Editor’s Note: We’ve all heard the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.” In this article, Jose looks back at the collapse of Venezuela and creates his dream retreat that would have allowed his family to thrive safely during the difficult times. In his retrospect, we can learn things to apply to our own retreat plans. ~ Daisy
My Dream Retreat
I am going now to use my creative writing skills, and dream a little bit, using the idea of having enough resources to be able to build a retreat with the features needed for a collapse like the one we went through.
Some basic aspects, like the kid’s school, will have to be overlooked. The reason is pretty simple. Average preppers in the US could homeschool their kids. Our laws are different. Not too many authorities left for applying them, to be honest…but as the teachers of primary, secondary and college have left to prevent dying of hunger, it is pretty difficult to get a proper education for the kids.
This said, let us focus on the main aspects of a nice, safe, comfortable retreat.
I grew up in a small town. There were mountains surrounding us and after a short 10 min. ride by car, there were flat, endless pastures with lots of farms and cattle. Rivers, woodland, and fertile plots everywhere. Therefore, I got used to the idea that those small, short mountains were home.
Under the current situation, where a former peaceful, and safe town is now surrounded by poor barrios with hundreds of thugs roaming around on small bikes, killing each other to control the territory, I don’t consider it to be a safe option.
The dream retreat
A well-hidden retreat, without showing up too much, would be a good option. Some small farms nearby that produce milk, cheese, meat, poultry, and eggs. If it was surrounded by a good fence, covered with climbing vines with lots of thorns, over 1.80 meters and a couple of guard dogs, a large orchard could be maintained. With our fair weather, we could have fresh vegetables and fruit the entire year. A second artificial fencing is a need, and some inner ditch as a means to avoid unwanted access to the living quarters. These should be partially attached to a mountain, with some fortified rooms dug into the mountainside, and hidden doors to access to them, as a last resource.
A good inner garden inside the walled area for lots of square meters to cultivate medicinal and cooking herbs and spices, and tall walls made of cement and stone. The house itself would not need to be too big. Small is wise: easier to clean and keep neat. The storage area would be well hidden, underneath the main house, and ideally, it should be larger than the house. My plans are building an underground workshop, with the needed equipment for manufacturing some low tech defense tools (crossbow bolts?), repairing things, some basic maintenance, you get the picture. Being underground and in the top or middle of a mountain, the noise shouldn´t catch the attention of someone roaming around.
Perhaps some readers could believe that going underground is an exaggeration. I must tell you that it is not. A single room cabin on top perhaps will be invaded once or even twice. No big deal if you want to keep your real facilities concealed. But wisely used as a diversion it could save the day.
That is why I like the idea of getting in a mountainside. It does not have to be a dark, cold, damp cave if we use the technology available with some ingenuity. It offers lots of possibilities to conceal entrances and trap doors, with foliage and planting some fast-growing weeds around. Some dead logs protruding from the ground, are perfect to conceal the air intakes or exhausts inside them. The taller, the better. The chimney effect is something that those who live in colder climates know better than I do.
However, expert advisory is suggested if you are building underground. Well-placed, thick steel beams have to be used if we choose this solution. I even believe that choosing the location with some care and building with cement and stone, there could be no need to dig the mountainside. Cement and stone walls could be concealed with climbing plants in a matter of a couple of months. Aluminum doors, hinged on top, to protect large, panoramic, ballistic glass windows covered with these plants and closed at night would provide a nice level of concealment. Opened during the day, and you will have a good amount of light and air. Of course, a green roof is included.
If taking cement blocks uphill is a cost-prohibitive option, then we have the sandbag building technique. With some more spare time, I could have built a dome, covering it with dirt and conceal it planting grass on top. I would have camouflaged the entrance as an underground water tank opening, with a ladder and an underground passage. These tanks are pretty common here, and no one pays attention to a steel trapdoor. Of course there are some details that I will keep for myself, as part of my concealment design.
The access to this compound would be just one road, and a concealed escape way should be defined prior to the building of the compound itself. In the rainy season there is a lot of rain, therefore the drainages should be carefully planned.
Our actual country cabin has some features, but the lack of access to cement at decent prices stopped us from continuing to build. The cabin is far from the main asphalt roads. You have to take two side roads and know exactly where you are going to arrive to the place.
We have grid power, but with the energy crisis, regrettably, this is not a good option, and solar power with a large battery pack will be a need for powering fridges and other high consumption equipment. Air conditioning is not needed up there: a fresh, gentle breeze is a blessing the entire year. Getting fuel is not as easy as it was once, and the price of the generators, spare parts, engine oil, and repair parts is prohibitive.
A proper sized septic tank, a rain collection and filtering system enough for the six months of summer and an inner pond for a fishery would be desirable.
There are for sale some nice optic fiber lamps that can collect and redirect sunlight underground, and I found these truly innovative and practical. I believe these are great acquisitions to avoid using power during the day: the sunlight collector could be placed in the top of a large tree, and run the fiber to the underground storage or living quarters.
How to conceal the solar panels, is a problem I am trying yet to solve. With the bright sun, they shine a lot and can be seen kilometers away. One solution I have been thinking a lot these last few days is finding a diesel truck and building a cab over with some sleeping, perhaps a small kitchenette or even a wood stove, and toilet modular system. We could commute to the nearby town with my folks, work there and go to school, buy some stuff we could need, and come back to the compound before dawn to sleep comfortably behind those tall walls. The microclimate there with all the woods and mountains is much better than in the town. With this solution, anyone incoming with bad intentions would not find anything really valuable to steal. And releasing the dogs just at arriving will be a nice surprise for those waiting with bad intentions.
When we return home
I would like to say that I am going to come back. That is a fact. Things are going to improve because the problem is overflowing to nearby countries and they are starting to feel the weight. I am getting ready, physically and mentally.
This said, the equipment I already have will have to work for a while once I get set up again on our patch of land.
Our house in the city subdivision where we used to live for almost 15 years is not an option. The oil industry that once was the economical muscle of the region is no longer there.
I just received the bad news that in three months from now, the technical halt of the entire industry will be a reality. Russia and China refused to acquire the refining facilities because of the incredibly high amount of investment required.
One of my goals in the midterm is to organize a group of expats and start a hedge fund to take advantage of the sale, once the company is dismembered and sold to the private firms. This is going to happen. No matter what. Remember I worked in the field for 15 years and could see how the lack of maintenance converted some production facilities in junkyards. This should have to be done carefully to avoid the same criminal gang to acquire such facilities via third parties. Many former employees know them and will do everything necessary to avoid it.
Please excuse that small digression/rant. Back to businesses now.
The good news is that small diesel trucks are available and once we find good paid jobs, with some months of wise savings I could trade my dead horse of an SUV that, once the economy bounces up, would make a great investment as a side goodie-transporting businesses.
I love my country, and the idea of coming back to rebuild and make it thrive again under a free market, competitive system is exciting. We have everything we need to do it, but we have to get rid of those criminals first. Otherwise, they will make impossible the recovery.
Maybe some of you are not aware of this, but the general opinion in the country and its neighbors is that we were used by Russia and China, via Cuba, to spread a communist “revolution” sort of movement, financed with our oil, resources and drug trafficking. This will end badly, affecting the entire continent, US included. Obama did nothing positive to stop this, IMHO.
Plan your own retreat now.
Dreaming is cheap, fellows. I hope this encourages our kind readers to start slow but steady and prepare a little bit more each week.
I just chatted with a former co-worker, and he told me that while everyone else in our engineering department was cooking their barbecues every weekend, and drinking cold beer like if there is no tomorrow, I was preparing myself with education, working online, and getting ready whatever I could do with my own hands to minimize the impact of a possible collapse.
Please don’t understand this in the wrong way. I cooked barbecues and drank beer as well, only not every weekend! Once a month, maybe even twice sometimes, but I was able to use my spare time constructively so I could provide for my family in the harder of times.
God Bless you people!