People move to the country for lots of reasons. Some move because the police force in the city has been defunded, leaving ordinary folks who can not hire private security teams, without police protection. Some move to “get away from it all…”, or to “live off the land”, etc.
We left our careers in state government after a period of horrendous change. At my wife’s work, Missouri State Department of Health, the Director was replaced after a new governor was elected. The new Director did not believe in “Strategic Planning” which was my wife’s job, so my wife read the writing on the wall, and it was not good. She was motivated to move on.
About the same time I discovered Medicaid fraud at one of our Department of Mental Health (DMH), Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse (DADA), state contractors. The Deputy Director of our DADA was put in charge of the investigation into the Medicaid fraud.
Strange, shortly after, the Director of our Division was shocked to hear her resignation announced at a public meeting of the Mental Health Advisory Committee. She ran out in tears. She announced her resignation a few minutes later to staff and was never seen by us again.
Strange, the Deputy Director was put in charge of our DADA.
Strange, all the information about the investigation into the fraud “disappeared.” I and one other person had stood up and said that the fraud should be repaid and the guilty persons prosecuted to the highest extent of the law.
Strange, we were both forced out of our jobs.
The agency that was committing the fraud had a Director who was friends with a member of the above noted Mental Health Advisory Committee. Strange, was it that friend that announced the resignation of our Director and appointed the Deputy Director to “Acting” Director?
During the above time period I had created a state wide organization which was starting to get some national attention. I co-authored a letter to our Governor, challenging him to redirect the prisons to hire counselors to replace some of the staff that left, caseworkers etc, and create prison based drug treatment programs throughout the state of Missouri. The Governor implemented the suggestions as a way to reduce prison over crowding and crime. My suggestions received praise from the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, the head of the State Courts Administrator’s Office, and the Governor. But surprise surprise, I was not popular with our new Director of ADA. As noted above, I was forced out of my job.
Considering all the above, my wife and I were both ready for a change. I got a job with a DADA contractor, big mistake, in a rural part of the state, near the old family homestead. Our move was on. Later, my wife got a job with the University teaching and managing a MSW long distance learning program.
A year later I was fired, and found truck driving the only job I could find. Meanwhile, our land was purchased and our house was almost under roof. Our lives were in for some more huge changes.
Lesson Learned: Never Underestimate the Corruption in Your Local Authorities
When we started looking for “our place in the country” we found 160 wooded acres and got it under contract for only $150 per acre! Wow what a deal I thought. But… The only road to this property was an old logging trail, through the deep deep mud, requiring a high clearance 4X4, great tires and a lot of good luck. Try as we could, we could not get a road to this property. It was “land locked” as they say. The county commissioners were no help and the adjoining land owner was not either. By law I had the right to force access using the log trail but that would mean paying for the construction of a road over 1 1/2 miles long. Too expensive! The timber on the property had been cut but a few years prior so no help there…
So the county Assessor had some land for sale and the price was OK. So, we decided to look at it. This was August, in southern MO. It was hot, but we did not plan on taking very long, so off we went: me, my wife, 13 year old daughter, and two dogs. The guy got us lost in 95 degree heat at high noon. He walked off thinking he could find his way out to get help and left us alone in the woods. Bad situation.
We walked around a bit then stopped due to heat exhaustion. An hour later, I knew from the sun’s movement, which way was north and could then tell which way to head toward the road. (Wow that Boy Scout training was worth it) We found an old log road trail and my wife could not go further. She stayed behind with the dogs as I took our daughter onwards, leaving strips cut off of my jeans, with my Swiss Army knife, as markers along our way. We found a house and called for help. One of the dogs died of heat stroke but it could have been much, much worse. We were all exhausted, and lucky to be alive.
Lesson Learned: Never Ever go into Woods You Do Not Know
At least, don’t go without some basic gear including a side arm or shotgun, knife, fire starter, water, compass, first aid kit, small tarp, para cord, etc. It is so easy to carry basic items in a go bag locked in the back of the car/truck and pull it out when needed. I never went into the woods again without these items. This was the beginning of development of my “Inner Prepper.”
After recovering from the above ordeal we kept looking. The guy next to the $150 per acre property had an old farm. He was a retired truck driver. He did not farm his place. He offered to sell us 20 acres he owned on the other side of the county road. Then it grew to 30, 40, then “everything on that side of the county road”, which was 68 point something acres. The price went up too, of course, and we bought the whole shebang for $40,000. My wife screamed what are we going to do with all that land? Its too much money, etc.
Later we sold 8 point something acres to the Real Estate agent that was going to list said parcel for sale. That brought in $9,000 we needed to dig our well deeper. That worked out fine. Later still we made a limited timber sale, that brought in $21,000! Great! Not so great, I could have bought a neighboring 40 acres for $20,000 and sold $41,000 total worth of timber, and we would have been left with 98 acres with only $10,000 in that! That would have been better. Way better! Live and learn…
Related: How To Build A Small Storage Shed From Pallets
Lesson Learned: It Pays to Consider the Value of Standing Timber
Don’t guess! After you get the land under contract, but before you buy it, call your state department of conservation or what ever they have in your state and get the timber appraised before you decide to buy or not. After you buy, get help with contracting for, and managing of the timber sale, if that is possible. This would have really helped us out. However, we were left with $10,000 in 58 point something acres of land. Not a bad deal! Land here sells for $1,000 – $2,000 or more per acre depending on location, water etc. So, we came out pretty fine…
So, the lesson here, is buying land is a good investment generally speaking. Just don’t buy more than you can afford of course. We bought land with a year round fresh water spring on it. It had large beaver ponds and was as gorgeous as a Disney movie. We have more wildlife than we know what to do with: ground hogs, deer, beaver, squirrel, rabbit, etc etc, all manner of birds including turkey. We have the occasional mountain lion and wild hogs and bear. We have wild edibles every where including acorns, hickory, walnut, paw paw, medicinal herbs, mushrooms, mayapple, blackberry, just to name a few. This is the Missouri Ozarks, lots of bugs, lots of rain, long growing season, hot humid summers, mild winters most of the time. We are in the better of the two county school districts. It all worked out well.
Prior to buying the land, I talked to the phone company’s manager and got his word that we would be given 4, private lines needed for my wife’s job. This proved invaluable, as after we moved into the house the phone company tried to give us “party lines.” NO, NO, NO! I said to the phone manager, we bought the land and built the house based on your commitment of 4 private lines. I said you are going to give them to us, or you are going to spend the next several years in court with my law suite! We got the 4 private lines.
Lesson Learned: Get Commitments When Ever Possible
Find out about utilities before you finalize the deal to buy your land.
When you buy, be sure what you are buying. We got a “General Warranty Deed” meaning we owned it all. No one else could claim water rights, mineral rights, timber rights, etc.
Partway into building our house, tools and etc at the building site started to disappear. The well drillers truck battery was stolen and the thieves even tried to steal the carburetor off of his truck! A few conversations later with the County Sheriff we found out that our closest neighbor was the most notorious meth producer in about 5-10 counties. Needless to say we would have bought land elsewhere had we known about that. A word to the wise is that if you don’t have first hand knowledge of the area, ask around, talk to the Sheriff, deputies, potential neighbors, county commissioners, conservation agents, etc; and find out about the area around your planned purchase. It is best to have no surprises.
Lesson Learned: Research The Area Before You Buy
Before we got a mortgage to buy the land and start building a house we had to get a survey. What we did not know about was “Elevation Surveys.” The elevation survey measures your building site and compares it to the local flood plain. Are you in the flood plain? Bad news for you!
Years after we built the house, we refinanced. We had to get an “Elevation Survey” to get the refi. Then, we had to buy flood insurance on our house because the partial slab, needed for the furnace under the house in the crawl space, was 2 or 3 inches too low. Too Low?!? Our bank made us buy flood insurance to insure the dirt crawl space under the house… Damn! Yes, they can make you do that! But wait: a few years later we found out about “Letter of Map Amendments.” This is a document that says you are exempt from the flood insurance requirement. So, do you want to insure a dirt floor crawl space? Hell no, we got the “Letter of Map Amendment,” it only took about a year! We no longer pay for the flood insurance to protect the dirt crawl space.
Lesson Learned: Get A Survey for the Whole Property
Before you buy the land, get the survey and be sure and include an Elevation Survey for the house or future house site. This would have saved us thousands of dollars. Don’t assume that the old farm house is above the flood zone. Make sure your basement/foundation is above the flood zone.
Finally, it was time to start building a house. My cousin worked for a contractor who had a good reputation, so I met him at the local restaurant and we drew up plans on the back of a napkin. Those plans became our house. Part way into construction, I lost my job and we went into panic mode. Life threw us one hell of a curve ball. Somehow my wife was able to start her new job, and get the house finished as I started a new career in “truck driving” all over the country. Since we were in “panic mode” we could not put in a basement, garage, barn, etc. Those things came later, bit by bit, as time and money allowed. I built a 16’X16’ foot square barn for our kid’s horse, on my few days home, then a barn yard to keep the horse contained. Then we moved the horse home. We planted clover in the yard and barn yard as there was no pasture for the horse. The horse sure liked the clover, and provided fertilizer free of charge. This helped the yard and kept our hay bill to a minimum.
Lesson Learned: Plan For The Unknown
Life is full of surprises. A big bank account sure helps to handle those surprises. Do what you can. Plan for the worst, while hoping for the best.
During construction of the house, we debated what kind of roof to put on the house. I wanted Steel, my wife won and we got shingles. A few years later we had a tornado pass over the house and the wind blew debris under the shingles. This meant we had do buy a new roof. Maybe a steel roof would not have lifted up and weathered the storm, I don’t know.
Related: How to Prepare Your Homestead In Case Of a Natural Disaster
Lesson Learned: Strongly Consider Heavy Steel Roofing
Get the best stuff, guaranteed 50 years or more. Also you will make your house a “Faraday Cage.” If grounded properly, this protects all your electrical stuff from EMPs, lightning etc.
Our daughter is grown up and on her own now with 3 kids and 1 on the way. Her bedroom is now my wife’s office. The horse was sold to a good home years ago. The barn is now storage for firewood, ladders etc. Part of the old barnyard is full of fruit trees with a 10ft high fence around it. The old barnyard fence has been torn down. The wood posts have been repurposed for raised bed garden plots, the used fence panels have been aged for over 25 years now and after some planning and oiling that old oak made a beautiful new crawl space door, and will make some gorgeous furniture in the future. Over the years we added a wood stove, a small green house, a larger propane tank then later an even larger propane tank. We added a garage with a 3/4 bathroom, small work room, insulation, air and heating and floor to ceiling shelves, ten foot ceiling, and that became a gunsmiths business with an attached car port; it is just north of our well, which now has a hand pump added on top.
The ham radio antenna tower will soon be attached to the south side of the shop.
Ham Radio: you may not have time for it now, but in the event of a SHTF disaster, Ham Radio is a Must Have item. Best location is to be on top of a huge hill. But if you do not want to move to a hill top, where you are very visible, radio towers can be bought used, at reasonable prices. I bought my tower used for $250. New it would be some $750-$850 or more. My tower is just under 50 feet tall and with a 10 foot mast on top, with the antenna on top of that, well that’s some 60 feet high.
Lesson Learned: Be Adaptable
You may also want to consider: does the land have live water, springs, a river, creeks etc? Where to put the house, barn, cattle, horses, chickens, goats, pigs, garden, green house, fruit trees, root cellar, work shops? well (Dousing anyone? Yes it really works!), ham radio station, antenna tower, antennas etc etc. Fruit trees sound great but you will have to water and fertilize those trees for years, so, how far away is your water source?
As you make your plans, consider how will you protect your household. Dogs, security cameras, fences, 12 gauge shotgun anyone? Laying out your plans for locations of your buildings has a huge effect on where to place and how many security cameras yo will need. At our place every entrance to each building has a camera. You cannot approach without being recorded. And, of course, we have dogs and my friend Mossberg (12 gauge). Dogs are your best security in my opinion. A shotgun is the last resort.
Change is the only constant in life. Be ready for it if you can, embrace it if you can because ready or not, it will come. The old saying is that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans…
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Robert. Oh my I stumbled across this article just in time. My family owns land in Calloway county MO. My uncle has been maintaining it for years after my grandparents died. We’re thinking of buying it in the near future for after we retire in a few years from the military. The neighbors are meth heads apparently and the gravel roads in aren’t too bad but not great near our property. I would love to discuss this with you further if you could email me.
Your advice to get the land surveyed is so important.
We have some new neighbors who did not get a survey, and believed the seller, who told him that a common road was his property, and that our fence was 30 yards over his property line.
This new not-so-neighborly neighbor, despite being shown the map and survey, insists that he owns the road and our land. He is going to spend a fortune on attorneys and surveys, and he has really ticked off the neighbors on either side of him (the folks on his other side have had to deal with the new folk declaring that their land is his. Also, the new people are shooting their firearms indiscriminately, planting a bullet in a neighbor’s doorframe!)
Hopefully, with time this new person will come around and see that he has alienated neighbors.
Wherever you move, remember that neighbors are the best insurance you can have against hard times.