Homesteading: The Golden Chalice

This article is a guest post I did for and can be found here.

Our America is changing and it isn't looking pretty. Constitutional rights are disappearing, school education is lagging, and the Almighty dollar is all but a joke. Illegal immigration, lawsuit-happy money grabbers, GMO mega-corporations, half the country on some form of welfare...where does it end? 
For our family, it ends now. Thanks to Obama care, one of the two hospitals in my company's organization closed their doors permanently last month (May 2013). Now, our smaller rural hospital has been gobbled up in a corporate buyout. I was informed that I no longer had a job...over the phone on a Friday afternoon...while visiting Oklahoma for my Grandmother's funeral.

Thus begins our journey to relocate to the country and take care of our family ourselves. No more traffic, smog, insane crime rates, grocery store dependency, the bottom of the barrel public schools...and the list goes on and on. As the Robertsons (from Duck Dynasty)would say: "WE GONE!"

As we debated how we could attain our ultimate goal of becoming self-sufficient on our own homestead, there appeared to be four clearly distinct barriers we had to overcome.
  • First, what would be our final homestead location?
  • Second, how would we sustain ourselves when we arrived at our new home?
  • Third, how would we physically get our family and our assets to the homestead location?
  • Fourth, what type of home would be the best homestead building?
These were the four major decisions that were crucial to our plan but each had several smaller factors that had to be sifted out. Once we determined the major obstacles, we sat down and went through each obstacle and picked it apart. Each major hurdle became its own independent topic of discussion. By making a step by step plan to overcome each major hurdle, we were able to break down what seemed to be a huge difficult task into many small manageable tasks. Being an Indiana Jones fan and sharing the same last name, I declared each of the four major issues my own quest for the Holy Grail or "Chalice."
The First Chalice
The first Chalice is choosing a homestead location. If you have a place already in mind then congratulations! This is one of the toughest decisions to settle on.  For Wifey and me, deciding where we wanted to raise our six daughters and spend the rest of our lives was not so clear cut. I had read James Rawles thoughts on the American Redoubt and also purchased Joel Skousen's Strategic Relocation--North American Guide to Safe Places, 3rd Edition.  Both of these highly recommended resources will arm you with the information necessary to intelligently decide on a homestead location based on crucial data such as population density, potential disaster fallout, military targets, maps of private and public land use, satellite  terrain (including highways, surface streets, and trails for bugout purposes), and why you should vote with your feet. Remember, if you can’t afford Skousen’s book, check it out from your local library.

While we desired a homestead in the American Redoubt, we have no family or close friends there.  Arguably by some folks, I’m sure, we feel the community is crucial to survival.  Can we go it alone…sure. Should we? It wouldn’t be smart. So we chose an uninhabited old family farm in Oklahoma where we had a large number of family members and a few (but very solid) friends. With a storm shelter in place, we will be safe from tornadoes with our only major concern being possible long term drought.  A few well-placed deep wells and massive water storage is in our future plans. With permission to live on the family farm complete, the first Chalice had been secured.

The Second Chalice

The second Chalice in obtaining our homesteading Holy Grail was to secure income producing employment near our homestead location. We have every intention of becoming 100% self-sufficient in time but at the beginning of our journey, we agreed that we should have a means by which to pay our monthly bills without fear of failure. There would be no moving to our homestead until this income was established.  With this in mind, I laid out a plan to find a job within thirty minutes of our location in an attempt to minimize gasoline expenses and travel time. Obviously, the closer the job is to the homestead, the higher the savings in time and money. Your results will depend on your comfort zone. If I owned a moped or motorcycle, perhaps I would be willing to drive a little further for employment.

There are several ways to search for employment and in today’s digital age, I think it is somewhat easier to find potential employers. I started with the usual job search engines: Monster, Jobing, CareerBuilders, and Indeed.  Knowing your desired field is not necessary but very helpful.  I am trained in healthcare and pursued that avenue but you could just as easily search “all jobs” in your desired location. Make sure your resume is up-to-date because applying for jobs in another state means your resume may be the first thing a potential employer sees of you.  Get a friend to help you or research the topic on the internet if necessary. The resume is there to sell your skills. Don’t slack on this step.

Another method of finding jobs in your chosen homestead location is to use Google Maps (or similar mapping system) to pinpoint business in your designated area. If you are a diesel mechanic who has chosen Nampa, Idaho for your homestead location, for example, you can go to Google Maps and search for “diesel mechanic  Nampa, Id” and see the results.  This gives you a handful of diesel mechanic shops in your desired area complete with address and contact information.  Google the names of their companies and search out a little individually specific information on each one before you call. A quick search tells me that Tim’s Auto Repair and Service in Nampa employs “ASE certified techs” and is” B+ rated with the Better Business Bureau”.” Family owned and operated” while being closed on weekends gives you four arrows in your quiver when aiming for a job with them. They should be impressed that you took the time to research the company.

The approach I took to land my job was a little different. Since my job would be in a hospital, I search for the local hospitals near my homestead location. I chose one particular hospital and went to LinkedIn.  I won’t go into the details of LinkedIn here but suffice it to say it is similar to an online resume forum. People sign up and post their resumes on their profile page and make connections to other people in hopes of building a strong job “network”.  The more people you are connected to, the easier it is to find help when you need it (much like the community concept of homesteading.)

Since I knew the name of the hospital I was seeking employment from, I did a search on LinkedIn using that exact hospital’s name. This search gave me a list of all the members of LinkedIn whom had listed my specific hospital as their employer on their public resume.  A quick scroll through the list and I was able to find a nurse who worked at this hospital. LinkedIn gives you the ability, with a general (free) membership, to send “invites” to folks and ask them if they would like to connect with you. I invited this nurse to connect and she accepted. I now had a connection to an employee inside the hospital where I wanted to work.

As we previously talked about searching the Internet for information on a potential job, you can also do the same thing regarding a person. It helps to have topics of common interest to discuss when establishing a new relationship. On a previous interview, I researched my interviewers name and found out he was Native American, a member of a particular tribal organization and enjoyed running. Again, this information puts arrows in your quiver when shooting to make a good impression on your potential employer. I mentioned to my new nurse connection that I had recently been in her small town for a family funeral. Turns out she grew up in that town and knew my extended family. This was the arrow that ultimately helped me land a job at my desired location. Having a well-made resume also helped.

Using both a telephone interview (initially) and a Skype interview, my interviewer was able to visualize me and ask me questions without me ever leaving Arizona. Phone interviews are common but some employers, like mine, was not comfortable hiring a new employee “sight unseen”.  I recommended Skype and his I.T. department set it up. It wasn’t flawless but it kept me from having to fly 1,000 miles for an interview…and it worked.

Wifey and I decided it was best for me to go ahead for one month and check out the new job and location. Once I am able to determine the job is stable, I begin to research local churches, Mason lodges (my daughters are active in Job’s Daughters), potential schools (if we don’t homeschool immediately), and other factors which will affect us directly. I am now the family pointman.

The Third Chalice

The third Chalice involves how to move an entire family 1,000 miles to our new homestead. We are in this phase of the challenge right now. We have begun by having garage sales to eliminate unnecessary items. Items we are unable to sell but are worthy of donation will go to Goodwill thrift store. The rest goes to the local landfill.  The remaining items to be kept will be boxed up and labeled for transport via U-Haul truck.

As one commenter mentioned on my blog, you can reserve a U-Haul truck for a future date and this will lock in the price you pay. The price increases the closer you get to your scheduled date so lock in your price as soon as you find out that you need a truck. U-Haul allows you to reschedule your dates an unlimited amount of times with no fees. You can also negotiate a free month of storage at your destination location if you reserve your truck on the phone with a customer service representative. My cost to move 1,000 miles was roughly $1,100 for their largest truck. Their web site says it will hold belongings for a four bedroom house which is what we have. So, I have set my goal for moving expenses to be $2,000 and hope that will cover gasoline and some miscellaneous expenses.

I began visiting our local Wal-Mart for boxes and found they had a large supply every morning. It became a part of my morning routine to stop by and pick up as many as possible before I left for Oklahoma. Wifey continues that tradition now and is easily obtaining enough sturdy boxes (with handles!) to pack up the house. Each teenager is in charge of packing their own belongings and helping mom pack up the toddlers. Our goal is to be ready to move in roughly one month from the time I left for Oklahoma. With the help of my new coworkers, I will trade some shifts around and arrange for one week off to return to Arizona and begin the arduous chore of packing it all up in the truck and driving it to Oklahoma.

Again, how you move your family is unique to you. I am simply sharing how we are doing it as an example. Some folks suggested using coupons to get the best rental truck deal. I have an enclosed 6x12’ trailer and hauled a good chunk of my stuff and some bulky items out to Oklahoma during my initial visit to save some of the precious (read: more expensive) cargo space on our future U-Haul truck. Bulky items that take up space like our bicycles, table saw, chicken coop, etc. I rationalized that I was already making the trip, why not bring as much with me as possible to lighten the final load.  Don’t forget the power of friends when it comes time to pack it all up. We’ll be requesting the help of our church members when the time comes to leave our old house. It will be a sad but joyous occasion.

The Fourth Chalice

The fourth Chalice encompasses the task of figuring out what type of structure you want to homestead. If your location already has a structure large enough for your family, congratulations! You’re done. Our farm does not have such a building and I suspect some folks undergoing this relocation will be purchasing raw land or land with no structures.  In this case, you have several options.

You can live with family or friends while you establish a structure or rent a nearby home. One commenter on my blog wrote that he and his family actually camped at their homestead for a year. He said the kids loved it. That allowed them to save up the money they needed to build their homestead. You can use a travel trailer or place a mobile home on the property while you build. Take your time and research your options.  If you can build something yourself while you stay in a travel trailer, more power to you!
One of my mentors has been the videoblogger Wranglerstar and you can see how he began his homestead here.  If it is truly your dream, you can make it happen. Feel free to stop by my blog to share your homestead story or ask questions. I’ll have more to share on this last Chalice as our time to choose a building gets closer. Thanks to everyone who has participated in the blog comments and a big thank you to Captain Rawles and Wranglerstar for leading the way for the rest of us. - Orange Jeep Dad

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