Number one: Figure out what you want. Do this by asking yourself A LOT of questions and listening to the answers that are returned to you. Beginning with, “What do I want?” I’ve found that simply being on the land helps me to quiet my mind. Sometimes by just sitting, other times by weeding the garden or walking silently, listening to what’s happening in my head. Then, when I receive an answer, for example, “I want to build a chicken coop,” I think about what I want that coop to look like. What are my reasons for wanting chickens? To feed my family? To feed the community? To sell? How many chickens do I have energy, money and food to raise? How much space do I have to dedicate to chickens? What materials are available to build a coop? Would I rather have a chicken tractor so I can utilize my birds for garden preparation and fertilization? Any question that I can think of, that seems important for my initial coop design, I have to remember to ask it, and listen to what comes in response.
Then, using free or cheap, found, recycled, donated, used, materials, I build Prototype A Chicken Coop. No need for expert skills, I cobble together a rudimentary first coop, get some chickens, put them in it, and see what happens. Does the cat get in and eat two of my ladies? Is it so good I don’t need to make any adjustments at all? Would I rather it have wheels for easier relocation? I observe and make adjustments. There are no mistakes, just experimenting, creating, having fun, learning and forward movement. I use prototyping for nearly all of my projects. It allows me to obverse and make decisions based on real events rather than trying to predict what will happen in the future. Here is a fantastic article SuperForester Jackson just found on Prototyping.
Next, Land needs people. Either paid help or work/trade/live-in help. Development can rarely be done alone AND happy and quickly and cheaply. So observe the land while asking for, meeting with and inviting your specifically chosen team to come join you to live on the land. Let the grass (if there is any) grow long and tall. Observe the paths that the people create in the un-mowed grass. Plant where the people Don’t walk. Allow them to create your map for you. Trust them. You’ve chosen these people for specific reasons like, you like them, they are skilled and valuable to you and your project. Treat them as such.
I’ve now co-created land projects twice, once on two acres, currently on nine, and (fingers crossed) moving on to five. With each project, the team of people was the most integral first step after: Do Nothing. Wait. Observe. Document (photo, video, write.) If you feel you can do this alone AND cheap, you’re likely mistaken. If you’re still interested in the monetary/employment, drive to work to buy this car, buy this car to drive to work system and you’ve got a lot of money and are willing to spend it, hire some awesome peeps to help you. I’ve used the live-in, work/trade, low or no rent method for both projects and have found it to be most fulfilling for the land, the people and our collective sanity.
Figure out where you’re going to set up each camp. When you allow each team member/family their own camping spot with room to ripple out towards each other and the common areas, you will be able to observe that wherever you place a human, the land around them will get cleared and cleaned and loved from the inside out, effortlessly. Again, trust your people. Don’t micromanage. With a common goal, that one you figured out you wanted in step one, the vision will come to fruition if you communicate with and trust your people.
Water: Wells can be ideal, but take time and money. So set up some rain catchment. You can use a simple tarp/55 gallon plastic barrel system that you can run through either a natural, plant, sand, charcoal filter or a Berkey or Britta system. Also, Is there a nearby fresh spring or a stream running on the land that you can utilize?
Poop: We call our method The Tree Machine. Dig a hole about 3-4 feet deep and 2-3 feet wide. Build a simple wooden box with a toilet hole and hinged cover, and place it over hole in ground. Squat on box and poop in hole. Place dirt or, preferably dry wood chips over each poo until hole is nearly full. Remove box, fill in remaining part of hole, let sit for two weeks. Plant fruit tree over it. Repeat.
Those are the basics I’ve used for the initial phase of land projects.