When many urban or suburban people think about Prepping or Survivalism, they think about bugging out to a more rural location. This has to be one of the most frequently-expressed fantasies in the Prepping world, and reams have been written about where to go and how to get there.
But very little has been written from the perspective of the rural dwellers. How does your average farmer or homesteader feel about urban folks bugging out to the country?
We live on a twenty-acre homestead farm in rural north Idaho. Wow, I can see your eyes sparkling from here. You’re thinking, “What a perfect bug out location!” Then believe me when I say the most dreaded words a homesteader can hear on the subject of Prepping is, “Well, if the bleep hits the fan we’ll just come live with you.”
The truth about farms and homesteads
“Farm” does NOT mean remote or isolated or even self-sufficient. Farmers live pretty much like you do, but with more elbow room. We go to the grocery store. We have jobs. We have neighbors. And we have towns nearby.
Okay, granted those towns can be pretty small by urban standards, but they’re just as full of unprepared people as anywhere else. That means if the manure hits the rotating device, we’re going to have our hands full dealing with them.
Bear in mind that most people in the country may not be much more prepared than you are – which is to say, perhaps not at all. Unless rural folks already have a Preparedness mindset, they’re just as susceptible to societal interruptions as your average city person.
Our only advantage is we’re farther away from the Golden Horde, that mythical group of city folks who will take to the road in times of disorder, or so some survival experts believe.
Or, are we really that far away and safe from thousands of straggling refugees? In our case, we live within a very short drive (as in, four minutes) from a town of 1000, many of whom are on welfare and are just as dependent on government checks as anyone in the inner city. This means they will certainly go “foraging” when they get hungry.
Many people don’t realize that the Greater Depression has already impacted rural areas. Hard. Jobs out here are as scarce as hen’s teeth (as the saying goes) and unemployment in our county hovers around 20%. Most of us are poor to begin with, especially by urban standards. That means we don’t have a lot of money to pour into elaborate “prepper” projects.
So does this mean you should give up your idealized little dream about bugging out to the country? Yes and no. It depends on how realistic you’re being about your bug out plans.
Ten Tips if you decide to bug out to the country
To smooth the way, here are ten tips that may make your welcome a little warmer.
1. Don’t Come Unannounced
If you want to escape from the city, make your own private plans in advance and do not broadcast them to every Tom, Dick, and Harry of your acquaintance. Nothing will dismay a rural friend or relative – much less a perfect stranger – more than having a brace of new people on their doorstep asking for food, shelter, and protection. There’s nothing wrong with talking to rural-dwelling friends or relatives about the idea of deploying to their place if things get bad. But if you do……
2. Prepare the Way
One of the “panic” aspects we country folk feel is that we don’t have enough supplies to provide for a hungry horde. And we don’t. Let’s face it, sometimes we barely have enough supplies to feed ourselves (remember, 20% unemployment in our area). Do the math to understand our concerns. If, through hard work, thrift, and diligence we’ve managed to squirrel away a year’s worth of food for our family of four – and then you show up with your family of four – then we’ve automatically halved our supplies to six months. Now can you understand our fears?
Pretend you’ve bought an isolated cabin in the mountains to use as a bug out. Would you be pleased to show up, exhausted and scared, to a cabin with no food, water, bedding, lighting, heat, or other necessities? Of course not. Presumably you would outfit your cabin to be ready for a bad scenario.
Your plans to bug out to a host family should be no different. Send supplies in advance. Send lots of supplies in advance. Can’t afford it? Well guess what, neither can we. That shouldn’t stop you from sending a case of canned goods, a few sacks of rice and beans, perhaps some boxes of ammo. If the host family has an unused corner of their barn, perhaps they’ll allow you to dedicate that area for your supplies. Don’t forget clothing, sleeping bags, toiletries, firearms, medical supplies, etc., and make sure you make everything weather, insect, and rodent-proof.
If your finances permit, consider funding an expensive project that may be beyond a host family’s reach, such as a windmill, pond, or other pricey item. Think of it as a sort of investment.
Sending supplies in advance proves your worth. It demonstrates you don’t plan to be a leech.
3. Clarify your Baggage
Even if you’ve made plans ahead of time and stashed adequate supplies, don’t expect a host family to welcome all your baggage. For example, we have two large and semi-aggressive dogs. We have large and aggressive dogs on purpose – they help protect us. If you show up with a yappy Pomeranian and four cats, don’t expect us to be happy about it. Our dogs would spend every waking hour trying to eat your pets for lunch. And no, it’s not our fault that our dogs are “aggressive.” It’s your fault for bringing animals into a situation that we’re not prepared – or willing – to handle.
4. You’re Not the Boss
This is our home. We live and work here. We pay the mortgage. No matter how much we may love and welcome you, you’re still coming as a supplicant, not a part-owner of our farm. You are in no position to make demands or request that we change our way of doing things unless you can demonstrate you’re an expert. And even then, it’s still our house, property, equipment, and possibly food and other supplies.
Hint: diplomacy will go a long way if you think you know a better way to do something.
5. Prepare to Work
If you bug out to a rural host family, remember they’re not running a bed-and-breakfast. Don’t expect them to wait on you or cater to your every whim. A farm – especially post-bleep – will be a place of constant and brutal work. Nothing will annoy a host family more than some lazy jerk who does whatever he can to weasel out of the day’s chores. Be ready, willing, and able to help. It’s possible that lives may depend on the willingness of everyone to pitch in and work together to do what must be done.
6. Don’t Be Wasteful
When you arrive at your host family’s rural location, you must immediately change any wasteful habits you may have and become very parsimonious. If you spill something, don’t lavishly use paper towels to wipe it up because you can’t buy any more. Use a rag. Treat everything as irreplaceable – because believe me, if you’ve bugged out in the first place, it’s probably because the bleep has hit the fan and common everyday things are irreplaceable.
7. Bring Skills
Host families in rural areas will be more likely to welcome those with useful skills. If your most useful skill is shopping or meditation or social activism, don’t expect a whole lot of sympathy. Your master’s degree in 18th century French literature is not likely to do you a whole lot of good post-bleep. But if you have practical skills – medicine or defense or mechanics or food preservation or animal husbandry or veterinarian skills or sewing or something similarly needed – you’re far more likely to find an open door.
And this should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Don’t lie about your skills or abilities. If you state with confidence that you’re an expert at hunting and butchering – but have never held a rifle or dispatched a steer – that will be discovered soon enough. Learn those skills first before you claim knowledge. Duh.
So learn stuff. Don’t show up ignorant.
8. Clarify by Contract
If/when the bleep hits the fan, people (urban and rural) are likely to be a lot more hysterical than normal. Having your plans in writing ahead of time clarifies all the obligations, expectations, and limitations between the two parties. This contract can also include what the urban person can and cannot bring. Pets should be included in this list. If the rural refuge is not prepared to handle your yappy Pomeranian because he has three aggressive German Shepherds, you need to know that in advance.
This contract should include one very important part: how many people the host family is expected to take in. If, in your compassion, you gather up every second-cousin-twice-removed and show up with a swell of fifty people, do you honestly think that’s going to work?
9. Shut Your Mouth
Okay, let’s say you’ve done everything right. You’ve made a contractual plan in advance with a rural host family. You’ve sent plenty of supplies ahead of you. The welcome mat is ready to be rolled out.
Now whatever you do, shut up. Don’t blab your plans to friends and coworkers, because doubtless they’ll want to know more, and before you know it, the host family’s OpSec is blown. The host family is already going out on a limb by agreeing to take you in – don’t compromise their safety even more. And if martial law ensues and your gossip spreads about the host family’s supplies, it may mean those supplies may be confiscated. Congratulations, now you’re screwed – and so are the people who took you in.
10. Practice Forbearance
The dictionary defines forbearance as “patient endurance and self-control.” Believe me, if the bleep hits the fan, we’re all going to have to practice astronomical amounts of forbearance.
It is not easy to move into someone else’s house. It’s not easy for the hosts to have permanent guests either. Imagine a standard-sized ranch house with five women in the kitchen. Do you honestly think they’ll all get along swimmingly? If that’s too sexist for you, imagine a building project with five guys or (worse) five engineers who all have their own ideas of how something should be done. Who’s right?
Hint: Whoever owns the house gets the final say unless you can diplomatically demonstrate you’re an expert in something. And even then, ownership trumps expertise.
Remember what it’s like at your home when friends and family arrive for the holidays? After three days, you long for everyone to leave. Well if it’s TEOTWAWKI, it won’t be a three-day vacation. There will be stress, anxiety, and short tempers. Everyone will need to walk gently, or the biggest danger for all may be much closer to home than you realize.
Living spaces are likely to be cramped and not private. There is only so much room in the average country home. It’s not like farmers live in mansions with multiple extra bedrooms. Expect to be bunked down on the living room floor or even the barn, shoulder to shoulder. (And no, the host family should NOT have to give up their bedrooms for you.)
Additionally, septic systems are easily overwhelmed by extra usage. One of the first projects everyone is likely to be involved in is digging an outhouse. Please don’t complain about its construction or usage.
If the circumstances with your host family become hostile and unbearable due to stress, high emotions, and general fears – then feel free to make other arrangements and leave.
I apologize if this list makes me sound hostile, but I’ll admit rural folks get tired of being treated like everyone’s personal deep larder if the bleep hits the fan, expected to uncomplainingly provide food and water and medical care and shelter and protection for anyone unprepared enough to show up on their doorstep. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not without Christian charity and will do what we can to help; but like most of our neighbors, we are low income and our resources are NOT INEXHAUSTIBLE. Our primary focus will be our family, neighbors, and beloved friends.
This article is not necessarily to discourage anyone from making plans to bug out to the country. This is just an attempt to make you look realistically at the people whom you’ll be bugging – and I use that double-meaning intentionally.
Guest post by Patrice Lewis, columnist and blogger at Rural Revolution.