Many readers of Survival Blog are either in the process of moving to a lightly populated area or actively planning to bugout to such an area when the balloon goes up. Twenty years ago I moved from the edge of a large city to a fairly remote property, and have been quietly setting up the doomstead and perfecting skills ever since. In the process, I became part of the fabric of country life here and have learned some valuable lessons which may benefit the rookie country dweller.
Most full-time country residents are descendents of frontiersmen who ventured into the wilderness with little more than a rifle, axe, team of horses, and a large supply of guts. Country people hold many of the same attributes as their forebears; competence, toughness, perseverance, and a willingness to help their neighbors, be it for common defense or a barn raising. Many of these traits are at odds with modern city life supported by a specialized full-time job. Your transition to country life will be smoother if you consider the following:
Country People are Closet Doomers:
They can do lots of useful things such as shoe a horse, grow corn, weld, back a trailer, milk a goat, make tamales, catch a wild cow, troubleshoot an electrical problem, can a tomato, and shoot lights out. And that's just the women.
People here are armed every day as a matter of course. Most have been shooting all of their lives, so the level of firearms proficiency is way above average. I see lots of casual ARs and scoped bolt actions, so if my neighbors and acquaintances are any barometer, potential rampaging MZBs are in for some exceedingly tough sledding.
On a related note, there are a few bad apples in the country, but most tend to migrate to the anonymity of the cities. The outlaws who remain are generally well known to both law enforcement and the population at large, and are easy enough to avoid once you plug into the local grapevine.
Be Scrupulously Honest:
Country people don't care that much what you think or how you wear your hair as long as they can trust you. Lie or stiff a merchant one time and in 45 minutes everyone in the county will know it, guaranteed.
On the flip side, if you've been given too much change or an error is made in your favor with a bank deposit or charge purchase at a merchant, politely point out the mistake and insist on paying the correct amount. While such a gesture will usually be met with stunned disbelief in a large city, in the country it will be acknowledged with a nod and sincere appreciation. And never doubt for an instant that the country grapevine will work in your favor as the word spreads.
When I first moved here, I was able to open an account with any business in town simply by asking if I could charge a purchase. No references, no questions, no credit check, just an address so they could send a statement at the end of the month. Such an accommodating policy would most certainly not have been the case had I been late in paying those first bills.
Money is Overrated:
Country people never forget a kindness; they also rarely forget a transgression against good manners or honesty. The most valuable commerce in the country is not conducted in dollars but in trading, gifts, being owed a favor, and goodwill.
Become Part of the Community:
Self-sufficiency is a worthy goal, but in truth perhaps the most useful survival skill is contributing to a community which has a stake in your well being. To my mind, being able to call upon neighbors for specialized assistance or trade is just as important as beans, bullets, and Band-Aids.
Schools and churches are the glue which binds a country community. If you have children in local schools or choose to attend church, tapping into country networks will be greatly accelerated.
Also, small communities run largely on volunteers, so consider volunteering at the library, as a fireman, at sports fund raisers, community cleanup, or meals on wheels. JWR Adds: If you homeschool your kids, be sure to join the local homeschooling "co-op" group. You will be sure to meet the preparedness-minded folks in your community.
The Country is a Time Warp:
Time passes slower here, as it's based more on the seasons than on a clock.
Fight the city urge to hurry everywhere. Tasks are completed when time, required supplies, and any needed help are available, and not on an arbitrary schedule. Parts are generally not readily available as they are in a city, you might have to order a particular part and wait days or weeks for it to arrive, and perhaps have to improvise in the meantime.
The two main time-related lessons you’ll learn is that weather can throw a kink into any plan, and maintaining household water supply trumps almost every other concern. You’ll soon adopt a mañana attitude about most other projects, as there is always plenty more to be done while waiting for specific parts or supplies.
Slow down enough to take time to talk about the weather, trade recipes, talk gardening, help a neighbor with a project, and to watch a sunset.
Seek Out Those with Useful Skills Now:
Country life requires a generalist rather than a specialist, so trading your particular skills – whether carpentry, electrical expertise, or knowing what’s wrong with a row of beans - with neighbors in exchange for their skills just makes sense. In fact, there is even a term here, “neighboring”, which refers to a group effort of working each landowner’s livestock in turn without hiring outside help.
I have also become acquainted with various people who have huge gardens or dairy goats or sheep or hogs or teams of horses and mules or a small band saw mill for making lumber. Such people often don’t advertise and they may be hard to find, but the search is potentially of huge benefit to the astute survivalist.
As an example, there is a man here who has an old steam-powered grain mill. Another has a tiny combine for harvesting wheat and oats in the scattered small plots where it is grown in this area. Up until now, I haven’t used their unique services, but still make it a point to give these men a quart of honey from our hives every summer.
You will choose to help many of these people in time of trouble, just as they will choose to help you, but in the meantime always exercise OPSEC about your underlying motivations and preps. Country people have a wide independent streak so your desire to be more self-sufficient will never seem out of place.
Country People are Provincial:
But largely by choice, which doesn't mean they are stupid or uninformed. The vast majority are Internet savvy and many are exceptionally well-traveled and well-read. More than a few have made the decision to leave a lucrative city existence in exchange for country life. The level of overall awareness is high, so you'll hear more commonsense over a cup of coffee than you'll ever hear from Washington.
A few recent quotes I’ve heard regarding our current economic meltdown:
“I was going to sell all of my calves last fall but held back four in case my freezers start to look empty.”
“We’re breaking some new garden ground this spring, going to plant a lot more potatoes than we usually do.”
"I bought two more cases of .223 ammo, just in case the rabbits go on the warpath.” Listen and learn.
Never Underestimate the Amount of Work Involved:
Few farms or ranches here are entirely self-supporting, with one or both spouses usually working a “regular” job. The pay scale is considerably lower than in a city, so often people work two or even three jobs in order to live well. This is in addition to farming and working livestock on their own places. People work hard, and that’s in relatively good times.
If this economy continues to unravel, more subsistence-level farming and ranching may well become the norm, and that’s when the work really begins. Growing and processing most or all of your own food requires a tremendous amount of labor and expertise, with constant effort from everyone involved. Have no illusions about some idyllic country life of sitting on the porch all day, chewing on a grass stem while contemplating the vista. The trick for making subsistence agriculture work is for everyone to always be doing something constructive, whether it’s hoeing weeds in the garden, building a chicken coop, shelling beans, cleaning a firearm, playing with a toddler, or rereading one of your how-to books.
With that said, no family or survival group can possibly be competent at all of the skills required. This is when being on good terms with neighbors becomes essential; give them half of a fresh beef now for the cheese they can provide later on; the pickles you made are a fair trade for his baskets of peaches; your stash of supplies may well allow you to trade for a rooster and five hens (along with some expert advice on getting started); if you can provide the diesel, your neighbor might plow your garden plot after your tractor has thrown a rod. - Bois d'Arc