One Effort, Multiple Results: Survival Homestead
The author is a retired U.S. Army sergeant with a
background in infantry, logistics and administrative and
security training. He currently heads his own security firm
and is an adjunct faculty member with the University of New
Hampshire teaching seminars on home food production.-The
WHAT is a survivalist homestead? It is a home in which you
can live in a real-world/present-time economy and social
order, yet at the same time practice on a regular basis the
survival skills you may need later.
All of this is accomplished while still living a normal
life-style with access to work, schools, emergency services
and stores, etc. But most importantly, you will not be in
conflict with criminal, firearm or building codes, zoning
ordinances, EPA regulations or planning board requirements.
The survivalist homestead offers one more very important
option. That of helping you now to live a better quality
life at a cheaper price and allowing you to shift to more
severe survival plans only to the extent needed to meet
In planning a survivalist homestead there are three
concepts which must be incorporated into your thinking from
the start and which must be adhered to if the goals are to
be met. They are:
- Plan A and Plan B-Plan A is that part of all planning of
your homestead which has to do with dealing in the
present/real world time frame. Plan B is the planning for
whatever emergencies you feel could threaten you. Both
plans must be such that they can co-exist in the same place
at the same time.
- One Effort with Multiple Results- This concept is simply
"working smarter, not harder," fine tuned to an almost
absolute. Every effort must result in more than just the
one primary result. It allows you to accomplish more goals
with less expenditure of time and money, to facilitate the
- Reduce, Re-use, Recycle- This concept is taken wholly
from the environmental movement. Re-using material and
recycling waste allows you to reduce expenses thus build
with less cash outlay. This is also a skill you will need
in any type of breakdown of social order, where normal
access to stores and services will not be available.
Applying these concepts in homestead planning is not the
first step. The first step is deciding what you are
planning for-what emergencies or crises you might have to
This is subjective and no two people will feel that any one
set of possible emergencies will be what they have to be
The process of thinking this through is called threat
analysis. Done correctly it can give you an accurate
picture of what it is you should be getting ready for. At
the end of my threat analysis I decided that the following
were what I wanted to be ready for:
1.Short term cash flow problems. 2.Severe weather
conditions. 3.Economic upheaval on a large scale.
4.Catastrophic world events.
The first task in establishing a homestead is to find the
land. You can eliminate many present-time and cirsis-time
security problems with proper site location. At the same
time the property should be located so that you have
reasonable access to work, entertainment, schools and
Other important considerations are taxes, community growth
plans, amount of land for your needs, zoning ordinances and
building codes in the area where you plan to buy.
I chose my property because it was large enough (15 acres),
had the right topography, available firewood, garden space,
animal space, hunting and potential for water. Also the
town has as part of its charter that the community will
remain rural with little growth, no heavy industry or
commerce and with farming as its main industry.
Crime, in normal times is a by product of growth and
population density in urban and suburban life, and
increased crime and civil disorder are the first results of
cultural breakdown. My location has been chosen to avoid
these to a great extent while still having reasonable
contact with the real world.
Finally my location allows me to use firearms, garden,
raise animals and build pretty much what I want for now and
the future because of the absence of myriad zoning
regulations and building codes that are found in so many
other communities today.
Security was at the top of my list of priorities in
planning my homestead on the land I acquired. A poorly laid
out homestead will result in one that is more difficult and
costly to secure in both normal and crisis times.
Just locating the house-compound on a hill went a long way
in avoiding problems with criminals now -Plan A-and in
possible lawless times-Plan B. The compound is hard to see
from the nearest road, especially in summer. It is
impossible to tell just what is on the hill unless you walk
or drive at least half way up the driveway. By this time a
would-be intruder or gang finds that the entire front of
the compound area is blocked by a marshland to the east,
extending a few hundred yards beyond my property line,
and a deep dug pond connected to a series of beaver ponds
that run nearly a half mile to the west beyond my property
This fine example of an engineer water barrier is the
result of hard working beavers that moved onto the
adjoining property the same year I bought my parcel. Within
a few years they had backed up enough water to flood all
the aforementioned area except my driveway. The total cost
to me for this barrier was $600 to have the deep pond dug.
This system serves as a second source of water for
emergencies, irrigation , swimming, and draws a wide
variety of waterfowl, mammals, reptilles and fish which can
be a food supply- One Effort with Multiple Results.
The water barrier freezes in winter. To deny access to the
main compound all year round I knew I would have to install
some type of fence, which could be expensive. Instead, I
stacked brush and tree limbs from land-clearng operations
around the top edge of the hill on which my home-compound
was located-Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. This created an
instant barricade called an abatis. In most places it was
around three feet high and as much as eight feet wide.
The next year native New Hampshire blackberries, that grow
in abundance in the area, made their appearance and soon
formed a living flesh-tearing barbed wire barrier where the
brush had been stacked. Unlike a fence that deteriorates
and has to be maintained every year, my barrier just gets
thicker and stronger without me lifting a finger except to
cut it back here and there it also provides a good amount
of fresh fruit and attracts animals which, on occasion, end
up on the dining room table-One Effort with Multiple
In building my home I wanted a strong dwelling which was
also aesthetically pleasing, practical for day-to-day
living and would meet all the zoning and building codes and
yet would meet the emergencies I plan for.
Solar Heating-I used a lot of rough-cut lumber, stucco and
stone inside the house I used one-inch lumber instead of
sheet rock for the walls and ceilings because of its
The kitchen, living room, dining room and master bedroom
are on the south side of the house. This side has large
areas of glass windows to allow solar heating during the
colder months. The colder the season gets the lower the sun
is on the horizon. By Dec. 21, the sun floods almost
straight through the south windows, keeping the inside
temperature around 65 degrees F. By June21, the sun is now
high in the sky, adding little heat to the house during
Because solar gain heating can overheat a house in the day
time, there is a need for something to absorb the excess
heat during the day and radiate it back into the house
later on. This is called thermal mass. It is achieved by
having no basement and building instead on a concrete slab,
sometimes called a floating slab or a monolith slab.
For additional mass-and protection from gunfire if the need
should arise-I built a solid concrete block wall of
four-inch thick blocks almost the whole length of the
This wall collects heat from the wood/coal stove to prevent
overheating of the north side rooms and then radiates it
back late at night. This stove except for the Ben Franklin
stove in the master bedroom which is used only
occasionally, is the only source of man-made heat we have
had for the past three winters
Plans for this year call for the addition of a propane gas
heating system. The gas system will be one that does not
rely on electricity to function. Once again if the heating
system is connected to house current the loss of
electricity means no heat. The wood/coal stove will be kept
for back-up, cooking and heating, and just for the pleasure
of a wood fire in the winter.
The north wall of the house is just the opposite, as far as
windows go, of the south wall. The smallest windows allowed
by code are placed here. These are the bathrooms, toilet
and bedrooms. These rooms remain empty most of the day and
do not need as much light. The smaller windows reduce heat
loss and restrict entry from the outside.
To further reduce heat loss the north wall is triple
insulated. Standard fiberglass was installed, then one-inch
rigid insulation over the studs, and 7/16-inch flake board
over the insulation there are no breaks in this barrier
except the windows, to allow heat to escape or cold wind to
infiltrate the house if desired.
Lastly, all closet space was built into the north wall to
create as much "dead space" as possible to further isolate
the heat in the house from radiational cooling.
Still Room, Root cellar, Work Shed-Once the main house was
up the still room, root cellar, and work shop/shed were
A still room was the part of a colonial home where
fermentation of home made brews, "kraut" making and
pickling were conducted. It was also used to store smoked
foods, beverages and other preserved items. I use ours for
most of the same reasons and it is also where the water
pressure system, well, washer and drier are located.
The dryer is vented through the root cellar by way of a
four-inch PVC pipe Part of the system is underground in the
root cellar which has a sand floor. This section of pipe
has holes in it so condensed moisture can drain into the
sand and humidify the root cellar when the drier is used.
The end of the pipe has a fixture that allows me to vent
the air outside when it is too warm in the cellar or vent
into the cellar when it is too cold.
Root cellars are generally constructed underground or in
hillsides. Mine is above ground because, with modern
insulating materials, it was just cost effective and time
saving to do so. In the cellar I can store appropriate food
stuffs to last until late spring when the following year's
crops start to come in. This is also a good place to store
jugs of water in the event we lose electricity.
The wood storage area at the entrance of the still room
holds about a half cord of firewood. With this entrance
facing south the sun hits the wood pile every day in the
winter, melting snow left on it after it is brought in from
outside storage. This means we can bring wood into the
house night or day and any weather without making a mess
all over the place with melting snow.
The summer kitchen is where all the initial cleaning of
garden and animal products takes place. All waste can go
directly to the compost heap. Waste water from the sink
goes directly to garden irrigation after passing through a
grease trap. The contents of the grease trap also go to the
The Well-Most wells are outside the home and at some
distance. Mine is unusual as it is in the still room of the
Few people have the well in a building, other than a small
pumphouse, because when the pump and pipe have to be
brought up for service, equipment and often a truck have to
be used to get the 150 or 200 feet of pipe-full of water-
and the pump up.
My well is 700 feet deep and a truck with the proper
equipment will be needed to haul everything up. For this
reason, the door leading to the outside lines up with the
well so the truck needs only to back up and start working.
Having the well in the still room also means there is no
chance of freeze ups or busting pipes that are at least
four feet underground. The well is also constantly under
lock and key where it cannot be tampered with. All of this
comes under Plan A should a disaster strike that is so far
reaching as to reduce our culture's technology to
pre-electrical days, I can remove the pump and pipe and
still reach my water in comfort and safety any time of the
year-Plan B. I would simply use a container just an inch or
so smaller in diameter than the 8 inch pipe well shaft. The
container has a flap valve on the bottom and is suspended
by a rope. As it is dropped through the water, the valve is
pushed open and the container fills. When pulled up the
force of the water pushes the valve back down and seats it
so the container stays full. Though the well is 700 feet
deep, the water level is only 35 feet from the top when it
is full. This gives me at 1 1/2 gallons per foot, about 800
gallons in reserve.
In New Hampshire, as in most states, you cannot get a
building permit with out a state approved septic system
plan. I applied Plan A by putting in a normal flush toilet
as the main one in the home and a composting toilet in the
master bedroom for back up-Plan B.
The composting toilet needs no special hook up except for a
vent through the roof. When you lose electricity that means
there is no well pump either, and thus no flush toilet. But
the composting one will still be functional for at least
Food-The only real answer to a reliable food supply during
bad times is to produce your own, or most of it, all the
Producing your own food on a constant basis means you not
only have a constant source of reliable food, but you also
have the prepared land and facilities, tools and skills to
keep going. You can do it all, from planting a garden bed
to sowing, raising, cleaning, butchering and preserving
your produce, meats and fish.
The most common argument against the whole process of home
food production is the time involved, followed by cost.
While this is a subject which merits an entire article in
itself and there isn't enough space in this article to go
into it in depth,suffice it to say that if you have the
resources and time to establish your own home food
production, you will find it well worth your while.
I have to admit that the initial efforts to set up garden
space and small animal facilities is time consuming though
not necessarily expensive. But, the set up time is a
I have used many techniques-too numerous to include here-
for saving time, energy, and money in producing food.
In growing tomatoes in the garden area for example,
newsprint and grass clippings have been put down in the
tomato bed to prevent weeds from growing and reduce the
need to water.
For a few hours work a week in home food production from
late April through October, you can raise prepare and put
up (store) most of your food for a year. And doing so
reduces your cost of purchasing the same amounts and types
of food by half or more.
I have written a workbook on home food production and I am
in the process of getting it published. Send $1 (cash,
check or money order) and a stamped self-addressed business
envelope and I will send an outline of the workbook and its
contents which will show you how to calculate food needs,
food costs and production costs and gives some techniques
for gardening, animal husbandry and food preservation. Send
to R. Doucet, RR1, Box 3198, Wild Goose Pond Road,
Pittsfield, NH 03263
The lessons learned by early homesteaders still apply
1. Analyze possible threats to you
2. Choose terrain that lends itself to defense.
3. Plan security around the principles of "Avoidance."
"Deception" and "Denial."
4. Reduce costs and effort as well as help the environment,
by following the concepts of "Plan A and Plan B, "One
Effort with Multiple Results" and "Reduce, Re-use,
5. Assure yourself good shelter, reliable water and
Think about this as you reflect on your own plans to
survive... now and later.