A lot of us, in the prepper community, are eager to get out of town, establish ourselves in the redoubt, and hunker down for the coming storm. Too often we put little thought in how the locals will receive us upon our arrival. Everyone knows that being integrated with your new neighborhood is important, but how you go about this integration can be the make or break point of your preps.
As an educational guide, I offer the following conversation that occurred between my cousin and I over chat recently. First, here’s a little background on my cousin. He is a fourth-generation homesteader. He lives in what could almost be called the center of the redoubt. He lives on land our great grandfather homesteaded. Our grandfather cleared the fields that he raises cattle and hay in. He lives in a home built by his father out of lumber cut and created on the site from trees on the property. Every day he is living the homesteader lifestyle.
Being so close to this lifestyle and way of living, he tends to be isolated on the mountain. He also tends not to notice preppers as they blend in with the local people and culture. Seeing people raise goats and chickens is normal and not noteworthy overall, even if they are new to the area. When I have talked to him about whether he has noticed the influx of preppers to the redoubt, his reply was, “Who?” His everyday life is the prepper way, so preppers are not noteworthy.
What does come across as noteworthy then and makes a good lesson in local relations and OPSEC? I will let him tell you in his own words.
4thGen Homesteader: That “the world is coming to an end, and the government is out to get us” guy had a party today.
Gonzo: Which guy is that?
4thGen Homesteader: The one that is the next driveway down from mine.
Gonzo: Is that the guy who built a concrete bunker and put the trailer on top of it?
4thGen Homesteader: Nope. That’s another crazy guy.
Gonzo: Then I don’t think you have mentioned this guy.
4thGen Homesteader: If you go one more driveway south of my driveway, it’s him.
4thGen Homesteader: Anyway, he tried to throw a big party to get everyone to meet. What’s funny is I think he scared most people off because his invite went on about when the country collapses we should all get to know each other and blah blah.
4thGen Homesteader: You know I don’t know on that.
Gonzo: That’s funny. How long ago did he call for this meeting?
4thGen Homesteader: He sent out the letters about a month ago.
4thGen Homesteader: I showed because I felt bad for the guy.
4thGen Homesteader: Nice enough people. Little odd though; they’re vegetarian.
Gonzo: Did they just buy the place?
4thGen Homesteader: Just a about a year and a half ago.
Gonzo: Right. When I came out there two years ago, that place was for sale.
Gonzo: So you showed. Did anyone else?
4thGen Homesteader: XXXX and the XXXXs. I think everyone else that showed were already friends with them.
Gonzo: Well, that’s actually not a bad turnout, and yea, that’s the new thing amongst the prepper sites is to hold a sort of get-together.
Gonzo: For mutual assistance, et cetera.
Gonzo: Did the guys from the concrete bunker show?
Gonzo: Those are the ones to watch, I suspect. They are not preppers; they are survivalists and much better at being quiet.
4thGen Homesteader: I believe those folks are The XXXX, and I didn’t see any one with that name.
4thGen Homesteader: I just find it funny because a lot of these folks come here and just do what I’ve done all my life, and then they squawk about it like a chicken that just laid an egg.
4thGen Homesteader: Anyway, it’s not that big of a deal, but I thought you might want to know the latest stirrings in the area.
Gonzo: Well, I find it interesting.
Gonzo: As I have told you before, there is a market to teach what you know, because it is a dying skill. There are very few multi-generational homesteaders left.
4thGen Homesteader: This is true.
4thGen Homesteader: Where I have a hard time is that I have no idea the skills that people want to know about.
Gonzo: Yea. It’s hard to peel out parts of your day as teaching opportunities.
4thGen Homesteader: Sometimes I think something is really cool, and people are like “meh”. Other times I do things that are an everyday thing, and people are all, “Wow, you have a chicken!”.
4thGen Homesteader: In fact that’s a lot of what I did at that party today– answer questions about chickens.
Gonzo: We are talking people here who want to learn things like how to make a camp fire. Not only have they never built an outdoor fire, but no one in their family has in decades.
4thGen Homesteader: Well, I build a fire every day, in the winter.
Gonzo: How to heat your house with wood is another lost art. You don’t use a store-bought stove, a blower, or any electricity at all, just a huge, welded Frankenstein furnace in the bottom of the house, and it filters heat up through the floor boards.
Gonzo: I found it interesting the other day when my dad was telling me about the different type of apples out there and their role in early survival.
4thGen Homesteader: Macintosh. Wolf river. Transparents, and a crab apple tree once in a while.
4thGen Homesteader: Those are the ones I know about.
Gonzo: That’s also why there is so much rhubarb out there.
4thGen Homesteader: It’s stupid easy to grow.
Gonzo: It came up real early in the spring and gave early homesteaders vital Vitamin C, according to dad. It’s a bonus that it grows easy.
4thGen Homesteader: As I understand it, if you wander around the east side of the state, you’ll find yellow rose bushes and right next to it rhubarb.
4thGen Homesteader: People would bring those plants with them and plant them out the front door when they settled there. Now, a 100 years later, the house is rotten away, but the plants are still there.
Gonzo: Dad said he thought there was a starter pack that was handed out to the original homesteaders that contained all these things for their planting zone.
4thGen Homesteader: That might be. I just know the yellow roses and rhubarb were both popular.
Gonzo: Yea, but it’s illogical to think EVERYONE brought the same plants with them.
Gonzo: Dad said it was basically a survival package handed out so people would not starve. With that setup, they had Vitamin C all year long– Rhubarb early and rose hips later.
Gonzo: The apples come in at different times of the year also; that’s why they planted four varieties in their orchards. I suspect there were more plants in that pack, but things like the onions and potatoes are all gone.
Gonzo: So, anyways, you went to the meeting. Learn anything good?
4thGen Homesteader: Nope. It wasn’t organized at all, just people showing up and saying, “Hello.”
Gonzo: Yea, the mistake he made was including the government stuff in the invite. He should have made it about mutual assistance.
4thGen Homesteader: I agree.
Gonzo: He could have called it the “XXXX XXXX mutual assistance meet and greet” to come meet your neighbors and friends and establish bonds to last in case we have trying times in the future.
4thGen Homesteader: Now that would have worked much better. Jumping right to the end of days spiel kind of “weirded” some folks out. It weirded me out, and I was expecting that from him.
Gonzo: Yea. Its really hard to figure out what people will buy into.
4thGen Homesteader: I think his best bet would be to show up at the next pie social. Everyone would have been there.
Gonzo: It’s stupid because one guy might totally believe in space aliens and joke with the guy who believes in ghosts invading and vice versa, but one of the predominate threads that runs through prepper literature is a bit of an ego that they are going to save people. So, they don’t integrate properly, and then they come across like this guy did. That makes things worse, not better.
4thGen Homesteader: Good point, and you’re right. It’s a real “I’m going to save the world, so you should get to know me” kinda vibe.
Gonzo: I try to approach it more from the “something COULD happen so I want to prepare for ‘something’ with an order or probability”. The number one, for me, is a hurricane.
4thGen Homesteader: Around here a hurricane is probably not going to happen.
Gonzo: Yea. So, pitch the idea of a blizzard or forest fire. I would go with forest fire. That gets people talking about a real threat.
4thGen Homesteader: Yes. Forest fires are a pain. Blizzards are just annoying.
Gonzo: Plus, if they are prepped for a forest fire, or a blizzard, they are starting to be prepared for a lot of things with food on hand, water storage possibilities, et cetera.
Gonzo: I have always liked the idea of prepping for the “Zombie Apocalypse” because if you are ready for that, then you are ready for almost anything and the absurd “what if” nature of it gets you thinking about more possibilities you need to prepare for.
4thGen Homesteader: Who knows. Perhaps someday you will be invaded by zombie ninja pirate ghosts.
Gonzo: Could be, but until that happens I am also prepared for a hurricane, or a terrorist attack, that disables the local infrastructure. So what was the main theme? The government seizing your land?
4thGen Homesteader: Just the general “government collapse and comes to get us”.
Gonzo: See, that is the problem. It’s gonna take a LONG time for the government to get around to you guys, if something like that was to happen. If you have laid the infrastructure for another group first, like a self-help group, then it’s easier to convert that group to a government-resistance cell. It is very hard to start from that point. So, if you are going to get people interested, you have to start smaller or with a lowest common denominator threat that everyone can agree on.
4thGen Homesteader: I think you’re right. I would also be nice if the self-appointed leader had more skills.
Gonzo: That’s another good point. Too often the guy calling the meeting assumes that everyone should, of course, listen to him– the guy who moved in a year ago and is stupid enough to be a vegetarian in beef country.
4thGen Homesteader: …and was a vegan until a little bit ago.
Gonzo: Not knowing XXXX XXXX that well, I would think he might be a good choice. XXXX would not be terrible, or yourself.
Gonzo: It has to be someone who knows things. What did this guy do before he moved to the side of a mountain to save you all?
4thGen Homesteader: This guy was telling about how he became that way after going to a lecture on how much resources it takes to make a pound of meat versus a pound of lettuce. He decided to be vegetarian after that.
Gonzo: But that’s not the case at all. For example. you have 40+ head of cattle. They graze your fields. If you were to get rid of that cattle would you suddenly plant those 80 acres into vegetables? Even though you were no longer growing hay?
4thGen Homesteader: No. I would not
Gonzo: Right. So that “energy” put into beef is NOT the same energy put into vegetables, and since that is the case, his argument is flawed.
4thGen Homesteader: Like you said, he’s a vegetarian in beef country. That’s kind of insulting, in a way.
Gonzo: You didn’t say what he did before he moved out there, or how old he is.
4thGen Homesteader: He’s quite old. I don’t know how old but quite. He’s been retired for some time.
4thGen Homesteader: What he did be for that, I don’t know.
4thGen Homesteader: There were snacks.
Gonzo: Were they good snacks?
4thGen Homesteader: No.
4thGen Homesteader: There were corn chips and some homemade salsa, which was okay, and the cheese way okay, but they had some sort of salmon paste and humus– whatever humus is.
Gonzo: It’s ground chickpeas.
4thGen Homesteader: What’s a chickpea?
Gonzo: Dried chickpeas are really good, as a healthy substitute to chips.
4thGen Homesteader: I like chips.
Gonzo: Well, these are just as good and make an interesting change.
4thGen Homesteader: I don’t trust anything that says pea.
Gonzo: Is it because you’re a pea brain, and it’s too much like cannibalism?
For some reason our conversation took a turn for the worse at this point and had nothing more useful to add.
The take away here is the fact that as you move to align your beliefs to your actions, it is silly to try and change the culture you have relocated to, especially when that culture is the whole reason you went there in the first place.
You are far better off integrating into the culture and picking up the local ways and means. Go to the local churches, and find a congregation to join and participate in. Look for local hiking and history clubs to join and meet like-minded people. The ideal is not to call people to you but instead to find the naturally-occurring lines of communication and follow them. In my travels in the redoubt, I have found that it is a land of non-stop social events and get-togethers.
I would stress following local customs, where you can. There is no need to compromise your beliefs, but there is also no need to put them in other people’s faces. Telling people who raise cattle and chickens that you are a vegetarian is probably not going to win you any friends, as you can see. If you speak from a position of authority present your credentials to be checked.
Lastly, and this may be key, don’t skimp on the snacks. People, like my cousin, are suckers for free food. Avoid exotic stuff; sushi is another word for bait in those parts. Establish a reason for people to drop by and visit and talk. You will be amazed by how far a bowl filled with potato chips might take you.