Homestead on a Small Property...With Neighbors, the Trials & Joys
When I told my boss in Las Vegas three years ago that we were moving to the mountains about an hour away, his response was, "On purpose?" I had to laugh. That's often the attitude I get when I tell people where we live, and that we still drive into town for our supplies and to work (although I now work in a small rural town a little farther north now, so I am rarely ever in Las Vegas anymore...and I don't miss it either!
This post is about trying to homestead on a small property (less than an acre) in a community with an HOA and....neighbors! It seems most homesteads have large amounts of land (5 acres or more) and are at least somewhat removed from neighbors being right next door. When we got our little 3/4 acre of land, we thought we finally had lots of space! And at first, we did! But as our property has gradually filled up with lots of animals (about 40 at last count, including chickens, goats for a time, turkeys, horses, dogs & cats), our spacious property has shrunk! What seemed like a lot of space has become, not crowded, but a little close to others in the community.
First of all, we are so fortunate to live in this beautiful place. About an hour out of Las Vegas on the north end of one of the main mountain ranges our little village reposes. There are probably about 100 or so full timers out here. The properties within the HOA (yes, we have an HOA), are all between half an acre and 3/4 of an acre. Needless to say, yes, we can see our neighbors. With property lines butted up against each other, sometimes there are some issues along with all the joys.
The Joys of Trying to Homestead in a Close Community with an HOA
1) The neighbors (well, most of them) are AWESOME. We live in a place where we can call on others for help, and they call on us too. We have community functions like art shows, Fall, Spring, and Winter picnics, all are welcome, and it's just a great spot because of most of the people! Many of the neighbors like to come over to see the animals and bring their kids to see things they may not see in Las Vegas or even up here! I love that my neighbors are also my friends up here. We count on them for unexpected help, and they can count on us too. It's a real give-and-take community.
2) We are surrounded by beautiful nature in all its glory. We are in a special place in this Mojave Desert, where we actually do have the seasons. We don't get the fall leaves like people do back east, but we get to see the mountain outside our door turning pink/red/orange in the Fall, blue-white in the Winter, hopeful green in the Spring, and in the Summer it is absolutely glorious. The wildlife here is unbelievable! Coyotes (which are a bother, but are beautiful creatures nonetheless), bobcats, once in awhile a mountain lion, elk, deer, wild horses (abundant wild horses), all kinds of birds (eagles, falcons, quail, roadrunners....), and of course the rabbits, squirrels, and the occasional badger...and lots lots more. I can't tell you how many times I have stopped just to look at the wild creatures around these parts.
3) Being OUT of the city is another absolute joy. Las Vegas is not for everyone. It's grown huge in the past several decades (I grew up there, and I'm in my 50's), and the houses are on these tiny little lots. You can reach out a window and touch your neighbor! Literally...I'm not joking! The older neighborhoods (like the one where I grew up) are largely low income now and can be dangerous. Homesteading in Las Vegas (more so than other large cities, I believe) is a true challenge, but depending on the area you live, it can be done. The biggest factor affecting homesteading in a large city like Las Vegas, for us, was the water restrictions and whether or not you live in an HOA.
4) Which brings me to another joy: being off the grid! It's an amazing feeling to know that our power comes from the sun (most of the time---although we do have to run a generator once in a great while), our sewage is on septic, our water comes from a community well, and our heat is powered by either a wood stove or propane that we keep on our property. It almost feels like "freedom from big government." Almost.
5) Here is yet one more: Animals are allowed! This has been one of the BEST things about living here, away from the city. We can actually keep horses, goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and of course our cats and dogs. Most HOA's in Las Vegas have very strict restrictions on the types and numbers of animals one can raise. Out here, even though we are in an HOA, the restrictions are fairly loose, and we are allowed to raise certain livestock for meat.
Along with the joys, though, come a few trials. The smaller the property and the closer the neighbors....sometimes little issues crop up.
The Trials of Trying to Homestead in a Close Community with an HOA:
I used to say there aren't any trials trying to homestead on such a small place and where your neighbors are right next door---almost like in town! However, in the past three years we have been here, attempting to get our little homestead dream going, some trials have cropped up unexpectedly. Yes, living in close quarters with others who are not so like minded can create some problems.
1) Not everyone likes animals, even if they live in a community that is zoned for them. Isn't that just something? Why would someone who dislikes animals move to a place that is zoned for them? Well, people do. When we got our horses, our neighbor behind us put up a real stink! But since we keep the corral pretty pristine and did not build it right next to his fence (about 40 feet away), he has not been too unhappy about the horses.
2) Everyone knows your business in a tiny community like this. We thought that moving out of Las Vegas, where you could actually (literally in some cases) touch your neighbor's hand out your side window, would give us a lot more privacy! Well, in the Las Vegas suburbs, like most large cities, people don't really get to know their neighbors anymore. People drive into their garages, and perhaps they'll make a friendly wave in passing, but there is not a lot of true cohesiveness in these modern urban and suburban neighborhoods. Up here in our tiny village in the mountains, we certainly do have closeness! Even though our homes are much farther apart, the neighbors know EVERYTHING about everyone up here. So when we have to cull our flock of chickens or harvest a turkey or have a birth....everybody knows what's going on. This would be fine if everyone were homesteaders, but not everyone is. We just try to educate people about what and why we do what we do. But we still hear, "How can you kill your pets?" from some people.
3) Generators. Not everyone has state of the art solar systems set up out here. So if a neighbor has a generator that is not enclosed and is fairly near one side of your house....well, basically, you have a generator IN your house for a little while. Not fun. This is something we just deal with up here, but sometimes it can cause a little rancor. Actually, a generator is the reason why I keep a gun in my kitchen. I'll tell that story later!
4) People don't always like how you decide to store your hay. (I'm being a little facetious here.) We have a neighbor (the one behind us who complained about the horses) who doesn't like the appearance from his back yard and deck of our hay storage area. We had the opportunity to purchase a non-working box truck from a friend for a very low price and couldn't pass on it. So now it's storing hay in the back of the yard. We are not breaking any HOA rules with the truck, but because our neighbor doesn't like it, there is a little ruckus going on right now. That's what prompted this post, actually. It's a reminder to myself that things are truly great out here....and I'm not going to let one bad apple ruin things.
4) Total responsibility for ourselves in terms of utilities is another sometimes uncomfortable (for me--my husband does not have this problem) very occasional occurrence. The first year was actually the hardest because our solar system was less than wonderful. Suffice to say, I learned a LOT about generators and solar and also going without power. While being off the grid is truly wonderful and gives us a sense of freedom, there is always the fear of being off the grid too. If your solar system fails...you have no power, and there is no utility company to come on out and take care of it. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to try to get ready for work in the dark without power because I need to be at work early in the morning1! If your septic tank backs up (like ours did last New Years Day), you have to take care of that yourself by calling a company to come pump it. If the wells go down...well you'd better have some emergency water and hope the HOA gets things going quickly (which they did). And on.... Regardless, I would rather be off the grid and not beholden to any government or monopolized utility company.
The bottom line is that the JOYS FAR OUTWEIGH THE TRIALS! I love it out here. I love the kind of people who choose this lifestyle, the wildlife, the relative freedom, and the experiences. It's hard work. People look at me askance when I try to explain how we live. But I would never change a thing about this place...except that one neighbor.
What are your homesteading challenges? Do you deal with neighbors close by? :-)
Hugs & Self-Reliance!
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