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Old 11-09-2006, 02:36 PM
Location: TN
71 posts, read 374,822 times
Reputation: 30


My husband and I are in our mid-twenties and have two kids. He's scheduled to get out of the miltary in Feb 2010 (after 10 yrs) and we want to move to Montana. I know it's a bit early, but we'd like to buy a small piece of land in the next year or so and have it paid off by the time we move. Here is what we have in mind. Please let me know if it's even possible...we don't mind if these properties aren't a dime a dozen, we can wait until the perfect one comes available. Here goes:

1. Small acreage (by your standards ) suitable for small pasture/gardening and partly timbered. We want to homestead so we really only need 10 acres or so. If we could get 20-30 for a good price that would be wonderful, as we plan on passing the land on to our children one day. We desperately want to be near the mountains and lakes. We're not made of money at all, so price is a big concern. A little one room cabin would be nice to start with, as we can also add on later as funds allow. No restrictions, obviously. Must have reasonable access to water (don't want to drill a 100 foot well--the shorter we have to drill the better), access, etc...
2. Sense of community--this is one of our top priorities!! I am tired of being anonymous. We want an area where we can put down roots for our children and their children. No retirement hotspots (now I do have a special fondness for old people , but I've had bad experience with wealthy retirees). No "trendy" towns, or extremely liberal towns either for that matter. Young families with children would be great. Don't care about museums/the arts/etc... we really only do those things once in a blue moon so I could always drive several hours if we really wanted to go somewhere. Would rather stay home and have a BBQ with friends (guess it would likely be a cold bbq most of the time ). It would be neat to be near other homesteaders, but that's not a requirement.
3. Outdoor recreation--we come from several generations of fishing guides, so must be near rivers/lakes/streams/etc...
4. Jobs-- husband only has helicopter search and rescue experience, so that doesn't really help him in the civilian world. But he likes working outdoor with his hands and unlike most people our age, he knows what it means to work. He could also probably get a government job, but he'd hate that. I will have my business degree by then, but I don't anticipate that will be much help. Don't need to make big bucks since our goal is to live below our means as self-sufficiently as possible. But do need steady employment with medical/dental benefits. As far as I can tell, this will be our biggest hurdle. I'm tossing around the idea of getting my masters degree so I can teach college courses online. But I'd rather not spend any more time in school, so if there's any way I could find a steady job without it that's what I am going to do!
5. No long commutes--I know I know, land near the jobs is ridiculously expensive. We are willing to commute a MAX of 1 hour each way, that's including weather/traffic delays. Is this even feasible?
6. As far as possible from suburban sprawl...this will be our forever home, so I don't want a cookie cutter neighborhood on top of me in 10 years.

It's a tall order, I know. And everything is not set in stone. For example, I'd commute 1hr20 min in reality if everything else was perfect. So first of all, is this just an impossible dream? And secondly, where would I begin a search for something like this? I prefer not to put any $ in the pockets of developers... I'm thinking either buying from a FSBO or dealing with a realtor who's not in bed with the big developers. What about word of mouth? Is the northwest area of the state out of reach for us? Where do you think most closely fits the bill?

Thanks, I know this was long!
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Old 11-09-2006, 03:17 PM
Location: Kingman - Anaconda
1,552 posts, read 5,517,233 times
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Well not sure how much you are willing to spend. We spent between 30 - 50 thousand for 20 acres 1/2 mile of year around running creek property had a trailer and it sat under a pole barn. Problem is its 8 miles off of the pavement not year around access.
Plenty of propertys most of the good ones are not advertised or if they are the price would scare you.
Poke and prod and you will find your dreamscape..

we are off the grid solar we are planning on dropping a well this spring and we are being told we only have to go to a max of 60' to get water.

Last edited by rambrush; 11-09-2006 at 03:31 PM..
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Old 11-09-2006, 04:31 PM
Location: Sarasota
462 posts, read 1,526,391 times
Reputation: 154
Default the impossible dream

May not be too impossible in SW Montana. Places like Twin Bridges, Dillon, Whitehall would be areas to look at. This is river bottom country so access to all the best trout streams within close proximity (Ruby, Jefferson, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Madison) and if you still wanted to guide you could probably find good seasonal work doing that in these areas. There are some fishing lodges in the Twin Bridges, Sheridan, Alder areas that do a good bit of hiring.

These are all small communitites and everyone knows everyone so you would walk in the bank like I do, and everyone knows you by name. Same at the post office etc.

For real homesteading, you are talking out of town and I mean a good bit out so perhaps you would need to look farther away like closer to Wisdom or Wise River where it gets REALLY COLD in the winter. There are still some properties with some decent acreage around these areas, but getting more expensive every day. The more acres you buy though, the lower the price per acre will be. Another area to look is Ennis which is on the Madison River and there are still some areas there that are not developed.

In these small towns, someone with experience in search and rescue would be a great addition to the local EMT's who are all pretty much volunteers. These areas see lots of auto accidents with deer and drunk driving (unfortunately) and need all the help they can get with emergency response.

Helicopter work could also possibly land him a job with the forest service or fighting fires. We do get our share of wildfires in the summer and even though my area of SW Montana doesn't have much problem with it, other areas of the state are in need of firefighters to fight wildfires by air and on the ground.

As far as the possibility of teaching college courses, there is a college in Dillon and one in Butte. Take a look at these websites: Univ of MT Western in Dillon (www.umwestern.edu) and Montana Tech of the Univ of MT in Butte (www.mtech.edu) (broken link). Dillon is around 28 miles from Twin and Butte is about 52 miles from Dillon.

The smaller towns like Dillon, Twin, Sheridan and Whitehall ( a somewhat larger town than Twin and Sheridan but smaller than Dillon) would be less likely to have big time developers messing things up. Places like Livingston and Bozeman I'd stay way far away from. They are planning on putting in another 800 houses in Livingston as soon as they get the county commissioner to aprove it. Can you imagine???

Well I hope this helps. If you are big outdoors people, this area is perfect. Great fishing, hunting, mountains are right here (less than a mile from my house) and lakes are up there in the mountains. Excellent camping, ranching, good schools and good people with few problems. Also my well is only 40 feet deep and pumps 60 gal per minute. The higher you go though, the deeper you will have to drill.

One last thing. There are areas outside of Whitehall that have trees, lots of rocky areas and unfortunately that comes with rattle snakes, but there is lots of good acreage that would be perfect for homesteading. (watch out for moose too, and mountain lions) Areas like Rader Creek and near Pipestone, Cedar Hills etc. Also Butte is only a 20 minute drive from Whitehall. Even less from Pipestone which is at the foothills heading up to Homestake Pass and Pipestone Pass.

Good luck and feel free to ask more ?'s if you need more info.
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Old 11-09-2006, 04:47 PM
Location: TN
71 posts, read 374,822 times
Reputation: 30

We would eventually like to go off the grid solar as well, but first things first Did you do it as a preference, or as a necessity? And I think that is an excellent find! What do you do for winter access? Are you in a city, near one, etc...?

Any specific areas you would recommend? How do you find property that is not advertised? It is quite difficult for us to plan to spend a significant amount of time there because the military basically owns us right now. Would you just recommend us visiting as often as possible and asking around? Who do you start with?

The price really depends on the property. For example, I would be willing to pay more for property that is in a better location (like say, backing up to state forest), that is partially cleared and partially timbered, land with fertile soil versus land I am going to have to do extra soil prepartion, if it already has a well, buildings, septic, phone access...in general, I can afford to pay 1-3K/acre for densely forested, no buildings, etc... and a max of 9K for some improvements and basic shelter if it were on the smaller acreage side (this would involve financing part of it, though, and we had really hoped that we could save enough $ to avoid much of a mrtg). I basically figure we will have about 50-60 K in cash and no debt when we move. I would like to find something for less than that, though, so I can use the extra $ on land improvements/livestock/etc...
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Old 11-09-2006, 05:16 PM
Location: TN
71 posts, read 374,822 times
Reputation: 30

So would my best bet be to visit Twin Bridges/Dillon/etc... and use one of those areas as a base to scout the area? Or would it be better to visit Butte/Whitehall and branch out from there? Can you tell me more about the weather in your area, the land, or some sites to check out the towns you mentioned? Some of the smaller towns don't have websites.

We do need to be near an area where we can find work. Like I said, I would look into getting my masters and teaching if I had to have it to find a job. But I would rather find something locally without going back to school (it's SO expensive!). I'm sure my husband would be glad to volunteer doing search and rescue work, etc... but he also really needs a paid position! He was not a pilot so it might be difficult for him to find helicopter work. He primarily did combat search and rescue/aviation warfare/and more recently they took over the army's medivac flights over in the big sandbox.

We love the outdoors, but I could and would never presume to go to another area of the country and try to guide. That would require an intimate knowledge of the area. I don't even know how you guys fish up there (we're from the Gulf Coast and fish for grouper/trout/redfish)! But we would love to learn for fun, and to pass that on to our kids. I'm not worried about the rattlesnakes (have them in the south, too), but I will admit that the idea of mountain lions and moose terrify me! How big of an issue are they? Am I going to have to carry a gun (or a taser!) around on my property with me?

Thanks for all the info! When I digest it all I may have more questions. Sounds like that area might be perfect for us!
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Old 11-09-2006, 05:22 PM
Location: TN
71 posts, read 374,822 times
Reputation: 30
Also, if we live in one of these smaller communities, will we still have access to schools in the winter? Are most of the roads passable?

Nevermind about the weather info. I found it in other posts and online. We're checking about employment in Butte and living in one of the smaller communities. We would like to visit at least twice this year, once in the winter and again in the summer. We will have to check out the best times to travel though, as we will be driving (I don't fly). I am most excited about the community aspect of the area. That is exactly what I am looking for (for better and worse!).

Last edited by Marka; 11-10-2006 at 05:03 AM.. Reason: merged
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Old 11-10-2006, 06:03 AM
Location: Kingman - Anaconda
1,552 posts, read 5,517,233 times
Reputation: 711
Solar due to necessity, most areas have to advertise no year around access due to some regulation. In our case we have a contractor with equipment backhoe etc. he has to get in and out in winter so he actually goes out and clears a path down off of the mountain. Of course that is from his place down, our property is a couple miles maybe past his place.
1 person has a snowcat like what they use in ski areas most just use snowmobiles. The mail boxes are down on Mill Creek road and the snowmachines park there then you get into your vehicle which you left there chained up ready for winter conditions.
We currently are not there year around, when the snow flys we head south plus working full time still we keep the home base in Arizona.
Ok how we found our property, we stayed at a bed and breakfast south of Anaconda along Mill Creek. They actually are a pet friendly place bring your horses etc.
We had realtors lined up prior to leaving Arizona but we had searched the Montana GIS website which enables you to take the property you are looking at and bring up all info and location of it. So prior to meeting we layed out our maps and went and looked at the propertys and discovered most advertised water creek etc. most only touched a corner of the property. Not good.
We talked to the owners of the B&B and they were like asking each other I wonder if so and so is still wanting to sell his property? So they picked up the phone and made a long distance call to Texas, YES they still wanted to sell! We took off the next morning exploring to locate this property, we fell in love when we saw the old beaver ponds, year around creek plus a waterfall and heavy timber. We sit just below Grassy Mountain lookout tower and just east of Mt Haggin nice area and looks out to the Lady of the Rockies.
So what I would do and Ladyflyfish would possibly recomend is research where you want to go. Get maps google or ms terraserver the area use the resources montana provides on there websites. We had hoped to use a water turbine for power but guess what we discovered afterwords we are in the upper clark fork basin and restricted to what goes on in the creeks.
So basically do your homework fly or drive up, there is a nationaly know rental agency that has a office in downtown butte and also a branch at airport. they rent 4x4's. Spend some quality time in the area talk to the locals. you will find them very friendly and knowledgable. You will be amazed at what property is advertised and sounds great till you go look at it, best to go look, talk to locals. pick there brain as to issues and concerns in the particualr area.
For instance who would have thought about a Grizzly bear? We had one just at the bottom of our property that had been killed by unknown person (s). this was in October last year. Evidently they come through from Glacier to Yellowstone. We have a Mountain Lion that lives in the rocky bluff above us. We don't bother them and they leave us alone. Just have to keep it in back of your mind they were here 1st and we moved into there territory.
Sorry for the long post but we really like the area around Butte. one day we can be over exploring Georgetown lake the next up at some glacier alpine lake.
Yes Homedepot is a distance away but the local lumber yards in Butte and Anaconda have served us well.
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Old 11-10-2006, 08:37 AM
Location: Sarasota
462 posts, read 1,526,391 times
Reputation: 154
Default land prices


I'm looking at some ads in my local paper for land and here is what I see:

Moderator cut: no specific property info, please

These are just a few examples of what you get for the money. I agree with rambrush in that you need to go see them in person. Photos can really be deceiving. A good place to start is the MLS (multiple listing service). Go online and look up the realtors in the area and search the MLS. You can just google Southwest montana real estate.

The weather in this area is rather mild. Butte always gets more snow as it is a higher elevation and is always colder than over this side of the C. Divide. There are schools in all of these places I mentioned. Twin Bridges, Sheridan, Dillon, Whitehall, even Alder. Everywhere the school bus goes, the roads are plowed in winter.

As for mountain lions and moose, that is just a fact of life here in Montana...especially if you are going to live off the grid and away from more civilized areas. Also bears like rambrush mentioned. I've had close encounters of the moose kind and it was a very scary and memorable incident. The fact is, they were here first and we have invaded their habitat so we need to be very mindful of their existence and respect it.

Regarding driving around here, the only thing to worry about is snowy and icy mountain passes. The key is to drive slowly and cautiously and remember 4x4's don't help on ice.

Last edited by Marka; 11-17-2006 at 01:41 AM..
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Old 11-12-2006, 05:45 AM
Location: Kingman - Anaconda
1,552 posts, read 5,517,233 times
Reputation: 711
This sounds good and would have caught our eye with the creek running through the property. BUT most of these we found the water only cut through a corner or a section that was unaccesable not visable from cabin site. etc. So like we have said ya gotta go look.

Last edited by Marka; 11-17-2006 at 01:42 AM.. Reason: edited quotation
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Old 11-12-2006, 10:25 AM
Location: Bitterroot Valley
149 posts, read 578,835 times
Reputation: 54
Default looking for yourself

Originally Posted by rambrush View Post
. So like we have said ya gotta go look.
I agree. We are coming from (do I dare say it?) California and used a local Hamilton, Mt. realtor who e-mailed properties available. We then flew in and went around with her to ones we were interested in. YA GOTTA GO LOOK!
Good prices for large # acres did not equal adequate spaces. Most were too hilly that only a billy-goat could access. Some roads in were too long to self-maintain,esp. in inclimate weather. Some had only small spots to build a home on. One we had to descend during July rain and had to use 4-wheel drive and still slid a bit.

I also looked around online a lot and checked out weather and other facts. We also have friends in Mt. already to get the "down and dirty" factoids
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