Site planning is clearly a pretty important thing since if you DON’T plan you’re stuck with wherever you put stuff. Hard to move a house, you know…
Focus, Focus, Focus
Anyhow, the first step is to outline the basic area you’re going to focus on. A common mistake folks make is to try to plan your entire homestead all at the start. If you have more than a couple acres, this will rapidly get overwhelming.
So carve yourself out a couple acres to focus on first of all. I recommend somewhere between 3 and 5 acres. For example, we have over 100 acres, but each family unit is going to focus on their own 3-5 acres to begin with.
A great tool for this is http://scribblemaps.com … it lets you take a google maps view (HINT: use the aerial shot, not the map…) and draw lines on it. We use it for drawing fence lines, etc.
Rudy’s Tip: You can combine this with a hand held GPS unit to get fairly precise map points if you want to. More on this later.
Pick Your Key Point
The next thing to do is pick a key point on that homestead to use for a reference point. This is what you use to start placing stuff.
For example, there’s a stump in the middle of our homestead space. It’s not a particularly massive stump, but it looks pretty cool. And it has sentimental value to my lovely wife.
So we decided that we’d use that stump as our key point. We’ll put in a circular drive around that, and those two pieces of information tell us where the house goes.
Rudy’s Note: Sentimental Stumps? Well, one trip when I went out to our land by myself I decided to carve our initials in the stump. And promptly got attacked by a bunch of wasps that were upset that I was defacing their home. In any case, as a result of my great sacrifice and pain tolerance this stump has great sentimental value to my beloved wife and I.
Cascade From There
Now that we’ve placed our key point, we start laying out other things. In our example, we have the key point (Sentimental Stump) and a few other spaces. Mainly the driveway.
What we did then was take a long tape measure and figure out what a roughly 40′ circle looked like, and used that arc to “place” one corner of the house.
Once we had that corner, we then laid out the rest of the house site. Rough dimensions as accurate as we could get without any sort of squaring off, etc. Simply putting in stakes in the ground for visualization.
Rudy’s Suggestion: It’s best to do this on-site, but if you can’t, do it on Scribble Maps.
Then you start getting an idea of where to place other things based on various criteria such as traffic patterns, desired out buildings, and the like.
For example, we knew that the garage would be off the driveway AND on the west side of the house. Taking a nice tree that we wanted to keep as a secondary reference point, placing the garage was easy.
And so on…
Don’t Over Do It
You don’t have to be precise right away. There’s time for high accuracy layouts later on.
You also don’t need to place everything right away. We know we’re going to have a shop building “Over There” and a chicken coop “In That Area” and so on.
We’ll site them precisely later, but for things that aren’t going in right away just knowing roughly where they’ll be and how big they’ll be is good enough.