Letter Re: Random Thoughts On Prepping

I really enjoyed the article “Random Thoughts on Prepping, by Stymie.” I want to thank him for writing that article for the blog. For a long time, I’ve also questioned the thinking that the golden horde would migrate to places like Idaho. I keep telling myself that better minds than mine have come to that conclusion, but I still can’t quite buy it.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the issue of establishing a truly remote homestead as a prepping strategy. We bought property in the Sierras, in Northern California, above the snow line. I kind of question how likely that horde would be to come our way. Granted, there’s decent hunting nearby and on our own land,but most of that golden horde wouldn’t have a clue about hunting and would starve if they had to depend on it to feed themselves, much less a family. Where are they going? Would they go up to Truckee with more than 200 inches of snow per year or over Donner pass? They still have snow in June up there. If they got there, there’s nothing to eat, since almost nobody has gardens or much stored food. Then, if they got that far, where are they going? Another 300 miles of Nevada desert and then they’d be in Utah. That’s not where I’d head. In fact, it’s the very last way I’d head if I was part of the horde. I’d either go no farther than the inland California valley where plenty of food can be had, or north into Oregon farmland. Aternatively, maybe I’d stay on the Pacific coast in some out of the way place where I could fish and with a year-round growing season, or maybe even down in Mexico. The very last place I’d head would be Donner Pass and the Nevada desert beyond it. I worry that this is confirmation bias on my part. I buy the golden horde from Reno migrating down into the California agricultural areas; in fact that’s the only direction I’d head if I lived in Reno. Even later in a complete breakdown scenario when large well-organized locust-like groups are on the move, there just isn’t enough food here to support them and no big distribution centers either. There’s hardly even any markets. The people up here all make the long drive west and down the mountain to stock up for the week.

My husband and I live a few miles outside of a small town in the mid-level Sierras. We live at the end of a dead end road that’s at the end of two more long dead end roads that aren’t county maintained. We retired young and spent ten years before retiring looking around the country to determine where we wanted to retire. Our non-negotiable requirements were reasonable acreage (because at that time my husband thought he wanted to be a gentleman farmer) and at least 50 inches a year of rainfall. We have six neighbors on our road with acreage between 4 and 750+ acres each. As it turned out, my husband changed his mind about farming after we retired. He’s a big guy and has trouble with his knees. I think he realized just how much of farming is spent on your knees. So I became the vegetable gardener. That was a steep learning curve. Despite all my adventurous ways, I was a city girl and clueless about growing food other than for the fun of it. Although I spent some time on a cattle ranch when I was young.

Neighbor 1 is a doctor, with wife and kids. His wife homeschools their kids. They could feed everyone for a mile around with their vegetable garden alone.

Neighbor 2 is an engineer who worked in the space program; he’s retired now and single.

Neighbor 3 is a dedicated hunter and a mechanic, working on machinery of some kind; he has a wife and son.

Neighbor 4 is a county sheriff dept. deputy, with a wife and kids.

Neighbor 5 are a chef and school teacher; they are the parents of the sheriff’s deputy.

Neighbor 6 are the uncle and aunt of Neighbor 3 (the hunter), a retired truck driver and his wife; they own 750 acres that lie on three sides of our combined properties.

Then, there is us: My husband has every tool known to man. He has arc welding tools, watch-making tools, blacksmith tools, furniture-making tools, machining tools (including a drill press), and every other kind of tool representing three generations of tinkers and makers. He has tools I never heard of, and he knows how to use them. He’s also an award-winning craft brewer, president of the town garden club (more on this in a bit), and past president of large fish keeping and breeding organization. So he knows everything there is to know about keeping large fish and pond systems healthy by natural means (biological filters) and with brute force (constructed sand filters and so forth.). He majored in Zoology at UC Davis and worked as a fireman and EMT to work his way through college. He’s been a Ham radio operator for over thirty years and used Ham radio to spy on China when he was in the Air Force, while stationed on Okinawa. We have a retractable 50 ft. Ham antenna. How cool is that? It’s only visible when we use it. Heh, heh. It’s electric but can also be cranked up by hand.

As for me, I approach life as if I can make, fix, or do anything, too. Soapmaking, canning, quilting, inorganic chemistry are a few of my skills. I’ve built houses and plumbed bathrooms and dug ponds for fun. I have a B.S. degree in Geophysics. Geophysics guys are the ones who look for oil, study volcanoes and earthquakes, and map the deep ocean bottoms– all the geology that you can’t climb into to look at. It has to be done with remote sensing. Interestingly, one of the biggest source of jobs for geophysicists is remote sensing for government spying– satellite and drones and so on. I got that degree for fun and never worked in it. I’m a dedicated shooting, archery, and martial arts enthusiast. I can sail, have owned two large sailboats and lived aboard both.

We have a large garden and a propane-heated, fully-automated 8’x12′ greenhouse and are in the process of building a second 12’x16′ greenhouse that we’ll either heat with house heat exhaust or wood stove or both. Our house has an 8 kilowatt solar system. It’s a two story home with the bottom level earth-bermed on three sides and easily defensible on the fourth side. We live within a half-mile of a large river, and our access to the river is completely private via utility access roads that lie on our own property or our neighbors. There are no crossings on that river for miles in either direction.

All four sides of our combined properties are defensible– inaccessible even by ATV, except for a single point of ingress. Between these six neighbors and ourselves, we have three large, established gardens and a large chicken house. I’ve seen over 90 wild turkey at one time, grazing our land. We have our own herd of nine deer about 150′ from our house in the woods, who we feed (Purina Deer Chow aka Antler Max) and provide water for but wouldn’t hesitate to eat if necessary. They’re so tame we can stand within four feet of them, and they don’t even blink. This they do despite the fact that I also shoot on my land. There are several other deer groups in the vicinity who aren’t that tame. We have two stocked ponds. The surrounding terrain is heavily wooded and steep with strong undergrowth of poison oak and traveler’s misery. The only ingress is through an easily defended road (below our homes) with steep ravines on both sides. There are two old mines on our combined land (and a lot of old mining equipment).

The little town closest to us is a hamlet even by small town standards. There are no traffic lights and only one stop sign in town. There’s only a single off ramp to access the town for five miles in either direction. As president of the garden club there, my husband knows every garden and greenhouse in the area and is super well-loved by the town. I have no doubt he could organize the garden resources to feed the town, if the need arose. The people in this town grew up here and spent their whole lives here. There is a market in town, and the guy who owns it has, in emergency situations in the past, opened the doors to the town and fed the town for free. He regularly helps out families in a personal crisis.

When we were looking for a place to retire, I had nightmares about being stuck in some God-forsaken dust bowl with nothing but wind and dirt as far as the eye could see. There I was, in my old apron, staring at nothing in the distance, with dirt in all the wrinkles on my face. I’m not even a social type of person. Still, that doesn’t mean I want no contact, no restaurants, no movies, no Internet for the next 35 or 40 years.

Back to the question of a remote redoubt, maybe we were blessed with an unusually great combination of neighbors. I can’t say. I think our “group” skills are probably nearly perfect for a SHTF situation. I question whether I could have found this good a group by looking for them. If I had looked for them and invited them to join us in a remote redoubt, I have to wonder how many would have made it there. Then, we would have been in too close quarters, living together like sardines. I’ve asked myself a thousand times if we’d be safer in a more remote place. I guess, even if my life depends on it, I’d rather take my chances in a place like I have, despite California’s stupid gun laws.

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