There’s a variety of ways you can maximize the efficiency of your homestead, and one of them is through zoning.
Zoning is a design principle you’d most often hear of in permaculture circles. Permaculture, as the name implies, is a concept of managing resources in a long-term, ecologically sound and sustainable way. It is a holistic, interdisciplinary practice covering the fields of agriculture, environment, housing and construction, sociology and even economics.
Simply put, zoning in a homestead is designating the areas where you grow crops, raise livestock, store equipment and do repairs. It also includes placing the structures you use in the most strategic and convenient locations. It can provide you – and even your animals and equipment – the efficiency you need in your day-to-day operations.
Most homesteaders already have their work areas down pat. But if you’re thinking of re-designing your acreage, or developing a new section for additional animals or crops, or looking to acquire a new place altogether, this is the best time to think and rethink about zoning. Do the current sections work for you and your animals? Is the chicken coop too far out in the back of your property? There might be a lovely but underutilized pond outside your back door, when you could otherwise be turning it into a high-yield kitchen garden. Are you in need of a new toolshed, since the existing one had been converted into a goat barn?
In permaculture, zones are determined by the amount of use and care they require from a property’s owners. But because each family has resources and needs of their own, zoning would depend on what they do and prioritize around their own farms. But the general idea behind zoning is to make things work most efficiently for the owners, while causing least disruption to the surroundings. Efficiency and sustainability are keys to self-reliant living.
To plan the zones in your homestead, imagine a series of 5 circles spreading outwardly from your farmhouse – like a bullseye target — with your house in the middle. The lowest number would cover the places you most frequent, and the highest number would mark the ones you’re least likely to go. The “rings” don’t have to be perfectly circular, of course, and your house doesn’t have to be right in the center. Each property is shaped and laid out differently from the other.
Just remember, zones are just imaginary – you don’t have to build physical boundaries to separate each one from the other. And often, sections tend to overlap or blend into each other, for practical purposes.
Zone 0 is your home. It is where most of you and your family’s activities are centered – living, working, studying and relaxing. It includes the house, garage or shed, outdoor resting places for your pets, and a deck, patio or pergola where you might keep potted or creeping plants.