Looking to Move to Nebraska for Going Off-Grid (Grand Island, North Platte: fit in, sales)
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So I've been looking up stuff online and going over and over and over it. It seems way too expensive to just straight up buy any land anywhere, unless it's complete junk land that we couldn't get much use out of. And even if we did find land, we'd have to have money to afford materials to build a house and such.
The only thing I can think of that might actually work is moving to somewhere near where we want to go, for example moving to Scottsbluff or North Platte or something like that, a town or city, and then asking around from there. I figure we could talk to the farmers nearby. Not only would it be easier to find a good deal, but then we'd make friends with people who actually know about the area (what plants to grow, etc).
Does this sound like a better idea than trying to just go straight off the grid? And if so, what town do you think would be the best place to do this? Somewhere with cheap rent and okay in the jobs department, including somewhere that might hire farm or ranch help (one of us actually does have some experience with that).
We don't care much about crime rate. We're from New Orleans and have lived in the lower 9th ward, so anywhere else is nothing compared to there. (Obviously we'd prefer a place that's nicer and less crime rate, but this is one of the areas we're willing to sacrifice.)
Even if we can't get straight into a small town because we couldn't get housing and jobs before moving, a bigger town would still work. For example, North Platte has a Craigslist section so I'm guessing it's big enough that they might have housing and jobs we could scout for ahead of time. From there, we could go somewhere smaller, like I saw a place called Mullen that barely turned up anything online. And then from a small place like that, we could find a farm or land. You see what I'm saying?
Am I completely off here? What are your opinions on the towns in Nebraska? I know that there isn't as much jobs there as, say, New Orleans, or some other major city. And I know it will be hard, but I'm looking to find somewhere it's *possible.*
Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read this and for your help.
haha, yes I was having trouble. Even usernames I've used that usually aren't taken elsewhere, that I made up, were taken!
Anyway, off grid to me means being as independent as possible. We'd like to eventually grow our own food, make our own clothes (I know how to knit and sew), hunt for our own game, raise our own animals, have our own solar power, even our own little water system. Eventually. That's the dream. But I know that'll take a lot of work and time. We'd like to actually start working toward it as soon as possible, though. We don't want to just keep dreaming and not do anything about it.
Part of that is saving up, I know, which we're doing already. Research is another big thing, which we're all reading up everything we can on the subject. I'd like to start a kitchen garden to get a little bit of experience growing things. One of us already has some ranch and growing experience. Another has some construction experience.
But ya, that's the idea. I don't expect to be able to find any land I can just straight up buy on the internet for cheap. I'm hoping to move to a small town where I can ask around. For example, we're currently temporarily in a place in Florida where just a few blocks away there are farms. Even if we can't move straight to somewhere that small, even a place where there are farms within reasonable driving distance would be nice. So we can ask around and get some help from the farmers there.
I figure that way we would have a better chance of finding good land at a good price. We'd be able to get advice and help from neighboring farms. And hopefully we'd still be close enough to a town in case we need something, especially for when we first start.
I've been to both towns mentioned, Scottsbluff and North Platte. If I had to chose one it would be Scottsbluff hands down. There are bluffs around the city, plus Chimney Rock isn't too far from there. For a minute, you forget your in flat Nebraska. Plus Scottsbluff is more like Wyoming towns with an old west feel than the farm towns Nebraska. There is also a lot of Oregon Trail history in the area. North Platte really has nothing to offer. Its hundreds of miles from anywhere, and there is literally nothing to do there. Trust me, I like small towns, and its even boring for me. All of the Buffalo Bill stuff can be seen in a couple hours, and then there is nothing to do again. Scottsbluff is a neat, clean town if only you can find work there.
I think what seems to work a lot for people wanting to do this is to find a farmer that is getting a little older and would be willing to dump 1/4 of an acre or so off to you for cheap. He gets a little cash in his pocket and has a little less that he has to do now.
I found my Nebraska property - 60 acres, a 100-year-old farmhouse, fenced and crossfenced, two pole barns and other outbuildings, four years ago on landsofamerica. com.
There aren't a whole lot of listings for open land or older homes with a little land; most of what is sold around here is thousands of acres of ranchland. Where I live (the Sandhills) is a lot of rolling land, not "flat Nebraska" - in some places you can stand straight up and bite the ground! - but the soil is fine and, well, sandy, not mountain rock or river loam or hardpack clay.
North Platte and Grand Island and those areas south and east are too flat and nondescript for me. Scottsbluff is nice, and so are Chadron, Ogallala down by Lake McConaughy - several small towns with lots of open spaces and ranches around them, but some employment opportunities. Track along the Niobrara River and you can find some smaller towns too that might fit you.
How far "off-grid" do you want to go? Are you talking your own electricity - solar or wind - woodstoves and kero lamps, water pumped by windmills? Many ranches here have those, because they are so far out. We are right on the edge of a tiny town (145 pop) and have 'city water' pumped out of the Ogallala Aquifer, but can also put up windmills for water. We have access to electricity and propane, but use a woodstove to heat the house and solar-electrified fencing as well as a solar-heated chicken coop, cattle trough heater, and solar-lighted greenhouse. We have our own eggs and chickens, and Dexter beef and milk cattle, and this year we are putting in 125 fruit trees and beehives to improve our self-sufficiency - as well as in the future to trade with neighbors.
As far as ranching opportunities - it depends. Some folks are hiring, some are not; some use their children, parents, and even grandparents to work the cattle, some hire it out.
I'd look a little more carefully at areas, as the eastern side is far, far different from the western, as is the northern side from the southern side of the state. Picking a 'hub' to rent and operate from is a pretty sound idea, it will help you become acclimated to the area and familiar with the different opportunities.
There is some crime in the areas of the larger towns, but we have very little out here. Many folks open-carry (if you are riding all day without seeing a town, and have to deal with mountain lions, snakes, yotes, badgers, skunks, and other varmints, you do that sort of thing) and most people's word is their bond.
It is going to be difficult to buy less than 20 acres of land almost anywhere in Nebraska. In the East end of the state many of the Counties will not allow parcels of land less than 20 acres to be sold without a development permit that requires building streets and utilities. In the West end of the State it is difficult to buy that small of an acreage. It is easier to find a quarter (160 acres) or a section than it is 5 acres or less. There are some available but they are difficult to find. If you do decide to buy a rural acreage before you even think about talking to a Real estate agent, hang around local coffee shops, watering holes and sales auctions in the area where you want to locate. Talk to the locals and you might find a gem for about one tenth of what a Real Estate broker or agent will tell you it will cost. Ask these people questions about their local schools, sports teams, hunting & fishing etc to get a feel for how you will fit in. They might be your neighbors so if they aren't the kind of people you would want for neighbors, find out about it before you plunk down thousands of dollars on a piece of property a real estate agent sold you.SC Granny mentioned LandsofAmerica. It is a good resource but MOST listings they have are way above actual selling prices. Do some negotiating.
@Pheaton: That's what I was thinking, that we'd get a better deal buying from a farmer in the area after talking to them. I'm looking for an area to relocate to, basically. A small town, but not so small that there aren't any jobs I can get beforehand.
@SCGranny: Thank you for all of that information! I'll check that site out. We do want something big, lots of acres. It's just that we can't afford it. I was hoping moving to the area we might be able to find something cheaper by asking around. It would still be a lot of money and we do need to save up, but the cheaper we can get it, the sooner we can get it.
As far as going off-grid, as I said, we want to go as off-grid as possible, our own solar/wind energy, everything. I doubt we could afford it right away, though. But being completely independent is the dream.
As for ranching, I just mentioned it to say that we'd all be willing to work hard and get our hands dirty. And if there were jobs doing that, one of us could do that.
And that sounds exactly like the sort of people we want for neighbors.
@Gunluvver2: Oh, wow, I didn't realize that, thank you. We definitely don't want to talk to real estate agents. We've had troubles with them in the past and hate all the extra fees tacked on. I didn't realize, though, that the prices are above what they're willing to go for. But ya, we're definitely going for something with lots of acreage, if we can. It just depends on how much it costs. Btw, any tips/suggestions for negotiating? I haven't ever had to buy a house on my own.
Actually, a (divorced) real-estate agent owned this property - and had to do a sale or go into bankruptcy....
I spent 3 years on landsofAmerica, looking, looking, looking... it gives you a good idea of not only what's 'out there', but you can look at the pictures of the property and the surrounding area, check out the lay of the land, then go on CityData for that town/county and get the demographics... Once you live here (while you rent) you can go for a day trip over here or over there, wherever you find online or in the local papers, and sit in the restaurants, listen to the people talk, get an idea of what the people and the area are like. Ex. We liked what we heard and the people we met in Valentine and O'Neill, but Ainsworth - not so much.
Several things to remember when buying rural properties:
1. Water. Will you have to drill a well. Educate yourself about groundwater in the area. There may be a Rural Water District that will pipe water to your location. Costs on it vary from district to district. If you are adventurous and mechanically handy you could drill your own. I have done it (with a Deep Rock rig) but if you are in Rocky soil or have to go over 100 feet to water it might be best to hire an experienced well driller in the area.
2. Septic system will most likely be needed. You can do basic percolation tests yourself. Read up on them and how to do them on the Internet.
3. Electricity. Is it readily available on the property? If you go off grid remember to calculate your maximum KWH you will need and DOUBLE it. If you use Solar remember it is only good during the day and if you go with Wind it does not always blow. Another thing with Wind in Nebraska--- at times it can blow hard enough to destroy poorly built towers. Over engineer your system.
4. Road surface---dirt, gravel or paved. Finding an acreage with Water, Electricity, Septic and a paved road in front would be great. However finding all of them in one property is going to cost plenty.
SCGranny suggests renting before you buy. That is the best idea. That will also give you time to see if you are a fit in the area. Most rural people will be hesitant to make you a part of their circle. Don't get pushy but don't be too stand offish either. In a year if you are well liked in the area let a few of your friends/neighbors know you are interested in buying property and if they really like you they will help you find what you want.
Country living can be fantastic OR it can't be the worst experience of your life.
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