After two years spent traveling and volunteering both in the US and overseas, I’m now back in the US and looking for a place to settle down again. For someone who’s definitely oriented towards a preparedness lifestyle, living out of suitcases with no garden and minimal ability to stockpile food, water et cetera for two plus years has been an eye opening experience. After spending many years on my off-grid farm with photovoltaics (PV) and wind, a gravity fed spring, wood heat, an orchard, greenhouses etc. there has definitely been some discomfort associated with having left (and sold) that tie to security and knowing that if the Schumer Hits The Fan (SHTF), I was mostly on my own, often overseas where I couldn’t even easily understand the radio broadcasts!
But now that I’m back, I thought I’d share my thinking about where I’m hoping to resettle and what I’m looking for. Although the exact specifics may differ for others, I hope that my thought process while considering where I might want to live will be useful to other readers of this site.
I’ve lived in Vermont for a long time. Other than our winters–which are just too long–I really love it here for many reasons including our low population numbers and density, beautiful landscapes, local food production and the presence of people who still know how to do real work with real tools and not just a computer mouse. Living somewhere that when a tree comes down across the road someone is likely to come along soon with their chainsaw and quickly reopen the road and not just wait for someone in an “official “capacity to arrive and take care of it is something that I value. That said, we also are increasingly being overrun by people with super liberal/progressive political beliefs that I abhor. We do still have a decent gun culture and laws though, despite the influx of others that demonize all guns and gun owners.
Where to Relocate?
I have heard good things about life in the western parts of the country such as Idaho, Montana etc. but I’ve spent my whole life on the East coast. For better or worse, this is the area I know people, have family and friends etc. I also recently considered settling in western North Carolina or maybe the central or western parts of Virginia as the winters are definitely milder there yet summer isn’t as unbearable as further south or on the coast. I spent some time in North Carolina and was intrigued as there is even a “preparedness” store, a Prepper “camp” etc. so there was definitely a segment of the population that shared my beliefs. However, I still came back to the same thing, that I had no family or good friends there and found that lack to be a huge concern.
I’ve read recommendations on looking for places to settle with preparedness in mind but I also needed to weigh proximity to people I can count on, employment options and knowledge of the local climate and cities/towns. I decided that ultimately I was better off settling down again where I was familiar with my surroundings and not too far from family and friends. And yes, I know I will still hate our endless winters (and “progressive” politicians) but this may also serve to keep too many from coming here either to live or in the event of disaster(the weather, not the politicians alas).
There are also many who espouse and write about settling down where they can live their daily lives with proximity to employment etc but having a “retreat” to bug out to if times get tough. That really isn’t an option for me due to the costs involved. Having spent my life mostly doing work that “did good” rather than “paid good”, and raising a child on my own to boot, I’m definitely limited by what I can afford. Sadly, due to a significant uptick in home prices here, I couldn’t even afford my former farm if it were to become available to re-purchase! So with this in mind, I knew I’d be looking to find a place that would allow me to live out my ordinary daily life with access to employment, stores, etc. yet also function to provide for me and my young adult son if times got tough. This definitely meant I was going to need to make a lot of compromises.
I had to recognize that I would not be able to find the ultimate “retreat” setting, an off-grid remote place that would be defensible and not likely to be overrun if TSHTF as this also needed to function as my home in normal times and allow for me to access employment and other needs/desires of daily life. I strongly suspect that this is also the case for many others who are concerned with preparedness yet don’t feel they can relocate to a remote area and surely can’t afford to buy and outfit a retreat property while continuing to live and work in their regular home.
I’ve also given some consideration to the findings of studies such as this one from the US EPA: Development of a Climate Resilience Screening Index (CRSI): An Assessment of Resilience to Acute Meteorological Events and Selected Natural Hazards . This is a resilience study that assesses each county in the US in terms of their vulnerability to extreme weather, both now and potentially in the future driven by climate change as well as a whole host of other factors including social cohesion, employment, governance, etc. Many counties in Vermont score very high in this study as do others in New England, especially Maine. I think the points they make here are valid ones and well worth considering when searching for a place to live and perhaps where to avoid.
My Selection Criteria
So given this, I thought I’d share my thinking in terms of what I’ve been looking for in a home/land as I suspect I’ve got lots of company facing this same situation. I decided that I needed to find a place that would function in our present “normal” times yet would be able to provide for us if things got bad. I recognize that whatever I settle on won’t likely be a “defensible” property if the hordes came in search of provisions. It won’t be high up on a mountain or 300 miles from the closest highway. I’m taking a gamble that things won’t get that bad and also needing to accept that if they do, my home and safety may well be compromised. Still, given my finances and current situation/needs, this is a gamble I feel I need to make and just be okay with.
That said, with these compromises in mind, what have I been looking for during my house-hunt? I’ve been looking for an affordable (for me) home that has at least a ½ acre of land, preferably more. This land needs to be sunny and have sufficient land to garden and grow some fruit trees plus blueberries, raspberries etc. If it has already got bearing fruit trees/bushes that’s a plus. The land has to be mostly usable; steep wooded terrain with rocky outcrops won’t grow much in the way of food. Solar exposure is very important; a property with good southern exposure is a real plus. It’s hard to grow food on a dark northern exposure piece of land, especially given our already short growing season.
I want to be on a side road that isn’t heavily traveled (not a main road). I don’t want to be super close to the interstate or an exit. I’d rather not be on top of the neighbors; a place where I can’t see the neighbors would be most desirable. I’m friendly and into community but even in regular times I’d just as soon as not listen to them mowing their lawns, weed whacking etc. let alone if times got tough. That said, most of our side roads here tend to be dirt (unpaved). I don’t have 4WD and am not looking for a long private or Class 4 road I’d have to maintain and plow. I want to live on a road that the town takes care of. Winters are tough here and “mud season” is a real problem on dirt roads. So if the property is on a dirt road it can’t be too long a stretch of it. I’m still mindful of the need to be able to get out to a job on a regular basis.
I’m also not looking for a home in any of our “cities”. I want a more rural location and not an urban one nor a house in the downtown of even a smaller town. I’m also leery of proximity to certain cities here that have a bad (and well deserved) reputation with lots of drug use and associated crime problems.
I want to live in a place with homes that are cared for and not lots of dilapidated trailers and old falling down homes with their yards filled with all of their cast-off broken appliances, cars and trash. Here in Vermont one is likely to find a mix in most areas, with expensive homes located not far from trailers, et cetera. But I don’t want to live in a community that’s clearly already struggling or has just given up. I consider some of the people who would live there to be a risk even in “normal” times and a clear danger if there was a cut-off of government benefits, their drug supply etc. With that said, I also want to avoid subdivisions, HOAs etc. I don’t want to have a problem with owning chickens or other livestock, minimizing my lawn area in favor of gardens, et cetera, so no place that would tell me I can’t hang my clothes out to dry on the line or what color I can paint my house or front door!
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)