December 4, 2013

A Nice Place to Live (A Place to Call Home, Part 5)

For a review of how we created our point system read Criteria for a Place to Call Home: Part 3.

Part 5 of this series examines some factors that affect what for lack of a better term we will call livability. These are factors that look at recreation activities, pollution, climate when it comes to subjective comfort, and the access to medical, community and commercial services. Some of these factors are more subjective but that in no way diminishes their importance.

Still looking for a place to call home

Most Important (up to 10 points)

Distance to Outdoor Recreation

Definition: How many miles it takes to get to the nearest substantial recreation area. Can include hiking, water sports, and snow sports.

Reason: Outdoor recreation is very, very important to me. I go hiking, trail running, cross-country skiing, kayaking regularly and Kristy & I going on evening walks nearly every day. These activities help me stay sane and are amongst my favorite things to do. One of my favorite parts of living in South Dakota was that I could literally step out my backdoor and go running in the woods. Finding something similar for the homestead would be ideal for me. In general, we calculated the mileage from the edge of a town to the nearest national or state recreation area such as a national forest or a state park.

Distance to Recreation
Less than 10 miles   10-20 miles  Greater than 20 miles

Looking up at Saddle Mountain in the Coast Range

 Access to Health Insurance (TBD)

Definition: How will the health insurance exchange be set up in each state after the bugs in the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act are worked out? Will we have access to subsidies or qualify under a medicare expansion?

Reason: On the homestead, there is a good chance that we will be buying our own health insurance (unless Nathan decides to join the Army National Guard band...which he is thinking about.) We are somewhat concerned that we could fall into the income gap between eligibility for Medicare and access to subsidies if we move to a state that has opted out of expanding Medicare coverage. However, right now with all the bugs being worked out of the system it is difficult to know what things will look like in 5 years... so we are keeping a close eye on this as we make our decisions.

Somewhat Important (up to 5 points)

Population Density (county)

Definition:  is a measurement of population per unit area. 

Reason: This factor is basically how crowded a place is. We are looking for a more rural area which will have a lower number of people per square mile than are more urban/suburban area. We miss being able to go for a day long hike without running into a single person. Sometimes the solitude is wonderful.

Population density (people per square mile) 2-137  138-273  274-409


Distance to Closest Hospital

Definition: How many miles it takes to get to the nearest hospital.

Reason: We are hoping to be fairly self-sufficient when it comes to our families' well-being (focusing on prevention rather than relying on treatment after the fact). But it is important to be close to a medical facility when we need more substantial medical care...especially once we have kids...

Distance to closest hospital Less than 10 miles   10-20 miles  Greater than 20 miles


Definition:  the amount of water vapor in the air. Higher humidity reduces the evaporation rate (sweating) because the higher vapor content of the surrounding air does not allow the maximum amount of evaporation from the body to occur. This results in a lower rate of heat removal from the body, hence the sensation of being overheated.

Reason: Both Kristy and I are wimps when it comes to humidity. This factor is admittedly very subjective but tends to give more points to areas with less humidity.

Humidity (100=most comfortable) 81-91   70-80  59-69  

Air Quality

Definition: The relative air quality of an area.

Reason: It is good to know how relatively clean or polluted an area is before you move there. Polluted water and air in particular can lead to many health issues including cancer (something we would like to avoid). The data for air quality, water quality, superfund sites, and days with precipitation come from

Air quality (100=best)  87-99  74-86  59-73

Water Quality

Definition: The relative water quality of an area.

Reason: Same as above.

Water quality (100=best) 74-100   47-73  20-46

Superfund Sites

Definition:  A Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people.

Reason:  These are often the most polluted places in the country. Probably not somewhere that you want to live to close to.

Superfund sites (100=best)74-100 47-73   20-46

Days with Precipitation

Definition: The number of calendar days in a year that there is likely to be precipitation.

Reason:  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we would like to a place where it rains less. This is just one more way to measure how much rain a place gets.

Days with precipitation 63-90  91-120   121-149

A lovely sunny day at Pyramid Lake in the Idaho Panhandle

Least Important Factors (up to 3 points)

Distance to Closest Services

Definition: How many miles it takes to get to the closest community and commercial services (i.e. libraries, grocery stores etc.)

Reason:  We are not going to be able to provide everything on our homestead. It is good to know how close the nearest store, community center, or post office is. However, to be honest, with the advent of online shopping, distance from the nearest grocery store is becoming less important...

Distance to closest shopping Less than 10 miles   10-20 miles  Greater than 20 miles

And that finally takes us to the end of explaining the point system for our criteria. After we started adding up the numbers and narrowing down our options, we also looked at other factors that were harder to rank objectively such as the quality of libraries or hospitals in each community. (Note: for most families, the quality of schools would also be a top concern. However, we are planning to homeschool our kids, so this was of less concern to us.)

Next week we will actually start looking a our top picks for where we believe that we might like to locate our homestead.

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