It has been interesting to watch “prepping” go mainstream. From when the U.S. DHS first advocated a three day supply of food and water to Sunset magazine running an article on a “fire season” bug out bag last month, ideas that were once considered outcast and questionable are now accepted as prudent and normal. It has also been interesting to watch off grid living and homesteading be accepted and embraced by both the “survival mindset” crowd and the “reduce your carbon footprint-local food” crowd. This is a great opportunity for us. A large majority of the country seems to be waking up, and taking the first step towards preparing. While discussing this with my wife and family recently, we came to a realization, and that was that since we had already taken the first step, we needed to take the next step as well. (Those familiar with the “Rawles Gets You Ready” preparedness course will understand what I am referring to). This article will show you what woke us up, how we took the next step in the retreat/retreat group area, and hopefully encourage you too also.
I consider myself the “average” SurvivalBlog reader. We live on the outskirts of a suburban area. We stay up to date on political events. My wife and I are both LEOs, and have training and skills. We both carry, and are prepared in all the basics: ammunition, magazines, water, food, fuel, lighting, waste etc. We have bug out bags packed, and ready. We keep our vehicles full of fuel, and practice OPSEC. We also have limitations. We live in a house on a smaller lot. We have a garden, but not one big enough to live on for an extended time. We are on city water and do not have a well, but have made provisions and store a three month supply of water. We have done the “weekend off grid” experiment. (On a side note…..We also invented our own version of that experiment that was quite enlightening, which consisted of not purchasing anything for a month. While this was originally designed as a way to save money, it was very eye opening in discovering the little things you run out of and helped adjust and shape out future purchasing patterns.) We have a purchasing plan, and are slowly adding to our preps. While we have a few like minded friends, and have talked about when the SHTF, it is a far cry from an organized retreat group.
The realization came to us that with all of these things and skills we had, we were preparing in the wrong way. The wake up call came when we thought of our immediate neighborhood. We have an honest three month supply of water for three people (two adults, one infant) and provisions to purify more. We began to laugh when we thought about our neighborhood. How many of them store food? How many of them store water? How bad would things in our neighborhood get by the time that we were near the end of our initial water supply? How bad would things get in your neighborhood by the time you ran out of supplies? Sure, you had thought ahead, but have your neighbors? How much food and water do you have stored right now? How bad would things have to get for you to use all of your food storage? Think of your town. Think of your street. Think about using up even one month of your food storage (i.e. things are bad enough that people in your area are not able to purchase food for one month) or cracking open that second case of ammo. Can you begin to picture how bad things would be? Unless you live in an area where people can provide for themselves, you would be living in a war zone. For us, by the time we even thought about opening up a bucket of wheat or a #10 can, things would be horrible all around us. What we realized and what I hope you do also is that without a natural supply of water and a way to grow food all you are doing is buying time. Even if you were able to go unnoticed long enough to use up all of your stores, you would still eventually reach the end of them.
We had to admit that for our situation, we were over-prepared for where we lived. Was what we had better than nothing? Absolutely. Is two months of food better than one month of food? Absolutely. What we were faced with though was the idea that we were limited by location, both in proximity to people and means of production.
If you are comfortable with that, then stop reading. For the majority of disruptions, we would be fine. We would be prepared for most any disaster that has beset our nation thus far. If you have a similar setup, you would be too. However, for long term disruptions, we would eventually run out. For our family, this was not an acceptable outcome. We needed a retreat. We have been aware that JWR has been preaching this for years, but this was the first time the realization of how important it was hit us. Someone recently posted on here about the “pipedream” of a retreat. For most people, us included, this was always our view of it. Everyone knows it would be great to have an off grid 40 acre retreat somewhere with a small commando force, but it was never considered a real, immediate option. We had jobs, bills, a mortgage, etc, but mainly plenty of excuses. With this wake up call though, we decided to take the next step, and make it a reality.
To purchase land, we needed money. So we started saving. As LEOs, my wife and I each make around $45,000 a year before taxes. Not a lot, but plenty to get by and live comfortably. We had a son last year, and decided before he was born that my wife would stay home when the little one came, effectively halving our income. To us, it was worth it. With my income, we were able to cover bills, mortgage, have enough for food, and save a little each month. Just being in this position, and having a little money left at the end of the month (instead of the familiar having month left at the end of the money!) we realize how lucky we are. It involves a strict budget. We cancelled cable television before the baby was born. We use coupons. We drive old cars. We operate on a cash basis only. When the cash is gone, it is gone until the next pay day. I learned to fix a lot of things.
I worked overtime where I could. My wife babysat here and there for extra money. When more money came in, we stayed on our budget. This is the key to saving. People have a tendency to spend windfalls rather than save them. Anything extra went towards the retreat goal. We sold some things to add to the fund. We had enough supplies on hand to weather a few months of things getting Schumeresque, and decided to put our monthly purchasing on hold until land could be purchased, adding this to the pot. I had a small retirement account we closed to add to the fund. But still, we were far from the goal.
We prayed about it, and went to my family. I am blessed to be close to my two brothers and parents, both literally in distance and figuratively. They also have seen the writing on the wall, and realized the prudent need for a retreat. We decided to go in together and purchase land. This may or may not be an option for you. For us, it was. We trust each other explicitly, and went into it with the understanding that each would contribute what they could towards the goal, no questions asked. We specifically did not make this a “business venture” or an “investment” in the typical sense of the word, but viewed it more as an insurance policy, something that could be passed on to children.
We began to look around for a good area to purchase land. Utilizing JWR‘s retreat area guidelines, we chose a small town (around 800 people) well off of the beaten path. It is reachable by multiple avenues if needed. It is well off lines of drift, as evidenced that many people in our current area have actually never even heard of it, even though it is only around a three hour drive away. Soil is rich, and water depth is good. We located a piece that we liked. It was not that big, under five acres, but backed up to national forest, and had a well in place with water at 100 feet. Surface water in the form of multiple creeks are nearby. It has good sun exposure, and is defensible, with a good mix of timber and meadow. It is on the smaller side of properties in the area, which we like. I view it as buying the least expensive house in an expensive neighborhood.
We decided up front that we would not finance anything. We passed on some amazing properties because we accepted the fact that we could not afford them. Cash however is perfect for the current economy. People are willing to deal. I won’t get into specifics, but the seller took roughly 60% of his asking price in cash, and was happy about it. We later learned that he had two previous offers on the property fall through while in the financing process. Cash is king. Saving is not easy, but it is possible. Four families, three of which are single income, saved enough to pay cash for the land in two years. Two of us cashed in 401(k)s, and another sold some gold.
The retreat is still a work in progress, as we purchased the land only last month. Our first step will be to dig a second well, most likely converting the current one to a hand pump, and the second to a solar or wind-powered pump for redundancy. This will be done as we can afford it, paying cash as we go. This will take longer, but we will stay out of debt. We are also looking at what will grow without irrigation, and will plant that ASAP. The county zoning allows structures of fewer than 200 square feet to be built without permit or plan. Our goal is to be as off grid as possible, and we plan on building a small bunk house in the spring to serve as a base while we make improvements. In keeping up OPSEC, we will try to do as much of the work as we can. We have some construction experience, but figure this will be a great learning opportunity. My parents have agreed to live at the retreat year round when they retire in a year or two to avoid theft and squatters.
We had to think outside of the box and make some sacrifices in order to make our retreat a reality. Ideally, we each would have been able to purchase a retreat, but we got tired of thinking and dreaming of what was ideal, and decided to start making something a reality. We also decided that a less than ideal retreat was better than joining the Golden Horde because we failed to act. I strongly encourage each of you to take a long hard honest look at your current situation with a critical eye. Can you be truly sustainable where you are, or are you just buying time like we were? If you are just buying time, accept that fact and take the next step! Look at your budget. Look at your assets. With the 401(k) takeover that is looming in congress, you need to decide what is more important to you. For us, it was well worth it to convert money in the bank or a retirement account that was losing value daily to real land. You will have to decide, because you will be the one to live with the choices you make. I encourage you to look into it. We actually found quite a few low priced options, including two and a half acres in the same general area for as low as $25,000. With the price of a new car being above this, it comes down to being a matter of priority.
The process of purchasing land also helped pave the way for beginnings of our retreat group. As mentioned above, while we have some good friends that we have had conversations with about TSHTF, we did not have a retreat group. I know a lot of people are fearful of talking about their preps to other people, and for good reason. OPSEC needs to be maintained, and people are weary of coming off as crazy or chicken little, etc. The reality that we need to accept though is that you will be hard pressed to do it alone. Three to four families/couples are a minimum to secure and work a small farm. I understand that this is not an option for everyone. It is an option though to expect you to look at your current situation, and improve it. For us, a family based retreat group was the most logical option. When we spoke about purchasing the land, it was refreshing to hear that everyone was having similar thoughts regarding the future. If you do not have family close by, maybe you have a close friend, co-worker, or a shooting or hunting buddy. Maybe your neighbor.
Start small. Take it to the next step. Probe. Enough ads for gold have been on television and radio that it would not be hard to wait for one to air, than ask the person what they think about it. Bring up politics. Bring up the wildfires in Colorado, and the Sunset magazine article on being ready to bug out. Be prepared to take your time. Opening people’s eyes is a slow process. Wherever you happen to be on the continuum, take it to the next step. If you have never had the conversation with anyone, have one. Ask about something safe, or in the news. Ask about canning, or something “green” or acceptable. Have a way out if the conversation turns sour. Do not reveal too much. Do not expect to have a retreat group hashed out in an hour or two. Plant seeds. If you are still unsure, start a false email account, and forward yourself and some friends a link to this web site to bring the topic up.
For most SurvivalBlog readers, I assume you are in the same boat we were. We had close friends and family who saw the writing on the wall, albeit at differing levels. We ranged from a gun or two and a few weeks food to gun safes full and many months of food storage. So we took it to the next step, which was organization. While talking about purchasing land, the topic came up of why. We went through a threat assessment. We ran the spectrum of expected threats. We talked about being able to man and defend the land. One of the things that everyone agreed on was even in a depression/recession scenario, absent war and civil unrest, having paid for land and a means of food production was a necessity. We talked about weapon standardization, as well as BOBs and other bean/bullet/band-aid issues. We agreed to start more intense firearms training and small squad training, etc. We talked about what skills people could bring to the table.
We still have a ways to go to having a full-fledged-up-and-running retreat. We are not fully squared away by any means. But we have a plan now, and some place to go. We took the next step. This is better prepared than we were a month ago and we will be better prepared next month than we are today. You can be too. I encourage you to take the next step. Look at land. Accept that less than ideal but real is better than a pipe dream. With a little planning, even an acre could produce more food than you think. Look at your budget. For my brothers and I, we are roughly forty years away from retirement. We have no idea what those years will hold. But having land where we can farm and live made a lot more sense than money tied up in an account somewhere that you don’t have control over. Examine your priorities. Talk to your friends, talk to your family, plant the seeds, and take the next step. God Bless, and keep your powder dry.