Homestead Security is an area of concern wherein a great many homesteaders do not pay enough attention. If the homesteader is not living on their homestead all the time, it may be especially prone to the intrusion by vermin of both the two legged and four legged varieties.
While there may not be any such construct as the perfect defense, there are a great many more natural measures that can assist the homesteader with protecting their hard work and their stores or wares on site, while at the same time, maintaining a natural balance of beauty and functionality.
Fences may not be a natural obstacle, but they should still serve as a reminder to people that they should probably seek the permission of the owner before venturing any farther. However, legal restrictions may prevent even the most isolated of homesteaders living off the grid from building a fence sufficient enough to discourage unwanted visitors.
Thus, it is advisable that the fencing be reinforced, both inside and out, even if this means not being able to build the fence on the absolute outside of the property line.
Ditches are an especially effective dissuasion, especially if they are more than a good jump in width … effectively meaning that anyone who wants to get across will have to go swimming. Depending on the location of the neighbors, and who may own any adjacent properties, I tend to recommend that people keep the fence at least two meters in from the fence.
The fence in turn, is then heavily planted with thorn bearing plants. While berries and flowers tend to have nasty thorns, the berries and flowers also tend to attract visitors of all types, thus they are not an ideal solution for around the fenceline, though they may be utilized when other options are not readily available.
Introduction of Thorns
If it can be accomplished without breaking any laws or irritating any of the adjacent neighbors, I recommend setting the fence right on the property line, with a little bit of “beautification” scheduled for the homestead in addition to portions of the parcels belonging to the neighbors when this can be accomplished without creating any undue animosity or other hard feelings.
I then recommend planting heavy, thorn-bearing plants, generally exclusive of flowers and berries for two meters on each side of the fence. These areas should be planted densely, over-populating the area so that those plants that do survive are forced to be extra strong and so that the thorns will be as dense as possible … making it virtually impossible for anyone to pass through “accidentally”.
Once the thorn bearing plants begin to fill out, placing a healthy layer of mulch on top of the ground, and then coating this with an additional layer of carboard, topped off with small, sharply angled gravel, probably using flint and/or shale rock where possible. The cardboard will break down with the mulch to establish a layer that will retain the moisture when it rains, and the gravel should serve to alert the dogs on site when any intruders are making their way up to or through the fence.
When combined, these will provide the intruder with a couple of meters of thick thorns and sharp gravel to navigate though, followed by a fence, followed by another couple of meters of dense thorn growth and sharp gravel, all before getting up to the first ditch.
Meet the Ditch
Wherever it is possible, I try to keep the outer ditch as a primary reservoir for feeding water throughout the agricultural growth on site, though this is subject to the physical topography and may not always be a viable option.
The ditch, like the thorn growth, should be tightly packed at the base with very sharp gravel, not only at the bottom of the ditch, but along both banks to the extent that it is possible. Even if someone is willing to swim across the ditch, the small, sharp gravel will give them pause and hopefully, serve to offer them an additional reason to believe that the homestead is not worth their time or effort.
Outdoor dogs should by and large, live their lives outdoors. However, it is also imperative to remember that dogs are by nature, pack animals and time should be spent with them. Not only should the homesteader remind the dogs that he/she is the alpha, but also spend as much time as possible with the dogs and build up a personal relationship with the individual dogs.
A dog whose “owner” does not spend a sufficient amount of time with them, may find the dogs seeking another “alpha” figure to follow. Conversely, an owner who does spend a fair amount of time with their dogs, and takes good care of them, will never have any concerns if they are forced to confront an intruder. The dogs, by natural instinct, will generally nip at the back legs … or the back of the legs in the case of human intruders, distracting them and allowing the alpha figure to literally or figuratively, go for the throat or remove the threat.
Berries and Briars
The same measures that are undertaken for the perimeter defenses are also utilized, to some degree, along each and every facility or building constructed on the homestead. However, in the case of individual facilities or buildings, there is no ditch, and the thorn bearing plants tend to be largely berries, though some flowers may also be included in the mix.
These berry (and briar) patches are planted densely at first, allowed to grow up until they are about waist high, and then the mulching and laying of gravel can commence. On a sidenote, it is also helpful to build the windows within all of the homestead buildings, slightly higher than may be normal in more urban residential construction.
This will force any potential intruder to jump up through the thorns … something they should be hesitant about, though obviously the first couple of rounds of thorns did not stop them or they would not be there on the homestead site to begin with.
The primary reasons for including primarily berry (and briar) patches around each facility, is not only for the benefits provided by the berries. Though certainly, and especially with a little bit of creative grafting, the berry plants can provide a host of benefits all their own.
Nonetheless, the inclusion of the berries, in addition to an added “secret ingredient” consisting of beehives next to these structures, generally results in a preponderance of bees surrounding the buildings on the homestead. One or two swipes at the bees which they deem to be aggressive, can easily lead to a literal swarm of bees going after the intruder.
Given that these bee swarms are generally so intense that even grizzly bears tend to make a concerted effort to avoid them, such an attack should be a major deterrent to intruders of the two legged variety.
Ankle Biters and Punters
Okay, so the heading may indicate that I am cruel to dogs, but of course, I am referring to breeds such as miniature poodles and chihuahuas which are not exactly the first dogs most people think about when they are considering moving off the grid.
However, these dogs are surprisingly good at some things that even the larger and more aggressive outdoor dogs may not be. Many of the more aggressive outdoor dogs will go into a silent hunting mode when they are confronting an intruder.
The intruder may or may not be aware that they are present, and given the nature of a well built home on the homestead, the person inside may never hear the outside dogs even if they are barking loudly.
Let us know what you think please!