what is available from http://www.rodaleinstitute.org especially their New Farm section.

You are going to have to do a lot of discing to get rid of weeds if you don't spray. And, I'll tell you from a cost point of view, I'd spray down the weeds. I'm saying this a a former certified organic grower..and also as a licensed pesticide applicator. Maybe you could use vinegar (It depends upon your "legal" status. By this I mean if your county considers you a "farm" you would be using an illegal herbicide if you reported it. You know what I mean? If not, there are lots of herbicide options, including "legal" vinegar.

I used to use a high build mix from http://www.groworganic.com (Peaceful Valley Farm Supply). But shipping began to cost too much. It was a great mix - cow peas, vetch, oats, fava beans. Tons per acre. I'm using oats as a winter cover crop now (Montezuma because that's what my farm supply had).

Hope this helps.


A pesticide applicators not for hire liscense is easily obtained if you are reasonably intelligent and literate,the average person here will pass with flying colors after a few hours study.

The importance of establishing your place as WORKING FARM insofar as the powers that be are concerned CANNOT be overemphasized imo.

As a working farmer I can use my ATV on the public roads on farm business for instance.And farm business is pretty near anything I say it is,except obvious and blatant joyriding well away from my property.

I can build a barn w/o a permit.

I can buy fifty percent Sevin for the same price homeowners pay for five percent.

A farm is just a solar collector. When you reshape pasture, you have as input the sun, the rain, some seeds, your context and time. The field is wide-open. Make the grass and clovers and whatever wants to grow there already grow well. Discing - even "no till" - and spraying is partly a function of your time. What animals you have. Think succession. There are so many pieces to the puzzle.

Fossil energy will let you go from raw field grass to the-veggies-you-want-to-grow in one year. A biodynamic or "Joel Salatin" might take a decade or only a couple of years to veggies-that-work or oats.

In the big picture, you have some wattage from the sun and some resources in your soil. There is no end of ways to manage that. One rule I follow - never leave bare earth. In the garden scale, thrown down oats or pea-oat-vetch (PVO) mix the moment something gets harvested.

Farmers and gardeners harvest the sun.

cfm in Gray, ME

I don't know what you mean by rehabilitate pasture. but I've reclaimed pasture for veggie crops. the next portion I plan to reclaim I'm going to try a hog tractor.
If you are trying to reestablish your grasses I'd suggest you over seed with timothy and alfalfa and then let it go to seed for at least 3 years.
I'm new to this side of the fence (4 yrs.) so please bounce these ideas off others

If the ground is not too rough plow the existing ground cover under and seed it with a mixture suited to your locality and personal needs.Your new pasture will be ready to graze in very short order.

Some small time local guy will gladly do the work for you with his equipment dirt cheap if you don't mention insurance ,contractors licesnes credit cards checks references,etc.

Learn to deal with this now as this is the way nieghbors do business out in the country.If a man has a few regular customers for a little plowing he knows how and does a good job.The fifty percent or more discount on the price charged by a contractor with a business phone etc is made possible by cutting out all the middlemen from the tax monster to the banker to the insurance guy.

Crooked or incompetent or price gouging trades people cannot exist in a small community where every body knows every body else.You will get far more than your "money's worth" over the course of a year or a lifetime this way.

And you will have a savvy local guy who needs your money as a business friend and soon a personal friend.When he has more tomatos that he can eat or can but not enough to sell at market he will drop you off a half bushel some day.You might not know who left them for a week or two until you run into him or someone of his family.

Don't forget to return the favor-with a cake or pie or by babysitting his kid for an evening so he can take his wife out to a movie for maybe the first time in ages.

As for lawsuits,most people in farm communities have worked thier entire lives this way w/o ever coming near a court room,or even knowing of somebody who has.(I'm not talking about disputes with siding installers etc,who cover large territories and can always find somebody to fleece that hasn't heard about them.)The guy with the small tractor and plows is not likey to live oover five miles or so away.If he does,he will reccomend someone closer.

If you want ABSOLUTE safety ala the high dollar restricted access development suburbs the bad news is that it doesn't exist out where people live more than a hundred yards apart.

plowing is problematic as pasture in question is not flat, some rather steep in fact, but soil is rich and deep, but has not been worked in 30 years. Woody invasive plants have started to colonize (roses and chokecherries). Plowing presents the problems of erosion, safety and difficulty, as i do not have a 4 wd tractor but an old MF 135. I can knock down the invasive growth with the flail mower, but Todd's suggestion of having the pasture custom drilled intrigued me...if i could hope to get new pasture mix that would outcompete the invasive growth, perhaps i could just mow it out. That is what my question was directed toward.

Here's a thought that just crossed my mind. Ok, you have brush problems. Is it possible to get someone to pasture their goats for a season? They'll eat everything right down to the ground including the crush.

Well, I have to head out to irrigate.


Todd's suggestion about the goats will work .You can really help things along by confining them to a small area with an electric fence so they are forced to clean everything upmoving them as they finish a given spot. Most likely you won't succeed otherwise unless there are a lot of goats available for loan or hire close by.If your soil is rich and well watered it can be really hard to kill a tough plant by grazing it,it will just grow back out again. You might have to resort to to a weed killer of some sort as a practical matter unless you have plenty of time and determination.

The bad news is that such hilly pastures are subject to constant reinvasion and there is no SOLUTION to the problem,only management strategies.

As a strapping teenager I helped my Old Pa mow such a pasture twice a year with a scythe,and we carried a mattock along to uproot small wild roses,etc, just getting established.

It took us from a half a day to two days(if we were behind and skipped a mowing) to do about five acres or so.You just mow what needs mowing of course,probably only ten to tweny percent or so of the total area once you have it in good shape.

He paid me fifty cents an hour and we worked like athletes in training,even though he was in his fifties at the time.

This ain't easy folks.


Some questions:

1) How many acres would you consider reasonable to achieve a decent sized crop yield and have timber available to harvest? I am thinking 40 acres would be sufficient for a family of four. I live in Colorado so the growing season is shorter than NorCal.

2)My wife and I work a lot of hours at our corporate jobs, we want to hold on to the incomes as long as possible to purchase supplies/tools etc. As funny as it may sound, do you think basic homestead preparation is achievable on nights and weekends? We are both under 30 and don't have kids so that probably helps. I assume that what we don't have in time we can make up with some money in purchasing/building certain items. I am not talking about a fully functioning farm but building and preparing the structures and getting the kitchen garden/irrigation systems working. We already have a decent sized home garden on our half acre suburban lot.

3) You didn't discuss hunting at all, I own a rifle but haven't been hunting in over 10 years but I plan on getting back into it. Do you supplement your calories with any wild game?

4)Do you have water rights and/or access to a stream? I assume I will have to drill a well but I would prefer land with a stream.

5) I am assuming a 5-7 year time frame before things really go south.

One advantage to CO is that we get plenty of sunlight for solar.


I'm going to C&P your post because I think you represent a lot of people. My comments are in italics:

1) How many acres would you consider reasonable to achieve a decent sized crop yield and have timber available to harvest? I am thinking 40 acres would be sufficient for a family of four. I live in Colorado so the growing season is shorter than NorCal.

The reality is location, location...actually, my weather is rather midwestern. I've had up to 3' of snow out of a storm and we are usually snowed in a week or three a year. Were I younger and as doomersish as I am now, I would never have put down roots here.

I have 57 acres and that is pushing what will be necessary.

2)My wife and I work a lot of hours at our corporate jobs, we want to hold on to the incomes as long as possible to purchase supplies/tools etc. As funny as it may sound, do you think basic homestead preparation is achievable on nights and weekends? We are both under 30 and don't have kids so that probably helps. I assume that what we don't have in time we can make up with some money in purchasing/building certain items. I am not talking about a fully functioning farm but building and preparing the structures and getting the kitchen garden/irrigation systems working. We already have a decent sized home garden on our half acre suburban lot.

I'll tell you, the first thing you have to decide upon is a scenario of the future...and one you both agree upon. No, we don't know how things will play out but the reality is we are now forced to make choices with poor information. Nate has another essay of mine on establishing priorities that he may post and it begins from a different premis.

Yes, you CAN do it but it could destroy your relationship. I would really suggest establishing a framework for the future. Building the skills, the equipment and so forth. And, especially developing the psychological mind set necessary.

3) You didn't discuss hunting at all, I own a rifle but haven't been hunting in over 10 years but I plan on getting back into it. Do you supplement your calories with any wild game?

My guess is that game is gone after less than a year. In my area all deer were killed within 6 months after the Depression started and didn't rebuild for 10 years after it ended.

No, I don't really supplement with game.

4)Do you have water rights and/or access to a stream? I assume I will have to drill a well but I would prefer land with a stream.

Every case is different. I have a good, deep well (and a replacement pump) as well as a small pond. Remember "water rights."

5) I am assuming a 5-7 year time frame before things really go south.

Sounds good to me.

Some of the italics cut off early - sorry I don't know why.


One advantage to CO is that we get plenty of sunlight for solar.


I'm starting my own lifeboat here in CO. Send me an email....I'd be happy to have a visitor over sometime and show you what the wife and I are doing.

a comment on the 'how much land' question from a very different perspective.
Historically in Greece, families who had more than about 8 acres of land were prosperous and independent. Families with
less than that eventually ended up in debt and lost the rest of their land. This magic number is repeated over
and over again basically at least since recorded history ~3 millenia ago. What they did with the land was basically a
mix of tree and vine cultivation in odd corners of land, olive trees (with wheat under the olives often) and wheat grown wherever else, which meant either the more or less flat bottoms of valleys and terraced hillsides (thousands of square miles of terraces all built by hand on steep rocky mountainsides all over the country). 100% rain fed, and _average_ rainfall is about 20-25 inches, and highly variable. Planting and cultivation was done almost exclusively by hand, as
the situation was seldom suitable for real plowing, especially plowing with animals (narrow terraces plus the traditionally fragmented land ownership with lots of small plots).
Some years maybe only 10 inches of rain, other years 3 feet of rain. Rain tends to come down in a few heavy storms,
so water and runoff management was critical. Soils thin, earths mostly either limestone with clay/sandstone inclusions or blueschist with volcanic inclusions. natural cover is round-leaf oak trees (white oak) and yes people ate acorns as
a regular diet into the iron age and still as a food for bad years into the 20th century.
So, consider in a hot sunny dryland farming environment, about 1.5 acres per person an absolute minimum, and really 2 acres per person to be the bottom acceptable size. Where you have more water, or the ability to store water and even it out over the year, you will be much more secure against longer term variation in rainfall.
You'll need more land than that in most parts of the US because it gets colder winters and less sun (more clouds).. but
there is typically more water there too.

Thank You Todd for a very valuable post. I am 76 and started my homestead at age 61. I can vouch for every point in your post.

The key to my success is family. The family consists of wife, daughter, son-in-law, 4 grandchildren (ages16 – 22), and me. We moved to our place in SE Washington in 1995 after I had spent a year building road, fences, installing water and power systems, installing used mobile home and building a large garage apartment for my wife and me.

It took us three years to build a house for my daughter and SIL. With that experience it only took one year to build my house. Both houses are built with the highest quality materials available but no frills. They are also very energy efficient. The grandchildren were home schooled (grandma) so they had at least half a day each day to work and learn practical skills. The houses are designed to accommodate multiple generations. If my wife and/or I live too long, we may have to build one more house to accommodate all four grandchildren.

I raise beef cattle and trade fruit and vegetables and grass hay for milk and eggs. We kept a milk cow for a while to teach the grandchildren and will in the future go back to our own milking. I am breeding a cross between beef and dairy to get a milk cow that will survive and produce on pasture and grass hay - no grain.

We acquire and rebuild old equipment. For example, my car is a 1989 Camry, my pickup is a 1977 F-250, the hay bailer is 45 years old but does 1800 bales each year. This practice also provides practical skill training for the grandchildren.

We participate and take leadership roles in the local Church, Grange, Vol. Fire Dept., Lions Club, 4-H, and local political activities. When the collapse comes, we are going to survive only with community cooperation. I am the economic collapse/peak oil missionary to the local community via one on one, a monthly email newsletter, speaking to groups and to the county via letters to the editor of the local daily newspaper.

The key to my success is family . . . When the collapse comes, we are going to survive only with community cooperation . . .

Thank-you, TGN, for this most important insight in a surreal thread.


For an audience that ordinarily seems reasonably able to do basic math,... WTF are you people thinking? There's not enough land in the US to support more than 10 to 50 million people if they're living off the land without modern equipment and chemical fertilizers. Homesteads were 160 acres,...for a good reason, even if one suggests getting by on one-fourth of that, it still means the US population must get down to 50 million, from our current 300 million. I don't think the reduction will be entirely voluntary.

No, plenty of land for food. Problem is everyone becomes a farmer, soil degradation, water sources polluted, climate change...

1000 sq ft of potatoes = 1 person's calories per year

I don't disagree with you. We are not talking about a peaceful scenario but one that you may have a chance of surviving. I am 27 and have serious doubts that my suburban lifestyle and corporate occupation can make it to the finish line.

I never thought in a million years I would be having this conversation....

How come so many people seem to think that every solution must scale up to encompass the entire population or the entire world? Some solutions are only for those that have the wherewithal to utilise them. For the rest they have to find other solutions and unfortunately for some they won't find any.

I've also said this before, but it is every individuals responsibility to know how they're going to put food on their table. And given all that we do know now, anyone relying on having a job, or relying faithfully on the existing "just in time" system to make food freely available (albeit at a price) is simply placing responsibility for their future on someone else. And that someone else will likely not careless when times get tough.

People need to ensure they have much more control over the essentials for life. Although no man is an island, reliance on others is unavoidable, therefore the entire chain for those essentials needs to be totally visible so that problems can be seen in advance. Personally knowing everyone in the supply chain would help in this matter.

US population,


Annual US oil production
1900 63.6 M barrels (about 170K/day)
1910 209.5 M

Wharf Rat, Great numbers. This illustrates how I do not see a total collapse after Peak Oil. We'll still have a far higher per capita energy consumption 20 years from now from nukes, wind, solar, hydro, coal electric power. We'll still have some oil even if only a tenth of our current consumption per capita. So why should civilization collapse? We had a civilization with far lower per capita consumption. Why not again?

Can anyone point me to an expert on pasture grasses? I understand the concept in depth (warm/cool, grass/forb, MIG, weed indicators) but I haven't found a holistic guide that I trust that takes long-term sustainable production into account. Please post multiple references if you have them and I'll do the diligence. Beautiful post, Todd.

Cold Camel

Gene Logsdon has a book about pastures whose title escapes me. Check out http://www.organictobe.org


The title is "All Flesh Is Grass", a fine book as all of Gene Logsdon's books are, but with one caveat it primarily deals with what works in the East. Since my fall back place is around the 100th Meridian I don't find much of the books specifics to be of that much use. That being said I bought decent land 101ac total 22 of that tillable conventionally with the balance in pasture and seasonal ponds and water within 100ft with two drilled wells on the property. The location has its downsides, impassable roads during rain events and a lack of firewood, but its positives outweigh the negative. That said Gene's book is not really geared for an area of 20-25 inches of rain per year, but for those areas with 30+ inches moisture.

Camel try the "Stockman Grass Farmer."

Thank you, I know SGF well.

Thanks to this story, the comments and links I'm past a personal hurdle regarding what grass/forbs to plant. Now to grok my downloads. My odds of making the 1/1000 cut just increased by a hair.

Good stuff Todd. Feel free to elaborate anytime.

Cold Camel

IIRC some TOD staff were involved in some capacity in getting Farm for the Future aired. There some interesting info about pasture in it, but its just teaser information. I think the man's name was Roger Hosking that spent most of his life finding the right mix of grasses and rotational grazing techniques that eliminated most of the need for winter supplemental forage.

Fordhall Farm I think is doing something similar, they have a blog you may be able to find something there.

If you can find out what they are doing keep in mind its the UK.

Camel ,I don't have a copy and buying one is going to be hard but you may find one at a university library .

The usda yearbook one year about forty years ago or so took grasses as its main subject.

You will find that it is a priceless background resource,well worth a couple of rainy weekends if you can locate it.

This book predates the corporate madness and contains a lot of directly useful info vis avis sustainable(long term) pastures,etc.

Whatever specific info you settle on ,verify by local actual obversation if at all possible before commiting your time and money.

Better a local old standby mix used a half century or more ago that will actually survive and thrive than something that looks better on paper but croaks/chokes in the real world.

The usda yearbook one year about forty years ago or so took grasses as its main subject.

I collect those old USDA Yearbooks. (Wish I had every year's.) The one on Grass is from 1948, so actually 61 years ago Mac. I actually have two copies of it. Info in them is priceless.

And there is a copy on ebay right now starting at 50c.

The old Stockman's books are also worth thier wieght in bullion,but there may be some obsolate info in some of them,as regards management of disesases etc.

But they are great on the basics and chock full of good general data.

Probably there are some of them on ebay too.

I feel like I'm getting firehosed with useful information. And I was worried that no one cared. Thank you all.

Cold Camel

Assume any land you buy will have severely degraded soil. The less you know about soil, the worse it is going to be. Soil takes a long time to build naturally, but you can speed it up immensely. Buy the book Hands-On Agronomy by Neil Kinsey and send him your soil samples. Put some of your money into bringing your soil back into balance. Do this before the crash.

I’ve traveled on four continents looking for a place to settle and I want to emphasize that everywhere I went the soil was run down as far as a farmer could take it. It doesn’t matter if the soil was pushing up grass, crops, or trees, the soil had been sucked dry. Liebig’s Law of the Minimum means farmers extract until just about everything is crop limiting, then they add only what they need. It’s how farmers afford to keep the farm.

To keep that soil you need the right pasture mix. This whole concept is arcane because it requires money up front and produces nothing worth selling.

Also the plants you will find on your land will almost certainly be the wrong mix. All the valuable ones will have been over-harvested, leaving you nothing but trash. This is true in woodlands, orchards, pastures and most gardens. Get the right species started now, so you’ll have seed-stock. Once you settle in for the duration, you can manage for the mix you want, but you can’t do it without the right seeds. I know this is true, but I don’t know which species or varieties I should consider. I’m looking for help.

Cold Camel

You illustrate the problems of returning to subsistence agriculture as one possible response to peak oil.
If electricity, fire police and medical services collapse it will be a very dangerous for the 5% who return to the land.
An alternative response for most of us, as well as storing in a few months or years supply of dried foods, would be to give up using ICE transport and only using the electricity that can be generated by renewable and nuclear, and support a central government to maintain police fire and medical services to insure that the limited liquid fuels are used to maintain food and essential services. I think for most of us, the second possibility is more attractive, even if means we only have electric power 5 hours a day and have to walk to mass transit or car pool with the fortunate who have electric vehicles. It may come to "volunteering" one day a week community service to provide muscle power to replace some activities now performed by ICE vehicles. Towns and cities have usually been safer places to live in times of turmoil.

Meanwhile, the 50% of the worlds population already living subsistence agriculture are trying to escape it to the cities and towns and only dream of using 33% of the electricity people in the US are deriving from renewable and nuclear energy today.

Watch Frontier House from PBS

Todd was in the shower and whacked himself on the head and said, "How could you forget to mention this in the main post?"

This will give you the best idea of what you are getting into. No, it's not exactly what I'm proposing but it's close enough.


There is no need for anybody in the USA to be building a homestead right now in anticipation of the imminent collapse of industrial society. Robert Rapier's recent post about natural gas should have confirmed that to any open-minded reader:-



So, the good news is that the United States could be energy independent if the newly released natural gas reserve numbers are remotely accurate. It also appears that we have enough natural gas available that civilization isn't going to end any time soon due to lack of energy supplies. There are three caveats. First, energy independence via natural gas could require us to spend significantly more for personal automotive transportation. Second, "possible" reserves may never materialize. Finally, a large chunk of the calculated reserves are based on shale gas, and that requires gas to be in the $6-$8/million BTU range to be economical. Still, it is a bargain compared to gasoline, and it explains why fleets are more receptive to conversion to natural gas than the general public is likely to be for their personal vehicles.

Not to be a downer for those of you that like to get your hands dirty, but I highly doubt that civilization will fall fast and far enough that we will all have to hole up in our survival retreats. What if the "collapse" process takes 20-30 years? Or even 5 years? This still gives anyone with half a brain time to acknowledge that the system is going down and act accordingly. What do I mean by that? I am assuming that many of us on TOD are highly-educated with above-average incomes living in the suburbs of metro areas with over a million people. These environments (large cities/metros) tend to never do well during economic collapses (see Russia-1998 and Argentina-2002). So.... move out of the big cities and move to a pre-1900 walkable small town that will survive and likely thrive as people flee the cities and suburbs (preferably west of the Mississippi River), make friends with the locals, and buy local farmland. Rent the farmland out to local farmers that actually know how to farm, and take payment in your crop, gold, or equivalent barter. They will like be significantly more productive with your land (since they have been doing it their whole lives), and you will take significant risk out of the equation. Wherever you are, it definitely doesn't hurt to have a year's worth of food on hand for your family..... it will help you sleep a lot better at night knowing you don't have anything to worry about.

I know oil hit $149 last year, and everyone is scared, and most of us didn't grow up in the country or on a farm.... so I think we are all going thru this "rebirth" where we learn how the world fundamentally works (flows of food, energy, water, shelter)....... and how to secure it in tough times on a family level. For those of you moving to the country.... do it out of a love of the country, not because of sheer fear. Otherwise, boredom and frustration will burn you out pretty fast. One final note..... I think people are really going overboard with the whole "grid-down" fear. I live in an area that is 100% powered by nuclear and hydropower... and that is with extremely wasteful per-capita usage rates..... and we still export a lot of power from our region to other states. Oil imports could halt tomorrow and most of our critical systems will still be up and running. School buses could be used for emergency public transportation to supplement the existing bus fleet. Cars running on natural gas (Honda Civic GX) could be used as taxis, or for makeshift ambulances. Creative people will quickly come up with makeshift creative solutions (and no I'm not saying technology or craftiness will prevent a fall in the standard of living in the 1st world due to peak oil..... I'm just saying it will not happen overnight).


My concern is not as much the ability to supply a minimal amount of services and energy to the population, but capital markets destruction due to limits to growth and the realities of PO. Many "knowledge workers" today require properly functioning capital markets, interest on debt, access to a computer 8 hrs a day, perceived growth etc. to be worth the money they are paid to manipulate and provide analysis of data with software/spreadsheets etc.

This means that unemployment continues to grow and economies consolidate because what are all these educated people going to do now for work when their skills are no longer of value? If we hit 30-50% unemployment for a sustained period which is highly likely in the U.S. especially given our large deficits in addition to the energy situation, many highly populated areas would become unfavorable places to live. It doesn't matter if you can get power to your home if you can't pay for it. Or for that matter if you can still afford it but your neighbor cannot, that is not a desirable situation to be in.

So even if the collapse takes the next 30 years, the unemployment levels will be sky high that entire time and create a dicey situation in urban areas.

It is plausible that you would be better off to be a hard living homesteader with land and freedom than a peasant beggar at the mercy of a government shelter or soup kitchen.

Wildcatter...... I agree with you about the unemployment rates. I would guess 80-90% of Americans spend their day working on something that is generally pointless in the long run...... which is why 30-50% unemployment will be easily attainable as our energy/debt problems worsen.

However...... I know a lot of small towns that have significantly more of the population (maybe as high as 50%) doing what I would call an essential service (farming, logging, mining, shipping, etc.).... and have a history of high (10+%) unemployment rates. Many small towns could bear much worse and still survive just fine. There is a town that comes to mind that I have been thru in the Arkansas Ozarks that hasn't had much of a formal economy since the early 20th century with the average family income under $20K/year, and it still seems like one of the nicest places I've ever been to with almost nonexistent crime. The key here is societal bonds and the barter economy...... I would guess up to half of the economy in the Arkansas Ozarks is undocumented. Long story short...... getting land is a must, but you don't have to do absolutely everything yourself.... hire out some people and help lower that 30-50% unemployment rate.

This article at ASPO-USA throws some cold water on the new gas numbers.

Besides, taking full advantage of the extra gas still requires a tremendous transition effort. Our current transition efforts in the US (ie. none) don't give me much faith in a smooth change to CNG.

I lived in Micronesia for a year with no electricity, running water, or communications.
Water was from the rain barrel off the roof, and I speared fish to trade for a living.
I did have kerosene and candles, and a beer supply, along with antibiotics.
If it totally went down. I could of survived (I think), bit it would of been tough.
Of course, I was in my 20's and I'm in my 60's now.
The human skull candle holders were a artistic touch (from Japanese soldiers from WWII).

Our way of life may collapse, but it doesn’t make sense to throw everything away just in case. It would make much more sense to get a small plot of land (three acres more or less) of less than prime farmland that one could get to in case of emergency. Build on it a small cabin (800 sq ft or less) out of advanced material like aerated autoclaved concrete. Make it strictly functional, and using as much of your own labor as possible you could probably build it for $100 per sq ft. It is possible to build such a house to use little energy and have minimal maintenance (like the one I live in). The best advice I can give on energy efficiency is to minimize windows and carefully plan their orientation to make the sun work for you rather than against. This will save energy, cost of windows and result in a stronger house, and if windows are properly placed you will still have good natural light.

There is no point in having a lot of land unless you intend to be a commercial farmer. This would be hard work for little income, manly because hardly anyone has enough money to buy a large farm. Farming equipment is expensive and can easily be hired. You only need land and an emergency stash of fertilizer (bought in bulk from a real farm supply: di-ammonium phosphate $485/ton, potassium chloride $800/ton, urea $450/ton).
Buy a used shipping container for storage of a tiller and some fertilizer and tools. The only essential tool for growing a garden is a quality shovel (Corona floral), but you will be in for some serious work until you have some large deeply dug raised beds. You can use a good tiller that will do the job much, much faster, but you will get less yield.

Most people would rather be dead than to give up the lifestyle of a city or even a small town and move to the country. Most of the hippies who tried this in the 60’s and 70’s eventually went back to town and got regular jobs, or commuted long distances to work.
Work is much easier to find in the city, and cities can’t be too big if you are a two income family. You will actually be better off transportation wise in a city, as I learned after moving to a smaller town from Atlanta. You have to drive further to get to anything. In Atlanta I could walk or bicycle to places like the grocery store or doctor’s office, or take public transportation if I had to give up my car.

The important thing is to find the right city. Look for a diverse economy, low taxes, economic growth, low crime and above average income.

Eventually we may get some more cities with streetcars, which worked well in the time between horses and automobiles. I have old 1905-10 photos of dozens of streetcars and horse drawn wagons with no cars in sight.

Great Post Todd. We did something similar, on 60 acres in New Zealand. It started out as a multi-partner forestry/carbon sink/save the planet thing, but it ended up just me and my partner, and the bank. We shifted onto it in '04, the house took a year, and the systems ain't done yet, although the living is easy.
We did the whole thing for about $30,000 US, so you guys are paying way too much for those septic tanks... Theres a link to a newspaper article about it on my blog: powerdownkiwi.wordpress.com
Whether the crash is fast, slow, or Mad Max, it makes little sense to me to stay in a city which is guaranteed to be having convulsions. If it don't come, it's a much more satisfying lifestyle than the artificial/pressure/nonsense of a city office. The fun of being off-grid, building your own power systems, your own LED lights, pelton wheel - wouldn't have missed it for the world.
I think the time-line is a bit irrelevant, though, you just optimise from where you are, and keep doing it - it never ends, and ain't that the beauty of it?

My first post so be gentle :o)

I live in the UK, where land is v expensive. 3 years ago we bought a house with 2 acres, and have been developing it as a smallholding (it started as a field with one old apple tree and two cherries). Working evenings and weekends only.

I haven't had to build anything so far, and we now have chickens, pigs, sheep, an orchard and a good sized fruit and veg plot. There's still a *lot* for me to do before everything's as I want it.

A few thoughts from my own experience to date to agree with Todd.

Start small: if you dig more veg space than you can plant and weed over the season, you'll end up digging it again next year. Maybe if I didn't have to hold down a job as well my advice would be different on this...

Start simple and build your skills: at the moment we're buying in piglets and lambs and fattening them up; in the next few years I hope to start breeding them too - when I'm confident in just looking after them (I can now hand shear a sheep, trim its hooves, and know when it's sick). If you try and do it all at once from no knowledge, I don't envy your learning curve!

Plant your trees and permanent crops as soon as possible: 3 years on one of our apple trees has its first 3 apples, and we've had our first plums this year with a small crop of hazelnuts on its way. None of our fruit and nut trees will be fully productive (I expect) for 5 years or more yet.

Don't underestimate cost: I thought I'd planned well and set aside plenty from our purchase price for development (greenhouse, fruit cage, walls and fences, equipment) - but if you gave me £50k tomorrow I'd have spent it before the weekend's out.

Make sure you buy enough land: I know my 2 acres isn't enough. Maybe we could feed ourselves 100% if we went vegetarian, but we won't have enough trees to support our fuel needs if it comes to that. And it would be nice to have a bit of meat every now and then...

Water: if you can get land with water, I'm jealous. In the UK it adds ££££££ to the cost. I may need to sink a borehole.

There are several things that concern me about my current situation. They mostly come down to overpopulation (at a local level). We're just 10 miles from a city of c. 1m. When food and fuel get short, they'll be leaving in droves looking for someplace better. How do I protect my family and what I have? We'll be overrun, and the strong will take what they want (be that food from our fields / stores, wood from our trees, equipment from our shed). I think one solution is a community solution: we need to be thinking about small, self-sufficient communities capable of defending themselves. Because me standing guard on my own with a shotgun isn't a long-term option...

Oh, and pay off your debts (if you have them).

Not to make a big point of it, but "a realistic plan for a survival homestead" is in reality not actually a realistic plan. You're still going to be completely dependent on the larger system working well to make it.

I toured the farms of the 70's as that "back to the land" movement was all winding down, just to see what was becoming of them. What was becoming of them was that everyone was becoming reabsorbed back into some part of the larger economic system, since creating your own economic system by yourself... is actually a bust. People are just *far* more productive when serving each others complementary needs, through a market system.

Being resourceful with your local resources, like having a woodlot, is very practical and provides resilience. What it doesn't do is create wealth. You just can't come close to creating wealth like the large networks of complementary labors we do as a society that make our large world systems work. If we were to "return to the small" and "act apart from the big" as New York's WNYC public radio station is endlessly repeating 20 or 30 times a day now, as it's great insight and hallmark of its "uncommon economic coverage", absolutely nothing would work at all.

What we're actually failing to do is to find what needs to be fixed with the larger systems. Abandoning them doesn't fix them. We're not "leaving no stone unturned" in discovering what it is that causes the big systems we rely on so heavily to be pushed to a point where their resilience is sapped away and some relatively small thing causes them to collapse.

Dear Todd,

Thanks for making it entirely clear for me that I won't make it. I'll just stay put in my coastal town, do some fishing from the shore, let my wife tend the veggie garden (I miss a good part of my left leg), and will just try to get by with some chickens and rabbits in the back yard.

So now you have been getting ready for when TSHTF for 40 odd years, you're in your eighties, and then what? Who will take care of you when you can no longer do the hard work? Will your homestead perish or is someone (a son?) going to continue this project? Just curious.

Hi PaulusP,
Ah the future. No kids to take over. My wife and I were among the first non-parents (been married almost 49 years).

I see one of two courses: First, we bring in some "young" people and essentially give them the place in return for care. This assumes that collapse does occur.

Second, if society somehow muddles through, we sell out for what we can get and move to a populated area. I don't come from a long-lived family but my wife does and she could never manage this place even if che were in good health.


If you are young (as I am), this is the only chance in hell you have of owning your own farm someday - assuming you don't want to take on debt. The way I see it, by the time my girlfriend and I have saved the money necessary to make the change, we will be well beyond our prime. If you are young, you either have to inherit land from family or have an older farming couple take you under their wing.

The idea of older couples w/ no kids taking on younger couples seems like a no brainer. Older couples can share the knowledge they've gained over the years in addition to the land and other resources they have accumulated in return for manual labor, willing students, and strong family type bonds. Seems like a win-win for all involved.

Kinda like the "brother-in-law-on-couch" idea that is talked about here, except that instead of getting a possible deadbeat, you are getting a "brother" that shares your ideals, is willing to work hard, learn, and support you.


I've always enjoyed the wisdom and attitude of your posts. I consider you a friend. I would have emailed you, but you said you weren't into that sort of thing.

Anyway, I live in Arcata. If you ever need a hand on short notice, I hope you will contact me. My email is in my profile and from there you could find me in the phone book. I'm about half your age and not afraid of hard or unpleasant work.

I hope you never need to call, but if I can help, I hope you will.


Yea, I prefer talking on the phone. Tell you what, my email addy is detzel at mcn dot org and, maybe, we can work up to a phone conversation.


This post really stirred up a lot of thoughts on preparing for the future. All I can comment on are my quick thoughts on this as I am not an expert and will not try to dissect someone else’s life plans. I’m sure most here could easily write 5000 words in response.

I live a mile from where my Mom was born on a dairy farm. They had no electricity, My Grandmother canned 1500 jars a year and an ice pond was on the property to provide summer refrigeration. A smoke house was used to preserve meat. I think they lived more like 1850 than 1925. My Grandfather hauled milk to the local train station to ship to the city. My Mom is still alive so the knowledge is not that far lost. Second cousins still run a few beef.

We moved to the Berkshires 6 years ago as a retirement thing when we shut our business down due to my partner’s medical problems. Survival was not in my view at that time but luckily our new house was small, simple and designed for optimum energy usage (and 20 miles from the nearest supermarket). I am cheap so low energy bills during retirement was a must. I’m handy enough to put a lot of hours into the house fabrication to keep costs down. Building codes are enforced so you can only go so far in doing your own building thing. The inspectors like dealing with licensed tradesmen. Engineered septic systems cost $10-15k or more in this area. Trailers are not allowed.

The house has a full walkout cellar with a south facing solar end. I’ve calculated that I would need less than a cord of wood to live through the winter below ground. We register 7500-8000 degree days in a very windy location. I have many thoughts on below grade construction but not here.

Most folks can only contemplate a move to homestead country as they near retirement. Very few have the resources unless they cash out of the work a day world. I question if you would want to bite this off as you age - and medical conditions mount and endurance declines. The only path that makes sense to me is if you are preparing for your kids or grand kids to take over. Otherwise the timing is so uncertain that you can be waiting for 20 years for the fireworks to kick in and only get hauled off to the old folk’s home for your trouble. All your hard work goes back to nature.

Tractors – sure. You can’t work this clay soil, move rocks and move snow without one. Diesel will be available in low quantities. Sun flowers and soy beans are not that hard to grow and you need a press anyway for hard cider.
Food – a few years worth. We’ve always canned and bought wholesale quantities. I’ve gardened for 40 years and my wife worked in a greenhouse operation for years. You don’t have to raise all your food the first year. Concentrate on which varieties work in your climate and have beds and cold frames prepared. I can buy storage potatoes for 10 bucks for a 50 lb bag so no sense in depleting my soil now. Do trial plantings and save fuel and your soil. 1000 lbs of fertilizer stored – check.
Fuel – Everyone wants to lumberjack. You won’t believe how fast wood will disappear unless you are in the north woods of Maine. We have big empty spots in the forests now. A tank of propane stores forever and will keep a cook stove going for 10 years. Generators run on propane and I’m sure tractors could be modified. This is just a thought on sneaking through the keyhole. You only have to make it to the other side. No one can plan beyond that.
Firearms – A misspent youth in the Marine Corps (radioman – infantry/tanks) took away any fear of firearms. The police are 10-15 minutes away now so prudence dictates be prepared. 12 gauge pumps and 00 buck are cheap.
Communications – licensed Ham for 52 years. EE (RF naturally) for my working life.

Todd - Thanks for the mental kicker

""Tractors – sure. You can’t work this clay soil, move rocks and move snow without one.""

Let's see,,,you are close to Old Sturbridge Village. No? So take a day, visit the place and lose the typical MERIKAN attitude that nothing can be done with out Fossil Fuel and a Tractor.

Check out the Mill pond. I think you will find that it was dug out by one man with a Mule and a Dump Scrape. A few acres of water there, yes?.....Hard work? You bet! So what.

The community is what you are after. The attitude of the Lone Gunman, trying to survive with a Tractor and a few tanks of fuel will not cut it. You will lose all you have worked for in a matter of minutes, should a bad guy come knocking.

Don't think for a second it won't happen. No matter how fast or far the fall, security will be the most important thing to everyone. Don't need food or water if you're dead.

Hi Tech_No

The discussion was how to live in the 20th century for the next 10 or 20 years. I don’t believe my observations deserved a death wish from you. I have opinions and you certainly have yours. Where does the reality lie?

Since I doubt that you have any more clue to the future than I do, how do you know that whatever plans I have made are any better or worse than yours? You assume that I am a loner but that couldn’t be further from the reality. Real community in dealing with energy depletion and climate change will have to wait for a direr situation than we have today. People are too busy with surviving today’s challenges.

As far as manual labor, my great grandfather was a Waller in this community. Now that was hard work. Since Sturbridge was created in the 40s and 50s I doubt if mule power was involved. A bulldozer was more likely. Very few are likely to employ animal power in the near future, it would seem that small tractors will be the preferred farm motive power for the next 25 years.

Best of luck with the Armageddon hell you are hoping for.

No death wish from me. I would like to live to be 100. Hope everyone could do that. Sorry you take it soooo personal. Just stated a fact...dead people don't eat much! HA!

Unfortunate it is, that so many seem to have the wealthy, upper class mindset so prevalent in the Birkshires. Having spent a number of years in the area, what I found there, is mostly NY city escapers trying out for the wannabe Farmer role, in the movie of the week. Most of the real people I found, live in Fitchburg.

Reality is what you make it. My reality is presently living in South Florida, one years food, six months water and enough gear to get me out of the country. Already on the boat. Cash has all been converted to tangibles and silver, already moved to the coast of New Zealand. As far the clue to the future? Yes I have a clue as to what MY future will be. Anybody elses? I could care less. Harsh? Yes, sorry, not everyone will survive what's on the horizon.

In my reality, I will be on my sailboat, off the coast of New Zealand, living the best I can in a suvival mode, without giving a rats behind what the rest of the world does, or does'nt do. It is already too late to make any plans other than basic survival. If you or anyone else thinks different, greaaatttt.

As far as what your distant relative has done? Who cares...What hard labor are you willing to do? It's about "the next 10 or 20 years" right? I doubt this little internet thingy will be here in 10 years, gone along with so much else. Surviving "today's challenges"? Ha! What challenges? Getting a good deal on a "Cash for Clunkers" your idiot government throws out? Getting the "2 for 1" at the local Wally World? The list is endless.....MERIKANS eat better than 90% of the people on the planet. We trash out everything we touch and waste everything else. We are a virus in the Petri dish.

Seriously though, take the time and visit Sturbridge. Learn something. The Mill Pond for the Sawmill was dug by a Man, with a Mule, with a Dumpscrape.

I do not wish for "Armageddon Hell" to be visited on the Earth in the future. No need to wish for that, because it is aready here. The FF used in the last 100 years, has lit that fire quite nicely

Good luck with the Tractor.....

Hi Tech_No

Sorry you have mistaken me for a rich New Yorker. We moved up here to Hampshire County from working class CT because of cheap land and few neighbors. Not rich as SS is major income source. We have a small house, big garden and 20 year old tractor.

I won’t be doing hard physical labor at 70 - diabetes (bad genes from 2 great grandmothers) and a run in with prostate cancer (radiation) have slowed me down a bit. The best I can do is get the place ready for my kids. The rest of the world has to take care of itself. I agree with much of your take but will work through it with my own plan. To each his own.

Best of luck in NZ and don’t let the headhunters get you.

PS - been to Sturbridge many times.


Have sailed for a number of years, lived aboard for 3. Certainly thought of the boat as good "escape pod", but then started to reconsider. If you've been on your boat for a while you know a sailboat is nothing but a system of constantly failing parts in need of replacement, even if it's all fiberglass and bronze/stainless. I began to suspect that such parts might cease to be available if TSHTF, particularly since these parts supply what for most is a "luxury". I do wish you luck though -- sailing is about the most fun a person can have, so long as the boat holds together.

I opted for a farm in the american midwest myself. Decided at the time that making my own food would perhaps be a bit better than relying on someone else to do it for me, and healthier to boot.

But the more I think about it, if the sh*t really hits the fan, my choices won't make a bit of difference over the average joe in the middle of New York who hasn't ever heard of peak oil. There are plenty of parts and materials that need replacement on a farm -- probably even rivalling a sailboat. Perhaps a bit cheaper since they don't all have to be stainless though.

If things *really* hit the fan, it's back to spears and loincloths for the whole lot of us. Or at least the small fraction that manages to remain. Solar panels, tractors, woodstoves, axes will all eventually wear out and be impossible to replace.

So maybe it's best to avoid considering that scenario. I don't fear a subsistence hunter/gatherer livestyle -- it's all been done before -- but transitioning to it with the knowledge I currently have wouldn't be fun.

Enough rambling for now I guess. It's neat to see what all the other chicken littles are up to.

Currently living on dry land, the boat is a weekend thing, but kept on the ready. At my age, little over half a hundred, I think the boat (1991 45' Morgan Catalina Sloop) will outlive me quite easily.....even with a limited number of spares. No intention of sailing the world forever, just float around and fish until the dust (radiation!!) settles, then into port.

To find the Women!!!!!!!!!

I don't know that this is all going to be such an agony. I am working on 3 acres divided up in pasture/garden and a poultry pen for imaginary chickens, ducks and geese. We are having a small house built and a building behind for my grown kids when things get tough. I am going to use a diesel tiller and sickle mower (non-riding) instead of a tractor, try to store a little hay. Chopping wood is not such a big chore in a hot climate. We are not so far from 'civilization'--Austin, Tx--that we cannot get a little culture from time to time. We are learning to make cheese from an imaginary Dexter (small Irish cow) in our future. Food preservation is less important when I can garden almost year round. Fruit is a little tricky since disease and the climate leave me with a few pear trees and a fig, although I plan on trying a lemon tree and perhaps a hardy orange tree. I can't see producing enough calories for my extended family of about 8 without adding pigs at some point--now that would violate the city code. Water is my big worry and I am having big storage water tanks placed beside the house. I grew up on a farm that was almost self sufficient with grandparents deeply scarred by the depression in the 30's and preaching the need for survival constantly. We'll see how my very urban husband and two sons adapt. We'll see how long electricity even in small amounts will last. But we are not faced with immediate "survival" mode and think we can transition with some grace and style.

One potentially positive thing about taking over an old farm is roads. Building a road that will not turn into mud during the rainy season is expensive. It takes a lot of time to maintain roads too, and you need to incorporate that into any planning – you may need a tractor, rake, blade and etc.
Another potential plus about colonizing an existing farm site is drainage. Some of those problems will already have been addressed and you can see the ones that have not and plan accordingly.
Also, a site that once supported a barn or house may already be a better starting point for building than starting from scratch in a wooded area with lots of stones, roots and unknown drainage problems.
As for fences I'd suggest starting with portable electric fences at least until you establish your traffic patterns. They're easy to put up and move and not that expensive.
A small walk behind tractor like the BCS that has various implements that can be attached to it is a good idea when starting out. You don't need to build a hay barn, stable, provide water, fences and etc for the tractor whereas you do for animal power. Be forewarned though, the first time you attempt to operate a walk-behind on heretofore un-farmed land will be quite dispiriting. My advice is that you can do much, much more than you think you can and necessity truly is the mother of invention. Try to get an issue or two of farmshow magazine ( http://www.farmshow.com/ ) and you'll see what I mean.

It would be a total disaster to start from scratch at a land that was though arable was never farmed before and you are an amateur farmer.

for the first time you post something I can agree with without reservation.

I think that either the cornucopians will be right, and some technology will come along to power the world, or we'll have a Roman-style catabolic collapse. If we end up with the former, there's no problem. If it's the latter, then the most important thing is to have good alternative arrangements lined up. You don't want to have to be in-town when riots and disease break out. However, you don't want to have to be in the country when the economy is failing and the only decent jobs are in the cities. Ideally, you want to either be in the city with a country place to fall back to, or in the country close enough to take advantage of city jobs. The complication is that transportation will be our achille's heel in this collapse.

My wife and I decided to live in the city and buy the small plot of land in the country. That seems to be closer to the method that worked for the Romans that did the best. In the city we have the small house with great schools, good jobs we can bike to, a good-sized vegetable garden, and some fruit trees and vines. In the country we have 10 acres, a small barn with a loft we could hole up in if needed, a small tractor, and various other equipment. Out there we have a larger vegetable garden, enough wood to heat the house and barn as needed, separate orchards started of fruit and nut trees, and about 8 acres for field crops. The country land is about 20 minutes away by car, and about 2 hrs by bike. It's also accessible partially by train, bus, and canoe. Importantly, our house is about 30 miles outside Detroit, and our land is about 20 miles farther away from Detroit.

I agree with Todd on most counts. Maintaining the two places is a tremendous amount of work and expense. If we weren't seriously concerned about how society adjusts to peak oil, it wouldn't begin to be worth it. We bought a used, fairly cheap garden tractor and fitted it for serious farm work. I figure when it dies we'll move up to a 8N or equivalent. I'm planning to stick with gasoline engine tractors so we could run on woodgas as Todd mentioned. We bought lots of other used gear.

We're in our second year. So far the place is a complete money pit - as expected. I don't expect any "return" on our investment for a couple of more years. OTOH, I don't expect any return on our other insurance policies either, and they don't have any education value. I appreciate hearing from Todd and others to learn what I haven't thought of and to learn what to avoid. I just wish more people would talk about their weed problems and how they solved them!

A simply wonderful and deeply valuable post. A huge Thank You to Gail & Todd. There's a lot to think about here. I've begun growing, raising, and preserving food on a smaller scale but the full self sufficiency isn't in the range of possibility right now.

My main plan is to network through our smaller local community and to build off of the core skills I know and do well. I can barter and trade for the rest that I need. In smaller towns or cities, I feel this may be a viable solution to full homesteading and self sufficiency. A lot of the skills are the same, but you don't need to learn them ALL. Basic food and water supply skills are the best place to start. For me, I raise chickens, garden, and make beer & wine. I'm a good butcher and hunter, and as a general mechanical engineer and outdoors man, I can keep a house warm and working and repair or maintain a lot. I'm very familiar with firearms and know how to use them. I'm an experienced leader and manager. I can foresee dozens of roles for me in a larger lifeboat community.

For those who can't, won't, or don't want to live on a survival farm, I highly suggest you learn useful skills now and build up those community connections. Mental preparation may be the most important. Get a strong vision of what ELP would really look like, and start trying out parts of it NOW so that your whole psyche doesn't rebel and check out. Simply exploring a very basic diet would give one a lot more self confidence and ability to see this change through. The survivors will be those who adapt to and accept changes, not the ones who rail against them and refuse to negotiate the "American way of life".

Thanks for the great post, Todd. I'm a bit late to the party, but I have a few things to share. First, let's recognize there's uncertainty about whether or not, and the speed at which civilization will collapse to the point that self-sufficiency is required. That said, for many people this is the kind of life they want to live anyways, so its pursuit is a great hedge strategy. While I think that 100% personal self-sufficiency is a fine academic concept, for all but the most motivated few it is simply not going to happen (as many have pointed out above). However, there is quite a bit of value in increasing the degree and locality of one's self-sufficiency. In other words, incrasing the % of individual, neighborhood, community, and bioregional self-sufficiency. If you can get 25% at each of those 4 levels, you're at least ahead of the curve going forward.

Quick example. Here's some photos from my parents place--5 acres in the Willamette Valley--that shows what can be done by two people starting in their 60s beginning only 4 years ago:

One of olive grove, using varieties from mountainous regions of Spain that seem to be hardy enough for Oregon winters based on experience of nearby growers. Close planting shown here is for oil production.

View of the vegetable garden, about 1/5th of an acre.

View of 14 KW solar array, 90% paid for with combined local and federal credits.

They also have a chicken coop, grapes, a few dozen fruit trees, etc., and live in a community where this kind of thing is commonplace--they definitely meet the 25% personal self-sufficiency and additional 25% neighborhood self-sufficiency. Not 100% self-sufficiency like what Todd posted (though I think they could get there if pressed), but proof (in my opinion) that getting part way there will be valuable and can be quite enjoyable at the same time...

Beautiful place! I'm not so hard core that I would ever put anything like this down. And, frankly, this is better than 99% of the people are going to do. They deserve a lot of credit.


It sure would be nice if the powers that be would give away some money for pv etc to those of us who really need it-not that I'm not happy for you that your family had the income to get the credits.

This sort of thing is half of the reason poor working people so often vote republican-they see the middle class get a free ride,the down and out get a free ride,the bums get a free ride ,they get forced sex.

And of course they know that the rich pay next to nothing regardless of who is in office.

This for the benefit of those who can't understand why so many poor people "vote against thier own best interests."

They might understand many things better if they ever LISTENED to an articulate conservative for a few minutes.

"This sort of thing is half of the reason poor working people so often vote republican"

Unless that solar array was installed in the last 6 months it would have been installed during the Bush administration.

"This for the benefit of those who can't understand why so many poor people "vote against thier own best interests."
The problem is that 50% of the US population doesn't bother to vote, but can bother to belly-ache about it doesn't matter who's in office "the rich pay next to nothing".


You have a good point- you and I well know that in recent times the pubs,especially under Bush the 2(rate) have been pretty free with the contents of the treasury.

And I do not contend that the poor folks I refer to have an altogether ACCURATE understanding of politics.They think they do,and that impression is reinforced by the fact that they have been generally cut off from all the goodies ranging fronm free lunches for thier kids to rent subsidies,since they work two jobs and spend little on luxuries in order to own thier own home.

They pay 75 or 90 bucks to see the same doctor in the afternoon that sees thier-to them -worthless deadbeat nieghbors-in the am in the county clinic for nothing or next to nothing.I could go on all day.

Of course the pubs are adroit at exploiting this perception ,and normally the pubs give nearly all the loot to low visibility people who aren't seen or heard about much,namely big biz types,thereby not rubbing the noses of the said working poor in the fact that they are getting screwed from that direction.

But they working poor THINK that the pubs will at least leave them in peace.Whether it's actually true or not is not relevant in context.The key to the issue is that they THINK the dems care about every body BUT them,and that the pubs care only about the rich.To a working man in Appalachia any one who owes thirty thousand in income taxes IS rich.

And there is no way in hell that it IS FAIR to take money from someone making tweny thousand dollars and give it to someone making at least three or four times that.

This is all very involved and not easily presented in a coherent way in a few words.

I would not be opposed to spending the same renewable energy subsidy money at volunteer fire departments,elementary schools,or water treatment plants,where the benefits are more evenly divided among all citizens.Or distributing it by lottery.And it would do just as much towards getting the industry up and running.

My problem is that damn near everything sets off my "Capuchin monkey fairness meter" these days.;-)

Possibly a lot of others feel a sort of rage building up the way I do and maybe we will be in the streets rioting next year,although I thought all that stuff was way behind me.
But then I never thiught I would see a day when the Rolling Stone and Mother Jones are more credible soources of news that the big NY papers either.

I'm just thoroughly sick and tired of the facts being misrepresented in a systematic way no matter the issue so somebody can get over on every body else.Cash for clunkers=green politics is a falsity;sorry, cash for clunkers=payola/hog slop for banks,big labor,car dealers

I could come up with as many examples as you could possibly want.

I guess I should just fetch out my lantern and spend my days searching the world for an honest man.

Or maybe just have a few stiff drinks and remember:"get over it,it's always been this way".

To be working poor is truly to be getting the brown end of the stick.

The truly sad part is that the Republican Party that so many of them hold dear has been actively warring on them for decades. Anti-union, anti-minimum wage, insisting that every benefit be "means tested" or a "rebate" has been a major part of Republican rhetoric for as long as I've been politically aware.

I guess if you learn to say the right things you really can screw just about anybody and have them thank you for it.

Worth noting here that federal tax credits only paid for a very small amount of this installation. The vast majority was Oregon state, county, and utility-specific rebates and incentives (not income tax credits) that, as long as you're willing to keep the generation grid-tied for 5 years, will pay back between 80% and 90% regardless of size of array or income. Under those circumstances, it's a no-brainer--but, as you say, you must have the cash (or borrowing power) to front the money as the largest chunk of their rebates come 20%/year over 5 years, not upfront.

Jeff,sorry I jumped to conclusions about the financing,it sounds much better the way you tell it.

But still not really fair to the people at the bottom of the pyramid who do most of he hardest,nastiest work, for the least money, in our country.

Awesome post Jeff! That further reinforces my thoughts that Oregon will be better than most places when things start to really turn. Despite Oregon's best efforts to destroy their economic competitiveness, they still have fundamental strengths. Their land-use policies will become an asset instead of a liability, they have growing timber reserves, over 70% of electricity comes from hydropower (and increasingly wind power in the Columbia River Gorge), and the populace is already friendly to alternate forms of transportation (bicycles allowed on parts of I-84?!?). Lastly, the support for local food via farmers markets in the Willamette is truly inspirational!

I spent a week out in Portland in June and didn't want to leave. I think the Hood River Valley will be the place to be if you're looking into moving to the country...... but you will need to bring money, and you better like growing pears! This was really the first time I've been anywhere in the U.S. since becoming PO-aware that I thought that civilization could make it through without extreme hardship in the process. Too bad Oregon's economy (and their work ethics) are completely in the toilet for the time being.....

...that shows what can be done by two people starting in their 60s beginning only 4 years ago...

I stand corrected (see my post above about being beyond our prime). Now assuming we can hold off a collapse for another 30 years, we may have a chance after all. :)

I'd heard that there were some commercial olive farms starting up in the Rogue Valley, but haven't heard of anyone growing olives in the Willamette (I live in Eugene). Do you know how the olive trees fared in the cold snap last winter? Olives seem like they would be a great addition to the personal and commercial crops grown here.

From what I've been told, it was the worst freeze in 30/40 years depending on if you count absolute low temperature or period of time below X degrees (the latter, of which it was worst in 40 years, is probably the more important for olives). My parents trees (arbequina and arbosana variants, I believe) suffered some significant damage: about 30% killed, about 30% significant damage, the rest only minor or no damage. Their trees, however, are only 2 years old, and olives I'm told become more cold hardy after 3-5 years. From the experience of other growers with more established trees, they weathered the freeze fine or with only very little damage. So, it seems that the area, while marginal, will work for olive oil production. Olive trees (in close commercial planting) bear full crops after 5 years or so (less, but still productive from 3-5 years), so even if there's a 40-year freeze that they can't handle, it may still be a commercially viable crop. Either way, they (and the 10 or so others ahead of them in the area) are pioneers in something that may or may not work out. Seems like a good resiliency play to me, especially in non-commercial scale where individuals could put sheets over the trees with a lightbulb or something during the worst freezes?

Olive _trees_ can survive quite a lot; freezes and fires alike, they are very tough. However, if a tree gets
a frost in the fall, it will lose its fruit (and the fruit is a winter fruit, the olives are not really ready
until december or so, depending on climate even ranging into february). If a tree gets a real serious freeze
and parts of it die, the tree will grow back, but produce basically no fruit that year because of the shock. so,
the trees will long-term survive in a lot of environments but you might not get very many olives.
I'm surprised by anyone growing olive trees in Oregon- i would think it too cool and wet for them. Olives need a
chilly winter, even a light frost, and they need a good wetting in the winter, but they also like a lot of sun
and a long mostly dry summer. Without a lot of sun, they don't produce very much oil even if they still give fruit.
And a lot of moisture in the late summer and fall, say august to november, will greatly increase the chances
of the fruit being attacked by its favorite pest, a small fly, and going rotten on the tree. One side effect of the
pests is that it raises the acidity of the oil in the fruit (i dont know if this is a result of the tree's response to
the pest or if this is a result of the fruit starting to go bad).
Olives are quite an investment to do from scratch. You have to plant wild trees and let them grow for a few
years to get strong, and then if you are going for a commercial crop, you have to graft on cuttings of a merchantable
variety, and then it takes a couple of years for the tree to recover from the grafting and be ready to produce fruit.
5 to 6 years is considered normal to the first mentionable crop, and from there it takes another ten years for
a tree to come into full productivity.. though with proper pruning, a commercial grower will then keep the tree in
that condition for another 20-30 years. Then every 30-40 years, the trees are pruned down to the trunk and either re-grown
on the original graft stock, or re-grafted and the process from there is repeated. The root of the tree will live
for a thousand plus years, once planted, though.
Wild olive trees are identical to domesticated ones except that the fruit is naturally much smaller. specific mutations
have been grafted now for millenia actually. If you aren't going for selling them on the market, then you might
not care too much about the specific fruit variety and all the extra work that goes into grafting, and take in exchange
a smaller crop (higher ratio of the total fruit produced is in the seed with wild fruit). It wouldn't make much
difference for oil, though a higher ratio of oil produced will not be really suitable for you to eat (but still useful
for the million other things oil is useful for) (and actually the lower quality oil you can make from the seed in a
second pressing or even worse, a third pressing using heat, is often still sold for eating by unscrupulous vendors!).

you could get a bit of a head start in propagation by planting the shoots that the tree puts up from its roots, though
I have never heard of someone doing this in an orchard.

If anyone is serious about olives, research the climate and geographic conditions of southern greece, where olives are
native and wild. Long hot summer, very moderate or even low humidity in the summer and fall, the first rains of the
year are late, like november, and the rain is basically over by may. It can even get snow sometimes, but seldom a
real freeze (and when it does, you dont have a crop to mention the season after that). you prune the trees
after you take the last fruits, which can be anywhere from december to even march depending on how cool the winter is,
cooler winter, slower fruit maturation. you'd pick fruit early (like november) for salting and eating, and leave them
as long as possible for oil, as oil content increases as the fruit ripens on the tree.
and, olive trees don't like water sitting on the roots. They tolerate dryness very well, and if they get any moisture,
they are very good about making use of it, but they like a good heavy rain occasionally with decent drainage. The roots
go deep, so if the ground is permeable/breakable by roots, they will be happy (like greek rock-soil).. hard clay, they will not do well at all.
ok, this is getting to be a long post.

Parts of Oregon certainly lack the sunny, dry summer, but the Willamette Valley is pretty hot, sunny, and dry in the Summer (105 degrees two weeks ago, though this is not normal). It's actually quite a Mediterranean climate (cool wet winters, hot dry summers), which is one reason why it's a prime pinot noir grape region. Quality wine grapes, like olives, mature late and can't tolerate much rainfall during the harvest period. Willamette Valley seems to have a problem with early rain/cold every 5-7 years, but otherwise their grape harvest conditions mirror many mediterranean climates which succeed in growing olives, which has led to the interest in exploring olive cultivation. Similarly, the soils that work best for grapes tend to work well for olives. That said, olives in this climate do not yet have an established track record... another case of explore the possibilities, but don't put all your eggs in one basket.

wow, very interesting. how old are the trees your folks planted now? were they from seed, or were they bought
as saplings? (from seed they will adapt better to where they grow, but, takes longer). Have they flowered yet?
from the picture they look like this is their second year? maybe third if from seeds?
A common thing done in greece is interplanting olive trees with a leguminous tree which i think it is related to
carobs. It of course helps restore nitrogen in the soil. the bean-pods are happily eaten by animals grazing under
the trees, and my grandparents say people also ate them during the wars.
this practice, though, since the fifties has been mostly ignored in newer groves, since after that time I-NPK has been cheap and plentiful.

Do you have any fig trees up there? if grapes are growing there and the climate is favorable for an olives experiment,
figs would do wonderfully. and very tasty.

I think they're second year from saplings--I know they planted them from 2" pots. That's very interesting about the leguminous trees traditionally used in a guild in Greece--please let me know if you find the name of the tree, it's something I'll definitely have to research. One of my personal interests is in mesquite tree guilds (not an Oregon issue, though), and this seems like a similar concept...

They do have three figs--they're growing like crazy and already bearing fairly heavily. They had no damage in the freeze (outdoor, unprotected), but they're better established (my guess is they're 5 years or so). They also have two older olives in pots (maybe 4 years), more decorative but the same species, and they had no damage.

From a climate perspective, I'm told they're located (McMinnville/Amity area) in something called the Van Duzer (?) corridor, which is the lowest pass in the coast range in Oregon. The result is that they get much more marine influence in the winter (not as cold) but also more sun in the summer. I could be describing that wrong, that's the best of my memory at the moment, but it's something like the "sunshine coast" phenomena in B.C. north of Vancouver--they get the best of the rain shadow effect (more sun) but also the moderating marine influence at the same time.

in greek those leguminous trees are called xaroupies, and the fruit was usually considered something to give as a treat to donkeys and horses (and basically work animals), or else let for the regular animals (sheep and goats) to eat if they found them. I found this on the interwebs with a picture of the tree: http://tinyurl.com/pcl8dk .

nice to her about the figs. three trees... they should get a lot of figs once the trees mature! yes, they tolerate much
harsher weather before they lose a crop of fruit. I even see occasional fig trees here in switzerland, and have heard of them in the US in sheltered hillsides in pittsburgh! But, those colder environments won't get such good fruit, in quality or
total amount.

Well, i definitely learned something about the climates up there. This is something i think a lot of us city dwellers
easily forget or miss, the importance of paying attention to microclimates. the other side of the same hill might
be quite different!

Here in Bourgogne (France) it is prime Pinot Noir country, but unfortunately no olive trees. I guess they knew what they were doing here in the past, but it does make me wonder whether it is possible to grow olives here successfully. You've got me thinking :)

BTW, when are you going to start your posts on the "Diagonal Economy". I'm looking forward to them :)

BTW, why is it that every time (or lots of times) I read a book or a blog that appeals to me and it turns out the author is from Oregon? I bought a book about Permaculture called Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway, he's from Oregon. I have a book here about building your own solar food dryer by a guy from Oregon. I enjoy reading John Michael Greer's blog, he's from Ashland. George Mobus from the excellent Question Everything blog lives in Washington (close enough) and now it turns out your parents are also living in Oregon, and you bet I liked some of the stuff I read over at your blog.

As a European I have to ask: Is the Northwest the only sane place in the US? ;-)

I actually had a look at the real estate pricing in parts of Oregon for my amateur homestead project, but unfortunately it's not really an option for our budget (though it is in Euros, so who knows).

Oregon, Oregon, Oregon... If things don't come crashing down I'll be sure to visit it one day. It has captured my imagination.

I think this is a great post, and that the general theme that building a homestead is more difficult than one would think, is right on the money. However, my friends who have done it have done so in 3-4 years, and with far less money. They didn't try to keep one foot in the 'real world' however, and just went for it, 100% immersion. They also aren't 100% self sufficient, and don't have kids or debt.

I think the notion of having to be 100% self sufficient is faulty. The idea that there will be NO economy or trading in the future is plain silly. 3000 years ago people in Persia built a 1500 mile road to trade among themselves. The ideas of economy, commerce, buying, selling, trading have been around for many thousands of years, and will remain. Humans are economic beings. That said, the economy is certainly going to 'change', and reducing one's dependence on it will increase your happiness and quality of life later (as well as now, I'd argue).

Like it not, we're all in this together. You can hide out on your homestead, but you'd better have your own private militia in the event that our government can't sustain food supplies during a crisis/collapse. All those who have not prepared as you have will come a looking for something to eat, and as Bob Marley says, "a hungry mob is an angry mob". In other words, you'll only succeed on your homestead if society at large succeeds on some level.

I personally believe that money spent on building community supported agriculture will pay itself back with security, 100 fold over bullets and guns.

I applaud your efforts, and am doing the same thing, but it's because I believe that the more I can disconnect myself economically from this system, the better quality of life I'll have. If everything collapses, I have no more chance than some computer programmer in the city.

Shifting to a farm life? It didn't took me more than a month. I hired a farmer family, bought some land, animals, seeds and starting fertilizers. The tube well was there already. First crop was of wheat and there we go. Ofcourse I am only planting some grains and vegetables, not a balanced diet but I can trade my grains for some fruits down the village. The industrial needs are very limited, I basically have stocked all that I would be needing for a long time: clothes, soaps, leather, tools, wood etc.

A family farm need not be greater than 5 acres if the land gets 4000 cubic meters water per acre. It means either 20 inches of rain or 2 acre-ft/acre canal-water or 10 inches of rain AND 1 acre-ft/acre canal-water. The tubewells can recycle the water atleast once making the natural supply of 2000 cubic meters to 4000 cubic meters per acre per year. Right now I am using electricity to run the tube wells but I am trying to somehow use cows and bulls to extract water using archimides' screw. The farm grows 5 tons of grains in winter and 3 tons of cotton in summer. I ofcourse don't need that much cotton but its a good item for trade especially because I am able to store it for long time without spoiling it, to be sold when prices comes down after a crop.

If put totally on grains an average person (including kids and elderly) having 50 kg mass needs 200 kg grains, an average woman having 62.5 kg mass 250 kg grains and an average man having mass 75 kg 300 kg grains. Ofcourse you can't feed people totally on grains, its not a balanced diet. So what I do is to feed half on grains (by calories) and other half comes from other food items. These items include vegetables that are grown in two months between the two crops, fruits that I buy or barter from nearby orchard and milk that I get from cows feeding them grains and straw.

You can get 1 kg meat and 8 kg milk by feeding 32 kg straw, grains or grass-hay to cows. You have to have atleast two cows to have a regular supply of milk because a cow atmost produce milk half a year. Ofcourse you have to keep some milk in frozen form as butter or cheese. I am using local cows that have a mass of 200 kg and they consume about 2 kg straw or grains per year. Since I am growing 5 tons of grains so I am also getting 5 tons of straw all of which goes to cows. Some 3 tons of grains goes to bulls (I am keeping one) and goats. The total food going to animals therefore is 8 tons: 5 tons straw and 3 tons grains. Mass of an average adult goat is 50 kg (I don't find any considerable difference in masses of adult males and females). It means they consume 400 kg straw, grains or grass-hay per year. It is because for each kg mass every living organism of higher order needs 40 to 60 calories per day (in case of goats its 40) and each gram of straw, grains and grass-hay contains 2 calories. I keep 5 goats (1 male, 4 females) who collectively consume 2 tons of grains.

Note that the most important thing at a farm, especially at a starting farm is grain production. Any farmer who try to focus on vegetables production is wasting his effort because each kg of grain contains as much calories as 14 kg of vegetables. Also you can't feed vegetables to your animals but you can feed them grains. So, my advice here is to try to learn about how to produce grains: wheat, millet, rice, barley, corn etc. Barley infact should be the choice of a starting farmer as it contains more calories than wheat and produce a higher yield and can also be fed to animals. Wheat on the other hand can't be fed to animals for a large number of days.

Another thing of importance is buildings. You have to have atleast one building at your farm which should be divided into 4 parts: grain store house, animals keeping place, tools and ploughs keeping place, a living room for you to live because you would have to stay at farm at nights occasionally. Farm can be near to your house if you are lucky but the norm is a distance between these two. It is because houses are made near other houses and other community buildings and because villagers try to make houses at non-fertile land like rocks to save as much fertile land as they can.

A very good way to keep yourself warm in winter and at nights and also to run your stove is to use cows' manure. Collect it with a shovel while its still wet and dump it in round disks like shapes on some wall or flat ground till it dry. Then you can burn it in stove. It gives lots of smoke and ashes but its the most easy and available fuel you can find at a farm.

For ploughing and transportation you can always use your cows and bulls.

Shifting to a farm life? It didn't took me more than a month. I hired a farmer family, bought some land, animals, seeds and starting fertilizers.

If it were to be allowed, I would be interested in a guest post by WisdomFromPakistan on what he experiences as reality in the here and now. Being able to, in effect, buy a farmer and a farm, and (per his past posts) buy and own slaves to be used for any purpose, is - if true - several levels grittier than most of what is discussed here.

As examples of the way things are now - in the present - in a different locale, it may be a good reality check for our imaginations. As TOD's self-professed slave-owner, WFP would have an interesting story to tell about being human in his situation.

So Wisdom, would you be up for that? Or to post to a blog you could link to?

I own slaves? When, where.

Guess I have you confused with another poster. Apologies.

EDIT: well say, this might be one of the posts that confused me, though I think I also recall others:

"Though where I live (Pakistan) the virus has not reached yet (it do has reached asia in china) I find it easy to shut down and limit myself to my farm. I infact am living in this almost isolated village since more than a year. The 8 acres that I have are more than enough to provide food and good income to me, my family and my slaves. Speaking of slaves they also provide good company especially when they are of opposite sex :). Yes it is illegal to keep slaves in Pakistan but many people do."

So, my confusion was apparently in thinking that when you said "my slaves", that you owned & boned some. Mea culpa.

Not slaves literally. Just cheap labour.

"Slaves" was your original description; as well as the implication that female slaves were good company. If you're backing off from that, I can understand it. I'll let your words stand.

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
Fred Astaire

Things have come to a pretty pass,
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that.

Goodness knows what the end will be;
Oh, I don't know where I'm at...
It looks as if we two will never be one,
Something must be done.

You say either and I say eyether,
You say neither and I say nyther;
Either, eyether, neether, nyther,
Let's call the whole thing off!

You like potato and I like potaeto,
You like tomato and I like tomaeto;
Potato, potaeto, tomato, tomaeto!
Let's call the whole thing off!

But oh! If we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part.
And oh! If we ever part,
Then that might break my heart!

So, if you like pajamas and I like pajahmas,
I'll wear pajamas and give up pajahmas.
For we know we need each other,
So we better call the calling off off.
Let's call the whole thing off!

You say laughter and I say lawfter,
You say after and I say awfter;
Laughter, lawfter, after, awfter,
Let's call the whole thing off!

You like vanilla and I like vanella,
You, say parilla and I say parella;
Vanilla, vanella, Chocolate, strawberry!

So, if you go for oysters and I go for orsters
I'll order oysters and cancel the orsters.
For we know we need each other,
So we better call the calling off off!

I reserve judgement but I do have a friend who owns a few rentals who refers to his tenants as his slaves(as in economic slavery) in private.

I could see that in some environments such language is colloquially acceptable ,I also know of men in this country who refer to thier wives and sisters as,ahem,sex workers.

And although most of us would rather not discuss it,there are many women who are kept as girl friends who care very little if at all for thier boyfriends.

This does not bother me if the lady has reasonable options of the moving out kind,but it is very sad if she has no choice but to stay in order to have a place to live.

You can always trade in any kind of economy as long as you have something worthy to be traded. Food would always be in demand, so do cotton and wood. If you want to be safe don't invest on trees in a collapsing empire, it takes years to have a grown up tree and minutes to burn it down. To be safe invest on grain crops. If they are burned they can be planted again the next week and grown again in 6 months. You can eat the grains yourself if you like or feed it to your animals to get animal products: milk, meat, skin, eggs and fats. You can also trade them with the guy down the hill with his fruits or wood. You can actually rely on nearby forest to provide yourself with enough wild fruits if you have a sufficiently large forest nearby. A true farmer is one who knows how to grow grains. Growing vegetables is much easier task that could be done by almost anybody. When you have a farm don't forget to keep some animals. Reduce your dependence on automatic machines called engines as much as you can. Most probably you would not be able to feed a tractor, truck, electric saw etc even if you somehow grow enough sugar cane and know how to convert it in ethanol. The whole process is way too long, requires too much labour (used to be slave work in americas) and putting ethanol in engines would probably ruin the engine pretty soon once you are unable to blend it with petrol. If you can afford get a larger farm, 10 acres to have a safety factor of 2 or 20 acres if you want to be ultra safe. Note that you can't avoid community, if not for anything else then sheer loneliness. There are certain services that need to be fulfilled by an expert outsider since you can't be expert in every thing. You have to have a doctor for chronic diseases, a surgeon for injuries and an specialist for pregnancies.


Kudos. Unfortunately, I don't have time to read all the comments, but am sure there are great responses, too.

We are currently visiting a place that has been going for about 6 years or so. About as you describe, interestingly enough. This is why I wanted to come see things first-hand. Reality is *VERY* interesting.

Thanks for this.


What is one to think of such a discussion? It just blows my mind that anyone could see this whole discussion as anything other than complete "noble savage" back to nature neo-primitivist fantasy. It's the kind of thing that David Koresh, the Unibomber or Timothy McVeigh and other anti-government anti-authoritarian new age anarchists might have pictured as an acceptable or even potentially possible lifestyle,but I cannot envision any normally civilized human thinking that this whole scenario could be acceptable or even potentially possible as a mode of living. It just blows my mind.

Some will say "oh it's going to happen, so it's not a question of being "acceptable". These are the same folks who would argue that nuclear power is not acceptable, or that massive coal or coal to liquid or gas to liquids projects are not acceptable due to climate change, or that renewables including solar, wind, geothermal and methane recapture are not acceptable because they may cost too much.

Not acceptable compared to what? The proposal that Todd gave is assured death for almost all who would attempt it IF we actually had to live it(in my own case, lack of modern medicine ends the game before it would even start, and if it took me as many years and as much money as Todd implies, I would be broke and dead anyway before I could even get underway...and most baby boomers would be in a similiar position very soon if not already), so we are really talking about a very elitist program, but even at that a completely unrealistic one (even the wealthy do not escape aging and health issues).

And the question would become WHY? Let me put it this way...I HATE the thought of expanded coal burning, to me it is almsot a type of holocaust for humans and other living creatures. But being a human, looking out for humans, I would endorse it over what Todd is proposing. I think that coal to liquid and gas to liquid schemes are for the most part idiotic, but I would gladly endorse them if I thought the lack of liquid fuels for transportation would lead to the kind of catastrophic collapse that seems to be absolutely accepted in the replies to Todd's post as a pre-ordained destiny (and of course I DON'T accept that premise, and simply cannot, no matter how hard I try to make it make sense, it just comes across as absolute manic hysteria) To my mind, and this is after years and years of examination, it comes across as Olduvai gorge religion, and if one cannot accept the religion of the Olduvai gorge, then the rest of the logic falls apart on the face of it.

And if one, by some strange logic, were to accept the Olduvai gorge collapse premise, even the methods and timetables of Todd do not hold up to closer scrutiny...he says that even if a community were to accept such a change they would need as much time and be almost certain to fail. Here in central Kentucky, we had a group of Amish come into the area and were established and running self relient businesses, raising their food and managing their horses inside of 5 years, and they were in no particular hurry! (they started from raw farmland, since like Todd, they like to do things their own way) I have friends who upon getting out of high school in the 1970's were at a level of self sufficiency comparable to what Todd describes with wife and child inside 5 years easily. Their methods were much simpler however: Basement house facing south, woodstove, gardens, chickens, sometimes pigs or cows. Recently we suffered the worst ice storm in history. Many of these folks were knocked off the grid and isolated from getting food or other items supplied. Most of them barely noticed.

How did these folks do it? They had two main advantages: They started at 20 years old in good health and they had always been dirt poor so they were used to it. They sure did not, in fact could never have dreamed of spending the time and money that Todd talks about, even the most able among us could not have done it, it's sheer fantasy. And these folks are now getting ready to reap the fruit of their lifestyle, as they age into poor health and disability with no health insurance, no savings, and no potential for anything but an impoverished final few years of life. I have seen this all of my life, it is the fate of so many in the rural south who when they were young bragged that they were "self-sufficient", but now will have to rely on the survival of the complex systems they were taught to hate for their own survival.

I can usually judge the reality factor of some of these plans by one thing: How much priority did they put on seed? Did Todd even mention it? Because from year to year, this will be the most fragile part of the program other than medical care (which if you need, you die, so that ends that concern). "There are three varieties of blueberries and a total of 10 varieties of grapes" (???????), and not one word about saving and propagating seed. One marvels at a survival farm that would need 10 varieties of grapes, and God forbid a world without blueberries (???????), but must picture going to the seed store or Walmart's garden section to buy the narrow band of available seeds that the big agro companies will still allow (!!!) Al Gore tried to tell the world about lack of seed and declining seed diversity over 20 years ago (it is a MUCH faster moving threat than peak oil a this time), but he was ignored while everyone argued about a carbon tax!

Surely I have said too much, but (!!!). I am normally not nearly so direct (although I have been once or twice on TOD) and I surely intend no personal disrespect for Todd, I am sure his farm is going to be very beautiful, and at the end he will be proud of what he has done. He seems like a dedicated and certainly hard working guy. But if this farm is proposed as any type of realistic plan for survival (as opposed to a very demanding hobby farm), then someone must point to the elephant in the room, the emperor with no clothes.

I would simply ask anyone who reads the essay by Todd and the replies to it to show this logic to anyone they know, and see if ANYONE can make real sense of it upon some reflection.(and if you say "well, the rest of the world is ignorant and can't understand the TRUTH, but I have heard THE TRUTH!, you must surely as thinking people realize the path that becomes...

Does anyone realize how this type of neo-primitive "neo-feudalism" cultism is discrediting to the whole cause of discussion of resource depletion (which is VERY real) or to the cause of attempted adjustment (which must occur) or to the cause of getting away from fossil fuel (which must be done...(a man with three working fossil fuel vehicles advising on work ponies!!)?...while others who predict the collapse of the Western world still believe they will get fuel for their tractor!!)

We MUST, MUST, be the thoughtful ones, the sensible ones...I am a long time convert to the core ideas of peak oil and the need for a greatly changed system, but can I be honest here? If someone wanted to teach a child of mine the logic that was in this string of posts, or wanted a platform to teach it to the young in my nation, I would have to ask them to leave...teach this stuff to your own kids, but not to mine and not on the public dime. I am sorry to have to say that, but to my mind neo-primitivism and Olduvai Collapse ARE a cultish form of psuedo-science and superstition as primitive as astrology or palm reading. I don't know if I have said that in such a direct fashion here on TOD before, but I know I have said this: There comes a point in time wherein we must choose our side and live with it. It is a greatly freeing moment, but it does run the risk of annoying frieds and soon to be former friends!


I believe your opinion is correct from your point of view, but your point of view seems overly narrow. I'll also add at this point that what Todd is doing is not for me either.

The way I see it is that we cannot approach the problem from a purely top-down approach and simply move everyone into a newly minted or modified system of living en mass. Even if possible, financial, energy and climate chaos probably won't allow it, add to that the sticky problem of social reluctance to change. I see things happening in a more bottom-up manner with society naturally adopting workable solutions thus identified. Perhaps with government eventually following along and solidifying the new systems via top-down refinement.

First, for the bottom-up approach to begin, people need to get out from under the failing but still powerful totalitarian economic system that restricts activity to BAU. So people must have the choice of living in different ways, Todd's way being just one of many possible ways, existing or to be discovered. My own preference is for localisation, I have a micro-farm in a village, 10 miles from town and 2 hours from Paris. Nothing I'm planning on doing is radically new, but a re-establishment of a system that worked for my village for the last 1,200 years (and if the stone tools I found in my vegetable beds are anything to go by, a lot longer than that). And yes, I do expect to have fuel for my 17hp tractor, but if not, then horses would be an acceptable alternative.

The more ways that people find to live outside the confines of BAU and the tyranny of our economic system the better. We have to evolve different more sustainable ways to live and the more people experimenting how, the better. The economic system will fail and BAU will not be possible, people confined within the non-functioning system will be left in a position of extreme difficulty.

Very nice post. Do you write about your village and micro-farm...a blog perhaps? I would be interested in reading about your day-to-day experiences.

Thank you. No, I don't have a blog, it'd be too boring (for the reader that is) :)

Anything in particular that your interested in?

You may be sorry you asked ;)

Micro-farm ... how much acreage? What sorts of animals do you keep? What do you use to fertilize (i.e. guano, blood, compost, etc... or ff based)? What types of vegetables do you grow? What is your climate like (how long is the growing season)? How are you meeting your energy needs - you mention gas for tractor - are you doing solar/hydro/wind? Do you have wells for water or natural streams?

Anything you'd like to divulge about the village in general (how many people, jobs, etc...) would also be nice to hear about.

I could go on and on but you get the idea. If you'd like to take this offline, my address is single (dot) carrier (dot) (at) gmail (dot) com.


Wow! Ok where do I start.

Farm is just under 12 acres, approximately 4-5 acres available for cultivation (some flat, some sloped), the rest woodland. Currently we have 23 laying chickens, but plan to have chickens, ducks and geese for meat plus some goats for milk (we don't use cows milk), possibly some pigs (oh, and bees). The key being the ability to manage what we have already before adding more animals.

Fertiliser, anything and everything, except I-NPK. Manure and compost are added to the land, but are insufficient for good crops, O-NPK is used to top-up. Guano, blood, bone meal is used for potting compost. Vegetables; we tend to grow as broad a range as possible, plus sweet corn and potatoes (although we have a problem with brassicas due to the flea beetle). We use organic methods but are not registered as organic.

Our climate varies, being in central France it is mainly continental, but sometimes we get Mediterranean or maritime climates as the climate zones tend to move about and we're near the area where they meet. Growing season is effectively May to September due to frosts, but some hardy plants can be grown outside those periods. Growing season extension is certainly feasible using polytunnels, but we haven't gone that route yet, other than a small one for early seed planting.

Energy wise, we have plenty of nuclear energy here in France and fuel usage for equipment is less than the average person would use commuting. Water is currently heated by electricity (something that needs changing) home heating by wood which I cut myself, cooking currently by bottled gas (but will be changed to wood soon). Potable water comes from the community's local water source (albeit via a utility company) for the rest we use rain water and we also have a stream on the boundary of our land. Crops are rainfed and the planting regime is based on that (no intensive planting).

The village has a population of circa 150, many retired, and there is 3 other villages in walking distance. The village 2 miles away has a shop, 2 bakeries, 2 butchers, pharmacy, post office. The main town is 10 miles away, nearest city 20 miles and in between a network of villages spaced walking distance apart.

If there is any particular aspect you're interested in then by all means ask. The general philosophy behind what I'm doing is to be able to live in the here and now, whilst progressively cutting the links to BAU. It's not possible to go from A to Z in one step, it's a slow process of A to B, B to C and so on.

I really do feel as though I am living in the wrong time or wrong place or both. What you have described seems so much more fulfilling/meaningful than what I do here in the US. And to know that you are successful is even that much more motivating. Thanks for the insight.

Couple other questions:

How many of you work the 12 acres directly? You and significant other ... or do you also have kids that can help?

What is housing like? Did you build yourself?

Yes, I feel my wife, daughter and myself are very fortunate to have managed the transition from city life in the UK to rural life here in France. Although I must add that the transition has been undertaken on the back of BAU, plus the support of the socialist system here in France and the conservative nature of the French themselves (as in they want to keep the old ways alive). In a collapse situation it wouldn't have been possible.

I generally work the land myself with some help with weeding and harvesting from family and friends. Vegetable cultivation is approximately one acre, but increasing each year. To bring the land back into use requires a tremendous amount of work (clay with plenty of stones) especially felling large trees that are causing too much shade. Winter is generally forestry work, felling, cutting, splitting and hauling firewood. I tend to work at a constant 60% capacity, as with survival situations, if you put in 100% you're not going to survive.

Our house is an old farm house, 100 plus years old, but as Todd says it probably would have been better to build from new.

One thing I should say is that when someone leaves BAU, they are leaving a simple lifestyle and entering into a significantly more complex one. In BAU peoples lives have been simplified by the system so that all their energy can be devoted to the economy. When you leave it, you have to devote your time to doing everything yourself. It's a trade-off between being free or being a slave within the system, the Matrix being a good metaphor for this.

My ancestors migrated to New Orleans from Lyon on my mother's side. On my father's side, my family is also French, but I do not know specifically which city. My girlfriend and I are planning a trip there someday - hopefully soon. We plan to visit the countryside. Looks like Bourgogne has just been added to the list of places for us to see. :)

I have to say, what an excellent reply (though ThatsItImOut's post was quite reasonable in it's own way). It encapsulates my mindset a few years further down the road.

This post and comments have turned into something quite interesting, but there's one thing I haven't read anything about: Permaculture. Doesn't carefully planned permaculture design reduce the strenuous workload somewhat in the long run, by getting more energy out of a system with less human energy going in?

I thoroughly agree

I have seen this all of my life, it is the fate of so many in the rural south who when they were young bragged that they were "self-sufficient", but now will have to rely on the survival of the complex systems they were taught to hate for their own survival.

Why? Kids to take over? If no kids, they could offer the farm to young couples in return for food and care. Or perhaps they understand the implications the life they have chosen and have accepted that they will just die in their beds when they can no longer manage. If these people were as determined as you claim, there is a possibility that they will not succomb to relying on the complex systems around them. Not everyone is afraid of death.

Unless their kids are doctors and chemists they may struggle to provide adequate medical care. Especially without bandages, antibiotics, painkillers, medical instruments, vaccines etc. But I guess your're trying to pre-empt this point by saying:

Not everyone is afraid of death

To which I reply, they may not be afraid of death, but they will probably not welcome years of painful and debilitating illness without relief.

..., but they will probably not welcome years of painful and debilitating illness without relief.

I don't doubt that, but not all will suffer years of painful and debilitating illness. There are a whole slew of other reasons they could die. For those that do suffer for years, I am sure that they will question their decisions. But again, we are talking about individuals that were "taught to hate" the complex systems. Pride will probably keep them from seeking help and admitting defeat.

So yes, some will suffer.

Ok, you have written a lot about why Todd’s plan is not practical even for those able bodied and knowable, but you have said very little about what might be workable. The issue comes down to what might happen and if so how best to prepare for it. The argument that there is no hope and why this is true, has merit, but I think this is better hashed out outside of this discussion.

I agree with some of your post. Homesteading the old hippie way is possible but very difficult. Is there a better way? The one item in your post that caught my attention was your portrayal about the Amish families. Their approach does seem to work better. Why is this? I for one have no use for the religious part of this lifestyle but I would hope that this is not a must have part of it.

So if Todd's plan is no go what is your suggestion?


On the lack of an emphasis on seed: that is because of a strong emphasis on perennial crops and grazed livestock. Neither of these is strongly dependent on a seed supply.

The garden most definitely is, however, and one of the skills any serious gardener or dirt farmer should have is the knowledge of how to harvest and store the seeds of their crops.

On the rest: this is but one path among many. Not all of the paths are going to be for everyone. That doesn't mean we should not discuss them, that is what the Campfire posts are for.

I remember being poor on a small farm as a kid, I'm not in any hurry to repeat that experience. This path is not for me. Obviously this path is not for you either. For other people this may be a bit of heaven on earth, which is a good thing for me because I like apples, grapes, and blueberries.


In regard to your 3:39 am post:

I agree wholeheratedly with you nearly everything you say with a couple of qualifications.

One is that I can't see any way to ABSOLUTELY rule out a back to the stone age crash,although such a scenario seems unlikely in the extreme to me.But things could get rough indeed and pdq in the event of a serious war,and the odds of that seem dangerously high to me.In any case I foresee a couple or more VERY tough decades starting now or very soon.
But I believe the ELECTRIC power will stay on,and that therewill still be cops-maybe,PROBABLY, a LOT MORE COPS.
I myself have refrained from criticing many posts that have in my estimation too much of the pollyanna and not enough of sweat or day to day common sense incorporated,and for much the same reasons you give-a desire refrain from offending and insulting other posters who do some hard work and often serious thinking.

May be I should take good advice given in this very thread and turn my dogs loose on some of the stuff I see here more often,feelings be damned.

But there is also a consideration involved wherein somebody like Todd has to be cut a lot of slack,for he is obviously sincere and writing from the perspective if a man fronm a world different from yours and mine.More than likely his "gut measure" of money is far different from yours and mine,as he has held some serious money jobs.

My old Daddy can't understand the concept of having a lot of money,it blows him away that one of our new nieghbors(who will never be a friend unfortunately) can afford to spend over a hundred grand and counting to excavate a basement in solid granite.When I tell him that to this guy a couple of hundred thousand is no more than a hundred to him,he just shakes his head.

I have lived and worked among business owners and executives and doctors ,etc,(always as an underling) and can say w/o doubt that from thier pov Todd's plan probably looks realistic if tough to execute.

And I have to beg a little forgiveness and indulgence often myself as I don't always make myself clear,and will never be able to spend a lot of time getting a free comment really tightly organized.

I an sure that if Todd were to expand his piece into a book he would sound a lot more realistic,as there would be space for all the stuff he has left out of his piece here.


Your post is off the wall and not worthy of a serious reply.


"Your post is off the wall and not worthy of a serious reply."

And yet you did reply Todd...and for that I am appreciative. I have reread my post, and had time to think about it, and hoped for an opportunity to reply to you as an individual.

As I reread what I wrote, I can find no reason to back away from the logic of what I said. I am somewhat concerned by the tone taken in my prior post, and was concerned that it would be taken as a somewhat personal broadside against the auther, i.e., you.

That was never the intent. I think the farm as you described it in your post is a noble venture, and I respect the hard work that must be required to accomplish the completion of it. I am certain I was not as clear in stating that as I should have been. Many of the practical ideas you discussed should be helpful to anyone attempting to do the same thing in creating a farm of that type.

My issue, and it is a very deep divide, involves the contest of ideas. On one side, those talanted people who are needed to help us recreate our society into a more rational and sustainable one, and on the other side, those talented people who would abandon it at it's hour of need.

I would have had the same difference with the wealthy emperors and rich upper crust of Rome in it's decline, Diocletian or Hadrian with their country palaces, walls and gardens guarded by private armies as Rome declined and their fellow Romans suffered. Such was Rome nicked to pieces, one small part at a time, because it's potential defenders, those who had benefited so much by being Roman, walked away and left her defenseless.

I would had the same difference with the Monastic Christians, who used the gift of their literacy and great humane philosophy to create small cults, and walked away from the people that their savior had instructed them to help.

This is not a new argument.

Such it is today, in a nation that wails that there are no heros of the type that slung themselves onto the beaches at Normandy, and then fly into a rage if they are told they should limit their consumption or pay a higher fuel tax, or build the alternative future which can salvage the greatest culture on the face of Earth (I am referring NOT to any particular nation, but to the survival of all of Western science and learning).

My argument was not against you personally Todd, but was intended in opposition to the very core of the set of ideas the project represents as it was presented on TOD.

There is nothing wrong with a farm. There is certainly nothing wrong with a low consumption, hopefully sustainable farm. But the ideas represented in your essay really were not about farming, were they?

But each to their own belief, as we know, we all have the freedom to do pretty much anything we please and believe anything we choose, if we are aware that we must live with the consequences. Those who have doubts about the belief system also have the right to say so. But it should be done politely. In my effort to clearly state how strongly I am certain that many in the nation are being led into catastrophic dreams of individualistic noble savage primitivism (I can find no other words to describe it) that can never be realized, I am sure that I came across as more strident in my opposition to your project and you personally than I may have intended, and appeared to be engaging in a type of personal attack on you, Todd. For that I owe you an apology.

My goal was not to be on the attack on you, and any perception of such was my error in my use of language.

My goal was to come across as on the attack against the set of ideas that are embodied in the description of the enterprise...and in that, I simply could not find the language to express my opposition strongly enough. Thank you for your time, and again, as to your project creating a working and beautiful farm, I wish you only the best of fortune. Diocletian’s palace and gardens may have built based on mercurial and mercenary treason to all he and his fellow Romans had once stood for (citizenship, co-operation, sacrifice, achievement, posterity), but they are beautiful even in ruins! Todd, do the farm up beautifully and leave the world something magnificent. :-)


i jump in because similarly i have felt attacked/judged by u. i think for me on a couple of occasions.

'My goal was not to be on the attack on you, and any perception of such was my error in my use of language.

My goal was to come across as on the attack against the set of ideas that are embodied in the description of the enterprise...and in that, I simply could not find the language to express my opposition strongly enough. '

u are missing u'r goal so much u should do a post re u'r position so that u attack u'r own ideas, to present/clarify them rather than people. u might change u'r mind, but if not i'd welcome the exchange of ideas/clarifying my own if u presented a well reasoned post.


Maybe I have finally figured out what you are trying to say. Is it that you believe what Tood's is advocating is to disconnect from the outside world and stand back unconcerned while everyone else crashes and burns? I sure do not read it that way. To me Todd has spent a major part of his life putting together the infrastructure that will likely be needed. His hard work will benefit everyone, at least in some small way.

Wow. I never thought you had anything to apologize for. I thought yours was one of the lone voices of reason in this thread.

Todd wrote another main post awhile back and got cranky with critiques of it. That doesn't mean the critiques were necessarily wrong. Part of the problem, IMO, is that many here are trained as professionals and academics who expect critique when they put their work out there. Todd has been a lone (with his wife) homesteader for a long time; probably unused to much in the way of colleagial critique.

I didn't pay as much attention last time around to what you are emphasizing here - the problem of disconnecting with the larger society just when the "best and brightest" are needed most. I have to think about whether I agree with that or not.

But your prior post, your points about the cost and how Todd's plan is out-of-reach (hence, "elitist") for many, and how others, like the Amish (and, I would add people like Larisa Walk and Bob Dahse) set up simpler, less costly homesteads, and how much work was involved and age is a factor in success - totally worthwhile points.



Excellent article. We've been working on our homestead for going on 30 years now, starting with 75 ac of raw forested land.....and getting a little more self sufficient every year that passes.

Been thru much of what you post.....and the bottom line is the TIME is takes. Anyone that thinks they are going to "bug out" to the woods and live is in for a rude awakening.

thanks todd!!!
a keeper to reread & use to evaluate as anyone homesteads- perhaps for some after a fast crash.

TOD needs this kind of balance & energy.

above u question u'r location as u become more doomerish.

i am struggling with the same. i stayed where i was already forming a homestead as my wife & adult kids & family would not move. i feel though we have a good place to weather PO- if not too much violence- but we are within 30 mi. of 1 million folks, & a military base is 40 mi away.

i am addressing this by buying/developing a place in a small, organized, poor, rural big river village [got it for $3,000]; but it would be more like improved camping to be there currently, & we have no land for food or seclusion yet & wait for more price drops. this is eating up almost all my energy, & i don't work.

my thinking has evolved to think surviving has to be the focus initially, not sustainability longer term; & that means location is going to be determined blow by blow as society breaks down. i know u are quite secluded.

would u say more re u'r thoughts now re location. i remember u did a 'scored' evaluation of such on the year 200o blog i believe.

edit: is this what u'r other post is about?


Let's talk a little about the evolution in my thinking. I've posted some of this before.

1. I saw how the Depression impacted my mom and dad's families. My dad's father lost his business and went from lower rich to upper poor. I felt that proper preparation would have saved a lot of grief.

2. I got high enough in the executive ranks in the chemical industry to see how the system works. I saw it wasn't for me.

3. I was very impacted by social/environmental movements of the late 60's and 70's.

4. And last, but not least, all of my career preference tests in HS said I should be a farmer not a chemist much less chem plant manager.

I had decided to leave the chemical industry by 1971. Our aim at that time was to establish a small organic farm in Delaware. I had to come to the west coast (Bay area) for business and the weather sure beat DE. To make a long story short, we bought land out here in 1972 and our current place in 1979.

Our aim was still a small organic farm. Unfortunately we didn't pick the right climatic area for the crops we wanted but we still made day wages.

As time passed, it became clear to me that society was headed toward serious problems and I became far more interested in the ability to survive. This has been my guiding principle for the last 15 years at least. However, it's only within the last 5-7 years that I came to believe that collapse is the most likely outcome.

So, were I to do it all again, I would not have chosen to live in the mountains since raising crops is tough but rather found a rural location where the land was at least flat. I would also pick a location other than the west were irrigation is a necessity. I'm fortunate to have a good well and a pond but this isn't ideal.

The advantage of my location is that it is unlikely to be overrun by urban/suburban people if things to get bad. The disadvantage is that it may lose it's links to goods and services. But, FWIW, my neighbors and I have the semblance of a workable Plan B.

I know this doesn't exactly answer you but at least gives you and idea of where I'm coming from.


Edit to add: To me, sustainability and survival are two sides of the same coin. Intermediate to long term survival must be predicated upon sustainable principles and actions. Having a garden to grow food helps me to survive but the garden will cease producing food if I don't do it sustainably. Make sense?

"The advantage of my location is that it is unlikely to be overrun by urban/suburban people if things to get bad. The disadvantage is that it may lose it's links to goods and services. But, FWIW, my neighbors and I have the semblance of a workable Plan B."

that may be good as u'r type option + semi-mobility is what i would choose at this point. u'r chosen option- i have read u outline security plans for u'r place- is one that again takes time, & most importantly developed relationships. i don't think i will have much time for such unless this is a slow grinding crash; so i'll make my hedge of some mobility/fallback. i'm using orlov's model of more than one plan/option.

a lot of my thinking is that long term, 20-30 yrs.i don't think my adult children & their families will want to live this close to a hollowed out population center. we may be having this discussion soon. i hate the idea of having to defend us/this place + i haven't liked some of our semi-rural neighborhood moves lately.

as leanan/greer says my location may be good for a while; close enough to services, & sell goods but not too far out to get to the city, even by horse.

i'm gonna hedge some for sure.


todd re u'r edit;

i'm nervous that i will need to move. i've probably added 30+ tons of manure & amendments; & numerous fruit trees, relationships with neighbors, dug a pond, etc.

so; i don't like the shift my thinking/feeling has taken the last year or so as i no longer focus on our place, & sustainability here. u'r post says it; it takes lots of time, & investment.

I'm no homesteader, but even as a suburban backyard gardener I've learned that nature is a harsh master. Unseen root maggots can wreck your turnip crop, hail can shred your fruit trees, deer can eat your beans, frost can kill your seedlings, etc ... It's shockingly difficult to get consistent results without resorting to fertilizers and pesticides.

If you resort to industrial fertilisers and pesticides you'll never learn how to co-exist with nature. You have to do what nature lets you do and wants you to do, then things become easier. Nature responds to natural processes.

If I have a problem, I usually assume that it is because I'm doing something wrong and lack understanding on how it should be done. It's a never ending learning process and the more I learn the more confident I become that I can work with nature instead of against her.

When I started out it seemed an almost impossible task to grow anything, but after a few years I'm beginning to get the hang of it.

Hey hey Todd,

Quick question. How much do you actually produce and how much do you consume on your farm? If we ignoring all the logistics and financial issues how many people could you support? To be precise how many people can you feed?


Hey hey doomsteaders,

Reading this post I remembered an article I read in the NYT a few years ago about rural towns and villages shutting down because all of the young people had moved to the cities. They would make ideal locations for survival homesteads complete with supporting communities that would welcome you with open arms, developed agricultural land, numerous skilled mentors and incredibly cheap or free land. Like with Todd, the old timers would likely give you the land in exchange for having some young folks around to take care of them.

On the down side some culture shock, language barriers, and relocation required.

In Japan, a rural village on extinction's edge
Village Writes Its Epitaph: Victim of a Graying Japan

This mountain village near the Sea of Japan, withered to eight aging residents, concluded recently that it could no longer go on. So, after months of anguish, the villagers settled on a drastic solution: selling all of Ogama to an industrial waste company from Tokyo, which will turn it into a landfill.

As a first time commenter here I will just try to add a little to the excellent commentary I've read.

You will enjoy this even if you are not successful. Wiithin the limits of reason, of course. (Text is not wrapping so there may be some typos here.)

If I were going to try to do this I would try to start young with a small place. That way you can learn about microclimates, soil types, successful variants locally etc. If you like the area and the prospects, expand, or move a mile down the road.

It would be silly, of course, not to be economical, or attempt self-sufficiency where it is possible. But you will find that the longer you live in a rural environment, the more inclined you are to be economical or self-sufficient. It doesn't need to be a hurdle you leap at the first bound.

And- flat is good. Flat is your friend.

There are all kinds of books about this, of course, but my favorites would still be the books by Scott and Helen Nearing about building stone houses. They're not blueprints, they're ideas. And they, incidentally, got plenty done working half days with the afternoons reserved for reading, playing music, etc.

'Nuff said.

@ Burgundy - and to all others who don't live in the Americas.
It was great to read about your micro-farm. And it would be good to hear from others around the world, how they are planning their futures.

It was refreshing to learn a bit about Greece and olives (we lived there for a year - in Athens and on Paros, where we came across Magic Dave - Donovan's co-writer).

It does strike me that the situation in Europe (let alone the rest of the world) is radically different to the US. In Western Europe there's little chance of 'caterpillering' your way into woodland to establish a 'homestead'. Perhaps in those areas beyond the old 'Iron Curtain' still permit this. But here in France the laws concerning ownership of land and water prevent any such 'frontiersmanship'.

Instead we have an intricately interlocked network of villages, established - by my reckoning - during the protohistorical period of the Chalcolithic era (Stone/Copper) and then flowering in the Bronze Age.

As Burgundy describes, few villages are more than a morning's walk apart. Each village contained most of the skills needed for survival, and comfort. The size of each village, I think, is important. Few are larger than 500. Most are very small.
And compared to the rest of Europe, France is extraordinarily dense, in litle villages and communes (uhh, that's communities - not necessarily hot-beds of revolution . . . )

France : 36 565 communes
Allemagne : 14 727 communes
Italie : 8 070 communes
Espagne : 8 027 communes
Gde-Bretagne : 522 communes

Il y a 31 927 villages de moins de 2 000 habitants en France. Ils rassemblent environ 15 millions d’habitants. ( 25 % de la population ).

Très petits villages………………….. 3 911 ( 0 à 99 hab. )

Petits villages………………………. 17 124 ( 100 à 499 hab. )

Villages moyens…………………….. 6 759 ( 500 à 999 hab. )

Gros villages…………………………. 4 133 ( 1000 à 1999 hab. )

The 'very little village' is I think the 'natural' and 'basic' common denominator here. Who said 'it takes a village to raise a child'? Hilary Clinton? Yasser Arrafat? It can be googled.I could be wildly out, here. But it sounds like good sense to me.
You can't do everything on your own. That 'Frontier mentality' is a longlasting heritage - and immensely valuable, in it's place, in it's time. In Europe, Ca ne va Pas. It just can't be done.

In every Frenchman there's a "Go it Alone' philosophy, an anti-Paris, anarchical spirit that I love. Converseley and perversely, there's also an intense admiration for all things german and efficient . . . We have to/have had to work together.

So I don't personally sweat over the fact that I don't 'own' many acres. I'm used to working on someone else's land for nothing ( well, by nothing I mean a big blow-out meal, with unlimited wine, and music and poetry, plus access to a tractor, and more wine, and a toolkit, and unlimited hours of labour whenever I need. And wine.)

The arguement raging at the moment about 'socialism' in the US, is being conducted in a false vacuum. There are those who understand the 'social' bit about socialism [that is, the farmers and many other manual workers] - whereby we all pull together or sink together. And then there's the 'It's All Stalin and Hitler from now in' group of 'thinkers'.

I think that what strikes me most about TODD's post, is his assumption that there is always virgin land to be developed. I'm aware that I've scattered an acre of quotation-marks throughout this comment - but I have resisted, deliberately, from clipping them around Virgin and Undeveloped. To us here in Europe, where each village has its limited forest-rights, established centuries ago, and it's pasturage-rights - the idea of wild-west homesteading is utterly bizarre. You can't just uproot trees and build a house where-ever you want. Those trees and that land already belong to a village, a commune, a group of people that need/have claim to the land. There's a disconnect here, about land. Land and poverty and lordships and revolution go back awhile. The idea of just blasting out into the wid blue yonder, where woods can be dynamited and uprooted is both anathema and impossible.
People need people. No-one contains enough skills to be self-sufficient. The village is where your children move away to, to be apart from you, but near to you. The land, the forest, the vines, the wild boars, the streams and the wells - all this is your heritage. All this is the poverty/riches of your corner of the world. Here, few escape it's consticting boundaries. Few want to leave it. And this is the fastest-growing region of France.

Thanks to Ryanair, and the demographic force (that brings French people south) this region is experiencing growth.
Doom is patchy, and gloom is - really - a state of mind.

"You can check out - but you can never leave."

I would beg to differ: you can leave any time you like.
But you can't check out so easily.


You're hitting that nail right on the head with your observations on Europe community vs US Frontier mentality (I think this is what ThatsItImOut's criticism was all about). Though it certainly has certain heroic and practical no-nonsense qualities I'm of the opinion that it's this Frontier mentality that has got humankind into this mess in the first place. You also see it reflected in these anthropophagous fantasies which says a lot about how the American mind has been conditioned by decades of Hollywood-heroes-versus-bad-guys-Frontier-mentality-overcoming-evil propaganda.

And though I thoroughly enjoyed Todd's article and all its useful tips, it did strike me that it was all about needing a HUGE plot of land (whereas I remember reading that with 1/10th of an acre you should be able to feed one person), getting a BIG tractor or a BIG 4x4 for plowing and tilling, get BIG chainsaws to saw LOTS of wood for cooking and heating, etc. It's just very... American. And in my view counter-productive. You can't solve a problem with the thinking that caused the problem in the first place.

The Frontier mentality for me is in large part about fighting nature and thus the right to dominate nature and use it as one sees fit. That's how I view it as the sissy European I am. ;-)

Todd, if you have the time: What are your thoughts on permaculture?

Good to hear your ideas. But as you've only been here 16 weeks, and you're already admitting to being a sissy european . . . I wonder if you'll have the 'boules' to post again!
I do feel this site sometimes reeks of apha-male testosterone (particularly when it come to posters boasting about how they can overpower their 'prey').
But you have to rememember that in fact most of the more aggressive posters here are 'zeta' males, in that their plans and their prognostications are conjectured from a post-hoc and intensely-remembered American past. Many will have never left American-speaking shores. Or if they have travelled a bit, will never have experienced that 'out of language' moment, when you truly realise you're in a radically different culture.

The very title of the 'campfire' was enough to get my goat up and butting!
I said above that 'people need people' and 'it takes a village'. What it actually means is the terrible, and unmanly fact, that men need men. They need g-fathers, and fathers, and uncles and others. And Women need women : g-mothers and aunts and sisters. Then - horror of horrors! we need neighbours! But they're not our blood? And etcetera and so on. People need so many people, just to get by.
The wild-west frontiersman was a myth that lasted for maybe 20 years.(cf Richard Grant. Ghost Riders A rather enlightening history of the nomadic life in America} Everybody-else needed everybody-else.

In the UK we are used these summer months throwing up a bunch of outrageous or 'lightweight' articles in the press. It's called the 'silly season'.
Perhaps TOD does this too. Articles that are posted by well-meaning people who have actually lost the run of the plot. Or extremists who are thrown up on the page to get the site active in an otherwise dull month.
My feeling is that some posts should be tagged - with a 'For American-consumption only. Might not make sense to the rest of the world.'
Very valuable - but for a restricted audience : those with big bucks and a big country to play in.
I really do think it's time TOD looked elsewhere : the astonishing fertility of Morocco, the fabulous wealth and waste of India. The simple lessons of African villages.
And even the protohistoric roots of European civilisation, here in Languedoc? Trade, Defense and Peak Wood?

This Todd character is living in a 'Murkan dreamland. I ripped him a new one in the story called "A Trip to Todds" by Nate Hagens.

Mamba ...

You wrote ...

"Now I'd like to hear from someone committed to living without extensive fossil fuel input"

Heard of anyone ? what are you doing ??

2.5 Acres/adult ... all calories came from garden/farm

365-400 corn plants/adult

365-400 bean plants/adult

10 trees of each/adult (olive , almond, figs, apples , apricots , and grapes)

year round vegetable garden mostly for greens , roots , squash etc.

No imported nutrients or fertilizers

No animals or animal products consumed

3 adults on 10 acres

the rest of 10 acres was for $ from trees to pay bills

elec. to pump well water, taxes , maintenance

walk behind mower for orchard - vineyard

walk behind roto tiller for new gardens ... then just hoe, push cultivator, and
fork ... push seeder to plant beans

vege gardens were usually 20x80-100'

We made our own olive oil , wine, and vinegars

Dry corn was soaked/rinsed/germinated and ground daily. 12+ years

A couple of comments on the article;

1. In most areas, if you are not on town water and sewer, you have to deal with the county for septic. In our area ( maryland) septics ROUTINELY run anywhere from 15 to 30K, depending on how high the water table is. Trying something like an outhouse? Forget it. composting toilets? Most times you'll have to go through tons of red tape to get something like that even approved, if at all.

2. The idea of a trailer is fine, but in our case, we would HAVE to go with a camper. Trailers are verboten in our area because of the codes in the entire county.

While some areas of the country may be like the wild west, in that if you're out far enough and have enough acreage, you can pretty much do what you want, MOST of us live in areas where we have to deal with county code enforcement, paperwork, fees, etc, just to get conventional construction approved. Trying something like cob, rammed earth, etc? Hah! You better be extremely rich. There are tons of regulations that have to be dealt with that, if we tried to do what you describe where our land is, would never be allowed. I can't even have a well unless it's drilled, put in by a county approved well driller, then I have to have the water tested by the county, and if it won't pass, have another well drilled. If it ends up that because of something in the water they find won't pass, guess what? We are not allowed to Build ANY residence on that property. Period. No exceptions.

I say buy a place that has a rundown but still code/legal residence.

1.5 Kw solar array on a tracker can be enough ... depending on diet and water pumping