Hardships & Truth of living in the Middle of Nowhere

I wanted to share a life update and some personal experiences of what it’s really been like living in a remote area with 20 acres. If you are thinking of moving to the country, if you are thinking of homesteading or living off the land, I want to share some of the things that people don’t always talk about. For those visiting from YouTube, thanks for stopping by! I wanted to share a little more about life here.

Rural Northwoods

For those who don’t know, I moved onto 20 wooded acres in 2018. This is our second winter and it is rough! Last winter I was going through a weird adjustment period to life in such a desolate and remote area. I think I am experiencing that again, but there’s a lot more to it. Please just bare in mind that part of why I’m struggling now might be due to winter difficulties like I went through last year. It’s a lot easier in the summer (to forget all challenges) when the animals awaken and are out and about nearby. Before I begin, there are many wondrous and beautiful things to see and experience in a rural area like this, if you like the outdoors. For this area of the Midwest, we are limited with our time every year as the winters are long and things get dark extremely early. So, though there are many beautiful animals and wildlife – there are many difficulties as well and that’s what this post is going to be about.

Life in the Forest

The Street Last Winter

When it comes to living in a remote area, sometimes the reality of it isn’t understood, until personally experienced or told about it. It seems sort of like a fantasy that would be so ideal and carefree, to live in the woods. But, the reality is that it’s a lot tougher than that. I chose this particular home and land after searching for months and months and driving across the state repeatedly to view homes and land that were available. There was a certain price range that I could afford and with that in mind, there was always a trade-off.

But, this house was newer, well-taken care of and was like a blank canvas. It also had a huge, beautiful, newer and large garage. The land was absolutely stunning beyond words. I love the pine trees and the beauty of them towering over and around the home. But, the land wasn’t overly usable in terms of farming or gardening, and that is a bit of an issue as it was something I had wanted to do. I had also wanted to someday get a horse or have some animals outside. Also, if I could have found it, or could have afforded it, I wanted a home really far back from the street. Basically, one with a really long driveway that brings you back to a secluded area, home and piece of land. That type of thing is very hard to find & would be amazing to have someday. I still want that. I just want to be closer in distance to actual civilization. We aren’t just rural here. We are rural for being rural. We are away from everything. We are so far north people have Canadian accents (or Minnesotan or Michigan ones). :)

I have not been posting on this site nearly enough. I have found that this winter has kept me really busy. The amount of snowfall we get where I am living, is hard to handle. My snow blower stopped working (I’ve tried many methods to fixing it to no avail so far) so my son and I have had to hand shovel everything. Last attempted fix was to remove the spark plug, clean it off and spray starter fluid in there. I did manage to start the snow blower but it always stops working. I need to empty all the fuel out (just bought a turkey baster for this) and try to refill it with new fuel. I’ve already tried stabilizer. Maybe it will work. Who knows. When living here, fixing things is normal and that aspect does not bother me at all. I love challenges and love fixing things. I’ve now discovered that the issue is most likely related to the carburetor – that it needs to be cleaned out or replaced.

Being An Outsider

One thing I overlooked more than anything was the strangeness of a stranger like myself and my son too – moving to an area outside of a very small town – full of people who almost all have lived here their entire lives. It’s weird. I’m not saying they are weird – just us moving here is as odd to them as it seems odd to me that they have lived here forever. Hope that makes sense. I do understand if someone is content and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But, I was brought up moving often and my personal view on life is that everything is an experience and adventure. And, moving here has been a big learning experience for us both! When moving here, I planned on living here for a long time. Though I have moved a lot in the past growing up, I would like to not move too often. I just need to find the ideal balance of location and what we’re looking for in a home.

Managing the Snowfall

Unexpected First Snowfall this Winter

It’s been hard lately to post content to youtube (this is my channel for those who don’t know) or even on here regularly. The work outside has kept me very busy. This photo here was taken I believe during one of our first snowfalls this winter. It was a snowfall that I did not expect, which is why my car is parked outside!!! We now have about 4x as much snow and besides the ground, we have to keep shoveling off the roof of the home and garage so they do not collapse. That in itself is a massive amount of work to keep up with – and we were using a roof rake. But, it stopped working (too much snow) so we had to take the ladder out and go on the roof to shovel it off. If you were to fall off you would likely be fine as the snow is so deep at least! My son and I love snow in itself, though the workload is unmanageable to be honest. If you have any sort of injuries, they will be exacerbated. If I leave the driveway unshoveled ever, I will not be able to get out with my car. So it is a necessity.

The reality of living here is that although it is gorgeous, it is tough. I had always thought about someday living off of the land and when thinking of that scenario, I imagined it would be something to do when older or married. Living in an area like this, to me, seems like a full-time job in itself. So, if you were to try to work outside the home and manage it all on your own, it’s hard to fathom how that would work out. I can’t even imagine how an older person would do it, unless in great shape and lacking in injuries. Or, a person would need to pay people to do a lot of the heavy-lifting and hard work.

Internet Service and Challenges

Backyard & View from the Studio

There are a lot of weird intricacies related to living here. Prior to signing on the dotted line, I was told there was internet service here that was decent, if not, good. I think that is one of the biggest issues I am having (See 2023 update below as this is no longer an issue)!

I’ve worked online in different capacities, for years now. I have dsl internet that I had to finagle my way into getting as they kept saying “no” to renewing its use here. The prior owner had it and said it was good – but they refused to let me sign up for it. I went to the local office but they were not open for customers. There was an actual office with workers, but you could not access or speak to them basically, which I know makes no sense. Instead I had to call a call center and talk to someone many hundreds of miles away. I called numerous times and on one occasion they said ok to it. The service is around 400kbps speed, often much, much slower – kind of like dial-up. So, my son needs it for school and that one is dedicated to his use. I also have a contract for Hughes satellite internet which is often around the same speed as dsl, surprisingly. It is said to be 25mbps but it just isn’t. It is usually 400kpbs or less.

When it snows, it often does not work at all. So, when it comes to uploading a youtube video, it can take me 12 hours to sometimes almost two days – most often 16 hours though. Cell service isn’t strong enough for it either. So, often times if I post a video a week – I end up driving 20 minutes away to the actual cell phone tower and park outside of it, loitering, for an hour or two until it uploads.

Even though I’m right outside of the tower and cell service should be normal like anywhere, it’s still really slow! But, that is my best method so far! The issue with that is that driving in the dark here is absurdly dangerous – it’s (in the fall especially) a bit of a death wish due to the deer. In the winter too, it’s very dangerous due to unplowed roads and ice and lack of lighting (and drunk driving is a big thing around here). So, basically I risked my life already a few times for uploading videos – though I always used it as an excuse to get snacks or groceries at the same time. Though I say that, many people drive in the dark around here and survive just fine. :) The cost of all these services that barely work – comes close to $300 a month. When I watch youtube videos on my TV, everything is so blurry and comes in at about 144 pixels! So, I realize these are what I would call “first world problems,” but it’s really hard to try to make money, connect with the world and not waste all my money away – when spending so much on this stuff that barely works. Also, though I said this is a “first world problem,” I have lived in numerous developing countries (ie: 3rd world) and they now (not then when I lived there) have internet that works really well and is high-speed. So, I don’t know what to call this type of issue but it’s frustrating!

Garbage Pickup & Septic

So, besides the technological issues, when I first moved here we didn’t have garbage pickup service available (we have it now for $30/mo. and it’s worth it). I had to store our trash in the garage. It was too much to burn. We have bears around here so I was always at risk of drawing them in and that freaked me out a little. Then, I would have to carry these gigantic bags into my vehicle – fill that car up to the brim and bring them to the dump (a 20 minute drive away) and pay $4 a bag for the guy to take them. It would make my car smell and my son was pretty disgusted! The other yucky issue here is that I need to check our holding tank (we don’t have conventional septic) often to see how full it is. When it gets higher up, I really need to check it daily to be safe. When I say check it, basically there is a sewer (manhole cover) that I open up and peer into. It’s not my favorite thing do to, I can tell you that. :) And it is a stinky job that I will be happy to never do again someday. We have to get that emptied about every two months – sometimes we can go every 3 months, but not usually. Basically, all our water that is used from the showers and sinks and toilet, go into the holding tank. When full, I have to call this company over and they pump it out with their truck and supplies. It costs about $200 every time and sometimes it’s cheaper (in the summer) around $150 per time. Because there is a holding tank, there is no bathtub. That is a luxury I miss more than anything. It was my way of relaxing and letting go of the stress.

Studio

Studio

Our house is nice, though I’d say a bit smaller than what we need. It’s taught me to keep my own belongings to a bare minimum, but I have a lot of hobbies and nowhere (other than the garage & basement) to store the items. It’s also difficult for our cats. I never anticipated any issues for them other than initial adjustment problems. They have been crying incessantly since we moved here. I know this may sound ridiculous and it is – but they were much happier in our last place that was larger. I don’t know why, they are crying and freaking out all the time since we moved here. We have to keep them in the basement at night as they wake us up non-stop. I still love them to death though. I guess because it’s such a small home they are closer to us during the day and want to be near us non-stop. They’ve basically become really needy.

Building More Rooms

Because I needed more space, I built (with my family) a studio on the back of our garage and put so much work into it and absolutely love how it turned out. We installed a propane ventless heater in there for me and I am renting out a propane tank just for that room. The other propane tank is for our home heat. And, lately the temperatures have been around -20F and the room has become quite difficult to heat up. When using that vent-less propane heater, it creates massive condensation (none of us knew this beforehand – oops) and so I have to keep a dehumidifier in there.

I also run an air purifier and crack open the windows while it’s on (otherwise the windows get drenched in condensation). I had carbon monoxide poisoning in the past so I don’t want chemical exposures. So, to heat up the room when the temperature was closer to 20F, I would put that heater on for about four hours and that would raise the indoor temperature to about 48F. I haven’t tried using it this week because the temps are so low and I’m not sure if I can get it to heat up as high as needed to record a video. So I am trying to plan things out now so I can record two videos maybe at once because then the heater is off and the room goes frigid again. I recently put up  sound proofing curtains in there and separated the room into two sections so I have an area dedicated to recording. I bought a track (like the ones you see at a doctor’s office – where they close the curtain) for curtains but I hung up heavy soundproofing blankets, not curtains. It has worked really well to create better sound quality for my videos! For anyone here curious about costs, the soundproofing blankets (for three of them) were about $200 total with shipping. The propane tank installation was $150 or more plus $200 to fill up the tank (only for the studio, not the home).

Saving Cash & Driving Long Distances

One big reason for living here was to save money. I thought I would be able to save so much by living here, but unfortunately I have been spending quite a lot more than anticipated. When living so remotely, you also have to think about what is nearby. To get to the nearest decent grocery store, I drive about 40 minutes. There is no pizza delivery or fast food (there are one or two fast food places 20 mins away). For this reason, you will be healthier and have to cook things from scratch at home. I don’t mind, but sometimes I wish there was a healthy fast option but there aren’t. There is one grocery store a bit closer but it’s a lot more expensive and not worth it to me to shop at. The nearest Walmart is an hour away. There is no Menards sadly – as I love that store.

So hardware and building supplies sometimes cost nearly double (the wood doesn’t cost double but supplies often do). So I try to buy as much on Amazon as possible when little things are needed, as it’s cheaper. Since living here, my car has taken a beating too. The tires keep going flat with the cold weather and I keep using the compressor before going somewhere. I know there’s a slow leak in two of them & I have used that green slime stuff to try to stop the leaks (didn’t work). I also changed the tire valve stems. Eventually I’ll just buy new tires. The brakes are having issues though I just changed the front brake pads and rotors. If you live somewhere remotely like this, alone, and your car breaks down (while driving) it can be dangerous – especially when your cell phone doesn’t work due to lack of reception. If it breaks down at home, you’re also pretty stuck. If you have the money you could always get a tow to the local place 20 minutes away and pay for them to fix it. Most people could elect to have that service added onto their car insurance. I also increased my car insurance cost and coverage in case I hit a deer and boy have I been within a hair of hitting them.

Medical Care Options

The last thing I wanted to mention is something that I never thought of prior to living here and that is medical care. The options are beyond limited. When needing to go for care, you have to drive an hour or two or even more to see a specialist. That’s difficult with the driving conditions. The doctors available around here aren’t the best.

Driveway, First Winter

Pure Isolation

The very very last topic I wanted to mention relates to the isolation. I don’t know of many people who enjoy this much isolation. That’s another reason why a couple who is married might be better suited for this lifestyle – unless they have issues (with each other or isolation) or problems with patience or hard work – then this would obviously not work then. Two people could drive each other crazy. I can live in a variety of environments.

I used to live in Las Vegas and I was super social and it was so much fun. But, I can also adapt in this scenario, though I still enjoy contact with others and connections. So one thing I miss is having a neighbor. The last few homes I lived at I was always very close with at least one neighbor. They were my favorite people. We cared, we helped each other out, we were there for each other as friends. The prior owner of this home, who I really like as a person, told me that this area has a lot of clicky-type groups. He said they don’t like outsiders and won’t want to meet you, etc. I didn’t enjoy hearing that but I had already lived here a year and a quarter before he mentioned that to me by e-mail and I found it a little sad and interesting. I had never thought of it at all.

I think the isolation got to me at precisely this time last year. I was painstakingly trying to fix the end of the driveway (in a snow storm) and it was probably -15F. It was extraordinarily cold. An older gentleman wearing a vintage newsboy style cap pulled up in his blue truck and offered to just push the end of the driveway apart. Basically, the sides of the driveway had 3 1/2 feet of snow piled high and the end was a foot or more higher. The end of the driveway gets super hard to deal with because it’s packed tightly from local plows piling it up on us. It starts to migrate inward into the driving area of the driveway so it becomes really narrow and hard to get out of the driveway. To fix it, you have to use a shovel and hack away at it to make space. Or, you could do what he did. He pushed it over with his plow. Unfortunately, his truck got stuck in that pile of snow (that pile actually was probably closer to 5+ feet as I think back) and we had to then dig his truck and plow out of it. It got totally stuck. I felt bad for what happened as he was trying to help and wasn’t dressed properly for that scenario.

I was so touched by a stranger coming to the rescue and doing anything kind like that and helping us when I was so burnt out. I got his name, he shook my hand and I gave him a huge hug! I think part of it was that feeling of someone caring when things felt so desolate at the time. It was immensely appreciated. He helped me twice this year too and I am surprising him with a gift basket arriving on Christmas Eve. Hope he enjoys it. I am glad I met one neighbor, though he lives three miles down the road. :)

Safety

The last part about isolation is related to safety or feeling safe. When living in a suburb where I had neighbors (in the past) I didn’t realize how that type of environment actually made me (unknowingly at the time) feel safe. Lots of lights on, neighbors in and out of their homes and keeping an eye on things. The weirdest feeling ever was our first night here. It was totally and completely silent and pitch black. For the first time in my life I felt a feeling of being unsafe, due to where we lived. This is really hard to describe because I have felt unsafe where we lived in the past as we lived in a bad neighborhood before. But, this feeling with this home was very different. It was a feeling of “you are on your own” and “you need to protect yourself and your family.” There are no cops to call near here. They are quite far away.

There is hardly any crime in this area so that is not what I meant by feeling unsafe. It was a vulnerable type of feeling – knowing you need to protect yourself if anything happens as cops and paramedics will get here too late if something goes wrong. The feeling doesn’t really go away. So, I do understand why people in rural areas (and cities) have  means to protect their home, family and property. If you don’t pro-actively protect yourself, then anything can happen and you don’t stand a chance. In the summer, my son and I would go to a local (25 minutes from here) shooting range in the woods to practice. Another thing about living here is that people can shoot their weapons anytime on their land. I do have concerns at times about if others are being safe because we aren’t that far and bullets can travel very far distances. My family is extremely cautious and safe (and prefer to shoot at the range for this reason) but I don’t know if others are – and that really is a concern. Also, drunk driving is a popular past time around here – making things dangerous in that regard too. People throw their beer cans (while driving) out their window and onto my beautiful land and the surrounding area – pretty much weekly.

So, I hope this gives people a glimpse into life in a very remote area on 20 acres. I am posting this, like I said, not to complain but to share the reality of what I am currently experiencing. I can’t comprehend people doing this during their retirement as living somewhere like this requires what appears to be, nonstop work (in the winter). It’s very physical. I suppose some people may want to just pay others to do certain tasks and that could help a lot. For some people, it is totally worth it. 2024 update – this winter is the mildest we’ve ever had since living here. I did absolutely no shoveling at all. So, I guess it just varies from year to year, but we usually have a lot of snow to deal with.

Last Winter – the Snow!

January 2023 Update

If you’ve read this far, thank you! You got an in-depth glimpse into what I was experiencing when I wrote this. I no longer feel that stress, isolation or being overwhelmed by the work of living here. I’ve completely adjusted to everything and I am content with this home. My life has changed immensely since I wrote this. I think I was experiencing 3 issues when I wrote this – culture shock or isolation adjustment issues, being overwhelmed by the weather and snow, and I was extremely frustrated with lack of proper internet services. I think the issue with the internet was one of the biggest problems.

Now when there is too much snow, I pay a guy to plow for us. I learned that time is valuable and I don’t always need to do everything myself.  I also renovated the basement and we now have lots more space and rooms. The studio we built in the garage is wonderful also, but I no longer use it for recording Youtube videos. I now have other options with the renovated basement.

I wanted to share that I ended up getting T-Mobile’s rural home internet service and that fixed my “dial-up” dsl issues. I would absolutely not recommend ever using Hughesnet services, as that cost me a ton of money and the internet was slow and unreliable. I also signed up for Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet and it took over a year of waiting, but I finally got it. It is incredible! It allowed me to get rid of the T-Mobile home internet and all we use is Starlink. It’s extremely fast and reliable.

 

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Isaac

You have it pretty darn hard there! You’d be fine it wasn’t for the snow and all the hardship it brings with it . I feel really sorry for you as you’re such a kind hearted person and I feel bad that you feel frustrated. Your internet is that slow yet you Youtube, that’s amazing ha , I can understand the frustrating with slow internet, you remind me of my once slow internet, dial up , but it’s upgraded now thankfully , I have access to 1 GB Fibre, I wish you had this option! You could then upload stuff… Read more »

Jerry

This was extremely eye opening! Thank you for sharing this. I really enjoyed reading about how it is to live in a truly rural area. I’ve been exploring minimalism for about a year now but have recently concluded rural living would be a better fit for me. I have a lot of hobbies and interests as well which makes it difficult not to have a lot of stuff. I’m currently in the opposite situation having purchased a larger home in the city in June of 2018. I recently found some rural property I am interested in around Merry Hill, North… Read more »

marty judge

I think you need neighbors and a community…but I loved the honesty in this post, I am again impressed and love that you dared to try this move, it might be a fantastic part of your memoirs and not a failure! its all fate:)

Stephen

Hi Holly,

I am also looking at starting over in a remote location also as a single parent but we are doing it in the carribean instead. We already live in a fairly remote location in Northern Ontario but fell in love with the tropics. I found your channel and really appreciate your advice on supplements and getting back to nature. I just wanted you to know that you have been inspirational.

Darren

Hi Holly, I’m about 4 1/2 years late to this, but I’m glad I read it. I’ve heard you speak about most of this in various videos, but reading this all at once really puts in perspective just how much you’ve gone through while living there, especially in the beginning. I’ve said this before, but you never cease to amaze and impress me. You’re so hard working, and your willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed living there truly inspires me. Four hours to heat your studio until it’s cold instead of freezing so you can record a Youtube… Read more »

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