Editor’s Introductory Note: This article serves as an update to B.H.’s original piece on this topic, published in SurvivalBlog back in March of 2013.
Over the years since I first read the novel Patriots by James Wesley, Rawles and made the decision to embrace prepping my idea of prepping has changed. It started when I recognized that friends, acquaintances and strangers all had varying ideas and degrees of preparedness even within very similar prepping models. The greatest characteristic of Survivalblog.com is that there is something for everyone presented in articles and information. Regardless of your station you’ll find information pertinent to your specific situation to help you improve your own preparedness level. I realized that my own prepping mindset was slowly shifting over time as I pursued knowledge, skills and dealt with changing personal circumstances. Health issues, children getting older, economic changes and political changes have all required minor to major changes in my original preparedness model.
These changes and realization led me to begin classifying the different levels or approaches to prepping. It began with a realistic and unbiased look at the location I had originally determined as a great location for prepping. My research began to reveal some hidden assumptions and biases I was holding that caused me to ignore critical factors.
Of course, some folks will adamantly disagree with my assumptions so I feel it necessary to establish a broad disclaimer:
My assessments and research are non-scientific and are particular to me and my personal familial situation. I try to use a broad brush for informational and statistical research and apply it to general trends and loosely defined geographic, demographic and economic factors unique to my own education, experience and life skills.
I stated above that I have come to recognize general trends or categories in the preparedness mindset or commitment levels. I try to define these now:
Rawlesian Approach (RA): The original, at least from my perspective, retreat or prepper model-the Gray’s Ranch depicted in the novel Patriot’s. A free-standing and completely self-sufficient ranch/homestead that requires no outside contact for a 3-5 year survival situation and is off-grid. Keep in mind the Gray’s didn’t meet this point until after the Barter Faire when they accumulated livestock and more kerosene. Basically, they were able to survive and thrive without outside contact. Essentially, an Island. (If you have heartburn about this definition please re-read disclaimer)
Modern Homestead (MH): I think this can be separated into two unique sub-classifications depending upon the isolation or close proximity to smaller metropolitan areas. The ultra-rural MH is at least 1-2 hours from the nearest Wal-mart at highway speeds. East of the Mississippi River this is at least 75 miles, rural and isolated from larger metropolitan areas with box stores and trauma center. If the homestead is closer, like 30 minutes to one hour, then I consider it a rural homestead.
In the American Redoubt a drive 30 minutes to one hour can put you out into the woods or other terrain fairly quickly. For example, one hour from the Spokane Valley can put you into another county and even into another State or National Forests of Idaho Panhandle. The MH may be off-grid, on-grid or a mix of the two. The main characteristic is distance and the fact that the MH is NOT self-sufficient or an island. The MH needs commerce or access to commerce for survival.
Suburban Farm (SF): The SF falls within 30 minutes of smaller metropolitan areas. SF communities are where homes sit upon larger parcels 1+ acre or larger. These areas usually have local ordinances or GMR’s that restrict sub-dividing parcels or restricting high density dwellings. These communities usually have a “country” feel and many homes have gardens and small pasture/orchards. In my area I generally see 1-3 homes out of every 10 homes are growing vegetables and/or raising animals other than pets. The remaining 6-9 homes could raise something if they converted their manicured lawns or fallow pasture to productive use. The SF area usually has people selling fresh produce through the growing season right from their property or at the local farmers market.
The SF is usually attached to a local water district but outside metropolitan waste water treatment facilities (septic). Some SF’s have access to irrigation districts that allow larger water access for irrigation. The irrigation district water is usually cheaper and is untreated. In my local area the water is drawn directly from the aquifer and is substantially cheaper than municipal water. SF’s have a considerable number of parcels on well water systems. In general, the SF is well water with septic system.
Urban Garden (UG): This is a broad category defined by its close proximity to the metropolitan center. The UG is minutes from all modern services like Costco, Trauma centers and fast-food outlets.
I’ve come up with a unique way to determine the boundary of the UG. The French Fry Test. Just order fries at McDonald’s or Wendy’s and start driving. You’ve hit the outer limits of the UG when the fries are no longer hot. Eat them at your own risk.
The UG is limited. Limited in ability to produce, support and defend. The UG can support salad garden with some exception for green houses and creative landscaping. We see occasional stories about the UG prepper being persecuted by zoning Nazis for having a garden in their front yard and other such nonsense.
So, the RA would take considerable financial resources and time to achieve. I only know of three people who have attained the RA and yet they lack the human capital necessary for long-term success. The last few years I have moved from one style/station to the next and made a habit of looking for the natural or organic things that came with preparedness and each station. What commonality was being ignored or taken for granted? Were there any consistent commonalities present? All these questions brought me to my new view of preparedness—The Commerce Model of Prepping.
The Commerce Model of Prepping
This model of preparedness makes a major assumption as a foundation of its premise. The assumption is that human nature drives people to attempt a return to normalcy in the shortest time possible. Even if that normal is different from what was previously known—they will still plan, act and work toward that new normalcy. To better understand what I mean we should characterize or assign levels to “events” that initiate or launch usage of our preparations on a full scale.
I’ve loosely defined these events by severity:
- Habit Changer-Lay-offs, Illness, Regional Disaster, Personal or Localized Events.
- Life Changer-Economic Depression/Collapse, War, Pandemic, Modified Societal Collapse, Regional/National Disaster.
- Game Changer– EMP, Civil or Global War, Pandemic and other survival fiction-worthy events.
These events can overlap somewhat. For example, a long-term layoff or unemployment may change habits at first and then become a life changer by forcing a move or shift in socioeconomic status.
The latest economic “recovery” (quotes denote sarcasm) has been a habit changer for most and a life changer for many. Regardless of impact, what was/is the single largest common denominator for people experiencing “Hope-N-Change” (again Sarcasm)? The answer is immediate adjustment and subsequent pursuit of normalcy. How? Salisbury Steak instead of Sirloin Steak–Tilapia instead of Salmon–Staycation instead of Vacation–shopping at a Goodwill thrift store instead of the mall.
Okay, simple economics. What does this have to do with preparedness? This natural tendency should be a major decision factor in your preparedness plans—especially location. How? IMHO it should flavor all your preparedness systems and decisions. Why?
The Commerce Model of Preparedness stipulates that safe, free and consistent commerce and trade will be the catalyst for any long-term success for personal, familial, community, regional and even national recovery.
Again, IMHO, every aspect of preparedness needs to be viewed through this perspective. Unless you have achieved the RA level of preparedness you must be prepared for commerce. One could argue that even if you are an RA level you should be ready just the same. A business approach to preparedness puts you into a prime position to thrive and thrive abundantly. The commerce model forces you to think in terms of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, economies of scale and supply and demand while you pursue your prepping goals. I would like to use one comprehensive example to address this point.
Pitfalls of the Modern Homestead
The Modern Homestead, especially the ultra-rural variety, has many pitfalls when viewed through the lens of commerce. In a way this example will be a de-facto assessment of North Central Idaho-specifically Idaho County. I believe the only system that has long-term viability in these ultra-rural areas is the RA. If you are an island with all your preps then you are an island. You have the luxury of riding out most events or situations.
North-Central Idaho has many enticing qualities. Good quality land at reasonable prices, large percentage of freedom-minded individuals, elected officials that apply limited government and self-policing models, distance from large urban populations and on and on. Obvious negatives are lack of jobs and the [higher] average age of population [41.7 years. Statewide, the median age is 33.2 years.] At first glance its ideal but add some likely and probable factors and the picture changes rapidly. Let’s start with fuel—either prohibitive pricing and/or scarcity of supply—which can happen for a variety of reasons.
Fuel scarcity or price would limit trade and the ability to travel for necessary items for success. If you did have the fuel the additional expense would put you at a competitive disadvantage versus competitors. Trade within an ultra-rural setting will likely have immediate limitations due to scarcity of products. Any entrepreneur who tries to fill demand will be able charge higher prices. Fuel scarcity creates a “lesser of two evils” situation. Use the fuel to get what you need or don’t and suffer the consequences.
Note: An underlying assumption of my work is that there will always be a currency of some sort used to support the function of trade–it may be greenbacks, blue bucks or .22LR ammo. The point is no trade functions, with economic efficiency, without a trusted, recognizable medium of exchange.
The small towns that pepper this region have only two days of fuel and no back-up power to run the pumps. A regional earthquake of meaningful size would close all roads for days or even weeks with rock slides. Economic Collapse or a substantial increase in fuel prices begins to limit and stunt economic activity. Most of the MH’s in this region are 20-30 minutes’ drive up and out from the small towns and then an additional hour or more to an actual metropolitan center.
Some Scarce Resources
Scarce resources would immediately become scarcer, too expensive or even inaccessible. Unless you are a true RA the MH that is one hour or more from smaller metropolitan areas need to honestly assess their viability. How long can you last without electricity, cheap fuel and open roads? Just the loss of one would render 99% of the homesteads in this area nonviable if lost for more than two weeks.
The stark reality of this vulnerability came to light when discussing my own personal research of this area. The local sheriff made a revealing comment about the region. His belief was that if the government wanted to depopulate the area they would just turn off the power and stop fuel deliveries. In his estimation the first third would leave in a week, the next third the following two weeks and within a month only the RAs would be left. I had to concur.
My research showed that the largest towns between Lewiston, Idaho and Missoula, Montana have only a two day supply of fuel and 5-6 day supply of food—under normal demand. These inherent vulnerabilities make the MH, especially the ultra-rural MH, dangerous and success unattainable.
My personal conclusion was that if I couldn’t reach or become an RA then I needed to seriously modify my preparedness plans. I began to apply the Commerce Model to determine best case or most applicable outcome coverage—what gets me the biggest bang for the buck!
Again, consider the types of events and their potential likelihood and then combine with the Commerce Model. The result is a strategic location between small metropolitan areas and the MH. Locations that are close enough for commerce and yet far enough away for seclusion and security. Close enough for aid and close enough to provide aid depending on the circumstance. If fuel becomes scarce or extremely expensive most of the islands I’ve referred to will be in immediate poverty and limited in options.
My point has merit in two ways: the first assessment is to ask if I had to walk to town for commerce could I do it in less than four hours? Second, make a list for one month of every item you get from the store or mail order and apply a scarcity model to that list—could you survive without commerce? Who could?
Are you skeptical? Remove fuel and add any other category on your list. If you are ultra-rural do you think those scarce items would be more readily available for commerce in your ultra-rural location or in small to mid-sized town (30,000 population, or less)?
In closing, the modern preparedness movement, even the Rawlesian Approach, must consider commerce and trade as a major factor for retreat or homestead location. It would be tragic to invest countless hours and capital to a plan that could (and would) be vulnerable to failure and force people to abandon their location in search of scarce resources.