Some people who decide to create a homestead completely off the grid want to live in complete harmony with nature, while others may be the proverbial paranoid prepper, but remember that once again, the main issue of concern living off the grid should be finding that common ground. In both of these cases, there is a very good likelihood that they will want their homestead to blend in as seamlessly as possible with the surrounding environment.
For some it is merely a matter of beauty and aesthetics, for others it is a desire not to intervene with nature any more than necessary, and for some it is merely a matter of not being seen quite so easily, but the end result is that all of these individual homesteaders have much the same desire.
Some people may be intimidated or put off by the structural engineering requirements of underground construction. However, unless you are building an underground city comparable to the one on the Arkansas and Missouri border, or the next Area 51, the principles of underground construction are not so different from normal construction … except there is generally a bunch of dirt piled up against the sides.
Also, it should be noted that most underground construction will not actually be built entirely underground, though perhaps two-thirds of the ground floor will be physically located underground. It is never a bad idea to check with an engineer familiar with both the local geography and topography as well as any requisites for construction in such an area as has been selected for building the homestead.
Many of the homes and other structures on our Homestead and on those of our neighbors in the high desert of Northern Nevada, were built largely underground. In those cases, holes were dug and standard cinder block construction took place, and the areas surrounding the walls were filled back in, often leaving no more than two to three foot of the “ground floor” exposed above the surface.
There is no reason to think that these homes or other buildings could not have been built higher up, but such were the winds and the many incessant and often troublesome city people coming out to practice their target shooting skills … which were fortunately for many of us, generally sadly lacking, it just did not seem worthwhile to build large and very noticeable structures.
Tree Line Construction
It can be very tempting for some people to build just inside the treeline on their property, though this is not always a good idea. For the sake of “invisibility” … or at least a substantially reduced, obvious presence of the house, it may seem like a good idea. However, in the event that there is a major fire in the surrounding woods, this will make it virtually impossible to defend the home or any other structure built within the treeline.
However, this can also be partially solved by creating a clearing within the treeline, or a little further back as desired, and building the homestead within an inner clearing, while at the same time allowing for the surrounding trees and forests to remain densely grown along the outer perimeter of the homestead.
Food Forest Cover
If however, the creation of a food forest is the objective of the dense wooded growth, this should likely also be relegated to a location towards the “back” of the homestead or otherwise set aside and separated from locations where there will be passing traffic as the seemingly natural presence of such a vast array of fruits and vegetables may do more to encourage visitors than to discourage any potential intruders.
If it is necessary to build towards the front of the homestead or in a more trafficked area, it is still advisable to reduce the amount of food forest that is visible, at least to the extent that it is possible. The excess produce and goods from a properly planned, designed and implemented food forest may certainly be shared, but the recipients should be selected by the owner, and not just anyone who happens to be passing by the homestead.
Vines and Climbing Plants
Vines and climbing plants will not actually make the house or other buildings on the homestead completely disappear, but they should assist in breaking up the shadows and patterns that make the home instantly recognizable even to the casual passersby.
Like any camouflage, the idea is not necessarily to make the buildings disappear, but to break up familiar shapes and patterns. For an even more beneficial covering, flowering and “fruit-bearing” plants can be used for this purpose as well. Green beans, string beans, loufa gourd (used to make loufa sponges) and other similar plants can be easily encouraged to grow up along lattice or even chain linked fence mounted on the side of the home.
The fencing or lattice work should be mounted so that it leaves about an inch or two of space between the building surface and the lattice work so the vines can cling better. There are additionally some flowering vines though these tend to attract more attention rather than divert it.
Also, traditional non-flowering vines may be used, but care should be taken not to include any that will induce adverse reactions such as poison ivy … though feasibly at least, that may make it easier to identify someone who had attempted to break into the home. The gaps between the lattice work and the house will also leave room for birds to build nests, helping to keep the insect population in check as well.
No matter what reasons someone may have for wanting to make their homestead as near to invisible as possible, there are ways to make it happen, though safety should always be the primary concern. Aesthetics may also be important, and hopefully some of the suggestions herein will provide a happy balance between the twain.
It is imperative to remember however, that no matter how well camouflaged the homestead may be, the animals will always notice and about the best that can really be hoped for, is keeping out the more undesirable elements of the human kind.