Finding, Buying, and Improving My Bugout Location – Part 3, by Greg X.

(Continued from Part 2.  This concludes the article.)

I purchased the property in the winter out of a bankruptcy for a good price. This left me with some money to invest, but I plan to do as much of the repair work as I can. This may take longer than contractors (who are hard to find too) but I also don’t want to appear too wealthy to the neighbors. This is the Grey Man approach.

I’ll use the neighbors to source inexpensive local materials and contractors for work beyond my skill set, safety, or time to invest. For example, I was looking at tractors and talking with the dealership manager. He told me about a good source for locally produced tongue and groove flooring. A neighbor told me a good place to buy a culvert pipe. I had a friend who recommended a contractor who recommended a roofer that he uses that I hired (though the roofer was about 5 months backed up). A neighbor had a relative who hauled in a load of gravel for the road at a good price.

People want to be helpful. At least one of the neighbors has some carpentry and construction skills so I’m considering hiring him for some of the work, or to teach me what I don’t know. He also has access to a skid loader that could be used to fill in some holes on the property. I’ve been spending considerable time getting to know my neighbors and becoming part of the community to the best extent possible as an absentee owner.

For the land, I started a couple compost piles to produce compost to rebuild the soil for a garden. I’m researching where to put the garden based on soil conditions and moisture. A neighbor offered me bedding hay and cow manure to fertilize the garden. I want to expand the forest into the edges of the hayfields, especially where the grass isn’t growing thickly. I’ve been talking with a friend from work who has been reforesting his family farm for about 20 years for tips and best practices.

So far, I’m letting neighbors cut and bail the hayfields for their animals but the terms of the trade may change over time. Any changes in land management will be carefully implemented and considerate of local customs. I plan to expand the pond, clean it out and add to the downhill wall. I need to cut down the dead trees in the orchard and replace them with new trees. The orchard and trails are filled with thorny bushes that I’m slowly removing. There are numerous trash piles around the property that will eventually be hauled to the dump. It will take some time until the lot looks like my future vision.

Other Factors

Neighbors: When I was looking at the place I knew neighbors and neighborhood were important, but I didn’t realize how important. I knocked on a couple doors before placing my offer, learned some of the history of the property and obtained a first impression of the neighbors, but eight months in I now believe my wife and I lucked out. Our neighbors have been great, helping us to learn the neighborhood, friendly, offering to help (which I have taken them up on a few times), offering the use of their trailers and earth moving equipment, offering to take me hunting, and offering to let us hike and ATV on their land. They’ve shown my wife around the county, and I’ve been shooting with my neighbor across the street on his range.

My wife is now regularly socializing with some of the local women nearby too. I’ve spent many hours listening to neighbors as they tell their stories about the neighborhood, the people and the history of the valley. Many of the older neighbors were actually born at home on the farms. My visiting will continue, with both my close neighbors and those farther down the road. People love to share and I love to listen and learn.

Security: This is a multifaceted risk that I’m still struggling with. There is peacetime security of materials, weapons and prepping supplies on the property and then there is security from the masses if the SHTF. Security of the property is complicated because we don’t live there full time though we are hoping to move/spend more time there in retirement. Neighbors say the area is safe, and overall, that is probably true as we have so few people driving down the road at all. At the same time, I’ve had multiple neighbors say that Meth is a problem in the county. If the SHTF the pillagers may not be from far away.

A Tip: My place is on a graveled side road. Inside the house I can hear when my three neighbors drive by, and I assume they can also hear traffic. Maybe I’m too security conscious, but I always look when I hear a vehicle driving over the gravel. We just don’t have that many people driving on the gravel road. There are no teenagers within ¾ of a mile. I have a friend from work with a place about 15 miles away who was broken into by kids. They took his guns and a little bit of cash, so it I happen. He put in a big safe and an alarm. I’m looking for a good safe for the guns, have already installed security cameras with cloud storage and I plan to install an alarm before I’m done. If the alarm sounds, I have neighbors that I could call who could discretely check to see if there was an unknown vehicle in my driveway. Then I or they could call the sheriff.

In terms of the threat of displaced urban masses, the terrain offers some obstacles and I also picked a street with some people living on it but not that many people. I think the street will get together for collective security. The paved road could be closed on either end with a few downed trees after which people traveling on foot would fight the terrain, briars, and undergrowth. We won’t be an impenetrable target but we might be able to harden our area enough that plunderers move on to easier targets. Everyone is armed and a good shot. Some of the women even hunt. So far I would describe my neighbors as capable of running a homestead (gardens, hunting, fishing, construction, and good with hands) but I’ve only met one person who strikes me as a prepper (the Marine) who might have significant food, gun and ammunition stores.

I’m thinking about buying a few extra 5.56 rifles and ammunition in case I want/need to arm the street if social order totally collapses. This has risks, but I hope to be integrated into the neighborhood before the SHTF. Once more storage is in place I will probably increase my grain, bean, rice, and sugar stocks to contribute to a collective self-defense community. I think the geography of our street along with familial and historic relationships will create a natural self-defense group. There just aren’t enough places on the east coast that are sufficiently hard to reach to rely solely on location for protection. Google earth also makes it difficult to hide unless your place is under the trees. Neighbors (collective group) will be essential to those that want to survive SHTF in the east.

The expenses don’t end at the property and building improvements. I purchased a used quad for a good price that I use for neighborhood and property transportation and towing a yard cart that I bought from a neighbor. The orchard is too uneven for my old riding lawn mower so I bought a new mower. Used mowers like I needed were few and far between along with priced too close to the cost of a new mower. I recently purchased a used tractor with a front loader, saving significant money. I’ll watch for used tractor implements and I already had an offer to lend a brush hog.

I had to purchase a chainsaw. I’ve used the saw to cut down dead orchard trees and an ash tree that fell into the yard. The ash will make some good firewood after I split it. I’ve picked up used metal cabinets (mice proof), used garden tools from a consignment shop, a metal 130-drawer cabinet for my nut-and-bolt bench stock, and food-grade 55-galllon barrels and 250-galllon totes for water storage. Most of what I purchased is not a duplicate of equipment at my home house. As you are looking for property remember to include housing, outbuildings, and property maintenance equipment in your current and future budgets, though your needs will depend on the property and how you plan to use it.

Is My Approach Right For You?

One last question to consider. Do you really want to live “in the middle of nowhere”? How much do you need people, easy shopping, nightlife, entertainment, and the conveniences that city/suburban life provides? I started looking for rural property because I’ve always been more comfortable in the woods compared to the city, because I love the outdoors, because I wanted a bugout location to retreat to if the SHTF. My wife came along for the ride. An exciting night is now a campfire under the stars.

A trip to town has both a time and fuel expense. But, I must also consider that when we walk onto our front porch and it is so peaceful. The wind is blowing during the day, the stars are bright at night, and we don’t hear the drone of civilization unless atmospheric conditions are just right to bounce a faint sound over multiple ridges from a highway about six miles away as the crow flies. I can actually just sit on the porch and look out over the field and forest, soak up the ambience, and have no desire to get up and get back to work, something that never happens at home. I could spend weeks with no desire to leave the property or travel farther than a neighbor’s house. My wife even enjoys the solitude even though she is more of a social person than I am.

I don’t think peacetime rural life is for everyone, though the prospect of survival after the SHTF probably changes the desire for most.