Are you interested in LAND?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

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Dendrology Demystified: A Tree Tutorial - Part Two by D. Glenn Miller

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Trees: Bringing It All Together by Gin Getz

Bream, Bass, & Butterflies - Multi-use Ponds by Ed Mashburn

How to Buy Land Very Cheaply by Neil Shelton

The Ideal Country Home by Gene Gerue

How to Save a Bundle on Loan Interest, by Neil Shelton

Earth Stewardship 101 by Sheri Dixon 

Buy Rural Property as Soon as You Can, by Gene Gerue

Build and Maintain Your Own Trails, Roads & Driveways by Neil Shelton

Bush-hogging by Neil Shelton

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Besides being all but a necessity of rural life, knowing how to decipher legal descriptions can lead you to fascinating insights on the history of your land.


How to Read Legal Descriptions



Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rectangular Legal Description and Perhaps a Tiny Bit More.

by Neil Shelton


If you’ve ever wondered over the deed to your homestead or the strange designations you’ve seen in your real estate tax bill, you’ve come face to face with a legal description.

Ever since man started slicing up the earth and deciding which pieces of it belonged to whom, there has been a need for defining exactly where any given piece of land might lay.  In early Britain, this was handled in a memorable fashion: the policy was to take a young child from the neighborhood, lead him one by one, to the corners of the tract of land in question, then give him a severe thrashing at each location.

The theory was that the child would long remember each spot (if beaten with sufficient gusto) and could testify to its location long into the future.

Today’s coddled children have it easy: we just record a survey at the county recorder’s office, but when we walk around the perimeter of a property, we still call it, “beating the bounds”.  That’s how the phrase originated.

In most of the United States, rural land is described according to what is referred to as Government or Rectangle Survey, or less frequently, the Public Land Survey System, or much less frequently, the Aliquot system.  It's used in thirty of the most rural states, including Alaska, but excluding Texas. 

Here's how that works:

First of all, a series of base-marks has been established for all of the continental U.S.  Lines running north to south are referred to as "meridians" and east-west lines are called "base-lines".

Here's a map showing all the meridians and baselines.

You'll notice that the Meridians converge as they go north.  That, of course, is because of the curvature of the earth.  Most of the effort involved in this sort of land description relates to different ways to describe squared boundaries on a spherical globe.  It's like trying to put a postage stamp on an orange, you've got to figure out ways to iron out the wrinkles.

Starting from a baseline and a meridian line Township Lines and Range Lines lay out a grid of six-mile square blocks.  For example, the first line six miles north of the Base Line is named Township 1 North of the  Base line and the first line six miles west of the Meridian is Range 1 West of the Principle Meridian.  The block that those two lines form is called Township 1 South, Range 1 East, or T1S,R1E.

Each Township and Range is further divided into 1-mile squares called Sections.  The most important thing to remember about this stage of the process is that the 36 sections are numbered and arranged BOTH left to right AND right to left, like this

Then once you get inside a Section, that's when things really get interesting, or complicated, depending on your point of view.

Each section can be divided into quarters and halves. So that a quarter-section is 160 acres and a quarter of a quarter is 40 acres.  In the figure above, the ten-acre square in the northwest corner is described as "The Northwest Quarter of the Northwest Quarter of the Northwest Quarter of Section 12 Township 29N, Range 8 West" which is abbreviated NW1/4NW1/4NW1/4 S12 T29N R8W or simply NW NW NW 12-29-8.

Got that?  Okay, let's try it out.  Suppose I want to look up a  legal description that I've found in an old Warranty Deed:  Here it is:

The easiest way to decipher any legal description is from the end backward. 

Like this:


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