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Our blog made it onto the list of the Top 60 Blogs in Missouri.
It has now been three years since we purchased our farm in the Missouri Ozarks. What a whirlwind of three years it has been! We are very grateful to be here and are enjoying our new routine, but like anything, it isn’t perfection either. When we were making our decision regarding moving to the area, we kept looking for someone writing about their experiences in the area. There were several blogs and such, but very little information about how people really felt about the area after having spent some time here.
The weather here is overall incredible. I grew up in the north land and was accustomed to COLD and snow. Neither happen much down here. However, we have no shortage of HOT and humid for a few months. Those summer months can be off-putting to some as they really are pretty stifling months. However, one has to bear in mind that spring and fall are long and gorgeous. Winter is short and mild. I don’t think I’ve seen a month without something green here, which still blows my mind. The mild winters do have a big downside, spelled I.C.E. Be prepared for some days where going places just isn’t real likely.
The people in this area are very warm and welcoming. We have met so many helpful and pleasant people since we have arrived! People are always willing to help out when needed. The only expectation is that you will return the favor. Now don’t get me wrong, we still live in a very small town, and that means that if you are at all different, you will be the topic of conversation at least at some point. If you happen to be a home-schooling, green-leaning, Permaculture-following, solar electric loving, rotational grazing, anti-GMO nut job, you are likely to be noticed. I think the key here is to go about doing your thing and just keep your ideas to yourself. If you do things well, people will notice and maybe even ask about your views. If not, no reason to be that annoying weirdo that tries to force their unconventional ideas on others. Also keep in mind that you are going to be in the minority. Realize that people are going to keep doing what they do and you will need to either accept that or likely not be accepted.
No building codes
This one still amazes me. I’m sure this won’t last in the long term, but for now it is glorious for anyone wanting to push the envelope on buildings. It still blows my mind to start work on a building (or whatever) with no worries about the government stepping in and saying “you can’t build that”. We built a small straw-bale cabin last year and it was wonderful to just start working on it. Do keep in mind the flip-side of this — you are on your own when buying a structure. It was not inspected, probably not engineered and might not be safe to live in… but most likely is just fine. However, you need to be aware and able to judge for yourself or pay someone to check things out.
I still have to pinch myself some days. In my opinion, we live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The green, rolling landscape (Ozark “mountains”) is just gorgeous and peaceful. There are large, nice lakes all through the area, as well as crystal-clear springs and streams. There are pretty rock outcroppings, scenic valleys, and panoramic hilltops. Put it all together with the lush growth that our rainfall affords and you have incredible natural beauty.
4th of July, picnics, etc
This may sound strange, but we are loving the 4th of July here. It seemed to me that our Independence Day was a bit of a non-holiday the last place we lived, but it is a big deal here, much as I remember growing up. In fact, there are so many celebrations that it usually draws out to at least a couple weeks of celebrations! Even our tiny little town has a fun celebration around the 4th, with games for the kids, music for the adults, and of course, fireworks. You can even find fireworks over a lake without much of a drive. If you have never watched fireworks over a lake, from a boat, it is worth trying sometime.
Low cost of living
The low cost of living (and land) was certainly something that drew us to the area. It definitely costs less to live here than the last place we lived. Our taxes are almost ridiculously low and most things are at least somewhat less expensive here.
Overall, there just aren’t a whole lot of extraneous laws to deal with here (yet). Of course, there are federal laws that apply everywhere in the US, but overall, things feel more free here. Of course, the flip side to this is that someone else might do something you don’t like. Either be willing to accept that or maybe this isn’t the area for you. Keep in mind that most of the natives like things the way they are here. Many of the transplants moved here to get away from rules, etc elsewhere. That is important to keep in mind once you get here too. Things are what they are. Either they appeal to you or maybe it isn’t the right fit for you. Natives quickly tire (quite understandably) of transplants moving in and wanting to change everything.
We have abundant frogs on our farm. I do mean abundant. When our daughter first arrived, the deafening silence of the night scared her to death. The frogs sing all night long and there are enough to be quite loud. The chorus changes with the seasons as different frogs come out. We love our frogs. The frogs really are cool, but really, this covers all the diverse wildlife that can be found here.
Seeing lightning bugs again was such a joy for me. I hadn’t seen them for years and it is still a treat to see the show they give all summer long. It is a simple thing, but just adds to the charm. Ozarkians are ones to sit on their porches and enjoy the outside. With shows like this, it is no wonder. Along these same lines are the dragonflies. We sometimes see huge swarms of dragonflies swooping and dodging like miniature dog-fighting airplanes. Dragonflies eat huge numbers of mosquitoes, so they are a welcome sight here. That is probably part of the reason that mosquitoes just aren’t very bad here, despite all the moisture.
Water is abundant here, which is hugely reassuring to us after living in the dry west where it is a big problem. There are certainly droughts here, but overall the rainfall is abundant. There are crystal-clear streams and springs all over. Ponds are common and (most) can be built with no government involvement. Wells are no big deal and can be installed relatively inexpensively compared to many places I’ve experienced. I understand that water quality varies greatly by area, but is great in our part of the state.
No place is perfect and the Ozarks are no exception. While there are far more things that we love, there are certainly some downsides. Here are some that come to mind.
Drugs are undoubtedly a problem here. I think this is true in most rural areas any more, but that doesn’t make it any less concerning. The drugs seem to be quite wide-spread and don’t appear to be getting any better. Most concerning to me is currently meth, which is widespread and apparently (too) cheap. We live with this, but stay aware that it is a definite problem.
Poverty is incredibly widespread in this area and it is heartbreaking to see. Jobs are somewhat scarce and typically don’t pay all that great. That said, I still think there is plenty of opportunity, but one needs to find that niche.
This is a touchy subject to even mention, but it feels worthy of being included. My wife and I both grew up in northern states where there is a strong work ethic. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, overall. Obviously, there are many, many very hardworking people in the area, but as a generalization, the work ethic in the area is somewhat lacking. I sometimes wonder if they maybe aren’t the smart ones. After all, it is important to enjoy our short lives. If you are fed and clothed, why not enjoy some down time. I do wonder if this is somewhat tied to the drug issue though.
This climate that grows incredible trees and green in general also grows some incredible bugs. I see unusual bugs that I don’t recognize all the time. There are all sorts of flying and biting insects. Worst of all, there are abundant ticks. Our tick issue has gotten far better with the introduction of guinea fowl, but ticks can still be found. We have found that some natural repellents work pretty well and doing nightly tick checks catches most everything else.
I grew up in a northern state that I don’t think had even one venomous snake, so this one was a bit of an eye-opener to me, given there are several venomous snakes in the area. However, it really isn’t that big of a deal. It really comes down to being alert, looking before stepping and just chilling out. Yes there are copperhead snakes in the area. Yes I’ve seen them. No, I haven’t had any trouble, but don’t be stupid about it either. If you pick up a warm sheet of metal in the summer, don’t be surprised to find a snake. Let it go and don’t mess with it unless it is somewhere that endangers your family. Overall, we are grateful for our snakes as they keep the rodents and bugs in check.
Markets for produce/meat
This ties into the poverty in the area, but is a real concern for a small farm wanting to direct-market products. Our small town certainly isn’t much of a market. High-end products in general are not a hit in our area. Your organic, grass-fed beef is going to have to be marketed in the city. Thankfully, Springfield is quite close and Kansas City and St Louis really aren’t far. Finding an income stream that comes from outside the Ozarks is ideal.
We love the Missouri Ozarks and feel like we have found home. We plan on being here to stay!
Computer engineer turned full time farmer, grazier, builder, permaculturist and volunteer fire fighter. We left corporate America to live a simple, self-sufficient life in the Ozarks. Read more