Tips for your move to Idaho

I’ve been keeping my finger on the pulse of people moving to Idaho for a couple years now. Last July this crossed my desktop:

Idaho is America’s fastest-growing state, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Its population increased by 2.1 percent to almost 1.8 million from July 2018 to June 2019.

Because of this I thought I would offer a few tips to those moving in. There can be some culture shock and the locals are going to insist you adapt to their culture rather than you imposing your culture and “the right way to do things” upon them. If they wanted the city culture they would have adapted it or moved to the city years ago.

Finding a home.

I talked to a builder in North central Idaho a few months ago and he had some interesting stories to tell.

There are no houses available for sale or rent in the area. One family, desperate to leave California, brought a camping trailer and lived in it while they looked for a place to buy or rent. After several months they gave up and went back to California.

Home builders, if you can get one to return your call, will tell you they are completely booked up a year or more into the future. If you decide you want to get on their schedule you will discover it involves an interview and if you aren’t local the odds are very low of them you giving you an interview. They won’t answer or return your calls if you fail your one and only interview. Although there may be a half dozen or a dozen builders in your area you will be lucky to get more than one to talk to you. After you fail the first interview he will tell his builder friends what a doofus your are and share your name and telephone number with them.

Here are some common interview questions and tips for answers:

  • Why are you moving here? Wrong answers include:
    “I don’t have to work in the office anymore and we want to be in the country.”
    ”There is too much crime in the city.”
    ”Things are too hectic in the city and we want a simpler life.”
    Answers that won’t eliminate you from consideration:
    ”The prosecutors are on the side of the criminals.”
    ”Saying, ‘All lives matter’ will cost you your job.”
    ”They are making all my guns illegal.”
  • Who do you know around here? Wrong answers are anything other than a half dozen people who have lived there all their lives and will vouch for your good character. You will be asked how you know them and you should be ready to tell stories about them that your interviewer, who probably also knows them, will recognize as being in character.
  • What are you going to do here? Wrong answers include:
    “Farming a few acres.”
    ”Organic <anything>.”
    ”I have enough money I don’t have to do anything.”
    Answers that won’t eliminate you from consideration:
    ”If I can get a good enough Internet connection I can work from home.”
    ”I’ll do almost anything to get out away from the politics of <state/city>.”
    ”Construction/drive truck/heavy equipment operator/etc.”
  • What sort of hunting do you do? Wrong answers include:
    ”I’m a vegan.”
    ”I’m not against others hunting but it isn’t something anyone in our family would ever consider doing.”
    ”I was thinking I might try hunting antelope (or other species that doesn’t exist in this area of Idaho) when I get here.”
    Answers that won’t eliminate you from consideration:
    ”I’ve harvested a few mulies and some ducks, but nothing recently.”
    ”Hunting is something I have always wanted to try. Can you recommend someone to help me get my hunter education card?”
    ”My wife did some hunting when she was growing up and promised she would teach me after we get settled in.”
  • What type of guns do you have? Wrong answers include:
    ”We have a couple 9mm shotguns.”
    ”Part of the reason we are leaving the city is to get away from all the guns.”
    ”Nothing right now but I expect we will be getting an assault weapon or two after we get here.”
    Answers that won’t eliminate you from consideration:
    ”We started to buy a couple handguns a year ago but it was just too much of a hassle and the sheriff wouldn’t give us a concealed carry license unless we ‘donated’ to his reelection campaign anyway.”
    “I’d rather not discuss the details until we can get them out of the state.”
    ”I haven’t done an inventory recently but I checked with a moving company and we are going to need to rent a U-Haul trailer because they won’t move them for us.”
  • What did you think of that last presidential election? Wrong answers include:
    ”It was so scary that Trump got that many votes.”
    ”If Hillary had not given up in 2016 we wouldn’t have had to worry about Trump in 2020.”
    ”If there hadn’t been so much corruption Trump would have been in jail and we could have all breathed a little easier.”
    Answers that won’t eliminate you from consideration:
    ”Let’s go Brandon!”
    ”Why hasn’t the FBI interviewed any of the people who reported election fraud?”
    ”They called that an insurrection? One day soon they are likely to see a real insurrection.”

The weather deserves mention. Given the state of the education system people may not know that living within a few tens of miles of the ocean has a moderating effect on the temperature. Currently my property in Idaho looks like this:


That is a picnic table covered in snow next to my explosives production facility. The snow has drifted some so the depth is quite variable but on the average it’s a couple feet deep with another 10 inches or so forecast for the coming week. And my weather station went offline last night when the temperature suddenly crashed below –5 F:


It’s been a common problem. The weather station was sold by an Arizona company and it just doesn’t seem to be able to handle the cold. And –5 isn’t all the cold as things go around here. I’ve seen it as low as –30F for a week at a time while never getting above –20F. It’s not all that bad as long as the electricity doesn’t go out. That winter with the lows of –30F for a week included no electricity. We heated snow on our wood stove for water. After the electricity came back on we thawed the frozen underground pipes using our electric welder. You do know how to do that, right?

The –30 F for a week was an outlier. But there have been several times when it never got above 0 F for more than a month so you should be prepared for that. Also, with it that cold and lots of snow the county may not plow the roads for several days. You and your neighbors will need to get your dozers started up and plow them yourselves. Be sure and put winterized diesel in your snow removal equipment before it turns cold. The summer diesel will be jelly when you need it the most. Starting a diesel engine in the extreme cold is not for the novice. Know how to use glow plugs, block heaters, and starting fluid.

Oh! You alerted on the “explosive production facility”? It’s no big deal. You don’t have to have your own facility. Most people buy their recreational explosives from the local sporting goods store or even the local builders supply. I have my own facility because I make over a ton of recreational explosives each year.

Back to the weather… The summers are hot. 100+ F is expected in the late summer. Some of the lower elevations get days with the temperature over 110F. You should see the wildfires we get around here: That was in 2020 and was just a warm up for 2021. After they lite the backfires for the 2021 fire less than a mile from my brother’s house the flames were estimated at over 1000 feet high. If you want to keep your buildings you will need your own generator to keep your pump running and hope your well has the capacity to supply enough water to keep everything saturated. Why your own generator and water you ask? The power frequently goes out because of the fires. There is no city/county water supply. Your own well is what you have. The local fire department is a volunteer organization and will probably be busy someplace else. This is especially true if you are the new guy in the neighborhood and has been a little snotty about the local “deplorables”. If properly equipped, your dozer for plowing the snow in the winter can be used for fighting fires in the summer.

Gardens are common. Most people in the country have gardens and maybe a few fruit and/or nut trees and/or berry bushes. But its not required unless driving 30 minutes to an hour into town to buy fresh food is annoying. You will need to have a fence which is at least six feet high. The deer will jump over anything less than that. Instacart and Amazon fresh don’t deliver in this area. You might want to consider canning and freezing your own food too. Have enough on hand to make it through those weeks where the roads haven’t been cleared of snow or are closed because of the fires.

Transportation. The thing about no Instacart or Amazon Fresh services reminded me of a story about someone who shall remain nameless. This person was coming out for a visit and I offered to pick them up at the airport. They declined saying they would just take public transportation from the airport to the motel in the closest town to me. I repeated my offer but they insisted. An hour or so later they called back, “There isn’t any public transportation from the airport to your town!” Yeah, I was pretty sure you would discover that. I’ll be glad to pick you up.

Septic systems. Another service people in the city take for granted is a sewer system. That’s right, in addition to your own well you have to have your own septic system. This is composed of a 1000+ gallon tank buried near your house where the turds decompose until they exit as a smelly liquid along with the other stuff you send down your drain. The effluent from the septic tank go into the drain field a little further from the house, and much further from your well, to be reintroduced to the ground. The septic tank will need to be pumped out every three to five years. Do not neglect this! Get it done during the summer. If your drain plugs up during one of those times when the roads are closed because of the snow and the subzero temperatures you will be using a latrine made out of a snow drift. Your pee won’t necessarily freeze before it gets blown into your shoes and that will probably result in more frequent changing of your socks than if you just had to brush the ice off.

Because the bacterial requirements for turd decomposition differs from that required for food scrap decomposition you will not have a garage disposal in your kitchen sink. You will learn to compost for your garden or pay extra for garbage removal—if it exists in your area. You may have to take it to the transfer station yourself. They are usually within 30 minutes to an hour away from your house.(when the roads are passable). You might want a pickup to haul it because carrying garbage in your car can cause it to smell bad for a long time.

Vehicles. Speaking of transportation and cars… You should have at least one four wheel or all wheel drive vehicle for winter travel. And don’t count on all season tires to be “good enough”. Get dedicated winter tires. If you have a decent relationship with your neighbors they will pull you out of the ditches the first few times you slide off the road near their place. But if you are a slow learner they will grow tired of it and let you stay in the ditch for a day or two. They might give you a ride home or bring you some food, water, and a blanket. After all, we are friendly folks and care about our neighbors.

If you slide off the edge of the hill instead of a ditch… well, you will be lucky if your car stops tumbling after a couple hundred feet. It’s over 1,000 feet all the way down to the river. And the only people I have ever known to call a tow truck were city people. If you call a tow truck and manage to get one to come out the neighbors will be telling that story for decades.

Your Prius, Tesla, BMW, and Mercedes will be viewed in a very negative light with you thought of as virtue signaling and/or a snob. The Ferrari, Jaguar, or Porsche that was the status symbol of your city neighborhood will be be considered conclusive evidence you are an arrogant narcissist.

Privacy. You might think that because your nearest neighbor is hundreds of yards away that you have more privacy than in the city with neighbors a few dozen feet from you. Don’t count on it. When the deer are more common than people your neighbors know what vehicles you drive and when and probably where you are at any given time. When your spouse invites a friend over while you are in town or out of the area for a while within a few hours the neighbors will have shared that information with everyone else in a five mile radius.

Internet access. Do you require “good Internet”? If you do, then don’t even think about moving here. I recently had a repairman come out to my place to fix something and while waiting for someone to bring him some parts from town I told him he could use my open Wi-Fi. This is at a rather remote location where I have a dish antenna pointed at a mountain top four miles away to get my Internet. This connects to my router and retransmits to another location almost a half mile away where it is broadcast again at my gun range. Both the router location and the gun range Internet equipment is powered by solar cells and batteries. When he was leaving he thanked me for the Internet connection and commented, “That is a better Internet connection than I have at home.”

My service is 6 Mbs down and 3 Mbs up. For comparison, “good Internet” in the city is going to be something on the order of at least 70+ Mbs down.

Social factors. Having good neighbors is incredibly important. Defending against fires in the summer and travel in the winter are life threating even with good relationships with your neighbors. You will need to fit in to be welcomed or even tolerated. If you are a slow learner or think the way the things are done in the city is better then you are likely to become a social outcast and you will spend, at most, a few years before you retreat to the city where you belong.

Summary. Country life in Idaho is much different from what city people are used to. I’ve just touched the surface to give you some clues. People who live here do not appreciate people who move from the city and expect people and the environment to adapt to them or accept your insistence that they are your inferiors. If you are arrogant, difficult to get along with, or a slow learner they can and will make life difficult or deadly for you simply by minor neglect. You will adapt or you will leave—one way or another.

Update 1/8/2022: I forgot to mention the Indian reservation. The reservation encompasses a lot of square miles and several small towns:


The Nez Perce tribe has their own court system.

Business dealings with the tribe can be “interesting”. Once, my brothers and I came to a verbal agreement on a land swap with them. It was a great deal for both them and us. They were getting land which was well connected with their land (and not much of ours) and we were getting land which well connected with ours (and not much of theirs). After the verbal agreement it took (IIRC) six years to get a signed contract which only formalized the verbal agreement and said the deal will be closed within six months. It took seven, rather painful, months to close the deal.

I could tell stories for hours but that might spoil relationships that took decades to build.

The snow kept falling. Here are updated pictures of the same location a few days later:



Here is a picture of my brother’s front deck:


They lost electricity at the same time for a day or two also.


24 thoughts on “Tips for your move to Idaho

  1. Might I humbly submit other acceptable answers for the question of “What kinds of guns do you have?” are “On me?” and a very emphatic “YES!” (delivered with a cheese eatin’ grin).

  2. Nice write up. I do hope that the internet access improves, but rural areas are not serviced by most of the big companies.

    When we retired we considered moving to Morton WA. Even though Morton is only 60 miles from Olympia, it is in the boonies. In Morton the USPS does not deliver, instead you get a PO box – which you have to pay for. Moving is a challenge. Companies like Pods (which does not care if you include a gun safe, but does prohibit explosives and ammo) will not deliver to the boonies and instead will only deliver to the nearest service center from which you will have to unpack and transport the rest of the way. Emergency services are also limited. Have heart attack and you will be lucky to be air transported in time to a hospital a hundred or more miles away. If you’re out of something there is no quick run to the store for most things. Need a specialized bolt, well it’s a three hour+ round trip to the nearest big box store. If you’re lucky you’ll have access to a general store or a farm store.

    For a variety of reasons we decided instead to move the rural area outside of Gig Harbor. Still, I often long for the country life.

  3. Don’t forget Starlink is coming middle 2022. It’s a gamechanger for internet in the country.

    • Maybe. It was supposed to be here before now.

      5G may show up too.

      My provider repeatedly told me 20 Mbs would be an option by “summer of 2021”. It is still not here.

      Don’t count on anything until it is physically verifiable.

  4. Sounds like the fastest way I could make my east King County semi-rural house value go up is to work toward getting the county to split. I think there is something in the WA constitution about “city-counties”, and I’m pretty sure they had Seattle in mind back in 1895.

  5. That’s a good write-up. I might add, “Learn how to put on tire chains while in snow or mud, preferably before you get here.”

    And I have to say I did not know about thawing underground pipes using a welder. I’ll have to look into that. Not that my underground pipes have ever frozen, but I’m curious.

    Hey! What do you have against 9mm shotguns, anyway? : )

    I guess they can learn about “shoot, shovel and shut up” after they’ve been here a few months? But we don’t talk too much about that, and besides it’s on enough bumper stickers that the point should begin to sink in before long.

    • The welder trick only works on metal pipes. You connect the welder on opposite sides of the frozen section and put 100+ amps through the pipe. The pipe warms up and melts the ice.

      • Yeah, I have friends that for some reason consider snakes to be the biggest threat and load on of these as the first round.

        • Shotshells really need to be patterned in the handgun to determine the maximum distance you can reliably kill a snake with one shot. You are looking for gaps big enough to cover a snake’s head, as the limit on distance. That, and having enough power to do the damage needed. You need to do this with the actual gun you will carry. Barrel length and twist rate can make a big change in density of shot delivered.

          Also, be aware that snakeshot will not reliably cycle an auto, especially the smaller calibers. Two areas of concern, enough recoil to cycle, and shell format for feeding. Most all are fine in a revolver, but you want full metal nose for autos. The plastic cap types are problematic.

  6. One thing I like is that people in Idaho seem a little un-polished about life. It’s like most everything is kind of ruff-edged. I love it.
    One can witness the left trying to drag Idahoans into the post American communism. The distain they exhibit in failure is truly humorous.
    If you come here. Be ready to carry $500.00 in your front pocket. And a pistol in your back one. And a coat in your truck.
    And if you ever think you need help from government? Na, just do it yourself. Always think about how not to get into trouble. Instead of calling government to get you out.
    And if you do get here. It’s a blessing. Treat it like that. And enjoy it for what it is.

  7. And a few more;
    “Figure on building a substantial workshop of some kind, ideally before your house is put in (you can always sleep and cook in a workshop but you’ll generally not want to be running a table saw and a lathe or a welder in your house). You may not yet know why you need a shop, but you’ll find out soon enough.”

    “Learn about ‘heat tape.’”

    “Know what a multimeter is and how to use it.”

    “Understand basic house wiring.”

    “Know how to replace brake pads, rebuild a brake cylinder, and to do other minor automotive repairs such as electrical troubleshooting, swapping out an alternator or a radiator, etc. The rural professionals don’t like to be bothered with the nit-picky things that everyone should have already known how to do themselves since childhood. They’re not your momma.”

    “Know the difference between soldering and welding, if for no other reason than you don’t want to sound like you just came in from California or like you’re a baby.”

    “Learn how to siphon gas without getting a mouthful (although it always entertains the locals to see you do the classic spit take with the gas and it helps lighten the mood).”

    “Have and know how to use a chainsaw. It has dozens of uses, even in some cases including the cutting of trees.”

    “Don’t wipe the mouth of the jug when it’s passed to you. It’s bad etiquette.”

    “Never ask to borrow someone’s rifle (shotgun, etc.) Even in the most long term and intimate relationships this can be a sketchy and risky request.”

    “When stuck (for any of a number of reasons) deep in the wilderness with no communications, never say, ‘OMG! What are we going to do now?’ or anything of the sort. Calmly build a fire, make a few jokes, and look around casually for some form of shelter if it’s necessary. Consider it an opportunity and not a disaster. You DID bring some water and fire starting provisions, right? And you have a gun and ammo for the taking of game if needed. So no problem.”

    One of our employees is recently in from the Sacramento area. They (husband and wife) have been living in a camper for nearly a year as their house is still not ready. She learned to control a handgun (22 LR, up to 44 Magnum), slow fire for accuracy at 30 yards and rapid fire for maximum effect at five yards, and she is doing quite well thank you very much. Her husband had taken his first deer and his first turkey before the foundation for their house had been laid in. She hit a deer on the highway (a “highway” in North Idaho, by the way, may actually be paved, but typically is narrow, one lane each way, and has no shoulder) causing severe damage to her vehicle (an AWD). They took the carcass home and butchered it for the meat. Yes, they’ll do OK here, I think.

  8. One of my favorite stories from a few years ago. Seem a transplant family (probably Californicaors), bought an acreage (of unspecified size) eight or so miles for our small city. The article didn’t specify what time of year they visited the property, or if they bought it sight unseen. However, come summer, they discovered their “dream” home was located less than a mile from a dairy farm. The wind shifts (did I mention the wind blows a lot around here) and with summer temperatures in the high 90s, the atmosphere took on a certain . . . ah . . . piquancy. Our intrepid newcomers immediately contacted the county commission and demanded that the commission enforce (non-existent) pollution regulations and mandate that the dairy install odor control equipment (unclear if directly on the cows or the whole farm). The homeowners were not amused at the commissioners’ reaction, though the rest of us were.

  9. Idaho is in the short-list of states to move to if/when we bug out of WA. I suspect I’d fit in OK. 🙂 The wife is a genuinely nice and apolitical person who’ll get along well just about anywhere, with just about anyone.

  10. Not quite to the same level, but in the same vain:
    This was from 2013 or so….

    There were, for a time, lot of people looking for homes from the NYC in the Poconos and Lehigh Valley in PA. It was far cheaper than NJ or down in Bucks were the infestation has reached critical mass.

    At one of the new transplants went to a supervisors meeting and demanded gun control for the children or some such. They were laughed out if the meeting. Apparently nobody told them that the 1st day of deer season is a school holiday either. That got them laughter out of the subsequent school board meeting. It was shortly afterwards that tye flow form NY slowed to a trickle. The word had gotten out through one if the NY realtor rags that the locals were hostile to being educated by their betters. LoL

    I’m from Bucks Co and we are very aware about people moving next to a farm only to complain about the smell.

  11. The Europeans still commonly use 9mm rimfire garden guns, to fire from their kitchen windows and deter birds from picking their seedlings. I’ve seen two different brands of semi-auto 9mm rimfire shotguns advertised, they seem to be just simply oversized .22 blowbacks with detachable box magazines, intended for metallic shotshells. The 9mm load is also available as a solid slug, must be for when the rabbits turn nasty!

      • The referenced “garden guns” were previously known as Salon Pistols, or “sallies”. According to PG Wodehouse, anyway…

    • Is it a 9mm Flobert? My friend found one of those shotguns at a gun show. We found some ammo for it.
      The boss researched it out. They were made for the navy. To shoot rats. And pests of all type trying to board ship.
      It would be right at home as grandma’s garden gun.
      There was a couple of ammo manufactures that still loaded it. But I’m sure they dried up in this market.
      But It’s also a weird enough cartridge that some supplier might have some laying around.

  12. “If you slide off the edge of the hill instead of a ditch…”

    Ooh, BT;DT ! Had a good ending, though. N east PA, near the NY border. Group 99 year lease of a hunting cabin. Dad and I went up, can’t recall if for deer hunting or cabin prep for same. Just shy of the crest of the trail, the vehicle suddenly lurched and slid sideways off the hill, with about a 1k foot drop to a river. Hit a tree with my door area, after sliding maybe 20-30 ft. I crawled out another door and took the PTO winch cable to the other side of the trail to a tree at the crest. No real damage, just another day in the woods. There were a couple more similar trees below that one before it got completely vertical, so a chance dad and I might not have ended up getting wet if it didn’t hold. I’m guessing ice under the snow was the culprit. WilliS Jeep 4dr, 4wd, 4 cyl., with the optional dual cabin heaters. Kept in storage in town for the group (dad’s friends from the 40’s-50’s). Happened about 1965.

  13. A great expose of life not in the city. Had me laughing the whole read.

  14. Just found your blog… love it. I am one of those Californians… but not a commie. I live in what was once a rural area… lots of freedom and fun. I worked hard to get out of the city, to have a little piece of land. Now our sweet county is being taken over, our Board of Supervisors are voting to change our old way of life. They transplanted people from San Francisco. They are voting people in that have those left leaning values to positions of power. One of our young, city police chiefs, quickly resigned and moved to Tennessee when he was made to prosecute those in our county that took a stand against BLM. I know what it means to be as self sufficient as possible, and I know how handy a chainsaw, a pressure canner, and a 4-wheel drive is in the country. I also know what it means when your neighbors show up at dinner time because they need a quick hand with escaped cows. You get up and go and think nothing about it. It is the way. As well as a well stocked pantry. And all other essentials. As far as the question about what type of guns you own… well it’s “mostly varmint types”..

    • The vocabulary you use and the examples you provide give credibility to the claim you would fit in here. Are you still in California (your IP address indicates that)? If so, are you planning to move to Idaho?

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