[Homestead] Homestead survival plan

Gene GeRue genegerue at ruralize.com
Mon Sep 27 11:14:05 EDT 2004

I changed the subject line so this material is more easily found in the 
archives and copied Tvo's present post below this next piece, which he 
wrote earlier and I saved. Some redundancy of course, but that just 
underlines importance.

Earlier post:

tvoivozhd---as I said before, building a mostly self-sufficient rural 
homestead is the most drastic political statement you can make---providing 
you really do it.

It is exactly like starting a successful business---think out all the 
necessary elements, their sequence, and get started. Setting up a calendar 
with a list of events that should occur in sequence---in the construction 
business it is called the "Critical Path Method"---to economize on time and 
cost, some of the events can occur simultaneosly during the path of their 
projected sequence, hence the name Critical Path Method.

These events have to be achievable---otherwise you establish a pattern of 
failure instead of a pattern of success.

Your best bet is to start with the real estate most favorable for your 
means and what I used to regard until recently as survivalist paranoia.
Add to the usual real estate factors of year-around springs and creeks, a 
location that would be livable and productive after a climate change and 
soaring energy costs. Do some research on the former, and have at least a 
fifteen acre woodlot for the latter. Trees are the cheapest set and forget 
solar collector, and a big pond the best set and forget producer of cheap 
protein for the table---fishing will also provide some recreation which you 
are apt to need.

The first thing after buying suitable land is to build a workshop---live in 
it temporarily if you have to, though my advice is to buy a distress mobile 
home---they are constantly being evicted from trailer parks for the sin of 
being over five years old. They are like instant dehydrated housing---add a 
little soap and water, a spring or well, a composting toilet (Biolet is a 
best buy) to avoid the cost and operating nuisance of flush toilets and 
septic tanks.

I see these distress mobile homes all the time here in a city of about 
90,000 people-- good choices for $1000. When you are done with one, if you 
want to, you can recapture all of your investment, maybe even turn a profit 
on resale..

After solving the problem of temporary onsite housing, build a workshop to 
house your tools. construction library, and construction materials.
Insure the damned things against theft, vandalism, fire, windstorm and 
liability---it has saved my hind end on many occasions.
Learn all you can about tools and construction early---everything you need 
can be obtained for free at your local library or on interlibrary loan. 
Wouldn't hurt to strike up an acquaintance with a good building contractor 
and watch his employees land subcontractors like a hawk. For starters, read 
all of the Ken Kern books on the nuts and bolts of various types of 
construction, and Christopher Alexander on a Pattern Language to maximize 
livability in a structure. Toward the same end, look at all the later Frank 
Lloyd Wright designs (avoid the Indiana Box with 90-degree corners, 
eliminate unnecessaru which constrict views and induce claustrophobia as a 
cause for divorce) Others are Alfred Browning Parker designs and those of 
Allen Dow. Bad house design costs as much as good house design---don't 
waste money on bad design.

To save money, use onsite materials as much as possible---wood from your 
woodlot, the dirt under your feet in the form of adobe or CEB (compressed 
earthen block). Use a wide roof overhang if you want it to last forever.

I can't emphasize this too much for everyone living in a rural 
area---FIREPROOF YOUR NEW HOUSE.. Never, ever use cedar or asphalt 
shingles---a standing-seam metal roof outlasts anything else and will 
survive a shower of unwanted sparks from a blazing National Forest or 
unused hayfield. Corrugated sheet metal works as well for roof and exterior 
walls, is much cheaper and doesn't look quite so nice. Well, maybe not, 
I've seen some very nice looking housed in East Texas using corrugated 
enameled steel roofs and wall siding. If you are really in a high risk area 
for forest fire, a roof and wall sprinkler system is the best fire 
insurance you can buy---it will get a twenty percent or more premium 
reduction from your swindling insurance company---always better to avoid 
fire than fight the inevitable fight with the insurance company if your 
house burns down. They won't be happy, and you won't be happy unless you 
have a wide fire-break between your house and a potential forest fire.

Rock is fireproof, but very time consuming to lay up properly. Dirt won't 
burn either. In any but the most benign climates, if you lay up rock, adobe 
or CEB--make it in cavity-wall format. to minimize loss of heat or coolth. 
In earthquake country reinforce walls adequately too.

After you house yourself and family, add outbuildings for animals as time 
and wallet permits. They are more work than the uninitiated might expect, 
but make rural life much more enjoyable. Unless you are far enough south 
for year-around grazing (like the Mississippi Delta), you will need to have 
haymaking equipment. This can include a used diesel tractor in good 
condition, but "forty acres and a mule" might be appropriate if your 
climate and energy paranoia makes you look for something even more sustainable.

Another thing relating to domestic animals---size matters. If you butcher a 
cow and the weather is warm, you have to have refrigeration unless you have 
an enormous family to feed. Rabbits, chickens. goats and sheep are a lot 
more manageable---both as relates to butchering, and being able to eat them 
before the meat spoils. Another nice thing about a big spring (and 
springhouse) Not difficult to cobble together a food cooler in the 
springhouse that will greatly extend shelf-life of any food..

Of course, your garden should come earlier---together with means of food 
preservation. Root crops buried in sand, crated apples and pears wrapped in 
paper or whatever and kept in a root cellar. If you live in Hurricane 
Alley, it will double as a storm shelter. I have three times had my bedroom 
roof and ceiling vanish in a violent storm---don't think it could happen in 
a root cellar.

For food preservation, I think the best method is using a solar food dryer. 
There are others, but the design in Homepower Magazine archives is an 
excellent one.

Present post, 9-27-04:

>>So from your 83-year-old perspective, what would you do if you were 
>>starting over?
>tvoivozhd---in the present state of my "wisdom", based both on triumphs 
>and defeats, I would do exactly as I am advising my children (excluding 
>owning a 56-foot twin-keel junk-rigged, twin-diesel , corrosion-resistant 
>steel sailboat, and having dual real-estate bases in Belize and the 
>U.S.---Belize is inherently safer than the U.S, with fewer of the 
>amenities---with the second-longest reef in the world not far offshoreit 
>has unsurpassable fishing with few of the nasties infesting the Australian 
>reef.), my children are looking at  land where climate-change is less 
>long-term threatening, looking at essential water resources (big springs, 
>creeks and pond-sites).  Nice if that included substantial hydropower, but 
>that may restrict land-selection too much, though hydropower is most 
>convenient to use, if enough head and  volume is available.  You've GOT to 
>have a lot of easily-provided, sustainable homesite energy in some medium 
>available. Lacking hydropower I think that means a good-sized woodlot.  No 
>one should have a problem growing trees as a set-and-forget solar 
>collector.  Wood-gas is low-tech easy to generate and use, easier than 
>biodiesel in U.S. locales.  The most prolific of all biodiesel raw 
>materials is oil-palm seeds which would grow prolifically in Belize. You 
>could grow Jatropha in Corpus Christie latitude and climate, but their 
>damned oil seeds do not mature simultaneously,making  their collection and 
>pressing slow and labor-intensive---so back to the ubiquitous woodlot, 
>millions of junkyard engines and vehicles running on woodgas---some of the 
>engines generating large amounts of electricity per the Clarence Goosen 
>articles in the 1980's apex of Mother Earth News.   It is a poor idea to 
>rely exclusively on musclepower in your declining years, or in any other 
>years, for that matter. Use windpower where appropriate and economical.
>I like the revised and cheaply, easily erected and easily taken down 
>Robert Green parachute-wing designs and kits for usable power starting at 
>3 mph. ---stack parachute wing-elements for more torque.
>You have to think out a good compromise between  safety and risk in home 
>real-estate location.  I refer to mob-scene here if an abrupt energy 
>collapse takes place.  In a slower energy collapse characterized by 
>soaring oil prices, mass-invasion by city-dwellers is less likely, and the 
>chief physical and theft risk would come from small groups allied in armed 
>robbery,  Best defense against that is long. narrow, steep roads and 
>organized, well-armed and murderous neighbors who hate uninvited 
>intruders.  Add to that some electronic surveillance equipment, 
>nasty-tempered dogs and the risk is manageable.  Distance from cities is 
>important---thirty to fifty miles should be good insulation from city-risk 
>and the farther out you go, land becomes cheaper.  Use electronic 
>commuting to work while you can where face-to-face-work is not essential. 
>For me it would be a rural manufacturing enterprise---hard goods that do 
>not require care and feeding of course.
>I am also inclined to ride the Technical Horse as long as possible---get 
>off when it isn't..  Primarily because the well-educated have a huge 
>income and purchasing advantage in this uncertain, unpredictable 
>economy---enabling those so-advantaged to  do whar they want to do in a 
>much shorter time-frame (fiat currency permitting)
>Structures in a wooded surrounding, perhaps some pastures and hayfields 
>will be designed and built to meet obvious hazards---fireproof materials 
>inside and out being of first importance, plus a firelane barrier which is 
>routinely maintained.  Forget any firefighting ability but your own, and 
>forget building insurance and fighting insurance companies to honor their 
>contracts too.  Bank the insurance premiums as a rebuilding reserve if 
>fiat money retains any purchasing value.. Shouldn't have to mention the 
>necessity of solar heat and naturasummertime cooling, incorporating 
>deciduous tree-shading and three  or four-foot well-anchored 
>roof-overhangs, plus good insect, rodent-proof insulation..  Also pick a 
>geologically-stable building site. If you're going active solar as Gene 
>likes, use floor-radiant heating in a floor where the (liquid) tubes are 
>easily repaired or replaced without a jackhammer.
>And certainly maximize the esthetics by incorporating Chrstopher Alexander 
>"A Pattern For Living" principles---doesn't add cost, buts adds to 
>liveability, reduces divorces.  Under no circumstances build a house 
>higher than one story and make it wheelchair-accessible---you may need 
>that capability tomorrow, and certainly will need it in advanced age 
>unless you are so lucky as to end it all with a quick heart failure at age 
>100 before you lose personal mobility..
>I know my family's genetic history, its genetic advantages and its genetic 
>disadvantages that bounces back and forth between male and female genders 
>as far back as I care to go.  The bad genetic factors need to be carefully 
>watched and so far as is now possible,, guarded against.  Down the road a 
>few years, I expect bad genetic factors will be hereditarily designed out 
>of individual human genomes---we are not there yet.  Minimize known 
>environmental toxicities.  Difficult, most of them you cannot see, feel or 
>taste.  Dietary factors should be primarily garden-based and ---there are 
>others, but a Greek diet is good, olive oil, olives, Feta cheese green 
>salad, nuts, fruit, some pasta and unconcontaminated  fish,  octopus and 
>the like.  Quite a bit of red winel
>If you fall victim to unseen environmental threats as I have done with 
>bone-marrow cancer you cope as best you can with treading-water 
>medications, bail out if treading water becomes too onerous. So far I am 
>too interested in seeing how my kids are doing, particularly my daughters, 
>now the youngest has departed Virginia Beach, and the oldest mulling over 
>the next step in her career path.  Without the help of the oldest I would 
>already have pulled the get-off-the-world switch.  She pushes me around 
>the VA rabbit-warren I can no longer navigate, and is a master of the VA 
>paperwork blizzard I can no longer comprehend or create anew every couple 
>weeks. C'est la vie.
>Barring the brain-robber Alzheimers that affects everyone to some degree 
>as they age, KNOWLEDGE is the ONLY permanent asset you retain.  It is a 
>good idea to supplement your knowledge with a large library, books are 
>more permanent and easier to read than computer files. Computers are 
>currently a fine means of accessing the knowledge of the world---print it 
>out for the same reason you have books in your library---clearly visible, 
>permanent, easiest of all to read.  I have always been a toolaholic  but 
>tools have a tendency to walk away from time to time.
>Nevertheless, if someone is around to guard them at all times, learn how 
>to use tools and acquire the most useful of them.  A farm workshop is the 
>heart of any farm---making it it possible to repair and if necessary make 
>farm equipment as well as repairing and making workshop tools themselves. 
>Computers are currently a fine means of accessing the knowledge of the 
>world---print it out for the same reason you have books in your 
>library---clearly visible, permanent, easiest of all to read
>Tools themselves are a variable---I would hate to see the demise of 
>chainsaws and factories manufacturing them. but if I were younger and a 
>lot healthier I could get along with a double-bitted axe and two-man 
>crosscut saw---fabricate a circular firewood cut-off saw powered by any 
>small junkyard four-banger engine fueled by woodgas.  Similarly in a BIG 
>CRUNCH it would be difficult to impossible to to make in the home workshop 
>a lot of things like wire-feed welders, plasma metal cutters, solid-state 
>CNC machining-center controls.  Back to the future of simpler, yet still 
>effective workshop tools of three generations earlier.
>My kids are pretty busy---it would be desirable that they take vocational 
>classes, the  same classes I took in my German-School days.
>Not likely to happen, so the next best thing is that they have tool-using 
>books in their library and self-educate (careful---all tools have as much 
>capacity to hurt you as to help you)  Lots of workshop book sources---one 
>of my long-time favorites is Lindsay Publications with lots of Golden 
>Oldies useful to past generations and Golden Newbies from the more recent 
>Gingery Series, which a few years back, were exclusively sold by Lindsay 
>Publications---now Gingery has his own website.
>And now down to fail-safe, cheap, compact communications.  My kids have 
>Ham Radio licenses and equipment.  If all else fails a tiny low-wattage 
>Ham radio will reach out and touch  someone, starting with your family 
>which may be scattered around the globe'

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