I spent many years looking for safe locations using ZetaTalk info as my guide but it was my eldest daughter who chose for me as she and my grandson bought a home in the North Carolina mountains so I set out to purchase a home nearby. NC was already high on my radar and hand picked spots all over New England had also been high on my radar. A lot of hard work in the research department went into finding the right spot. There's so many things to consider that a regular real estate search doesn't include. Do gas pipelines run through a community, nuclear facilities in the area. flooding and landslide history, the lay of the land, etc.
I found a cottage on a knoll with an acre and a half that had a gravity fed water system in place which means that my water graciously comes from a mountain spring head about a mile and 1/2 up from my home, goes into a cement cistern about a 1/2 mile from my home and travels along the creek bed into my basement holding tank via 2" black poly pipe that has been insulated all the way up to the cistern. I've had a blockage in the water lines twice in five years and had to use a gas power washer to flush the system from the cistern way up in the forest. I'm not sure how I'll get that done after the shift when I have no gas. I'll probably have to cut the line and let it work its way out however long that takes and use connectors and clamps to re-attach the poly pipe.
As for my septic which will be useless when full, I have a camp porta potty I'll use like a composting toilet with some tweaking.
When we experience the great mag 9 quakes, my creek bed may move, the cistern may crack, my spring head might be lost but if you understand how these things work then you can re-apply them.
I collect water runoff from a pipe that was sticking out of my stone wall into a 55 gallon drum which I'll use extensively when I build a greenhouse nearby. Mountain water is very cold and plants tend to like lukewarm water.
I have a claw foot tub as a water trough but the goats don't drink from it. They much prefer to jump in and out of it when it's empty so it will be better used up at my house for my makeshift wood fired hot tub after the shift. Just raise it up on a few cinder blocks, dig a hole underneath and lay your firewood. A hot bath under the stars.
I did a 4 year rent to own on a 10 x 20 Mennonite shed which I turned into a barn, using a steel gate as a divider to create stalls. The steel was my final aha moment because just using wood as a stall divider didn't work out at all and I've had to rebuild the stalls 3 times. The buck has smashed and flattened the steel now so when I'm forced to replace it, I'll fill the steel tubes with sand so he can't bash through. They've broken all the windows in the barn while rough housing so I would have been better off taking out all the glass immediately. I use plastic to cover the windows in winter but I'd like to build outdoor shutters with a latch for a more permanent fix to keep inclement weather and the cold out.
I knew that I wanted goats and chickens so fencing the property was my first priority. I originally put in 800 feet of fencing with paid help and about $3000 thinking I had done a good job but now I have about 1500' of fence in areas that I needed to keep the goats from like all my basement windows which now have shredded screens from their curiosity. Goats are curious about everything which is adorable so you have to stay one step ahead in the "What could possibly go wrong" arena. I have a giant pet door that leads to my basement where the dogs have a full size blow up mattress to use and have found all my goats in there on several occasions, getting into all the feed and making a huge mess. They also use their lips to turn door handles and unlatch gates.
I started out with 2 goats that were 3 weeks apart in age. I bought them home when they were 3 months old and they were about the size of a medium sized dog. They're now the size of a pony. A gorgeous cashmere (Kashmir) buck for fiber and a Saanen goat for milk. I researched for months before I chose my flock. We had one Great Pyrenees (Wolfgang) which would be the flock guardian and he and the buck (Benjamin) became best buds until the buck grew enormous Ram like horns and nearly impaled the dog during play. When goats play they stand up and then ram their opponent with their heads down so their horns can lock. This was becoming very dangerous.
More fencing was needed to separate the dog from the goats but still allowing them to interact and the dog to keep a watchful eye. Next came a full time buddy for the dog; another Great Pyrenees (Alice) who's a rescue. Wolfgang is in charge of keeping everyone safe and he takes his job very seriously. Also Great Pyr's eat very little for their massive size. I feed them 2 cups of food each twice a day. In the summer they eat less and drink more.
My Saanen goat (Lacey) was disbudded at birth which meant her horns were taken out. All goats have horns which I didn't know at the time. They are as strong as a horse and they can knock down fencing in the blink of an eye which they've done time and time again. Last year (2016) a neighbor and I ran railroad ties along the bottom of all the perimeter fencing as the goats would tag team their escape by horns used to lift the bottom of the fence or rip a fence seam and then use mass weight to push the fence down. A livestock farmer is always fixing fence but so far so good. It seems to be working.
What I wish I knew up front was that goats have some weird Houdini gene and they always seem to want everything on the other side of the fence. Planning out every portion of fencing beforehand is important.
My point is, do it right the 1st time. I've spent around $8k putting up 1500' of fencing when It could have been closer to $6500 had I done it right the 1st time. Your fencing is your big ticket item. Make it strong and impassable. Had I had the time to scout out used fencing and timbers, I could have saved 1000's.
Keep in mind that you need a safe access to your barn without fear of being knocked down in their frenzy for food. I hadn't thought about that and will have to add an additional fence and gate soon for my safety. Right now I feed the buck through the farthest end of the gate so he's occupied and then quickly unclip the gate and run into the barn with the rest of the food raised above my head. They will knock you down to get at that food. Also make sure your mower or tractor can fit through all gates. I made the mistake of putting in a standard gate at the front of my property and I can't fit through with my ride on so need to use a push mower there. That will be moot after the shift once you've run out of gas unless you can run it on vegetable oil so I have an old fashioned human powered push mower and a 4 foot sickle with a 26" blade. I have many files on hand to sharpen blades.
Up at the front of my house I have an additional picket fence that surrounds all my garden beds and fruit trees but the goats were knocking down a picket everyday and amazingly squeezing through into the garden and eating everything. I've since lined the pickets with chicken wire. Problem solved.
One year I put in 2 rows of electric wiring all along the top of the fence but the buck used his horns to disconnect the shock system and it was a waste of time and money plus there won't be any electric after the shift and any solar panels you have would be better served elsewhere. Goats are like dogs and they will stay close to home. I do let them out of the pasture whenever I'm mucking stalls and they don't travel more than a couple hundred feet off the property. I call them and they happily come home.
My fence was made from heavy duty chicken wire from Tractor Supply and 6' T-posts and landscape timbers. Every 8 feet stands either a wooden timber or a metal T post as this was most cost effective. I can fence an entire property on my own now when I knew nothing at all about it before. Learn by doing is how I roll. The wooden posts were set in cement for stability. I own a few post hole diggers and a heavy metal post driver. I have plenty of nails, u-nails and fence clips on hand.
The goats mated after a year and I had my 1st set of twins. I learned to cut the cord and clean off the baby which isn't necessary as momma would learn to chew it off and lick it off. Goats are sometimes born with worms which can kill them so the vet was called out and wormed everyone. I did everything right that 1st birth but looking into natural remedies for these things is a must because we won't have access to meds in the aftertime. I've lost 2 babies since then to worms and a broken neck as I no longer call the vet out and I just let nature take its course. The strong will survive.
As for milking, goats won't produce enough milk for both babies and you till the 2nd or even 3rd year but you'll know when it's time for you to take milk. I milk twice a day to ease her pain when she's engorged but it was like coralling a bull. She doesn't like the process of the hand held milk machine. She's a large goat and the milk stand I bought was too high for her to jump when engorged so I have to build a ramp for her. One of us held her down in a corner while the other did the milking.
Cows are much easier to milk I think. To hand milk, it is a squeeze turn pull motion that hurts my arthritic hands so I was so happy to find a clever milker with attached 2 qt. bottle. She gave me roughly a gallon of milk morning and night but I could have taken more. That's just one goat so that's amazing. That's 14 gallons of milk in a week until it starts to taper down after a couple of weeks. Good for butter, cheese, soap. I have books to teach me how.
I sell off the babies twice a year at 3-5 months. I have a momma and baby now that will leave the farm by summer and my neighbor is eager to have them as he's in the process of establishing his hobby farm.
Right now I have 4 goats on the property and I spend about $40 a month on pellets (100 plus pounds) and feed them only 2 cups each in the evening and another $25 a month for their bedding which is pine shavings. Good ole dirt will have to do after the shift. Babies try to mimic eating pellets but don't really start to eat until they're about 4 months when milking stops. Daily grazing is all they need. Goat poop looks like rabbit poop and at first I tried to scoop it out like a in a cat box but that grows old real fast and now I wait till their stalls are nasty before I muck them out. During the winter I just add more shavings over the nastiness as it keeps them warmer then if I had mucked and added fresh shavings. It's a huge chore in spring to muck out the stalls but I have a garden trailer hitched to my ride on mower and I make about a dozen trips to my composting pile which will be used the following year in all the garden beds. Goat and chicken poop needs to dry for a year before you can add it to garden soil. It's amazing what rich beautiful soil it creates along with salad scraps, eggshells and tea and coffee grinds.
Goats don't eat everything like some joke about. Mine refused to eat apples 1st time I gave it to them. They have to acquire a taste for new things. They snub what they don't like. I recently found out they love honeydew rinds. They refuse to eat corn husks and don't care much for corn cobs which surprised me but I already know they love pumpkin skins so I'll make sure to grow enough as the dogs love pumpkin too and I add it to their food often. I haven't put in a grain garden yet since a neighbor helping out when I was sick, mowed over my newly planted corn field thinking it was weeds. I'm planning on corn and barley or oats.
After I had the goat thing figured out, I set out to raise chickens and already had a coop on the property. Once again I had to build fencing around the coop because the goats would break the lock and knock down the door to get to the feed. A friend built me a new stronger coop door.
I raised 6 chicks from a local store in a large tupperware in my guest room
and as soon as they were able to fly out of the tupperware it was time to put them out. Turns out I had 4 roosters and 2 hens and I still haven't figured out how to sex them properly. I've been through a couple dozen chickens since then before I settled on keeping 2 wonderful hens who give me great big brown eggs. I had wanted to keep a rooster to have babies but roosters can turn mean sometimes and dangerous too so I've banned them from my farm for now after too many altercations with a garbage can lid and a whip. I know I'll need one after the shift but I can ask for one of my neighbors roosters as she has about 30 chickens and a continually growing population. The hens are easy keepers and have loads of personality. They free range the property and are happy birds. They love the dogs and spend most days up at my front porch looking for leftover dog food scraps and bugs. I'm blessed with beautiful soil so there's worms aplenty. I'd like 1/2 dozen more egg producing hens. Some hens just don't produce and will end up on the dinner table.
I'm planning on getting guinea fowl this year because they eat ticks like crazy and they keep snakes away which is a problem here in the mountains. Two years ago both my dog and cat were bitten by a copperhead. What I learned from that experience is most poisonous snakes will not completely venomate unless they plan to eat their prey. It's the bite itself that becomes infected with trace venom and if you can live through the first 24 hours you'll make it. I now own a snake bite kit. It should be in everyone's bug out bag no matter where you live.
Guineas can knock a hawk out of the air like ninjas. They tend to roost regally in trees, are very noisy and I heard they're hard to keep in a coop but that's ok. I have lots of trees, no snakes or ticks makes me happy and my neighbors are used to the farm noises already.
This year I'll be making a few bat houses with my grandson to keep the mosquito population down.
I can't afford to pay someone to mow and weed whack so I'm doing all that now too. There's always a solution to every problem.
This year I'll re-plant the grapes, peaches, pears and apple trees that the goats ruined last year. Fig trees and nut trees are next.
I'll start my seeds tomorrow and am looking forward to growing the seed I saved from last year to see what will germinate. I'll try to grow lemons from seed this year but they need to be soaked and bagged for at least 10 days till they sprout. I get lots of hot sun at the front of my house and think I could get lemons to grow. We'll see. I have a fig tree that will get potted this weekend. I can't plant anything in the ground because of the animals so growing dwarf varieties in large pots will suit me and I would love to reestablish a vineyard which was once here but with no one caring for them for many years they toppled over and died from the weight. I'll have to research the proper way to start a hobby vineyard and you guessed it. I'll need to fence it.
Every little experience is rewarding when you have determination and the creative skills to get things done.
Many a night I cried myself to sleep because every inch of me hurt and I'm so tired. My hands are bruised, cracked and swollen but it's empowering to push beyond my limits. I could do this and I could teach others to do this. It's a win win. I've nurtured an important skillset I didn't know I had.