Where to Live?
Where to live is not as important as to how to live. Homesteading comes from the heart and for that reason homesteading can be accomplished no matter where you live. But for most, there's a certain amount of freedom and serenity that can only be found out in the country and with that in mind, the information presented here is designed to help raise questions about your ideal homestead.
Just like every other aspect of homesteading, it takes time to find the ideal homestead. The most important thing to do is to make a prioritized list of what key elements are important as to where you want to live. There are plenty of things to consider and only you can decide which are the most important. Here's a list of what to consider:
- Accessibility to Employment - Unless you are independently wealthy, have a home business or retired, finding a job will probably be a necessity for at least someone in your family (at least for starters until you've got your feet on the ground). You will need to investigate local job markets to determine how far you can afford to live from an urban area.
- Accessibility to Necessities - We all dream of becoming totally independent, but the reality is that there are needs that must be considered. How far is it to a local hospital, veterinarian, gas station, home center or food store? What about utilities such as electricity, gas, water and phone? Typically, the cost of land goes hand-in-hand with convenience factors. All of these issues must be weighed.
- Accessibility to Utilities - Does your land have electricity, gas and phone close by? What about water? If you need a well, how far down do you have to drill for water? What is the quality of the water? Is the land suitable for an above ground septic system or below ground septic system?
- Accessibility to Family and Friends - How far will you have to go to visit relatives or for relatives to visit you? (In some cases, maybe you want a greater distance!)
- Vehicle Accessibility - Is there more than one way to access your land in case of a disaster or road construction?
- Climate - Do you like the change of seasons? No matter where you plan on living, visit the area in all four seasons to experience different climatic conditions. Make sure that you can physically and emotionally tolerate different conditions. Also consider the climatic impact on what you are planning to farm as a food source. What vegetables will grow in this climate? What livestock does best in this climate? Look around and talk to people to help determine what works and what doesn't.
- Proximity to Urban Messes - There are a lot of rural waste dumps that are hidden out in the country -- where else is a city going to dump it's waste? Be sure that there are no waste dumps near your ideal area. (Realtors are suppose to disclose this information, but ask the question to multiple realtors.)
- Mega Farm Businesses - Check out the local area for any mega farm businesses that are in the business of intense livestock activity. Find out from the local government agricultural center as to what laws exist in the county to prevent such practices. These mega businesses are big polluters and spreaders of disease.
- Natural Disaster Potential - What are your risks from floods, wind, earthquakes, blizzards, etc.?
- Renewable Energy - Does your ideal place have plenty of sunny days, consistent winds and access to home made hydro power? RE has the potential (in the long run) to save you money, increase self-sufficiency and to help the environment. Consider how you can use your land to use RE.
- Soil Quality - Is it rich and loamy or full of rocks and clay? A good indicator of the general quality of the soil found in a given area is to find out what other farmers are growing in your area. If the major crop in your area is hay, that probably is an indicator that the soil may only support a few different crops. A small to medium vegetable garden can always be built up on top of poor soil to produce many crops, but to do that on a larger scale would be futile.
- Livestock - If you plan on raising livestock, talk to local farmers in the area to find out how many head can be supported per acre and how cost effective it is to raise certain breeds. This is not to say that you may be able to raise certain livestock that no one else has tried in the area, but farmers can give you good insight as to things that they have tried and have failed due to local conditions.
- Demand - Is there a demand in your area for the resource that you are planning to grow or raise on your land?
- Restrictions - What restrictions are there in your area for raising certain livestock or crops? Make sure you know the laws in your area for raising agricultural products and what taxes and/or limitations might handcuff you.
Personal / Miscellaneous Issues
- This will probably be the last place you will ever live or at least live for a long, long time. Make sure that it "feels" right to you and your family. Review the good points and the bad points. How are the views? Does it have plenty of wildlife? Is it set far enough back from the road? Is it in a quiet area?
- Can you afford it? Make sure it's within your means. There's nothing worse that having to worry about new mortgage payments. Do your best to keep your payments low or buy it with cash. What are the taxes? Is there a potential for the taxes to rise dramatically over the next 10 years? 20 years?
- Is it too much land or too little? Think of how you will use the land or leave certain areas dormant. How much time will you be able to donate to nurture the land? How much space will you need for crops and/or livestock?
On a final note, there is no way to address all of the issues here. I have no affiliation with Gene GeRue, but if you are in the market for finding a place out in the country I strongly suggest that you read Gene's book - How to Find Your Ideal Country Home. This book is indispensable in helping to narrow down the myriad of places to live across the United States.