No man is an island … This remains true whether you grow 10 hands, have a billion bucks or the luck of the Irish. Sooner or later people realize that no man – or woman – can do everything by himself. One of the best resources you’ll ever have is the friends and neighbors around you.
While living in northern Colorado, close friends bought mountain property to get even further away to a peaceful rural area. He really wanted to be out in the ‘back of beyond’. They found the perfect property: mountain location, 375 acres of prime meadowland with 12 streams originating on the property that run year round. Tons of wild game; deer, mountain lions, geese and turkey roam freely, and enough pine trees to keep them in firewood till the end of days. Their mountain view from The Flatirons is unstoppable – clear down to the Twin Sisters in Longmont, CO.
For two years, this friend’s husband badgered, cajoled, begged the previous owners to sell and frankly, he beat them into the ground with persistence. The owners in their 70’s worried that medical help was an hour and a half away – on a good day. In winter, traversing those unpaved sludgy roads would have been impossible. It soon became apparent that just the two of them living so far from ‘civilization’ with no neighbors close by, was literally life-threatening. So they sold. With this peaceful, exquisite land in their possession, our friends were on the way to realizing their dream.
It took a couple of years for them to complete their 10,000 sq. ft. home (above – residence from the outside and on the left is their kitchen). Every amenity was incorporated into this architectural feat, which won log cabin home of the year in 2007. You’d think they had the world by its tail. Less than 5 years later, their home went on the market for $10M. They too, realized that no one can go it alone, no matter how much $$ you have.
Another friend acquired remote property in Montana. He is a hard-core prepper and found land he deemed to be the perfect retreat. Designs were drawn and construction commenced on the bugout, but he soon realized just how difficult this plan was to implement. Because he wanted to keep the location ‘invisible and quiet’ (AS IF there is such a thing), without roads, everything had to be choppered in. Since Montana is so far north, construction windows are short compared to Colorado where it churns year round. For him, everything was hurry, hurry hurry. During winter, the only access to this property was by snowmobile. In summer, it required ATVs. A couple years into the project and still only part way to this retreat’s completion, he gave up. His wife rightly complained it was too remote, too difficult and not near choice restaurants and the high end shopping she was accustomed to.
These are not one-off stories.
CASE # – MANY!
We’ve watched people totter off to Australia, New Zealand, Honduras, Mexico, Canada and other distant destinations, but they are still confronted by problems. Most have returned to America, disillusioned and poorer, but experience-richer for the first-hand lesson. They looked elsewhere for an answer when it’s right beneath their noses. Folks may not all experience the same challenges, but they can be just as head-scratching. So while there is no perfectly safe place, there are certainly smarter alternatives. Regardless of where you live there is a great resource right in front of you – your neighbors, your friends, your community.
BUILDING COMMUNITY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE
Not once will you ever find an interview or an article nor in my books where I’ve advocated people should wander off into the never-never to do solo preps. Nearly two decades later this is still our firm belief. In fact, from 1997 – 2001, I wrote a weekly newsletter, Building Community.
There are some in the prep field – ones that are considered experts – that do recommend striking out alone and setting up shop far from everyone. Odds are they will find out the hard way this is not clever planning. You need more than a handful of people to pick up the slack if illness or injury strikes. It takes effort and time to make the land supply all of your food and water needs. Nothing beats first-hand experience for handling livestock. We had our turn at both steers and sheep. People think you throw a little hay and water at the animals and nature manages the rest. Not so.
It takes a LOT of time and money to get a property fully self-sufficient where you can close the doors for a year and not need anything from anyone. When Stan and I lived in Australia, it took us two years of doing nothing else to ready those 10 acres plus a lot of sweat and $$. Two dams stocked with fish complete with recirculation for aeration, alt. power, two wells, water catchment and water storage, firefighting equipment, full underground food storage, livestock and gardens, plus all the supplies required to keep life somewhat normal. To do this today on an individual basis, is nearly impossible. People work more, earn less and have even less time remaining to get it done. In short, you need others.
YOU WON’T ALL BE SIAMESE TWINS
When we moved to Pueblo County, Colorado in 2001, it was an area that I vaguely knew about, but certainly not a place I would have chosen to live. Before moving to Australia, I’d lived in a future up-and-coming small Colorado town, but back then it couldn’t even support a decent restaurant. Most start-up gourmet establishments didn’t last a year. For clothes shopping, it required a trip to Denver or Ft. Collins. Twenty-five years ago, we all looked down our arrogant noses at those who lived in “Pugh Town” – the nasty name we quietly applied to that area of southern Colorado – some 3 hours distant. The city of Pueblo was a former steel mill town until it went bust in the mid-80’s and (heaven forbid) Russia now owns this facility. However, it no longer is ‘stink’ town. The air is fresh and clear and there’s not a Commie in sight. While this county has a lot of liberals and blue collar workers, last week Blue Dog Dems also voted to throw out two anti-gun senators that chose to ignore their constituents’ wishes.
When we moved here, we were about the 6th house in this immediate vacinity of unincorporated homes and are still the only one on our short street. Time passed and neighbors built around us on previously virgin land. During this dozen years, we’ve made deep friendships with a group of 10 folks that we see at least monthly at dinner parties and get togethers, and often daily for this or that. Some are retired, some still work long hours. All own firearms – liberal or not. Some are professionals and some are trades people. One or two are progressives, most are independents, and conservatives make up the rest. Some talk and do preps while others are too frightened to consider it. Most are Christian, but some still haven’t found their answers. A few are natives, most are transplants.
You won’t always be on the same page with neighbors for everything, but variety is not only beneficial, it’s to be expected unless you’re Siamese twins. However, in this diverse group, over time, one thing we have in common is watching each other’s back. We’ve been to weddings, funerals, birthdays, kids’ graduations and at each other’s house with dinner when one is sick. This is a precious commodity you can’t buy or steal. It is something to be cultivated and treasured.
Within our group, we form a whole. No one person can be or buy everything. No one person can know it all or do it all. In this sense, it really will take a village to survive. Among the 10, two are specialists in the medical field, one is an engineer, others fit into the slots of scientist, former school teacher, active detective, great organizer, mechanic, accountant, DIYer, builder, writer, welder, seamstress, general repairman. Nearly all of us garden and cook – even the men – except for one whose cooking makes dog food look great. Most of the women are pragmatic and logical, squashing the old stereotype that women are neither. Most of us are Boomers so we’ve been around the block a few times without the blinders. Beyond this group of 10, others are close by that are similarly minded. This further broadens both the resources, skills and knowledge base. So this is by no means a commune or a group of cookie cutter personalities. It is a blending of talent.
Regardless of what brought us together, each knows that we can’t – nor do we want to – go it alone. We don’t talk prep stuff at every get together. Most of the time we just enjoy the fun. Over the years we understand each other’s skills as they are used frequently routinely whether it’s medical care, gardening, hunting, repairing, building, fishing, improvising. Without constantly belaboring the point, we know how neighbors have prepared and where their strengths lie and vice versa.
One question we’re often asked, is how do we get our own group started? Some folks put flyers in mailboxes announcing a prep meeting. You may feel most comfortable having this meeting in a church or other public building if you don’t know everyone. Using this approach, it gets your toe wet for meeting people, but it’s likely hit or miss if they’re strangers. Interested parties may or may not show up as these days people are more reluctant to show their cards to neighbors they barely know, even if government can write book about you. However, this quickly locates dialed in preppers, but it might also scare off others that would attend if given a chance to be introduced slowly.
Some folks invite neighbors over for drinks and hors d’oeuvres or picnics or block parties and just casually mention either current events, the flaky economy or ‘what-if’ scenarios just to get the conversation going.
If you see a neighbor outside mowing or playing with the dog, drop over for a chat and look for an opening.
Some folks meet at prepper’s clubs and meet-up groups.
There are lots of ways to get groups going. The best advice we can share is to assess your neighbors, if you know them, and plow forward – gently. You have to make a start somewhere. Some will be lost causes for this. If they’re further down the prep road, chances are they’ll be receptive straight away. If they don’t know you well, they might be suspicious of your intentions. Only time will build trust.
For folks that seem fearful, it might require an informal gathering and dropping a hint here and there to see which ones pick up the thread. Patience is really helpful in situations like these, but time is something that is fast running out. Regardless, of your personal situation, there is no place called Prepper Island and your best survival recourse is the people – friends and neighbors around you and your pooled skills, talents and resources.
Holly Drennan Deyo is the author of three books: bestseller Dare To Prepare (5th Ed.), Prudent Places USA (4th Ed.)and Garden Gold (2nd Ed.) Please visit she and her husband’s websites: standeyo.com for the latest in current events and their FREE Preparedness site: DareToPrepare.com.