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Logo of AdAgrA 2018: Something Better

3. Living Naturally: How to Find Good Land

Jerry Wernick


In 1980, Jerry and Linda Wernick moved to their country property overlooking Glacier National Park in northern Montana. They built a country home using native stone and timber and produce all their utilities from natural resources. Their extensive gardens and greenhouses produce an abundant food supply in an alpine environment. 



  • January 17, 2018
    10:45 AM
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I it's a temptation today just get on the Internet as you can you know zero visitors on I mean you can find land always a place I talk to real estate agents that I know well you know our area and he's done that he said typically what is on the Internet is way overpriced hoping to attract somebody from California this is somewhere to come and buy it at that price but if you go there locally and inquire it's not their price so that's not a good way to do it the only way it's good is to see well there are some properties out there. And the best way to find land go there in person what we did years ago we started California where teaching there we hardly had any money but when we had just a little we had another couple that we had known and they didn't have any money because he was in school but we both wanted to live in the country so we took a trip and we went for about a month to five weeks and we both wanted to live in the West if we could so we started in Southern California and we went all the way to Canada and out through Idaho Montana and Wyoming and made a circle back and we had a six week baby with us is quite a trip Paul drove and I navigated and we looked for every little forgotten Valley that there was we stayed away from the major cities and all of that but within reach of them or or a tourist center likely sure park turned out to be for us on that one trip in about a month we found five or six valleys like ours they had private land but not a lot there was something wrong with them they were either on the wrong side of the mound they're too far from town. Soil was too rocky in the case here our valley had been homes to one of the last place in the United States to be homestead they were still homesteading into the thirty's there our place was homesteaded about one thousand or five. And the homes at one time in the thirty's there were four hundred people living in this valley pioneers. They all had kids there were two public schools log log school this is all the history of the valley but they found out they were all going to be one of them told us there were a few of the original homes that are still left when we first moved there in the seventy's and they told us well thought they were going to be wealthy ranchers but they found out that this valley is surrounded by high mountains all the way around there's just kind of one canyon that goes out and because of that has a basket of effect which means that the only air coming in basically comes at night the air starts to cool and the air in the mountain tops gets cold so it's heavy and if it goes to the bottom just like in a bath tub and sits there so the nights are cold and they can even frost in the summer and fall off they find they can grow hardly anything there and so eventually they all left almost all of. Our property if you can believe this it just breaks my heart we only have about a fourth of a homestead because you can Homestead one hundred sixty acres so ours is part of the original Macintosh homestead in the forty's and older lady with whom we came to know right well she passed away now she bought that property her back taxes for three hundred and some doll the whole hundred sixty eight the poor old homestead or they'd have five children and one of those children came back one day she was in her seventy's and she showed up at our door knocked on the door and she said I could hear her singing the songs all Macintosh I lived here my family home so I just wanted to see what had happened to the place and we sat her down and we drilled through for hours on what life was like what happened with all the rest of. It but that's what happened the whole there's left it was a tough Valley it's too cold it was too far from town a sense oil and like one of the guy said that lived there many years you can't win the scenery it's a beautiful reality beautiful but to live there was a little more of a problem quickly there was water resource pool relocation right your scouse. Yes yes which on your OK you from IT WAS NO I'M NOT OK maybe we'll have you record as or by can hear that but you need to do that we found these valleys to tell you another thing that's important about getting country land the best land with the water in the Springs and this net often is not on the market it doesn't need to be because if anybody wants to sell it they just tell Fred or Joe one of the neighbors Oh yeah I want to and it just passes like that it doesn't even go through the market our property that we got was not on the market we have some other avenues friends who just bought property in our valley much below market value it was not on the market we know another guy who bought a property those ten or fifteen years twenty years may go the property had been on the market but no but it was so remote nobody in the guy got discouraged and he and he lived in Oregon and he just took all the mark and that's why it was when this guy he went around and found the property he wanted rather than looking for what was for sale found out the history of it he drove all the way to Oregon from Montana knocked on this guy's door and they struck and he said I've always wanted to live he was near retirement age I want to live in the country I wanted to have property beautiful who I want to if you don't really need it why not sell it to me the guy fell in love with him your I want you to use my property it's great and he struck a deal that's how you get good property but it takes time you got to like Elam I said you got to help work hard to help open up the way it isn't just going to fall in your lap. The best thing is go to a place start asking questions if you're I'm not timid some people going to wouldn't do this when I go up to a ranch house knock on the door OK I was coming to your value got a beautiful piece of property here my name so on so what's it like gardening here people look especially the ladies low All right grow this and I got an apple tree in the end I'm Fred already I mean you'll learn a lot and finally you say now do you know anybody's got any property here got springs on oh your roof over here or whatever people get older sometimes your kids don't want the property they wanted to go to somebody who will take care of it that's how you find good property so do that if you can and have the time move there while you keep a job a city job or some sort don't buy anything rent a cabin or a house in town if you have to for a while six months a year or something every minute you get explore the area tell you know the climate you know the people you've been to the courthouse you know what's going on you'll find a good piece but if you this is my opinion the Lord's Test that way if all you want is to sit in your present house wait till some year comes along and offers you twice what it's worth and you can take that as a sign that God wants you to move and then you're just going to wait till somebody tells you that there's property united whole or Tennessee or whatever you might look up that you're not likely to find good property that way you're going to find it the old fashioned way with you just going to have never to touch on the ground and that's really I've seen it work over and over people vom said Well you're lucky you found a place to spring and we could never do that I mean that's not true on the truth of the matter was even though you've got to go out there and turn those rocks over look look look for property. The Lord stills there he's number one is guiding you where to go and. But the way we found our present property was amazing because our heart was set on the property just south of us it was an old homestead much cheaper totally undeveloped as far as a road into ours an approach to it but no other development a bad road and that. And we were all set we made an offer on this property. Because that was our property however fortunately for the lady it was by original homes and was a original homestead related to the people the homestead and I as it was they were sisters OK She was the last living. Mom and Dad that at Homestead at that and she got sick the week we were going there from California and we took our spring break drove up there we were going to seal the deal yacht and she got blue and dad in the nursing home so we could buy it and died the week we were up there put it into probate and land her son who is in Franco's seventy's and desperately wanted to see what is it some of the old family property he told me he said I can get you deed for two years and we were going to wait two years so we we went back and the realtor we were working with was a one guy he was the only guy in town who would drive out there that's another thing when you go to a town go to lots of Realtors be real sweet and nice and they're all going to show you what they have you know so your ranch yet they're going to sell you a recreation piece I house or whatever and you keep asking now who's who's a realtor around here is family have been here for one hundred years and they know everything song so you'll find the guy there's only usually one person who knows. You know a good country property otherwise we're going to try to sell you a development or something like that anyway and only the lady died well no good came from that one happened was that yes like you said this other realtor we've been working with him and he had told us about this property it wasn't on the market it wasn't on the market but anyway she died it went into probate and he had this friend that had the property right next to right north of that part of which we are now and he said well he said he's thinking maybe he would be willing to sell cars before we came to California he wasn't willing really to sell it especially not the way we wanted to buy it because we had to we would have to buy minimal amount and he wanted kind of a long skinny way would have riverfront we had Yeah and we didn't care about the riverfront because it's just up the price and so anyway the rest of that day which is week which was like two days we went and stopped all over the real or turned one up but there was us on Friday we went back to town with the religion or we wrote up an offer in the afternoon and walks into the office as we are finished course this is Friday and it's going to be Sabbath and so and we had to go back to California Saturday nights only four hours driving Monday morning and so in walks the guy that owned the property sits down. And really not because the realtor called him he did not happen to be walking by to visit is a friend the realtor and so the realtor says hey we've got an offer deal here for you so he told them what our terms could be and no more and I'll never forget that the owner looked at us kind of in a fatherly way and he said because we were kids we were twenty seven he says you kids really want to do this what do you want oh yes I was just trying to talk us out of buying his property and he said OK I'll do it and he said I've got a vote anyway you want to cut it he liked it because he saw sauce we were year we were I mean we were we were they called us the California Kid I mean people did they came from California stayed one winter their way down and anyone had time and time again to learn it definitely sent us to the property he wanted us to have that he will do that for every I want to go spiel you think about Palestine I think of all the country property around Palestine what's it like. Saul does or but the Lord preserved one little beautiful spot for his people I believe there is a great piece of property with great water on it and good timber and everything you need for every one of God Serious people not for everybody but the fact is most people don't want to live there anyway they want to live in town somewhere next to Cosco but there has to be more and so it has left but typically it's going to be property like this that is a little harder. OK In our case. You know. That's from the top the property in. This this is the sign this is our driveway where it starts where a mile down the road and I after quality road to get to our place in the winter forty one miles to the nearest town and it's sixteen miles to Canada so give you an idea and if you just say I'm going to do that you may miss a great piece of property the Lord wanted you to live on because it might help your help to have to shovel snow that. This is this is pull bridge on a typical day not with Fourth of July per acre there's a few tourists around in the summer notice the signs Glacier Park this way there's a hostel over there and the guy's a friend of ours it makes a living running a hostel it's very short some of the signs you can read but that's that's our only store and we don't buy anything there because the prices are tourist prices like it was going to and they do have a great need of a bakery in the summer in there well. We know the people that run it this is. In the early season closed so it's a very short season and they were doing some repair no shooting private land as everybody thinks it's a wilderness up there kind of is and so people forget that people actually live there noticed one sign on the if you can read it it says The way less traveled by B. and B.. Those are some friends of ours their Sabbath keepers but they're not having as people that live seventeen miles north of there they make a good share of their living you would think who would drive because that's farther than we are it's like fifty five miles from town or something they have people come up because there's a lot of people today want to get away from it all even for just one weekend and go to the wilderness in Montana and you can make a living this is all talk about this in family business we know several people including us have made part of our living by renting cabins because people love it when I go live there. That's the road with a little bit of snow God love snow this is in the winter again that's a little Curtis in the two dogs this is why nobody moves to Montana OK. This is on the driveway going down to our place this is what we do recreation I think it's wonderful I mean we would have Saturday night parties doing this kind of thing because people don't we don't know how to drive on this is one of our students and he was a senior so I let him have his car there and he's pretty savvy but he didn't really know how to drive on he's from Tennessee get ready change now what happens in the winter we have no packed roads that are hardly slippery at all wonderful most of the winter but once or twice every winter it falls we don't really like thaws because it rains a little bit it turns to snow in the glare ice you can hardly stand on it now just the guys are standing in the little bit that's dirt there he tried to get up the road the tires just quit turn I mean they were turning but they were going on and he just slid backwards and you I slide off the wrong side and it almost hit but not quite so now it's a great opportunity to do some homestead physics and we just used you know our own little witches and all that but I'll show you see it this is I'm in the blue here helping them out notice on the bottom my boots I have what are called. What's in a minute they're not Yak Trax these are they're like crampons but they've got spikes on the bottom you can walk you can walk anywhere it's a brand you can get the yeah I forget what the can't remember the name of the brand anyway you just learn to do if you don't have to wear a machine a little bit in the way or but when you need him you need him OK we pulled him out and there they are working away at it. No there was just tied to a tree we're just using the hand come along it's the best thing usually the tractor would have I have a tractor small tractor we lived without a tractor for probably twenty five years we have a little commode and now that you put spiked chains on it for the winter but even so you would have a struggle on that out because it just turns I put this in so you can see there are advantages to living in the mountains that would never happen in Texas I think the first to wind snow that much but the wind would blow a lot look at that it's almost two feet high on a narrow little fence just sitting there and it never blows off it just gets so high it finally starts to tip and one day it just falls off. So it is a real advantages. Typically a typical winter day in our valley and it's colder than a lot in Montana is in the twenty's and that night it's in the teens warmer than it was here last night and there's no wind you can typically go out in just a nice jacket and a hat no it's not that I used to I should never do this I used to tell people wonderful was now I tell people how terrible it is so you won't get over populated but if you can get past snow snow are snow is actually white to a lot of places is now white it gets Brown really fast from all the dirt and everything. Sweater is the time you slow down you don't try to beat win or you don't get in your car and go to work no matter what you just don't do that it's a time when you can read more books you can spend time with the kids you can go skiing and sledding and for us it's kind of short because we start gardening in late January early February because that's when we begin our starts and so on. But it's still there and snow is a factor it's still beautiful though I mean that's taken on top of our hill Ted took this picture is just so many beauties and snow and that's Richelle they love skiing there a lot better skiers and I am I skied for years but there are ski slopes there are some are so uncrowded that when the early season late season you take your dog. You have to hike up it still. This is in the summer in Montana but this is in Glacier Park you can drive here early summer the dogs love it in the spring they look for the last big piles of snow on our place and they go lay there and put their belly on it because there are two there over here I mean so if you dress right like they do it's not that bad. That's right behind our house probably twenty feet out the back door that's all the water you need again I just put that picture in you don't need a lot but you need some flowing water and this is a shot of the springs in Boulder season but here you can see how they are on a hill in the hills drops away look for a place that has a good spring we actually saw some here in Texas on the way and I went to see some of their springs in Texas not as many and I was going to tell you people say you can't well we had one family come they were having trouble fine piece of land they said Would you help us look for land and so I said sure so we went out in just northwest Montana in two days we found four properties for sale that all had enough water to produce your own power and a lot of gravity feed into the house and so on there out there the way I did it because I've done this now I went to the guy in town and I said I don't want to waste your time. I'm looking for the realtor in those all the backwoods properties knows everybody's family are ranchers here forever and all that he says is Bob over here where we name was I went over there told him that I want to buy you know a little track somewhere I want to buy a recreation piece I told him he says I know exactly what you want I know some he knew the people he's the guy that lettuce goes for places it's out there you just gotta find it and work at it in our valley alone there's probably ten properties similar to ours that all have water on the I think I've helped put in five hydroelectric plants in our valley or sold in the stuff. And there's a lot of places people are using and cars are summer people and don't care is another's another one of our spring bottoms there same shot again how much water you need you need some elevation we talked about that hills on a property are wonderful because they give you to make you feel like you have more property we only have thirty seven acres and if you go out here where it's open market thirty seven acres doesn't look like hardly anything but our place it looks like a lot of land gives you a lot of privacy and that's what a forest does to forests give you private privacy as well as giving you fuel and the needles in the leaves give you compost and the wood when you burn it gives you ASH for your garden I mean it's a great thing to have. You gravity feed right to your garden which is very helpful you may only have a place like this with just water at the bottoms of the hill I threw this picture in I know if you can tell why I noticed that some of the grass is brown and forgive me Texans but it looks like Texas OK now. The rest of it's green the reason is is I did not water sprinkle the lawn in front of ours of our orchard greenhouse and this is hardly grass there I just left it that's what our whole place to look like by the end of the summer and our garden if we didn't have water Montana looks like it's green all the time because there's only a short growing season but in that season it hardly rains and if you clear all the trees and plant crops they will dry out the soils very porous it's rocky which is wonderful we don't have to worry about heavy clay soils and all that but you know you dump water on it goes right through so you need a water supply if you're going to grow your own food this is another family. That this is the guy that went to Oregon to talk to this guy and by selling the property they didn't have springs but they had a beautiful mountain stream on their place and I helped Rudy build is the concrete intake they put it in the stream this is at the far end of their place and he had to pipe it over two thousand feet I only have to go three hundred fifty feet but in two thousand feet he got the same drop eighty feet of drop so their house is gravity feed and and all that this is he puts a sprinkler system above ground to keep his place green there. It's on this is the river in our place it's beautiful it's great recreation I talk to adults in my view don't buy riverfront property if you have to pay for it now if you don't have to pay for it and you can use it fine but in our area this is a wild scenic river they will let you put anything in the river I mean you'd have to go jump through a lot of hoops because you can harm the fish and all that sort of stuff and so it's very difficult to use riverfront and in our area it costs a lot more per acre to buy. You need a wonderful fuel supply like we talked about this is on our place where we thin the woods a little bit try to buy land that I don't know maybe somebody here can tell me in our area you need twenty to thirty acres of forest to produce enough fuel for all your needs we get about one cord per acre per year down here my guess is you get double that or more Zamboni know. What Well that's a problem yeah buy a place that has trees some trees at least. Down in the South so you don't need as much land for fuel because you have a shorter heating season and trees grow up faster here there are places in California where they planted eucalyptus trees that produce seven cords of fuel per acre per year if they have plenty of water. So it varies a lot around the world. This is just some of the other trees in the forest there occasionally we do cut a big tree in our places because this was in the view from ten or shells house and when we do we try to save that wood and we mill and I'll show you that later well I just know right here I was going to morrow and on building your own house but we use a chainsaw mil to mil we probably mailed thirty thousand board feet if you know what a board which is in our life there save just tons of money there are really great for beams and noticeable Curtis he's learning how you make your own lumber. And I'll show you a lot more another section on that here's how to look at property this property is for sale so you want to move to Montana it's only about three or four miles south of us you see the real estate sign there there's one hundred spot hundred sixty acres I think has a beautiful view of the mountains but there's a big right now it as the trees will grow but it has a problem as to problems it has a seasonal creek which means it dries up when you need it never forget that that's what that means and it this place burned not too many years ago and trees came up thick look at the forest you'd never be able to use that here's a close up of the forest. It's going to be forty fifty years before you're going to have a decent woods and trees big enough to build with and so on. That would make a wonderful recreational piece and somebody will buy it for that or a hunting cabin but I would it's not a homestead piece in my opinion another thing you need as we talked about to find a place where there are at least a few other avenues families that you can depend on and help you with your building that you can consult with you can confide in you can encourage one another and your children can grow up together this is in in late. October and this is families like mine and families from several different churches in our area I showed you a picture like this before we you know you want to be surrounded with beauty where you can do your church services some to you want to have wildlife on your place this is another shot of grizzlies taken right from somebody's support it's actually on that same place that had the creek lots of deer this is a classic picture one of my neighbors took you know I can get that picture too often a moose and a bear looking at each other in the wild now the beautiful moose in the country we have you want to have a place where you can go right out your door and have world class recreation beautiful places to hike and walk it saves you a ton of money if you don't have to drive off somewhere and spend a lot of money to just have vacation that's ten or show hiking glacier you know how you can bring that up I don't have a gym in membership you probably know why and you know need to buy a treadmill that is true. And this is the lakes up there many of them are turquoise blue or green because they have glacial melt and this is what this is the best of family life I mean this is one of our neighbors I haven't asked I had his family out there look at the excitement in that little girl's face and it's not because she's looking at you to OK it makes a difference. And some of the creatures there are actually kind of cooperate if you do have to be careful. This is another property this is our home is probably a half a mile maybe three quarters a mile our house from this property I know the fellow that owns this well he's a good friend he's a wonderful Christian he's not an avenue as he actually lives down south here he's cleared this place to build but this put property has a beautiful view but the timber is problematic and there's no water. He doesn't want it for that he wants it for recreational piece and it will make a beautiful home for him someday he's actually the world and me and I know he's never going to build it now but I would recommend you buy that property for homestead but recreation Yes Here's another home that's just probably a mile from our place perched up on a hill it's a recreation piece for somebody a summer home see the water supply you maybe could get this to work if you have enough drop and use a high lifter or something otherwise it's high and dry up there now this property may not look like much it's actually an original homestead cabin that's been carefully maintained by the family and people living on as I think the original owners heirs still on it. I knew the guy that lived there for years and years. He just looks open but this would make a really good homestead and the reason is he's behind that property about a thousand feet away up the hill is a beautiful spring runs right down past that you can make all your power in fact I helped him to the hydro plant years ago he actually wrote. Wrote a little article in the paper about it he was so excited. You could have gardens he used to grow is beautiful soil in this place so you never know until you look around for this one you could do a homestead on this is south of our place down by Flat Head Lake. Flatted Lake is a beautiful pristine lake you do see a few boats out there a lot more people in this area but it's a lot drier than this this would make a wonderful homestead property if you had a spring or a flowing stream and there are some there but most of it is so dry or a shallow well and you could put these solar pumps on it you could work that way but you've got to realize you can't just go there and start planting you've got to figure some mouth water I just took a few other shots this is in Arizona you'd say nobody could ever live there you know like a homestead and yet people have this is in Arizona. This actually became part of a national monument almost national park I went to and the original owners of some of the land live there they got one mill and you can still use when Mills to pump water. And this is in Arizona it almost looks like the Midwest but most of it is desert you just there's places in anywhere that you I think you can make a homestead almost anywhere if you're careful and you are think carefully about how you're going to get all your food and so on there are some people here I did name maybe or this is one of our schools in Utah and it looks pretty dry there but they have rights not on a spring but a beautiful stream that comes from the mountains to the left they can produce hydro power they don't but they could and they can water all their fields in this huge commercial greenhouse all gravity fed water. That's the pond on the place and they have students there as well this is in Arizona and you wonder why would anybody be there to see the old foundation that was an old stage coach stop and the reason is is just out of the picture to the right is a beautiful spring. And it's it's now some little state park or something you can go there went to the spring. The pioneers knew what was important and you and I need to know the same this is probably a part of the country you wouldn't want to homestead is just flat open no water at all this is in Alaska we love Alaska we thought homesteading there much of Alaska would be really hard but the coastal parts actually have big trees you just gotta love rain there I knew a guy he was and then Evan especially. He was actually the fellow who sold us our land years ago and he was a teacher in his earlier years and he had taught in Juneau Alaska and he in the public school system he told me that every day in the school year every day that the sun shone anyway significantly to let out school so the kids could play and. It rains a lot there especially in the winter. So if I was there I'd build a big greenhouse kind of like my solarium because it would shed the rain and then you could grow a lot of things and it's so warm they wouldn't burn much wood and hydro power I would think would be easy I mean I can think of all kinds of solutions for it but you gotta love rain and I don't like rain as well as I like snow and everybody has different needs these are some homes. That's all for that says you know what time is. My time's up OK we'll come back and do building your own home. This media was brought to you by audio first a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio first if you would like to listen to more sermons leave a Visit W W W audio verse or.


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