The Code of the West: Page 2 of 2

Church on shaky ground
Church on shaky ground.
Church on shaky ground

My Road, Your Road

In the chapter about access to your property, the most useful advice is “Do not accept the word of a seller or agent, especially when they say you can’t be kept off your property.” From personal experience, I can tell you it makes for bad neighbor relations when someone falsely believes they have or control a property’s access.

A four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. “You may get along without one, but that ensures there may be times when you won’t get out and won’t get back for a few days.” Yes, I can personally attest to this. It once took me two days to get back home because of a blizzard, and I was driving an all-wheel-drive Subaru. The only thing I can add is that if you come to a gate and have a right to pass through that gate, leave it how you found it—opened or closed. It was left that way for a reason.

A Fistful of Caveats

Property boundaries, mineral rights, homeowner associations, land use changes, buildability vs. livability, and construction are all touched upon briefly. The main theme is that it is up to you to educate yourself on these points as they pertain to your plans. There will be no one to come crying to if you are taken by surprise.


The section on utilities reads like a prepper’s handbook. Basically, there are utilities, but they can be unreliable. So, stock 72 hours’ to a week’s supply of non-perishable food, and get a generator if you need to run a pump for water or keep your freezer cold. Again, it is up to you to make sure your needs will be met.

I found two statements in this section very amusing. “Cell phone reception may be non-existent on the wild frontier.” Hallelujah! Also, “Note: Salmon River Country has no commercial power available.” Across the county on the Salmon River is where I married Bob-O 26 years ago. Starveout, the mining claim we lived on, was my first off-grid home. Except for buying less than 10 gallons of fuel a year for the backup generator, I haven’t seen a utility bill in those 26 years.

Oh, Deer!

Nature has provided neighbors for you that have been here for thousands of years—deer, elk, bear, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, beavers, otters, raccoons, skunks, trout, hummingbirds, squirrels, et al. They were here first, some are protected, and some must be endured. A regional wildlife writer described a poodle on a deck as a “meatloaf with fur.” We do have a county trapper provided to help get rid of nuisance animals. But he doesn’t come until after Rover is somebody’s dinner.


Wildfire is always a concern. Good advice is given on clearing a defensible perimeter. “The ’Darn Fool Clause‘ says it is OK if you burn your own house down. But if your house sets the woods on fire, and the neighbors are threatened or burned out, you are responsible.”

Emergency Services

When we were on the Salmon River, Bob-O and I became emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with a volunteer rescue group. The rural reality here is that in many places in our county there is no “Golden Hour”—that time within which if you can get a severely injured person to a hospital, the odds are in their favor. When a tree fell on Bob-O and broke his leg open on a remote mountainside, it was four hours before a doctor saw him. That was with the volunteer rescue assisting and a helicopter ride.

Reality Checked 

Other information about which services you are responsible for and which the county provides are briefly discussed also. Another theme that runs throughout is the fact that where you live is your choice, and once you move there, your neighbors and the county are not going to change anything to suit your preferences. I truly appreciate the forethought that went into publishing “The Code of the West.” I think anyone moving from an urban to a rural area should read and take heed. This tome of truths ends with, “It is not our intent to dissuade you, only inform you.”


Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze is more than marginally mountain at her off-grid home in northernmost California.

The Code of the West...The Realities of Rural

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