By Ol’ Tennessee Ridgerunner
This is the eighth and final post in a series about the vital “must-haves” for individuals with a preparedness mindset who are considering an off grid retreat lifestyle. These articles are good for would-be homesteaders contemplating their first rural property purchase, and serve as a reminder for retreat owners who, due to age-related or medical issues, are preparing to sell their off grid property. This post covers some important retreat-related odds and ends that you may not have thought of yet.
Everyone needs a backup plan. If your retreat is your Plan B in case of a societal meltdown, then your retreat needs its own contingency plan, and you might call it Plan C. It’s something to consider when you’re surveying properties for possible purchase. Where might you construct a low-key hideout in a secluded inaccessible area of the parcel? If unsavory characters should attempt to overrun your retreat and liberate your belongings, most retreat owners will defend their property and that’s commendable. But there may come a time, such as when your cabin is on fire and you’re being outmanned, when you have to bail out to protect your family or risk fatal consequences. Smart homesteaders have a secure cache of supplies at a previously undisclosed and isolated location where they can retreat to safely resupply and regroup.
The more remote and secretive the better when establishing a secondary retreat location. This is not a site you’ll visit frequently because it’s very likely your supplies will be securely buried underground and any structure will be well hidden or appear dilapidated and uninhabitable. Small concealed caches of supplies can be hidden along various routes to your emergency backup site.
When scouting your potential retreat property, be mindful of what surrounds the parcel you’re considering. Is there a state forest or wildlife management area nearby? Does your selected land backup to a national forest or land managed by BLM? How much vacant land is there between you and the next neighbor? After the balloon goes up, you not only have your own retreat property but can have access to the abundant resources found on hundreds of acres of adjacent land without much fear of discovery. Having a national forest preserve surrounding your retreat can also ensure that someone won’t build a dozen commercial chicken houses next door to you.
Off grid power
Of all the various methods – wind, low head hydro and solar - for generating electricity at your off grid retreat, solar energy is probably the most practical and reliable as a primary power source for the majority of homesteaders. Solar is scalable, can be placed almost anywhere, relatively easy to construct (no power lines or cleared rights-of-way), low maintenance, no electric bills, no worry about storm-related failures or brownouts, but you’ll need to budget for the initial investment. In the interests of maintaining operational security, you might consider forgoing any federal or state government subsidy on your solar equipment purchases as they may trigger some regulatory investigation and long-term tracking.
Although they can be annoyingly noisy without proper mufflers and sound-deadening enclosures, a backup generator is an essential piece of equipment for any off grid homestead. Whether they are powered by propane, diesel or gasoline, generators are a must have. Depending on the number, wattage and voltage of your basic appliances (stoves, refrigerators, freezers, water heaters) and other heavy power-consuming equipment, like saws, pumps, drills, compressors, etc., you should secure a generator large enough in steady running wattage (not peak) to power most everything you have a continuous need for. A generator can be a great accessory to support your solar power system when you encounter a run of several cloudy days and you need to recharge your battery banks. In addition, a pair of reliable Honda 2000s can make for a very versatile and portable power source around the retreat. Familiarize yourself with your family’s power consumption habits now and plan for them as you research potential homestead properties.
It’s a lead pipe cinch that in any type of volatile EMP or nuclear event, most forms of communication will be knocked out. That includes broadband internet, satellites, cell phone towers, microwave and hard-wired telephone systems – they will be toast. Amateur (ham) radio will continue to function because it uses UHF, VHF and HF radio frequencies to broadcast information to other licensed radio amateur during disasters and emergency events worldwide. The equipment is reliable, compact, low cost and antennas are easily constructed. For those considering entering the world of amateur radio, contact a local ham radio club, get your FCC license and buy an economical handy talky radio to get on the air and start practicing your emergency communications protocols with your retreat mates. In a disaster situation, if you don’t have communications, you don’t have anything but confusion. As you consider property purchases, reflect on the communications needs around your future homestead.
The purchase of most any land is a complex undertaking that involves a massive paper trail. As a preparedness-minded individual who may really value your privacy, you might consider creating multiple corporations or other entities to take title to your new property and shelter your identity. Using a registered agent in a far-away “friendly” state may help accomplish this. Another simple method of maintaining privacy is using a PO Box well away from your physical homestead location. Staying on the down-low and limiting your daily paper trail might also include using cash for all purchases and avoiding use of credit or debit cards for purchases within 50 miles of your retreat location.
Of course, there are other considerations as you prepare to buy a rural retreat or to sell your beloved off grid property. No retreat is complete without a good welded steel or cast iron wood stove for heating and some cooking. Homesteaders should always have a strong tractor for grading drives, bush-hogging pastures, pulling implements, etc. Every retreat property needs a small 4x4, like a vintage Suzuki Samurai or at least a trusty ATV with a small trailer. Good fences make good neighbors and may keep them honest during hunting season. And you better have a decent job or retirement income because living off what you can produce or grow on your homestead is mostly impossible.
We trust this series has been a useful idea starter and general guide to some things you ought to know about before you take the purchasing or sales plunge. For more worthwhile retreat information and homesteading guidance, resources are available here.