Leaving Suburbia, by M.J.W.

It all feels so strange – I live, eat, and breathe “prepping.”  Sometimes I look in the mirror and ask “who are you?!”  In trying to remember when the change in me began, it is traceable back to the financial collapse of 2008.  Even before then, I had become very concerned about privacy – or the lack thereof.  In my professional life, I am a security and privacy consultant, so I know a lot about how little security and privacy exists in our networked world.  I understand in minute detail how online access to the most sensitive and confidential information has led to record breaking hacking incidents and identity theft.  The massive amounts of information about each individual that has been compiled into databases by various entities are the target of extremely organized “information criminals” and readily available to the U.S. government.  Because of my job, I am often one of the first to hear about a serious hacking event and be a part of the incident response team that performs a root cause analysis – how “they” (the criminals) did it.  In most cases, there was nothing sophisticated about it – human error allowed the vulnerability, subsequently exploited by criminals.  I can be found shaking my head over and over about the stupidity of it all at any given moment during a work week.  What I know to be true, from real life experience and my professional career – there is truly no such thing as privacy and security in the online world.  As a career technologist, I see that technology has created more problems for us than good done for us – think: Tower of Babel.

The anxiety about the lack of privacy and security in the online world morphed into anxiety about what was happening in the physical world.  I watched with dismay as our retirement plans started to devalue at a frightening pace, along with the value of our property.  I became increasingly anxious about our ability to survive comfortably – in the manner to which we were accustomed.  As the economy stumbled into a numb, sickening, downward spiral and we watched most of our wealth seemingly disappear overnight, I turned with a genuine concern towards my husband who seemed to act as if nothing really was affecting him – not in the way it was affecting me.  I thought that maybe I was over reacting to the horror of what was unfolding.  Ah, but no, he was internalizing the stress – laughing outwardly.  The stroke that debilitated a large part of his brain and many physical capabilities told the true story.  I remember thinking, “game over man”.  We were more fortunate than many.  My friend’s husband also had a stroke a few months later, but he died instantly.  I’m not sure which is worse considering what is to come, but I am grateful that I still have my husband with me.  It was six months before he could shower himself by himself and remember to take his pills.  After 2 years of speech and communication therapy, a year of physical therapy, and continued home exercises, he is almost himself again.  He still cannot drive any unfamiliar route or for more than about 15 – 20 minutes at a time.  His memory is terrible, his speech slurred when tired, and he is slow in responding sometimes, can become confused, and he must rest more than the average person must.  I manage our lives with patience and am now the sole breadwinner – I am so thankful to God that I have the ability to earn a living.  I love this guy and I am grateful that God spared him – if just for my selfish reasons.  His laugh is back, his smile is huge, and he can make fun of himself and remains the great optimist. He is active in the volunteer community and he is truly an amazing person – a survivor.

There are many true tales such as ours.  That is not the point.  The point is, the tragedy of what has happened in America has affected us all and in unexpected ways.  There is not an untouched person among us.  I realized that I must prepare for what is coming, and I must do most of the preparations relying on my own strength.  I am cognizant of the fact that SCHHTF (could have hit the fan) while we were in the middle of the initial health crisis – we were graciously granted more time to prepare.  I am hoping, really, that my story will embolden and strengthen those among us who are feeling alone in preparations or who have large burdens to carry.  It can be done.  We cannot give up.  We must not curl up into a ball and become frozen with anxiety, stressed, heartbroken, and worried.  We must march on. 
Preparing to get out of Suburbia, and convincing your family that it is the right thing to do, while accommodating a disabled person, is challenging.  It has taken a good year or two of convincing our six grown children and their spouses that prepping is critical.  This past Christmas, they all received Go Bags replete with hand crank/solar NOAA weather radios, MREs, emergency water pouches, blankets, snacks, first aid kits, flashlights, candles, water proof matches, etc.  The light bulb came on for my husband as we packed our Go Bags from boxes of supplies.  Our grown children thought I was crazy and over-reacting to their dad’s stroke, but I have successfully convinced them that the issues in the world are much bigger than our personal struggles and we should figure out how, together, to survive the coming mayhem.  I would say that 90% of my family and extended family are on board now.  (Make a mental note:  it has taken 2-3 years to get them on board).  I have successfully convinced my elderly parents to stock up on food and water supplies, and keep the gas tank full.  So, everyone is emotionally onboard – what next?  Action.  Action.  Action.

The last six months I have devoted every spare moment to finding a piece of property to relocate to – one that would accommodate the 16 of us (including parents, children, spouses, grandchildren).  I have no need to include my siblings because they have prepped for their families independently with properties in Washington and Idaho.  Our home is in Nevada by virtue of necessity.  Now, imagine a lone woman – born and bred in Suburbia; trying by herself to find property with a well, septic, and water source; far enough out of town to be somewhat difficult to reach, but close enough to be near a  major medical facility; not in the “line of drift” from the “golden hordes” of California; not too difficult to access, but not easy either, and “handicap accessible”.  Doesn’t this sound so overwhelming?  It is.  I am not deterred and I found a spot that meets our requirements.  To some preppers, finding a spot 20-30 minutes outside of town is not good enough.  To some, cocooning in place is the only option.  For us, we found a compromise that will at least provide us with the opportunity to develop a sustainable lifestyle that is not dependent on the modern necessities (or should we say ‘niceties’).

In our case, I had to find a piece of property that was in fairly good condition because my husband is disabled and I work full time (from home).  I finally found a little piece of sustainability in a well-developed acre with a good sized home, fenced, with a deep and highly functioning well, solar panels for water heat, propane, and septic.  I realize this well maintained property will need more than me to manage it, but I’ve called in the troops (my family and friends) and with the aid of some hired help, I believe we can accomplish what we must.  My first concern was to get out of town.  My second concern was to provide for off the grid living if necessary (solar, generator, propane).  I have been stocking up on food and water for a year, and started a large garden inside our suburban home from heirloom seeds that are now soaking up the sun in portable containers in the backyard – just waiting to be transplanted into their new home.  The property has several out buildings, one of which will be converted to a chicken coop with very little effort, one will be used for tools, and the spare garage will house the generator and supplies.  Fortunately, our good friends own a tractor with all the attachments and live close by.  Moving near friends into a like-minded community was a major criterion for the mission.  The acre, already fenced with well laid out corrals and sections that will each have a specific purpose (pigs, goats, fruit trees, vegetable garden, chickens, and rabbits). 

Inside the home, which is a daylight basement home, the upper floor is the entrance floor and fully handicap accessible.  The downstairs or basement, is beautifully finished and could conceivably provide sleeping space for up to 8-10 people (the upstairs can provide sleeping space for up to 6 people).  The property boasts 3.5 baths – critical with potentially 16 people coming to visit.  From the upstairs kitchen and deck, we have a view of the entire valley that leads back into town – should trouble come our way we will see it coming.  However, our home is not visible from the lower roads, backs up to empty BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land (read – desert), and won’t stick out.  The valley has a large number of one and two acre properties consisting of fairly independent, tough minded, country folk.  Most properties have horses, chickens, cows, llamas, goats, etc.  I can bet a silver dollar, it is an armed community.  The county sheriff has chosen it for his own residence.

We are packing now and will move in a few weeks to our new little spot.  Trust me, I realize what cleaning out a chicken coop looks like.  I will liken it to all those diapers I changed and washed when my kids were little.  I’ve already arranged to trade eggs from my coop for horse manure (for the garden) with some friends.  [Reader Doug F. added this comment, via e-mail: "Absolutely do not use horse manure in your garden unless you want a garden full of weeds. Use only well-composted cow or sheep manure."]
I’ve studied, researched, prepared, asked for help, and now its implementation time.  There are enough people out of work here in one of the highest unemployment states in the country, that finding help is not going to be the problem.  To me, this is like a highly complex Information Technology implementation.  You do your homework, you create the plan, you implement, with checkpoints along the way, using an iterative quality assurance cycle.  I have a sense of exhilaration, but understand the reality in front of me – this is not going to be easy. 
Lessons learned:

  1.  The realtor – I can’t tell you how many times I had to repeat the criteria for the property we sought – an acre +, a well, septic, propane, 20-30 minutes out of town, well maintained, minimum of 1800 sq. ft., no HOA, handicap accessible, primarily paved road access, fairly flat land (we have enough snow during the winter to make a dirt, windy, hilly road unnavigable.  Getting the realtor on board was tough.  I did most of the research myself using Zillow, an MLS search, search of county property tax records for additional details, called the local well driller to get specifics on certain properties, etc.
  2. Prioritize the “List of Lists” (totally overwhelming at first glance, but was able to understand the scope of types of things that would be needed in the major categories – prioritized and am working through the list).
  3. Research – propane suppliers, propane rent vs. own, propane vs. oil heating, pellet stoves vs. fireplaces, well depth, water quality, water filtering systems, laws governing wells, zoning laws, growing vegetables and other plants in a high desert climate, generator types, solar power, battery capacity, site stick built homes vs. manufactured or modular homes, how to raise chickens for eggs and meat, firearms and ammunitions, ham radio operator license, herbal remedies and natural medicines, etc.
  4. Get Educated – books I read (fiction and non-fiction):
    1. Trump University Asset Protection 101 – learned to restructure business for asset protection.
    2. How to Be Invisible: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Personal Privacy, Your Assets, and Your Life – learned how to protect assets by titling them in an LLC, how to live under the radar and keep a lower profile.
    3. How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times;
    4. SurvivalBlog.com complete Archive CD-ROM
    5. Mini Farming;
    6. The TEOTWAWKI Tuxedo: Formal Survival Attire;
    7. Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it all Falls Apart;
    8. Without Rule of Law: Advanced Skills to Help You Survive;
    9. Atlas Shrugged
    10. The Encyclopedia of Country Living
    11. Read a variety of books concerning:
      1. the economy and America’s imminent demise from a political and financial perspective;
      2. privacy from the perspective of a citizen and from the perspective of law enforcement – the hunted and the hunter perspectives;
      3. online businesses;
      4. financial investing (gold, silver, etc.);
      5. Christian prophecy concerning the end times (The Bible and other books);
      6. disaster recovery and preparedness;
      7. survival;
  5. The right job – It took me a year to find the right job utilizing my skills in a “work from home” situation with infrequent travel.  That was a very rough year as I turned down job after job opportunity situated in the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., etc. 
  6. Training – I knew nothing about guns and ammunition.  I took the first step and got in person, personal training, own one gun, and have a limited supply of ammunition.  I was afraid of the guns but I made the first step.  I plan to expand this skill this year.
  7. Budgeting – if you don’t have the budget for a large purchase of freeze dried or dehydrated food storage, double your grocery budget and buy 2 of everything every time you go to the store focusing on the essential foods.  I cut other things out of the budget to enable this strategy.  Future purchases include things like a generator, not a big screen television.
  8. Learn now, practice now – don’t wait for the perfect opportunity.  I learned to make a variety of cleaning supplies from Ivory soap and white vinegar, learned how to make my own laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hand soap from Ivory soap bars.  I started the heirloom seed garden on the kitchen counter.  I regularly fill and use 15-20 gallon containers of filtered water – to practice the inconvenient art of water storage.  I bought essential oils and learned about their medicinal qualities, and created various lotions and salves.  Garden, can, bake from scratch, hand wash and hang dry… reject convenience and select inconvenience now.  It will help in adjusting to life without later.
  9. Reaching others – the hardest part of this journey so far has been convincing my family that Christians are not showing a lack of faith by preparing for disaster.  I likened it to many Biblical stories where the industrious are honored. 
  10. Pray – last on the list does not mean least.  The God of the Universe knows all, sees all, and has a plan.  The purpose of my preparation efforts are to protect and care for my family and friends in order to minimize suffering and to share what the Lord has in store for us.

Next Steps:  Take Action
There is no convenient way to utterly change your lifestyle from beginning to end.  It has taken me close to three years (setbacks notwithstanding) to get to the point where I understand what all has to be done and am actually doing it.  There are many, like me, who read SurvivalBlog religiously but who do nothing.  I made a commitment to myself that before the elections in the fall of 2012, I would be settled in a new environment with the potential for a sustainable lifestyle.  I may be wrong that the elections will be a tipping point in these United States, but I want to be prepared.