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The Suburban Survival Guide

Shipping Containers

Tough times call for tough people. Be one or be a victim. It’s up to you and no one else. I guess the best way to demonstrate this is the old Vince Lombardi saying – “Get used to the pain of discipline or get used to the pain of disappointment.” Discipline now will mitigate a great deal of the disappointment that is on the horizon.

This installment will guide the suburbanite in first, initial steps for what is needed to live in the woods should the need for space and self-sufficiency arise. As titled, this effort is directed at suburbanites – country folk already know all there is to know about woodcraft and living off the land.

Humans have three basic needs – food, warm & dry shelter and the ability to protect and defend oneself and their meager possessions. In all but the most southerly climes a lack in any of the three will eventually prove fatal. If one needs to become self-sufficient it is highly unlikely one has enough land on their suburban lot to feed themselves, so getting out of the ‘burbs is a must. So, what are the needs of one who is setting up a homestead in the wilderness?

First is a place to go. If one has 8 or 10 acres in the woods, they are set. I will offer the best case scenario and the things I intend to do. Here is, in my opinion, the best set up for survival should one find the need. This is a reasonably inexpensive option for a near turn-key solution.

First to consider is where? I will go to the mountains of Western Virginia. Land halfway up a hillside is good. Perhaps there is a flat area for cultivating crops. There will be plenty of timber for heat and building. Maybe I can find 10 acres with a stream or a spring running out of the ground. If either exists one can dig out a pond fed by the spring or creek and stock it with small fish. It’s a good fall back for water and food, although if one tried to survive exclusively on fish they would die of malnutrition, but fish are a great supplement to any diet for the protein alone, as well as having a full belly eases many issues for most folks.

Here is the best, long-term expedient shelter I have ever discovered. Ever seen one of those steel shipping containers? They come in two prominent sizes – 8 x 20 and 8 x 40, each size is 8 feet tall. These things are great. One can buy an 8 x 40 foot container, used but repainted and guaranteed to be safe and dry from rain, snow, wind, etc, for about $2500.00 and up. One can buy a used or new one and have additional doors, windows and even ventilation fans (the ones like passive, wind-driven attic vent fans) added to them. One can have the container provider put in shelving and all other manner of things, but every upgrade will cost ya.

In my mind a newly painted 8 X 40 container, filled with all of ones needed homesteading supplies is a great and efficient way to get started in fine fashion. One can buy the container and have it shipped to their home, then filled with all the survival equipment needed, then call the transport company and they will come pick up the now filled container, kinda like the Pack Rat storage containers we see on TV. The container can be shipped anywhere in North America and placed on your wilderness site.

The beauties of this method of preparedness are as follows – everything is transported to the site in one fell swoop, it is all secured and safe from prying eyes and the elements, and the storage container makes a great, long-term survival dwelling. Remember, these things are made for riding on the deck of ships that ply the world’s oceans carrying trade goods. That being said, I would not take my container full of survival goods and leave it unattended in the wilderness. Someone will eventually come across it and it can be looted. For my purposes, I would have the container placed on site, locked up and left empty, or have it buried to protect it from looters.

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It’s too big and heavy to steal away, and if it’s empty the worst that will happen is someone will find it and break the lock to get in or shoot holes in it for fun. If nothing is in it, they can’t take anything, but this does complicate the transporting of all one’s survival equipment.

Let me address the issue of pre-preparation. Like I said, if your container is full of your stuff and left unattended, it will be looted – believe it. For my purposes, I would have the container placed in position, but left empty. If one’s wilderness location is within a few hours car ride, the individual necessities of survival can be ferried to the site when the time comes to do so. Of course this makes the endeavor more complicated, but also more secure.

Other options are to ship your container full of supplies and buried for safe keeping until needed. If properly buried and concealed, it will be safe and most of all, unseen, and that is the key. Here’s how I would do it:

Have the site prepared by a bulldozer. Say you have an 8 x 40 container filled with all but food. Have the dozer dig a 50 foot trench, 5 feet deep and 10 feet wide. The truck delivering it can set it into place and that’s it. Use the removed soil from the trench to then backfill on the top and side of the container to completely cover it. Just leave a small and unobtrusive ingress to one of the doors – it can be buried too, but under less soil, so a couple hours of digging will expose the doors and then one can access their supplies.

To conceal the whole deal spread the acorns and pine cones found on site all over the top and side of the mound of dirt that conceals the container. In a year or so the site will look like natural terrain, as if it were just a small rise in the land form.

If one finds living in a steel box too much to consider, the container can be filled with building materials, and when the time comes one can build a shack to live in if more to one’s liking, although for me, I could be quite secure under five feet of soil. The soil would offer protection from heat, cold and the elements as well as cover and concealment, and I am all about being hidden as best as possible.

Five feet of soil would keep the container at a constant temperature of about 55 degrees or so. If it’s 30 outside it takes little heat to warm from 55 to 65 to be comfortable. If it’s hot and humid outside, as long as one is in their soil-covered container, they will never drop a bead of sweat, as inside the covered container it’s about 60 degrees or less, so nice and cool.

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As I stated, this is the best case scenario for my purposes. It’s practically turn key. I would estimate the total cost – not counting the cost of supplies in one’s buried container – at under 5K unless one wants all the windows and doors put on the container.

Concerned for one’s privacy and wary of prying eyes? Have the dozer delivered to your site and you dig the hole yourself. One can rent a dozer for about $500.00 per day or less. Have the dozer delivered to the edge of your land and when the truck driver splits, use the dozer to move and uproot trees for a driveway or access into the interior of your property.

Dig your trench, mounding the removed soil on the edges of the trench. When you’re done digging, if one wants to pay another day’s dozer rental charge, one can clear land for cultivation. Do that or not as suits one, when done with the dozer, drive it to the edge of your property and have it picked up and taken back from whence it came. No one will be the wiser unless you blab about what and why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing, right?
Now the container can be delivered and the only person in the world that will have a clue as to what’s up is the truck driver delivering the container.

Of course, as I stated, this is my solution. It’s reasonably cheap and will do the job – give me a place to go and be self-sufficient if I must do so. Of course one can take other options. Build your own cabin out of lumber, or have a log cabin constructed, but they cost lots more money. If one has the cash fine, but if not, I believe my offering is one that almost any average family can afford. If money is not an issue one can have a cabin built, outfitted with solar heat and power panels and “party like it’s1999,” but if not, other measures will need to be taken.

Buying land is a big investment, but as they ain’t making no more of it, it will retain its value, so that’s money in the bank as it were. But remember that the farther out one is willing to go, the cheaper the land will be. A 10 acre parcel of wooded land 25 miles from town will cost aplenty, but that same size plot of land 100 miles from any major town will be tons cheaper. Remember, if self-sufficiency is one’s goal, unless you are an accepted member of an isolated community, you will be suspect, especially in times of economic collapse and all that will entail.

One can move to a small isolated community and likely be safe and self-sufficient too, but that is a bigger expense that will require a much larger investment and a certain change in lifestyle. Unless one is willing to go homestead today, isolated communities do not have the amenities and jobs of a suburban area, but these choices are up to the individual. I prefer to live in the burbs and have a place to go if needed, as opposed to uprooting my whole life in non-economic collapse and spending a couple hundred thousand dollars to change my whole life.

If it all goes south our lives will change by necessity, and for my purposes, I would rather prepare for that possibility and still maintain my suburban lifestyle, as opposed to some who might rather just go whole hog and change their lives now in hopes that if we ever do have a total financial collapse, they will be more comfortable. Both options are viable and reasonable depending on one’s commitment and financial wherewithal.

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No matter what, being prepared is the key. If bad times come on suddenly – weeks or months at most from the first inkling of trouble up until the big bust that will bring on the bad, there will be little time for doing anything about it as well as if the hard times are a financial collapse, that will not be the time to try to access your bank funds to purchase what one will need. If there is a run on the banks, and financial collapse always sees a run on the banks, your money in a bank is worthless. And paper money may be worthless suddenly – real bad time to have 5K in cash. Expensive toilet paper is all it will be.

I am obviously of the Boy Scout mindset – be prepared. Remember, this is intended for the suburbanite. The small town or country dweller is already set up in many ways, but we who live cheek by jowl will need space to live, hunt and grow our own food and I’ll be damned if I can accomplish that living 10 miles from downtown, as I do now in my suburban ways.

Also paramount for me is to make myself small, as it were. I am all about concealment from prying eyes. The more folks who can see what you’re up to the more folks who may present a potential threat in future. In hard times people cannot be counted on to be overly civilized. A hungry man will do almost anything to feed himself and his family. If the economy were to collapse we would be on our own.

But what of the tens and tens of millions who cannot do for themselves? They have three choices really – count on a financially busted government to provide for one – good luck with that. Or they can beg what they need and hope charity is abundant. Lastly they can try and get what they need by force, hook or crook. It’s them folks I am concerned about.

I don’t want trouble with anyone so my answer is to be out of sight, out of mind. I can defend myself and my homestead if I have cover, concealment and isolation.

Next up is defending the homestead. If one honestly believes economic collapse is possible and/or likely, one better get serious about providing for oneself in such an event. Remember, if nothing bad happens my solutions are reasonably cheap, and land will never go down in value, so investing in remote property is still a good thing. It’s protected from financial collapse ’cause if you own it outright no one can take it from you and evict you and one can then live like our colonial ancestors did 200 years or more ago. No, it won’t be the Ritz, but then again a grave ain’t all that appealing to me just yet, so underground in a steel shipping container beats the Hell out of underground in a grave.