November 10, 2013

Creating a List (A Place To Call Home: Part 2)

This post is the second in a series exploring the criteria we used to look for a place to homestead...
To read the first post click here: Criteria for a place to call home.
Looking out into the crystal waters of Priest Lake on a fact-finding trip to northern Idaho.

Before we could start researching specific places that we wanted to homestead we first had to narrow down the types of places that where we might be interested in living. So how did we do that?

It came down mostly to personal preferences to begin with. We had general ideas of where in the country we would like to end up. Kristy in particular felt that the western US had always been home and wanted to at least stay in that half of the country. We both wanted to be close to mountains. We wanted a climate where we could grow enough food to support a family, and a climate that didn't have the precipitation of a rain forest or the drought conditions of a desert. Simple, right?

We started with those preconditions. The next step happened through a happy accident. I was in a bookstore looking for a gift for Kristy's birthday and I came across the Sunset Western Garden Book. The book consists mostly of detailed descriptions of plants that could grow in gardens in the western half of the U.S. But in the front of the book there are a series of maps that explore the west's climate zones. Rather than simply using the USDA plant hardiness maps,  Sunset's maps break down areas into zones based not only on temperature but also: latitude, elevation, ocean influence, continental air influence, the influence of mountains or valleys, and microclimates. The maps paint with fairly large strokes but are detailed enough to give you a better idea of the various local climates in each western state.

The maps allowed us to start finding regions with favorable climates and to compare noncontiguous areas that had similar climates. Between the two of us, we have lived in enough places and taken enough road trips that we already had a few ideas for places where we thought we might be interested in living. With the climate maps we were also able consider new areas of the west that looked like they might be worth looking into.

A map of a few of the more northern places that could someday be home...

By combining both our personal experiences and the climate maps we narrowed down the places we wanted to look into to the following broad areas (in no particular order):
  1. Northern Idaho including the areas around Moscow, Coeur d'Alene, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry
  2. Around Flathead Lake in northwest Montana
  3. Northern Arizona particularly around Flagstaff
  4. The Front Range of Colorado including the areas around Boulder and Fort Collins
  5. The rain shadow of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington including the areas around Port Angeles and Sequim
  6. The northeast corner of Washington particularly around Spokane
  7. The Willamette, Hood River, and Grande Ronde valleys of Oregon including areas near Corvallis and Eugene in the Willamette Valley, Hood River in the Hood River Valley, and La Grande in the Grand Ronde Valley
Now that we had narrowed down a list of possible ares to look into, we had to decide what other factors would be important to consider when investigating each of these areas so that we could objectively compare them to each other.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series next week, where I will explore that process more in depth...

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