My wife and I are looking to start Homesteading in 4-5 years. We would like to buy land in the next 1-2 years. We currently live in Huntsville, AL in a suburban area where we are working on our homesteading skills. I’m originally from Chicago. Our first choice of area to move to is the UP in Michigan. We have narrowed the counties down to the following:
We are looking for people who can tell us about these areas in general and homesteading in these areas in particular. Maybe someone we could email our questions to as they come up.
Here is some information on what we are looking for:
-about 20-40 acres with timber and a good water supply that we can become self-sufficient with.
-secluded, but year round access where we can build a small self-sufficient cabin.
-jobs are not necessary as we already have other income.
Thanks for any information and advice you can provide.
My wife and I came to Michigan for school, met each other, and stuck around. So we've been here about 13 years now.
It sounds like you've got an exciting plan; best of luck!
Let me shed what light I can on it, as somebody who lives here. I notice that you mention wanting to move to the UP, but then out of your list of counties, only Houghton Co is actually in the UP. The other four are in the Lower Peninsula, on the area some people call the Fruit Coast.
(Notice that Houghton is about as far away from Muskegon as Cincinnati is!)
For me, I think it seems a lot more promising to move to the Fruit Coast, honestly. They call it that because.... it's great for growing food. You didn't tell us exactly what variety of self-sufficiency you're picturing, but if it's the kind that involves raising your own food, it will be significantly harder up in the UP than down here.
In fact, it's worth noting that Houghton Co versus the other four you listed are really dramatically different places.
You came from Chicago, so you know about winter, but it's extreme up there. You literally get snowed in, where you can't open the door and escape from your house. That's a set of challenges you don't face in the lower peninsula or in Chicago. And we have winter here, but there's at least another month of winter up there. Possibly two more months if it's a tough year. It's November now, and Houghton is expecting overnight lows around 12 and 13 F all week.
Here's the average temps in Chicago:
July highs in the 80s, January lows in the teens.
July highs just touching 80, January lows in the teens.
But here's Houghton:
July highs nowhere near 80, Januray lows down in single digits.
(These are all three from city-data.com.)
I don't know if that conveys what I'm going for, but the point is that these are really different places. You're signing up for a lot of winter if you move to Michigan, but you're signing up for ALASKAN winters if you move to the UP.
There's the culture, too. The UP is known for being full of hermits. There are exceptions around the Universities, but the rule still holds. You'd have an easy time finding a cheap 40 acres (it will all be wooded), but you'll have a helluva time finding high-speed internet.
The Fruit Coast is agricultural with little areas of touristy places. It will be just as easy to find a cheap 40 acres, as long as you don't want to be right IN Pentwater or Ludington or Holland. But there's little to no hostility towards outsiders. (By contrast, Yoopers call us "trolls." Because we're under the bridge, get it?)
Water is a piece of cake in either place, just stick a pipe in the ground. I mean, I exaggerate a little, but seriously, fresh water is abundant here.
Why don't I stop there and ask for more information about you? How are are you all? Is this a retirement plan, or did you sell a startup? Are you picturing raising all your food and churning your own butter, or is this more a SHTF retreat with a generator type situation? Are you wanting to build a little house yourself or have somebody build something respectable for you?
If we know a little more about where you're headed, we can give some more helpful information.
> How are are you all?
We are in good health and looking to start a new adventure in a few years. We are in our 40s.
> Is this a retirement plan, or did you sell a startup?
It's an early retirement plan as my wife and I will both be able to stop working in 4 1/2 years.
> Are you picturing raising all your food and churning your own butter, or is this more a SHTF retreat with a generator type situation?
We want to eventually raise our own food and live there year round.
> Are you wanting to build a little house yourself or have somebody build something respectable for you?
We want someone to build us a cabin (1100 sq ft). We already have a floor plan and know what we want.
We have about 4 1/2 years left to work and get our last child going in college (He's in 10th grade). Right now we are practicing our homesteading skills and trying to downsize our clutter from a home which used to have four children in it, to something that will fit in a cabin.
It is the kind of stuff I was looking for. As for the counties, I copied the wrong list. We are interested in finding out more about the UP and its counties and if we end up crossing the UP off our list the other counties are where we were looking next.
Does anyone know the land prices between the two areas and what to look out for when looking at land in each area?
That seems about right, $3,000/acre for wooded rural land.
As far as what to watch out for, I'll assume you've read up on the universal ones:
-Check for easements and other legal issues
-Check for outstanding weirdness with pollution cleanup, etc
-See if the boundaries are marked, and if not, plan on getting a survey.
-Make sure it's going to be all the way buildable before signing- well, septic, electric, zoning, permits, offsets from property lines, how your site prep will affect water features, etc.
Here are a couple you might take for granted, but are worth doing the legwork on (these are mostly from personal experience!). Some of them kind of Michigan-specific:
-Meet the neighbors (my neighbors are fabulous, and it's literally in the top five things improving my quality of life the last couple years)
-Can you get high-speed internet?
-Is somebody going to plow your road? For snow, that is. Almost everywhere, the county will, but not absolutely everywhere. And you might not get served on the first day, either.
-Highway, railroad, fire department, airport noise?
-How's the soil? (It's generally very good over most of the state, but not 100%)
-Chemicals next door, and chemicals running into your ponds
-If the property lines are marked, do they agree with the GIS photos, and do all the neighbors agree that the markers are accurate?
-If trespassing hunters are going to make you mad, have the neighbors had any trouble? Some people don't mind too much; other people get furious.
-If you're a churchgoer, is there a church you can stand within a radius you can stand to drive?
That's all that comes to mind. If other local quirks come up, I'll come back again.
Hi Wayne, welcome back to Permies! I'm fairly near the UP and took a drive over to Mackinaw city this summer.
My suggestions would be:
Check the frost-free-days for the cities you're interested in. I'm guessing Houghton is worse than Escanaba
Check the average temps in the summer for those same cities. You can likely get longer frost free periods near the lake, especially Lake Michigan but it could depress summer temps
Watch for advantageous microclimates on the land. A nice south facing hillside could buy you an extra week or two of growing season.
Look at the Garden Peninsula. There are some orchards there so it can grow things.
Check how many miles it is to town, the grocery store and Menards (or Home Depot). If you're the kind of person who will be building things, easy access to hardware/lumber/plumbing is important.
If it's on a "private road", be wary and really look into what that entails. One place we looked at was 1/2 mile in on a private road and the guy selling it plowed it with his tractor. Including the people farther along on the road.
Snow will need to be plowed often, especially if you're in the Lake Effect Snow belt. You grew up in Chicago but did the missus? Many people have moved up and then moved away after going through one winter. Yes I know she's a tough woman and you liked the snow but be honest with yourselves. Type Houghton Winter Pictures into the Google and see what it looks like. Sorry if I sound patronizing, I'm just trying to help.
Finding a builder to start work next year may or may not be a challenge. Talking to some builders while you're land hunting may be worthwhile.
There is (or are) a new mine(s) that they're working on opening up in the UP. I think it's by Gardner but check into that.
This may be obvious but dry buildable and growable land is important. A sunny area for the garden is important.
Your realtor may or may not want to walk the land with you. Bringing a gps may be worthwhile so you don't get too lost.
I grew up on a farm in the Eastern Upper Peninsula (Sault Ste. Marie), lived in Chicago for ~8 years and now live in Nothern Lower Michigan (Tustin).
When my wife and I moved from the city back to the farm, we didn't pick the Sault — even though that would have been much easier in a lot of ways. The main reason we chose Tustin (besides my wife's work) is that it's much closer to things. If you want to have any kind of life outside of your property or see friends (or have them easily visit) I would stay in the lower peninsula.
We can get to Traverse City and Grand Rapids in a little over an hour. The culture is many small towns in just terrible and you'll need to get out every once in a while. Houghton is probably better with Michigan Tech being up there. Marquette is a really cool town too.
Of course, we also have slightly warmer weather here. A little less rain though. The snow belt is just north of us (Traverse City area) so a lot of the summer rains end up missing us. We still get a decent amount though — except for this summer. :p
Houghton gets absolutely dumped on for snow with long winters. They actually had historic rains/flash floods earlier this year too and it literally washed out many of their roads. It will be interesting to see how it affected housing/land up there.
If you're looking for land in that area I believe it's pretty rocky up there. Be sure to look at the USDA soil surveys to get an idea of the land and how deep the soil is.
I am anxious to follow your story! I am in the process of researching the exact same move, but from GA. My wife is from Muskegon, and we are looking to homestead in the UP. How is your progress?
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