Two Retreat Options Without Buying Land, by Brad in TexasBy James Wesley, Rawles on September 1, 2010 8:06 PM
No one has to tell a prepper that land is expensive, and purchasing suitable retreat property without financing it is difficult or impossible for most. Worse yet, as things continue unraveling a rural alternative seems to become more necessary by the day. Here are two seldom-considered options.
Option 1: A Retreat May Be Looking For You
Country people, who own and live on vast swaths of rural America, are used to dealing with assorted disasters, ranging from crop failure to blizzards to droughts. That makes many of them closet preppers, at a minimum, and some have gone much farther with long-range disaster planning and preparations. So there is very likely an ideal retreat already set up in the general area you would like to use for your Plan B.
All that remains is the difficult part, hooking up with an aware landowner. But getting a seat at a well thought-out rural refuge may be one of the most important security measures you could take for you and your family.
As the owner of a fairly large Texas ranch with extensive self-sufficiency infrastructure in place, here is what I, and a lot of landowners with a similar situation, will be looking for: Skills
Rural landowners are for the most part generalists, as they have to be to keep their operation running. It is the rare farmer or rancher who can’t weld, doctor livestock, run heavy equipment of some sort, fix a water well, keep an old pickup running, field dress and butcher game, plow a field, and two dozen more essential country tasks. Most also range from good to excellent shots, having grown up with firearms and shooting. They respect capable people, and know that nothing can replace skills and experience.
Being generalists, what we often lack are specialized skills. Here is a partial list of possibilities:
•Communications/ham radio operator
•Small animal husbandry; dairy goats, sheep, or poultry.
•Home crafts expertise such as spinning, weaving, knitting, or canning.
•Wine maker/beer brewer
Any practical expertise you have might well fill a void in a landowner’s plans and existing group. So much the better if you know an area from top to bottom; shearing, cleaning, carding, spinning, and knitting wool, for instance, or have a portable ham radio setup complete with wire dipole antennas for each band.
And it doesn’t matter so much whether you’re an experienced prepper with a deep larder or a rookie who has just become aware of a need to provide for his family. The important thing, from a landowner’s perspective, is having the specialized knowledge along with experience and whatever tools or materials you need to practice your particular skill. As long as a rookie skilled in a specific area was willing to acquire basic food and supplies, as far as I’m concerned being a newcomer is not a drawback.
As an example, here on our place with our existing people we have virtually every conceivable base well-covered, except for one. Though we’ve all had advanced first aid and have fairly extensive med supplies, we know our limitations and would consider adding a compatible medical professional, from an RN to an MD. And in our case, such a professional being a preparedness rookie would not be a drawback, as long as there was a willingness to store some basic supplies.Help
Aside from specific skills, another thing always in short supply in the country is help. Many have the idea that country life is an idealized existence with a great deal of time spent gazing at sunsets and contemplating nature. Country life is great, but have no illusions about the amount of work involved. Most country people work extremely hard, often at two or three jobs just to keep things afloat economically. Sometimes one spouse works a “real” job with benefits while the other works the farm or ranch. With a never-ending list of projects, few landowners would turn down willing help. This is especially true of older landowners, who might welcome younger help willing to learn.
Most landowners actively preparing for hard times likely have a core group of family and friends already in place. An important reason they may consider adding you to their mix is that they might feel shorthanded in the event of social disruption, and so would especially welcome additional skilled help.
A landowner with hundreds or even thousands of acres, along with infrastructure, might well have property worth several million dollars on paper. Not to mention perhaps a lifetime spent working it and building it up. As could be expected, he might well be particular about who he invites to share in his hard work and foresight. But if you can be an asset to him and his family with your expertise and help, then he might be willing to make a seat available at his table.Infrastructure
Hand in hand with help goes infrastructure. I guarantee that any preparedness-minded landowner has ideas for a project or two or three which would add to his place’s self-sufficiency. It could be that he hasn’t had time or the specialized knowledge to pursue it. Could be that he doesn’t have the extra funds available. So if you get to the point that you’re certain you want to join forces with a rural landowner and his existing group, the magic words go something like this, “If you had your choice, what are the main projects that would add to the long-term viability of our place?” A non-grid dependent source of water, such as a solar-powered well, might be high on his list. If so, be prepared with time, effort, and perhaps dollars to follow through and help make it happen.
Making contact with strangers can be a daunting task. Preppers are by nature reserved about discussing these topics with outsiders, observing OPSEC as naturally as breathing. So where to begin?
If you want to make contact with like-minded landowners, you will have to come out of your shell to some degree.
For communication purposes, the first thing you should do is set up a yahoo or gmail account specifically for preparedness email correspondence, along with a pseudonym. Never give out your real name or location initially.
Preparedness forums are one place to post an interest in a particular area of the country. Many such forums are nationwide in scope, while others focus on particular states or regions. Homesteading or skills related forums are another place to find potential landowners. One of my best friends I initially met online on a beekeeping forum. Being a beginning beekeeper, I asked questions of an experienced poster who was less than a hundred miles away. We corresponded for awhile and he finally invited me to his place to help work his hives. After meeting, it quickly became apparent that our mutual interests extended a lot further than just bees; intensive gardening, orchards, vineyards, hunting, small livestock, and much more. He and his wife are now a trusted part of our group, and would relocate here if the balloon ever goes up.
Another possibility is to run classified ads in county newspapers, a regional livestock magazine, or the co-op magazine from the electric company in an area in which you have an interest. Or perhaps run an ad in magazines such as Countryside & Small Stock Journal or Backwoods Home. Your ad should be low-key, and might go something like this:
“Licensed electrician and Army veteran seeking alliance with landowner in rural Colorado. With current storms brewing, would like to have a potential safe harbor for myself and two dependents.”
Most likely you will have numerous contacts which don’t pan out for some reason. The hurdle may be religion, politics, geography, demographics of the group, or nothing more than a personality conflict. Don’t get discouraged, press ahead and keep your eyes open. As the old saying goes, ‘the teacher will appear when the student is ready.’
If you find someone online or through ads who appears to be a possibility, after enough correspondence that you feel the property fits your needs and you will be comfortable with the landowner and his group, set up a meeting at a neutral, public site and go from there.
I’ve found that the best way to keep from having a misunderstanding is to have an understanding to start with, so these are areas you’ll likely want to cover in depth: Things to ask the landowner:
•Does he own his property free and clear.
•Does he or a member of his group live there full-time.
•How many other people are part of his group.
•What are their specialized skills.
•What supplies do they require members to have.
•Length of time their stored preps will support them.
•Can supplies be pre-positioned.
•How many people will his property support.
•How is water supplied for household and food growing.
•What infrastructure is in place for housing you and your dependents, or will you have to supply your own.
•Are there scheduled meetings of his group for work days or training.
•Does the group have shortcomings in areas that you or your dependents could learn, i.e. herbal medicine, cheesemaking, gunsmithing, canning, etc.
•What can you do to help improve his property. This is a polite way of asking what he views as the weakest aspects of his place for long-term self-sufficiency.
Things the landowner will ask you:
•Your credentials and experience in your area of expertise.
•Supplies you have stored to practice your particular skill.
•Number of dependents.
•Is your spouse/significant other on board.
•Medical issues or prescription drugs taken.
•Amount of preps you currently have on hand.
•Do you have a criminal record.
•What other practical skills do you or your dependents have.
Additional things that you should discuss:
•Who is ultimately in charge, how decisions are made.
•Under what circumstances a bug-out occurs. What are the triggers - TEOTWAWKI or simply losing your job.
•Who will have ownership of items you pre-position: food supplies, travel [or house] trailers, bulk propane storage tank, etc.
•Precisely who you are allowed to bring. The landowner will likely be very specific on this point, having thought through the supply and group dynamics implications of members showing up with unannounced in-laws, friends, or co-workers.
It’s no secret that there are some real nutjobs out there, especially on the web, so exercise plenty of caution while searching. But there are lots of good, honest people too, everything from prepped landowners to complete rookies, who are trying to do nothing more than provide for their families in troubled times. And to my mind, if the storms do come, security for your family will certainly be easier and much-improved with a skilled group in a rural setting. So making the effort to find a suitable property and building trust now, before the need, only makes sense.
Some additional thoughts:
•Never advocate or do anything illegal.
•Be very wary of people with extreme positions on religion, politics, or race.
•Be very wary of people who talk about nothing but firearms and ammunition.
•Be completely honest about your capabilities, experience, and level of preparedness.
•The majority of people are all talk and no action, don’t be one of them.
Option 2: Leasing
Leasing property is another seldom discussed retreat option. Land is leased all the time, for timber, grazing, hunting, or farming, so why not consider this alternative for a retreat?
Naturally, you probably don’t want to approach a landowner by saying you want to lease his property in case the wheels fall off of the economy. But a lease is far cheaper than buying land, usually not much more than the actual property taxes. And a lease gives you a legal right to use the land for the stated purpose.
A hunting lease is probably the simplest and most obvious choice, as a game-rich area is a big plus. A hunting lease framework and price structure likely already exists in most places, so searching for one through newspaper ads or contacting local realtors, chambers of commerce, or feed stores will raise no eyebrows.
Here in the Texas Hill Country, a hunting lease will run about $5 to $10 per acre per year, so 500 acres would lease for between $2,500 to $5,000 per year. Far cheaper than purchasing the same property, and very reasonable if divided among numerous people in a family or group.
You should make sure that the lease is structured so you have access year around, not just during hunting season. Ideally, the landowner would be absentee and not live on the property, which would give you pretty much free rein during a full scale bugout. There should be a reliable source of water, be it spring, lake, or well. Some type of accommodations would be nice, but travel trailers or campers would suffice.
It might be possible to include a lease provision so that you could move in a [CONEX] shipping container. As far as the landowner was concerned, this was to store your camping gear, four-wheelers, etc., but could also be used to store non-perishable bulky items like barrels of wheat, rice, ammo cans, etc. If such a storage option is not available, consider renting a storage unit in a nearby town to store bulky, hard to move survival items.
The down side of a lease is that you can’t improve the place like you could if you owned it. No garden plots, no solar wells, no permanent structures. But a lease also has none of the restrictions of land ownership, giving you much more flexibility. If your economic situation changes for the better, for example, or if your marital status changes for the worst. The composition of your survival group may change drastically, either getting larger or smaller. Your job or family situation may require a move halfway across the country. With a lease, no problem, but if you own the land, especially if it has a mortgage, then it could be a major headache.
Preppers should pride themselves on thinking outside the box. A paid-for and fully functional homestead is the ideal situation, but is not a realistic option for most people. So hopefully these thoughts on retreat alternatives will give you ideas for putting together a Plan B for you and yours.
JWR Adds: One other possibility is a lease option/purchase on a piece of retreat property that you'd like to buy, but that you cannot presently afford to buy outright. This is an advantageous strategy for inflationary times. If you can lock in a set purchase price now, while inflation is low, then you might have the opportunity to exercise the purchase option at later date, when inflation is rampant. (In just a few years you may have the chance to buy the property with cheap dollars.)