Looking for info on West-Central South Dakota

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Deron, Nov 14, 2006.

  1. Deron

    Deron Member

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    Hi,
    I am looking for some feedback from people familiar with the west-central south dakota region. Generally, 30 mi northish of Belle Fourche.

    We know we will be off-grid, but we do have some questions we just can't find answers too. At this point we have little choice so none of these are really deal busters, but it would help us be better prepared. Of course, we are moving in the worst time of the year...

    I would like to know if we could ever expect to drill a well, or is it just too deep or undrinkable? I calculated that 40x40 collection surface at half the annual rain fall should satisfy all of our basic water needs. Hopefully it doesn't get much dryer than that.

    Is the snow fall perminate or is it more a fall/melt/fall/melt situation? The average temperates would indicate no serious accumulation but... Another related question is how deep is the frost line? When we lived in St. Louis they always said frost was 3ft (ha!), but we never had snow stick around for much more than a week.

    I know that the Animal Unit is like 10a per cow/calf pair. We are bringing a horse and a few goats and llamas. Anyone with experience in rotational grazing in this climate? We are going to be on 80a, and the less hay and grain we have to feed the better!

    How suitable is the area for wind turbines? It would seem to me that between this and our generator we should be ok on electric (less refrigeration). Back to the basics!

    The circumstances are not the best, but we are hardy people. Any input would be appreciated! I'll be asking some "power" related questions later, but this is already too many topics for one message :baby04:

    Thanks in advance!

    Deron
     
  2. Explorer

    Explorer Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have driven thru that area a few times, don't remember much except it is very sparsely populated range land. Few, if any trees and I can't recall any rivers with water. That are has been in a sever drought for the last several years. It is going to be very cold and windy in the winter and hot is the summer. As I remember it is not far from the bad land's area.

    The very best of luck.
     

  3. Cheryl in SD

    Cheryl in SD Living in the Hills Supporter

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    I hope this helps you.
     
  4. Cheryl in SD

    Cheryl in SD Living in the Hills Supporter

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    Ok, dh and I are curious. How do you plan to heat this winter? The nearest wood will be miles away. Plan on hauling a lot. I am worried about you & your family. Please tell us more of your plans.
     
  5. Lannie

    Lannie Well-Known Member

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    I live about 75 miles east of Belle Fourche, so I don't know how much help I can be, other than to say, YES, there's plenty of wind, except in the summer when it's over 100 degrees and you want some. At least that's how it seems to me. We have a 250 foot well that goes into an aquifer, so no water problems. We also have seeded pasture, so we support three horses on approximately 7-8 acres with no problem. They couldn't eat it all, and we ended up mowing the pasture a couple of times.

    I haven't been by there in a couple of years, but last I heard the reservoir at Belle Fourche (I forgot the name of it, sorry) was extremely low and people were getting worried. In our area, we got quite a bit of rain the last month or so of summer, so things greened up, and ponds filled, etc., but I don't know about B. Fourche's reservoir.

    The heat will be a problem. There just aren't enough trees around the area. It's mostly all grassland. Someone told me once that there are crews that go cut up the deadfall in the Black Hills and you can go get so many cords per person for free (except for the cost of the permit), so you might have an avenue there, but I don't know the details. This time of year, though, they're probably not doing that. We were so lucky that when we bought our house, it came with at least 5 years worth of seasoned, split wood, plus a couple year's worth of coal. Another couple of years and we'll need to start investigating getting a log truck to tip over in front of our house. LOL!

    Our soil here is wonderful - no clay at all. It's all "riverbottom loam." I know that soil type changes drastically over a few miles, though, so that's no help to you in the area you're looking at.

    In fact, I think I'm too far away - I'm sure none of what I just posted will be relevant to the area you're considering. Except the wind. :p

    Wish I could be more help. Sorry...

    ~Lannie
     
  6. Cheryl in SD

    Cheryl in SD Living in the Hills Supporter

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    Lannie, we thought about the area where you are. DH grew up in White Owl. He loves it there.
     
  7. Deron

    Deron Member

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    Hi Cheryl and Lannie,

    Forgive the long post and thanks for the feeback and concern. Let me assure you, you can't keep a good dog down. When we first moved here to WI, we lived in a 12ftx12ft "cabin" for 3 years. Milk would freeze under our bed. We later insulated it but it still got cold at night. Much nicer now. We are breaking that down and bringing it with us (along with so much more...). I'll be adding insulation.

    Knowing that we will not be getting utilities anytime soon makes a difference. We can plan for it. For example, we hauled water for 5 years and never did put in indoor plumbing. I won't be doing that this time. A fenced "pond" (more like a collection area) of sufficient size should keep a cistern full. I have a tank for hauling when we need to. RV water pump will finally give us indoor plumbing. You mentioned drought, and I've seen references to that but no specific numbers. What has the annual rain fall actually been the last two years?

    For heat, we will be filling loads out with all the wood we can. I had figured that the national forests sold dead snag permits for other years. They do that around here.
    I'll be using some passive solar techniques and R28 walls to fill the gap. And there is always the LP heat if all else fails! Maybe I'll dry cow dung (half kidding there).

    For initial electric we have a generator. Our needs are pretty light other than computers, so we will be running batteries with inverter charged by the generator for the winter. Then add wind power this coming spring. I'm still trying to nail down this end of it, but I'll probably start another thread to keep it better on topic. I am thinking of zones, where I have several battery banks and inverters. Then I can grow in groups instead of trying to get some monster whole house inverter. Still investigating batteries, inverters, chargers and DIY wind generators. I'm leaning towards a 48v system.

    For phone, it appears that all of Butte county is _supposed_ to be covered by cell phone towers. I know that is probably not true, but I used to have a cell antena mounted on a tower to pick up the fringe signal. It is only for emergencies that we are concerned about any phone. For Internet (which is all we really have now since our only phone line is tied up online 99% of the time, we make our friends email us or stop by), we will be switching to two-way satellite. Right now it is only $275 setup, and $60 a month. I spend that much for phone and internet access now and I only get 18-24k. We are both self-employeed and work on the internet (http://www.marnasmenagerie.com and http://www.pagestream.org are our main work) so this is the most important. I used to say I could run my business anywhere as long as I had a phone. We moved to WI and it took 16months to get a phone line. Ouch! I worked on a laptop and we would stop by the local library, taco johns (wifi) or a friends house to connect to the internet and upload/download mail. That sucked the life out of our work so we will be hitting the satellite as soon as possible.

    Growing our own food is not real high priority. It is just the two of us, and we do ok. With the horse, llama and rabbit dung I should be able to build a raised garden and fill it soon enough ;-) It was mentioned that we should seed some alfalfa. Does that grow there with so little water? We already are planning on using grey water to water a pasture area.

    The places we are looking at in SD are undeveloped. We both were born and raised in the St. Louis MO area. So why not there? Well, tornados scare the crud out of my wife (yea, they happen here also, but way less often), and I can't stand the high heat and humidity. It appears that areas in SD are about 10 degrees cooler than St Louis (and 10 degrees wamer than here in WI ;-). The places we are looking at are also little down, no credit, land contract, no prepay penalty. The only other places we have found like that are Texas (to far from WI, _way_ to hot etc), WY and MT (even drier, no guarantee that we can build) or Canada (imigrations, and taking our animals, and a whole lot of unknowns).

    You mentioned that north of "belle" was better than north of newell. I already dismissed a place out on 212? NE of newell. One location we are looking at is off of 85 between 212 and Redig. The other is 21 miles N/NW down Camp Crook Road off of 85. More or less the same distance north, but Camp Crook further west than the 85 property. Are you saying that the Camp Crook would be better? They both seemed about the same, and the long run of gravel road to belle concerns me.

    <rant on. Skipping this is advised>
    The events that led to this are way to unbelievable and a long story. People said we should write a book. We have started a journal this time :) In a nut shell we had 80a of our dream place here in WI. We had a ballon payment that we couldn't make, and were going to sell 40a to pay for the other 40a and finish our house. My brother said he would loan us the money instead (he can afford to) and then insisted he had to put the property in his name when it was too late to do anything else. Then the contracts came which were unbelievable and unnecessary. Like guaranteeing the house roof, interior/exterior paint and fixtures would be maintained and replaced or repaired by us. What roof,etc? Asked to put my wife on the contract and he put her name on the signature page (but not up front where it matters), etc. Never a word there was a problem with my requests, just got an eviction notice. Now you know why he has the money. In court the judge said he couldn't do anything about the eviction but "what he did was despicable and should be pounded in court". So we are out at least 100k in equity, and not a nickle between us. All spent trying to stop the madness. Another huge reason I can't move to MO. Murder is still a crime. We either move to a place like this, or sell all the animals and get an apartment. We are not those kind of people. We would rather be homeless.
    <rant off>

    Thanks for the advice!

    Deron
     
  8. tiogacounty

    tiogacounty Well-Known Member

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    Wow, thanks for sharing a really tough story, you sound like you have what it takes to survive anywhere. Last month I finished a Habitat house over in Dupree. I had the pleasure of having long conversations with a lot of the local cowboys. Two things that they constantly worried about would scare me, grass and water. Many had to dump large percentages of their herds over the last five years as the drought hit them harder and harder. I met a few who had drilled wells that were 2000-2500' ft. Not only were the wells horribly expensive, the water was hot and very mineral laden. They were also really getting hammered by the cost of hay. Good luck, I hope it all works out for you, and you keep us informed about your progress. Something about the area has a strange "pull" on me. I like to be alone in the prairie where there is no sign of anything man made. The silence is deafening and the whole experience is surreal.
     
  9. Cheryl in SD

    Cheryl in SD Living in the Hills Supporter

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    Your plan sounds really good. You won't have the humidity, but the temps can still be up about 100 many days of the summer & down WAY below zero in the winter with wind. The BH National Forest does have free cut areas, you will have to drive 60-75 miles to reach them (up by me!). At the end of the summer we began to get rain. Before that we have been running down about 1/2 of normal. The trouble is that rain when it comes is spotty. Locally heavy rain, then 1/2 mile away nothing. There are some really good alfalfa fields right around Belle. That's where we get our hay/alfalfa (we would love to move just outside Belle right along the river.

    I will do some asking around. I do have connections in that area. DH hunts up that way. He said talk to the realtor. There are some springs in the area. This would be your best bet for water at least until the drought breaks.

    Will you be able to see the land before buying? I know a couple that had to buy sight-unseen.

    Email me if you have any other questions.

    cmeggers@yahoo.com
     
  10. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Ask about water rights. Just because you own the land does not mean that you own the right to take even a drop out of a stream. And, I BELIEVE there are restrictions on wells also: I am not certain. It has been 35 years since I spent the summer out there!
     
  11. Macybaby

    Macybaby I love South Dakota Supporter

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    Deron, My DH and I moved from WI to SD in 2003. Our story wasn't near as painful as yours, but we did sell our 4 year old "dream home" on 40 acres and pulled up everything and headed 500 miles west.

    We didn't plan on SD to begin with, just somewhere between the Mississippi, the Rockies and no farther south than NE. I started looking for a job, and ended up with one in Chamberlain SD, of all places . . .

    DH and I decided we would look for a place east of the Missouri river, mostly for soil and water concerns, and ended up finding an affordable place near Mitchell. We got an old farmstead with 40 acres.

    I sure do love living here in SD. One thing that is very different from WI. You don't pay income tax, and the State only plows the roads when they feel like it. It's a trade off LOL!!

    I love the general mindset and that we have way less government interference here in SD than we had in WI.

    The people I've gotten to know out here say it's a state of extremes. It can get really hot, and really cold, but not usually for extended periods of time. It's normal for the snow to melt in the middle of the winter (if it hasn't all blown to NE before then). Wind is pretty much a constant thing. Trees might grow where you plant them, in WI they grow were you don't cut them down.

    Cathy
     
  12. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    By the way, have you considered caretaking until you get a nest egg built up?
     
  13. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Deron, DO be aware the ONLY wood available to burn is pine so you will need at least twice the amounts of that as you are probably used to in WI. There are NO hardwoods available in SD for wood! Also be aware the lack of humidity in thge air will suck the water right out of any "holding" area you may construct. The is no moisture in the snow and average annual precip including snow is around 20 inches or so. Water is a critical comodity and many times even if your drilled well hits water it may not be drinkable - full of alkaline - even the livestock won't drink it and it kills the soil/plants. Based on your stated lack of cash resources, you most probably will be looking at a REALLY tough time - Hay is sky high there now and will get worse come January. I lived in the Black Hills for 16 years, just left last year, got real tired of -20 temps, 40 mph winds, and hauling water twice a day for the animals.
     
  14. Deron

    Deron Member

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    Hi tiogacounty,
    We certianly like the quite here. When a private plane flies nearby it really stands out like a sore thumb! When my wife's mother was sick a few years ago she went down to St. Louis and stayed with her for a few weeks. My wife was kept wide awake most night with all the city noise.

    Hi Cheryl in SD,
    Do you have a contact or any other details on cutting firewood in the BHNF? Any idea what the "season" is for that? Knowing I had someplace to grab wood this winter if we ran out would ease one worry. With the horse trailer and truck, I can haul quite a bit and at 70miles the cost would be neglegible compared to propane.

    And do you mind telling me more about where you get your hay and what you are paying? Around here you can usually get hay year round, but your best deals are obviously off the field. Is this seasonal or will I be able to get it this winter still? I can bring hay, but it would be easier to sell what I have left and rebuy there instead of hauling it!

    We don't know if we will be able to work it out to see the land before we buy it, but it is from the same group and they will exchange property etc. We will be bringing a load of stuff with us the first trip (looks like next week! Just that hunting season is next week and we are were the hunters go!) so if we can have a place to drop it all the better. If not, we will drop it in a storage shed.

    Hi Terri,
    I know we can drill a well. I'll ask about season streams and ground water. Good thought. I am supposed to get the contract tomorrow so I can read over it before heading out. Caretaker would not be a great situation. We have 4 house dogs, horse (leaving my old horse behind. It would just be too hard on him, but it is not so easy on me), llamas, goats, outside dogs, rabbits, plus inside breeders. My wife raises a number of very nice animals for sale (GP, rabbits, rats, gerbils) plus my reptiles. When I say menagerie, I mean it. We are going to be bringing "only" about a 1/3-1/4 of the zoo. The cost of health certificates alone is overwhelming :)

    Hi Cathy,
    I knew about the income tax, and sales tax is lower as well (not sure about local sales tax, but SD is 4% compared to 5.5% in WI). Gas seems a little cheaper in SD than WI. Doesn't matter, but is food taxed? In WI it is not, but in MO it was. These differences are mostly just fun! WI doesn't have personal property tax however. MO did, and it was more than we pay in WI income tax. No matter where you go, they get you somehow! We had friends move from WI to MO and they kept telling us how much cheaper it was to live there. Ha! All they were looking at was property tax. MO sales tax was higher, personal property, food sales tax, income tax etc. And the cost to move would defeat any gain in taxes over my life time!

    Hi goatlady,
    Thanks for the concern. I am amazed how many people around here look funny at me when I say I burn softwoods. Our place is 90% hardwoods (maple, oak, cherry in that order) but we have some evergreens. I cut those for fence posts and burn the waste. It all burns! It may not burn as long, but it is lighter and I can haul more in the horse trailer. If you look it up, dried wood generates about the same BTU per pound. Just the density is lower for pine.

    Hay certainly has gone up all over. In the last 5 years it has gone from 1/bale to 2.5 here for small grass hay bales. And it is not because of a hay shortage. I know of two huge alfalfa fields here that didn't get a final cutting that could have. Nice and tall! The dang gas is 90% of it.

    Thanks everyone, we appreciate the input and thoughts!!

    Deron
     
  15. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Unless things have changed dramatically in the last year I would strongly suggest you take every bit of hay you can get WITH you! 5 years ago I was paying $3.50 per small sq. bale for orchard grass/alfalfa picking it up 30 miles away. Because of the arid land conditions in Western SD. There are not many hay fields where you can buy hay - the field owners need every drop for their own stock. Mostly prarie grasses, not much alfalfa at all. I;m paying $7 a bale NOW in Northern AR. for orchard grass/alfalfa which is being hauled in from Iowa. When I lived in SD I started haying the goats lightly in September, heavy all through the rest of the winter and didn't quit until May or so. You really need to understand just how DRY that ground is out there plus the fact water, good water, is at a premium - VERY FEW streams/rivers. Ground water basically nonexistant.
     
  16. Cheryl in SD

    Cheryl in SD Living in the Hills Supporter

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    Do you mind if I just start answering as best I can & quit when I get to the end? I know part of this isn't addressed to me. :D

    I hope this helps.
     
  17. frogmammy

    frogmammy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Deron,

    Will you get the chance to do a "flyover" with TerraServer and see how the property looks from the air? Be a good idea too, to find out what watershed the property is located in, then call the state hydrologic survey (or a similar name) and get what info/maps/whatever that you can.

    Mon