A good deal of consideration into the local factors surrounding the potential homestead site should have been conducted long before the final decision was ever made to purchase the physical property.
There should already be some knowledge about the prevalent conditions in the area and a general knowledge of plant and animal life that will be encountered along with at least some idea about the natural barriers, obstacles and other select positions within the proposed homestead site.
The actual ecosystem(s) within the selected site however, may vary depending on a host of factors that cannot be accurately and completely understood until after the property has been purchased and some time observing and exploring has been spent within the potential homestead site.
For a good many preppers and other people seeking only to live off the grid and away from “civilized society”, it is likely going to be a matter of getting what can be afforded, but that does not preclude the need to know the local area if the plans are to be successfully implemented.
Plant life will play an integral role in any homestead off the grid. Here are a few of the things that need to be considered … and why. First, it is imperative that people know the difference between the Environment and an Ecosystem.
ENVIRONMENT: the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.
ECOSYSTEM: a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. (in general use) a complex network or interconnected system.
The environment of any individual homestead will remain constant, though it may be part of or contain a great many different individual ecosystems. A variation in elevation extending no more than a hundred feet may include a diverse group of individual ecosystems, each at its own ideal elevation with variants in between and some species growing equally well in all of these individual systems.
Such a change may seem inconsequential to the average person or even to most livestock, but it will make a very real difference in the ability to farm, which plants can be raised, how the plants are germinated and what parts of the plan will be successful and what parts of the plan will fail.
The bend of the taller trees that comprise the canopy or roof of local forested systems should give an indication of prevailing winds, though it may merely be their effort to reach more sunlight as well. Careful observation and recording of data needs to be undertaken for these minor, seemingly inconsequential differences to be noted.
If these are the direction from which the prevailing winds come, care must be taken not to place plant or animal life directly in the path of the prevailing winds … especially true in areas where strong winds often contain the potential for destructive force.
(Some areas, especially in mountainous regions with plains at the base, will see winds in excess of one hundred miles per hour … needless to say, these are not beneficial to the average household garden or to the livestock)
What types of fruited plants grow naturally in the area? Are the variations viable for all the proposed uses? Would grafting other varieties on to the roots of existing varieties assist them in growing better? Will any new varieties introduced into the local ecosystem put the native species of plants or even the entire ecosystem at risk?
Which of the local plant species are following along the trail of the underground aquifer or along the runoff path of the rain water? While some of these things may seem obvious from looking at the topographical maps of the local areas, sometimes things are just not what they seem to be … much less what it seems like they should be.
Having a comprehensive understanding of the entire variety of species within the proposed homestead site will allow for the site to be built with virtually no disruption to the local ecosystems, except wherein it has proven to be beneficial to revise these systems and/or to create entirely new, man-made, yet purely natural ecosystems in their stead.
Which species of the plants can be planted around the physical location of the home for defensive purposes? Are their thorned fruit bushes that grow naturally in the local area? Which side of the home should the leafy trees be planted on to allow sunlight in during the winter months? Which side of the home should the evergreens be planted on to provide shade from the afternoon heat?
Are there natural windbreaks to protect the farm? The home? The livestock? If not, what plants can be used to build up the natural windbreaks on the homestead site? What locations on the homestead site are going to need windbreaks?
It would be great if specific answers to all of these questions could be given here in order to assist people more directly. Unfortunately, all of these answers will change, even when the two homestead sites are on the same mountain, within shouting distance but at different elevations or on different faces of the same mountain.
There are no definitive answers that will offer some blanket-solution where one size fits all. This is why it is imperative that people spend a large amount of time on their homestead site, observing and recording data, before they begin the actual planning, design and construction of their dream home off the grid.