Buying Your First Country Property – Part Two

| 5/29/2019 5:36:00 PM

ReneeIn this part I want to talk about how to evaluate your property once you find it. Here’s where my real estate and personal experience comes into play: there are no 100% perfect properties. Let’s say that again for emphasis: there are no 100% perfect properties. If you have your list of must-have, do-or-die then you are in a better position to know what imperfections you can tolerate.

No matter what you want to do the kind of soil the property has and how much water it has is extremely important. Please don’t pick a property because it has a nice view unless all you want to do is sit and look at it.

Let’s say you want to raise goats or sheep. Perfect, fertile soil is not necessary. Most breeds of goats and sheep can subsist on forage grown on poor soil with a little supplementation. However, if you want to grow vegetables you absolutely must have good soil. Unfortunately, when you look at property it’s not always obvious what kind of soil it has. It could be a thin layer of topsoil with hard pan clay underneath or—god forbid—granite rock or even lava! When I look at property where the goal is to grow food I bring a shovel with me. I find the potential garden area and see if I can dig holes. If I can dig holes, then, yay! If I can’t then I have to find out why. However, digging a hole is just the start. That just shows you that the land is friable enough to get a spade into. What is the condition and quality of the soil? The area County Extension can give you more information about this and it’s wise to investigate.

veg garden

When we lived at The Ranch in Northern California I could not think of a worse soil for growing vegetables. I tried to improve the soil with loads of compost but ultimately I gave up because it also turned out that the soil—and the water—was highly alkaline. My tomatoes developed blossom end rot because they couldn’t get the calcium they needed. I had to buy a few yards of topsoil so I could grow what I wanted and had to supplement to offset the alkalinity. It was an expense I did not have money for.  If I had looked into this before we would have a saved ourselves a lot of grief. Take a sample and have the soil tested for the mineral and acid/alkaline condition. You can do a quick sedimentation test for basic information on clay, silt and sand components.

Is the land in a flood plain? Before you make an offer go to the FEMA Flood Plain website and see for yourself. If you’re looking at the property in the dry time of year the conditions during the wet time of year may not be apparent. Ask the neighbors what the conditions are year-round. People who have lived in the area will know what the history is.

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