Setting the Stage
Many moons ago I was heavily involved in the blue water sailboat cruising scene. My XYL and I lived on our sailboat and cruised up and down the west and east coats of North America on Mad Max, a Baba 30 sailboat. During the eleven years on board we became preppers by default as when you are days off shore or in the wilds of British Columbia, there are no chandleries for parts or places to top-off one’s food supplies. Remember the adage, “one is none and two is one”. Anyway, I facilitated a bunch of cruising seminars for the folks that wanted to go off shore and sail away into the setting sun not unlike Joshua Slocum in 1895.

At the beginning of each seminar I would have each of the attendees state their name, the boat they owned or wanted to buy, and where they were going to cruise to. A lot of folks wanted to cruise around the globe while some just wanted to cruise off to a far away country like the United Kingdom or Tahiti. Once the intros were done I would boldly state, “only 5% of you will ever leave the dock”. As Shakespeare wrote in his play, “Sir Thomas Moore”, Would I wear so fair on my journey! the first stretch is the worst, me thinks.

Getting Started
In 1996 the XYL, our cat Max, and I got transferred to the Northeast from Florida and decided to live in a house over the water rather than live on a boat on the water. Winter in Rhode Island played a large part in our decision. Yes, I guess we had become fair-weather sailors. Our new abode in Rhode Island brought us back close to family for the first time in 15-years from roving around the west and east coast seaboard. On one of our now more frequent family get-togethers my brother and I decided to buy a piece of property located in a relatively central point between both our family’s. Before we started our search, we sat down and brainstormed with an actual flip chart, on what we were looking for in our new acquisition. The items that eventually floated to the top were:

  1.  No more than a four-hour drive from either our current homes
  2. Friendly Second Amendment state and location
  3. Affordable
  4. Remote with a lot of wooded land around us, not necessarily our land, and,
  5. Available water; Ponds, streams, and aquifers.

With us living in Rhode Island, and my brother living in Southeast Pennsylvania, and with not so friendly 2A states in-between, Pennsylvania shouted out, “pick me…Pick me!” Once we decided on the state, we took the driving time into account and picked a county in Northeast Pennsylvania which was a 4-hour drive for me and a 3 ½ hour drive for my brother. During Memorial Day weekend 2005, both families met up in our county of choice to roam around a bit, talk to and then hire a real-estate agent.

We interviewed a few real-estate agents and settled on one who turned out to be only interested in lining her pockets at our expense which I will address later in this article. While looking for land in our county of choice we stayed at a tavern that offered rooms to hunters and skiers in the winter. When not driving around with our real-estate agent we spent a lot of time talking to the locals at the taverns bar. This was the most valuable time we spent. The locals knew a lot more than our agent and to the man, they told us we were looking in the wrong county. Folks from New York City and Northern New Jersey were buying up land like drunken sailors there. With that bit of information, we asked our agent to look west one county from the original one we opted for. She was not stoked with the idea but relented.

By September our agent had lost interest in us, so my brother started looking at newly listed pieces of property in the newest county of our interest. My brother started surfing the net and one day found a piece of land that met all our criteria. That weekend, he took a ride north to look at the property and was very enthused at what he saw. The challenge was it would be a 5-hour drive for us and only a 3-hour drive for him. Oh well nothing is ever perfect is it.
The following weekend found my wife and I on the road traveling west to the property my brother was so enthused about. Six hours later we met our agent at the property, and she reluctantly showed us the property. It turned out that although this listing was listed with her parent company, it was not her listing hence less commission for her.
I walked the property and made an offer on the spot, $10,000- less than the asking price. After negotiations, which lasted a week, the seller and us settled on a price $6,000- less than the asking one for a total price of $2,300- an acre for 34-acres. The original idea was for us to sub divide the property into four sections to sell these parcels for a profit which would cover our original outlay. We did not do this in the end for several reasons which I will not go into right now.

Currently, property in our county like what we bought is running between $1,800- $2,500- an acre which is still relatively cheap. One county west from us is even cheaper. So it does pay to shop around and be flexible. In closing this chapter, you do not need to buy 34-acres. One acre would be perfect if you are surrounded by a lot of rural land and of course, like minded neighbors.

Shelter

We closed on the land in November 2005 and the few times we went up to hunt or just walk the property we stayed at the earlier mentioned tavern. Eventually March rolled around, and the two families decided on adding a cabin to stay in while hunting, trekking, relaxing, et cetera. Looking at our finances we decided on a locally built 12×20 foot Amish built shed. At about this time, the economy was starting to decline, and I was laid off at my job of 20-years; Consequently, a lot of what I am going to write about fell into my bailiwick to accomplish.

Bunkhouse Delivery

First, I called a few local shed builders to price out a shed. Once we decided on a builder, we ordered it. I borrowed a neighbor’s bulldozer, to level off a piece of earth, 16 x 24 feet. Then using a wheel barrel, I rolled over countless small rocks gathered from old stone walls on the property. Once that was done my brother came up and helped me build a foundation for the shed. If I was to do this again, I would just have ordered 2-3 tons of triple B stone and placed the shed on the stones rather than build the wall. Do to winter heave, the foundation must be repaired constantly.

The cost of the shed and delivery was approximately $3,400-. Before we ordered the shed, I cost out building one with my brothers help. The cost for the building material was $2,300- however, even though I wasn’t working my brother was. It made more sense having one built and dropped off do in part to lack of labor. Once the shed was delivered, I took measurements and ordered materials to finish the inside of the shed now called the bunkhouse. The martials ordered in part were: F-13 insulation, plywood, 2 x 4’s and assorted fasteners and hinges.

The plan was to set up the bunkhouse like a boat. Do you see a pattern starting to develop here? At the back of the shed we had four bunks. Then on one side we set up a galley with a sink and Coleman stove, then shelving for a pantry. On the opposite side we set up a 3×3 foot table I made from scraps. This table was placed between the foot of the bunk beds and door where eventually a wood stove would go.

My brother and his son came up one weekend and we put it all together over a three-day period. Being March, nights were cold so that wood stove became a paramount addition.

4 Dog stove installed.

Back at home I did some research and found the perfect stove for our 240-sf bunkhouse. I decided on the Four Dog steel tent stove. At the time the stoves were steel not Titanium like today, so the price was around $300-. We could have searched Craiglist and bought a small used cast iron wood stove however, it being March, there was none available, and we wanted immediate heat so waiting till spring wasn’t and option. The stove was ordered and delivered to the property.

I drove out to the property to install the stove which took me two days by myself. I went into town to the volunteer fire house and received a four-page wood stove instillation guide which I used exactly as written. The cost for heat was: $300- for the stove, $110- for stove pipe, and sheet aluminum for the backstop to insulate the bunkhouse walls. The night of the second day, the cabin was nice and toasty.

Looking from back of bunkhouse out alongside bunks. Galley on left table & chairs on right . Sister in-law in foreground.

We added a sink and the drain went into a 5-gallon bucket which we emptied daily when at the cabin. At first, we used a Coleman pressurized stove using white gas which I hated. So, by the beginning of summer we purchased a three-burner propane stove. Ran gas hose to a propane box outside of the cabin. Added a solenoid to turn off the gas from inside and then a 20 lb. propane tank.

In the fall of that year over Labor Day weekend, we added a solar panel, to the outside of the bunkhouse. The panel fed into a solar/battery regulator which ended at two group 27 marine deep cycle batteries. Last we added marine 12-volt fluorescent lights, a marine 1,000-watt inverter, and a 12-volt marine radio with speakers. The radio was Sirius satellite compliant. We now had electricity, light, and tunes.

Man O’ man we were styling.

While installing the 12-volt system my brother and I decided to add an outhouse. Our local building supervisor stopped by one day while we were sitting around a camp fire in front of the bunkhouse to see how we were coming along and to enjoy a free beer…or two. Although we did not need a permit for the shed, we were strongly discouraged adding a traditional outhouse by the supervisor. So, we did the best next thing – We ordered up a porta-potty.

Bunkhouse Fall 2007

I called around to get the best price and finally decided on a company the next town over. The cost was $95- a month and they stopped by weekly to service it. If we were not going to be there for a period of time one of us sent a text to the honey dipper to let him know to save him a trip. The porta-potty was placed next to the wood pile so there was never any excuse to not come back without an arm load of wood once we made a deposit sort to speak.

The first full year anniversary on the property found us ready for our first deer season. We had a fully furnished Bug-Out-Location and shelter. The bunkhouse was warm and inviting. The Sirius radio gave us tunes and an outlet to what was happening in the world. The inverter allowed us to watch movies on our laptop’s. The sound was funneled through the radio speakers from our laptop’s which gave us a kind of surround sound experience. We had an outhouse, albeit quite chilly when the temps dropped below zero. We were living the life of O’Reilly.

I often hear other likeminded folks say, “I wish I had a place to relocate to if the SHTF.” Then they share with me the million excuses why they cannot do this. Followed with, “I will do it someday though.” Yeah right, just like the 95% of sailors who never leave the dock. So here is my challenge to the 5% who will.

  1. Decide on what you want in a piece of property.
  2. Research where you want to buy a few acres.
  3. Go there and check the area out and hire a real-estate agent. You only need one acre although more than one would be better.
  4. Buy the property.
  5. Build or order a shed like we did. “Pimp” out the shed and improve on your bunkhouse or cabin during your excursions to it. And not to steal a slogan from a sneaker company but I will… Just Do It!

Warning Will Robinson…Warning

There is one warning that comes with this article though. The warning is visitors. You will have a lot of people just drop by your bunkhouse. It never failed that folks on the mountain or in town would hear we were up at the bunkhouse and inevitably drop by. These visitors were always met with a smile, the offer of a cold beer, a comfortable chair in the bunkhouse or around an outside fire. If the visit was timed right, they also shared in what we had for dinner or what I made for desert. Yes, I have become quite the Dutch Oven and cast-iron skillet/pot, chef.

Freedom Through Self–Reliance

Baba 30 —http://sailingmagazine.net/article-14-baba-30.html
Joshua Slocum— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sailing_Alone_Around_the_World
Four Dog Stove— http://fourdog.com/ultra-light-i-dx/

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