17 July 2017

10 Things To Consider Before Buying A Mountain Home

Well we've been living in a desert mountain environment for more than two years now and have been in our home for about 18 months. I've learned a few things that I thought I would share about buying a mountain home with a "wild" yard versus living in a designed, manicured neighborhood. There are a few things I've had to learn to adjust to, some things might have turned me away from choosing a mountain home and some benefits are priceless. But they are things I never thought about until I experienced them.

I'll start with the cons just to get them out of the way and so that I can end of a positive note:

1) Pest control: Oh the nature creatures sure are cute. The wild bunnies, flocks of quail, wild birds, and deer are so charming until you realize the furry creatures especially also bring fleas and other bugs along with them. We also have packrats, tons of mice, bobcats, snakes (poisonous and not), tarantulas, lots of spiders, very noisy, rather aggressive birds, coyotes that eat small pets and creatures, ants (of all varieties, sizes and biting abilities), and a lot more flying insects than I see at friends homes even just a little lower on the hill. Those include tarantula hawks which are giant relatives of hornets, hornets, wasps and bees. Pest control could be a full time job if we let it be. Don't imagine we are constantly under barrage of animals attacking us, but living with nature is living with nature. You have to be thoughtful and careful.

Last weekend we had a rattlesnake across our driveway and The Man could not get by, so he had to wait. Two weeks ago we had bear in our yard, very close to the house several times. That was a little scary, especially when one night I came across one and the next night The Man walked out of the house in the dark to a large bear on our front living room patio.

2) Protection for pets and children: All these critters also mean you have to be a lot more careful with children and household pets that go outside. Cats aren't safe around coyotes, and even a large dog can be taken down by a pack of coyotes or other predators. They can also pick up diseases from the wild creatures. Dogs can be rattlesnake trained but you can never guarantee what might happened if your pet comes across a poisonous creature in the wild. Child safety is also a big concern from all these same kinds of animals. I almost forgot to also mention dangerous plants! Cactus everywhere. I once had to pull a cactus needle out of Kiddo's shin that was embedded about 1/2" into her skin. Super gross feeling to keep pulling and pulling until it came out. She fell at the far back side of our property and had a lot way to drag herself back to the house to get help.

We have a rule that Kiddo can't go outside without telling us, so that we know to check on her every few minutes. Both kids and animals have to be trained to be watchful and they also need to be fairly closely supervised. It's also important to have first aid preparedness and plans for all these scenarios. Some extra caution is needed.

3) Mountain weather pattern dangers: The weather gets a little wilder in the foothills. This may mean more powerful winds, heavier rains, more powerful sudden storms of all kinds: electrical, thunder, snow, rain, etc. This can make driving more challenging too even when things are fine in the city. Temperatures can also be considerably colder in winter. You may be just a couple of miles away from the heart of town but a higher elevation, canyons and mountains that storm clouds will bang into make things a little more challenging and unpredictable. I was "twinkled" by some lightening two summers ago - it didn't strike loudly it just buzzed up the air around me and I was holding my cell phone and received a burn on my palm from where the phone contacted my hand. Not fun. I try not to go outside at all if we are having an electrical storm now.

4) Outdated utilities: The farther you live from "civilization" the less maintained utilities will be and the less interested companies are in investing in your neighborhood. Our neighborhood is about 30+ years old now. The lots are big and spread apart and the population is mostly over 70 years old. So you can imagine we are not the hotbed for the tech companies interested in investing in installing their latest technologies. Things you don't think about...high speed internet is everywhere now isn't it?!

The fact that home lots are big, spread far apart and that the soil is very rocky also adds to the plausible costs for utilities to consider upgrading to new systems and laying new wires that have to be buried underground. So our neighborhood has adequate but not great internet access and our options are limited. The phone lines are old, all the wiring is old. We've already had to have the internet company come and replace the main connector for our house at the junction box down the road and were without internet service for a week. It seems like every few weeks we have to restart our modem to reconnect to the system.

5) Public and emergency services availability: Once you are out of the city limits you will likely not be getting city water, garbage, sewer, or emergency services. You may be on the county system for fire and law enforcement and it's important to know how far away these facilities are located if you have an emergency at your home. We have a neighborhood association for garbage and water which we pay for and it's probably more that regular city services would be. We also have a septic tank instead of a sewer system. I have mixed emotions about that as well. Wouldn't probably be my first choice because we are fully, financially responsible for its proper function. When things go badly with a septic system it can mean replacing the entire tank and tearing up a major section of your yard to do it. $$$$$. Ouch.

6) Yardwork, soil and gardening challenges: In our neighborhood, most yards are left completely natural, in fact I think it's somewhat required. But if a homeowner wants to have a manicured space within a walled or fenced in area that is allowed in back of the house. We have a small grass area with a large patio, deck and pool deck area. We still haven't figured out how to deal with our grassy area as far are cutting it nicely because there are "architectural" rocks in the midst of it and around it. We need to work on that. My feeling is that a push mower would be the best bet. It's hardly worth buying a real lawnmower for such a tiny piece of grass plus it sounds incredibly dangerous potentially have rocks or bits of rock being shot out of the bottom of a power mower.

Trying to grow anything in this mountainy soil really is impossible unless it's something that is already growing on this mountainside. For any kind of gardening a lot of soil conditioning or container planting is necessary. However in the hot, desert climate, thing son planters have a hard time surviving. Large container or raised bed gardening seems like the best option. I have only planted a few small containers at this point. Maybe someday when we've finished up more house projects we can think about starting larger scale gardening projects.

Fantastic Pros:

7) The amazing views! Being higher up makes for amazing sunsets, city views and storm watching as they come across the valley. In our valley we enjoy an 80+ mile view in three directions. It's quite beautiful and the sunsets are stunning night after night after night. The mountains on the other side of our home are beautiful too. It's so much to take in and something we don't take for granted.

8) The privacy! We didn't really realize until we moved in that we actually have three houses that are within a few hundred feet of our house because the trees block the other houses nicely. But because the lots are bigger here we have plenty of privacy. All the bedrooms face out to big open, tree-lined spaces so we do feel there is a lot of privacy here.

9) Respectful neighbors. I think people who tend to live in neighborhoods like this are people who appreciate their privacy too so everything is very respectful for the most part. We did have some problems with a neighbor's dogs when they first moved in and were roaming into our yard without leashes and barking a lot but after neighbors complained that seemed to get significantly better. Our neighbors all wave as they drive through the neighborhood and we know we know them well enough to feel comfortable visiting but not intruded upon.

10) Distance from the city hustle and bustle. After living in one of the busiest areas of Los Angeles and surrounded by constant noise 24-hours a day, living a bit outside the noise of the city and traffic is lovely. It is so quiet up here. You can sit in bed at night at stare out the windows at the trees and stars and enjoy the silence. Some nights it is so quiet you can hear traffic from almost a mile away on the closest main road outside our neighborhood. That is such a huge change for us.

One thing that is very interesting is how voices carry across the mountains. Sometimes you can very clearly hear voices through the trees and there are no people there but the voices are coming from several homes away or a completely different direction. It is very strange and sometimes a little unsettling. The wind and the trees do interesting things to the things we hear.

There are so many things we do love about living here and I think there are, in any home one purchases, big pros and cons. Some you recognize before you move in and some you don't find out about until you've lived there for a time. I could do without the dangerous creatures, but I love our home, the yard and the views, our local church congregation and the friends we've made in the neighborhood. Our next door neighbors are the absolute best and that is something we had no idea about when we purchased the house because they were traveling from the time we first looked at the house until long after we'd closed on the house.

I choose to love the good and not worry too much about the challenges. Make the best of it all. Living in this mountain environment is a lot of fun and brings us a lot of things we needed at this point in our lives. I hope these tips will help you know if mountain living is right for you!

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