All things considered; I am very blessed. As a single gal, and being newly retired, I could live anywhere I want. Life circumstances (and the Lord’s urging) prompted me to relocate back to my home state in the upper Midwest. Initially, I rented an apartment in a college city located on the Interstate highway system about halfway between two cities where most of my family reside. After two years there, I changed my circumstances and moved to a small out-of-the-way town in a very rural part of the state. This article will detail how and why I chose where to make my last move.
I have a great best friend of many years who is a widow, and she has a grown daughter who is out on her own and living not far away. My friend and I decided to share living expenses, and since we each live on a fixed income, this arrangement benefits us both.
Looking over the horizon toward the direction our country is headed, it was vitally important we relocate to a suitable rural town. We spent several months planning the move, researching, and traveling to locations before making a decision. This was going to be the “last move” for each of us and we didn’t want to make a big mistake.
Each of us is a devoted Christian and considers ourselves preppers. For many years as individuals, we have sought to allocate our resources in a way that is Biblically sound. We want to be good stewards of what we have, with an eye towards helping others in our families and new neighbors. It was important to find a place with a suitable dwelling to inexpensively rent since homeownership was not feasible.
Using the principles and precepts of Rawlesian Survivalist Philosophy, we began to look for a rural town with less than 3,000 in population, at least 10 miles or more away from the Interstate Highway system or highly-used state highway system, staying away from the “Golden Horde” and lines of drift. The more inaccessible the better. Yet the location had to be balanced with access to good medical care and a quality hospital because as Seniors we frequent doctors for a variety of reasons. Each of us has ongoing health issues which require periodic doctor visits and occasional health tests.
Location, Location, Location
The location had to have few if any potential man-made threats (chemical plants, too near a nuclear war target, military bases or depots, a large prison, etc.) and have robust systems in place for all potential emergencies. Most of the towns considered had good police, fire, and county sheriff departments and a few with outstanding ambulance emergency service as well. All had tornado early warning systems, which were tested periodically. Some even had designated community tornado shelters.
Once an area was located that met most if not all of the basic survival needs, we started to hone in and find the town that also met our personal desires and quality of life needs as well.
Primary among these needs was finding a suitable dwelling to rent. It had to be large enough for two, with at least two bedrooms, a patio for container gardening, and a garage for my car – all on a single level. I had spent two years in a second-story apartment unit and my knees just couldn’t take it anymore. The rent must be significantly cheaper because that is the budget category that would save us the most money. We wanted to find a way to give ourselves additional income to cover increasing medical expenses, pay for travel and more preps. This could be accomplished through a much cheaper housing cost. Small town rentals are far cheaper than city rentals, probably because fewer people typically choose to live in the country. For that reason, it is also hard to find suitable properties to rent in a small town, especially for Seniors or those with Special Needs. Most American small towns have large older homes which have been converted to several apartments and are in various states of disrepair or minimal repair. We were looking for a single-family home or duplex unit that fit the bill, with responsive, well-run management.
Next, the town had to be far enough away from a larger city that had the discount stores we could afford, yet have all the retail amenities necessary to survive if those places were cut-off for any reason.
(This has since proven prescient due to rising gasoline prices which we have coped with easier by dipping into our long-term food storage and shopping at our local grocery store(s) even more than usual).
More Location Look Fors
It was important to select a location that is like-minded in many respects. It must be politically conservative, have low crime, good schools and libraries, and an active civic life. We wanted the small-town virtues that are still alive in America and find a place that stubbornly clings to Christian values which will not easily yield to encroaching Leftist bullying.
Personally, we also desired to live near Amish enclaves, of which there are several in my state. I do scratch cooking to save money and I love to shop in Amish bulk grocery stores, where I purchase most of my baking ingredients. We also reasoned that where there are Amish, the local governments are more conservative and responsive to their needs. Happily, this meant we would also have access to several Farmer’s Markets not only in our town but in other nearby small towns. It also meant being close to the many grain elevators which dot the map within a 20-mile radius of the town we finally selected. These grain elevators represent a last-ditch food source.
Narrowing It Down
Initially, I used Sperling’s Best Places Guide online as the tool to help make this selection easier. I found this an especially useful tool in finding towns with the right population size, low crime, politically conservative, and religiously active.
Once we honed in on a few candidates, we began to read their local newspapers and anything we could find about it online. I viewed at least a hundred YouTube videos put together by local Chambers of Commerce, Tourism Boards, high schools, active civic clubs, and personal descriptions found on http://www.city-data.com/.
The town we ultimately selected has the following qualities:
It has a population of 2500 people located 20 minutes away from an Amish enclave in an area of many lakes, farm ponds, one primary river and several creeks. We are in a small complex of single story, 2-bedroom duplex homes, each with attached garage and concrete patio in the back.
The rent is $230 less per month than what I was paying before. The entire complex is elevated above street level giving a line-of-site advantage. Additionally, some of the units are barely visible from the street due to a constructed berm separating it from a cemetery on one side of the complex. Our unit is on that side.
There is a farm with a pond across the street from our home. The farm family that owns it allows us to fish there. If needed, they will allow us to tote water from it. But we do have already in place 2 weeks of water for each of us, and the means to capture rainwater, which averages significant amounts annually. We plan to filter the water with our Berkey filter.
Our home is located 20 miles away from the closest Interstate Highway, as the crow flies.
Our town has a charming, well-preserved downtown with several active businesses including a hardware and grocery store. There is a dollar store on the edge of town as well.
Our town has quality schools and active civic life, with several veterans groups, and churches. It does get some additional vehicular traffic during tourist season, chiefly from RVer’s camping at a nearby state park.
It has a professional police department, a county sheriff’s office, emergency ambulance medical services, and an early-warning tornado system.
It is 23 minutes away from a hospital in a town with a population of about 11,000, which also has a Walmart and two farm and ranch stores. Additionally, we are 45 minutes away from other big box and discount stores in a city with a population of 250,000. This city is southeast of our home and is a tertiary nuclear target. We are safely located upwind of any fallout from this target.
Our town is also downwind of another nuclear target, designated as primary on most lists. It is a reserve military base but was downsized during the Clinton Administration, rendering it most likely to be a secondary target at this time. We are downwind of this target by 80 miles and the prevailing winds in our location make the risk to be about 33% of direct and dangerous fallout. The remaining targets in a radius of 100 miles of our home have about a 33% risk of fallout to our location, yet from much farther distances, rendering the fallout even more survivable.
Making a realistic appraisal of our skills, age, physical limitations, and life needs, we had to compromise on some of our choices. For starters, we have chosen to shelter in place and not bug out. There is just no way to practically leave in a well-maintained yet 11-year-old vehicle that neither of us can repair. We do not wish to be at the mercy of whatever animal (human or otherwise) we would have to deal with if stranded and on unfamiliar ground.
We have the advantage of living in a sparsely populated area and have assessed that those who live in the larger cities within a radius of 350 miles (the distance most tanks of gas will take people) of our home, will most likely bypass the lesser-used highway into our town. (Indeed, the people who live in the two most populated areas of my state – each of which is 2 ½ hours away from my location – never really think about my area. Very few people travel here, or rarely see anything in their media about this region. To boosters of my town, this is frustrating because they want to grow business here. But to me, it is perfect in its relative isolation). Even the town of 11,000 closest to us would empty towards the Interstate Highway, which is closer to them farther east in the opposite direction of my home. Still, we are prepared for those who would choose to travel to our town and do “mischief.” Leaving the area, they would most likely not resort to theft until they run out of gasoline much farther south, so I do not anticipate too many disruptions. These will be the masses who have not prepared and who are seeking the warmer climate who will pillage only those towns and villages nearest the interstate highway or those closest to where they finally run out of gas and/or have a vehicle breakdown.
We are far enough away from nuclear targets to have any blast effects, yet there is a potential fallout threat. We are prepared to build an improvised indoor shelter to cope and have the preps in place to do this.
We chose a town that has no other real threats but weather-related, chiefly the occasional harsh winter cold and snow and potential tornadoes during tornado season. We have focused our preps on winter survival-in-place to the extent we are allowed to as renters, so we have the tools needed to heat the unit, cook our food and keep ourselves warm for several months, off grid.
We have a concrete patio where we will do container gardening. This year will be the first garden.
We have 6-month’s long-term food storage and are five-seven years deep in all the consumer products we use the most.
We have beefed up the security of the unit with management permission and have the ample means to defend ourselves. My roommate’s terrier-mix dog is a wonderful early-warning security system, too!
I am grateful to have made this move just ahead of the rampant inflation that now grips our economy. Because I lowered my costs and increased my preps (especially food, and the consumer products I use the most), I was ready for big price increases. Even with the higher price of food and gas, I am still able to increase my other investments and more importantly, what I can give to ministries.
All in all, I find small-town living is much more relaxing and enjoyable at this time of my life. Even with the pandemic and lock-down, I see smiling people more than frowning people in my town. This last move has so far proved to be the best move I’ve ever made.
What About You?
For anyone of any age who wants to relocate to a safer place to better ride out the uncertain future, I hope this gives you some idea how to change the circumstances by which you live, to give you more peace of mind. For those of working age and not retired, if you can find a job in a small town, or work from home, this is a way to afford to live better, if you can’t afford your own rural homestead. If you have handyman skills, you could parlay these skills into an apartment or rental house with a property management company that services a rural area. You could also offer to do maintenance work on an older unit in exchange for less rent. Think about renting a home or rent-to-own a house in a small town. There is still time to do it if you start today!
Author: This is a guest post by PJ Graves. PJ is a retired award-winning radio broadcaster, news reporter, and writer, whose reporting has been featured on national radio networks and whose articles have been on Survivalblog, Prepper Website, Rapture Ready, and various online news magazines. In addition to writing, PJ runs Golden Page Media, with an email newsletter featuring innovative ways to save money, side-gigs, prepping tips, and little-known ways to change careers without going into debt or paying for training. She enjoys home church, living in Amish Country, exploring historic sites, classic films, cooking, volunteering at a local food bank, and small-town living.