Organized Community Homesteading

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Living in a remote location appeals to most people who are tired of the smells, noise, long lines, traffic jams and congestion of city life. We made the big move to a more remote location 19 years ago and have enjoyed every minute of it. Some people like the city parks, malls, entertainment, restaurants and other amenities of living in a more populated area. Having spent the major portion of my life in large cities, I was ready for country living and the quiet.

As a child, I recall the streetlight shined  right into my bedroom all night. The factory sounds hammered away all night and the railroad cars clunked and screeched and could be heard for miles. Then later, there was the interstate sounds of semi-trucks whining along all night.

Of course, there were the suburbs where a door slamming in the early hours of the morning or the guy who cut his grass at first light were annoying. Or, the newspaper person with the loud muffler on his car delivering papers in the wee hours of the morning.

Tight Quarters in a Low-Impact Community

It doesn’t really matter where you live — if you live within sight of other people, you adjust to the constant background noise to where you seemingly don’t hear it. I recall when we lived in a low-impact community, where the houses were all within 12 feet of each other, our neighbor was complaining about the neighbor on the other side of her and the “bathroom noises” they made. We heard every domestic argument and door slam on our street.

Then, there were the smells, which ranged from pungent odors that are normal city smells to the cooking smells of every ethnic group imaginable that would get my mouth to watering. There was the  municipality going down the streets with their foggers to kill mosquitoes and gag us humans and the motor vehicle fumes that could leave you gasping as you sat there in bumper-to-bumper traffic, plus the haze that always seemed to hover over larger cities.

Post-Retirement Remote Living

The above only contained a fraction of what people put up with and seem oblivious to in more congested areas. I decided early in life that I did not want to spend my life living like that.

When I retired, we moved to the mountains with no close neighbors. Those who live under circumstances similar to the ones listed above are now probably drifting into a dreamy-like state having forgotten places like ours exist. In 19 years, I have heard two sirens and had one distant, obnoxious neighbor who ran their generator 24/7 but finally was forced to cease

The air is what would be expected: fresh and with natural earthy smells. Living remotely is the diametric opposite of life in a congested area. The silence at night screams out. It is so quiet that you are mostly left with your own thoughts and actually have time to think.

I have witnessed many folks that are unable to deal with the quiet, with only the wind whispering through the trees and the day/night bird noises. We hear an occasional elk bugle or coyote yelp, but mostly it is just quiet. Beautifully silence!

As strange as it may sound, when you are allowed time to reflect on your thoughts, it can be disturbing to some. It may be that you find that you miss all the city sounds, smells and activity. I have noted that quite a few have tried to bring the features of city life with them and impose them on others.

They find they are not happy with themselves, and hence, tend to become angry and take it out on others in their surroundings. They resent having to drive 45 miles to get their nails done or get a haircut. They want the amenities of city life and when they can’t have them become frustrated. They become bored and disgruntled and the remote living is now untenable, especially with all those other people who love it and seem happy and content. They gravitate to others that are like they are and form clubs or groups to go to dinner in town or some other form of entertainment.

We thought we were doing the right thing when we moved to this remote area to live. The community is a landowners association with some who desire to change a beautiful remote-living area on acreage to resemble what they left. We thought living in an area with covenants and rules would protect our investment. After all, we took 5 acres of raw land and developed it into a livable homestead.

It would also keep those who wanted to bring those things that drove them from the cities from reintroducing them into a beautiful, raw, natural area. We couldn’t have been more wrong, and the simple truth is that some people desire to impose their authority and will on their neighbors and would rather fight than coexist peacefully. They regularly defy the rules, plus make their own rules, which allow them to do as they please and cause discord.

Community Homeowners’ Associations

We have been in multiple communities that were governed by HOAs or similar associations and they all seem to be more dysfunctional that neighborly. The drawbacks seem to outweigh the benefits. Neighbors don’t like to be ruled by other neighbors and the neighbors who are in charge seem to like to bully or show superiority over their neighbors. The concept of HOAs seems like a good idea but I have not seen many that worked as they were intended to.

I’m sure there are some that work as designed, but of the many I have seen, the functional ones are in a minority. The resentment between neighbors is a constant irritation and does not help maintain property values — instead, it works the other way.

When people do not agree or get along it doesn’t make for good neighbors. The HOA concept looks good on paper but in reality it simply falls short in my opinion because of human frailty.  Careful consideration and a lot of research should be done before moving to a covenant community.

If you are looking for true peace and tranquility when you make the move to your oasis of paradise, then serious consideration should be exercised if it is a covenanted association. It is better to have an occasional dispute with one or two neighbors than an entire community of them all fighting for supremacy and power and, therefore, creating divisions between neighbors. At least that has been our experience.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle go Read all of Bruce’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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