Hello The Survivalist Blog community. I hope you are enjoying the revamped website under Dan’s management. I am blessed to work with both Dan and this blog’s former operator, and am also incredibly excited to author the What I Did To Prep This Week column for this website.
Dan couldn’t have picked a better week to ask me to start the column, we had a lot going on over the weekend even though it was about 100 degrees in the shade. Before I launch into this week’s preps, I will tell you a little bit about myself, our tribe (my favorite term for mutual assistance group) and our journey to buy and rehab out 56-acre survival homesteading retreat.
Seven years ago to the day, I officially became a prepper. Like most country folks, I was at least halfway a prepper before I fully adopted the self-reliance and life assurance lifestyle. Until “The Storm” hit our tri-state region of Appalachia as our daughter was excited about celebrating her 16th birthday, I would often mock my husband Bobby’s survival stockpiling, but that all changed when the entire region and beyond went without power (during a historic heat wave) for more than a week.
The day the power came back on, we sat in cool air conditioning for the final time at our home, and began our small town living escape plan and enhancing our self-reliance skills. I got my CCW and learned how to shoot every rifle my husband owned proficiently, furthered my love of natural remedies by become a non-professional herbalist, and learned how to can and dehydrate everything we were growing in our backyard garden – and beyond.
I also redefined my writing career. I was an educator and a rural real estate agent before devoting myself to full-time writing. I had been writing for various news and travel websites after my career change (back to my original degree) to become an editor of our county’s weekly paper, which evaporated due to the same lack of advertising income fate so many of our nations’ newspapers are suffering.
Once I became an avid and active prepper, I continued to write only pro-Second Amendment and Constitution related political news and began focusing solidly on survival, homesteading, off grid living, and homeschooling websites, ebooks, and traditional book writing. I have also hosted and guested on preparedness focused radio shows and have been a presenter at the annual Prepper Camp.
It was at the 3-day hands-on self-reliance camp that I had the awesome honor of introducing Bill Forstchen (One Second After author) as the keynote speaker. I had interviewed him several times via phone conversations, and it was like a dream come true getting to meet him in person and introduce him to the Prepper Camp crowd just moments after he proposed to his now-wife at the event.
During all of these exciting career changes and skill building experiences, Bobby and I were searching for the perfect spot in our county to turn into our survival homesteading retreat. Ours is a remote and freedom-loving county – no permit office, no zoning, and you can walk right outside and build your own home, plumbing and electrical work included if you want. The only type of government intrusion into our nearly crime-free and low cost of living county comes, by way, of the health department when a well and septic are installed.
We found two nearly perfect properties, but each had drawbacks that kept us from signing on the bottom line.
It took two years to find THE property and get our rental homes and house sold so we could buy it. We actually land contracted our survival retreat for over a year due to some boundary issues and vastly needed improvements to the ½ mile up windy uphill driveway and the hunting lodge we were turning into a home so it would pass inspection.
Thankfully my hubby and our tribe members are handy. My background in real estate and Bobby’s as a real estate appraiser small business owner vastly helped to guide us through the property rehab and loan process and to aided the young couples buying our other properties through their first experience becoming homeowners, including months spent dealing with credit issues as well.
It felt a whole lot like an American Pickers episode, when we walked the property one final time and negotiated price before signing the sales contract. We were able to work in about $17,000 of used equipment and materials the elderly owner no longer had a use for, before buying.
One of the items was a beyond gently used backhoe. It needed work and probably always will, but having it meant we could immediately start work on a pond near the house – a water source backup to our well and the creek that runs through the lower half of the property.
Every time we thought we were headed to a closing on our survival homestead retreat, another issue always seemed to pop up. It took more than a month to get insurance on the property. It had been grandfathered into the existing policy, and an ownership change voided the policy. We paid more than we wanted to, once we finally found insurance, but did win the battle over not putting a bridge or culvert in over our creek. We did not want to alter the natural rock formation we drive over because we love it, and doing so would have granted easy access to our land to anyone who ventured out this far when the SHTF.
We have no neighbors and cannot even see another home or road from the bulk of our property. If you stood on the upper acreage you would have absolutely no idea what century you were even living in.
We hope to buy some of the land bordering our boundary lines in the near future, but until then, it is essentially unused vacant land. Part of it is tied up in a battle between heirs that has gone on for more than a decade, a seasonal retreat for aging wealthy hippies so they can skinny dip, and some logging land a friend owns and will be working for years to come.
Our dream land was surely making us work hard to become its forever owners. Seriously, after all it took to get this place and the 13 Uhaul (largest trucks they make) loads just for Bobby’s prepper stockpiles that we moved, we will definitely die on this land. I am never moving again.
So, that is a brief synopsis about me and how we came to live on our homesteading survival retreat. Now, onto what this column will always be about, how we prepper this week!
Our daughter and son-in-law turned an Amish shed into a temporary tiny house, while they work towards building a home on our retreat. James recently changed jobs and we are all in love with his new gig. He is working for Franklin Equipment (they have facilities in multiple states) and is allowed to bring home heavy equipment to use on the weekend free of charge, when it is not booked by paying customers. Yep, that’s a big score for the family retreat!
This track hoe that James brought home was quite fancy – it even had air conditioning. Ruger, Bobby’s blue heeler, wanted to ride inside too, he really didn’t like all the noise it made roaming back and forth around the home sites.
This past month, James was able to bring home a skid steer, a track hoe, and something else that I am not sure what exactly it was, along with borrowing his dad’s Bobcat, to work on the driveway, put in deeply needed culverts, begin work on the summer kitchen and root cellar, and the driveway to their building site. Gas is not cheap, of course, but that is all it cost us to get a whole huge amount of work started or completed.
You wouldn’t think when you live up high enough (that you could hit a passing helicopter with a handgun if you were being attacked), that flooding would be an issue, but it is. The creek at the bottom of our half wooded survival retreat has a lot of water in it year around, and has been known to misbehave badly enough to keep is flooded in for at least a day.
Our survival retreat is basically a 4-tiered property with pasture, hay fields, and hills mixed into each. The water rolling off the upper 15 acres was flowing down a horse/4-wheeler trail and going right behind the home sites and onto the driveway. All of that is now fixed and it was a massive job. Being able to protect growing areas and to traverse the entire property at all times on foot, horseback, in an ATV, or by truck is essential to not only our daily lives, but thorough perimeter patrol during a doomsday disaster.
As you will see in this video, the hillside was caving in around the home sites and created a plethora of muddy sludge. This spot is where the summer kitchen for canning and dehydrating will be constructed, it is right off our existing kitchen.
The root cellar will be carved into the hillside and boast a concrete floor and walls after being framed out in timber cut from our property. This keeps almost all of our food supply in one central location. The hunting lodge we turned into a home came complete with a butcher shop with a walk-in cooler. All of the saws, knives, stainless steel tables, etc. were left here for us by the former owner – so it doubles as a food storage area, as well.
The one downside to our homesteading survival retreat came courtesy of the gas company. I absolutely did not want a property with a gas line or any utility company easement attached to it. It was really a deal breaker for me, but Bobby insisted the pipeline would not be a problem, it had been there for 40 years after all and never had been an issue. Well…six months after we moved onto the property a massive new pipeline projects was launched in a multitude of counties, and involved our easement as well.
As any married prepper reading this already knows, Bobby will never hear the end of it over his before purchase assurances about the whole gas line thing. Fortunately, no work will be conducted outside of the existing out of the way stretch of pipeline.
But, and it’s a big but, the gas company wanted to use our driveway as an access road to ride the pipeline for miles in each direction to access their leases during the two to four month project in our county because the hills deterred them from garnering easy access for their trucks any other way.
I spent eight months haggling over that “request” and attending public meetings, demanding a change in land agents after proving the one who had originally come here was a big liar and rude, and coming up with an access road plan that did not use our driveway but an old logging road that runs across the far fenceline. Not ideal, but I got them to more than double their first offer for temporary usage – enabling us to buy more large ticket item preps and vastly more up some rehab and expansion plans on the land.
The gas company check came this past week (the project doesn’t start for two years) and Bobby made our first major purchase over the weekend: a Polaris Ranger side-by-side. It has already come in so handy around our survival retreat.
It has a dump bed that allows me to move manure to and from the compost pile, and not have to wait until he can do it with his tractor – I so am never driving his beloved antique Massey Ferguson, even if he ever decides breaks are a necessary improvement to that beast. It is great for hauling my homemade insecticides down to the primary growing plot, taking multiple people on the more rugged trails on our land all at once, and packing tools, etc. to project sites.
The Ranger has about 800 hours on it. The emergency break doesn’t work and there is a hole in the muffler, but other than that it is in perfect shape – and those two issues are easily fixable and on the “to do” list for this week.
We also started construction on a double raised playhouse near the shelter house on our survival retreat. What? That doesn’t sound like a prepping project to you? I love dual purpose hiding in plain side preps, and that is exactly what the playhouse is.
We have wood for walls and framing cut and ready to be hung if the SHTF an the shelter house needs to become living quarters. It can be heated with a smaller cast iron stove wood stove that is sitting at the ready and a roof vent and piping has also already been cut to fit.
The playhouse will be enjoyed by our grandchildren and tribe member’s kiddos now, and can be converted to living quarters as quickly and easily as the shelter house if the SHTF. It will have screened windows and a screened section where the walls meet the roof to provide cross ventilation.
Each playhouse is 8 feet deep by 6 feet wide, large enough for two adults to sleep in. It is also being constructed so a small cast iron wood stove can be quickly set up, as well.
Both the shelter house and the playhouse structures are can also be run on multi-fuel generators (we make our own bio-diesel fuel) and/or a solar generator, if necessary. Just past the shelter house area is our pond and a campground with several campers and spaces for tents for tribe members, also exists.
A small covered porch that is 4 feet wide will run between the two playhouses. Shutters for the windows that will be cut in, and the framed screen extension that will run between the roof and walls have already been cut to fit.
A layer of insulation will be placed in the old concrete frames we used for walls before they are covered in a combination of scrap drywall and plywood – and painted cute .This is after all, a playhouse until disaster strikes. The floor is also insulated.
When the framed screen extensions are added to the walls and the slanted roof if put on the playhouse structure, it will be a little over 5 feet tall. Cramped quarters for adults? Sure, but just being able to have a secure and warm place to sleep was the goal, and I think we are in the process of meeting it.