I wear two hats with different names: Madison Woods when I’m wearing the artist hat, Roxann Riedel in real life and real estate. I'm a rock-smashing paint-making artist & a sales agent for Montgomery Whiteley Realty. Hailing from the wild Ozarks in Kingston, Arkansas where my husband and I work toward a sustainable lifestyle.

You can text or call to reach me by either name (see above):
(479)409-3429, or email madison@wildozark.com

chickens in the snow

Rural Life in the Ozarks | Winter

I love our rural life in the Ozarks, where everything urban is at least 45 minutes away, and there’s a long dirt road to get to pavement. The wildlife and scenery inspire me on a daily basis. But it has its challenges, too. It’s a good idea to be informed about this if you’re considering a ‘back to the land’ move of your own.

While I’m between paintings, I thought I’d write a little about some of those challenges. Since it’s winter right now, this post is about the challenges we face during winter.

Thankfully, we haven’t had any really hard weather (yet) this year. I hope we scoot on through to spring without it. Winter is the most challenging season to me, especially when dealing with zero and below degree temps.

If you’re new to living out in the middle of nowhere, there’s a lot to learn. Most of it has to do with self-reliance. If you live far enough off-road, services like water, sewer, and garbage pickup are non-existent.

Rural life in the Ozarks means being prepared for hard winters sometimes.
Our driveway after a heavy wet snow in Jan 2023.

Dealing with Snow

In places that get snow regularly, they’re a bit more equipped to handle it. We usually do get snow every winter, at least a little. But it’s not like the snow somewhere like N. Dakota. However, what we do get can be very impactful.

The photo above is our driveway after a particularly heavy and wet snow last year in January. It weighed trees down and many of them snapped or toppled. We’re still cutting some of those up now for firewood.

But to even get to the gate, Rob nearly gave himself a hernia cutting with the chainsaw and pulling heavy snow-laden branches and trees out of the way. Our driveway is 1/2 mile long to the mailbox, so it wasn’t a small job to clear it.

The difference in rural versus urban life is that you’re usually on your own to deal with issues like this. There’s no road crew on the way for private driveways.

Usually, it’s not that cold all season long. These severe spells ordinarily last less than a week, but we’ve been frozen in and without running water for two weeks before.

Ice sliding from the roof is a distinct sound of winter.
Ice sliding from the roof is a distinct sound of winter.

My schooling in these things began when I moved here in 2005. The first winter here was night and day from a suburban winter in south Louisiana. We had an ice storm in 2009 that meant no power and no running water for two weeks. Once the ice began to thaw, the valley sounded like a battle zone with all of the popping and snapping trees. The destruction was pretty thorough and treetops all around us broke off, large trees fell over, and powerlines snapped.

Frozen Water

Water is the absolute most important resource for a rural life in the Ozarks. We have what I think is the best possible scenario: a spring that never runs dry, high on the mountain above the house.

One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned since moving here is how to conserve water. And during winter freezes, our water also usually freezes if the temps drop below zero. It freezes anytime below freezing if we forget to leave it running a little. But it’ll freeze even while it’s running if it gets cold enough.

When I first moved here, we lived in an old house with no insulation. So it got really cold in the kitchen. The refrigerator was less for keeping food cold, and more for keeping it thawed. One year, it got so cold in the kitchen, the water froze while running and made stalagmites and stalactites in the sink.

Winter is a challenge with rural life in the Ozarks. Even when I do leave the water on, sometimes it's not enough. Stalagmites in the sink one cold winter morning.
Stalagmites in the sink one cold winter morning.

We always keep jugs filled with water for times like this. When the jugs run dry, then the only thing left to do is get down to the creek and fill them back up again. If you have livestock, you’ll have to make sure they have liquid water available. There’s usually moving, unfrozen water in the creek but one year I had to break water down there, too.

The water conservation skill is handy when you’ve only got a small amount of water, but still need to wash dishes, clean house and body, flush toilets. I’ll have to write another post on how this works. Let me just say, the sweetest sound in winter is the first thawed drops of water falling from the faucet. And the sweetest feeling is the first hot bath after doing without for two weeks.

Essential Tools and Skills for Winter

  • stored water
  • tractor
  • chainsaw
  • ice cleats
  • warm hats, gloves, socks, outerwear
  • a way to warm the house if the power is out (and firewood in good supply, if a woodstove)
  • a way to warm water if the power is out
  • lanterns

And Yet I love Rural Life in the Ozarks

I like challenges, and I hope you do, too. We’ll continue to face them as they come and prepare in advance when we can. As I get a chance, I’ll make more posts about our rural life in the Ozarks. There’s definitely ‘degrees’ of rural-ness, ranging from being far away from even the tiniest towns, to living with a library in your back-yard. I’ll take some pictures and video around the way-outback, and the tiny, small, medium, and larger towns in northwest Arkansas so you can get a feel of what it’s like.



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