Our Search for a Forever Homestead & Survival Property: Our Plan to Get Out of Dodge
Almost four years ago, when we moved to our current home, we just wanted to get out of Las Vegas, Nevada. We still needed to work there, as that is where both my husband's and my careers are, but we were just sick and tired of city life. All the rules: you can't do this, you can't do that. I even have a friend who got in "trouble" for planting a tomato in a container on her patio. Can you believe that? Un. Real! Clark County, Nevada, we hear, has some of the strictest building laws in the country, and the cottage industry laws are pretty dismal too.
Plus, there were SO many people! Everywhere we went---it seemed crowded. Plus, neither of us are "people" people. (See the Strip in the picture below? I haven't been there in nearly a decade!) Add the smog, pollution, water restrictions (for residents), and other city issues, and we were ready to do something different. So we started searching for properties in smaller, quieter communities with fewer restrictions regarding what we could do with our land someplace within an hour out of town.
Hey! You might also be interested in these homestead-related articles: Homesteading: My 10 Truths, You Might Be a Homesteader IF...., Urban Homesteading: Is it a Real Thing? and lots more on the blog!
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My husband and I didn't have a concept about homesteading, prepping, or anything else like that when we moved to our mountain village almost four years ago. I personally didn't even know what a "prepper" was! We just wanted to get away from the big city and have some PEACE from all the people, the 24-hour-a-day city lights, and the noise! And maybe grow a "real" garden. And have a few animals. That's all.
Our property where we now live is about 2/3 acre of high desert land, and we were in heaven after we moved up here! We thought we had SO much space! After being confined to the typical suburban home with those little postage stamp sized plots they call yards, we finally had some SPACE! Space to grow, space to have some poultry, and even have horses and goats!
In the meantime, since we've been living in our little village community---we have learned about "prepping" (since we can't just run to the store, right? In addition, many of our neighbors encourage preparedness behavior--and we're good with that). We have also continued to learn to be MUCH better at taking care of ourselves on our property (i.e. grow our own, make our own, and do it ourselves!).
So Why are We Searching for Our "Forever" Homestead/Survival Property?
Reason 1) Our Property Has Become Too Small!
Ahem. Little did we realize how easily and quickly you can fill up 2/3 acre! It seems like nearly every inch of our land is being used right now. Between three gardens, fruit trees, horses, goats, ducks, chickens, turkeys, cats and dogs...we are pretty full! We are not able to expand the way we now feel we need to in order to be even more self-sustaining because we lack the room for pasture area and an even larger garden.
It also feels like we are really close to our neighbors these days. Even though we love our neighbors and have made some very close friends who we can count on in emergencies or if we have problems (just like others can count on us), being on plots of land of our sizes in such close proximity can sometimes be uncomfortable.
In wintertime, especially, we have to run our generators once in while because of the shorter days---and that can get LOUD, especially if that generator is right next door, just feet from your living room. Luckily, most of the residents up here are very considerate when it comes to running those generators and keep their solar systems in good shape.
We are landlocked.
There is very little space left to grow! I'll tell you, once we started down the path to attempting to be (or being) self-sufficient, we have realized that in order to do this, we need to have more land in a place where water is not such a commodity as it is here in our desert.
We need pasture area for our horses (and eventually a cow or two) and goats. This will save money on feed and running to town or adjacent counties for hay. "Why not grow our own?" we asked ourselves.
We are also at an age (younger people might even say "ripe old age" lol) where we are planning our retirement years. Although, I must tell you we really don't plan to "retire" per se.
We are planning a new phase of our working life.
That's how we are choosing to think of this upcoming stage of life! We want to work and steward our land, raise our animals, be self-sufficient as much as we can, and tell those who are interested all about it! So, we need a larger area for us to be more self-sustaining than we currently are.
Reason 2) We are NOT in a Great Area for Survival (SHTF) Purposes
There are some criteria that should be met if you want to live in a "safer" place. I say, "safer" because there is probably no such thing as a truly "safe" place. Here is our basic list, for now--it seems to be a work in progress:
a) Be a large gas tank full (at least) away from the nearest urban center.
We are only about an hour away from Las Vegas, NV. With over 2 million people trying to coexist in one of the driest areas on planet earth, that city is seriously in trouble if the grid should go down or other serious disaster strike suddenly.
In my opinion, sadly, it's truly a "dead" city if anything catastrophic happens. To my knowledge, any emergency contingency plans that might actually be out there by the government, are most certainly worthless. (FEMA camp, anyone? If you've read any survival books at all, then you know these are places to avoid.)
Not to be histrionic or all "doomsday prepper" on you, but seriously---the Mojave Desert just does NOT have the resources to support large, medium, or even small population centers.
And---if you ask people who live in Las Vegas (like we used to) what their potential plan is should a disaster of some sort happen, guess what they say?
"We'll head for the mountains!"
Well, I'ma tellin' ya'll---there are folks up here who are all ready for that--and I don't want to be anywhere near the targets created by the dreaded "lines of refugee drift." Just saying.
(How did we come by this mindset? It all started with a GREAT book I recommend EVERYONE read. One of our neighbors told us about it, and both Joe and I could not stop reading it. It's led to other informative books too. It's called One Second After, by William Forstchen.
The introduction is written by Newt Gingrich, who discusses the fact that our electrical grid in the U.S. has not been updated in terms of hardening it off for emergency purposes since Ronald Reagan was in office. Mr. Forstchen also has experience working in Federal government agencies in this type of realm, too, so the book, which is fiction, is written with his knowledge in mind.)
Basically, the scenario Mr. Forstchen sets forth convinced us to start thinking in terms of preparedness. I highly recommend you read One Second After too. It may save your life!
b) Water. There is none. Not really.
Water is the MOST important commodity to be concerned about for any kind of long term and short term survival, either in a disaster situation or just in general. Here is the problem I personally see with water up here where we live: There just ain't much of the valuable stuff. We watch our creeks very carefully, and in dry years, there's a big difference.
Add to that the fact that Las Vegas, a completely boastful and unself-sustaining, greedy and debauched place, is busily sucking up any available groundwater for miles around to feed the ravenous, unending appetite of big business and mostly uncaring and/or unaware residents.
Don't believe me? There used to be SPRINGS running through Southern Nevada and the Las Vegas Valley. I know this because I'm old, and I happen to remember them! Sadly, they are no longer there. Some blame it on drought, but if you had watched this city grow over the past 50-some years, as I have, then you would probably be thinking differently.
These days, that huge, urban sprawled out city has incredible FOUNTAINS! And GOLF Courses! And LAKES! Lakes! Can you believe that? Seriously?! In this desert? All for the thoughtless entertainment of people who don't "get it."
Yep! All over in this place where the residents pay a premium for their water? Lakes and fountains? Thinking of a large garden for your family down in that town? Think again. NOT happening.
The people in the Las Vegas urban community (as in many urban centers), as a group, are not about stewarding our resources. If they were, the infrastructure and prohibitions on growth there would be much different.
Las Vegas just keeps sprawling---it's truly irresponsible, and to use Joel Salatin's excellent word in his book, The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All of God's Creation: ARROGANT. To me, living in Las Vegas or anywhere near it is a dangerous place to be.
Also, down the mountain, at the prison at the bottom of the hill, right up the highway from Las Vegas, the government (not sure which entity) just sunk a 1,200 foot well. Now, the word is, it's for use by the prison. (That's the report one of the concerned residents up here got when he stopped to ask about it.)
But I don't buy it.
I believe that eventually that ugly, gluttonous metropolis down below will suck all the groundwater out of this area too, at some point. Who knows how long that could take? Or at least they will continue to try. And where will that eventually leave us?
Dry. Dry. Dry. And I can promise you that the folks in Las Vegas and elsewhere in Clark County will not give a tooty-toot about our little village up here in the hills.
You might say I'm a little on the paranoid side, but I'd rather be ready than be caught unawares. I'd rather educate myself and be informed and ready than be blind-sided by a boiling tragedy.
There are actually a few other reasons---but those two by far are the main ones.
And that's WHY we have begun our search for a forever homestead!
How We are Finding Our Perfect Homestead
1) We made a list of our goals for how we want to live
Here are some of the questions we've asked ourselves in order to do this---and it's still a work in progress:
What are now the things that are important to us?
As we enter our later years, how do we choose to live?
If we want to be self-sufficient and not have to rely on any (or as little possible) outside help, what kind of land do we need?
Our Ultimate Goals:
* To grow as much of our own food (meat and plants) as we can.
* To grow as much of our animals' feed as possible.
* To live in a like-minded community with neighbors who are helpful (as we are), where there is a sense of care and morality. AND also have some more room between us.
* To be in charge of our own water source(s) and have plenty to use for the stewardship of our land.
2) We determined the amount of land and the size of the house we think we need
We've decided on a minimum of 10 acres, with no maximum. Our ideal home will have the outbuildings (barn, fencing, corrals, chicken coop, poultry area, etc.) already there. But if not, we have agreed we will just do what we did here, and build it ourselves.
The land needs to support several acres of pasture land and definitely garden space and room for an orchard. Already existing is best.
Ideally, there will be at least two sources of water on the property (a creek, well, or a really great rain cachement system in a place where the laws are easy on rain cachement, etc.).
We both agree we don't need a humongous home. Small is just fine--in fact, we prefer a smaller home, as long as there is LOTS of storage. And a root cellar or basement. The age of the home doesn't matter either, as long as everything works.
Being off grid is ideal, but not essential---we'll make that happen too, if need be.
And--a one story home is better than two stories. We are looking at living at least a few more decades, after all--and you know how those knees and backs tend to go out!
3) Deciding on the Area:
Mr. V. and I go back and forth on this one. We both agree on the wind. We OFTEN have gale force winds up here. Seriously. I'm talking between 70 and 115 miles per hour. We are pretty done with that kind of wind. I'm glad our little home is super solidly built, as we are one of the few who haven't had roofing and pieces of our home blown off.
So, do we decide to live in a cooler place with snow during the winter months? Or do we live in a warmer place where it might be super hot and humid during the summer months?
That's the decision we are trying to make.
Basically, we are trying to find a temperate area: No temperatures lower than the single digits, and no highs greater than about 90 degrees.
Closely related to the weather, but having also to do with climate, is the growing season. Ideally, the longer the better. However, after living in the mountains, we understand that you can still have a shorter growing season and be successful. It's all about what you're willing to do. A green house may be an option.
We are in search of a small community with similarly like-minded people. We don't want to hear people snickering behind their hands, as they loudly proclaim, "Why don't they just go buy it from the store?" (Which completely misses the point of homesteading and being self-sufficient. Right?)
We want to live around others who want the same type of lifestyle we do. If ever the SHTF as they say, it would be more ideal to live around others who are prepared for emergencies too, instead of possibly (and perhaps resentfully) trying to find a way to share things with people who have laughed at you for years and have nothing.
Sorry. Just being real here.
The type of person who is prepared for emergencies is not necessarily a "prepper" or a survivalist. I grew up with a very strong LDS background on my Dad's side of the family, and this is probably where I picked up the philosophy of food storage. I didn't realize this until recently---but even when my four children were growing up (three of whom were large boys), we always had enough food.
So, when people stop in to take a look at our home, which is potentially for sale quite soon (not officially yet--but we've had some lookers through word of mouth already), and they take note of our store room---we inevitably get the question spoken with a laugh, "What are you? Preppers?"
(This is generally said with a tone of a) disbelief; b) condescension; and c) snickering laughter. Personally, I think there may also be an edge of AWE and dare I say....envy?)
I just laughingly reply, "Well, if the shoe fits!" :-) No offense taken. I guess we've become one of them!
The types of people (not always, but generally) we want to live near also understand the stewardship of the land necessary for food production and hunting. This kind of value system is what we are looking for in the majority of the neighbors we would ideally have.
I hope that doesn't sound judgmental--but after coming from an urban area for all of our lives, and experiencing our little bit of Heaven here, this is where we have evolved, and that is good for us. No apologies.
Being in Search Mode
It's difficult to be in "search mode" for a forever place until you have all your ducks in a row. The problem is we keep finding all these great potential places, but until we have our home sold, and our retirement income nailed down completely---we are sort of in this limbo search mode.
The great thing is---we are realizing that there are many options out there! And--we also happen to still be very happy right where we are right now. We're in a good place for making a good decision for the long-term.
Mr. V. really wants me to retire from teaching and purely focus on my "blogging habit." I'm actually considering this, even though I'm not "quite of age," and I love my work with children. As Mr. V. points out, if I'm not under contract, we can move more easily and be ready to go if and when our home sells. Makes sense!
These are HUGE life decisions, and they are not easy to make. Not at all. I have a tendency to second guess myself and have trouble making decisions, while he is much more decisive than I am. I have to admit to struggling with the process right now.
So, in the meantime, we are looking. And looking. We've looked at a couple places in Southern Utah at this point. And we are considering taking some trips to see some promising places in various areas around the country--just not sure where yet.
If you have ideas, we would sure very much love to hear them! Do you have your perfect homestead? Can you recommend places we could take a look?
One last thing: Everyone should have a get home bag in their vehicle, ready to go at all times. Find out how to put your get home bag together!
What do you think of all this? One of my good friends who lives in Las Vegas told me this article was depressing and scary. Well.....I guess it is? Do you agree? I'd sure love to hear what you think! And if you know of great places to move that fit us, PLEASE share. Leave comments in the comments section-----
Hugs & Self-Reliance!
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Also---Since we mentioned "survivalism" on the homestead site---here are a few items you may want to consider if ever you feel like being prepared for an emergency and protecting those you love:
This solar oven is on my wish list. I can't personally speak for its effectiveness, though, as I don't have one (yet).
This is a solar powered rechargeable flashlight you can hang on a carabiner and always have ready to go!
I love solar powered lights outside! For one, they are pretty. But most importantly, they are practical!
One of the best books you can read if you want to understand the potential devastation an EMP caused by a solar flare or even terrorism could cause.