Building the dream (part 1)
Back in the tumultuous days of 2011, I was certain that the world economy would crash at any moment. Some would say my wife and I had already bugged out, living an hour from any large metropolitan area (that is actually our old home pictured here... brings back many good memories now). We lived in a modest house on a 5 acre wooded property on the edge of a 40K town. But I was troubled.
About that time, The whole family watched a movie (mainstream propaganda) that portrayed the bug out of a prepper family during a false alarm of power outages. They bugged out to their dream property with its underground bunker. The story was clearly intended to dissuade people from prepping. But it asked a fair question: “Am I willing to shoot neighbors who come to get my food?” I am still pondering that one, but I think I know the answer. And in this town, those neighbors would be coming.
I knew that once the crash arrived we’d likely be stuck there, 6 states away from our family & old friends, on the edge of a meth infested mid-west economic armpit, filled with poverty, drugs and crime. Homes could be bought for 1K, and sometimes free if you knew the right people. Though we had been prepping and fortifying our acreage, I was feeling increasingly dubious of its adequacy as a long-term haven: too few friends, no kin, and crime that had become too personal.
Our kids were the first to feel “Prepper Fatigue.” They were really into the prepping and stacking early on, probably because they thought it was fun and exciting. When a big storm knocked power out at our home for seven days, they had a blast cooking meals on a Coleman stove and lighting candles … for a while. The lack of showers and other luxuries began to affect our minds. My wife was next to get weary of the prepping, the waiting, the continued market manipulation, watching with helplessness the political slide toward socialism.
We reached a decision after a friend was murdered. I found him in his basement, shot in the back of the head--execution style. He was killed for his coin collection by a heroin addict who had done some clean-up work at his house. After a night of interrogation as suspects in the murder, my wife and I felt a deepening recognition that “We weren’t from ‘round those parts.” We wanted out. It was the last straw. Leaving to go back West (home) seemed advisable.
We received a job offer out west and moved in 2013. We found and purchased a townhome close to the University campus where I worked. Real estate was still relatively cheap, so we started looking for a real bug out property (hadn’t quite completed the rethinking yet). We found something suitable and purchased it. But being a working guy, we had to rent it out to pay for itself, wondering if we’d be able to get the renters out when the fateful day came. We still have it, but have determined that it is not an ideal property for self-sustenance.
Five years have passed. And with those years has come blend of relief and confusion--relief that the economy still functions, that we can still buy Cheetos at the grocery store and silver, but confusion about why it was all still possible. Where was the collapse? Had we been wrong this whole time? Were the bankers and politicians actually going to succeed in holding this world economy together? Who’s the fool now?
A recent series of articles by “High Desert” posted at ZH, confirmed that our growing reservations about bugging out were justified. The emotional toll that would be too high for us to pay. After reading the three part series (1, 2 & 3), and admitting that the world economy still functions, I felt relieved that we had not sold all and pioneered on 20 acres in the wilderness as I had hoped.
Several weeks ago, we received a glimpse into our future as my wife’s mom’s primary caregivers when she became ill. In her weakened state she fell down and laid on the floor for several hours, unable to get up until her sister stopped by to check on her. We learned she had fallen three times that day. My wife stayed with her for a week nursing her back to health. We are staring at an unpleasant reality. We talked at length and recognized the need for a change in outlook. As answers became clearer, we have altered our plans toward something that retained a semblance of normal life—a lifestyle that prospered in our current economy, but could make a smooth transition to a crappy one.
Thus, we purchased land in a small town 45 miles from my employer, next door to wifey’s mom, and plan to relocate before her health permanently declines. We will stay prepped (food, etc) but will focus on gardening and off grid living. (Just to clarify, It was not my dream to live next door to my, um, mother-in-law.)
We will be ready for a depression, prepping & gardening in plain sight, but living a relatively normal life as long as we can. And if, as we have all feared, the economy totally collapses, this neighborhood appears to have a critical mass of people who will pull together for survival, people good at gardening and animal husbandry. We actually know most of our neighbors already and the rest wave regularly. It is not the perfect property on which to build, but it has advantages due to location--additional nearby relatives, many commercial farms, and a retirement economy that provides business opportunities for my wife. The land is fertile with irrigation rights secured. Well water is shallow and the warm southwest weather provides two growing seasons.
Over the next four months, I’d like to chronicle this adventure, publishing a series of articles here that describe the pitfalls and joys of building the “dream property.” Perhaps you might glean some useful data (mostly learning from my mistakes) to steer your own lives one direction or another. I, hopefully, might receive some advice that will lessen the cost and ease the process.
We have done a lot of work already: designing a home, testing soil density, certifying an existing septic system, survey completed, and working on formal blueprints. My recent hand injury has slowed down the plan, but has also directed us toward working with contractors since I will be unable to perform trades that require a healthy body. There is much to be done to satisfy the city & county building departments. While it would be easy to hire a contractor and simply write a check, that check would certainly bounce. Serving as our own general contractor saves a ton of fiat and provides the ability to stretch out the process, enabling us to pay as we go.
I have drawn blueprints with the aid of some good software. But here my skills fall short as I need to hire an architect/engineer to make certifications to please the authorities.
So here we go. I’ll endeavor to continue the soap opera each week as the process unfolds.