On Rural Retreat Safety and Secrecy, by E.I.D.

A major worry for many urbanites considering maintaining a rural retreat is their ability to, from a distance, ensure the secrecy and security of their property. Many of us cannot afford a full time retreat-sitter, and must use other legal methods to ensure the security of our property and supplies in both grid-up and grid-down scenarios.

First, county roads running to or through your property are always a liability. I set my retreat as far back off of the gravel county road as possible by clearing my own road, with the help of friends, through thick pine forest. My road is wide enough for a single large vehicle, and is approximately a mile long. The road is not straight, but rather, zig-zags like a large Z, with each leg of the road intersecting with, and then continuing beyond, the next leg, and then stopping at a dead end. This design is advantageous for a few reasons: first, if someone looks down a single leg of the road, they will see it die in a dead end some distance ahead. The “turn off” onto the next leg is not visible until you are almost right upon it, because of the acute angle of the turnoff. Secondly, these turns create many opportunities for barricades or defense concealment. Vehicles must also make sharp turns onto each leg of the road, and thus must slow down to a near stop, making them more vulnerable to fire at these locations.

To disguise the entrance to your road, use natural foliage. The county road near my retreat has ditches dug on either side of it. Rather than putting a permanent bridge or tin horn culvert, I left the ditch as it was. This provides an initial defense, and helps disguise the entrance to casual drivers-by. Because I drive a 4×4 vehicle, I cross this ditch by tossing large logs into the ditch, driving over them, and then removing the logs when I leave and stashing them back in the woods a short distance. One could also use a section of cattle-guard as a portable bridge. Paint it camouflage and stash it back in the foliage.

To disguise the entrance further, I allowed the natural grass and weeds at the first five feet or so of my forest road to grow as tall and thick as they could. I can easily drive my vehicle right over these weeds, but visually, they help to conceal the 8 foot gap in the trees, and deter any unwanted foot-traffic. I didn’t trim any of the tree limbs that stretched across the road (so long as my vehicle could pass beneath them), and even used ropes to train younger limbs to grow across the road as well. This helps to disguise the road itself from air-traffic and satellite photos. It’s true that the limbs sometimes fall across the road, but that just gives me an opportunity to add to my firewood stash.

Make sure that your retreat itself doesn’t stand out too hard from the surroundings. Paint your retreat using the colors of the surrounding area, perhaps even in a camo scheme, and don’t forget about the roof! The roof is most visible from the air, so take great care in painting it so that it blends. Any outbuildings should also be disguised thusly, and some structures can merely be covered with weather resistant camo netting. One of my past bosses lived in a subterranean concrete home that was visible from only one side. Three sides, and the top of the home, appear as a natural grassy hill with small trees and shrubs, but one side of the hill had a door and windows! This would be the ultimate retreat home for anyone willing to invest in it, as he spent very little on heating and cooling the home, and never worried about tornadoes, heavy winds, or other such destructive weather.

Remember that your clearing doesn’t need to be a pasture. My retreat is built amongst the trees, helping to disguise it. I cut the shrubs and smaller or dead trees out, but left the larger, aged trees behind to provide shade and concealment. There’s plenty of room for everything I need beneath these giants, and enough sun gets through for a variety of natural fruiting trees, shrubs, and wild vegetables to grow. Speaking of, make sure to plant many edibles that naturally occur in your area and will grow without your constant attention. My retreat features pecan trees, blackberries, wild grapes, persimmon trees, and wild onions, and I’ll soon be adding other self-sufficient plants to the mix.

It’s very possible that others will discover your retreat, and thus you must take care to make sure your property is safe. Some items, such as guns, ammunition, and other items purely stored for TEOTWAWKI can be properly packaged and buried on site. I plan to bury such items in both sealed ammo cans and large rubber tubs. I also plan to build an underground brick pit, approximately the size of a small car, in which I can easily stash and remove large rubber tubs full of supplies. This pit will be covered with a painted steel or aluminum lid, and covered with a layer of soil and grass seed to disguise it. Some items, however, cannot be adequately hidden…such as your cabin, recreational vehicle, or trailer. For this purpose, I once devised a cheap and simple idea to give snoopers the idea that someone might be home. Simply hook up motion sensor lights, such as what you might already have at home, but wire up the light inside the building, and make sure the motion sensors have adequate coverage of all likely areas of approach. If someone gets too close, the lights turn on (inside your building), lighting up the curtained/shuttered windows and giving the appearance that someone has just turned on the lights. This system can easily be powered with a solar 12 VDC system. Speaking of windows, one should always use heavy shutters to cover all glass windows on one’s retreat. These shutters should lock from within, and the screws should not be accessible externally. Again, if someone really wants in, they will likely get in, but this might be enough to deter a child looking to snoop or make some trouble.

This setup could be utilized in other creative ways: for example, how about a secondary motion sensor that initiates the playing of a loud recording of a vicious dog, snarling and growling, inside the building, or the sounds of a mountain lion in a nearby thicket? (Thanks, Ferris Bueller.). Obviously, these “tricks” are not a foolproof security system, but they may deter the casual local kid who wanders upon your property – in some cases making him too fearful to return.