Survival Retreats, by Michael Z. Williamson

The subject of retreats is a recurring one. I thought I’d mention a friend’s that I have access to. It is within six hours of my location by both freeways and major secondary highways under normal conditions. I keep sufficient fuel on hand to reach it if need be. Our evac plan calls for taking both our vehicles (car and a large van) plus trailer, with any guests also convoying. This gives plenty of protection, and the ability to transfer vehicles if necessary due to road conditions or deadlined [non-running] vehicles.
The location is off a well-maintained major road between two modest towns. Entrance is just a gate, like millions of others in the rural midwest, making it accessible and discreet. Beyond the gate, a gravel road goes about a half mile to the location itself, which is typical farmland of more than 100 acres, that also has a large stand of pine populated by deer, and an artificial lake (small stream, dam, concrete basin). Being an artificial lake, the risk of being declared a “Wetland” or similar bureaucratic problem is reduced. Normally, much of the land is leased to a local farmer to offset costs.
The point here is that this location is modestly priced (most middle class families could buy something similar on a second mortgage, or pool with a relative or friend, depending on local real estate costs). It generates enough income that it’s not much of a strain to afford to maintain it, and it serves as a vacation home and sabbatical retreat, also. It is not visible from the road except in the dead of winter, when one can just see the top of the decrepit barn.
As you can guess from the location and land, it’s well-stocked with bass, deer, rabbits, squirrel, groundhog, ducks, geese, doves and other edibles. It has corn and beans on a regular basis and wild onions, et cetera, all over. There is obviously timber, from scrub to pine and oak.
Facilities include an old barn in poor repair but rebuildable, which is always an emergency firewood source (or source of construction materials), a shed with a variety of hand and smaller towed agricultural tools and a couple of acres of truck garden. The main feature is two corn cribs converted to living space. They are very discreet.
Inside, each one has a wood stove, two sleeping lofts, a kitchen and a composting toilet, with ample storage for food or gear. There is power from the grid to both, and to a sodium [vapor] light outside when desired. Water must be drawn from the lake and filtered, but there is the possibility of proper plumbing (my friend has deliberately avoided plumbing to prevent “friends” thinking of it as a guest house for extensive laziness). One of the cribs has a deck out onto the lake, so fishing, bird hunting and water are easily accessible. The wood stoves are sufficient to keep the buildings well above freezing even in the worst blizzards.
As a security measure, the doors and windows (Two each, covering all four sides of each building) are protected by lockable sliding steel shutters. Both buildings are faced in aluminum siding that looks like typical wood clapboard from a distance. It would be possible to reinforce further with steel sheeting and layers of ballistic material inside. Most of the construction was done by my friend’s father on weekends, with contractors for the heavy work.
The combination has low visibility, good resources, comfort and a soothing charm. Nor is it diluted if other people were to make similar arrangements. There are just so many acres and corn cribs across the midwest that it’s unlikely that anyone would notice it without a concerted reconnaissance. – Michael Z. Williamson