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Roadtrip to the MO Ozarks to see if I want to live there  RSS feed

 
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A while back I came to terms with some things that I've been feeling about living here in WA state, and that is that I don't really want to stay here on my current homestead llongterm.

So I've asked myself, all things being equal, where would I want to go? Through a process of elimination, I've pretty much identified that I want to go to MO in the Ozarks. I've considered many many other states but I just keep coming back to Missouri, it seems to check off all of my "must-haves" in a way that other states don't. (If you guys are curious, let me know and I can go into my reasonings for wanting to go to MO and why I want to leave WA)

The only problem is the humidity, right? Being from WA I'm not particularly accustomed to living with humidity in the summers, and while the weather is not as extreme as what I'm used to (their winters are a bit milder, summers aren't quite as hot) the humidity is the kicker. So I'm going to be flying out sometime this next summer to test it out - I have a friend who recently moved to south central MO, so I'll get good feedback from her also on what it's like from someone who is used to living in my current climate.

Anyway - I wanted to get some feedback from anyone who lives in the area on particular areas/counties I need to check out? I'm mostly just considering the ozarks area, so the southern part of the state. Not AR, mostly because I do want SNOW. Just... not as much as we get here though which is like 50 inches a year 😳

I'll be flying in to Tulsa at the end of July to visit some friends, and then take a few days and basically zig-zagging my way up to St Louis and trying to just drive around and check everything out in the southern half of the state. I'm not super interested in tourist traps, etc. but really want to keep things focused on my task, which is checking out the area for possibly relocating in a few years. That, and gauging whether or not I think I could get used to humidity in the heat. Not really planning on going up north since I do want the hilliness of the ozarks but if I'm wrong on that (that N MO isn't as hilly) let me know!
 
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Sounds like a good trip!  One thing that helped us lock in on a location was to make up a list (zillow or realtor.com) of properties that met out needs and price range.  Then we could drive by them (park on the road and just snoop in a legal manner).  That way, instead of just going to the towns and looking at the area in general, you can see specific spots and see how it really feels to you.  Don't plan on buying any of them or falling in love, just see if what people are selling for $XXXXX meets your needs and seems livable.

Once you have narrowed it down to a few areas, another trip where you spend a couple nights in each spot can help pin it down even better.  Check out the library, feed store, church, bars or whatever social place you want to get a feel for how friendly the place is.

Good luck!
 
Bethany Dutch
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Mike Jay wrote:Sounds like a good trip!  One thing that helped us lock in on a location was to make up a list (zillow or realtor.com) of properties that met out needs and price range.  Then we could drive by them (park on the road and just snoop in a legal manner).  That way, instead of just going to the towns and looking at the area in general, you can see specific spots and see how it really feels to you.  Don't plan on buying any of them or falling in love, just see if what people are selling for $XXXXX meets your needs and seems livable.

Once you have narrowed it down to a few areas, another trip where you spend a couple nights in each spot can help pin it down even better.  Check out the library, feed store, church, bars or whatever social place you want to get a feel for how friendly the place is.

Good luck!



Great ideas, thank you! It will be about 2-3 years at minimum so I have plenty of time to both pare down my stuff here, sell off things, finish my house & pay down my land mortgage, etc. while I'm also taking my time to check out the area. I like the idea of taking a second dedicated trip to spend more chunks of time in specific towns/areas... that may have to be in 2020 but I think that's really smart. I am HOPING to see if I can hit up some open houses while I'm there as well, but who knows if I'll be able to coordinate that.
 
Mike Jay
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Yeah, it should be a fun adventure for you!  If you do open houses, make sure you don't fall in love with something before you're ready or able to pull the trigger.  I think it worked out better for us to not be able to walk on the property as we did our drive-bys.  We could get a feel for the land and area and if the price of the property looked good to us without getting emotionally attached.
 
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Not AR, mostly because I do want SNOW.  


Well today the last of an inch and a half snow is melting here in the Arkansas Ozarks.  We do get snow, sleet, freezing rain, etc...all of that winter stuff

I'm not sure what sort of community you're looking for?
If we had begun with a plan and some research back in the seventies, homesteading in the Fayetteville AR area might have been a better choice.
There is a very active farmer's market...well attended by both venders and customers...and also a thriving art, craft and music community...and being a college town leans more liberal than other areas.  And of course, most importantly there is beautiful fertile forested land.

A road trip is a great idea...I ended up here sort of accidently while hitching around.  You never know what you will find...good luck!
 
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Bethany: I moved to S MO from the New Mexico desert. I treat the humidity like I used to treat the scorching heat, just work around it timing-wise, work in the morning and evening, not the heat of the day. I put effort into working in it, so I got used to it. Our first summer here, my mom pretty much melted down, stayed in the house, by the A/C and didn't acclimatize at all.
I like it here, it has things that matter to me. There are things I don't care for, but that would be true no matter where I moved. I picked the things that matter MOST to me.

Some things I looked into before buying that might be worth your time:

Consider is where the tornadoes walk, there are definite patterns.  Tornado History Project This site helped me a lot. Right along the I44 and I70 corridors seems to be thicker tornadoes. Personally, I wonder: the highways were put where the old roads were, the old roads were there because people had walked that way. Do the tornadoes walk the highways because it's easier for them, less obstructions? Or was the walking easier for pioneers because the tornadoes had kept the path clearer? Hard to say. But there IS a definite pattern to how they tend to go. Has a lot to do with the land forms.  Also note:: Tornado frequency shifting east  Which personally, I think correlates with Big Ag clearing more mileage of big fields, taking out hedgerows etc that might slow the winds down. When you look at property, beware of places that have a lot of trees all the same age, means if it wasn't logged, it got cleared by Mother Nature.

I also like the sites  Drilling Maps to see where they are fracking, and Flooding maps  watch the patterns in the area you are considering. Pay attention also to the stream flood markers that are down in the dips in the road, how many of those do you want to have to deal with? We looked at one place (had bad sun exposure) that had 8 markers on the only road in or out, and the bridges over them were just slabs of cement with no extra width or rails, that the water flowed over as it needed to. Umm. No. We don't want to be trapped. We are making our life so we don't HAVE to go places, but the option is nice.

Something to really watch for, unless you are willing to deal with it, is the rock levels in the ground. I know someone who bought 10 acres, that turned out to have 6 inches of topsoil on rock. He chipped out holes in the rock to plant trees. The trees aren't doing real well. You can do soil building, but being aware of it helps you choose wisely. Look at the rock strata on the highway, you'll see what I mean. And if you have a stream in the area, it will possibly involve legal hoops to jump through if you do things upstream. Watch for what else is upstream, I can't find the link, don't recall the name of it, but I had a national map that showed the water quality vs where the big feedlots are. (edit: Thank you Tom Worley!!  https://modnr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=cf630b020a17452fb30994cb4b36f003" target="_new" rel="nofollow">map of feedlots )

In the bootheel area, by the Mississippi river there are always small earthquakes, the New Madrid faultline is in that area, do your homework if you are looking that far east.

On the less iffy parts of it all: there is good soil (in my eyes) enough rain for my taste (I came from the desert though, opposite of you) miles of non-city land (again, you might not like that) more Baptist churches than we can count (I'm not Baptist, I like the church bells) some awesome people (probably Baptist) and enough deer to eat anything you plant!!  :D

I like it here :) It works for my head. Despite ticks and hungry deer. Some LOVELY areas, and a lot of potential.

Love to see you if you come by!! You are invited :D


 
Bethany Dutch
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Mike Jay wrote:Yeah, it should be a fun adventure for you!  If you do open houses, make sure you don't fall in love with something before you're ready or able to pull the trigger.  I think it worked out better for us to not be able to walk on the property as we did our drive-bys.  We could get a feel for the land and area and if the price of the property looked good to us without getting emotionally attached.



Oh! LOL true... I guess we will see. Maybe I'll swing by some if I happen across some but you are right I definitely don't want to fall in love with anything yet. It's been a difficult task keeping my KIDS from falling in love with real estate listings, since we can get so much more "home" for my buck out there than we have here so it will be an upgrade when we do... one of them goes window shopping on zillow all the time 😂 I have to hold her back a lot of the time!
 
Bethany Dutch
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Judith Browning wrote:

Not AR, mostly because I do want SNOW.  


Well today the last of an inch and a half snow is melting here in the Arkansas Ozarks.  We do get snow, sleet, freezing rain, etc...all of that winter stuff

I'm not sure what sort of community you're looking for?
If we had begun with a plan and some research back in the seventies, homesteading in the Fayetteville AR area might have been a better choice.
There is a very active farmer's market...well attended by both venders and customers...and also a thriving art, craft and music community...and being a college town leans more liberal than other areas.  And of course, most importantly there is beautiful fertile forested land.

A road trip is a great idea...I ended up here sort of accidently while hitching around.  You never know what you will find...good luck!



True! How much snow do you get? Up here I get about 50+ inches a year on average which is probably more than I'd like. I'd be happy with a couple good dumpings a year (4+ inches or so). Enough to have a couple snow days, sledding with the kids, etc. But I don't need as much as we get here!

Community wise... well, honestly, that's not super important to me. I'm a real hermit and homebody, so artsy/music/etc stuff isn't really particularly important to me. I'm generally pretty middle of the road politically but I think I'd be more comfortable in a conservative environment rather than liberal/progressive, which is part of why I want to leave WA.

So hmm... in a community, what's important to me? Libertarian leanings would be a huge massive bonus. I don't need "stuff" to do, but my current town has an old fashioned single screen theater, a couple good restaurants, and they do one great festival a year in the park which is nice. What would be best, I think, is to be able to connect with other permie/homesteader/sustainability types more than anything. That right there is my version of community. And then being a single woman homesteader, having a couple reliable handyman types I could hire would be good. One thing I heard from a couple people is that it's hard to get reliable worker type help ,which may pose a challenge, but I suspect that may just be more of an isolated experience thing.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Bethany: I moved to S MO from the New Mexico desert. I treat the humidity like I used to treat the scorching heat, just work around it timing-wise, work in the morning and evening, not the heat of the day. I put effort into working in it, so I got used to it. Our first summer here, my mom pretty much melted down, stayed in the house, by the A/C and didn't acclimatize at all.
I like it here, it has things that matter to me. There are things I don't care for, but that would be true no matter where I moved. I picked the things that matter MOST to me.


Oh that's good to know! Going from the desert was probably a big adjustment. I am pretty sure I would be able to adjust to it but obviously that's easy for me to say since I haven't ever been there yet so that's part of why I'm making the trip.



Some things I looked into before buying that might be worth your time:

Consider is where the tornadoes walk, there are definite patterns.  Tornado History Project This site helped me a lot. Right along the I44 and I70 corridors seems to be thicker tornadoes. Personally, I wonder: the highways were put where the old roads were, the old roads were there because people had walked that way. Do the tornadoes walk the highways because it's easier for them, less obstructions? Or was the walking easier for pioneers because the tornadoes had kept the path clearer? Hard to say. But there IS a definite pattern to how they tend to go. Has a lot to do with the land forms.  Also note:: Tornado frequency shifting east  Which personally, I think correlates with Big Ag clearing more mileage of big fields, taking out hedgerows etc that might slow the winds down. When you look at property, beware of places that have a lot of trees all the same age, means if it wasn't logged, it got cleared by Mother Nature.


that IS a concern! But someone pointed out... here where I am, I'm at huge risk of wildfires that isn't so much a risk in MO, so I'm almost trading one for the other. My home has been threatened within a mile of a pretty major wildfire twice in the last 6 years, so I feel like that would be a zero sum game (tornado vs. wildfire), neither I think would be worse or better to me.


I also like the sites  Drilling Maps to see where they are fracking, and Flooding maps  watch the patterns in the area you are considering. Pay attention also to the stream flood markers that are down in the dips in the road, how many of those do you want to have to deal with? We looked at one place (had bad sun exposure) that had 8 markers on the only road in or out, and the bridges over them were just slabs of cement with no extra width or rails, that the water flowed over as it needed to. Umm. No. We don't want to be trapped. We are making our life so we don't HAVE to go places, but the option is nice.


GREAT tip, thank you!! I will totally check out those maps with the areas I pick.


Something to really watch for, unless you are willing to deal with it, is the rock levels in the ground. I know someone who bought 10 acres, that turned out to have 6 inches of topsoil on rock. He chipped out holes in the rock to plant trees. The trees aren't doing real well. You can do soil building, but being aware of it helps you choose wisely. Look at the rock strata on the highway, you'll see what I mean. And if you have a stream in the area, it will possibly involve legal hoops to jump through if you do things upstream. Watch for what else is upstream, I can't find the link, don't recall the name of it, but I had a national map that showed the water quality vs where the big feedlots are.


someone had told me about the rock thing, which I figure I'd have to take on a case-by-case basis since I know overall the Ozarks are rocky but there are some pockets of good soil! I'm not 100% of the best way to go about that when I'm looking at listings, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. And good tip about the runoff! Another thing I hadn't thought of.


Love to see you if you come by!! You are invited :D


Awesome! I'll get in touch with you when I finalize my dates, I would love to meet up with you!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Bethany Dutch wrote:
that IS a concern! But someone pointed out... here where I am, I'm at huge risk of wildfires that isn't so much a risk in MO, so I'm almost trading one for the other. My home has been threatened within a mile of a pretty major wildfire twice in the last 6 years, so I feel like that would be a zero sum game (tornado vs. wildfire), neither I think would be worse or better to me.


It's not a matter of better or worse risk, it's more a matter of if you CAN avoid either one, its best to do so, or make sure your world is hardened for them. :) I went for avoid both, but harden for both. I'm a paranoid :D
 
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I wanted to suggest that whatever spots you decide you like, try to visit them at night!

If you can, aim to make a visit on a weekend night.  Sometimes there are hidden things going on at night that you might not learn about until its too late.  Enjoy the search.  Its all part of the fun!
 
Bethany Dutch
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Tina Hillel wrote:I wanted to suggest that whatever spots you decide you like, try to visit them at night!

If you can, aim to make a visit on a weekend night.  Sometimes there are hidden things going on at night that you might not learn about until its too late.  Enjoy the search.  Its all part of the fun!



Oh interesting... anything specific you're referring to? Meth heads?
 
Tina Hillel
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Some are things I heard about from other people.

One had people that were holding weekend parties back in her acreage.  Lot of drugs and drinking, but I dont know if they were cooking it up or just using.  They weren't really inclined to listen to a single woman to get off her property. She never felt safe there and ended up moving again.

There were a couple instances of weekend (as in every weekend) parties getting crazy out of hand with police regularly called.  If your property is more separate from people, that might not be a problem.  

For us, we only have a couple acres so we aren't that far from the neighbors.  Turns out the shed facing our property housed the instruments for the son's band that practiced at stupid hours. I about cried with relief when he moved out😃  Mostly we have good neighbors.

Examining a place at night just might let you see things that you might never think about when all is quiet during the day. Plus it can help you plan where you might want to place things when you set up your homestead.
 
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One aspect we looked into when beginning our search was the state's property tax laws. I believe MO is a personal property tax state where personal possessions of certain types or values are taxed each year that you own them. Definitely raises your long term cost to own cars, farm equipment, etc unless you try to make it a small farm business. We initially were interested in Arkansas, but learned of their similar laws and treatment of vehicle taxes. They would require us to pay AR state taxes on our RV we've owned for only a year (and already paid OK state taxes on it), literally thousands $$$ and also tax it as personal property every year until we no longer own it or it's worth less than $4,000. Crazy. Watch out for these type of state laws, they are all looking for ways to raise revenue without increasing the most visible taxes.
 
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I moved to the northern border of the ozarks 1.5 yrs ago. At this northern border of them we will probably get between 1-4 4" snows this year and couple of good icings in late winter.  Looking for lack of regulation? Definitely here. Having many close neighbors in the country here can be risky. I'd suggest visiting one of our large lakes, Table Rock or Truman/LOZ. The summer can be humid but the extremity only lasts 1-2 months. If you need a lot of local support here, there might not be many choices.  I asked for the libertarian ballot at our last primary and the voting official said "I think they call that something else now.", and it was half-way through the day.   Many neighbors here are extremely nice but are not the type of people you want to bring up anything value-based besides Jesus and Trump to.
 
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I haven't read everyone's response, but there are some great areas of Missouri (both north and south) for homsteading. The Ozarks are great because there is usually a culture of "leave me alone to do my thing." There are fewer restrictions but these are based on county and that often is a function of how close you're getting to Joplin/Branson/Springfield and certain areas of lake country. But, there is affordable land and opportunity to do what you want in a very favorable climate. I have heard from several people that people buying land in southern Missouri need to carefully obtain accurate records of how deep the soil is. There is often rock shelves that "lurk" quietly in shallow soil. Though I'm in northwest Missouri, I can commend the Missouri Ozarks as a great place to live a permie lifestyle.

Regarding climate ... don't judge a climate until your body has actually had a chance to acclimatize. If you jump out of a car in mid August in the Ozarks, you're likely to want to jump right back in. But, I remember when I landed in Manila for the first time and felt the suffocating heat and humidity of that place. It wasn't more than a week before I was rather used to it. Not all people acclimatize, but most humans do adapt. But, spring/summer/autumn are amazing in Missouri. Long growing seasons, plenty of rain, good soils, people who mind their own business ... a great option.
 
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Things I'd be aware of:

- Most places in the Ozarks the soil is thin and ancient, stony, without a lot of nutrients or organic matter.  Soils will be deeper on ridgetops (and really, the Ozarks aren't "mountains" but a couple plateaus deeply dissected by rivers and streams), and in those stream bottoms.  Soils are also generally deeper on the northern and eastern borders (the counties bordering the Missouri and Mississippi rivers).  There's a considerable amount of exurban development, but some nice smaller communities as well.  

- Chicken houses are big business.  Especially in the southwestern Ozarks, south of Springfield and west of Branson.  You'll know by the smell.  Check out aerial imagery on any property you're interested in and see if there are any in close proximity (I found this handy map:  https://modnr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=cf630b020a17452fb30994cb4b36f003).

- Feedlots aren't uncommon.  Missouri's second only to Texas in beef production and feedlots are a feature of the landscape, typically mom-and-pop operations of <200 animals.  Ozark streams are surprisingly high quality considering how often cows are pooping in them.  Again, know your neighbors, drive around the neighborhood, scope out aerial photography.  

- There's a legacy of mining (in places).  Mostly around Joplin and south of St. Louis (Jefferson, Iron, Reynolds, and parts of Washington, Franklin, St. Francois, and surrounding counties).  Mostly lead and zinc, some cadmium, and on some parcels in those parts of the state there may be heavy metal contamination.  Parts of the region have underlying granitic bedrock and issues with radon, too.  

- There isn't a lot of elevation, but there's a lot of relief.  Environmental conditions (soil type, soil moisture, amount of sunlight, etc) will vary dramatically from a ridgetop to a creek bottom, over only a couple hundred meters. Air drainage is something to keep in mind, especially with fruit trees.  

- Soils can be thin and rocky.  They're ancient (untouched by sea level rise or glaciers for a couple million years), so a lot of the nutrients and organic matter have leached out over time.  You can have seasonally perched water tables where there's an impermeable clay layer a few inches or a few feet below the surface. Community Commons is a free online mapping tool that where you can add all sorts of data layers- they have a "soils" option, and you can use it to explore soil properties of parcels you're interested in- it's communitycommons.org


Places to check out?

I-44 west and south of Springfield: Crane, Cassville, maybe Aurora.
Springfield to Lebanon (South of I-44): Mansfield, Forsyth, Ava.
Lebanon to Rolla (South of I-44): Hartville, Cabool, Willow Springs, Newburg, Licking
Lebanon to Rolla (North of I-44):  Crocker, Dixon, St. Elizabeth, Vienna, Freeburg
Rolla to Sullivan (South of I-44): Mountain View, Thomasville, Alton, Winona
Rolla to Sullivan (North of I-44):  Belle, Linn, Owensville
Sullivan to St. Louis (South of I-44):  Centerville, Van Buren, Caledonia, Fredericktown, Marble Hill

There's also some fairly rugged portions of the state outside the Ozarks.  The counties just north of the Missouri River between Columbia MO and St. Louis can be quite rugged, and about an hour north of St. Louis, near Mark Twain Reservoir, is pretty hilly as well.  Land's more expensive up there, but it's a nice area and not too busy.
 
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Tom Worley: Ah HA! that's the map I couldn't find again that I mentioned!! Thank you! I bookmarked it this time :)

And I agree with the rest!! You are very right.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Oh man you guys are being so so helpful! Thank you!! SO much stuff in here I hadn't thought of. I can't wait for my trip next summer, although I suspect it will give me "short timer's syndrome" as far as living here, but eh... LOL
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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