Retirement Home & BugOut Location (RHBOL) Part 6 – Water

In the last article I started to talk in more detail about the well and water supply. I ended the article by asking “what do you see as the #1 priority for the well…actually, the water supply?”

Before I answer that question…

When you think in terms of Arizona most folks think desert, heat, and lack of water. That is true for some areas of Arizona but not our area where our property is located. We have mild, 4-seasons of weather, abundant lakes, and one of the best aquifers in the United States.

If you remember, one of my biggest priorities for a buying property was water. In the case of our area that would mean well water since springs, rivers, and such are rare. And wells can be expensive to drill, $18 – $30 per foot. The water in our area is between 150’ – 600’. Do the math…about $4,000 – $25,000 to get water flowing to a storage tank.

We were lucky enough to find a piece of property with a well already on it.

Right after we closed on the property I paid a reputable driller to come pull the old pump and pipe, then to test the water level, and assess the casing. There was no power supply to the pump, just a wellhead with nothing else. We assumed the pump was a 220vAC unit but we weren’t sure. I didn’t like the way the wire looked. We also didn’t know anything else about the well. A service call was the only logical choice.

They pulled the pump from a depth of 190’ out of a 220’ well. The pipe was good. The casing was good. The pump was good. There was plenty of water. Yea!

Now came the choice of what to put back into the well. Fortunately I know a really good well/pump/irrigation company owner here locally. I spent quite a bit of time with him obtaining information on different options. And to my surprise he is an “off-gridder” as well and was in-tune with my water needs and desires.

When push came to shove a 110vAC 1/3hp pump made the most sense. Here’s why:

  1. We don’t have a large water demand, about 50 – 100gals per day. No more than 100 – 200gals a day maximum during gardening season.
  2. We don’t have utility power to the property.
  3. We really wanted to run the system off of solar with our existing 1800w inverter.
  4. We didn’t want to spend more than $2000 for the entire set-up.
  5. If the sun wasn’t sufficient to power the system, or the water demand was temporarily high, we wanted to be able to use our existing Honda EU2000i generator for a power supply to keep the pump running.

It almost worked out.

The 1800-watt inverter we already had would run the pump when it was cool outside, but in the heat of the day, even on a mild day, the inverter wouldn’t cycle on to run the pump. So that option was out. I still haven’t settled on a higher wattage inverter. We settled on simply using the generator for now.

Why a 2000-watt pure sine wave inverter? Because we hooked up our Honda EU2000i and it ran the pump just fine under all conditions. But what does that have to do with the inverter? Technically nothing other than it helped us determine that 2000-watts was sufficient to run the pump.

Why a pure sine wave inverter that costs more than a modified sine wave? Wow, that is a whole discussion in and of itself. But, for this conversation I will stick with the basics:

  1. It runs the pump motor more efficiently.
  2. It creates less heat in the pump motor.
  3. It will make the pump motor last longer.

Say we are running the well pump and we run the batteries dead due to lack of sun or large water demand…no problem! We take the Honda EU2000i over to the well house and plug it in. Fire that baby up and “bingo!” water is now being pumped.

So we had the pump figured out – a 1/2hp Franklin Electric motor running a 3gpm pump. A 2000-watt 110vAC power supply would run the pump just fine. For batteries we have a number of options but we are leaning towards four 12vDC 205AH Duracell Ultra deep-cycle batteries ($200 each). With no solar assist and no generator running that would give us 6 – 9 minutes of runtime before the low-voltage disconnect (LVD) kicked in and stopped the pump. That is 18 – 27gals of water per cycle per single battery.

Using four 100w solar panels that should take 4 – 8 hours of sun each day to recharge the batteries. Other than on cloudy days that gives us two cycles per day. If we find ourselves short of water we can double the batteries and/or solar panels because it is an easily up-gradable system.

And don’t forget, we always have the option of putting our generator to work if need be. Utilizing a 2,000gal water storage tank we always have a minimum of 20 – 40 days of water on hand. Using our generator we can fill the 2,000gal tank in less than 12 hours. For our Honda EU-2000i that is about 1 – 1.5 gals of gasoline.

And yes, the Honda has the propane option. And yes, we are putting in two 500gal propane tanks.

To move the water from the pump to the surface we sent with a thick-walled 1.25” gas pipe. That gives us a number of advantages; 1) low resistance due to the 1.25” diameter, 2) no corrosion from steel, 3) flexible, 4) no joints, 5) I can pull or replace the pipe myself, and 6) cost.

The wellhead equipment was all standard stuff and the wiring was 10g 3-wire made for use in water.

So we now will have the well in good condition, new pump, new motor, and all new well equipment. We have solar to run the pump with a generator back-up for power.

But, what if it goes really bad…no power of any kind?

Not to worry! You figured that was coming didn’t you.

So trying to figure out the worst case scenario wasn’t so hard after all…no power of any kind to run any kind of pump and motor. That leaves manual labor. But, we still need a method of some kind to get the water from the bottom of the well 220’ below the surface.

Again, no problem! Enter the WaterBoy well bucket.

For my set-up I built real simple 3-legged stand and used an air hose reel to take-in and let-out the rope.

 

The WaterBoy worked exactly and designed. So now we had a way to retrieve water without any electricity of any kind.

Here are a couple of lessons learned through the experience:

  1. Don’t worry about a fancy reel for the rope. Make a comfortable single-strap harness that fits over your head and across the chest. Hook the rope securely to the harness and have someone simply walk away from the well. Your legs will do the work vs. your arms, it goes much faster, and there is no reel involved to breakdown.
  2. If this is going to be a permanent method of retrieving your water, build a very  sturdy pulley stand. The stand I built was made to move into place and operate by a single person, then easily move out of the way. A more sturdy stand would be needed for long-term usage.
  3. Clean the valve sealing surfaces after each use and keep them soft and supple. If you don’t, then water leaks out of the valve and you will end up with a fraction of the water you normally would.
  4. This model brings up about 2gals of water at a time. That means we would need to pull up one load a day for our minimum drinking needs and up to 25 loads for more luxury water usage.

For the price, $106, the WaterBoy is great insurance in the case that all power goes out and you need to get water out of your well. I went ahead and purchased the large pulley and rope at the same time just to make it more convenient. Their prices are competitive so what the heck!

And yes, they have 3″ and 2″ models as well. Not a bad idea to simply buy their tripod stand in the deal. Get a whole turn-key solution and be done with it.


In the next article in this series I start construction. But, not to worry, I come back to the well project and show you how I built the well house. And then I show you how I put the well back together with only the manual labor of my wife and I.

 

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Retirement Home & BugOut Location (RHBOL) Part 5

By the time we left the property on our first visit we had taken a number of first steps. And I am true to my preparedness priorities even now.

  1. We buried weapons and tactical gear to protect against the threat of violence.
  2. We buried first aid kits to help protect against injury and sickness.
  3. We buried two handheld radios with spare batteries and portable solar panel/changer.
  4. We buried a portable water filtration unit with spare filter cartridges.

In addition to the above, we also –

  1. Placed a new very heavy piece of chain on the gate. And to secure the chain we used a very heavy duty combo lock. We chose a combo lock so we could simply tell someone the combo vs. tell them were to find a hidden key. Don’t get too impressed with the chain/lock thing. The fence right beside the gate has been cut for some time. We are assuming it was to let cattle roam freely in and out of the 40 acres. The purpose of the new shinny chain and lock was to let the local folks that the property was under new management and that we cared. Kind of like putting them on notice.
  2. We took a 90-day cache of freeze-dried food with us along with a case of nitrogen packed rice. This move was to give us some food at the property in the event that we got there without any food supplies at all. However, since there was no real hide location to keep the food safe we rented a 10’ x 15’ storage locker at the local storage company. In addition to the food we also took a two-acre seed kit with us.
  3. We put together an extensive tool kit that would cover virtually all minor and some major repair requirements, mechanical or structural. The tool kit was also left at the storage building.
  4. We also have a storage box of summer-weight clothes that we left in the storage locker. The box closes plenty tight enough to keep out unwanted bugs, etc.
  5. We took a basic set of cooking utensils and a portable cooking stove. Again, left at the storage building.
  6. We have a 10’ x 13’ wall tent, carpet, rain fly, and cammo netting for our shelter needs.
  7. And finally we took two ammo boxes of 5.56, one box of 180gr XTP .40cal ammo, and a shotgun ammo load-out can…and the Stevens shotgun to run the ammo through. If you aren’t sure that the “ammo load-out” is < click here to read more >
  8. And yes, there is more misc. gear and equipment we took but the above is sufficient to show how we addressed each emergency preparedness priority.

Is this all we are taking? Of course not. But we had the UTV to take and that took up both weight and room. At least we have enough to set up a camp there and get by for a while…at least to survive there if we had too.

On our next trip there we will take:

  1. Fence repair supplies (t-posts, stays, barbed wire) and tools (t-post driver, fencing pliers, etc.). We have to get the fence back in shape continuing to establish that there are new owners and that we are reestablishing the property rights. We have to let folks know that we intend to secure the property.
  2. “No Trespassing” signs to support the fence repair. We are putting people on notice that they are not welcome on the property unless they have our permission. This establishes another firm sign that we are the new owners and this is our property and we expect our rights to be both observed and respected.
  3. I will take more tools and more supplies to work on the property.

This coming week (early August) we have a well drilling and maintenance company coming out to the property to pull the old pipe and pump out of the well. We need to know if the old pump is any good. We’ve decided not to use the old pipe. It is galvanized pipe and thirty years old from what the record indicate. We are replacing it with state-of-art poly pipe. It will hold up forever, easy to work with, and we can put it in (or take it out) by hand by ourselves without fancy equipment. We will probably replace the pump and wiring as well. That way it is all new and should last a long time…longer than us or our children.

If the old pump is any good at all we will have them do a repair/maintenance job on it and have it as a spare should the need arise. The 1.25” galvanized pipe that they bring up will not go to waste. We will use that on projects around the property. I can see it would be really useful when it comes to fencing; either “H” braces or corners. I will see what condition the wiring is in, it may be still usable. If not, I will recycle it for a few bucks someday when I go into town.

Wife and I have been working on our cabin plans. We have been reworking what the layout will be. We think we have it down to the final layout and dimensions. The cabin will be 28’ x 32’ with a master bedroom, a storage/office room, and one bath (toilette, shower, pedestal sink). The kitchen and living area will be a real open concept design allowing for several comfortable living areas. However, the openness will make the area feel larger than what it really is. The open concept will also make heating and cooling the cabin much easier.

We are planning on a tankless, on-demand, propane hot water heater. An old fashion hot water tank is just too inefficient for our needs. The tankless unit will require no electricity. This is by design since we will not be hooked into the power grid and we don’t want to require electrical usage from a solar system when we don’t need it.

The toilette will be a common water closet, flushing toilette. The only difference will be that the toilette will be contributing solely to the septic system. The kitchen sink, shower, and bathroom sink will be “grey water” disposal directly to fruit frees that we will be planting.

The range/oven will also be propane. And strangely enough so will the refrigerator/freezer. Actually the refrigerator/freezer is of the RV family. It can run off 12vDC, propane, or 110vAC (in that order of preference). That gives us multiple options to keep our food fresh. And gives us some amount of that “normal living” feeling. We will have a microwave as well, I am still researching if there is a good 12vDC microwave or do I have to go with a very efficient 110vAC unit.

The electrical system will be a combination system. It will all be solar based since there is no power grid out there to tap into. And that is just fine with me. I want to be independent of the power grid if you want to know the truth. I don’t like any dependency on any part of the power grid. Back to the electrical system…

Most of our electrical needs will be 12vDC. Things such as our ceiling fans and lighting will be 12vDC. Even our refrigerator/freezer will have a 12vDC option. We will have a bank of batteries that are deep cycle 12vDC AGM style. We are not going with large specialized batteries due main to cost. However, we also want compatibility to readily available 12vDC car, truck, RV batteries should the situation demands it. We will have a solar panel array with the appropriate MorningStar charge/controller unit.

For other needs where 110vAC is more appropriate we will have that at our disposal as well. The AC current will be powered via a modified sine wave inverter. We are still working on the required wattage but it will be at least 1800w, possibly as high as 3000w. And yes, we might have to go with a pure sine wave inverter. We just haven’t figured out all of the details yet.

The house will be wired for both. We will try to stick with 12vDC usage as much as possible but we will have 110vAC if needed. It will be wired for inverter use, but it will be capable of plugging in a generator to the system if required to provide a more constant supply of AC voltage for short periods of time. Don’t worry, when the time comes I will provide a complete wiring schematic and other details to show you exactly how this is going to work and exactly what we did.

Have you thought about the #1 concern in terms of the well?

Granted, there are a number of concerns that go along with well ownership –

  1. Security for the well head and water tank.
  2. Water quality and testing.
  3. Well and pump servicing.

But, what do you see as the #1 priority for the well…actually, the water supply?

 

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Retirement Home & BugOut Location (RHBOL) Part 4 – Initial Supplies

Time to hide some initial stuff at the property. Yup, the time has finally come. But, rather than calling it “hiding stuff” let’s refer to it as caching supplies, that sounds a whole lot better…and far more accurate. Here’s the trick…how you hide it predicts how useful your gear will be when it comes time to actually use it again.

We bought our retirement property that can also serve as a very suitable BOL (BugOut Location). Hence we call it our RHBOL.

However, a problem exists in that the property is a five-hour drive away from our current home. If the time ever comes that we need to actually bugout to it…will we be able to have the right supplies there? How about any supplies? And exactly what would be considered the right supplies to have waiting on us?

Prepare for What –

Naturally, following my Seven Survival Priorities you want the right supplies to help mitigate those top seven threat/risks. Let me review what those risks are for just a minute –

  1. Threat of violence
  2. Threat of injury or sickness
  3. Lack of or poor communications
  4. Lack of or poor organization
  5. Dehydration
  6. Hyper/Hypothermia
  7. Starvation

If you haven’t read my “Proper Preparedness Principles” article it would be worth your time and help you better understand this article.

< click here to read Proper Preparedness Principles >

OK, so we have our priorities in proper perspective and proper order. Doing that simple exercise of prioritization can give us a clear, practical, and logical way to decide what to store. But, knowing how to store it is the focus of this article. Well, that may not be entirely true, I will go into detail on what I stored which is very useful and helpful as well. Now remember, my situation is different than yours, you may want to vary the list to meet your specific needs. But the Seven Survival Priorities remain constant, how you meet those threats/risks is up to you. I will share how I am doing it, I hope it gives you some ideas.

Top Priority –

The #1 threat or risk in any emergency, disaster, or grid-down is the threat of violence. It can strike anyone, anytime, and without warning. You or your family could end up badly injured or dead as a result…and in a split second. So we must mitigate this risk first or the other preparations might be for naught.

How did I do this? A 5.56 carbine for my wife and I. No, not a shared carbine, we will each have one. And that brings me to the next point. However, before that I want to lay out the worst case scenario…complete grid-down and virtual martial law. What I am getting at is the possibility that we can minimally move around (i.e. travel) and with almost no supplies to speak of and absolutely no weapons. Meaning, if you are found with a weapon you get incarcerated on the spot (or worse), so we have to leave weapons behind as we travel to the property.

What In –

Since I am assuming that both my wife and I would be arriving at the property, the items that get cached at the property are “times two”, one for her, the other for me. That means two storage containers. And since it is never wise to “put all your eggs in one basket” not only are there two storage containers, there are two separate locations for these containers. That is redundancy…and redundancy is a good thing. Bad guys might find one location, maybe even by pure chance, but you don’t want to lose all your cached items by having them all in the same location. Think Pearl Harbor during WWII…all the ships were docked together and they were easy pickings for the Japs.

Before I get into the list of items that are being cached let’s talk about the storage container itself. I did a lot of MonVault - ground cahcing storing hidingresearch a few years back and found one specialized storage container that met all my requirements. Actually, it exceeded my requirements and truly shined as the right option for this task. It is called a MonoVault.

The MonoVault is essentially a long sturdy plastic tube with a screw-on lid with a gasket. Then there is a cover that goes over the lid that overlaps about 4” of the tube itself. The thickness of the plastic is plenty sufficient, probably thicker than it needs to be, so it will hold up well. The gasket ensures that water will not enter the tube. Actually, from my testing I believe the tube to be completely airtight as well. The cap cover the top of the tube, including over the lid/gasket, helps ensure that any water migrating down will move over and past the lid…a shedding affect, kinda like a tight fitting umbrella.

For the two that I used, the MonoVault’s exterior measurements are 30.5” tall. MonVault - ground cahcing storing hidingThe interior measurements are 28.5” tall by 8.75” diameter. I wasn’t real sure that this was going to be large enough for the mission…I was wrong. This thing is plenty large enough for everything I wanted to store in it and then some. So, here is what I wanted to store in the MonoVault –

All of that went into the MonoVault with ease. But, I did prep some of the gear first and I want, actually need, to share that with you because it is so important. Yes, the MonoVault is billed as waterproof. But, I never take anything for granted. And yes, our place is in Arizona which is known for being very dry compared to other most other areas of the country. But…there is still that residual moisture that might migrate into the storage vault and I don’t want that to ruin my day…or either of my weapons in the vaults.

Weapons Preparation –

Preparing each weapon was not complicated nor difficult but should be done…in my opinion. First thing I did was strip the carbine down, pulled the bolt carrier group out, etc. I used a bore snake and soaked it very liberally with EWL2000. < click here to read more about EWL2000 > I ran that snake a couple of times making sure the barrel was spotless and well coated with EWL2000. I made that all the other internals of the weapon were spotless and well coated with EWL2000. Notice I have said “coated” not saturated, not dripping, just coated.

I reassembled the carbine but left the upper and lower detached. I placed both in a ProTecht gun storage bag, sealed the bag with masking tape, then placed the bag in the MonoVault. I did the same with the pistol.

As far as the ammo is concerned I placed them in separate Ziploc bags, double bagged actually. In each bag with the ammo I placed a silica absorbent for any stray moisture that might enter the double bag.  Prior to putting the ammo in the bag I rubbed the ammo with a silicone cloth…no oil on the cloth. That placed a micro-thin coat of silicone on each round of ammo. Doing so will inhibit corrosion but absolutely not interfere with feeding in your weapon.

For the Gerber Strong Arm and Spyderco knives I essentially did the same process as I did for the ammo. I wiped the knives down with the silicone cloth, bagged the knife, dropped in silica moisture absorbent, and then bagged it again. All the weaponry went into the vault.

I put in all the remaining “hardware” in the vault first. Then came the tactical vest. < read more about tactical vest here > Then I topped off the MonoVault with the BOK & IFAK. < read more about IFAKs here >

When it came to sealing the unit I did not add anything to the gasket, threads, or apply anything after-the-fact. The instructions didn’t say too and I was trusting the manufacturer to be accurate. The manufacturer wouldn’t last a year if this product didn’t work. So I figured I would do as they instructed.

I had fully prepared both MonoVault’s contents, placed them in the MonoVault, and then it was time to bury the whole thing for safe keeping. Boy, now it got interesting.


First off…there is virtually no way to truly hide the MonoVault from all attempts to find it. Ground penetrating radar can easily find it or anything else you try to hide. A metal detector wouldn’t struggle too much to find it. But you have to ask yourself the question, “Who are you hiding this stuff from?” Actually, you can ask, “Are you really hiding it, or just storing it in the ground to keep it safe by keeping it out of sight?”

If you think you are going to hide this from any of the government alphabet agencies think again. They have sufficient technology that they could find it regardless of your best efforts. But, are they going to be looking for it? Would they have a reason to look for it? We aren’t going to go too far down that rabbit hole. We will just assume you want to conceal your stuff from everyone.  If someone has the Star Wars gear to find it and they are looking on your property…well, you have much bigger problems to worry about.

OK, let’s get something out of the way right off…you are going to disturb the area around the hiding spot. There is no getting around it. But, there are some things you can do to offset that. And, more than likely a trained eye could see where you tried to hide the area you disturbed. So you might as well get it into your head now that you can only make a best effort, and that just might be good enough.

In my experience there are two basic philosophies of trying to hide your cache; 1) deep cover, 2) in plain sight.

I refer to deep cover as a place that you wouldn’t come across unless you were specifically looking for it. Such as 1.5 miles off a trail in the middle of the Carson National Forest, in a rock slide, under a cliff. No one would ever likely be walking in the exact spot so no one would ever discover your hiding place. However, the drawback is trying to remember exactly where you buried it. And then the amount of time and effort required to get to it, let alone dig it up. Then there is the drawback of trying to tell someone else where the spot is. So while this concept -deep cover- can be very effective, it can also be burdensome in the best of cases. Although…it might be worth it.

The alternative is hiding in plain sight. This essentially means you hide it in an area where a person could see or find it IF they knew what they were looking for AND they could see past your camouflage. In other words the average person could walk right over it, or past it, and never know what was there. Hidden in plain sight.

I am not going to get into all of the details of exactly what I mean and how it works…I will just show you my examples and you can take it from there. You are smart people, you will get what I am talking about, and you will be able to figure out what will work best for you.

Example #1 –

I want to have fairly easy access to the spot where I have hidden my first MonoVault cache. But, the other side to it has a couple considerations as well. I don’t want people to easily observe me burying it, or digging it back up. So, I picked a spot that wasn’t in anyone’s line of sight from any direction, especially a road.

The ground where I am digging the hole has some topsoil but not much. Topsoil is fairly easy to dig through with little effort. But I quickly hit hard packed sand and small gravel, but not as bad it might sound. At first I tried a pick but that proved to be unworkable so I broke out my pry bar. Nice thing about my pry bar…a nice sharp tip that is about 2” wide. That worked very nicely to break up the subsoil without much more effort than picking up the bar to a height of about 2’ and letting it drop. I found out pretty fast that after it hit, it penetrated the subsoil just enough to let me twist the pry bad about 90 – 180 degrees. That action broke up the subsoil even more. I would do about 5 – 6 of these drops and then shovel out the hole.

Why not a post hole digger? I tried that. However, the sand and gravel would fall out of the tool before I could get the soil out of the hole. Fortunately the hole had to be large enough for the MonoVault so it was large enough for me to use a shovel.

Note: When you bring the dirt out of the hole on the shovel, place the dirt in a mound maybe 3 – 4’ away from the hole. You don’t want it right on top of the area immediately surrounding the hole. The area will look too disturbed when you are all done. Better yet, place the removed soil on a sheet of plywood or heavy tarp. The soil you are digging up is different than the soil on the ground’s surface around the hole. So you want all of the soil you dig up to go back in the hole or moved to another location.

Remember the outside of the diameter of the MonoVault is about 10”, your hole must be a larger diameter than that. I did about a 12” diameter hole and shoveling out the loosened soil was pretty easy, even at the greater depths. I also used the shovel handle to gauge the depth of the hole compared to the height of the MonoVault. I wanted about 4” of soil covering the MonoVault. Can you have more topsoil covering it? Sure you can, just remember though…you must then dig more to retrieve the container when time may be of the essence.

I got to the needed depth and simply set the MonoVault into the hole. I then centered it and started pushing dirt into the hole keeping the MonoVault upright. As I was filling the hole I would occasionally use the shovel blade to help pack the dirt about the container. Once I had enough soil to cover the container I packed the dirt around the sides of the container then replaced the soil to bring it level with the surface of the ground once again. Resist the urge to “mound” the dirt thinking it will settle.

So now I have the container in the ground, the soil packed around the container and about 4” of soil covering the top of the container but not mounded. Now comes the artistic part of the process. The trick is to return the soil that you just disturbed to a “natural looking state” which is impossible. You can try all you want, you can think you are the sharpest operator out there…but truth be told…you can’t get it to look the same as it did in its natural state. So, don’t try.

Any dirt from the hole that you have left over in your pile needs to be moved away from the area and spread out far and wide. It will be easier if you used a tarp or plywood. When away from the area take a shovelful and vigorously sling it sideways parallel to the ground. Do this well away from the hole and not all of it in the same place. Don’t sling it on leaves, or anything else that is naturally occurring on the surface.

Maybe create a “false” hide to distract people if they are looking. But don’t get too cute…you are the smartest tool in the box.

Back at the hole use a piece of bush to lightly brush away any footprints, tracks, etc. Now comes the interesting part. Does the hole area now look exactly like the surrounding area? Probably not. If is just a matter of the dirt drying out to blend in then you are good to go. But, remember I talked about hiding it in plain sight.

What I did on this hole was find some metal trash to put over the hole. That way if someone happens to be using a metal detector they will for sure pick up the container because of all the metal of the ammo, guns, knife, etc. What I want to do is throw them a little bit of a distraction…the metal trash. It won’t fool a seasoned professional, but maybe it will fool the amateur next door neighbor, or someone in a big hurry. So I’ve made my cache locations look just like any other area of trash.

Example #2 –

I walked away about 100’ and found another suitable location. I dug that hole the same as the first hole. Then came time to “hide it” and that is where I did it slightly different.

Once the hole was filled, the excess dirt flung away, the tracks brushed, I was ready to finish of the camouflage. This time I put some metal over it, not much, not as much as the first hole. But, I piled up a little more of the naturally occurring trash over the hole and surrounding area. Once again, the hole appears to be just another lump of trash in a trashy abandoned mobile home location of an abandoned piece of property.

Example #3 –

This is not a MonoVault and I am not hiding weapons this time. For the box itself I used a military surplus ammo box. It is plenty big enough, sturdy enough, and a tight rubber gasket on it. Yes, it is metal and yes, it will rust. But, by the time it would rust out enough to ruin the contents not only would I be long dead, so would my kids. This box will last sufficiently long enough for its intended purpose.

This ammo container can also be buried either standing up or laying down flat. I thought I would do an example of a flat lay. However, as always, finding the right area was a priority. I wanted this location to be more of the “deep cover” site that people wouldn’t be walking by or have any other reason to be there. I chose a location under some mature PJ trees that you have to make your way into to ever find it. By default I figured that this would deter any metal detector person and even ground penetrating radar folks since it would inconvenient for them to even get to the ground where the goodies were stashed.

I chose a location that had a slight uphill slope to it. I wanted to give any water a natural runoff effect to help protect the container from water impingement. Then to add a little extra protection I used a contractor grade plastic bag to cover the top of the container. The bag went well down the sides to help shed water. I purposely didn’t tape it to the box. I didn’t want any water to be held between the bag and the metal box if water somehow got inside the bag, I wanted it to be able to flow out and past the box.

Once again, when digging out the hole, place the removed dirt in an area well away from the hole. If you notice the ground here has a natural cover of tree droppings. If you pile up dirt on top of those it will stick out like a sore thumb.

After the hole was large enough I placed the container in the hole. I placed dirt around the sides first, tamped it down and then proceeds to cover the box with dirt covering the entire hole.

And again, I brushed away any tracks. Be careful to not sweep too hard, don’t leave “tracks” from the bush you are using to brush away the tracks. Tracks are tracks and if they are unnatural looking the eye can pick it up pretty easily. Take your time, work gently, make it look natural.

Once I swept the area free from tracks it was still obvious that the ground was disturbed. That can only be remedied one way…return the natural ground cover to where it was removed. I retrieved the ground cover from other tree areas well away from my tree. I would then fling it over the ground parallel to the ground. The trick is to not just dump the ground cover or get it too thick…just work slowly and let it cover the ground evenly a little at a time.

Now that the liter ground cover was in place you could still see that the area was disturbed and it really didn’t look like most of the other area under the other trees. The solution? I went and collected the right kind of limbs, twigs, etc. and spread them around.

Here’s a thought…don’t look at your area close up. At first walk away 50’ and then look over your area. Does it look natural? No, then use some more ground cover material. Don’t go overboard and make it look more covered than the other areas. Once you are satisfied with the 50’ look, then go to 100’ and then 150’. At 150’ you really shouldn’t be able to tell anything took place at your hide location. And that should be true even immediately after your camouflage session.

Given time, the area will continue to look more and more natural because the ground cover you used will age and blend in with the surroundings.

Food For Thought –

Let’s war game this for a minute. Let’s say that it was a total grid-down, the SHTF, and we did make it to the property and we did bring our supplies with us, including weapons, etc. What value are the caches now?

I say they are extremely valuable…in the ground. Yup, leave them in the ground. Why? Oh, a whole host of reasons why. Let’s try –

  1. One of your existing weapons becomes non-functional. You can tap the cache for a replacement.
  2. You have more folks show up that need supplies and weapons. You can tap the cache to outfit them.
  3. And another…for whatever reasons someone, or some government agency, does a gun confiscation. Yup, you can turn over your guns without them killing you. Then go dig up the cached weapons and supplies and be good to go.
  4. And another…times get horrible and you are forced to flee with nothing. You can later sneak back and retrieve the cached supplies.

And the whole time the supplies, especially the weapons, are safely stored in the ground just waiting for the time when you might need them. Yes, I am saying leave them in the ground…one of the best gun safes you have.

 

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Retirement Home & BugOut Location (RHBOL) Part 3

Well, I’ve run my mouth a bunch but not really provided any concise hardcore information on a “plan” or steps that I am taking, or will take, to turn this property into a retirement home and/or a bugout location. So that is about to change.

What was the bottom line on our thinking regarding this property?

  1. Did we need the property as a Bug Out Location (BOL)? Maybe. I don’t know for sure that the SHTF will bad enough that we will need a BOL. And, I am not 100% sure that if SHTF that we would be able to travel the 325 miles to reach our property.
  2. Did we need the property as a Bug Out Location (BOL)? Maybe. I don’t know for sure that the TEOTWAWKI will bad enough that we will need a BOL. And, I am not 100% sure that TEOTWAWKI  will occur in our lifetime. And if TEOTWAWKI happens in our lifetime I am really nor convinced that we would be able to travel the 325 miles to reach our property.
  3. Do we need the property as a retirement home? Yes. I know for sure that I simply can’t retire and put up with living in the large city that we do. Well, maybe it is only a moderate sized city, 100k people, but it is too big, too crowded, too much crime, too much gang activity, and just not the place I want to live out my years. But, is the property rally a “need”??? Yeah, I am going to say it is.
  4. Do we want the property as a great place to go on holidays and enjoy the fresh air, solitude, and awesomeness of the area? Absolutely 100% yes!

So it turns out that our priorities for buying the property are now different and more clear than when we started looking. Those priorities are now:

  • Vacation home
  • Retirement home
  • BOL

Does that make a difference in picking a location? Maybe. But, the whole exercise of figuring out what we really wanted helped clarify what infrastructure we needed, and what services were needed nearby. I would suggest you do the same before running out and simply looking for, or buying, a piece of property in the country.

So what are the lessons we learned so far?

  1. Clearly identify what you want to use the property for and in what priority order. For us it was
    • Vacation home
    • Retirement home
    • BOL
  2. Know what you maximum budget is.
  3. Know how you are going to pay for it. For us it was:
    • Taking out a loan against a 401k
    • Taking a withdrawal from an IRA and paying the early withdrawal penalty as well as the taxes.
    • How fast can you get the money you need to pay for the purchase.
    • Seriously, don’t starting looking for property till you have a budget and know where the money is coming from.
  4. Based on #1 above, identify what features of the property are the most important to you. For us it was:
    • Price – We didn’t want to have a payment hanging over our head. It is bad enough that you will always be a renter and never actually own your property (property taxes), you don’t want the bank to own the property too. Simply put, you must be able to afford what you are buying. We didn’t want it to become a financial burden and hence, a point of contention or frustration in our marriage.
    • Location – We had some conflicting priorities at first, but once we got #1 figured out it really helped us with this issue. For us it was:
      • We wanted to be away from even a moderate sized city, at least 150 miles from any major city. We wanted a small town of about 10k – 12k people maximum.
      • We wanted access to pretty decent medical facilities.
      • We needed access to stores that could provide: building materials, food, etc.
      • We wanted to be relatively close to recreational facilities such as golf course.
      • We wanted to be in an area where our church would be available and sizable. We are Latter-Day Saints and church life is important to us.
    • Water – After going through many ways of looking at this we had to place the availability of water as actually the #1 priority in regards to the actual land itself. Since wells are expensive, I tried to work out a rain catchment system to supply our water. However, in arid areas you are gambling. Gambling with such a priority turned out to be unacceptable for us. So that meant we wanted to have a well on it already or be able to put a well in at minimal costs. But, a rain catchment system will be installed as a backup to the well and used primarily for the garden and wildlife water guzzlers.
    • Topography – We do not like flat boring landscape, we like views. We wanted property that had some character, some personality…hence, topography. We did consider this as a fairly high priority in case we did have to use in a SHTF scenario. We needed to be able to defend the place and to be fairly concealed to the average passerby.
    • We also wanted trees. They didn’t have to be towering pines but we wanted trees. Tress could provide us with shade, enjoyment, and firewood.
    • Accessibility – We wanted the following:
      • Less than a full day’s drive from our current home. About six hour drive maximum.
      • Accessible enough to be fairly easy in and out with a 4-wheel drive truck, but car access was not desirable.
      • Less than a 30 minute drive to the nearest town.
  5. Identify if you want a place that you could enjoy right now with minimal expense or work to do so.
  6. Know if you want an existing house or not. Do you want to build a house. For us we knew that our budget would preclude any piece of property having a livable. Besides, we want to build.
  7. Security – Know the area and what crime is taking place. Moving into a crime infested rural area is NOT a good idea. In many rural areas of the country right now meth cooking and use make property crime intolerable.
  8. Knowledge – We spent hours and hours and hours online pouring over different areas of the southwest that might that might be compatible with our wants and needs. I am telling you that we viewed hundreds and hundreds of listings via multiple different realty websites. While they did help us to know more about areas and what was available it didn’t help us to track down the property we eventually purchased. What was the most help was a realtor agent that we liked and who worked hard to find us the right property. He was not out to “sell us” some piece of property, he was dedicated to helping us find our new home that fit our needs and wants. He was worth every single penny of his commission and more!
  9. Having some security compound with guard towers, underground bunkers, machinegun nests, etc. was not important to us. Yes, I exaggerated a little bit making the point that some ultimate BOL that was a secure dream location became less of a priority than we first imagined. We ended up with a dose of reality vs. the ultimate prepper redoubt.
  10. My wife and I grew closer together as a result of this entire endeavor. I won’t tell you the journey wasn’t without a few, ahhhhh…interestingly passionate discussions. But, overall we really did grow closer together.

I hoped this information helped. In the next article I am going to go into what we did first on the property after we purchased it.

 

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Retirement Home & BugOut Location (RHBOL) Part 2

This is the second post in a series of articles about my wife and I searching for, buying, and developing a RHBOL (retirement home & bugout location). If you didn’t read the introductory article you might want to do so now.

< click here to read the first article >

So, we got back home settling back into our normal daily lives and about a week later our agent called and said the 40a property was in-fact going to be put on the market but he didn’t know the price for sure. He would monitor the situation and get back to us when he had the details. Then, while we should have been happy and excited, we started to worry just a bit. Yeah, we hadn’t really worked out all of the details on paying for newly found 40a slice of paradise. We had some ideas and options, idea but no real details figured out. We talked to him about owner financing and he told us that the owners were not interested in that option. We didn’t want a conventional mortgage but we might be looking at that if push came to shove. He talked to a couple of lenders for us and no one was in the lending business for “land only.” It was time for my wife and I to have a hard conversation. And remember, we had only seen a very small part of the land and that much only from the road.

Two days later he called back, the price was very acceptable to us and we told him to make a full-price offer. He said he would and call us back when he heard their answer. Now dear wife and I had to finalize how we were going to pay for it. Making a long story short, the purchase price was going to come out of our IRA/401(k) accounts. Yup, we would take the money out of our savings and we were going to pay cash for it. Yes, we would have to pay taxes and yes, my wife would have to pay the early withdrawal penalty. But, we did the math and we were OK with that decision. And, there was this incredible emotional and secure feeling about owning the property outright. Yes, no mortgage payments!

Then disaster struck…and it was pretty crushing.

The owners, a trust, had put a very attractive price on the land. A price we were completely willing to pay. When our agent called us the next day he told us that they rejected our offer immediately and didn’t put forward a counter offer. The owners figured they had priced the land too cheaply based on us putting in an offer so quickly and for the full price. Our agent tried to explain to them that it was all about timing, and we were ready, willing, and able to buy it. The owners still rejected the offer, they wanted more people to see it and get multiple offers to maximize how much they could get.

Our agent tried to do his dead-level best to encourage us to be patient and that all was not lost. It didn’t make much of an impact on us, we were heart-broken. I mean we were really, really disappointed. I was beside myself, I thought this was really “our property.”

You see, we had nothing but the feeling, a prompting, that this was the right property for us…period. We had prayed about it and we were sure that this was the property that we were meant to have, meant to build on, and meant to retire on…and if needed, the property to face TEOTWAWKI there as well. But, they had turned us down. Not just turned down our full price offer…they didn’t even come back to us and tell us what they would sell it for. There was something wrong with this picture!

After about five days we had gotten over it, I told our agent to keep looking, and my wife and I were ready to return to looking once again. Back to the computer and online ads. But, I still had the deep-seated feeling that we had just missed out on “our property” and would not find anything else.

The day after all of that our agent calls…they want to accept our offer. What???? There was no offer to accept, they had turned it down. But, they wanted to revive it, our agent had already told them “yes” because he knew we still wanted it and he knew in his heart that it was the place for us. We agreed, signed more papers, and we were back in business. They wanted the original closing date, which was ten calendar days away. I figured no way that could possibly happen.

Yes, way! The title company was amazing…we had the closing papers in our hands in a matter of days, we had already sent in a decent deposit, plus the escrow funds. We had to review the well report, the title search results, and a ton of other papers as well. The well report was encouraging, it was a good well, plenty deep, and 2” larger in diameter than the regular domestic well…a 6” well. That means that more water can be pulled from the well than just a normal domestic (or house) well. The reserved rights were normal for the area and we were satisfied with it.

With the final amount due figure in hand we wired that money immediately. And then the waiting game started. See, the deal isn’t really done until the sellers have signed all of the closing documents. We were nervous that they might back out again.

Three days later we got word that the title company had just recorded the deed…the property was ours!

Less than two days later we were in my truck pulling our trailer loaded with the UTV and a bunch of tools, etc. The drive was amazing, we were like two kids on our second date.

When we got there it was really special to pull in through our gate, located in our fence, protecting our property. We found the right camping spot, got out and had a prayer to give thanks for the incredible blessing that had just been entrusted to us. We were home…our home…and it felt absolutely amazing. I still tear up thinking about that trip.

We immediately started to look around, exploring our nirvana. However, when you go camping what is the first thing you are supposed to do? If you said “set up your tent” you would be right. And we didn’t.

Since this was the 4th of July weekend it is technically in the first few days of the Arizona “monsoon season.” Now, don’t get too carried away…there is no “monsoon” in monsoon season in Arizona. For July and August maybe 2″ – 3” of rain will fall each month during normal times…meaning the monsoon season.

But, true to form here came the rain. We ended up putting up the tent in periodic waves of light rain. But we got it done just in time for the clouds and rain to disappear. We were off to do more exploring.

Dang! You know it honestly felt like Christmas morning already knowing you got really cools toys under the tree. We walked around and loved it. 40a is a fairly good sized piece of property when you are used to nothing more than a building lot in the city. We just enjoyed the walk. But, we also had another important task at hand…dinner! And not just any dinner…Grumpy Jakes BBQ !

We got back to the property just at dark and headed to our little campsite, I had the basics of a fire ready, lit it up, and we sat there for a long time talking about the future, retiring together, what the cabin would look like, and how lucky and blessed we were. Then the next blessing dawned on us as we sat there…we could see the lights of Taylor, AZ off in the distance. It was such a cool sight to see, but it got better.

We decided to turn in for the night, it had been a long day and we were physically tired as well as emotionally spent. The fire had died down, I banked it for the night, we turned off the solar LED lights we had brought with us. (I will be doing a review on these little beauties.) The darkness settled in all around us. And here came another little piece of amazement…the stars. Rather, I should say the “universe” came out for us to see. I had forgotten what it is like to see trillions of stars in an ink-black sky. We just laid there in amazement and gratitude gazing at one of God’s true miracles.

The next morning I got up and fixed a cup of hot chocolate…and then it hit me. It was cool enough for “hot” chocolate! It was in the lower 60’s that morning and I was loving it!! An easy 15 degrees cooler than back home. Since my wife is not a morning person I struck out on an early morning hike on my own. I was in heaven! I just walked around drinking my hot chocolate and enjoyed the morning. Even though it was light outside I heard a bunch of coyotes off in the distance. No, not the dirt bag Mexican coyotes that traffic in humans, drugs, and cartel cash…I mean the four-legged versions. Hearing the coyotes reminded me that I would have to set-up the property to be a safe place for our dogs as well.

Finally I heard my wife calling to me in the distance…yes, “distance” and that has such a nice ring to it. No, not because I don’t want to hear my wife, I just like there being distance on our property. I headed back that way and we had a great breakfast of eggs and bacon omelet kind of thing, more hot chocolate, and then off for more exploring…this time in the UTV.

Here are some of things we found –

  • Most of the border fence was on the ground. It was obvious that some had been cut, some had just fallen, some “T” posts were actually missing. Cattle were roaming around on the property. One of those “rights” I referred to when I was discussing title issues were grazing rights. The ranch that this 40a piece was cut out of reserved the right to graze cattle. If the property owner (us) didn’t want cattle to graze on the property we had to fence the property to keep the cattle out. We have some work to do.
  • There is a two-track cutting the property in half. It wasn’t well used, but it was, or had been used. We traveled it from one end to the other and knew we had to put the fence back up where the two-track had crossed over. Yes, the fence was laying on the ground and whoever had driven on the two-track had simply driven over the fence as it lay on the ground. Leaving the two-track open would eventually give an argument to have it open all of the time. We had to reestablish our property line and rights.
  • There is a seasonal creek that runs pretty much parallel to the two-track I mentioned above. It cuts the property in half. We love it! It adds so much character to the property it is amazing. There are some very square looking natural stone in the creek bed that we want to haul out and do something with around the cabin. And, for some of you…there is some black sand in the creek bed…you know what that means 😉
  • Although there are no larger trees, there will be plenty of firewood for our wood burning stove.
  • There is deer out there aplenty…and some elk as well.

Let me delve into the “cabin” for a minute. Remember I mentioned that it had a manufactured home on it? Well, more like a mobile home in reality…trailer if the truth be told. It was added onto and nicely skirted…at one point. The whole place now is nothing more than a rat trap, literally. It will have to be removed, destroyed, or something because it is completely unusable for anything. And on top of that, we don’t like the physical location of its placement. Way too close to the road, too visible.

After an amazing and wonderful day came another great night with a big campfire watching the stars come out. I can’t begin to tell you how marvelous a star filled sky is when you are out away from a city, or even a town. It truly soothes the soul. Add in a campfire and you have a combination that can make a man know he is where he should be…home. We turned in when we decided we were tired, no need to worry about what time it was, time is not important out there.

The next morning was already a loose schedule of events starting with church. We got up fairly early, enjoyed a Mountain House bacon and egg breakfast, cleaned up a little and headed into town for church. We were amazed…less than twenty minutes after leaving the property we were pulling into the church parking lot. Second surprise…the parking lot was almost full! As we were walking into the building people were smiling, greeting us, shaking our hands, and generally being small-town friendly. And most of the vehicles in the parking lot were trucks and had mud on them. Sweet!

We spent the rest of the day just enjoying ourselves with the exception of moving a bunch of stuff into the storage building. We want to start moving our stuff that will eventually be permanently stored there. But, there is no secure storage on the property itself. Problem solved…rental storage building. We rented a 10’ x 15’ storage room at a storage business about 12 minutes away. We had brought stuff with us, it found its new home in the storage building. We will have to upgrade to a 10’ x 20’ pretty soon. We are on the waiting list.

We enjoyed the rest of our initial stay and hated to leave, but working daily life was beckoning to us, it was time to go. We hated to leave!

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Retirement Home & BugOut Location (RHBOL) Part 1

This is a multi-part series on our search for a bugout location that turned into a retirement home project but is still a bugout location but we will be moving there it retire but in the mean time it is our bugout location until we move there for our retirement years unless we need it as a bugout location first.

Hey, I had a little fun writing that first paragraph so just indulge me a little bit. But, I was trying to make a point, a point that I will expound on while I write the articles. Primarily the point I was trying to make…why not make your bugout location the place where you will retire. And, if you aren’t using it as a bugout location before retirement…why not use it as a vacation home in the mean time.

Yeah, sounds real simple and obvious…but had you verbalized it in your own life?

Also, as a semi-disclaimer, I am using previous articles as a basis for this series but adding to them. I will run them in a series so you can follow them more easily and not have to go searching around for them. So let’s get started…


So there I was…

About eight and half years ago I really started thinking seriously about acquiring a BOL (Bug Out Location) for my wife and a small group of friends that had formed a little camping group (so to speak). I felt like the time was approaching that a BOL would be the smart thing to do. I had written about a fictional BOL back in 2009 – 2010 in the My Journal book series. Back then I wanted to have a BOL and there was a sense of urgency to it. Within a couple of years that changed…the sense of urgency went up, way up. But, I had a dilemma…the cost to buy a property vs. the money we had available.

If you have ever bought, or shopped for, land you know it can get pretty expensive quickly. As the saying goes, “I have Champagne taste on a beer budget.” Where did the Champagne taste come from? Reading too many technical articles by so-called experts on bugout location requirements. Even worse were the more fanciful articles written for surviving full-blow, serious TEOTWAWKI…end of days kind of stuff.

I digested all the advice from having three separate redundant water supplies, to the natural defensive position of a hilltop overlooking your own valley, to a specific minimum number of miles away from big cities and Interstates. Then there was advice on the particular demographics you wanted for the area as well as political make-up of the county your future property might be located in. Then there was advice on elevation, location in proximity to nuclear facilities, and overall climate considerations. All of this advice went on and on and on. While it seemed all logical and needed it didn’t feel overwhelming at that point…my search was on!

The first place I started was naturally doing online research. I began looking at different areas of the country for available land. I had spent time in most western states as a wildland firefighter so I had somewhat of an idea of different areas. Yes, that means anything east of Texas was completely out of the question. I was pretty drawn to Idaho, it’s beautiful and pretty conservative. Unfortunately Colorado was completely out of the question. Beautiful as it may be, it is overrun by whackjob liberals that were restricting guns and all sorts of other freedoms. I wanted no part of that. Kalifornia was completely out of the question from the very beginning. It is, without any question or debate, a socialist state unto itself. I want no part of a totalitarian state run by socialist extremists.

I like Oregon quite a bit, but it falls just slightly short of Kalifornia. Yes, I know that eastern Oregon is pretty normal, but it is attached to western Oregon that is contaminated with liberals and enviro-nazis. Oregon, another non-starter from the very beginning. State of Washington…similar to Oregon but run by hippies that are liberal and environmental idiots. Finally, I had personally (wife excluded) ruled out New Mexico for a number of reasons; 1) overrun with illegals, 2) a long unprotected and very dangerous border with Mexico, 3) significant gang presence, 4) very large meth use and production presence, 5) very bad “vibe” to the state from a SHTF perspective.

So, I was doing my searching for properties in the few remaining under consideration states and I was seeing wonderful properties for sale…about 90% of which were far, far outside of any budget capabilities on my part. So, I figured I better figure out what was important to me and what wasn’t. The coast of which was the primary driving factor…or so I thought.

But, I screwed all that searching up wandering around online for about a year before I figured that I better “get real” in what to look for. And, about that time my dear wife chimes in and talks about not wanting to be too far from home so we can use the place before retirement as a vacation home before SHTF events. Now we were down to a very narrow selection of states and she was convinced that we could find something in New Mexico. Yeah, she didn’t get my memo on that option.

Kinda of inadvertently we started seeing a whole lot of land in Arizona available that appeared to be reasonably priced. Or so we thought. About three and half years ago we did a multi-day trip there to look around. We had lined up an agent and had about six properties on our short list. I doubt that we could have been more disappointed with the land options or our agent. It was pretty much a waste of time. However, it was an excellent eye-opening experience. Remember, that was three years ago.

Somewhere shortly after that I started thinking even more realistic. It was while I was refining my “threats and risk” matrix where I rank all real threats and risks in terms of severity and probability that I really got serious. To make a long story short –

  1. We know we have a 100% chance of retirement and when it will likely happen.
  2. We know a grid-down event will happen but we have no idea on the timing.
  3. We don’t know for sure if we will ever have a SHTF Zombie Apocalypse event, let alone in our lifetime.

What all that means is we needed to look at this more for retirement that SHTF BOL. And if we do it right, the SHTF requirements should be all, or mostly, covered as we buy for retirement.

Now let me explain just a little something for you…WE AIN’T YOUR AVERAGE RETIREMENT COUPLE.

We want to live out of town, way out of town. We don’t want a neighbor around us. For the right picture of that let me describe it this way so you get a real clear idea of what I am talking about…I want to pee off the deck and not worry about any seeing me. We also want to be close enough to a…wait a second…maybe I better hold off on this and turn it into a list at the appropriate time.

Back to the debacle of a trip three and half years ago, I came back depressed. What I thought we were looking for turned out to be a complete bust on so many levels it just made me almost want to give up looking. Over the next couple of years my wife and I kept searching online and refining what we really wanted…what we really, really wanted. So let me outline that for you now –

  1. Away from town, no more than about a 30 – 45 minute drive.
  2. “Town” would be 20,000 people or less but had to have a decent hospital and sufficient stores, restaurants, etc.
  3. We wanted to be decently close to other members of our church. That aspect of our life is important to us and we wanted to be close to a “fold” of religiously like-minded people.
  4. We wanted to be within 30 – 45 minutes of a golf course. Yes, we like playing golf. No, I didn’t say I was any good at it, I said I like playing it.
  5. We didn’t care about having any electric to the property. We want to go off-grid solar.
  6. We wanted water, meaning a well. But, that was running the price of land up by $10k – $20k per parcel. We figured out how to do rain catchment, but that would be a seriously tough way to go. A river or even a creek in most areas pushes a the price of a piece of property through the stratosphere.
  7. We wanted enough trees and other greenery to make sure we knew we weren’t living in any desert. Also, a bonus would be enough trees to produce our firewood.
  8. Some nice topography would be cool, maybe some mountains, or at least decent hills.
  9. We didn’t want to have a mortgage on it after we retired.

Does that sound like some post-apocalyptic self-defense compound? Nope! At least not to us. It sounded exactly like the place we wanted to retire to, and maybe enjoy it a bunch until then. So the search continued with our new and improved list of “needs & wants.” Yes, we put the BOL stuff on the back burner for now…more on that later.

Let me digress for just a minute. When we did our infamous trip to Arizona several years ago we stayed in a town called Show Low. No special reason, it was the closest available centrally-located hotel room. We didn’t get to look around Show Low much due to appointments to see land, etc. but it had a great “feel” to it. The price of property in Show Low pretty much made it out of the question for our budget.

As we looked online night after night for a year we realized that we kept gravitating towards the Show Low area. But, the land there is very expensive…like $50k for a ¼ acre building lot. That is nothing like what we were looking for or able to afford. However, the Show Low area had a certain draw to it…hard to explain. And, a great thing happened during this same timeframe…my dear wife came to the same conclusion about New Mexico that I had. New Mexico was now a total non-starter.

Finally about a year ago we narrowed it down to the Show Low area; and then we confirmed that with prayer. All that remained was finding the right piece of property in that basic surrounding location. No, that wasn’t an easy task at all. I am telling you we looked at hundreds and hundreds of reality listings online. Some we ruled out, some we considered, some we felt had some real merit to them. It was time for another road trip!

This time the dogs were going with us, we hit the road on a family trip. During our searching online we hooked up with this realtor that seemed to be a decent guy, appeared to be knowledgeable of the area, and wasn’t an obnoxious car salesman kind of agent. We decided to work with him and he lined up about four properties that we had expressed interest in or that he thought we might be interested in. That list grew to six by the time we showed up in Show Low last June (2016).

We spent the first day very frustrated and disappointed. One property after another was crossed off the list. Too far out, too ugly, roads way too rough, etc. We were getting very, very disappointed again…and that was just the first day. Late the first afternoon we had a “come to Jesus meeting” with our agent and explained to him our revised-revised list of needs and wants. The list having been refined as we were driving around that day looking at properties. He promised to work on finding more properties that night. We went to the best BBQ place in the entire universe (Grump Jakes), plus toured Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside area for a couple hours. We knew this was where we wanted to be, we knew it, we were home!

The following morning started real early, we were off to look at more properties. And, we suffered more disappointments. We finally gave the agent an even more refined list of “musts” that included no 4wd roads that took an hour to drive on while getting to the property. He was still positive and encouraging, “I have just the place for you!”

He described a 10a parcel, only about 30 minutes off a paved road, with a well, fenced, and trees. OK, trees in this area where we were looking, and can afford, are Pinon and Juniper trees, and maybe as tall as twenty feet or so. But, they are tress and that is good enough for us. We headed off in that direction following his Chevy four-wheel drive pick-up. Yeah, he didn’t even have a Ford…go figure!

We drove into this junkyard of a property. The manufactured home that was bragged about in the listing was a condemned haven for every disease known to mankind. The numerous outbuildings turned out to be falling apart, barely standing, cobbled together shacks. But, it did come with a car and an ambulance. Both of which were at least twenty-five years old and probably hadn’t had wheels on them for the last fifteen years. But, the well was there and the property had a view. The price was $30k which I thought was high but it had a well. And, I have to admit, the property had potential once the Bubonic Plague generator (manufactured home) was removed.

We were trying to talk ourselves into it and then we heard the banging. I thought to myself that someone might be imprisoned in one of the buildings and this was about to turn into some nightmare situation in a country horror flick. So what did I do? Of course…I went looking for the sound and found a neighbor’s metal building about 100 yards away with a guy trying to fix some kind of trailer…banging away.

I talked about it with my wife and the agent, the agent decided to go talk to him for a minute. And, that is when life started to change for the better and we didn’t even know it at the time.

About twenty minutes later our agent was back and he was excited about some additional information he found out about the parcel. Our agent shared that that the neighbor mentioned in passing that he thought that the same people selling this 10a parcel might be listing the adjoining 40a parcel sometime in the near future. My ears perked right up. According to the pricing on the 10a that means the 40a would be way expensive and I said as much. But our agent stopped me and told me they might be asking the same price for the 40a as they were for the 10a and the 40a also had a well on it. We drove about a hundred yards up the road and walked another couple hundred looking at this larger parcel from the road. It was beautiful land, full-blown crap single-wide mobile home on it, but chain link fence that was worth more than the trailer. Plenty of trees, some grass, and intriguing topography. But, we only looked at it from the road. After all, it wasn’t for sale so it would technically be trespassing if we crossed the fence.

We told our agent we were definitely interested. He said he would follow-up on it in the coming couple of weeks. We were encouraged but I would be lying if I told you we weren’t just a little bit excited.

We looked at one more property that day and then called it quits. We had to leave the next morning and we wanted to get a little exercise in with the dogs and get to bed early. We wanted to leave early the next morning. And, I gotta tell you…we were leaving having pretty much given up on the whole retirement property thing. I say “pretty much”, there was a little flicker inside of me that kept telling me to hang on. But nothing more than a faint flicker. It was frustrating and I was feeling it.

In the next article I will go into more about our RHBOL buying experience. Yeah, I just coined a new acronym…RHBOL (Retirement Home Bug Out Location).

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