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Friday, June 25, 2010

Moving to a Small Town as a Retreat (And Why it's Good to Do it Now), by Bryan B. in Alaska

Walther Long-Recoil Toggle-Action semi-auto 12...Image via Wikipedia
Two years ago, I was a busy guy. I worked 50-to-60 hour weeks as an equipment and auto mechanic in south central Alaska. I was a Dad, delivery driver and taxi for the family, and maintenance man for our aging trailer. We lived a couple miles from a town of 15,000 on a .75 acre lot with a mobile home. My decent pay barely paid all the bills and fuel costs of going to work. To top things off, I had just “woke up” to what was going on and had no idea how I was going to prepare for anything. SurvivalBlog became my daily stop in my web browser. I bought and read both "Patriots" and the "Rawles Gets You Ready" course.
I had discovered SurvivalBlog and knew I could put away some food and supplies with the “Two is One, and One is None” idea. I approached my partner carefully to see if she would be onboard with a little prepping. To my surprise, she had been thinking the same things, and was even ahead of me on starting to stock food.
After about six months, we found ourselves with about six months of food put away. I used my Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) check from Alaska state oil royalties to buy a couple rifles, a 12 gauge shotgun, and an XD .45 for hunting and bear/bad people protection. Things were going good, and then I lost my job right at new years. My employer executed an “at will employment” clause and terminated me. They then filled my position again at about 60% of the pay rate. I quickly found myself searching for work and found no-one hiring. I had never, as a mechanic, been unable to find work until now. It seemed everyone was in a pinch. I did find one low paying job and worked it for three months. I quit that job when the paychecks stopped coming reliably.
I was at a loss of what to do. I had a family to feed and a house payment to make. We made the decision to get out of the rat-race. I let my ex-wife take over the house, and walked away from it, bought three acres in a small town about 100 miles south. It was a town of about 400, separated from the road system by a bay five miles wide. Access to the town was by ferry, skiff, and plane. Access to our property was by Moose buggy, ATV, or in winter by snow machine.
A 15'x15' cabin had already been started; so finishing it and adding on a little more for a kitchen was quickly done. A charger/Inverter that had been in storage for a while was hooked up to some old deep-cycle golf-cart batteries. The old woodstove in the cabin was fitted with a stainless grid that now heats water in an old propane water heater.
This is where a small town is so nice to get into as opposed to a remote cabin. On our own, the first winter would have been really tough. We were living off our stores for most of the winter. While our setup, with batteries, used much less generator fuel than most cabins around, we still needed a little income to survive. I salvaged metal, building supplies, an old Toyota truck, and all of our house batteries from the town dump. They encourage people to do so, and even have a small area set aside to drop off “good stuff”.
Another reason the small town was better than going it alone was that I could barter my repair skills for food, fuel, or firewood. I did not cut nearly enough wood for ourselves that first winter. However, we did have a lot of red salmon from set-netting summer before. Mostly I traded fish and handyman services for dry firewood. I made friends with a couple people who cut firewood or have sawmills. Sawmills generate an amazing amount of [scrap that is usable for] firewood.
We moved to town in July and were treated friendly enough, but you could tell that we were new, or not “Local” yet. But after being here all winter, when all the summer residents left town, we were suddenly one of them, and almost everybody really opened up. Where I had barely been getting any work, I had people flagging me down in town wanting me to look at something for them. I also got hired to work on the ferry that serves the town. Things are looking up, and we are now much less dependant on all the things most take for granted.
So you ask what the point of this is? We could not have dropped everything and done this after something big happened. We have been here a year now, and are just getting settled in. I have even had friends here say things like “you know, this town is really defensible, if something happened, no-one is coming to town without us knowing, and without a reason.” And he is not a “prepper”, just a small town Alaskan.