Economic collapse and the ensuing hardship is just one of the many terrors we must be prepared for in the coming times. We are constantly bombarded with facts and figures suggesting that the end is near, but how do we get ready to survive these coming times? There are many ways, but history tells us that people who have land, and are able to use it to advantage in growing crops and livestock for sale, as well as for your own consumption have always fared best in past economic depressions. True, we hear of many stories of wheat farmers or potato farmers going belly up and abandoning their farms, leaving them destitute and homeless, but these are not the farmers I’m talking about. The farms I’m talking about are the ones with a well rounded plan of sustainability that can provide for many differing streams of income.

I’ve taken this piece from 1906 as a way to suggest what you may want to look for, and how to set up your property for use as just such a farm, should you feel compelled to steer your preparedness planning efforts in that direction. The suggestions given here are for farms that are not dependent upon the grid to operate, as electricity was a scarce commodity much of the US during this time period so it gives you a view of what to look for in considering life without being connected to the grid.


By A.D. Wilson

Much can be done to lighten the labor, both out of doors and in, if the buildings, yards, lanes, garden, etc., of the farmstead are properly arranged. We realize that many farmsteads are already established and in many cases are not easily changed, but a good plan carefully worked out will be found helpful when new buildings are to be put up. If a plan is drawn up and decided upon the changes may be brought about gradually without added expense and with a great deal of personal satisfaction and added convenience.

Fig. 1. A plan of a 160-acre farm, with an 8-acre farmstead facing east. Note connection of cattle yard with large fields and of hog yards with small fields.


In planning the farmstead, plenty of space should be included for yards, garden, orchard, drives, etc., without crowding, and the whole should be sheltered from the North and West at least, by a good windbreak. The stables, granaries, yards, lanes and well should be so arranged as to economize labor in caring for the live stock. Most farm animals must be fed from 500 to 1,000 times each year and a very slight waste of time at each feeding means a very great waste in a year or a lifetime. A plan intelligently worked out may save this waste.


The farmstead is to be the home of the family and too much attention can hardly be given to making it attractive and interesting as well as healthful and comfortable. Trees should be so arranged as to protect from wind and storm and shut out undesirable views, and where practical, openings left so that pleasing or interesting things may be seen from the home. Good drainage is one of the essentials for a good farmstead. If the location is not well drained naturally, the ground should be filled in about the buildings so water cannot settle into them, and broad open runways should be provided to carry the water away. It is a useless waste of labor and patience to work about barns and yards that are fu’ of mud when it can usually be avoided by a little care.


It is advisable, other things being equal to locate the farmstead along one side of the farm rather than at one corner. If this is done, three sides of the farmstead join fields instead of only two sides, making it much easier to arrange hog and cattle yards so both classes of stock can be gotten to the fields by short lanes and still be kept separate. It may also bring the farmstead nearer to all the fields, so that time and trouble may be saved in getting to and from them.

There are many advocates of placing the farmstead near the center of the farm. The advantages of this system are, it economizes time in getting to and from fields because the fields are closer to the farmstead. Four sides of the farmstead are in connection with the fields, instead of only two or three as in the case when it is next to the road or at one corner. The disadvantages of having the farmstead in the center of the farm have to do mainly with the social side of the problem. It increases the isolation of farm life as teams or people are not so easily seen when passing and passers-by are not so likely to stop. It is less convenient for children to get to school and places the farm home farther from other farms and from market. It would seem that the slight economic advantage of having the farmstead in the center of the farm is overcome by the social disadvantages and that other things being equal it is more desirable to place the farmstead near the center on one side of the farm than actually in the center of the farm.

The following plans of farmsteads are offered not as models, but with the hope that they may prove suggestive. Plans are shown of four separate farmsteads, one of which faces east, another south, another west and the fourth one, north. Each shows how the farmstead connects with the fields. The same general plan for the farmstead is used in each case.

Fig 2 Eight-acre farmstead lacing east, l House, 2 well, 3 poultry house, 4 watering trough, 5 main barn, 6 machine shed, 7 hog house, 8 corn crib, 9 granary.


Eight acres has been used in each case for the farmstead but this may be reduced or enlarged to suit, and still not alter the general plan of arrangement of the farmstead or of the fields. The fields must be considered in planning the farmstead so the hog yards will join fields into which it is desired to run hogs and cattle yards be convenient to the main fields. The grouping of the buildings will be found suggestive at least. The lay of the land will not always permit of such arrangement, in fact every farm presents its own problems, but there is usually a best way, and one is not likely to choose the best way without giving the subject considerable thought and study. A study of conditions as they exist with an ideal in view is almost sure to result in improvement.


A generous space is left for a lawn which in busy seasons may be kept neatly clipped by turning in sheep or horses occasionally. This with the good sized paddock for horses gives to a place a broad, imposing effect which it cannot have if small and crowded. The space thus taken is by no means wasted, as it furnishes good and convenient pasture for calves, colts and horses. The orchard is protected by the windbreak and makes an excellent run for the poultry. The garden occupies space between the house and windbreak, a part of which will be wet and late in spring owing to the snow lodging there during the winter, but this is better than having snow drifts in the door yard.


It will be observed that the buildings for sheltering stock are set in a row about in the middle of the farmstead and back of the house. This arrangement leaves room for yards for each class of stock without getting them in front of the house or between the house and barn. The poultry yard is to be in the orchard where the poultry will assist in controlling insect pests and it makes double use of the space with advantage to both the orchard and poultry. The orchard, garden and poultry are placed near the house, because the housekeeper often cares for the poultry and makes many more trips to the garden and poultry house than anyone else. It will very likely be necessary to confine the poultry to the orchard during the early part of the season to protect the garden.

Fig. 3. Plan of eight-acre farmstead facing south. Buildings numbered same as in Fig. 2.

Fig. 4. Plan of eight-acre farmstead facing north. Buildings are numbered same as in Fig. 2.


Two good sized cattle yards are provided to keep cattle separate when desired, and one to be used to stack grain in at harvest, so straw will be threshed in the yards where it can most easily be converted into manure.

Hogs are placed at a considerable distance from the house to avoid the disagreeable odor liable to come from them. A good sized yard is provided within the farmstead and this connects directly with fields which are to be devoted to raising pasture and other crops to be eaten by the hogs.


The main barn is as near the house as is desirable owing to odors and danger of fire. This facilitates doing the chores and caring for the stock in stormy weather. The granary and corn crib are located between the main barn and hog house thus getting the feed where it can be fed out conveniently. It is sometimes desirable to store a portion of the grain to be used for feed in the main barn, but usually all grain grown should be put in the granary where it can be cleaned and graded and the very best taken out for seed. This usually makes a granary separate from the barn desirable.


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