Relocating - need advice on how to evaluate land

rayne
By rayne on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 - 12:33pm

Does anyone have recommendations for books or tips on how to evaluate land for potential permaculture?  We are going to be moving to the Northeast next year but not sure yet which state.  I really like southern New Hampshire because it looks like the growing season is reasonable and the state taxes and gun laws are favorable.  We are going to take a look at the Keene area.  

The other state would be New Jersey so as to be close to my husband's company.  I've never been to NJ (or NH for that matter) but it seems that there are a lot of people there and I'm assuming not too much farmland?

Anyway, I've lived my entire life in the Pacific Northwest and I know nothing about east coast plants, soil, geology, etc.  Are there indicators we should look for in evaluating a property?  Are there any really great books about growing in New England that I should read first?

 

11 Comments

kevinoman0221's picture
kevinoman0221
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Ben Falk

Check out Ben Falk: 

http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/who-we-are/

He's in New England. He has a book out that I've heard good things about but have not yet read myself. I heard about him in an interview with Jack Spirko here:

http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/falk-on-the-resilient-homestead

I listened to that interview at least 3 times; it has a lot of good info in there, with a section on site selection. 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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relocation: NJ vs NH

Contrary to popular belief, NJ has huge amounts of farm land. But I cannot, in any way, shape or form, recommend New Jersey. The taxes on the land there are so high that you end up renting your land from the state. And their gun laws are draconian.

On the other hand, my parents retired to Plainfield NH, just south of Lebanon and across the Connecticut river valley from White River Junction, VT. I've been to Keene; it's okay. Beware that the southern part of the state is increasingly full of people escaping from Taxachussets, and they bring their MA political sensibilities with them. NH state taxes and gun laws are already less favorable because of that. The NH seacoast is comparatively expensive to the rest of the state.

Site selection in NH: the Connecticut River valley is nice, but wherever you chose be very aware of water issues. You might have to drill so deep to hit water that it will be cost-prohibitive; it's best you have a stream or pond on the property.

In the northern half of the state land can be rocky; the same limitations on farming you find anywhere that's like upstate NY or VT will apply (dairy, maple syrup and orchards only). Keene is way south of that. River bottom land is mostly taken, but if you can get that it's insanely fertile: just keep your house up on a rise to avoid flood plains. The gentle hills of the areas between the sea coast and VT in southern NH are very good places to farm. Great place to raise a family. Locals are very closed to newcomers, though. They actually have a bumper sticker that reads, "Welcome to NH - now go home." You're not considered a native unless you've lived there at least 4 generations. The south part of the state is more open to newcomers since many of them are new themselves.

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Doug
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fgregg's picture
fgregg
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Relocating

Wendy,

Yours was a most thought-out and knowledgeable reply. Very well done! If I was not already ensconced in South Dakota I would consider moving east based on your reply. 

However... I'm of the firm belief that anywhere east of the Mississippi is not a good place to be long term. 

I was raised in the foothills of the Appalachians and miss the farm very much. I left the farm at 18. Being a foster child, staying there did not seem to be the thing to do. I do wish, however, I would have gained and retained the knowledge of farming and animal husbandry my aunt and uncle had. I'm playing a game of catch-up now.

Anyway, great post!

 

rayne's picture
rayne
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Thank you!

Thank you for the responses!

I ordered Ben Falk's book and it arrived yesterday.  I also added The Survival Podcast to my iTunes feed.  I have a lot to learn and it's really invigorating!

It's looking like NH is going to be the best bet.  It seems that all of the Northeastern states over-tax and over-regulate.  I'm planning on homeschooling and MA, VT, PA, and NY are the most restrictive states in the country for home educators.  NH and TN are the only states in the east without an income tax.  I was born and raised in SE Alaska and have since lived in WA so having to pay income taxes to the state is just so foreign to me.  Also, we are moving to the northeast to advance my husband's career to get out of debt more quickly and I would hate to take a cut on our growth in income.

I'm hoping that NH doesn't turn into Taxachusettes.  Maybe the Free State Project will balance out the politics a little.

Anyway, back on permaculture.  I appreciate the tips on well drilling and flood plain risk.  I'm thinking we will look for a south facing slope with a pond near the top of the property.  We will need to buy a place with a house on it and everything with decent property that I've seen online looks like farm houses from the late 1700's and 1800's.  I am thinking that these old buildings would be more resilient than newer construction since they were built prior to the use of fossil fuels and would convert back to wood fuel more easily.  Any thoughts on that?

 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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more on NH

 We will need to buy a place with a house on it and everything with decent property that I've seen online looks like farm houses from the late 1700's and 1800's.  I am thinking that these old buildings would be more resilient than newer construction since they were built prior to the use of fossil fuels and would convert back to wood fuel more easily.  Any thoughts on that?

Yes. Such older homes are resilient if not rotten - termites and carpenter ants live that far north so get the place checked. Typically, I saw 16" on center  4" x 4" framing (in a prior career I was in construction) construction in the wooden structures up there: built to last. Such a home will need a lot of work, so buy one cheaper than your budget and allow for things like redoing the wiring, as it is often inadequate or antiquated. Also - insulation is super-important up there,. As Amanda can tell you, the winters are cold.

Most of the state does not have back-up electrical service and your power, if knocked out by an ice storm, can be off for a couple of weeks. Alternative light and heat preps are essential. Most of those older homes have one or more fireplaces, which can handle an airtight wood stove if you make sure the chimney is in good shape and has a steel insulated liner in the flue.

GM_Man's picture
GM_Man
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On New Hampshire

Geez Wendy, You make New Hampshire sound like a difficult place to live.  I can personally recommend the rural areas of New Hampshire.  The Connecticut River Valley isn't bad at all and for the most part very rural in nature.  You just have to pick your locations.  I do recommend most of the area South of Keene to the border with Mass, and West to the CT River Basin.  Try to stay clear of the Vermont Yankee 'Zone' if you are sensitive to being within a 10 mile radius of a nuclear facility.

Older homesteads in New England can date back to the 1800's and even into the later part of the 1700's.  Termites are not an issue in VT, CT, Upstate NY or Maine, but those carpenter ants are epidemic.  I am still repairing ant damage through out my home, which dates back to the early 1800s.  All the sills are damaged and need replacement or repair.  Older homesteads may have field stone foundations that leak water with every Spring and with every serious storm.  And every home I looked at when I was buying had roofs that needed replacement or repair.  The Winters can be awful up here.  Look for water damage from roof leaks as that indicates that $$ need to be spent on the repair.

Farms and Dairy homes are a part of New England to this very day.  A Southern Exposure is recommended for most locations in New England if you want to do some serious gardening.  However, I have a Northern Exposure and I have a green house to ensure successful seasons with plenty of tomatoes, herbs, and peppers of every type (I love home-made salsa and sauce).  We grow and harvest apples, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and concord grapes.  In addition to that we also grow a small vegetable garden including corn, green peas, cucumbers and green beans among so many others (I love to pickle the cukes and green beans!).  Right now my freezer if stuffed full as is my freezer half of the refrigerator.  I tend to purchase chicken, beef, and pork in bulk and that take up some space.  If I get lucky and collect a buck this year I won't have much space for the venison.  We can a lot of material during the growing season, and for the first time this year we have run out of canning jars.  It really was a great season.

I could go on, but just stay clear of the major cities especially Concord and Manchester.  As with most States, the larger the population density the larger the crime rate.  

Any home in the White Mountains will be on 'shelf.'  A 300' well is not unusual, but the depth will vary by location.  Look for a well or spring uphill of the home as a gravity-fed water source (spring, stream, or pond) is worth it's weight in gold.

While New Hampshire doesn't have a sales tax or income tax, you will still end up paying one way or another to support the Granite State.  The Governor and the Legislature sees to that so do your homework ahead of time...

Cheers!

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Hey, GM_Man

No, NH is not  a difficult place to live, but those older homes can be a chore to renovate. Totally worth it, though.

Doug's picture
Doug
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Quote:Older homesteads in New
Quote:

Older homesteads in New England can date back to the 1800's and even into the later part of the 1700's.  Termites are not an issue in VT, CT, Upstate NY or Maine, but those carpenter ants are epidemic. ... Older homesteads may have field stone foundations that leak water with every Spring and with every serious storm.  And every home I looked at when I was buying had roofs that needed replacement or repair.  The Winters can be awful up here.  Look for water damage from roof leaks as that indicates that $$ need to be spent on the repair.

Here in western NY we don't have problems with termites or carpenter ants.  My house was built with the completion of the Erie Canal and consequent settlement of the region after 1825.  All the homes of this vintage have stone basements/foundations that tend to be wet.  Most have double plank walls that are solid as rocks.  Good tip on checking the roof.  Many are not code compliant and need replacement.

OTOH, even though we are at the top of a watershed, our well is only about 25' deep, has never run low on water in the past 50+ years that I know of and has good water.  In my experience wells are very site specific.  Don't rely on generalities.

We are at about the same latitude as central MA and over 1300' elevation.  We have thriving farming and gardening communities raising normal truck farming vegetables plus a lot of dairy.  We had a bumper crop of all the fruits GM man mentioned plus several more this year.  Also, we may actually be benefitting from climate change around here as we harvested our last tomatoes last week.  I had a discussion with our veterinarian, an old timer in the area, last week.  He said our first frost was 10/28, the latest he remembers in his near 80 years.  Its certainly the latest I've seen in my 40 years in upstate NY.  Most have become used to planting our sensitive plants the middle of May or earlier, at least two weeks earlier than not many years ago. 

I echo the warning on checking out flood potential.  Read Bill McKibben's eaarth to understand why.  The small watersheds of the northeast have seen increasing frequency of locally disastrous flooding.

Good luck, I love the northeast and would have to think long and hard about living anywhere else.

Doug

PlannedObsolescence's picture
PlannedObsolescence
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Geoff Lawton's Permaculture Property Purchase Check List Video

Geoff Lawton's Permaculture Property Purchase Check List Video has some very good fundamental information:

http://www.geofflawton.com/fe/33811-property-purchase-check-list

Francesco's picture
Francesco
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Idaho

Southern Idaho is pretty nice. Farming is ok also.

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