The long-time locals told us that our first winter on the off-grid homestead was the worst winter for snow accumulation and temperatures in 21+ years in our area. We posted our TOP 5 Reasons this was the best season to start our homestead but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have challenges. TWO big challenges to be exact.
#1 Living on a back road
The most inherent aspect of living on a back road is road maintenance. We knew this when we bought our property and were prepared for the fact that along the way it was going to be an issue. We had not experienced a North Idaho winter and were not entirely sure of the severity. However, as we are both raised Ohioans having experienced “Lake effect” snow storms from Lake Erie; we were confident we could handle it. Additionally, we planned our relocation by studying microclimates, therefore we knew our property was well situated in altitude and weather to our needs and capabilities. However, seams of doubt cracked open as we heard more and more horror stories of N. Idaho winters. Only time would tell and it did. While we thrived in the winter, and maintained our long drive the challenge was our road. Maintained by neighbors, we learned to plan on hunkering down on the homestead 1-2 days after each snow storm until the road was cleared or other vehicles made enough tracks that made it passable. Twice we found ourselves digging out and the first time was our fault for not following our own rules. Our solar battery/inverter died and when the replacement arrived we had to venture out when our road was not cleared. We easily dug out of the soft snow bank. The second time however, proved more challenging. When warmer weather melted a half of our accumulated snow fall, followed by a deep freeze, we found our road to be a solid sheet of ice. A neighbor in a 4 x4 got stuck and we ventured to the post office anyway. On the way home our truck couldn’t make it up an icy hill and slid backward into a snow bank.
So, what did we do?
Dig out! Back up, get momentum, slip, slide, spin, and almost made it only to back down again and head to town for salt. We came home and hand salted our road. One more attempt proved we were not going to make it. So, we left our truck in a turn around and walked home. Making lemons out of this situation we enjoyed the sights and sounds of this little mountain road. By foot gives you that perspective. We are very grateful that we did not have to do this all winter. And before next winter we will be more prepared.
#2 Winter fire wood cutting
The second challenge was having no firewood, therefore, we had to cut wood in the winter. Most of the wood was wet and did not burn well or at all. We struggled through and found ourselves getting up every 15 minutes to 1 hour through the night. Finally, exhaustion set in. Labor intensive days we don’t mind but when you have no sleep, it makes daily homestead chores rather impossible. We broke down against our rule of buying any form of wood and purchased a pallet of North Idaho Energy logs. These are compressed logs made for higher heat and a longer cleaner burn. For us, we combined them with our wood. This helped our wood burn and stay burning. It was a slight set back but next year we will have our own cut and seasoned wood ready to burn!
It is important to know that we see challenges as part of life. We feel that adversity is a way to grow personally and consequently thrive in the future. Setbacks teach us if we are willing to learn. And willingness to learn is a big part of the homestead lifestyle.
So, there you have our two greatest winter challenges. What’s the winter challenge on your homestead or in your part of the country? We’d love to hear your stories too!