How To Start A Rural Homestead, Part 5: Determining Location
This is Part 4 of the How To Start A Rural Homestead series. Before reading this post, I recommend starting at Part 1: Income.
This is part 5 of a series for anyone who is serious about designing a rural homestead lifestyle.
It is my belief that if you begin these steps and really commit to them, within two years you can attain your homestead and have set up a life so that you don’t have to commute away from it every single day to join the rat race.
The fifth step, this one, can also be done amidst all the aforementioned steps.
Where is your rural homestead going to be?!
This is a pretty important decision you have to make, and this interim you’re using to prepare and design the lifestyle is the perfect time to research and choose your location.
So let’s talk about the things to consider—
Considerations when choosing a location for your rural homestead
Do you envision living around other like-minded people or keeping to yourself?
If regular community interaction is very important to you, then consider seeking out other people who are living the lifestyle you want to live and who share religious/political/philosophical opinions with you, and narrowing in on a few locations where this setup exists.
Is staying close to family or the area you grew up important to you? Or are you able to settle in new lands and be happy?
Proximity to town
Decide how close you want or need to be to a town, whether it’s for school, work, or just accessing the local marketplace such as hardware stores and groceries.
Some folks will need regular access to all of the above, while others will forego such conveniences for a more remote lifestyle with fewer trips to town.
If you’re planning to become largely self-sufficient and sustainable on your homestead, weather is a really important factor.
Sun - You’ll want to research average days of sunlight for off-grid systems like solar and passive solar and successfully growing food.
Rain - is it a dry area, and if so are you prepared to deal with the challenges that presents? A large part of the inland West of America does tend to be more arid land with incredibly dry summers prone to wildfire outbreaks. Coming from Eastern America, and having lived in places such as Kentucky and western North Caroline before moving to eastern Washington, I had never experienced these levels of dry. Growing food takes a whole other approach. So if you’re coming from an area that gets significant rainfall and imagining you’re going to buy land in west Montana just because it’s cheap and remote, remember that you are coming into a whole different world.
Snow - On that note, you’re also coming into a whole different world when it comes to snowfall. In the Inland Northwest (eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana), we usually see the first snowfall in November and it doesn’t melt off, instead it continues to deepen and most winters we measure snow in feet, not inches. In many of the remote areas around the Rocky Mountains and north Cascades, traveling during the winter is very difficult. With airports being hours away and atleast one mountain pass to cross to get to one, leaving after the snow has started to fall can be nearly impossible.
Access to fresh water
If you’re looking at undeveloped properties without municipal utilities, think about your plan for water access. Not only will your household need water, so will your plants and animals. Again, many parts of the interior West of America are dry places and digging a well can be very expensive and can still dry up in the summer. Properties with creek access or a pond are worth their weight in gold in places like this.
My preferred method of gardening is to build soil, not to till. But if you plan to till and be ready to plant right away, you’ll definitely want to learn about the soil type in the area you’re looking. Yet again, many parts of the Western interior of America have arid rocky soil and are not good for growing vegetables or fruit trees without bringing in a considerable amount of materials to build soil first.
Research the population of the county you’re zeroing in on, especially if you’re a prepper type. We have a recreational property in a remote area of Washington State with only 3 people per square mile! Compare this to the density of the areas we both come from in “rural” Kentucky: 87 people per square mile! Rural takes on a whole other meaning in the mountainous wild places of America, which means whether you’re a prepper or not, you have to start practicing preparedness— if you get a flat tire out on these roads, you might not see another car for a long time, and you won’t have cell service to call AAA. We keep a large tote in the back of our vehicles full of the things we would need in these circumstances.
Cost of Living
Of course, one big advantage to the very rugged and remote places is that the cost of living is often lower. You can find land for $1,000/acre or less! This is because there’s no marketplace for anyone to earn a living, so these wilderness locations are moreso for folks who earn passive income or work online (assuming you are fortunate enough to have Internet access).
Be sure to check in on the state and local taxes of any locations you’re considering. Especially consider the property taxes of any homestead you’re thinking about purchasing.
Laws & Regulations
A really important thing to learn about is all of the laws and regulations that govern your property and what you want to do on that property. Look into things like: firearms, hunting, off-grid systems, and building codes. In some places, catching rainwater is illegal! You might also want to check in on laws and regulations to do with farming, such as selling and purchasing raw milk.
And last but not least, find out if Internet is available to the property. I know it isn’t cozy, and if it weren’t for my online work, I could do without it personally. BUT in order to live on the homestead and not have to commute away everyday, Internet is crucial for my livelihood, so it matters.
In many places, no reliable Internet is available whatsoever. In northeast Washington, for example, you have to have a clear line of sight to a tower to be able to get good Internet access.
If you’re planning on transitioning to an online income this will be an important component when determining your location, too.
Hopefully this has been helpful food for thought. If something else comes to mind that you feel is an important thing to consider, please leave it in the comments section below for others to see.
And stay tuned for the next parts in this series about How To Start A Rural Homestead!
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