By Ol’ Tennessee Ridgerunner
Living off grid keeps you pretty busy most times, but the winter months, even though they are short here, offer some time to take stock of your situation and plan for the coming year. One work product from my winter planning this year was documented in a two-part article published in January, 2018 on Survivalblog. In summary, my article focuses on an issue that’s well-understood to property owners who buy and sell real estate frequently, but retreat and homestead owners – not so much. How much thought do you give to your retreat end game?
Why talk about it now?
I never imagined what a real-life issue this is. When the article first published, I thought the topic was fairly obscure and wouldn’t generate any interest. I made a poor assumption that only a handful of acquaintances shared my situation. I was totally wrong. From the numerous comments to my post, I learned “quick and in-a-hurry” that a large community of mid-60s and 70s+ retreat owners and homesteaders nationwide are very concerned about the lack of perpetuation by family or others for their survival properties. Some of the comments from disappointed retreat sellers literally touched my heart. Typical comments were: “You don’t win the battle with aging” and “We’re like sheep dogs with no sheep to protect.” I’m relatively certain that this was not the end-game scenario these folks envisioned when they planned and built their retreats, and began living a rural, off grid lifestyle. But it seems to be the situation that a substantial number of aging retreat owners are coming to grips with.
It’s the preparation that everyone forgets.
Of course, no one thinks about it. It’s almost moribund and self-defeating. Nobody really considers how they’ll keep up their homestead when they get to be a “geezer.” Sure, there’s no guarantee that an extinction-level disaster will befall our nation, but you can be sure that old age is coming, just like death and taxes. Of course, acquiring adequate supplies of beans, bullets and Band-Aids is usually top priority for younger prepared generations. It’s understandable that when you’re simultaneously excited and overwhelmed by the monumental task of preparing yourself and your family for a number of various natural and man-made disasters, the last thing on your to-do list is having to sell your retreat and move (back to the suburbs?) because you are too old to hack it any longer. l get it.
Nevertheless, this circumstance appears to be an unfortunate reality for a growing number of mature, prepared individuals with families that lack the zeal or even modest interest in living or learning the remote off-grid or agrarian homesteading lifestyle.
One particularly sobering comment from an aging retreat owner really struck a nerve with me: “We just went through ‘gut check time’. It came after years of hard work and sacrifice building a beautiful mountain retreat with many survival features in the Redoubt. Our children (who live in worse case survival locations) took zero action to take advantage of this potential blessing. They live for today with no ‘Plan B’. Ultimately their (or the next generation’s) suffering will be great.”
What do you do about it?
It should come as no surprise that a significant number of young women and men do not have a long-term view of life. Nor do they have much concern for the doom and gloom prophecies about EMP attacks or other threats from rogue regimes on the other side of the globe. Many have been fully indoctrinated by false promises of the Nanny State. But don’t give up on them. You remember being young and impressionable once, right? You probably changed your mind about a lot of things, like politics, your career and guess what? – your own parents.
Your kids could change their minds. I recall one of my offspring taking notice of their first paycheck and becoming quite upset about the amount of taxes that had been summarily liberated by the federal government. The kid transformed from a socialist into a capitalist before my very eyes. Your children may not have any interest in your retreat or homesteading today, but they could still get it when the world or Mother Nature deals them a serious hand of reality.
No family? Improvise.
For those with no blood family, there are viable options to going out in a pile of brass or abandoning your retreat to the whims of clueless real estate hucksters. The most often cited alternative we see is to develop a group or community of like-minded individuals to share purchases of supplies together, share lists, care for livestock together, can together, sew together, garden together, and more. Obviously, it’s always best to establish strong connections with a community of compatible families before you settle on a retreat location. But as long as you are mobile, you can move to an established community is needed.
Church groups may be one of the better locations to reach out in friendship and test the likelihood that others may share similar interests and work toward the same goals as you do. The key word again is community. Think of it as if you were going to live aboard a submarine - you all rely on each other to help solve problems. In the event of a national catastrophe, survival will require a community of people supporting and acting on mutually beneficial shared values. Don’t give up on finding compatible individuals. It can really be worth the effort.
Approach with caution
Another practical choice may be that you “hire” someone to come on board your retreat to handle chores. Now I don’t really mean you “hire” them, but rather you approach these potential connections as if you were hiring an employee to build an addition to your retreat.
Before I go further with this suggestion, let me be very clear about the risks involved by bringing unknown individuals or families into your inner retreat circle. Aging retreat owners need to be exceptionally discriminating when deploying this approach. You already know how common it is for low-life rascals to take advantage of the elderly. They may know you have a soft heart and might be desperate to keep your homestead at most any cost. Don’t get emotionally involved or fall for the charms of youthful charlatans. At a minimum, do thorough research on potential candidates, checking backgrounds, credit histories, arrest records, etc.; make a list of all your requirements, and put them in contract form. Using a reputable third party as a buffer for personal interviewing – an experienced professional - between you and “candidates” is a wise choice for some vigilant retreat owners. Get legal advice if necessary.
Much like a judicious business-owner would do, you might shrewdly solicit for someone, using selective marketing techniques, like classified ads in local free flyers, word of mouth, hand bills placed at a select few local businesses, and other discreet means. You could carefully scan social media sites to determine if any of your digital acquaintances have interests that mirror yours. I’m not advocating hiring strangers, but rather investigating and cautiously interviewing friends of good friends who appear to be a reasonably decent match for you and your family’s retreat lifestyle. Maintaining your confidentiality (OPSEC) should be a prime concern when conducting any phone or personal interviews. Again, a professional third party could be an option to employ for keeping a safe distance from the initial review process and keeping your emotions in check when considering candidates anonymously. Once a top quality candidate (or candidates) are identified, a phone or personal interview can be arranged and subsequently an onsite property visit scheduled. Always proceed with deliberation and caution.
Certainly there is strength in numbers and having a stable, skilled individual to assist you on your retreat can be advantageous. Some smart younger people are willing to work for what they cannot now afford. Young would-be homesteaders may also want mentorship in the hard lessons you’ve learned off grid. Your goal would be to arrange a mutually beneficial agreement.
Having a younger family to join you onsite, assuming you have adequate (separate) housing to offer them, may also be a very desirable and feasible option. Effective retreat operation and defense necessitates having the equivalent of two families to provide 24/7 security. You might offer a younger family free housing, and/or possible owner financing, in exchange for their labor. You could offer to pay them a nominal wage for doing your many chores (like gardening, animal husbandry, laundry, harvesting, wood-cutting) and retreat maintenance while they work part-time or shift work with the promise of some of your acreage ownership for building their own off grid cabin after so many years’ service. There are lots of other creative compensation arrangements you could consider.
Hope springs eternal
For those many aging retreat owners who are persistent, there are practical alternatives to selling your retreat at a depressed price on the open market. The increasing age of homesteaders, however, continues as a growing issue in many rural and sparsely populated areas. It’s a real-world issue that deserves attention. One particular comment I received identifies a creative solution to matching compatible younger buyers with older retreat sellers. A Northeastern octogenarian offered this advice: “Perhaps the thing to do is have a listing that helps match older folks with younger like- minded folks so you can have the generational help that you don’t always find within your own family. Many young folks in their 30s and 40s don’t have the funding to purchase the property but would love to live that lifestyle.” I agree.
Advancing age presents a challenge for many long-time retreat owners. Selling is only one option, but there are others, including involving multiple generations whether they are kin or not, who can appreciate and maintain the off-grid homesteads that your hard work has established. Historically, this has been a solution to the problem of perpetuation. Long before there were nursing homes and social security checks, people had large families in which the children would provide for the older folks who in turn provided child care. It was this old solution that provided continuity for passing on wisdom and learning the old ways that are so common in off grid homesteading. How well is your retreat prepared for your advancing age?