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Old 06-02-2015, 03:09 PM
Location: Butler, PA.
2 posts, read 1,868 times
Reputation: 10


Hey folks! I'm Griz and I'm new to the forum. I just wanted to get some info on employment, real estate, churches and just general day-to-day life in Montana; with emphasis on the northwestern part of the state, in the "Kalispell/Thompson Falls area". Yes, I know that's a fairly large area and that the two towns really aren't close to each other. The reason I put it this way is due to my own research on topography and growing zones. It looks like any place in between those two towns might be a decent area in which to start a real, off-grid homestead (depending on zoning laws, of course).

As far as I know right now the move would consist of just my Wife and I, with the plan being to acquire the land (at least five acres, but the more the better) either with a small existing home or with enough timber (and the proper zoning laws, if any) to be able to build our own log cabin from which to start a homestead. Don't worry, we're not hippies. We do, however, want to be self-reliant and as off-grid as possible. This means chickens, dairy/meat goats, bees, a comprehensive garden, root cellar, alternative power, raising rabbits for meat/fur, hunting, trapping, fishing, canning, and all that jazz.

That being said, neither of us is against regular employment, at least for the first few years until we get the homestead consistently producing, and even then...who knows?

My own background is made up of blue collar employment ranging from structural steel fabrication, truck driving (Class A w/tank endorsement) and general welding (stick and mig), to residential carpentry (with actual wood), masonry and my current position as a Machine Operator. I can operate numerous types of shop equipment, machines and tools safely and with confidence.

My Wife, Shannon, has been the manager of a local hoagie shop for the past five years...a hoagie being a type of sandwich, like a sub or a hero, only much better. Prior to this she worked as a wild game processor for five years, processing deer, caribou, elk, wild boar, domestic cattle and hogs. She can run a meat grinder, band saw, smokehouse, maintain day-to-day operations, and possesses a unique and nearly encyclopedic knowledge of processes and recipes that were in high demand in several counties in the surrounding area.

We are looking for a place to live in which our chosen way of life is not just "tolerated", but welcomed with open arms. We are both bible-believing Christians who will also be looking for a church home: one that doesn't use "programs", but teaches and preaches from Scripture, and isn't run by any committees, but by a Spirit-led Pastor.

We are sinners, and we both have pasts of which we are not proud. We are currently about an hour north of Pittsburgh, and we both want to be much, much farther away from the filth. And the world isn't getting any better.

If anyone has any advice, links, or comments, your help is more than welcome. I'm looking forward to the discussion and to making new, like-minded friends. Check out my profile info to get a few more details and check out my blog (which I've been neglecting as of late), if you really want to understand more about our lives and situation.

Thank you all for your time and efforts.

God bless.

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Old 06-02-2015, 08:32 PM
Location: C-U metro
1,364 posts, read 2,717,811 times
Reputation: 1159
What is your budget? Last I heard, developable land was going for 10k an acre for the crappy stuff.

Most of the old growth timber is on US Forest Service land or on Plum Creek Lumber land. I don't know of any new growth lodgepole pine that would be large enough to do what you want to do. You could buy a kit from some manufacturers and build it on site. I'd recommend buying a kit as building log cabins is actually a very specialized skill. With the kit, I would think you could get help from the manufacturer/builder for questions since they likely will have a division/contractor that also builds the cabins.

As far as self-reliance goes, the growing season in this area is very short and not great for farming. The chickens likely won't make it if they aren't eaten by predators. It's too cold. If you have a ton of $$$, you can probably get a more open property for the dairy and goats. The property taxes will take your breath away for it though.

IMHO, the frontier you are looking for closed around 1900. Maybe Utah?
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Old 06-02-2015, 09:27 PM
113 posts, read 119,240 times
Reputation: 115
What you are looking for might be hard to come by, unless you have the $$$. The flathead valley is expensive. You may want to take a look around hot springs. Everything in the NW part of the state is expensive. There are plenty of churches near kalispell, which is where I'm at. I'm sure there are many in the state that would fulfill your requirements. As far as being welcomed with open arms- pretty much any way of life is welcomed here. As long as you are tolerant to other people's way of life, you will fit in fine. Day to day life is the same as anywhere else. We have larger cities and small towns. People here have the same needs and wants as any other place in the US. In the NW part of the state, there are a lot of transplants that have different ideas of what Montana is, and what it should be. There is no "one size fits all" ideology here. I agree with the above post- the frontier you are looking for isn't really around anymore. I know people who have left montana for the greener pastures of Alaska in search for the way of life you are looking for. Although, im sure you can make it work if you want it bad enough. Good luck.
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Old 06-02-2015, 11:18 PM
Location: Lost in Montana *recalculating*...
11,814 posts, read 15,395,300 times
Reputation: 12062
PA is cheaper than MT. I moved here from WV. West Virginia is waaaaay cheaper than MT.

Not saying you wouldn't fit in, but this is not the land of milk and honey either. It's expensive to have decent acreage in most parts. Very expensive.
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Old 06-03-2015, 08:16 AM
Location: Where the mountains touch the sky
4,877 posts, read 5,748,145 times
Reputation: 8233
Welcome to the Montana Boards GrizBear.

Montana is very different from what you are used to in PA. Even in the northwest corner of the state, you'll need a lot more than 5 acres to produce enough to live on. We have very short growing seasons, even though the area you're talking about is much more temperate than a lot of the state, the snows come early and stay late.

Because of that, our trees don't have a long growing season to get large, so a lot of the forest over in that area is tall trees that are small in diameter, 6 - 8 inches as a majority even though the trees may be 50 or 100 years old.

If you raise livestock, you'll need hay to see them through the winter. Goats don't eat a lot, but they still need hay, so you'll either need to grow and harvest your own hay or buy it. Hay is usually anywhere from $150 - $300/ton. I don't have the exact requirements for goats, but each cow I figure will need around 5 tons for the winter.

Chickens will do fine here if they have a good coop. I put a heat lamp or 2 in the coop when it gets really cold, but you will notice unless you have a light in there on a timer, the hens will stop laying when the days get short.
Predators are always an issue, and there are a lot of them here, Grizzlys, wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcat, lynx, wolverine, fox, skunk and weasels, not to mention hawks, eagles and snakes, all of whom have a taste for chicken, eggs and rabbit.

In mid-winter, we may only have 8 hours of daylight, so solar systems need a backup generator, plus the northwest corner of the state gets a lot of cloud cover. Winters are long and hard around here with a lot of sub-zero temperatures occuring regularly.

It isn't impossible to do a homesteading/self sufficent lifestyle here, but you need to know what you're getting into, or you will fail. There are old abandoned cabins and homesteads all over this state dating back to the 1860's. We had a large migration of emmigrants in the 1910's - 1920's, and then the depression and dust bowl hit and drove many of them out.

It's a hard life up here if you're trying to be self sufficent, but it can be done. My family pioneered here in the 1800's, and it was a REALLY tough life, but they held on and made it.
My best advice would be to come and visit a couple times before you move, winter and summer. drive over the area you are looking at, see what is available and how people live here.
You will most definately need a job, and those are few and far between in the area you're looking at. If you have a pension or other money coming in, that helps, but you will need fuel, you will need to suppliment your food supply, and you will need to have your tax money for the land.

If you can get a small 20 acre piece of ground with some timber and water, a decent job, you can build up your homestead over time and have it paid off so you won't need a large cashflow. You can build your buldings and your herds, get your garden and any trees started and producing, and know exactly what you need to survive if you take the time to really learn about the land and climate. You'll be much more successful and happy if you don't have the stress of failed crops or dead animals when you have no money in the bank to buy some more beans to make it through till the garden starts producing again. It can make for a long long long winter.

As far as the people, you should fit right in over there. Lots of good, down to earth, church-going, hard working people in that area.
They belive in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Very traditional people for the most part so you should have no issues with that.

Just take some time, do your homework, talk to the extension service in that area, look at land prices and when you find a piece you want, make sure there's a deeded access and water rights, and that the mineral rights come with the place as well.

If you have a dream, I say go for it, but just know what you're getting into. Knowing what you're facing will make for a much better experience.

Good Luck!
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Old 06-03-2015, 08:28 AM
Location: Butler, PA.
2 posts, read 1,868 times
Reputation: 10
Wow. Thank you all for your input and advice. Money is something we don't have, but this is all in God's hands. If this move is within His will, it will happen.

On the chickens: Last winter our part of PA got down to -20, not including the wind chill. We were colder than Russia and Alaska, our chickens were in a coop with open windows and eaves, and aside from a few frost-bitten combs they were fine. It surprised me, actually. We'd chosen cold-hardy breeds, but didn't realize they were quite that cold-hardy.

It may be that we'll just stay here in PA. We both know that pulling up stakes and trekking 2,300 miles across the country is a major, life-changing undertaking. To be honest, we haven't really prayed about it, either. I guess it's human nature to look elsewhere for solitude and seclusion when the world around us is descending into chaos. Shannon and I always think of Montana when the chaos comes to mind. And when we see pictures or videos? Forget about it.

We both know that if we ever had a log home/homestead with a mountainous Montana view, we'd just stare out the window, coffee in hand...and cry. LOL.

Anyway, thanks again for your words of wisdom, folks. Very much appreciated.

God Bless.

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Old 06-03-2015, 09:01 AM
Location: Lost in Montana *recalculating*...
11,814 posts, read 15,395,300 times
Reputation: 12062
Honestly if I were to homestead (or minimalist living) I would have to choose WV over MT. Land is cheaper, hardwood and softwood lumber is readily available, the climate is more temperate, you have longer growing seasons, you have ample water.. It seems the right ingredients are just a little more abundant there than they are here.

That is not in any way an attempt to detract from MT- because it isn't. This state is phenomenal and I doubt I would ever leave, I'm just trying to make an honest observation.
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Old 06-03-2015, 09:19 AM
21 posts, read 28,789 times
Reputation: 26
Hello Brother Griz! Welcome to the forum! It sounds like you got a lot of really good advice. You certainly want to be prepared before making a big move like that because there is a lot to consider. I am a firm believer that if it is God's will and you truly put your faith and trust in Him then He will open the doors where they need to be opened and close the ones that need to be closed. I also believe that if God guides He will provide. If you feel the calling and have nothing to lose then just go for it!

I am mostly familiar with the Flathead Valley. Prices of land all depend on location, view, waterfront, if there is a well, electricity and city services. If you want to be off-grid then you have a lot to consider for survival. Digging a well, bringing in electricity, septic systems and bringing in communications is not cheap. You may want to consider a greenhouse because of the short growing season.
I don't think you will have too much trouble finding a job with yours and your wife's experience.

In my opinion the key to moving to a new area is to get hooked up in the church ASAP. There are lots of churches in the area but I am only familiar with two that fit your description. Try either Fresh Life Church in Kalispell which happens to be a Calvary Chapel and then other is called Canvas Church which I believe is an Assemblies. Both are very large bible believing/teaching spirit filled churches and have a lot to offer. You can meet lots of local people and make like-minded friends that will give you support and lots of good advice.

May God bless you and keep you on your new adventure! Keep me updated
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Old 06-03-2015, 09:32 AM
Location: Billings, MT
9,519 posts, read 7,744,423 times
Reputation: 13242
If it were me, I would forget about Northwestern Montana (for one thing, I grew up there in the 1950s, and I can't stand the place now!).
There is land available in Yellowstone and Musselshell Counties much cheaper than the Flathead Valley. Search online for land in the Bull Mountains, the Pryor mountains, South of Columbus, and other rural areas in the mentioned counties. You could also expand the search to include surrounding counties.
Good luck.
Oh, and from a former PA (Blair County) resident, welcome to Montana. Born in Roaring Spring, lived in Martinsburg, came to Montana in 1948, following most of my uncles.
It is a great place to live. But, never EVER say "Well, back in PA we did that THIS way!"
For instance, people here do not eat raccoons. They don't even like to think about such a thing. when I was much younger, I used to enjoy telling about how my uncle and I went hunting in PA in 1954, shot a raccoon, and my mother baked it. Good stuff! the usual comment?
Oh, well.
I hope things come together for you to make your plans work.
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Old 06-03-2015, 07:31 PM
629 posts, read 1,435,724 times
Reputation: 1098
You might try your hand at homesteading / living off the land where you are in PA first. The weather/predators/etc are much more forgiving in PA than they are in NW Montana. I don't want to rain on your parade too much either, but I've seen a lot of people come to the Montana forum over the years with plans similar to what you've mentioned and I've never seen anyone come back on to provide an update and say they're making a successful go of it.
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