Where To Find the Cheapest Land Out West for Off Grid Living

Keeping an eye out for cheap land around the country–preferably the cheapest land–is a lifetime hobby of mine. It has to be off grid; living anywhere else, tied into the national power grid, is not an option.

Not that Pam and I are dissatisfied with our current property. We’re not. In fact, our twenty off grid acres near the Mexican border in southern Cochise County, Arizona, suit us very well indeed. The Border Fort, which I built in 2010 and have been improving ever since, is solid, comfortable, and defensible. The smaller of our two land parcels is paid off, and we’ve made progress toward clearing our debt on the larger piece. We’ve made friends with local critters ranging from Mearns coyotes to desert cottontail rabbits, not to mention a wide variety of songbirds.

For now, at least, we’re not going anywhere.

But I can’t help myself. They say the man who no longer notices when a pretty girl walks by is already dead, which seems about right–and I’m just as hooked when it comes to noticing pretty land deals.

Late at night when my article writing is done for another session, I take time to wind down a bit. Some of that relaxation period is pretty innocuous and also meaningless, a few games of Hearts played on the computer or something similarly mindless. Every so often, though, that’s not enough. The Call of the Land Bargain sounds within, and I must answer the call.

It helps that the lust for land, even if it’s only expressed through window shopping these days, has a real history in our historical quest for survival. My wife and I first homesteaded off grid on a mountain valley 20 acre parcel in Lewis & Clark County, Montana, circa 1999. Cost per month to get things going: $500. Ten years later, after numerous adventures both on and off grid, we landed here in Arizona. Cost per month to get things going: $500.

Fortunately, our finances have improved, which allows me to daydream a little bigger. There’s a strong streak of practicality in me that requires imaginary land purchases to be at least believable. Thus it is that my “requirements” and “preferable options” when cruising cheap land sites are quite specific. They may not match what you’re looking for, but they are workable, to wit:

    ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENTS

    1. Land parcel size: Minimum 20 acres (for a bit of elbow room), maximum 640 acres (as anything larger is not only going to be expensive tax-wise but is tough to defend if it comes to that).

    2. Cost: Nothing over $150,000 in today’s dollars.


    STRONGLY PREFERRED

    1. No neighbors visible, period.

    2. End of road, so no pass-through or pass-by traffic.

    3. Year around springs or (much less preferred) readily accessible aquifer.

    4. Enough timber on the property to provide ample deadfall firewood over the years.

    5. Cost: Nothing over $60,000.

    6. No covenants.

Over time, the luxury of the Internet helped me zero in on Landwatch.com for my browsing sessions. This site has land listings in every state, or at least in every state I’d consider living in. You can’t get me east of the Mississippi, so none of the following findings are in, for example, Maine or North Carolina. Every time I’ve attempted to “study” listings for properties other than the eleven western states, the revulsion factor has stopped me cold. Not that I have anything against the people in other states; I’ve met fine folks most everywhere, including New York and New Jersey. But the states considered here are limited to the following: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington.

Landwatch.com is my preferred browsing site for cheap land out west, listing more attractive parcels at better prices than anywhere else I've found to date.

Landwatch.com is my preferred browsing site for cheap land out west, listing more attractive parcels at better prices than anywhere else I’ve found to date.


Of those eleven states, I’ve lived in eight of them…and don’t care for the predominantly liberal politics in any of the three coastal states (California, Oregon, Washington), so I don’t look for land there.

New Mexico has some cheap land, but it’s ugly looking stuff. North Dakota has a drilling boom going on which is driving land prices up–not to mention the fact that North Dakota winters can be exceptionally nasty. Idaho…maybe, but nothing has tripped my trigger there yet. South Dakota is a little worrisome; I love the state, love its tax laws, but don’t like seeing most of the cheaper land come up in counties I know personally are mostly open, windy prairie. Utah…another maybe, but not all that cheap.

Which leaves just three states topping my browsing list: Colorado, Arizona, and Montana.

Note: The Internet was not involved in finding any of the places we’ve owned. All of them were located by perusing the classified ads in area newspapers. That’s still a great way to pin down cheap land deals if you already know roughly where you want to end up–which, in both Arizona and Montana, we did.

In Montana in 1999, the goal was to find a homestead within reasonable driving distance of my Mom’s place. She was 86 at the time, and it seemed like a good idea to be able to visit her once in a while during her final years on the planet. Our off grid homesite ended up being no more than a three hour drive from her location south of Drummond, and we did drop in from time to time until she passed on in 2002.

In Colorado in 2006, a classified ad jumped out from a newspaper I grabbed at a truck stop while traveling through an area hundreds of miles from the land involved.

In Arizona in 2009, the idea was to “take my wife home” to Cochise County where she could be close to her son, Zach…and it worked out really well, as we’re a mere 15 minutes of driving time apart these days.

However, if you don’t know exactly where you want to build, today’s world wide web is a great place to explore.

ARIZONA

There seem to be two areas in Arizona where cheap (or at least reasonable) land can still be found. One is right here in Cochise County–but our property was not cheap when we bought it. It was just easy to get started, as we began with a $500 monthly payment on four acres and added the other sixteen acres later after our finances improved. However, there are a number of acreages listed in the local newspapers (either the Sierra Vista Herald or the throwaway free shopper paper) which look to have real potential. Several of them posted this past week are now going for under $1,000 per acre, a couple of them much under.

In the LandWatch listings for Cochise County, there is one parcel that caught my eye even though it breaks a number of my usual rules as listed above. For one thing, it’s in a gated community, so there’s undoubtedly a Home Owners Association (HOA) to deal with, along with covenants. Ew-w-w! Why bother? Well…the thing is, it’s smack in the middle of the Dragoon Mountains, with great ridges of huge boulders that I find extremely cool. It’s also 42.89 acres for $56,500, which isn’t bad in this day and age. It’s not what you’d call truly remote, but it is private, and not far to the town of Benson, where our favorite Denny’s Restaurant resides.

However, the best bargains in the state look to be northeastern Arizona’s Apache County, in which the ranching town of St. Johns is the county seat. There are several large ranches in the county which have been broken up into parcels for resale at really decent prices.

A portion of one of the parcels in the Woodland Valley Ranch development, 36 (minimum) acres starting at $17,900.

A portion of one of the parcels in the Woodland Valley Ranch development, 36 (minimum) acres starting at $17,900.

Covenants? I don’t know–and since I’m only window shopping, it wouldn’t be right to call the broker to find out. There is bound to be an HOA. But the description of the area is definitely attractive.

Woodland Valley Ranch is a select offering of 36 acre parcels secluded within one of Arizona’s most beautiful private ranches. The Ranch offers spacious 36 acre parcels of lush grassy meadows, heavily wooded ridgetops and stunning rock formations and is just minutes from top fishing, hunting & boating. The weather is a distinct 4-seasons, yet all mild. Land of this quality represents a truly fine value. Prices in the 36-acre range start at $17,900 with monthly payments of $172 p.i. and a down payment of $1,790. Seller Financing available.

The water at Woodland Valley Ranch is just the way it comes from Mother Nature. You will be a property owner with access to the largest groundwater supply in northeastern Arizona (the Coconino Aquifer). A complimentary convenience well is also available to Ranch owners for either temporary or permanent water hauling.

Now is the time to secure your own spectacular retreat property at Woodland Valley Ranch at low foreclosure resale prices.

Bottom line? This sounds really, really good! Privacy. Freakishly awesome pricing for today’s market. Low down. Seller financing. And how about that complimentary convenience well? You don’t find one of those every day! It would have been absolutely wonderful to have had something like that available during our first months on the mountain in Montana during the summer of 1999 before I got our first hand dug well completed–and also the following summer, after that first well ran dry and I had to dig another.

Not all the photos of that parcel look so rocky; I just liked that one.

COLORADO

We couldn’t leave out Heurfano County in Colorado after (a) buying a 35 acre parcel there in 2006 and then (b) having to give it back to the seller in 2009 after paying on it for three years. We’d planned to build there, loved the area, and I can’t keep myself from browsing land offerings in that county from time to time.

This is also the area chosen as the setting for the Flywheel Ranch in my western fiction series (see Western Fiction Index) titled Tam the Tall Tale Teller. The sample property shown below would be pretty close to the (fictional) easternmost portion of that ranch, although it’s “only” 35 acres at $49,000 with no mention of seller financing or anything like that. No “free water”, either, but plenty of timber and even some petrified wood lying around here and there.

Thirty-five acres in Huerfano County, Colorado, for $49,000.

Thirty-five acres in Huerfano County, Colorado, for $49,000.

Note: We paid that much ($49,000) for our first 4 acres here in Arizona. Getting 35 acres for that amount would have been…nice.

MONTANA

Weirdly enough, the cheapest land in the entire sizeable state of Montana is sitting right in the north end of Granite County–precisely where I grew up roaming the hills in search of stray cattle and, during hunting season, deer and elk. Or maybe not so weirdly; could it be that my father’s family had landed in that area nearly a century ago because it had always been the cheapest?

No clue!

Where the fictional protagonist, Treemin Jackson, rides in pursuit of a troubled young robber, there rode I in the olden days–and there exist some surprising off grid land bargains. Oh, you have to have a bit of mountain man blood running in your veins to seriously consider living up there in the high country full time. There’s no doubt of that.

Mulkey Gulch, Walker Gulch, Dry Mulkey Gulch, Sheep Gulch, all up for sale. I’d always believed these drainages to be BLM land, owned by the feds, Bureau of Land Management…but they’re being offered for sale by Stimson Lumber Company, and I’m now betting Stimson owned them all along.

And then, not long before daylight one fine dark morning, I came across the shocker of them all: The Nelson Springs property. Our cattle ranged that country for 27 straight summers, from the time Dad began ranching at the foot of Rattler Hill in 1946 until he sold out in 1973. At Nelson Springs, I watched my kid sister plop her butt down on a friendly cow’s butt one lunchtime, munching her sandwich while the cow chewed her cud, the two enjoying each other’s company, never mind the swarm of flies buzzing around them. I “hunted” that country one wintry November day, holing up in the shed near the springs, reading a book, not in the least caring if a suicidal deer wandered by or not.

And now it’s up for sale, 160 acres for $96,000.

One view from the Nelson Springs property, 160 acres offered for sale at $96,000.

One view from the Nelson Springs property, 160 acres offered for sale at $96,000.

No seller financing? Big deal; I’d find a way, and I’d go build me a place up there, were it just me.

The Nelson Springs property is high in the Garnet mountains near the divide between the Mulkey and Rattler drainages. Located behind a gated road, the property provides seclusion and privacy you are looking for in a recreation property. Several level areas will make a nice setting for a seasonal retreat. Recreation opportunities abound. The open road system in the area provides motorized recreation year-around for tens of miles between Highway 200 and Interstate 90. This property will make a nice base camp to allow you to explore the thousands of acres the surround public lands have to offer. …

Oh, a resident at Nelson Springs could expect to get snowed in during the winter, lacking a decent snowplow on the front of a four wheel drive vehicle–but that’s no big. Piece of cake. Behind a gated road, they say? A different road system from the days of my youth, no doubt; back then, the Rattler Gulch road “sort of” ran most of the way up there.

Of course, none of that matters. We’re settled here in Arizona for the nonce, Pam needs to be near her son, and besides, (a) her arthritis can’t handle Montana’s winters, and (b) her COPD can’t handle the elevation at Nelson Springs, which has to be around 6500 feet or so.

But I can dream, can’t I?

In the meantime, dear reader, you now know where to find some of the cheapest land out west for off grid living. The only one listed in this article that definitely has no covenants is the Nelson Springs property. In fact, that acreage meets every requirement I’d ever even think to put on paper. It’s remote, but not that remote. It’s definitely at the end of the road (unless they’ve cut new roads up there in the past, um, 50 years). It’s got spring water (which is why it’s called Nelson Springs, duh). Plenty of timber.

What the heck. If I’ve outlived the rest of my family by the time I’m, say, 110 or so, maybe it’ll still (or again) be for sale, and I’ll get a chance to build myself a cabin there. You can bet nobody would see that coming.

32 thoughts on “Where To Find the Cheapest Land Out West for Off Grid Living

  1. I don’t daydream about off-grid property, but zi do find some occasionally. I saw a piece not long ago, right there in Cochise county; that had a really nice house buildt on 10 acres. I just figured that I could not handle that. The solar and all was already there.
    I saw another piece at the top of a hill, not too far from your place, that had 15 acres for $70,000 with a nice mobile and outbuildings. It had the acre around the house fenced and cross-fenced. It had a part of the fenced part set up as a garden area, and the back part was chain link, for a dog or two. The house was on the side of the property and the next property over was for sale too. http://www.azmoves.com/property/details/1208382/MLS-143260/11456-S-Border-Monument-Road-Hereford-AZ-85615.aspx
    It was a smaller mobile and 19 acres and $60,000. The two mobiles were pretty close together and shared the well on the smaller property. I would love to have both pieces, just to keep the privacy. And I could put one of my kids in the smaller one. http://www.azmoves.com/property/details/1208378/MLS-143272/11460-S-Border-Monument-Road-Hereford-AZ-85615.aspx

  2. Yep, those places are across the San Pedro River from us…and quite, quite close to the border–maybe 1/4 mile or so from the look of the map. That would be a good combo, to have both.

  3. I can imagine seeing your childhood stomping grounds up for sale pulled at your heartstrings some, Ghost. This was an interesting trip (read). I’m going to check out the links Becky including just to keep this land trip going for a little bit longer.

  4. That is why I look all the time. I needs to get out of here. It is driving us all nuts. These people think crooked is normal. They all are.

  5. I feel like I am following in your foot steps – haunting the same web sites etc. I have so many questions about off grid living in southern AZ – Seems like it is done more frequently in northern AZ. Is there a great source to check out to address the unique problems of the desert SW? I would like to do more than dream…….

  6. Suzanne, I’m not aware of a website that directly addresses your undoubtedly numerous questions…unless you count this one, maybe, and even then I’ve got the pertinent articles scattered throughout the site. I will say that the first thing anybody considering going off grid, especially but not exclusively in desert country, is water, water, water. One of the key benefits that sold us on the acreage where we now live was the fact that the seller/developer had a well in place. Surface water is relatively nonexistent around here–and in fact the aquifer our well taps is 325 feet below the surface.

    Another feature of the desert southwest is the need to consider flash flood potential. We live south (on the away-from-the-highway-side) of a big wash on Paloma Trail that became impassable last year after a major flash flood smashed the concrete apron (installed many years earlier) to bits. During the monsoon months of July and August, it’s now advisable to have a 4WD truck if you want to get to town and back….

    Anyway, we’re in our sixth year here, off grid, have built up a pretty decent homestead over time (I built our “hybrid house” Border Fort single handed in 2010 and have been improving on it ever since.), and have a fairly decent handle on “what you need to look out for”–so feel free to toss questions my way if you’d like. I’m online nearly every night and try to respond to every comment or query in a mostly timely fashion. 🙂

  7. I’m on disability do to p.t.s.d. and had my back broke by force . So I’m looking for a piece of off the grid land for under $1000. Where I can build what I want and how I want . I’ve been into building tesla coils for about 7 years so power is not my problem it’s just that I’m so tired of corrupt politicians and law enforcement that you can’t tell the cop’s from the criminals and I’m not safe being homeless and I need a piece of land that is mine I’m tired of renting from druggies and meth maker’s I just want to live safe and stress free and drug free so if you can give me any direction I would deeply appreciate it

  8. Mark, I’ve never even tried finding a piece of land for under $1,000 total…but you got me curious, so I just ran a search for “cheapest land anywhere” and came up with the following link:

    http://www.landcentury.com/under-1000-land-deals/

    And searching “off grid land under $1000” led to the same company but a different page entirely:

    http://www.landcentury.com/land-for-sale/arizona/

    Things to watch out for (in my opinion) include:
    1. HOA’s (Home Owners Associations), hateful things and to me at least, not precisely stress free.
    2. Covenants that tell you all the things you are NOT allowed to do with/on your land.
    3. Water supply considerations. For under $1,000, getting a piece of land with available water is unlikely. If the aquifer is deep, eliminating a hand dug well as an option, you’ll likely need to haul water until or unless you can set up a rain harvesting system.
    4. Likely neighbors. Off grid does not always mean living far enough away from other humans to remain stress free. My last “street scuffle” in this lifetime (so far, anyway) was with a self appointed “bully of the mountain” near our off grid home in Montana in 1999. (He’d gotten the wrong idea about us, stirred up by another neighbor who purely loved to instigate. We ended up getting along just fine after we’d aired our differences and he’d come to realize he’d been bamboozled by his friend, but still, not exactly stress free until the smoke cleared.)

    Don’t know if this helps or not, but hope so.

  9. We’re looking to go off grid as cheaply as possible, and you came up near the top of my google search. The “Madrean Archipelago” of SE AZ/SW NM is how I found you, but that land around St Johns does seem to be the best deal, and many properties say no HOA, no building requirement. Thank you! Will be perusing your site for sure.

  10. Aggie, the St. Johns area would definitely make sense to me, were I to be seriously looking at the moment. Good luck.

  11. My wife and I have have been looking for an off the grid property for a couple of years now and have a hard time agreeing on just where to settle and build for a while. We sold our home in suburban Minnesota and planned to escape the harsh winters and a life of living the Twin cities. We started looking in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee because we had taken many family road trips to south Florida over the years and always enjoyed stopping and seeing the land along the way. However once we had the cash to buy a property and started really looking into the areas we were turned off by the culture in the south there. My wife is se Asian and did not feel safe. We got a lot of nasty looks in some of the small towns in Georgia! Since we sold our house we were living in campgrounds in our tiny travel trailer with our 2 young boys traveling from Key West all the way up to Tacoma WA. We are now in Las Vegas renting a house that neither one of us enjoy because my wife’s 2 sisters live here and she felt the need to rekindle with them for the first month that we were here. I really love the land down in Arizona but having lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin most of my life I’m unfamiliar with the culture down here in the southwest. In your perspective is the rural southwest a safe or welcoming place for a bi-racial family. I am a carpenter and tend to be a bit of a hermit and my wife is an artist with a lot of passion and does not bite her younger when it comes to biggots. We homeschool our children. Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated!!

  12. Vince, I can’t speak for all of the Southwest, but I believe bi-racial families would be safe enough here in our southeastern Cochise County area. Part of that no doubt stems from the presence of Fort Huachuca, with its massive military influence in and on the community. Many military couples retire right here after their service careers, too, so there are numerous African American and Asian people living in the area–as well as the whites, of course. A couple who are friends of mine through our mutual (conservative) political activism are bi-racial, he being Japanese American and she being Caucasian, and they have no racial problems in the area that I know of.

    Additionally, the town of Bisbee (15 miles from our off gird property) is sort of a little “liberal bastion” and home to a number of artists.

    Then of course we have a whole lot of Hispanic citizens, being tucked down next to the Mexican border as we are, and my Caucasian stepson with his Mexican American wife have not encountered any prejudice problems that we’ve heard about (and I’m sure we would have heard).

    Outside of this general area, I’m simply not qualified to comment, never having lived anywhere else in the Southwest (excluding southern California, which doesn’t count) other than right here.

    There is one great challenge in this area, however: Competition for jobs is intense. If you’re at the top of your profession (in this case, carpentry) and can get enough work to get started, your work will of course speak for itself–but getting started and surviving bid-cutting attacks by unlicensed contractors can be a tough obstacle to overcome at times.

  13. Hello my name is Phillip B.Would love to have some help looking for a place like you talk about in Montana,we’ve been looking for years!I live in Kansas now but I’m pretty sure we are ready and have prepared pretty well to make the move and go off grid next spring.Looked at a lot of places around Drummond relitivly cheap ,wondering if you might no why?Also have seen lots of places around Philipsburg (old mines)is the water any good in these areas because of mining?Please let me no Wat you think and if theres any help or suggestions u might offer me,they’d gladly b appreciated!Pretty set on Montana will have probably 20k cash for land when we make the move,at least enough for down payment,would love to just find something this cheap to pay outrite but I’m struggling.Thanx you for your time.

  14. Philip, I don’t know how much I can help–but at least I can answer a couple of your questions regarding Drummond and Philipsburg.

    You’re correct that there are places around Drummond, specifically, that are relatively cheap. As to why, that might be a bit of a puzzlement…but maybe not. I’ve wondered about that myself, and my best guess is that (a) the low population in the Drummond area limits goods and services, and (b) the relative scarcity of available jobs helps keep the population low. There was a lot of traffic that came through Drummond when I was growing up, but the completion of the I-90 freeway now allows vehicles to whiz on by, ending up in either Missoula (westbound) or in Helena, Deer Lodge, Butte, or Anaconda (east or southbound). Construction work is of course relatively seasonal, shutting down when the temperature drops and the snow flies.

    I haven’t heard much about “bad water” in the Philipsburg area due to mining. There is of course the huge, deadly Berkeley Pit water at Butte, but that’s fenced off and not an area where many would wish to consider buying land, anyway. (Not in the immediate area.) Around Philipsburg, you’re most likely looking at a private well, and the ground water is not likely to be contaminated.

    That’s all I’ve got, but it should be fairly up to date. I ended up buying some property in the Drummond area, including the Nelson Springs property shown on this page–though I didn’t know that was going to be possible when I first wrote this post.

  15. So glad to hear you was able to purchase the land in Drummond.Still leaning to this area also I think.Would love to no how this place works out for you.Little out of my price range but very nice for so many acres !

  16. Hi. I was searching for off grid living in South Dakota and found your site. I am going to be looking for homesteading tips. We are looking for ten plus acres in South Dakota, preferably within 3-4 hours of Minneapolis. If you know of any good areas to search, I would appreciate any comments. It’s cold as the dickens here, and would love to be somewhere warmer, but family is here, so for now, South Dakota it is. I have been looking for everything you described in perfect land. I will look on Land watch. I did not know about that one. Thank you for your website. Kathy

  17. Phil, the Nelson Springs property (near Drummond) is high timber country, purchased with long term investment in mind. It’s nine miles up a rugged dirt road to get there from the highway, 6,000 feet elevation at the lowest portion, and pretty well snowbound for a number of months each year. Taxes are quite low, making the “sit and hold” strategy workable. It’s not a spot on which I’d build a primary residence…unless we’re faced with the Zombie Apocalypse, in which case it qualifies as an excellent fall back position, having plenty of wild game, firewood, and live water. We’re definitely glad to have it in our possession.
    —————————
    Hi Kathy. I’m quite familiar with Minneapolis weather and have lived a number of years in South Dakota. I’ve not been watching land prices in the eastern part of the state but can tell you the way I’d do it in your place. On the Landwatch site, simply enter “South Dakota, United States” in the search box. That will bring up a page which includes a South Dakota “blank map” (upper left portion of the page) with all the county borders outlined. Hover over a county, and if there’s any land for sale in that county, it will “color up”. Click on the county, then start exploring.

    Glad to know this page is helping. 🙂

  18. Thank you so much. I will start searching and hopefully will find something. If you could pick your favorite spot or county in South Dakota for off grid living, which would it be? Kathy

  19. That would be Custer County, in the Black Hills. Which I do know something about, having lived there (in two different places, neither of them off grid but both of them nicely private), 1991-1995.

    Second choice would be Fall River County, directly south of Custer County.

    There are also a few places in the Missouri River Breaks (central South Dakota) that I’d consider as long as the acreage was situated with enough surrounding ridges and/or trees/brush to slow down the wind. Open prairie portions of the state can get a touch ugly when blizzards hit. However, I can’t give you a specific county name to look at; it would be necessary to closely eyeball anything outside of the Black Hills.

  20. I have lived most of my life in Wisconsin but my wife and I bought some land (2.25)acres near Wilcox Arizona, cochise County. My question to you is, we have never been around rattle snakes or scorpions, is this going to be a big problem when we go down to build are off grid cabin? I was a concrete finisher /Carpenter for 20 years, we will buy a 5,000 gallon water tank and have it trucked in. So should not have water problems. Least but not last, I’m allergic to bee stings, and I hear there are killer bee’s in this part of the country, any advice? Thanks for your time!

  21. Hm. Matt, I’ll respond to your questions to the best of my ability, but my knowledge of the specific Willcox area is not 100% complete. Here goes:

    Rattlesnakes can definitely be a problem, but it’s a manageable problem IF you follow a few simple “rules”, to wit:

    1. If you’re picking pretty much anything flat off the ground, like a board or upside down wheelbarrow or whatever, NEVER pick an edge up with the “opening” facing you. ALWAYS pick it up from the “far side” so that if a rattler resting under there gets scared enough to strike, it strikes AWAY from you. Note: A lot of online articles talk about the Mojave rattlesnake being more aggressive than other rattlers, but we’ve never seen that–and we have almost nothing BUT Mojaves on our land.

    2. Alternatively, you can use a long handled garden rake or hoe or (best of all) a shovel if the item you’re lifting is light enough that the leverage won’t beat you. Then it doesn’t matter so much if the leading edge is toward you; few rattlers out here in the desert get big enough to reach you if you’re at the far end of a #2 shovel.

    3. Animal activists aside, you’re going to want a “snake killer” firearm to dispatch any rattler that shows up too close to your cabin site. I know people who’ve “moved” rattlers rather than kill them, and good for them, but that’s not anything I’d even consider. My preferred snake gun is a simple .410 shotgun. With a bit of target practice under your belt, a .410 will cleanly remove the entire head of a snake with one blast, scattering bits so that there’s nothing to bury (If the head of a dispatched rattler remains intact after a kill, I bury it immediately. A literally “dead” head can still bite.)

    4. A reptile ID field guide book for critters occurring in the Southwest would be a worthwhile investment; it pays to know your snakes on sight. For example, the harmless Sonoran gopher snake is sometimes mistaken for the deadly Mojave rattlesnake, a fact that usually causes no end of trouble for the gopher snake. Early on in Cochise County, I made that mistake once myself, before figuring out the considerable differences.

    5. I highly recommend my own “snake posts” which are most easily accessed by going to the Critter Index (at the top of this and every other page on this website) and scrolling down to the Reptiles section of that page…and then reading every page I’ve written on snakes. Willcox may or may not have many Mojave greens, but if they don’t, they’ll have western diamondbacks.

    6. WATCH WHERE YOU’RE PUTTING YOUR FEET. In fact, I simply don’t tromp through any bunch grass or other vegetation that leaves the desert floor invisible, period. Or, on the rare occasions when I do, I use a long stick (or even a stick of 1/2″ PVC pipe) to “poke ahead” to stir up anything I might have missed seeing BEFORE I step forward.

    7. Flashlights at night, always. We use a combination of small rechargeable Eveready flashlights for close-in (or in-house) stuff…and backup Maglites for long distance seeing.

    8. Scorpion density varies by specific locale, a lot. We’ve seen only one scorpion here, inside, back near my bedroom, dead on the floor where I’d most likely stepped on it. Which is why going barefoot is not a great idea, though I still do that sometimes–during the winter only.

    9. Killer bees…Pam says that’s what the swarms we’ve seen this spring (in the last couple of weeks) are. I don’t know if she’s right about that or not; neither of us has been stung in Arizona so far. But we have consulted with her doctor, who provided a number of syringes and adrenaline (or maybe it’s epinephrine) one-use containers. (Which, frustratingly, we now can’t seem to locate!) We used to get her some mighty fine Anakits on prescription that did the same thing (adrenaline shots), but those are no longer in production. Then there’s the EpiPen, but Pam’s body would never tolerate a hit from one of those.

    All I know about killer bees is that it’s a really bad idea to tick them off, but you might want to consider contacting a Willcox area medical provider to seek his/her advice.

    10. How about that? A Top Ten List! Okay, this is hugely important for both your safety and your peace of mind: When you build it, make your cabin impervious to mice, snakes, and the like! We get an average of 3 desert centipedes in here every year, each of them 5″ long or so, and those are real make-the-wife-scream little buggers that just look like something out of Stephen King’s fevered mind and are hard to kill; you have to step on them and then GRIND them into the floor. (Again, not barefoot!) And they’re on the toxic side, too, though I had one brush along my bare foot one time (wasn’t winter yet but I’d gotten careless) without tagging me. Those little devils are so “flat”, they can come in right under the front door weather stripping.

    But mouse-and-snake-proofing will go a long way. I accomplished that by building right down ON the ground, then covering the Border Fort’s walls (we call our place the Border Fort) with a heavy 2-coat application of concrete stucco, all the way from around the exposed rafters down to the Earth itself. So, mice cannot get in to attract snakes, and no snakes can get in, either. Since you’re a concrete finisher and carpenter by trade, I’d say a good solid concrete foundation would accomplish the same thing as long as the foundation vent screens have a fine enough mesh and there are no noticeable cracks between framing and foundation.

    Hope this helps, and the best of good fortune to you in your off grid endeavor. 🙂

  22. I really appreciate all the good advice! I’m reading all the article’s you have (very informative) and yes I’ll make sure our small cabin is well constructed with no gaps, so them 5 inch centipedes or any other little critter don’t get in. My wife would freak out… Lol,, but if we were to get an occasional bug in,,, wouldn’t be the end of the world, my wife is a tough gal. And yeah I need to get more information about identifying snakes and I have no problem with shooting a snake.. 410 would be ideal but my 12 Guage will work.
    I like the tip on using a shovel to put plenty of distance between me and a snake. We can’t wait to get started! We are going with solar because power (grid) is a long ways away… I have done a lot of research on solar and am confident on installing that myself… I’m not licensed electrician but we are out in the middle of nowhere and our solar set up will be small.. And if they catch me, I’ll pay a professional to put it in professionally. But anyways thanks for all the good information on your site!

  23. You’re more than welcome, Matt. Good to hear your wife is a “tough gal”. So is mine, only problem being that her disabilities have her on the downhill slide; she’s currently in the final “sweet” stage of Alzheimer’s at the tender age of 64. But she’s survived more challenges in those 64 years than most folks would have under their belts at the age of 100, including having been homeless for two years, just before we met.

    Absolutely, your 12 gauge will work. One note on ammo that I failed to mention in my last reply: For the .410 (it’s an old single shot my Dad got from “Santa” in 1957, when I was 13), #6 bird shot is absolutely perfect for snake head shattering. Reckon about any load would do the trick, but I really like the effect of that #6.

    We live off grid have a small solar setup, too. (Four 240 watt solar panels, 840 amp hour battery bank.) It provides all of the “light” household power needs except when the sky is too gray for too long. We have gasoline powered generators for the heavier power draws (microwave oven if more than a minute or two of cooking is involved, washer, dryer, window AC, and I’m working on putting in a walk-in bathtub for my wife.) Had a guy who made portable solar generators build it for me in 2012. He was supposedly a retired electrical contractor, but he screwed it up by running all 4 panels in series and then using a controller that wouldn’t handle the top-end voltage. It was doomed from the beginning, though we limped along with it on 3/4 power for 3 years. By that time, I had it figured out and refurbished it last year. Salvaged the solar panels and inverter, which were fine (the inverter was my find and recommendation, not the contractor’s), but had to replace the blown-up TriStar controller with a truly sweet Midnite Solar Classic 200, which allowed me to leave the panels wired in series. The Trojan 12 volt batteries had been so abused that they were just flat dead; replaced those with 6 volt Rolls–which required more space, so I yanked the wheels off the trailer, blocked it up, and had a guy who owed me a favor weld up a larger base to hold the expanded battery bank. (Which now lives in a box I built for the purpose.)

    Running like a dream ever since (a bit more than 1 year now). Read an online article that GUARANTEED anybody new to solar would “kill” his first solar generator and then get it right the second time. Since I was in the process of living his statement at the time I read it, it was hard to argue the point.

  24. Yes, I’m going with about the same set up as you for solar, but I’m going with the flex max 80 charge controler. I like the fact I can have a higher PV voltage and a lower battery bank nominal voltage… I might send in 48 volts of PV (nominal) to my 12 volt battery bank!…. My brother has a 2,000 watt pure sine wave inverter from Tiger claw… I really like that inverter, we have used it to power sensitive computer stuff and also run high watt moters with no problems at all.. There are very good reviews on the Tiger claw 2,000 on YouTube, it truely can run 2k watts with no problems and the wave output signal doesn’t sag or clip off like some do,,, and the best part is the prize, I have one bookmarked on my eBay,,, like $225… I’m not a salesman for them, even though it sounds like I am lol,,, just very impressed with the one my brother has. And we have WAY abused it many times and it still works perfectly…. I’m not sure yet on the battery’s, I’m thinking 6 volt Trojans, wired in series and parallel. I think 6, 225 amp hour battery bank would fit our electrical demand.. Same for us, if I need to run a heavy electrical load, then I’ll start up my generator. My wife’s only need was for a full size fridge you would find in a normal /grid house…. So I plugged in my kilo watt meter and let my fridge run like normal for a day, it used 1kw of power (not bad for a big refrigerator) so besides the fridge, the only other thing that has to run on solar is a few led lights and a small led TV or small radio from time to time… My wife ( Shelly) and I won’t spend a lot of time in the cabin anyways. Shelly wants raised garden beds to grow vegetables and there will be so many other projects to do outside… One thing I wanted to ask you was,,, my plan is to completely clear about 100’×100′ of all brush and grass, have the cabin smack dab in the middle of the cleared land (basically bare sand/rock) my thoughts on this is, if the is no cover for spiders /snakes /critters they might quickly cross the bare area but not hang out with no cover from predators. And if it’s bare all the way around my cabin, I can see them. I’m going to your site now to learn more about critters… Thank you for your help!!!

  25. Sounds like you know what you’re doing with the Tiger Claw inverter, about which I admittedly know next to nothing. We’re running a Samlex 3000, pure sine, industrial grade–which has also been abused beyond belief and keeps on ticking.

    The 100′ x 100′ clearing sounds like a mighty fine plan to me. Gives you a decent bit of protection in the case of wildfires, too. If I could figure out how to keep the weeds from breeding like bunnies next to the Border Fort every we season (and then getting cleared out every fall), I most certainly would.

    You’re most welcome for the help. In fact, readers like you who tell me the site has been helpful is the #1 motivational factor to keep me writing from time to time.

  26. Ghost32, just wanted to say love your post. You have opened my eyes and answered a lot of questions I had in my mind. I’m 62 and love the quiet of outdoors. I lived in Idaho with no water or electricity. Loved everything about it. Times changed and had to leave, but I know one day I will find my place in the wild again. Your post gave me a greater understanding of the southwest. I’m not a desert person, but I learned a lot from you. May many blessings be upon you and yours thanks again.

  27. Thanks for commenting, Norma. Quite frankly, I don’t really think of myself as a desert person either, though I do function well enough here. Down here next to the border, the summer rainy season (monsoon months of July, August, sometimes September) run the mud and humidity up enough to make for happy chiggers who love to chomp on me, so I’m nearly as wary of stepping on or through any kind of vegetation as I am of stepping on a rattlesnake. Plus, the sun is no friend to my skin; got a couple of nasty brown spots on my face that were never there before coming to Arizona.

    I don’t doubt for one second that you will “find your place in the wild again” and wish you the best on that quest.

    May the blessings be.

  28. Ghost32.. Thank you for your article. We found it very interesting as my husband and I are currently researching areas for living off the grid. We are 38 years old and looking to live our dream of a simplier lifestyle without all the commotion and unnecessary means to the loud fast pace ways of society.. No disrespect to anyone we all have our dream and desires. We are just getting started on this journey and Arizona is our idea area..although we are keeping an open mind. My husband, Bill, works in the construction field and I have no certain trade skills..mostly worked in customer service but I mostly enjoy working outdoors. Been doing quite a bit of research in the Arizona area and I have read on the areas you speak of there.. So beautiful. Unfortunately we are just at the beginning of learning how any of this works lol.. Even found land for sale in the county you live in. Your article is helpful and inspiring .. Thank you. If you have any advice for us newcomers we would greatly appreciate it. Idealistically we are looking for few acres to build a small home on that we can grow food and make as “living off the grid” and self efficient as possible..and cheap. We call our dream “our lil hippie compound dream” lol.. So any advice or insight is much needed and greatly appreciated.

  29. Thanks or checking in, Tonya–and great timing on your comment, too, because I can provide a couple of key points of advice, to wit:

    I would recommend that you still consider Arizona but hold off on any actual commitment until at least the end of the year for two specific reasons:

    1. Construction work is tough in southern Arizona especially at this time, and has been for years, because of the tremendous downward wage pressure applied by the gazillions of illegal immigrants competing for every job you can think of. If President Trump gets the wall built and a plan in place for at least getting rid of the known criminal element among those illegals (roughly 17% according to government stats), the long term employment picture should be much rosier than it is right now.

    2. Water is always a major issue in Arizona and the feds, specifically the Department of Justice attorneys, are going after all of our water rights in a hearing that will be held in Maricopa County in November of 2017. If they win–it’s unthinkable, yes, but if they do–the BLM will start shutting down any and all private wells dug after 1988, which most certainly includes ours, AND Fort Huachuca (the all important local Army base) won’t be able to expand, the Army will move it to somewhere it can, and Cochise County will become pretty much a “ghost county.” It’s a VERY serious issue. On the upside, we do have a new administration coming in and if Senator Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General, he might be willing to take a hard look at a federal action that could have nothing but negative results.

    On the flip side, if the wall and the water rights case both go our way, local property values could well skyrocket a year from now, so buying before then could pay off big time–but it’s a gamble, so you need to put that information into your mental hopper and chew on it for a while…:D

    Best of luck in your off grid endeavors. Not so long ago there WAS no grid, and I’m always rooting for those looking to get back to basics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.