Where should I start with a new property?

by Liz Beavis
I got a question from a reader about where to start with a new property.  Pete and I have started two new properties and this is what we have learnt so far.

eight acres: where should I start with a new property?

Like I wrote back in this post about designing your property with permaculture, step one is "do nothing" - just observe your property for at least a year (if you can), figure out what you want from it and what it can do, then start planning one small project at a time.

When it comes to figuring out what you want and what your property can do, this post about "What to do with eight acres" might give you some ideas (adjust them to fit the size property you have).

If you have more than a few acres, you might find Keyline design useful as well, it helps with placement of roads, fences and water storage on larger properties, by considering the terrain (or keylines) of the landscape.

This post has a lot of information for new homesteaders: Homesteading 101 advice from the experts.

I find permaculture is the best design tool, you can read my post about David Holmgren's 12 permaculture principles here:

Discovering permaculture
Catch and store energy
Creatively use and respond to change
Design from patterns to details
Integarte rather than segregate
Observe and Interact
Obtain a yield
Apply self regulation
Produce no waste
Use and value diversity
Use and value renewable resources
Use edges and value the marginal
Use small and slow solutions

In my experience, the first priority in this sub-tropical climate is to sort out your water source.  We don't have reliable rainfall here, so you really need to know how much water you will have from groundwater, catchments and rainfall.  This will dictate what you can grow, so make sure you have that set up first.
If you're not living on the property, you can at least think about tree-planting and establishing pastures and other useful perennials, because these take the longest to grow.  You can also start building fences and infrastructure for when you get animals.

A few books that might help:

Five Acres and a Dream

Polyface Farm

Back From the Brink

One Straw Reolutionary

One Straw Revolution

Silent Spring

The Permaculture Home Garden
You Can Farm

Where do you start with a new property?  What changes if you're not living there right away?


  • Prakash Singh

    Thanks for sharing information !

  • Carrie

    I’m stoked to stumble across your website on permaculture as my partner and I are looking forward to owning a piece of green to start our permaculture experience. One question, as we know water source is important, if dam is not readily available in your property, do we need a permit to build a dam in QLD? And sizing guide?

  • Chris@gullygrove

    Definitely second, the most important thing on a new property, is your water sources. Then permaculture principles, to determine how to design your property layout. Wish I knew about that, before we bought our property. But you make do. After that, I would suggest local knowledge, and contacts with members of the community. They tend to know who to seek out, for answers to your questions.

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