Zoning Laws, HOAs, and CC&Rs as Criteria for Choosing Your Retreat Locale

“Homeowners Associations [HOAs] are the classic definition of a tyranny. HOAs are a level of government, with the power to tax, legislate, judge, and punish its citizens.”
– Michael Reardon, as quoted at: http://www.ahrc.com

To continue my train of thought on Criteria for Choosing Your Retreat Locale… You will gain several advantages if you live outside of city limits. You will avoid city taxes. You will most likely be on well or spring water instead of city water. In many cities because of zoning laws it is illegal to drill your own water well–since the utility companies want to maintain their monopoly. Operating a home business generally requires a city business license and a visit from the fire marshal. And of course, it is illegal to discharge a firearm inside city limits in most jurisdictions.

It is essential to look ahead to eventual growth. If your new “country” place is on fairly level ground and just a mile outside city limits, odds are that it will be inside city limits in a few years! Do some prognostication on the ‘line of march” of the advancing phalanxes of “Ticky Tacky Houses”, and plan accordingly.

Avoid states or counties with restrictive zoning laws. Zoning laws and homeowner’s association (HOA) restrictions may restrict the style of home that you build, the number and type of outbuildings, limits on “for profit” agriculture and the size of garden plots, livestock raising, timber harvesting, operation of a home-based businesses, pond and road construction, and hunting or target shooting on your own land.

Those Dreaded CC&Rs
Unless you buy in a pro-gun covenant community, beware of buying a house or land with “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” (CC&Rs.) These are contractual agreements that affect the use of the land. CC&Rs are typically mandated in “planned communities” where the developer or the homeowner’s association (HOA) makes it conditional on owning a home that specific appearance standards be maintained. They can be fairly benign, such as delimiting the colors houses can be painted. In some cases, CC&Rs can be outrageously totalitarian. Some do not allow a car that is more than five years old to be parked in view of the street, or do not allow visiting relatives to park an RV in your driveway or on the street in front of your house.

A “private gated community” might outwardly seem like a safe place to buy a house, but there are some serious potential drawbacks. A planned community with typical restrictions can present an uphill battle for preparedness provisions. At the very least, it makes preparedness much more expensive. In spite of all the disadvantages, some readers may be able to afford both preparedness and luxury, and may wish for the professional networking and social environment that attracts others to luxury gated communities. A private, gated community has obvious superficial advantages in security, in that outsiders are conspicuous. Residents tend to be more aware of those who are out of place. Such communities, at their best may function like small towns and enjoy some of their advantages. (But good luck finding a welding shop or plumber in Pinecrest Estates!) Some gated communities can be more social and insular, so that neighbors tend to be better acquainted than in ordinary neighborhoods. At the very least, members will begin with an “us” mentality as any crisis approaches. See Mr. & Mrs. Bravo’s profile at the Profiles page for more on this subject. BTW, I also owe thanks to Mr. Bravo for his contribution to this blog post.

Homeowners in typical gated communities often fit the helpless model of urbanites. However, a community in one of the small-government, low-tax, gun-friendly states is more likely to attract conservatives who share the principles held by survivalists. The retired California executive might not seem like the ideal preparedness neighbor, until you learn that he picked Utah because he is a shooting enthusiast, and is already well ahead of you in preparedness provisions. Even the “ranchette” or “dualie pickup” mindset can be a good start, as owners probably have at least some preparedness inclinations, perhaps without even yet realizing it. If you can, imagine the guys at a neighborhood barbecue boasting about who has the largest propane tank or the best-equipped shop. You get the idea.

Gated communities in such suitable Western states may have a significant number of part-time residents. These occasional residents may already be thinking of their mountain home as a crisis retreat, and some may be especially receptive to programs that enhance the security of their “retreat” when away, and which keep it secure prior to their arrival in a crisis. Some such homes can be expected to remain unclaimed by their owners, and may at least be a last resort to shelter others in need. (With prior consent, naturally.) The collective mindset and character of an existing community should be evaluated before purchasing, to assess whether there is hope for the community to function in a crisis. Meet people, learn about the community “culture,” and decide for yourself. If you are considering a purchase in a new development, ask yourself if you are prepared to be a leader, to educate others, and to set an example without standing out as an oddball. As times change, association rules can be changed, and this takes a leader. Ideally, one influential individual will eventually convince some neighbors of the importance of preparedness. They too have already selected a good geographic region. To avoid marking yourself as the “neighborhood survivalist” (leading not only to social embarrassment, but also to the hordes at your door in a true crisis) start slowly.

Most who pay the premium for a gated community are already quite security conscious. Initiate seminars in security and crisis communication. Foster the “neighborhood watch” mindset. It can later morph into a neighborhood watch on steroids, if necessary, to meet changing conditions. Your neighbors will probably have invested thousands in security systems, and perhaps much more in “safe rooms” or “panic rooms”. Many may be interested in further enhancing their security. A seminar on earthquake/flood/fire preparedness may be welcome, and the discussions should help identify those receptive to much more diligent preparedness. Others may be interested in an expert guest speaker on firearms selection and tactics for home security. Listen to the questions and discussions to identify those with the best potential. Create a “security” subcommittee packed with the right people, and begin to make palatable recommendations to the community board. (This avoids the “lone crackpot” appearance.) Keep in mind that the best prepared and wisest neighbors will not be quick to talk about their provisions, so take the time to get to know your neighbors, just as if you were in a small rural town.

Some communities may have restrictions that are not onerous to preparations, but which require creativity. Private wells may be prohibited, but rainwater recovery is a viable alternative. Where visible propane tanks are prohibited, buried tanks may be acceptable–and desirable for other reasons. Solar systems may be purchased but left uninstalled until a crisis is imminent. This is not ideal, as anyone who has set up such a system knows. Consider getting a self-contained trailer-mounted system that sits in a spare garage bay. A proviso: If you roll it out in your driveway for use during a crisis be sure to put it up on blocks and remove the wheels to make the trailer more difficult to steal. Outbuildings may not be allowed, but large basement spaces provide a good alternative, although at a significant cost.

While gated communities adjacent to big cities in problematic areas like Chicago and Atlanta will never be viable, there are attractive communities in the Intermountain West that are well removed from these risks. For those who insist on the amenities of a planned community, and who can afford them without compromising on preparedness essentials, these bedroom communities may be found within an hour’s drive of cities like Bend, Oregon, Reno, Nevada, Salt Lake City, Utah, and others throughout the West. For the rest of us who face real-world financial constraints, we are much better off finding a home where we are not asked to pay extra for preparedness constraints that are difficult or expensive to overcome. The greatest mistake is to overspend on a home, perpetually deferring prepared provisions.

Is living in a gated community right for you? Give it some serious thought, and do your research. Experience has shown that a typical homeowners association tends to be organized and operated by a busybody retiree with a Hitler complex and nothing better to do than make everyone else’s lives miserable. But of course YMMV.

Covenant Communities
The flip side to commercially-developed “gated communities” is the prospect of finding (or forming) a Covenant Community with like-minded survivalists. In the late 1990s, the Mormon survivalist leader and highly decorated war hero Bo Gritz formed one such community. It is called Almost Heaven, near Kamiah, Idaho. It has had mixed results, since a good portion of those buying land there were concerned about the Y2K date rollover computer crisis. When Y2K thankfully turned out to be a non-event, many of those landowners moved on.

I will discuss Covenant Communities more in upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, if you have any experience with a Covenant Community, I’d appreciate getting your e-mailed comments to incorporate in those upcoming posts.

Letter From “Dan Fong” Re: Welding

Hi Jim,
I agree with our mutual friend “Doug Carlton” on the subject of using an under-the-hood powered welder. I used to sell them when I had my metal fabrication business but they don’t work with all alternators. They are portable and work great but you need to have your engine at a high RPM to operate. If you are in a retreat, I would recommend a generator because it will also power the air compressor you will need if you have a plasma cutter along with the cutter. The compressor can also be used for pneumatic tools. I don’t know the fuel consumption difference between using the under the hood unit versus a generator. – “Dan Fong”

Letter Re: Beretta 9mm Model 92/Centurion Owners — .40 S&W Kits Now on the Market

On the question of the 40 cal Beretta, I can recommend the multiple trade in 40 S&W Glocks that are out there. CDNN and AIM Surplus are now stocking police trade-in Glock 22s and 23s at reasonable prices and they throw in high cap magazines.

BTW, I mostly carry a Glock 26 or 17, because I know what a good 9mm round can do. Load it with the Ranger 127 grain hollow points and you have nearly the power of a .357 SIG, but without the problems. – L.K.

Letter From David in Israel Re: Hurricane Katrina

Watch the news for the next few days to pick up good stories from the citizens of New Orleans as they bug out in the face of possible 20 ft flooding in what appears to be a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina. This is as always a reminder for the wise survivor that the following will likely apply in a survival bugout situation:

1-carry a weapon if you can, but remember your weapon will not solve most survival issues.
2-If your gear is not with you at work or vehicle it is around 50% likely you will not have it if you need it.
3-Never let your fuel tank drop below half.
4-Cary cash and maybe a spare credit card sealed in plastic on your person sealing it may help you remember it is an emergency reserve.
4-Ham radio stays up when most other forms of communication go down.
5-A good 12VDC-to-120VAC (or 220VAC in some countries) inverter will allow you to charge batteries phones and run small power tools if your car is the only power source
6-Keep photocopies of important documents in sealed packages.
7-A bicycle (folding bike is ideal) is a good item to keep in your trunk.

JWR Adds: A regular reader of SurvivalBlog tells us that he will be deploying to the "ground zero" of hurricane"K" as part of a special multi-jurisdictional team. We hope to get a first hand after action report from him upon his return.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“For it’s ‘guns this’ and ‘guns that’, and ‘chuck ’em out, the brutes’,
But they’re the ‘Savior of our loved ones’ when the thugs begin to loot.”
– Rudyard Kipling , Tommy Atkins

Note from JWR:

I’d appreciate your reviews of this blog on RateItAll.com. I’ve noticed that a lot of reviewers there tend to “shoot from the lip”, so it would be nice to see some balance from people that are actually familiar with SurvivalBlog. Thanks!

Gun Laws as a Criteria for Choosing Your Retreat Locale

Disclaimer: The laws, regulations, and case citations contained within this blog do not constitute legal advice. Laws change frequently. Consult a lawyer if you have legal questions. If you choose to act upon the details cited here without doing your own research, you do so at your own risk.

Because most survivalists are gun owners, gun control laws should be considered a key factor when deciding where you plan to relocate. Do some research. Ideally, you are looking for a state that allows vehicular and “on the hip” open carry, with non-discretionary concealed carry permits, and with non-regulated private party firearms transactions. (No “paper trail.”) In a subsequent blog post I will include some data on various state gun laws that was kindly provided to me by the gent who writes under the pen name Boston T. Party. See my review of his excellent book “Boston’s Gun Bible” at my Bookshelf page.

The worst states to for a gun owner to live in are of course the “Locked up and Unloaded” States such as Neu Jersey and Kalifornia. According to the NRA-ILA, under California law, to legally have an unloaded handgun in your car outside of a locked container you must be going to or from a shooting range, to or from a gun show, or on a hunting trip. Otherwise, they must be both unloaded and locked in a case or in the vehicle’s locked trunk. (See California Penal Code sec. 12025 and 12026 for details.) I suppose that means that if you want to carry an unloaded handgun in your car and don’t want to have to spend extra time both having to take the time to get it out of a locked case AND then loading it, you should always carry a pair of earmuffs, some shooting glasses, and some targets in your car… “But officer, I was planning to go to the range after work!”

Some states require no permit for concealed carry. Currently, just Alaska, Vermont and New Hampshire are in this category. (The New Hampshire law is pending, as of this writing.) A few other relatively gun-friendly states such as Idaho allow open carry virtually anywhere and concealed carry without a permit only outside of incorporated areas.

For updates on gun laws in various states, see the Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the The National Rifle Association (NRA) web sites.

Edged Weapon Laws as a Criteria for Choosing Your Retreat Locale

Laws on owning and carrying edged weapons vary widely from state to state and even between smaller jurisdictions within states. Most of these laws will only be an issue for someone that is a serious knife aficionado. In California, (as of this writing) you can carry a single edged knife as long as it is not concealed. Double-edged knives can be owned but not carried. Carrying any concealed knife, other than a folding single edged knife is a felony. Keep in mind that most rifle bayonets are classified as double-edged knives.

Automatic (“switchblade”) knives are legal to own in a few states, but not most. (They sadly got a bad reputation due to some Hollywood movies. In actuality they are a useful tool.) Further, some states allow possession of automatic knives in a collection, but not pocket carry on the street. This is the case in (as of this writing) Montana, Texas, and Wyoming. For current details on various state laws, see:

With the recent profusion of new folding knife designs—many of which can be opened with one hand—there are practical alternatives to automatic knives, assuming that they are restricted in your state. I generally prefer liner lock and axis lock designs with half serrated tanto style blades. I buy knives in medium price ranges, from makers like Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT). Avoid any of the low-end brands and anything made in China! Also, since pocket knives often get lost in the field, you might think twice about buying a $600 custom knife. Frankly, I’d rather buy 15+ CRKTs for the same amount of money, but YMMV. I look forward to getting e-mails from some of you folks with extensive knife field use experience for your specific recommendations.

Letter Re: Food Storage and Cooking With Home Storage

Hi Jim,
First I want to thank you for all the work you have done over the years to help the shorter sighted people like myself get into the survival mindset. If and when there is a collapse you probably will have saved thousands of lives. I first read The Gray Nineties online, and have been somewhat prepared since that time, mainly with bug out bag to get home, and short term (1 month) supplies. I am now in a financial position where I can start purchasing bulk food (i.e. – wheat), and store it, however I would not know what to do with it. Is there a good place I could find on the internet for explicit instructions, or a detailed book? (I’m not a chef, so it would have to be a “For Dummies” guide.) If I’m going to store bulk goods like wheat, I want to be able to use them on a weekly basis so that they don’t go to waste, and so that I can learn the preparation needed for meal making. Thanks! – Scott

JWR’s Reply: It is very wise to use your storage food on a day to day basis. Not only will you be rotating it, but just as importantly you will learn how to use it in cooking. There are thousands of “Tommy Tacticals” out there that have no clue about how to cook with their storage food. I even know of one poor soul that had 2,400 pounds of nitrogen packed hard red winter wheat but no wheat grinder until someone kindly (and quietly) pointed out his oversight.

What to do with all that wheat, rice, corn, and beans? For the wheat and corn, I recommend that you get a Country Living grain mill (available from ReadyMadeResources.com and several other Internet vendors). Motorizing kits are available, or if you are handy with tools you can build your own for less money. If you want to mainly grind by hand, be sure to get the optional “power bar” handle extension for extra leverage.

IMO, the best books on cooking with storage food are Making the Best of Basics and Cookin’ with Home Storage. Be sure sure to get the latest edition of each. Since we have chickens, I prefer to make egg breads. I also have a weakness for corn bread, which is a partial–albeit lame–excuse for the extra 10 pounds that I pack around. Stock up on the other items that you’ll need to bake bread: vegetable oil, salt, yeast (buy it in the large jars–the little packets are way over-priced), and honey (or sugar). Wheat stores for 20+ years, and honey and sugar store indefinitely. Sadly, the yeast will have be discarded every three years. The oil will have to be rotated as well, but at least it can be burned after it has gone rancid. (See my previous blog posts on diesel fuel alternatives.)

Letter from “Doug Carlton” Re: Welding and Shotguns

Hi Jim,
I enjoyed seeing “Dan Fong’s” letter, since I haven’t had contact with him in ages. It was great to see he’s still kicking. It’s good to see that
you’re getting sponsors as well. His plasma cutter topic is on target. One thing people might look at instead of a generator, or as a back-up to the one they have, is a welder with integral genset. Most portable welders are also generators, and being portable you can take it to a work site. Even an under-hood welder, like the kind that many serious 4×4 vehicles have, can be used as a generator (though not as efficient as one
designed to produce power to begin with). In many ways they are a better back-up than just a back-up generator. You gain a useful tool, rather than paying for a spare generator that will just sit and do nothing for you until you need it. They also are more likely to be maintained and in running condition through normal use when you need to press it into service as a generator. It just depends on your power plan. If you’re running a full power plant, then multiple generators are a better way to go. If you’re using a generator to just run lights and a pump, then a self-powered welder would provide both a tool and an alternate source of power.

I still own the 20 gauge 870 that originally belonged to your Memsahib. It has never failed to impress anyone who’s shot it. Everyone that shoots it asks if I’ll sell it to them. Training is the most important thing with the shotgun. While hunting in some areas will help with shotgun use, combat shotgunning is very different than hunting with one, and unlike the semi-auto rifle, most people don’t have a background with the shotty in the military. Most people that have been in the Army/USMC can handle a semi-auto rifle decently, but unless they’ve used a shotgun in their service, it’s a whole new thing. As with anything, training is far more important than which shotgun, or what you have mounted on it. If you can afford a cheap shotgun and a combat shotgun class, you’ll be far better armed than buying an expensive shotgun and no training. There isn’t a three-gun match I go to that pumpgun users will short stroke [the action], or have various other problems. The auto guys rarely have a problem. In classes, it’s the same thing. One class a buddy of mine went to had to divide the scoring between autos and pumps because all the pump
guys were scoring so low. There was a visible dividing line between the performance of the autos and pumps. This was in a class where most people had minimal training and experience with a shotgun. What I’m getting at is I don’t agree that the pumpgun is more reliable because the key reliability factor is the user. Now, I’ve seen shooters that are highly trained with a pump go against the autos just fine. To be able to do that though requires a lot of trigger time, and a lot of slugs and pellets down range. Yeah, it sounds so easy that all you need to do is rack the pumpgun, but reality is different than concept. [JWR adds: Especially when shooting prone!] Go to any tactical match that has a shotgun stage and watch the people operating under the stress of the match. Short stroking is pretty common with the pump even when the user has experience. The most important thing is to get training. The pump isn’t more reliable in the hands of a novice. Don’t get sucked into the pattern that many newbie survivalists do and buy guns and gear to make up for lack of skill.That doesn’t work. You are better off buying a used Sears shotgun from a newspaper ad and paying for a training class, than buying a fancy Bennelli and thinking that you are all set. It’s not what you use, it’s how you use it. – “Doug Carlton”

From The Army Aviator Re: Welding, Shotguns, and Radiation Meters

1.) Welding: I’m no welder by an stretch of the imagination but there’s a neat light to medium welder that runs on 24 VDC. I first saw it from SnapOn Tools for ~$500. Now it’s available from other folks for less money. What’s neat is the Trace inverters run on 24VDC and so do my vehicles. Just a thought. I did a stairway with it and repaired a cracked alternator bracket and battery support.

2.) 12 Gauge: I’ve been using those neat military shell holders. Each pouch holds 12 shells and has web gear clips in the back. Two pouches on each side, and you’ve got 48 shells handy and available.

3.) Radiac: I have a full set of CD meters and Dosimeters. I also picked up a German Dosimeter set from Steve at Major Surplus N Survival
For WTSHTF, I also got a Radiacmeter IM-179/U Military Gamma Dose Rate Meter (Issued, Certified) Code: 110449 for heavy radiation conditions. It’s about the size of two packs of cigarettes.

For daily monitoring I have used a DIGILERT 50 for about 6 years now. Runs on a nine volt battery for about 9 or 10 months. It also has the monitoring and recording software available which works great. All available from S.E. International. It reports Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation. Good high level operation. has digital readout, user adjustable alarm settings, and Total Count mode. There is also pretty sophisticated monitoring software that goes with it. It runs continuously in the background with little load on the computer. Then, of course, I also carry a NukAlert.

Letter Re: Proper Firearms Storage?

Hi Jim,
This is my first time to your blog since my bud, Rod, set me up with a copy of your book (Patriots). I have now read entirely through it in about two weeks. I have a question. When I was in the military, I was instructed by a weapons instructor to always lubricate any weapons that I was going to store before casing the item for long periods of time. My father, who was a Marine (two tours in Vietnam) also suggested this. He said I needed to clean and over-oil the weapon before long term storage. The question is this: is this information true and, if so, don’t we have a responsibility to others here to inform them accordingly. I noticed in your book that there was no mention of this practice and I’m surethat a scenario exists where some will store weapons at their retreats for use at a later time. Please advise on your site. Thanks, Fred in Georgia.

JWR’s Reply: First, rifles and pistols should not be stored in non-breathing heavy gun cases for more than a day or two. . Those are designed for transport only. Even a well-oiled gun will eventually rust if stored in a gun case, sometimes in the matter of just a few days in a damp climate. They are best stored oiled but loose in a gun vault, with an electric Golden Rod dehumidifier operating at all times. Silica gel desiccant crystals also work well to keep the humidity low in a gun vault. BTW, you can usually get large bags of silica gel free for the asking if you phone around. Call your local piano store. All of the pianos that are imported from Japan come with a large bag of silica gel, usually with hanging straps. To reactivate a used silica gel bag, just leave it in an oven set to 180 degrees, overnight.That will drive out any accumulated moisture.

For long term storage, the bore, chamber, and the face of the bolt should all be well-greased with RIG or the good old U.S. military surplus “Grease, Rifle” As we used to say: “Hey! Pass the Grease Comma Rifle!” All of the other metal parts should be lubricated with medium weight oil. (BTW, don’t use WD-40 or other lightweight aerosol lubes. They evaporate too quickly and afterwards leave no effective corrosion protection.) Lastly, be sure to label any gun that has been greased with a prominent “WARNING: GREASE IN BORE AND CHAMBER!” tag firmly attached. (Firing a gun with grease still in the bore can be dangerous.)

Letter Re: Where to Get Iodine Crystals?

The best water purifier for general carry is Iodine crystals. Carry them in a 35mm can, add water, shake and pour into the canteen.
They last, like forever. But, because of drug manufacturing freaks, I can’t find anybody still selling Iodine crystals. Any ideas?

JWR’s Reply: Unfortunately I don’t know any sources. Sadly, most of the hobbyist chemical supply houses are a thing of the past, along with true hobbyist electronics stores. Perhaps someone reading this blog knows a good source for Iodine crystals.

The iodine crystal method works well. A few large crystals will practically last a lifetime. However, be VERY careful not to accidentally ingest even a small iodine crystal as they can be fatally toxic. With large crystals, an old fashioned tea strainer (cage type ) works well, in my experience.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

" …arms…discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. …Horrid mischief would ensue were [the law-abiding] deprived the use of them."
– Thomas Paine.

Note from JWR:

I just added two more profiles for Mr. Lima, and Mr. Coffee. (The latter is a lengthy one, from an American ex-pat living in Costa Rica.) I consider them both “must ” reading.


“Dan Fong” on Survival Welding Gear (SA: Tools)

I have a comment on your recommendation concerning the “Dr. November” Profile. In addition to buying an oxyacetylene rig, I would add a plasma cutter. They are far superior to the gas rig and they run on compressed air and electricity. An air compressor and a generator will run these units. They cut faster and cleaner than a torch. The only consumables are the tip/electrode and cup which run ~$6-$8 a set but they last a long time. I would use the torch on structural steel that is thicker than 3/8″ but wouldn’t waste the gas on thinner material. An arc welder is good for most stuff assuming that you have the correct rods that have been correctly stored. This needs electricity to run but I wouldn’t recommend it for smaller applications due to you might end up burning through the work. Again, the main focus is to minimize gas usage. If you are worried about rod storage, you might consider a MIG welder which uses gas and wire.

My personal favorite are welders built by Miller. This is like the best handgun argument where everyone has an opinion and preference. My reason for liking Miller is that I have burned up power supplies with other brands due to the amount and speed at which I was welding. Some of the well known brands were using Al instead of Cu wiring and I guess I was burning them out. The welding supply store used to send me samples units to try out, but I favor the Miller brand. They have an over-temp protection feature that automatically shuts the system down before you damage the system. In addition to this there is support equipment that needs to be factored into using welding equipment that a lot of people tend to ignore. Enough on this subject. – “Dan Fong”

[JWR’s note: Some of the readers of my novel Patriots will remember the Dan Fong character. Dan Fong is the pseudonym of a real life individual that I have known since college. He is an industrial designer, gardener, inveterate gun nut, beer brewer, aviation enthusiast, and barbecuing expert. (Your basic 21st Century Renaissance Man.) And yes, he really does have a tendency to say: “Oh Maaaaan!”]