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Whether you bought a bare piece of land and turned it into a private sanctuary or you inherited property and put your personal touches to it, your homestead is one of your most valuable assets. There are countless benefits to choosing a rural life over the congestion and stress of urban life, but It can take years of hard work and dedication to turn a homestead into a home. Far from the constant sounds and smells of big cities, homesteading provides opportunity for togetherness and can create an environment of learning unmatched by crowded schools and busy offices. Raising gardens, livestock, and other natural resources are not only a potential source of income, but are also a matter of pride and satisfaction. Unfortunately there are forces out there that would like to reap free and undeserved rewards from your personal blood, sweat, and tears.
Nature alone can wreak havoc on an unprotected homestead. Planning against rain, wind, and other natural hazards is an essential part of building up a safe homestead. But this is not enough to ensure your peace and prosperity. Another aspect to consider is the possible threat presented by other people who may desire to invade your private space in order to steal or destroy. No matter how much hard work you put into creating an oasis for you and your family, the failure to plan for both natural and human dangers could very well be a recipe for disaster.
If you have never considered how to protect your family and property, now is a very good time to do so. You may have had little to no experience when you started out to develop your homestead, but you learned along the way what needed to be done. The same dedication to providing safety and security is a rewarding activity that can reap not only the benefits of protection, but can also provide an opportunity for personal growth and knowledge. Failure to see potential threats and subsequently find ways to protect against them is ultimately a recipe for disaster that can easily be avoided. The following are ten ways in which you can learn to provide essential ingredients to a safe homestead.
The first step a homesteader must take in protecting their property is good quality fencing. At a bare minimum, a proper fence provides a visual boundary that most people (and even some animals) will respect. Without a fence both man and beast have unfettered access to your property, but a clear and defined fence line can remove confusion and ambiguity.
A fence acts a first line of defense against wandering animals and livestock, but to most effective it is important to know the area in which you live and be very aware of the local wildlife. Deer present little danger to people or property, but if you grow your own food it may be necessary to protect such areas with a fence that is at least 6 feet high. It isn’t particularly or financially feasible for most homesteaders to erect such a tall fence around the entire property, but it may be necessary to do so around garden areas. Smaller predators and nuisance animals such as coyotes, bobcats, armadillos, and the like may not be able to go over the top of a tall fence, but they can easily slip through fences with wide spaces, so it may be wise to consider narrower field fence rather than three or four strands of barbed-wire. Of course any installed fence will have weaknesses and many smaller animals can simply dig under event the strongest of fences. Once installed, a routine of inspection and maintenance of fence lines becomes an important task on the homestead.
Most people won’t be able to erect an impenetrable fortress around their homestead, so you need to add more defensive layers beyond the physical boundary. Predators are often very patient and methodical in discovering any weakness in your fence. It won’t take long to discover the trails they take to and from your property, but exactly what sort of animal you are up against may be a mystery. If you discover animal trails through your fence line, a great way to better understand your adversary is by installing a game or trail camera.
There are an untold number of trail cameras available today, but don’t be misled into the idea that any camera will do. There are many factors that go into a good quality camera and you would be well advised not to buy the first or cheapest one you can find. Predatory animals are opportunists, but they are also most often very cautious. They’ll typically remain hidden from view or run away at the slightest hint of human activity. Because of this there is a greater chance that these trips are taken at night while you are asleep. Modern technology has come a long way and many great quality trail cameras have the ability to see through the darkness of night. To find out more about quality cameras, consider these top ten devices that have been tested and reviewed by those who know trail cameras.
Although these cameras can provide you with the information you need, many of these solutions only provide the information to you when you physically visit the camera and download the pictures or videos. There are times when you need to receive information from a trail camera in real time. Cellular cameras connect remotely and can notify you instantly when movement is detected. The information is routed through to another device such as a computer in your home or a mobile phone in your pocket.
Once you know what sort of intruder is invading your homestead, your next decision is how to handle it. Predatory or nuisance animals can be either trapped and relocated or killed. The choice is yours, but it is important to understand any laws or regulations in your area that pertain to the allowed methods. Posting signs along your property announcing that there is video surveillance may not deter four-legged intruders, but it can often be enough to deter would-be human trespassers.
Trapping animals takes a certain degree of skill in understanding their size and strength. There are also many varieties of traps available. There are readymade traps sold at stores, but it is also possible to make certain traps from materials available on your very own property. The following video can show you how to build a simple box trap from common materials:
How to dispose of a trapped animal is another topic for consideration. There are humane traps that will allow you to remove a live animal to another location, but there are also traps that will kill the trapped animal. Proper disposal of dead animals to avoid disease and avert attracting more predators is also an important aspect of the latter choice.
Many homesteaders prefer eliminating potential threats permanently; particularly those that involve predators, but some states and local jurisdictions have restrictions on certain animals and the means of hunting them. If you, as the landowner, are unrestricted in this regard, night-time hunting may be the very best way to eliminate such a threat. Unfortunately most people aren’t equipped with a natural ability to see clearly in the dark. Again, technology can come to the rescue when hunting predators after sunset. Night-vision binoculars, goggles, and monoculars can be valuable tools in just such a situation.
Unfortunately, owning a proper firearm and night-vision equipment are not enough if this is the solution you choose. While many homesteaders are familiar with hunting, many new homesteaders may have never even fired one. Choosing the firearm that is right for your circumstance isn’t necessarily a difficult task, but it is necessary. There isn’t any one-size-fits-all firearm that would solve every potential problem, thus eventually you will likely need to add a variety of pistols, rifles, and/or shotguns to your firearm defense. Pistols are the most compact and easy to carry, but often a good first choice for many homesteaders would be a shotgun. The wide spread of the shot eliminates the need for precise aiming, but you will need to decide which of the several gauges is right for you. Bigger is not always better as with more power the also comes added weight and difficulty.
However, because most animals are weary of humans, they tend to stay out of range of most shotguns. Because of this a rifle would be a more effective firearm for long range targets. Again, there is a wide range of rifles and ammunition available to choose from. Some rifles are much too powerful for small animals, but similarly the lower power rifles would be inadequate for larger species.
Whichever firearm you choose, it is very necessary that you familiarize yourself with how to load, aim, fire, and hit your target. An essential component of making sure you can hit what you aim at is to zero your firearm. This means that you need to adjust the aiming mechanism to position the end of the barrel appropriately so that the bullet leaves on target. There are various methods to achieve this, but knowing the approximate distance to areas on your homestead is very helpful in adjusting for a shot. A simple tape measure is generally accurate enough for this purpose, but range finders take much of the guesswork and time out of the process.
6. Booby Traps
Eliminating problem animals may be a daunting task, but the challenge they present are often far less than those presented by human intruders. There is a much higher ethical standard when dealing with trespassers, not to mention issues of legality. While some states provide some degree of legal protection for home-owners that are defending their property, these protections are not equally defined or provided for in every state. Some homesteaders value the safety and security of their families and property above and beyond any possible liability they may incur in such defense. Some have come up with very creative ways to discourage the advancement of trespassers. Some of these are harmless while others can be quite dangerous to the uninvited stranger. If you are considering incorporating these into your defenses, remember that for the most part they are considered illegal, but for ideas, SurvivalLife has some interesting ideas.
7. Native foliage deterrents
Many homesteads are visible from the road and this can make them an easy target. A better idea, for some, would be a homestead far off the beaten path that is concealed by native trees and shrubs. The area directly around the home and pastures should be relatively open, but a thick border of vegetation can provide relative security. If people cannot see your homestead, they may never know it is there. Even if your property is concealed in this manner, one additional deterrent would be to make sure there are thick stands of thorny vines such as briars in the woods around your property. Man’s barb-wire is nothing compared to an impenetrable wall of thorns.
The farmers of ancient Europe understood the value of hedgerows and many of these thick stands of intertwined shrubs and trees continue to protect family farms. Of course the hedgerow is not an instant or even short-term solution as it can take years to grow the appropriate foliage in the necessary density.
8. Guardian animals
They say that a dog is “man’s best friend” and the reasons are many. For homesteaders, dogs are among the best first lines of defense. Their heightened sense of smell, hearing, and vision make them the perfect first alert system. Small dogs are adequate enough to alert you to a stranger’s presence, but a good sized dog (or dogs) will also have that deep, loud bark which makes people and animals alike think twice about entering an area.
Some people have also experienced tremendous success with other animals such as donkeys and even llamas. While these animals aren’t typically as effective against human intruders, predator animals such as coyotes and bobcats tend to stay away from property patrolled by donkeys and llamas. Both of these animals may appear to be rather docile around humans, but your mind will be forever changed if you witness their ferocious nature in confronting smaller animals that have not been a part of their “family.”
9. Outdoor Lighting
One of the biggest comforts for homesteaders is the peace and quiet of rural living. Along with that is the silence and peace of darkness at night. Unfortunately darkness also provides opportunity for predators and trespassers alike. You probably don’t want to live in the country and then illuminate every inch of your property with powerful floodlights, but you may want to choose certain areas that are likely to invite unwelcome guests and install motion sensing lights. Many animals and trespassers will run as soon as they trip a motion activated light. This is not only because they are no longer concealed by darkness, but because the sudden flash of light is a clear indication to the homeowner that something or someone is where they should not be.
Advances in technology have even made this solution possible without the need for expensive and labor intensive electrical wiring. Solar powered, motion activated spotlights can easily be installed in remote areas of your property providing for protection unheard of just a generation ago.
10. Being a good neighbor
This last point may appear strange to some people at first glance, but there is value in respecting and being respected by neighbors. It is an unfortunate fact that many trespassers have some knowledge of the person who owns and lives on the land. They have some degree of knowledge of the assets and how these things are protected. If you are seen as someone that is not respected by your neighbors, it is an unfortunate fact that the chances are higher to be targeted for theft or vandalism.
On the other hand, if those who live around you know who you are and you have been helpful to them, they typically will return the favor. A friendly neighbor who cares about you is much more likely to pick up the phone to call you, or even personally confront someone they know doesn’t belong on your property. A close network of good neighbors is an extremely effective force against uninvited guests.
It is very likely that your neighbors are as protective of their property as you are of yours. Find opportunities to speak with them and you are likely to learn how they protect their homes and in turn you can share what you are doing. This exchange of ideas and methods can go a long way in protecting your homestead. Of course, just in case, you may not want to share every detail about your security and deterrents. Even if your neighbor has no intention of causing problems for you, they talk to other people as well. Innocent communication with others can be easily overheard in the wrong crowd and details of your farm may fall upon a potential foe. Getting to know your neighbors will help you understand who you can trust and how much of your personal information is safe in their hands.
Homesteading is a wonderful experience and a lifestyle enjoyed by many people. Most homesteaders enjoy a hard day’s work and take a great deal of pride in all they accomplish on their land. Many, however, are unaware of the simple dangers that exist and fail to provide for the proper defense of their family, home, and property. Instead, they rely on an idealistic view that others will respect them simply because they choose to respect others. This is a simplistic view of the reality of life and the dangers, while perhaps not ever-present, are present.
Homesteaders may experience years of peaceful bliss on their land, but for the unprepared, all of that peace and prosperity can be taken in an instant. You owe it to those around you and the land you love to do everything you can to provide adequate levels of protection. The above list is not an exhaustive list that will thwart any attempt against your homestead, but by employing these tips you will learn about your land. You will discover what works, what won’t work, as well as create an environment of learning that will help you create even better methods than these.
Similarly, not all of these steps are absolute necessities on every homestead. The idea is to understand that the world is not always a safe place, even when you live far away from the big cities. No matter where you are, there will some potential threat or danger will exist, even if it is small. Homesteading is meant to be enjoyed and it isn’t necessary to become perpetually paranoid. However, a wise homesteader will take the time to consider methods of defense and protection that work for them and allow for the stress-free living homesteading can offer.