Living The Homesteading Life Dream – Part 1, by 3 AD Scout

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.

Careful Wording

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.

Census Data

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.)

 




16 Comments

  1. As someone who lives close to many amish your observations of them are spot on. I suspect that if they ever start getting murdered or their women raped in large numbers that they will turn to self defense. The amish have off grid infrastructure down to an art and a science. However there achilles heal to all that is small gasoline engines. Mostly honda but I’ve seen some subaru engines as well. These engines are used to power well pumps, washing machines and all sorts of other items. This opens up a trading opportunity for well prepared survivalists as they will still need fuel and oil to run these engines.

    1. Homer,

      I was at an benefit auction at an Amish homestead this past weekend that was raising funds to help pay Amish medical bills. When I saw them ogling 2 freezers, along with seeing numerous homemade “power plants” made with small engines it dawned on me how they have become dependent on gasoline. I have several copies of the FEMA booklet on building wood gasifiers printed out that can be shared with them and others. They definitely are more than capable of fashioning a wood gasifier out of scrap.

  2. Please clarify what you mean by, exactly, “ the disadvantages of being too close to Amish and Mennonites” you refer to in one of your sentences around the surrounding community as it relates to the rest of us as Preppers ?

    1. I did not write this article, so I cannot speak for him. As someone who has spent years living quite closely to Amish communities, I speak only from my experience. By and large sir, they do not like you. By and large, they will not interact with you if it does not serve their commercial interests. If they pass you injured or in distress on the side of the road, in all likelihood, they will not help you. They are likely to view any ramifications of societal disruptions effects on you as Gods judgement on you specifically. Try speaking with them about something that does not effect them commercially, and you are quite likely to be completely ignored.

      I realize this sounds as if I am denigrating the Amish, and I do not mean it to. They are who they are, and have absolutely every right to be that way. They don’t hurt anyone, anywhere.

      But if you are looking for what are considered good, like-minded neighbors, I’d largely suggest that you look elsewhere.

      1. Jason,

        People are people- if you walked into an inner-city neighborhood you would probably get the same kind of treatment. I tend to think and believe that they have a stero-type of us too (and vis-versa) that creates artificial barriers. I had a great conversation about an old potato harvester and manure spreader just this weekend with an Amish fellow. The Amish guy I was talking to didn’t own either. Just a nice chat on admiring the handy work of a third party. With that said, I also think it depends what Amish you are dealing with too as they have different beliefs amongst the different sects.

    2. Squirrel 44,

      When I look at “things” I look at them through the SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The strengths and Weaknesses are internal while the Opportunities and Threats are are external. So looking at the Amish (and to some extent the Mennonites) there are many Opportunities due to their life style. They are off-grid, industrialist, hard-working and God fearing people. The Threats are however (in my mind) that they could be a magnet to who are not prepared with the exception of a bunch of guns and ammo. The threat then extends to having to help provide over a very large area and they may not help in that endeavor. My thought is they may at least provide personnel for Listening and observation posts (LP/OP). But again that will depend upon the elders of a specific community. As Homer pointed out above, they have become addicted to gasoline. Going back to the SWOT analysis model if you know their achilles’ heel (a threat) we can plan on dealing with that issue now. So when the gas dries up we can teach them how to make wood gasifiers. If we can keep their community safe and running it will benefit the larger community (an Opportunity).

      What if they do decided to defend them selves? They would probably shun all non-Amish or non-Mennonites. Having GOOD pre-SHTF relationships with many in the local Amish community will help in gaining access to their community in a post-SHTF environment.

    3. Many of the farmers and tradesmen I know complain about losing business due to price undercutting by the Amish in our area. They are not my competition, so it doesn’t affect me personally. However, it can tend to have a deflationary effect on wages and quality in a given market.
      I buy ag supplies from several Amish outfits. Some are great to deal with. Others lie to your face and rip you off. I only deal with the former.

  3. I live in middle Tennessee with a goodly population of Mennonites. Literally all of my interactions with them has been friendly and positive. Hard working, religious, honest, modest, with well-behaved kids and conservative dress and behavior. They have helped me extensively over the last 20 plus years on building projects here on my farm. Quality work, reasonable prices, and dependable.

  4. Thanks for writing this article! It really hits home for me! I can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

    We purchased a BOL/retirement property last year. Unfortunately it’s a 15 hour drive to get there! The main draw for us was to be close to the grandkids in retirement so the added distance was acceptable. We have a plan in place where we should be relocating in 2-3 years. As long as the world stays together for that time span we’ll be OK.

    Like you, I had very specific wants and needs for the property. After almost 2 years of searching we found something that was 99% perfect. We couldn’t swing buying a piece of land with a home so we have 15 acres in Northern Idaho with a year round stream. Next year we will have power and a well. The following year we should be starting to dig the foundation for the basement.

    We just got back from there last week. We went to cover the travel trailer and bring home some tools. There is so much work ahead of us, but it’s work that makes a person feel good and right.

    1. CA_X2B,

      Thanks but perhaps we should have called it the never ending story? Always something to do to maintain or improve the homestead. I did want to build new simple because of what I saw may mom and step dad go through. It takes a lot out of a person. They did most of the work themselves, I learned a lot, wish I could have learned even more. Their story ended in divorce. When I first started looking for places I offered to buy their old homestead that I helped build. My step dad said he just could not part with it even though he doesn’t live either and the place is just falling into decay. I hope to be able to hand this place over to the kids. We have even talked about starting a trust.

      Good luck with your project, if you have time let us know what your doing to build and improve your place.

  5. Your conversation about Amish people reminded me of a book I have noted here before. A review is below.

    An Amazon Best Book of July 2017: When the English Fall is a fascinating, dystopian novel that uses journal entries to recount the unraveling of present day society from the point of view of an outsider community. The journal’s author is an Amish man named Jacob, who firmly believes in his religion’s dedication to peace, family, and community. It is in his words that the story begins and ends, as day by day Jacob records his family’s life on their Pennsylvania farm and their interactions with the English. When an unprecedented disaster brings nearby cities to a grinding halt, the cities’ inhabitants turn to the Amish farmers for help; but they also intrude upon them with violence. As lawlessness and acts of savagery intensify, Jacob’s peaceful community is forced to make hard decisions. Author David Williams grants us access into a closed society, a reminder of how reliant the rest of us are on technology to sustain our way of life—and that even the most steadfast will struggle in the face of chaos. When the English Fall is a gripping story, with an ending that made me want to go back and read it all again…–Seira Wilson

    Carry on

  6. You can’t live without salt. Don’t fall into the trap of that nutritional misnomer. High blood pressure is not from dietary salt intake, it’s from refined carbs and low exercise. You are messing with your thyroid in a way that will create a whole new set of problems. I’ve even seen it happen with a coworker who was on a “low salt” diet with also low fat (another stupid idea) and he ended up with a hypothroid condition because his iodine and electrolyte hungry master hormone gland didn’t get what it needed. Eat salt until it’s too salty. Listen to your body. God designed it like that for a reason. If you crave salt that means you need it. If any salt is too much, you’ve got enough. Try to find a good iodine supplement like the nascent kind ole Alex Jones peddles. Just, please… don’t cut the salt. Cut the sugar and refined carbs instead.

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