Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The problem with the country doomstead

It's nice out here in the woods. Clean air, water, and plenty of space to move around it. There's not a lot of people. Rules are looser and enforcement looser yet. Perfect place for a doomstead.

Unless you have to earn a living.

There's not a lot of jobs out here in the hinterland. Plenty of places around me with for sale signs. Sure, it's a great place to hide out if your danger is mutant zombie bikers. There are weaknesses if the problem is economic. Now there are plenty of other problems to worry about, but many of them are expressed initially as an economic down turn.

Take peak oil for example. We've past the peak for cheap, conventionally produced oil. The only reason supply has kept up with demand is due to expensive processes like extracting from Canadian tar sands and ethanol production. Deep water drilling has proven to be pretty darn expensive too, not just in economic terms either. Doesn't really matter what the problems are, there's always an economic component.

Don't move out to the county then try and find a job that'll support your homestead. Make sure you have a source of income first. Ideally, have a source of income independent from the local economy. There might not be much of a local economy.

One major problem with rural life is that it's always a drive to almost every good or service you need. When fuel was plentiful and cheap, people didn't even think about it. I know people who moved back to town because the 30 mile round trip commute to work was too costly. It's not just fuel costs; it's vehicle reliability. There are really only a few options. Drive new cars all the time and never let the warranty lapse. Have at least two older vehicles, with the hope that one will run when you need it. (what I did when commuted to work.) Keep one old vehicle, and not have a job you need to drive to. (what I do now.)

Some people try and compromise. They work and live in a city, but have a "vacation home" as bug out location. There are risks with that plan too. Will it be possible to get to your rural retreat in an emergency? Do you have locals you know who'll keep an out on the place for you? If not, the locals might just think of your place as a fat resource ready for harvest. As it is, when the local economy has a downturn, vacation homes get burgled pretty often. Remember, that's here in New Hampshire, a state with a low crime rate. Your mileage may vary.

On the bright side, rural living can be a lot cheaper. If you've got a good well, off grid power, a big garden, and a woodlot for firewood, you are in good shape. The key is self sufficiency. If you can make or fix most of what you need, trips to town are greatly reduced. That cuts down on transportation expenses. People lived out where I am in the horse and buggy days, but a trip to town wasn't a daily affair.

My grandfather worked at a logging camp for a few years. He had weekends off and would walk 30 miles one way to get home, then 30 miles back. Sometimes he'd be able to hitch a ride on a horse and buggy, but often he just walked. Are you prepared for those days to come back? It could happen.
I love it out in the country. Wouldn't mind a few new neighbors even. (I consider a neighbor anyone within 5 miles.) Just hope they have a way of making a living. Heck, I hope they can afford to pay me to do a few odd jobs if my source of income dries up.


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