I get a number of emails from folks curious about moving to Wyoming to homestead.
And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, considering I often post photos like this:
Pretty picturesque, dontcha think?
But when I get emails from people who, thanks to my blog, are ready to move to Wyoming as soon as I give them the green light, I sometimes want to yell, “Wait a second!” before they go and load up their chickens.
There’s more to Wyoming than meets the eye, and although I’m absolutely in love with the place, there’s some things prospective homesteaders need to know first.
In a nutshell:
If you’re looking for lush landscape, long growing seasons, and lots of like-minded homestead folks…
Don’t come here.
(Sorry Wyoming Department of Tourism… Just keeping’ it real…)
So how did I end up here? Well, good question. Sometimes I wonder that myself. 😉
I ended up homesteading in Wyoming in a round-about way, but I’m pretty happy it ended up this way.
My Wyoming Story
You see, I moved to southeast Wyoming from Northern Idaho when I was 18 years old. I didn’t have a clue what homesteading even was back then. Heck, I was still eating ramen noodles and frozen taquitos, and never even thought about owning a milk cow.
I came here to ride horses (equines have always been my first love), and knew that Wyoming would likely get me further along in the horse industry than where I had lived in the Pacific Northwest. Long story short, I then met my husband (a Wyoming native) and we brilliantly decided our first home would be a tumble-down property located approximately in the middle of no where. People thought we were certifiably insane. And we kind of were.
But that tumble-down property sparked my fire for self-sufficiency and food production, which in turn is what prompted me to start this blog, and the rest is history.
Not long after moving to Wyoming, I fell head-over-heels in love with this state. That might seem insane to some, considering how windy and flat it is… And goodness-gracious, the winters can be brutal… But for some reason, I just can’t get Wyoming out of my blood. The wide open spaces speak to my soul. I’m pretty sure I’ll be here forever, as illogical as that may be.
I don’t want to discourage folks from coming here, but I also want to be honest about what it’s really like. It’s easy to see my photos sometimes and get a mental image that might not be completely accurate. So allow me to explain:
A Crash Course in Wyoming
When I’m traveling, I always get a kick out of people’s responses when they ask where I’m from.
a) Don’t have a clue where Wyoming is.
b) Say, “Oh! I’ve been to Jackson, and it’s so pretty there!”
c) Say, “Oh. I’ve driven through there and it’s horrendously ugly.”
Wyoming is incredibly diverse, so you can’t judge the whole state from just one portion. Here’s how I think of it:
*Not to scale
**Thankfully Wyoming is easy to draw, considering it’s a giant square.
The northwest portion of the state houses Yellowstone National Park, breathtaking mountain views, and loads of wildlife. I worked on a ranch in Cody, WY for a summer and adored it. Unfortunately, it’s also kinda expensive to buy land there.
The southwest part of Wyoming looks nothing like the northwest portion. It’s brown, flat, rocky, and desert-like. Personally, this isn’t my favorite portion of the state, but I’m sure there are merits to living there. Probably.
The southeast portion of the state (that’s me!) is flat-ish prairie grassland. If you’re fond of trees, this probably isn’t the place for you. But we do have wind and rattlesnakes to make up for it. Haha. Ha.
The northeast portion of the state is full of oil and gas activity and has really been booming lately. And there are definitely some pretty parts up there and some neat history, depending on where you’re at.
Pros of Homesteading in Wyoming
- Land is Pretty Affordable. While there are areas of the state that will most definitely break the bank if you are looking to buy a chunk of land there, (think Cody and Jackson), there are many other areas with ample land for decent prices. We were able to afford our property (67 acres, small house, a barn, shop, and coop) as newlyweds for the price of an average mid-sized home in the neighboring town. Granted, the property wasn’t exactly turn-key, but still was reasonably priced for us.
- Lots of Farming and Ranching. Although interest in sustainable agriculture is slowly growing in Wyoming, you won’t find a whole lot of existing homesteading-specific resources quite yet. However, you WILL find many, many resources for farmers and ranchers, and often those can cross-over into the homesteading realm. So even though I don’t know a ton of local “homesteaders,” per say, we have many friends and neighbors who live in the farming and ranching worlds and they super helpful contacts as we raise our livestock and acquire farm equipment, etc.
- Low Population and Wide Open Spaces. There’s lots of space in Wyoming and you won’t find much heavy traffic, even in the “big cities.” In fact, there’s really not much of anything except antelope in many parts of the state. That suits my hermit-tendencies quite well.
- No State Income Tax and Mostly Stable Economy. Although we still felt some of the effects of the last recession, Wyoming wasn’t hit quite as hard as many other states. And we sure don’t complain about the lack of state income tax either.
Cons of Homesteading in Wyoming
- A Short Growing Season. This is my biggest beef with ol’ Wyoming. The weather has been especially erratic lately, which has made growing ANYTHING pretty darn difficult. In 2014, we had a giant blizzard on Mother’s Day, and then our first hard freeze in early September. It was brutal. It’s still absolutely possible to grow food here, and I’ve had some stellar years, but it can definitely throw some extra challenges your way. I know a greenhouse would greatly improve our situation, and we hope to build one soon.
- Brutal Winters and Wind. Oh the wind… Unless you’ve been through a hurricane, I’m betting you’ve never quite experienced wind like we have here… Sixty to seventy mile per hour gusts are not uncommon during the winter, and the wind routinely rips shingles off houses and tips over semi-trucks. I wouldn’t say you ever get used to it, but you do learn to deal with it. And we also get a lot of snow. When you combine snow with crazy-strong winds, you end up with massive drifts, blizzards, and road closures. It just comes with the territory.
- It Can be Dry and Brown. Sometimes at least. Now last year we had a extremely wet spring which resulted in a gorgeously lush summer filled with lots of green grass. However, we have our drought years too. I’ll never forget the harshness of 2012 with its blazing temps and how the smoke from all the grass fires choked you every time you stepped outside. And it can get pretty brown and ugly here in the dead of winter. But we all tend to forget that once the greenness of spring rolls around.
- Behind the Times. Wyoming be a bit behind the rest of the nation sometimes. Sometimes that’s a really good thing, but other times it can be frustrating, especially if you’re looking for organic foods or naturally-minded folks. Thankfully, I’m seeing more and more interest in homesteading pop up here and there, but it’s slow going. If you’re looking for lots of established homesteading resources and massive farmer’s markets, you might be a little disappointed. I trust they will come, but we’re a bit behind the times when it comes to this stuff.
But even though I complain about the wind, cuss the early freezes that kill my vegetables, and cry when the hail kills my garden, I love it here. And I love our windy little Wyoming homestead with all its quirks.
The Bottom Line:
If you’re looking for the perfect homesteading mecca with ample water, trees, and resources, this probably isn’t the place for you.
But if you’re game for a taste of the pioneer life, with all its ups and downs, rewards and heartaches… Come on over.