Steps to owning a farmhouse.
Goes without saying that a piece of land not measuring less than 10,000 SFT in a secure environment & accessible location, a water source and electricity availability is a prerequisite for laying down the foundation for a farmhouse. With these resources converging, you can now go about developing your land parcel into a farmhouse of your design.
Ask yourself this question, what are the basic components of an ideal farmhouse?
Typically, trees, livestock, a driveway and a house should suffice as a farmhouse. Of course, manicured lawns, a swimming pool, a multicourt etc etc can all be added but let us stick to a basic and rudimentary setup that still constitutes a beautiful farmhouse.
Design: Always start with the location, placement and orientation of the proposed house in the plot of land. You may be considering the construction of the house at a later date and perhaps even in the distant future, still the location of the house should guide the design of your overall farm layout. Once the placement of the house is concluded, choose the type of driveway that you would like to have – Straight, Curved or S’ shaped and install the gate of your farmhouse accordingly.
Now comes the irreversible decisions – the placement of trees on the farmhouse. Prepare a list of trees that you would love to have on your farmhouse. Fragrant trees like Magizham*, Maramalli* (Tree jasmine) etc, medicinal trees like Pungai*, Neem etc and citrus-fruit trees like lemon, citron etc are ideal varieties of trees to be planted in the immediate vicinity of the proposed house for obvious reasons. Fruit bearing trees should be placed a little away from the house to prevent ants and fruits dropping on the roof and children. (The sting of a fire ant can be quite excruciating, especially for children.) Big canopy trees should always be planted on the western side of the house to act as a shield between the post noon UV intense sunlight and the house. The eastern side is most suitable for a green patch and therefore may be kept free of tree cover to ensure that adequate sunlight is available for your vegetable and greens crops.
Security: Having charted out the broad contours of a simple farmhouse, we now have to get down to the actual work of putting our design to work. To protect the tree saplings from grazing animals, you will have to secure the outer boundary with a minimum of 5 feet high fencing or compound wall. Based on your budget, you can choose from a wide variety of options ranging from Rs 150/= to Rs 600/= per running feet.
Securing our tree saplings from grazing animals is easy and cheap compared to protecting our valuables like electrical and plumbing installations on our farm from thieving human beings. Petty thieves in the locality find unguarded farms as easy pickings during nighttime. In many instances, they even steal the fence itself to satiate their needs for a pint of alcohol. CCTV coverage doesn’t help as most thieves cover themselves when on the job. Therefore It is absolutely essential to have human presence on the farm 24X7. The best practice is to engage a couple or small family as caretakers and make them stay on the farm. The salary cost per month will be anywhere between 15,000/= to 25,000/= per month. Add another 50% for electricity and other maintenance/development expenses.
Staff: A middle aged couple as caretakers is the best bet. If you could gift your caretaker family an additional source of income from the farm, you could reduce the salary to some extent and ensure longevity of the employment. This can be done by gifting a couple of cows and goats to the caretaker with the condition that the offspring of the animals will be shared 50:50 between you and the caretakers, the milk from the cows will go entirely to the caretaker and the farmyard manure generated by these livestock animals on the farm will entirely belong to you. You can also have some poultry like chicken, duck, turkeys, geese and guinea fowls on the farm and normally the entire produce by these poultry go to the owners of the farm as there is very little expense in feeding and care-taking of poultry unlike cows and goats.
Organic farming: With livestock animals and poultry on the farm, you are now set to get into organic farming. Please do install a drip irrigation system to irrigate the tree saplings for the first five years and save electricity. Get a good power weeder and ensure that the weeds around the trees are ploughed back into the soil so that the weeds too become fodder for the trees. You need to do it at least once a month in the initial stages and gradually increase the interval till the canopy of the tree is such that weeds don’t sprout due to lack of sunlight. You can either do it yourself whenever you are on the farm or pay Rs 25/- as wages for each tree sapling to the caretakers or other temporary laborers. You may also need a battery operated sprayer to spray organic fertilizers every month and bio-pesticides whenever there is a pest invasion.
Farmhouse: In just a couple of years, a piece of barren land can be turned around into a beautiful farmhouse for your family weekends and a source of organic food. Just remember, nothing good comes easy and therefore there will be many challenges and frustrations along the way, but it will be worth it a couple of years down the line.
About Magizham: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimusops_elengi
About Maramalli: https://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/tree-of-the-month-sweet-smell-of-dawn/article6744869.ece
About Pungai: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCdZZNirnLU