Lessons Learned: One Year After Moving to Our Bug out Location

post-TSHTF, it’ll be an even bigger change. We (my family) still have Internet, vehicles, gasoline, washing machine… for now.
post-TSHTF, it’ll be an even bigger change. We (my family) still have Internet, vehicles, gasoline, washing machine… for now.

Last Updated on March 17, 2016

Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Stu Stone. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.

Some background. I’m a retired US Army Counterintelligence Agent/Officer. In my 20’s I was a heavy weapons Marine. I have a background in technical risks – risk management, information security, computer forensics… Lots of skills and experiences in bad places (Crapistan, Iraq, Africa, Asia…). Took a job in Las Vegas and we lived there for over 4 years. Got so concerned about crime, inept government, potential/probable disasters/catastrophes that we relocated. Did the “math” and looked for “the” safe community that met or exceeded my criteria.

  1. Moral, hard-working folks with a sense of community.
  2. Community with a good skill mix (medical, technical, construction, law enforcement/emergency response, livestock production, farming, forestry…)
  3. Low risk of earthquake, hurricane, flood, wildfire, epidemic, economic upheaval…

So, we bought a farm/ranch on 100 acres in a “greener” part of Southern Utah (nope, not anywhere near fallout from NV above-ground-testing).

This is where the “lessons learned” at my bug out location come in. My wife and kids went through more cultural shock than I thought they would. The distance to good restaurants, the distance to friends and kid’s playmates… the stress this caused was significant. Plus, I never get a day off now. I have animals to feed/water. Yeah, I know… I’ve worked at a dairy, an enormous commercial farm, had horses and a garden most of my life… I knew what I was getting into… but reality and theory are different. So I feed animals twice a day… everyday. I hate to harvest them, though I know that’s what they here are for. It’s a good life… but it is a big change from what we had. And, that’s the major point… post-TSHTF, it’ll be an even bigger change. We (my family) still have Internet, vehicles, gasoline, washing machine… for now.

If you think it’s bad now…

We have our own well, thousands of gallons of stored water, gardens, fruit trees, raised beds, greenhouse, vine/shrub fruit, chickens, rabbits, goats, long-term food, fuel, ammo, weapons, tools, parts, materials, perimeter security (our own training range)… but, most of all, we have a small “mutual aid” or prepper group. I thought we all had the same goal(s) – share resources, share the load and share in the rewards. Well, we have one member that turns out to be the whining, divisive type, one that sits on the fence and you never know where his loyalties/efforts are, a third that is too “busy” to do his share… so this leaves me with animosities I didn’t know I could have. All this in the current “normal” conditions. I hate to think about what happens when I need our group to function as a tactical team and cooperate as ranch-hands. And, what happens when we add the complexities of spouses and kids?

Read More: What to look for in a Survival Retreat

What’s our readiness like?

Significant terrain analysis (following OCOKA and IPB… and if you don’t know what these are thoroughly, you really need to) by map, imagery, recon and time-distance analysis on Avenues of Approach. We have an AI -Area of Interest, AO -Area of Operations, maps (hard and digital), TRPs and typical graphic control measures. Ops -Observation Posts, CPs (manning depends on Threat Level) Check Points, IRF -Immediate Reaction Force, QRF -Quick Reaction Force (trained/equipped to support IRF and patrols with light and heavy weapons, mounted and dismounted, fire/HAZMAT suppression/control and obstacle emplacement). Perimeter security (fenced, cross-fenced and anti-vehicle obstacles on High Speed AAs. One entrance (I’ll keep the number of “exits” confidential) that is gated and monitored. Logs next to gate and ready for movement backstopping the gate if/when threat level rises. Numerous tractor tire (2-3 high) raised beds that double as vehicle barriers and emergency fighting positions. Oh, and we have hundreds of caltrops (I can never have too many) in various sizes (infantry, vehicle, quad…). The Daymak Electric Beast is a terrific way to get around on the ranch. Quiet, 20-mile range on a charge, solar charger built-in, some rack space… Dune Buggies for the QRF.


You can never have too much plywood, railroad ties, telephone poles or sand bags (we recycle 50 pound feed bags into sandbags too). I collect heirloom seeds for my zone every chance I get. We are prepared to close the only two High Speed AAs into our AI if TSHTF. We would close each AA at choke points in two places (more if the threat warrants) and observe the AAs and obstacles (an unobserved obstacle is pretty worthless). Our Commo Shack is in the monitor mode, but has the ability to broadcast long-range and manages the three types of tactical comms we use. Everyone is trained in our SOP hand/arm signals and Commo SOP. Prepping doesn’t have a destination… what I mean is I can’t say “OK, we are done and can take it easy now”. Prepping is a process. As the military says, the final phase is “Continue to Improve”.

Read More: Is it realistic to expect your retreat will not be found?

Individually, we are pretty skilled. Everyone is proficient with firearms, is CERT trained, most are Combat Vets and we have a diverse set of construction, agriculture, engineering, animal production, food preservation, hunting/gathering, scrounging/recycling, mechanical, medical, communications skills. A significant challenge is rehearsing our drills and SOPs together. We are still in the “walk” phase for daylight tactical movement and “crawling” in night and inclement weather tactical movement. As a group, we are good at whining when our backs hurt and when we have blisters from digging.

So, what’s the bottom line?

Well, I had a plan. Did a lot of research. Refined the plan(s). But reality hits… things break you thought would last a few more years (the submersible pump died, got a new one), members show up for the first few meetings, attendance/effort declines, and I’m left feeling used. Worst part is the wife asking “… is it all worth it?” it is if TSHTF, and I’m convinced this life and community are a better place to raise the kids. So, is it (bugging out) now worth it? Absolutely. It’s a better quality of life. And, if TS never HTF, then I’m alright with that, but more importantly, so is my family.

See you on the Objective, Stu Stone

  1. First off- congrats to you and your family for your bravery and on your move. That is the biggest step of all I think.

    Second- thank you for the article, it is always wise to learn from someone who has done it before you do.

    Third- keep us updated and share some of the pros and cons.

  2. You’re only about 10k times farther than I am. I’m still working on getting a solid years worth of storage food and my other basics together.

    I’m in the process of writing some SOPs for different threat levels. I’m using color coded folders: green=normal, yellow=elevated IE natural event like weather, red=severe IE natural disaster or social unrest close by and black=bug out.

    As much as I’d like to move to a place like yours its just not feasible. I’m planning on moving to a place that’s 10k times better than the northeast. This will allow me develop skills like gardening and hunting(which now is take the gun or bow with for a hike, lol).

    Like you, if the crap never hits the fan and I go west to meet my ancestors and leave my kids with a nice piece of property and the ability to be self reliant I will be happy.

  3. It’s all very well buying some land and bugging out but what about ordinary folk who got nothing except for a few hundred £s and a chainsaw, so how about a video on how to build a wooden cabin made from trees. There are more people without money or very little so how to go about a cabin made out of felled trees.

  4. Kudos for making it happen in spite of friendly opposition. They’ll come around. Don’t be surprised when the kids go off on their own, if only to a far corner of your property. 😉

    Most of us cannot buy land and move. We’re within a nuke’s range of some metro. We’re screwed and we know it. However, fallout gets everyone, everywhere. I think I would rather die in the attack than survive the holocaust and dealing with sick people waiting to die. So, we don’t prep for nuclear, other than our location, which is upwind of every US and Canadian nuclear target and power plant.

    I can prep for the likely scenarios, which are temporary relocation for an earthquake, and social instability caused by the criminal class and terrorist attacks. We’ve got a BOL and BOV with an elastic, rehearsed plan with a backup to that, and a backup to that.

    You have learned that other families change their minds. Yep. We have no plans to join forces with others, because that would become a never-ending search for qualified friends, combined with never-sleeping-deep for keeping one eye open on the people you share with. Screw that.

    Congratulations on your progress and learning curve. Stack it deep.

    1. Kudos to writer for being able to do what he wanted to do and being fairly happy with the outcome. My family and I are like yours, no plans to “join up” with others at this point, too many flakes, I don’t really trust anyone.

    2. Sadly, the only time to really join forces is after the event happens. Till then, life and other goals get in the way. However, when a common goal like survival is at the forefront, you will be surprised how many people come to the same consensus fast.

  5. I feel your pain. I’m doing the same somewhere in Texas. For my part things are getting done. I too have a supply of railroad ties (there is so little creosote in them when the railroad is through with them I don’t worry about it). I have two brothers in construction who bring me left over and torn out materials. The wife and I call ourselves The Makin’ Do Ranch. I don’t buy anything new and throw very little away.
    My biggest problem is participation by others. My wife is an engineer for a large defense contractor with a Top Secret clearance. I’m frequently asked if something I’m doing is going to attract the attention of the NSA or the FBI. Posts like this are the extent of my participation with the TEOTWAWKI crowd. Most of my neighbors are elderly ladies, a few with disabled husbands. I’m the spring chicken and I’m about to have the 46th annual celebration of my 18th birthday.
    My strategy is to put up enough beans and corn flour to provide for 8-10 for at least two years. Should an event happen everyone who shows up will be taken in. Food will be parceled out based on what they brought with them and how much work they do once here. You only get calories if you burn calories. Rule with be autocratic until I get a sense of who is dependable and who is not. All in all, not the ideal situation but the best compromise I can assemble under the circumstances.

  6. I really value the ideas and practical helps here. I was lucky enough to become country once more back in 2003 after living in Cities for more than a decade. I grew up on different farms as a kid and have lived without consistent electricity, no indoor plumbing unless a person counts the handpump well in the kitchen. Woodstoves in most every room. So when I went country, I knew we could face times without electricity. Hence, a fireplace and woodstove. 2 oil lamps in every room. Flint kit next to each. Prepping for me is more a lifestyle. I don’t have a lot of money so can’t buy the gear I see advertised. I can get books cheap tho, so I can have info for my family should shtf. I have gotten to know a lot about my neighbors: who has guns, who has hunting and trapping skills, who has gardening skills, who has bees and who has farm animals. Who has collector cars that will run after an emp. All know me as the girl who can grow and preserve food and butcher animals. I’ve jokingly spoken with many of my neighbors about shtf, just to feel them out. Yes, we would have to form a community to survive and thrive. No one family or small group can have all the skills, knowledge, or tools to survive for years, let alone thrive, without our industrial complex.. .but as the granddaughter of German immigrants who homesteaded, people did and can live without conveniences by banding and working together. Back then, most people learned a particular skill, or simply were a strong back for labor. Any of us who can make it home to our country homes have a far better chance of survival than city dwellers. For those of you who cannot get one, find just one country dweller and offer to help maintain and prepare for ‘what if’ . I then would welcome you if shtf.

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