Services Offered‎ > ‎

Homework for Homesteaders

This is a list for documents assembly in advance of a Permaculture Design session with Siskiyou Permaculture.  A two hour walk through would give you a good idea of what your opportunities and necessities might be.  Not all of these questions need answers before a design session, but this is our wish list.  This is the important information needed to give good design advice.  Please have your homework in hard copy at the walk through for review and reference.

Here is your homework:

1. Get the 7-1/2 minute USGS topographic sheet for the area that includes your place so that we can see drainages and nearby features.  Try the Nature Shop on Oak Street if you're in Ashland which has some regional maps.  Medford Builder's Exchange (MBE) will print good quality USGS too maps on heavy paper.  You can also go to USGS Map Locator & Downloader to download maps and to find which quadrangle you need for your site.  (The print out machine maps that you will find at some camping stores are very poor quality.)  We really encourage you to do this and have the map available for your walk through.  We've also found topographic maps through the US Forest Service website.  

2.  Get the soil survey sheets for your property.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service gives out this information for free.   You will find this information on-line and can print it out.  You can also find their office in Medford (try Jackson County Soil Conservation District.) We would love to see the soil types map and the text descriptions for every soil type you have, which is available from the NRCS.

NRCS  - USDA Web Soil Survey;; Soil map gives you soil types; click on them for descriptions.  Soil Data Explorer gives you soil capabilities

Front Counter Jackson County has basic soil maps, topo maps and various other information.

3.  Get the well drilling record for your well.  You may be able to find neighbor well records if there is none for your property.  Try the Oregon State Water Master on line.  You will need property description with tax lot number and range and tract details.  This is not a water quality test, this is the record from when the well was drilled listing the soil types that were removed.
4.  A large format aerial photo of your property is extremely helpful.  Some properties had aerial photos taken when they were last sold or by the County, Forest Service or BLM.  You can download a free version of Google Earth Pro, which has property boundary lines overlaid on the aerial map.  MBE (above) can print large format Google Earth images.  

Ideally this photo will have lot lines superimposed on it in color as well as topographic lines superimposed with 5 ft. or one meter intervals.  Get the most detailed (smallest interval) topographic lines you can obtain.  We can then use a sheet of vellum or tracing paper of similar format to use as an overlay for planning or MBE can laminate the drawing and you can use a dry erase pen to sketch design ideas. 

5.  If you haven't done this yet, it is often helpful to have Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District visit your site.  They are non-regulatory so you don't need to worry about whether things on your site are permitted or not.  The worksheet planning guide and free site visit they offer will better prepare you to use our permaculture design advice for connecting the elements and flows on your site.  Be warned that our opinion may differ from their's.  Phone: 541-664-1070;

6.  We would love to see a site plan, septic field map, the neighborhood tax lot map, property description from your title insurance packet, any historical maps (Metzgers for example) and historical documents, any weather maps (rainfall patters, USFS?), any utility location maps (underground lines and pipes).

7.  If you have the documents, a utilities cost summary for the last year would help us understand energy use patterns.

8.  What is your familiarity with Permaculture?  Have you had any courses?  Can we talk permie-babble?

9.  What irrigation systems are you using or hoping to use?  Do you have water rights or irrigation district access?

10.  Do you have or plan to have livestock or domestic animals?  What infrastructure is already in place to support them?

11.  How large is your site?  What is your zoning designation?  Do you need to show farm income for tax reasons?  What income has been secured in the past and from what?

12.  What are the goals and scope of your project?  Perhaps you can make a sketch or a list of elements of what you may be thinking so far?  This can be any size but it could be a useful way for you to convey to me your dream.


Typical elements and features considered in designing a homestead include:

  • Solar access and shading
  • Gardens, orchards and animal systems
  • Drainage, infiltration and pooling
  • Ponds and aquaculture
  • Water catchments, rain barrels and cisterns
  • Soil regeneration and fertility
  • Wind and storm protection and influence
  • Natural home harding, cooling and ventilation
  • Energy efficiency and household economic budgeting
  • Privacy and sound barriers
  • Native and edible landscaping
  • Beautiful and aromatic embellishments
  • Best use of local materials
  • Natural building
  • Fire protection and fuel reduction
  • Secondary forest products
  • Relative location of elements
We look forward to serving you and the earth!