As city people move through life not just a few wish to find a place with a rural setting. I am not talking about the very wealthy who own sections of manicured land with a huge mansion; rather I want to discuss smaller parcels of undeveloped land with a bushy flavour. There are lots of small parcels of land with residences and a few out buildings. The great majority of these small developed properties were built by DIY people who have varying skill levels from 0 to 100%. Often too there may be few or no building codes that are enforced. So when people go shopping for that rural hideaway it is ever more “caveat emptor” let the buyer beware.
Human beings naturally have an affinity for water bodies, ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans. This being the case it is not surprising that when people look for recreational or retirement property they want to be near the water. Another much valued asset is the view, most people like hilly rolling lands. These are the features that people most seek out; they are the most important. There are two major considerations that are often overlooked, will the rains flood you out and even carry you and your home away, or that beautiful hill that you perched your house upon suddenly turn into soupy mud, and float you and your home to lower lands with possible catastrophic results.
You don’t need to be a geologist to pick out a piece of land but you do need knowledge of what the area you have chosen is made of. Rock solid is a common expression and it does have meaning. Very roughly there are three kinds of rock igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary. The first two are very hard often having a crystalline structure or in places it may be granular. The third tends to be comprised of small grains and in massive form look stratified; you can see the layers that were deposited. These rock structures are stable and short of an earthquake or faulting are good places to build. It is helpful if the bedrock is covered with 5 or more meters of workable materials like clay, marl or other glacial deposits. Glacial activity will only be found in northern countries; the US states close to the Canadian border were also glaciated. The big item is stability and to know about this you may require the professional services of a geologist for an opinion.
Mountains are wondrous to view but if you chose to locate at the bottom of a mountain take a close look at the location. If you see lots of broken rock in a sloping pile chances are that that is a talus slope. It tells you that from time to time pieces of the mountain from far up come crashing down and break into little pieces or even great big pieces, you don’t want to be there. Take a look up the mountain and if you see a narrow line of hardwood trees extending downwards that may be a chute. This is an area where snow water and snow can come cascading down and ruin your whole day. Commonly mountain valleys have rivers and these rivers almost always flood in the spring. Make sure that the property of interest is above the highest flood level.
If you are looking at lowlands like you see in the Galveston area in Texas, they are nice for fishing, swimming and wading. But you will notice that all of the houses are built up on stilts so that in flood tides the houses don’t get flooded. Galveston area is a good example. There are thousands of kilometers (miles) of waterfront land and all of it now is capable more that ever before of flooding you out. Be careful where you chose to buy. Often some government agency may have data on flooding but now because of climate change they may be out of date.
Treed lands present wildfire risk and if you like flat land where you can watch your dog run away from you for three days in a row watch out for drought and dust storms. People have short memories. It was less than 100 years ago when the great western plains turned into a desert. Farmers went broke and left the land. Some lands should never have been cultivated; wetlands are a case in point. The stabilizing prairie grass was ploughed under and crops were planted, then when the drought came the decision to upset the natural environment proved to be catastrophic.
Today farms tend to be measured in square miles (sections) with absolutely nothing to stop the wind. It is only a matter of time before history will repeat itself and those big green machines that were seeming built without a thought for the environment will sit idle. Big corporate farms and big machinery may very well be the road to disaster. Humanity sadly never learns not to demand more from the land than the land can give.