Metal Detecting Old Homesteads


There’s something about an old farmhouse that is exciting.

Maybe it’s because I grew up on one (and still live near one), or perhaps it’s because I used to sneak into my neighbors’ cornfields hoping they wouldn’t see me so I could explore their old barns and outbuildings.

Whatever it is, there’s no doubt that when we think of old farms, we picture many old buildings filled with old stuff from long ago.

Metal detecting old homesteads involves using a metal detector to search for and locate metal objects that may have been left behind on an old homestead or farm property.

This activity can be a fun and rewarding hobby, as it allows you to search for and potentially discover hidden treasures or artifacts from the past. To get started with metal detecting old homesteads, you must obtain a metal detector and familiarize yourself with its operation.

You will also want to research the history of the property and the area in which you will be searching, as this can help you better understand what you may find and where to look for it. It is also important to obtain permission to search the property, as metal detecting on private land without permission is considered trespassing.

Finally, follow all laws and regulations related to metal detecting and artifact collection in your area.

Finding Old Farmsteads

First, let’s talk about finding old farmhouses in general.

We know where our ancestors lived, but what happened to those houses after they were built?

Did someone buy them later, only to tear down the old place and make a new one?

Or did they abandon their property?

The first thing to realize here is that not every old farmhouse has been abandoned. Some have been torn down and rebuilt. Others have been bought and sold several times over. So while some places may look like they haven’t seen any activity since the Civil War, others have had multiple owners and occupants through the years.

Look at your local county office’s maps to find these old farmsteads. They often include aerial photographs which show fields and woods, roads and creeks, and other features necessary to farming communities back then.

Once you’ve found an interesting spot, drive around the area until you get a feel for its layout. Is there a creek running nearby? A road leading to the main highway? Is a church steeple visible in the distance? These kinds of landmarks give us clues about the location of old farmsteads.

Another good tip is to visit the nearest town hall and ask if anyone knows anything about old homes in the area. Many towns also maintain historical societies which might contain information about old houses in your vicinity.

What You Will Find At An Old Farmstead

Now that you know how to find old farmsteads, let’s take a closer look at what kind of treasures await. First off, don’t expect to see many old coins lying around. While people once collected coins and other small items, most of the time, people traded goods rather than spending money buying trinkets.

It would be best to remember that many old farmers didn’t have electricity in their homes, so chances are pretty slim that you’ll come across any old radios or televisions.

Another fun item you might stumble upon is old farm implements. Farmers made most things themselves in those days, including tools and machinery. But unless you want to dig up a plow blade or a wagon wheel, you probably won’t find many old tools buried under the soil.

Most of the time, old farm implements will turn up in the form of rusty metal objects sitting on top of the ground. If you find a bunch of rusted metal pipes sticking out of the land, this is almost certainly evidence of an old well or cistern.

Finally, don’t forget to check out the old cellar hole! Most old farmhouses had cellars dug directly below their foundations. This was done so that farmers could store food during winter months without worrying about freezing temperatures damaging their crops.

Many old farmsteads also included root cellars, smaller versions of the regular ones. Root cellars provided extra space for potatoes and other root vegetables that couldn’t be stored outside.

How To Score More Treasures And Less Junk

So now that you know what to expect, let’s talk about how to maximize your treasure-hunting experience. Here are three quick tips to help you avoid wasting hours digging up junk instead of finding valuable artifacts.

Use Too Much Iron Discrimination

A common mistake beginners make when searching for old farmsteads is using too much iron discrimination. When you open your detector and set the sensitivity dial to “high,” you’re telling the machine that you only want to find iron objects. Since most farmhouses were made of wood, stone, brick, and mortar, you’ll end up sifting through tons of dirt and rocks before you ever find anything worthwhile.

Instead of setting the sensitivity to “high,” try lowering it somewhere between 10 and 20. Doing this enables the detector to search for metals and nonmetals, giving you better results overall.

Look For Specific Indicators

If you’re going to hunt for old farmsteads, you need to learn to recognize sure signs that indicate you’re approaching an old home.

Here are two examples:

  • If you hear loud banging noises from underground, this usually indicates an old cellar hole. Listen carefully for dripping water sounds if you are standing next to an old well.
  • If you notice a group of trees growing close together, this could mean an old tree nursery or a place where farmers grow fruit trees such as apples and pears.

Keep Your Eyes Open

The best way to find old farmsteads is to look for them! Don’t rely solely on your detector to tell you whether or not a site is worth investigating – always put your eyes right where your detector is pointing.

As soon as you pass a building, stop and scan it thoroughly. Take note of any unusual anomalies in the landscape. Then move forward and repeat the process until you reach your destination.

Metal Detecting An Old Farmstead

Now that you know how to find old farmsteads, let’s discuss approaching them in the field. As mentioned earlier, many old farmhouses weren’t abandoned completely. Many families owned their land for generations, living in the same house year after year. So when they decided to sell the property, a large amount of junk, debris, and equipment was left behind.

This means you’ll most likely encounter piles of junk everywhere you look whenever you enter an old farmstead. It’s hard to imagine why anybody would leave all this junk lying around, especially considering that today’s homeowners tend to be much more organized than their predecessors. But whatever the reason, this happens when you walk into an old farmstead.

As far as metal detecting goes, old farmhouses are among the most challenging sites due to all the junk metals lying around. However, thanks to a few techniques, you can significantly boost your odds of scoring more treasures and less junk.

Avoid Using The Same Spot Over And Over Again

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make when hunting for old farmsteads is visiting the same spots repeatedly. Even though you may think you’re making progress each time you return to the site, your detector isn’t getting anywhere. All it’s doing is picking up more and more junk.

To avoid this problem, vary your hunting tactics. Instead of returning to the same spot, choose different locations throughout the neighborhood and cover as much ground as possible.

Dig Several Times With Different Detectors

Even experienced metal detectorists sometimes overlook opportunities to find valuable treasures. When possible, try using a different metal detector to pick up signals your usual one may be skipping over or not honing in on.

Jason Smith

I am a Marine who now works as a Web Developer. I have five US States left to visit. I like whiskey, wine, and coffee, soaking in hot springs or in my hot tub.

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