For many of us, being able to move to our retreat/homestead/bug out location (BOL) full time is an elusive endeavor but for some the homesteading life dream does become reality. Our permanent move to our BOL was planned for post-retirement but those plans were moved up due to a medical condition. This article will recount the good, the bad and the uncategorized of our journey to find, improve, maintain and move into our BOL.
Finding a BOL wasn’t easy. At first, I was looking around the Allegheny National Forest, in Northwestern Pennsylvania. (see “Picking a BOL” by Pete Thorsen, posted on June 2, 2019). Many of the locations that we looked at were just seasonal camps. Many of these camps didn’t come with very much land. The wife was concerned that we would not be able to use it very often or check on it regularly due to the distance from our home. I was concerned about security since there are many break-ins at seasonal camps. One friend even recounted a story of showing up to his camp in the same area to find that someone had absconded with all his firewood. I did not cherish the thought of bugging out only to arrive at the BOL to find that it was looted of our preps like an inner-city Wal-Mart during SHTF. We revised our search area to places within an hour to an hour and a half away from our city home. I had compiled a list of things I wanted the property to have and I can honestly say I think I would have had better luck finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow than a property that had most of what I wanted, at least in our limited price range and target area.
I had to whittle the list of features and attributes for the property down to a list of “must haves” and “would like to have”. That search still seemed futile. It soon became apparent that some of the amenities of the perspective property would have to be really flexible. I wanted 10 acres as a minimum but we found a nice place with 8 acres. Sometimes close enough works fine. At some point, perhaps we can buy some of the surrounding land to get to that 10. Or perhaps we can buy some land a down the road. There are some advantages of having some land within walking distance of your homestead/BOL. The land can be used to cache supplies and also for an annex garden. Somethings that I would not compromise on was the property had to have a basement, a wood burning stove/fire place, not be in a flood plain and be able to accommodate food production (gardens/animals).
I also wanted a lot of storage space but we remained flexible on storage space since we could always build a shed or barn for additional storage space. I also wanted it far enough away that if our city was targeted with a nuclear missile that the blast effects (minus the radiation) would not be felt at the BOL. I didn’t want the heat to burst our BOL buildings into piles of ash nor have them knocked down or damaged from the blast wave. Radiation from a nuclear blast was also the reason for requiring a basement with cement block and dirt backfill.
On-line realty services such as Zillow are a great resource. I did look at SurvivalRealty.com. However, there were not any listings in my very limited region of interest. But one thing I did find very useful about looking at the listings on SurvivalRealty.com was seeing what other retreats, BOLs, and homesteads had. Once a property was found that I was interested in, I would look at aerial images of the area around a perspective property to see what was around. Were homes well-kept or did it look like a junkyard run by a meth head? Were there farms or businesses nearby? Did the businesses present added hazards or have a potential post-TEOTWAWKI advantage? Once an area had the cursory search done and we physically looked at the property we also drove around, since not everything can be seen from camera shots.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but my wife is not a prepper. She merely tolerates my “hobby”. Attributing something to a survival situation only gets discounted with the roll of her eyes. What we were looking to buy was a “camp” that we could then move to after retirement. Telling her I was interested in a post-apocalypse bolt hole would not have put us on the same page. Everything I do to make our homestead/BOL more ready for TEOTWAWKI must be justified by being of value or usefulness in some other way. Projects and expenses must be explained for their “non-prepping” attributes and values. Espousing the value of having chickens that can survive high levels of radiation (compared to a human) for eggs and meat post-TEOTWAWKI is not going to win over the wife’s blessings. Pointing out that we can have eggs and meat that we know how was feed, is of better quality, and also teaches the kids some responsibility is the way I convince my wife to support the prepping projects. The good news is my wife is interested in gardening and animals for food production. She is also an advocate of recycling and being environmentally responsible so projects like rain harvesting barrels are easy to obtain consensus on. Before you think I’m “hen pecked” the inverse is also true. She wants to make our pond bigger. I see the that being beneficial for having water for irrigation should we need it.
A Surprise Move
When we purchased our homestead/BOL/camp, our plan was to move permanently in 2026. We thought we had time to get our future home ready for full-time occupancy. That was until I ended up in the emergency room with my world literally spinning out of control. Long story short, my right ear no longer has the ability to perform its functions related to balance. Retirement plans have changed and we decided that moving into a smaller home with no stairs and less (theoretically) maintenance was a smart choice. Taking care of two homes was definitely challenging especially one with two stories that I couldn’t safely work on. The move to the homestead was also seen a beneficial in my new low salt (or I say NO salt) diet. Producing some of our own food allows us to control the amount of salt in my food. The only problem is that we really were not ready to make the move. The biggest hurdle in expediting our move was not having a good tractor. We decided not to buy a tractor until our house in the city sells. We didn’t think selling the house would be an issue but seven months later I’m still hopeful. Even though we didn’t really plan to move to our “camp” for several years in retrospect I really can’t think of a reason why we could not have moved here sooner. Maybe we just needed some motivation.
To many of us, the census is just meddlesome. But it does provide a snapshot of the community. You can look at census data nationally, by state, county, city, township and borough. Things like median income level, poverty rate, population density, education, type of occupations, housing unit, and even the number of veterans is provided. I estimated the number of Amish in our township by looking at the number of housing units without any plumbing, which is also a statistic that is provided. Once you have the census data you do have to do some extrapolating of the data. A high number of those below the poverty rate could mean that the population will not have the means for being prepared with food and other supplies for a major disaster and thus could resort to looking for yours. A higher number of veterans could mean that there are people with knowledge, skills, and abilities that will come in handy post-TEOTWAWKI. There is also information provided on the types of jobs of those in the community in generic terms such as manufacturing, education, health care, government, service industry, etc. I was somewhat surprised at the number of people in the “education” field that live in our new community.
A Quasi-Survivalist Community
One of the things we found near the BOL we purchased was an Amish enclave complete with a sawmill, a large green house that sells to the public, a number of large sheep herds and other “cottage” industries run by Amish families. There are also a number of Mennonite families in our area. To me, the population of Amish and Mennonites brought with it advantages and disadvantages with the advantages outweighing the disadvantages. The Amish and Mennonites are extremely hard working and hardy people. The Amish enclave already functions off grid and is in a sense a very large Mutual Assistance Group (MAG). On the other hand, they will not resort to violence, even for self-defense. The good news is they are not anti-gun and own firearms for hunting.
I have found however that there seems to be some underlying animosity among some of the neighbors towards the Amish and Mennonites. It seems that the Amish and Mennonites are viewed somewhat as a clique because they are so tight knit in their religious beliefs and support one another by preferring to do business with other Amish/Mennonites if possible. Of course, both the Amish and Mennonites have large farms or gardens with the Amish using horses and old-school farm implements for production that will still continue to operate post-TEOTWAWKI.
(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)