Growing up in a poor family with very little expendable income I began mowing lawns at the age of 10 in order to afford some of the luxuries in life I saw my other friends have. At the age of 10 that was video games, books, music or movies. Later it warped into motorsports and “big boy toys.” Mowing lawns at the age of 10 consisted of me pushing my lawnmower, weed eater, and gas around town until I was able to drive at the age of 16. This was no small order for a young kid growing up in a very small mountain town where everything seemed to be uphill. When I was able to drive myself and my equipment around in the back of my old Jeep Cherokee it opened a whole new market and I began to work at numerous rural properties. It was then that my love of land and real estate began. Until graduating high school I always had numerous jobs while still mowing lawns and I made good money for my age which allowed me to have expendable income and be able to help take some of the burden off my family. I dreamed of someday owning a piece of land all my own.
At the age of 18 I left for the Army with no selected duty station and was listed as ‘needs of the army’. I was blessed enough that the Army needed people in Alaska. In all my spare time between training deployments and overseas deployments I would explore the state and was immediately impressed with the sturdiness of the residents and how so many people lived off-grid in such harsh conditions. My obsession with land and real estate grew as I dreamed of owning my own chunk and building a homestead of my own.
I left the active army of 4 years and transitioned to the national guard of my home mountain state and attempted to try my hand at full-time college. I quickly learned a 22-year-old that had seen many training deployments throughout the US and a combat deployment overseas did not fit in very well with 18-year-old freshman. I began looking for fulltime work and was blessed to earn employment with one of the larger metro law enforcement agencies. This was the start of the 2008 financial collapse and I was blessed to have a well-paying job. This allowed me to purchase my first property as I saw property values crash. A small house that needed a lot of work in a small town close enough to commute to the city I worked in. While it was not my dream rural property, I saw the value in fixing the place up and being able to make some money when the market recovered.
During the financial crisis of 2008 and on I was largely protected. I had a good well-paying job that would not be eliminating positions anytime soon. It was during this time and the recovery I realized how terrible city living was and the dangerous underbelly many people never see minus the few “big” stories that made the news. I discovered preparedness and voraciously read all the preparedness fiction and nonfiction books I could get my hands on. By this time, I had a wife with a child on the way. Home values had improved and I had considerable equity in my home. I sold this home and rolled the profit into a lovely mountain house on one acre that I thought would be a good start for my homesteading dream. This mountain house was still close enough to continue working at my job and my commute was a stunning 45-minute drive through the mountains.
I quickly realized my once ideal mountain house was nothing more than another suburb despite the mountains and larger home lots. The area was quickly being flooded with other metro dwellers who still wanted to be close to work yet live in the mountains. Traffic was horrendous. The stores in the town were packed with people. My love of real estate of property remained and I was constantly looking at land. All land that met my homestead criteria (remoteness, water, land usability, etc..) was far outside of my budget, too far to realistically commute to work, and still had the same problem of just being too close to the massive urban area I worked in.
At this point many might be wondering why I remained at my employment instead of finding a rural area to work in that would fit my criteria for my homestead. While slightly more complicated it boils down to my employment. I love the job in law enforcement and the city I work for. My co-workers are all very like-minded. The city is well run and treats its employees well. I make a great income and have disposable income. I enjoy the “big city” aspect of the job and the excitement of being busy and going call to call. With the world events at the time the urgency of being prepared and knowing the need for a true piece of land that could sustain my family when the inevitable collapse happened. I was unwilling to leave my dream employment. It’s hard to find not only a job you love but an employer that treats you well. During this time, I continued working numerous jobs in addition to my full-time law enforcement employment. This allowed me to have extra disposable income and live a comfortable life with my family.
This led to my compromise. Neither of us wanted to give up our life style, employment, and friends in the metro area. Property values in my mountain state had sky rocketed and I had good equity in my home. The decision was made to sell again and with the profit purchase a very nice home in a small community close enough to commute to my work. With the extra money I had enough to put a down payment on a true piece of land that would be sustainable for my family when the time came to move.
My heart has always been in the small mountain town I grew up in but I could not afford a 50% pay cut, on top of reduced benefits and a much higher cost of living, to move there with my family. Since leaving my home town for the Army I have visited numerous times a year. Despite not living there in over 15 years at this point I could still walk down the street and run into numerous people that knew me. That type of community is priceless. My search for land was focused on this area. This brings us to the main point of this article. Many of us are in similar situations. Our employment is based in large metro areas. Employment is good, the money is good, our friends and social network is based in this metro area. Finding an affordable and practical homestead within commuting distance of that metro area is unrealistic.
Owning property is more affordable than many believe and there are many benefits. My search for land needed to meet the following criteria:
Close to my home mountain town – I already visited numerous times a year. It’s a community I know and am known in. This allowed for dual purpose that made it more appealing to my family.
Remoteness: The land needs to be isolated enough to be a realistic homestead for the future societal collapse. Yet close enough to be able to vacation there and be close enough to services of larger areas.
Survivability: Live water on or close to the property. Good hunting aspects. Good growing properties.
I was able to find a great priced property that met all my criteria. My 40 acres is close enough to my home town to visit fairly easy. It is rural enough people don’t just wander past. It backs up to national forest land and while there is no live water on the land it is a short walk through National Forest to get to water. There are no utilities and everyone in the area is completely off-grid. Access is year-round though harder in the winter. It would be a surprise to see a sedan in the area during the summer and you’re not getting there in the winter without 4×4. Hunting is fantastic with every big game animal often seen on my land and in my traditional hunting areas.
Owning this chunk of land is multipurpose. It’s a destination. It’s a vacation spot close to my home town. It’s a place my children can spend time recreating in the outdoors in my childhood stomping grounds. It’s a monetary investment if I am ever in a position where I want to sell it. It’s an investment in the survivability of my family when the time comes. It is a piece of mind.
Owning a piece of land is more affordable than many realize. I was able to find a 30-year loan and while I was able to do a 0% down, I still put a good down payment on it. Payments are a little over 300 a month. Cut your corporate monthly corporate addiction and you almost have the land payment. While I earn a good living, I support a family of 6 on one income and my side jobs. If I can do it, anyone can.
I have an old 1997 5th Wheel that is in great condition that remains at the property year-round. I built a deck off it. I leave a couple of my old trucks on the property. I haul water to the property in a large tank that lasts a year worth of visits. Sewage is hauled out once or twice a year to a dump station. The area is heavily wooded but the area around the 5th wheel is cleared out. I know the neighbors who are very like minded and help keep an eye on the place. Electricity is a combination of solar and gas generators. I have extra tools and equipment prepositioned up there. Extra supplies are on site. Well hidden and secure. The property is covered in game cameras with a couple solar powered live cameras that run off cell towers. I have a tractor there with attachments and continue to improve the land.
While this all may sound lavish, I assure you it was all done as frugally and budget-friendly as possible. Used equipment is your friend. Harbor Freight has a wealth of tools that are cost-effective and, in my experience, have excellent reliability when used and maintained properly. I purchase well-made brand name equipment when its something my safety depends on. I work hard to maintain a comfortable lifestyle for my family that allows this but I never let work become the focus. While I work full time in law enforcement, I have a very part-time LE teaching job and do real estate. These jobs allow extra income while having a very minimal impact on my family time. Family must always come first.
Is the land in perfect survival conditions? Not even close. But it is far better than nothing and continues to improve every single visit. Future plans include a small cabin to replace the 5th wheel. I have plans for a dedicated garden area with wildlife fencing. Septic system is on the list. Every visit moves me closer to these goals as budget allows. Is this progress as fast as I would like? Not even close. But a few hours of labor a day at the land before exploring and spending quality time with the family add up fast over time.
My family of six lives in a small town in a small development. It is far enough removed from the metro area that I can easily commute yet be isolated from the crime and chaos that comes with city living. The remainder of my supplies not at the property are positioned and staged ready to move in a moments notice. Our two primary vehicles each have gas tank ranges that easily place us at the property with over half a tank to spare. Numerous routes are planned to get away when the time comes. We maintain a small garden and continue to build our surplus as the budget and time allows. I try to average a visit every month to the property to keep it maintained and continue improvements. These trips are working and vacation trips. Staying where we are allows a great job with great income, close to friends and family, and all the amenities of the city. Like-minded trusted friends know of the place and a loose plan is in place to group there if need be. It has a long way to go before this is possible but it COULD work if it has to. It continues to get better and more realistic. Until then it’s a work in progress. Its forward movement. It is far, far better than nothing.
Is this the ideal survival situation? Nope far from it. But I cannot afford a full-time survival retreat at this time. This balance allows me to be prepared for an uncertain future. It allows multiple uses for the land and it an investment. My dream? Get to a position where I could take the 50% pay cut in addition to reduced retirement and benefits and move there full time. Until then this works great for my family. Maybe it is an option for your family. Land is easier to find and more affordable than many believe. The multi-use of the property makes it easier to justify. I have been walking this path for years but it is never too late to start.
I think we all see the writing on the wall with our current political environment. With the current social unrest, economic impact of COVID-19, world politics, and many others more and more people are seeking the rural lifestyle. The pendulum of the political environment swings more wildly election cycle after election cycle. Eventually, things will break and our great social divide will need to be resolved. I think many agree this reckoning does not look pretty.