Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Land management series

I have created a new label called "Land Management", and it's all about the valuable lessons I've learned on our 5 acres of bushland. But I will also touch on my 800 square metre block of suburbia too, as the same principles apply - only on a smaller scale.

While many people long for acerage of their own, I have to tell you, there's a clear advantage of having "limitations". Less land isn't really an impediment, but rather a numbers game to exploit. You will only ever have to fund 800 square metres, or whatever your block amounts to. It's also a reasonable size in which two - even one - person(s) can manage.

So let's start playing the numbers game...we'll round our imaginary suburban block up to 1000 square metres. I know most will come well and truly under that number, but it's easier to do the calculations that way. So you own 1000 square metres in suburbia. I own 20,000 square metres in the country. Oh yes, I can see you all secretly envying that larger number - imagining the orchard and farm critters wandering around the place. But did you miss the maths?

If you are struggling to keep up with 1000 square metres of land currently, times it by 20 more blocks. I certainly missed the maths when I imagined acreage all those years ago. The thought of freedom to do whatever I want, beckoned me out of my suburban limitation. Sure, there are certain advantages to having more land - but you can't escape the equation that more land equals more money you have to spend.

Which is something that has only dawned on my husband and I, recently. We thought we could skimp on spending money here. But we were also applying that "estimation" of skimping, based on the only understanding previously - a suburban block. Oh dear...what we would skimp on a suburban block - times that by 20!!
We were quite naive. And as much as I respect what permaculture principles can add to a landscape, lessening the energy output (and theoretically, the on-going cost) I can't get animals to dig me a dam or build my fencing for the cost of their food bill. This is where you need to hire experts, or go back to suburbia.

This is the decision Dave and I are now faced with. If we don't cough up the money to pay for experts to put in the infrastructure - we're actually adding more energy output, with the same two people managing land the size equivalent to 20 suburban blocks. I respect the fact, many landowners can actually get willing workers (aka: volunteers) to help in their land management practices, but that's not really an immediate option here. We're only ever going to be a hobby, lifestyle property - at least for the short term.

If we did get into setting up accommodations for volunteers to come stay and help us in the long term - it will only be after we've put in the infrastructure, and done the relevant training to teach others with. In the meantime, who funds and looks after the property - we do.

But let's be fair, Dave and I have cut costs in a very successful way too. As you would be familiar with already, Dave and I have been building quite a few of our own retaining walls. And there has been a great deal saved in the process too. We estimate at least $10,000 - at least!

That isn't a number to be dismissed easily, however, there has also been another cost. Less time doing the things we really want to do here, and stress juggling responsibilities. While there can be a lot of fun building your own retaining walls, when the projects run into years to complete, you do reach a point the exercise starts eating into other useful endeavours - such as growing your own veggies, fruit trees and preserving the harvest.

So this is what my new "Land Management" series will discuss. The pros and cons of land management practices - all of them. Because somewhere in the middle of the right and wrong decision to make, is a process of learning. :)


  1. Maybe I will decrease the envy level a tiny bit - but think of all the chickens! I only have 8 and am getting close to saturation point. :-(

    BTW I have left you a link about ecowood on my blog.

  2. Hi Chris,
    I've been silently following your blog for a while. I look forward to your land management thoughts. I'm only a weekend hobby farmer/lifestylist and there's no way I can keep up with what needs doing on my acreage. One thing I did do though was looked at many blocks before settling on one that was well fenced and had a couple of dams already in place.
    One I found out later, was completely useless.So I guess my advice from experience is make sure the guy you employ to build your dam knows his stuff or it won't hold water. Also you need bigger tools to manage bigger properties. A tractor or ride-on, actually probably both are essential.
    I love your blog by the way.

  3. Thanks for the ecowood link greenfumb, I'll go check it out. Chickens are addictive too, so having more land is a clear advantage, LOL. I have much to share on that subject, because we're not using them to our advantage with our land management practices. They could be doing more, and I'm sure they'd love to have more activity as well. :)

    Hi gullygunyah, and welcome. It's all a big learning process isn't it. We've made quite a few boo-boo's, which the hip-pocket feels from time to time, LOL. If I had my time again, I'd consider buying land with dams and fencing too. Although, nothing beats something you design and install yourself.

    I second the notion of owning bigger equipment for manageing land, our problem is slopes however. I have to work out the balance of how big we can reasonably go, without the equipment becoming mostly useless.

    I've got a few smaller pieces which will help out here, but could also be used in a suburban situation. It's funny what you learn when the problems present themselves, LOL.

    Thanks both for leaving your comments. :)


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