Most of us are not exactly farmers and will have a hard time growing or raising what we intend to eat if we just one day decide to start living off our harvests. It is a fact. Hunters and fishers obviously will have an edge after the collapse, but sadly, I am almost sure that in a tribal environment, my social position would not be too high.
That said, maybe joining a tribe after some age won’t be as romantic as it seems. Maybe a better idea, in order to live longer, is to stay low profile and semi-hidden, with only a few close friends and family nearby. At some age, you need some peace.
For many old-school survivalists of times already gone, the proper approach was a complete farm. The amount of work involved with this path is plenty.
The more land you have to take care of, the more problems!
I’ve seen this a few times. Hard-working people who made a few bucks with three or four crops in a row expanded their business by buying another farm somewhere else, and…bang!
With twice the land, their problems multiplied exponentially, and the need for further investment followed.
However, maybe for many of us, the ideal location is not a full-size homestead or a large compound.
A micro-retreat may be the solution.
The word “micro” suggests that something minimal should come to mind. My technical background immediately clicks when I think about anything related to a production facility, and I imagine a highly productive but compact environment.
I have always been fascinated by those overlanders’ custom-built rigs over a Mercedes Unimog chassis. They are compact and space-efficient but comfortable enough for prolonged stays. This is a remarkable example of a well-done micro-habitat.
Also, think about the tiny house movement. Some of those properties are designed for boondocking – living away from civilization and services. (Want to know how to keep your family fed when you have to use a micro-retreat? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to building a 3-layer food storage system.)
A micro-retreat doesn’t have to be a micro-producer.
Depending on your family group, or whatever the flavor of “clan” you may have, you could craft a small place quite productive with proper planning, provided you know your climate and your skill level. You could even disguise it as a “vacation” property. The beauty of this is that nobody has to know that your gun safe is in a hidden portion of the basement in your “hunting cabin.” Or, nobody has to know that those PVC DIY empty shelves in your basement will be to grow microgreens to complement your food supply.
Such planning will make your life easier. There will be less investment to make, you will work smarter and not harder (something that will make your senior years more pleasant!), and generally, it will be much easier to keep your place clean and well-maintained.
A “micro-retreat” doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself to the bare minimum land for your needs.
A plague could attack your crops. Someone could arrive unexpectedly, and you will need some extra. The ideal setup would be a place secluded enough, but where unexpected visitors will be able to stay, if needed.
As an example, you could think of a small greenhouse. You must think in terms of vertical expansion (upwards and downwards)if you want to keep the initial cost of a micro-retreat low enough and to maximize the space. I like to think the positive part of a small setup is that it will be much easier to keep hidden. Planting thorny bushes around will make it inextricable in a few years and will hide your orchard, gardens, and buildings. You may combine this with earthbag DIY construction that you can cover with dirt and some weed or grass grows over an ingenious layout, and it will be almost undetectable.
You may want it as a semi-permanent, permanent, or temporary residence.
The size will depend on what you want, what you need, and what you can afford. That’s the compromise.
Planning includes thinking thoroughly and drawing a sketch with the layout you believe you’re going to need. By dividing your needs into sections, or compartments, you will make sure it will be easier to make a much more complete analysis of what you need.
You need to know what is next to you!
Neighbors? A cliff?
A mountainside that could generate a mudslide? A lake? A river that could flood your place under several days of heavy rains? Hunting/fishing areas? And, by extension, you need to know what you don’t want nearby!
Try to keep things at a proper size using scaling.
What I like about the concept of a micro-retreat is that you don’t need too much space if you are on your own or have a small family. However, having space outdoors will be a big deal, even if your bedroom is a bunk bed on top of a study or desktop. And, if you build an area to hang out, even better.
You may want to use some advice from those who are professionals at living in small spaces.
Use vertical space.
You may even think on three levels, provided you’re in a place with plenty of sunlight:
- Level 1: A terrace with a pergola on top. Place solar panels here for Level 3. Have planters all around with spices or flowers. This level could double as a place to drink coffee, have dinner, or hang out. Or work as a watchtower. Make it easy to access with round stairs. Build it pretty, and make sure the water collected by this roof is collected.
- Level 2: Maybe some tanks for tilapia or more plants that don’t need too much sun? Perhaps you may want to start the microgreens growing at this level?. A secondary walk-in pantry? Materials storage, like plumbing, wiring, and car spare parts? Your woodworking shop? Butcher room? Smoker/dry food storage?
- Level 3: This is a basement.
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Here are a few final thoughts of mine on micro-retreats…
LED grow lights, a small pump for the water/nutrition solution mixture, and shelves with the greens will improve your capabilities to produce highly nutritive vegetables in a reduced space. You don’t need to dig too much. Just do good research on this topic.
Even better, if you can afford more than one, isn’t it always a good idea to have some redundancy in your survival assets? Why not build yet another micro-retreat in a place further away, just in case, then?
You don’t have to “think big.” Especially if the economy forced you to do with what you have.
Wise use of small spaces can be a challenge but very rewarding in the end as well. Let us know what you think in the comment section below and keep tuned for more!
Have you considered a micro-retreat?
What do you think about going small-scale for survival? Have you thought about downsizing instead of creating bigger and more elaborate plans? What do you see as the pros and cons?
Let’s discuss the concept of micro-retreats.
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.
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Chances are a micro retreat will not sustain you, except for a short time.
You would probably be better off looking to go Nomadic, instead. A tent, yurt tepee, etc. and move about following the game and the natural food sources.
Also moving with the changing weather conditions.
In more temperate climates this may not a necessity, but in other climates it is.
Micro homes are Ok for current society and current conditions. But once SHTF occurs, everything changes. You need more room to store food supplies as there are no stores to do weekly shopping in. Most tiny homes have the sleeping quarters upstairs, without fans or AC, it may be terribly hot up there, making sleeping impossible. The same goes for cooking or heating. Will you be able to fit a good sized wood/ heating/cooking stove in there without creating a fire hazard?
I am not sure this is such a great idea. It depends a lot on your location and lifestyle.
The problem with going Nomadic, is if you do not have the knowledge and real world experience with a Nomadic lifestyle prior to SHTF, you are likely to fail and die.
Do you know how to not only ride horses, but the logistics tend to their needs over a long period of time?
Do you know how to set up a tent, yurt, tepee for a whole family? Even make one? Here and now?
Do you know how to shoot large game? Process the kill, and the ability to not waste all the meat, and the ability to store it for those times when game seems non-existent? According to some, when SHTF, wild game will disappear as all those Wally-World shoppers suddenly become expert hunters and shoot all the game.
In those cases where game is in short supply, do you know how to bring a herd of goats, sheep, cattle, chickens with you?
Note, you may want to read up on Chinggis Khan, and how the Nomadic Mongolians lived on the high steppes of Mongolia. I have a few books on the subject.
Smaller dwellings are more efficient from a cooling and heating stand point.
Using some common sense, heating is not a problem using a wood stove in a small space. I do it all the time for the past 10 years.
Tools, Tools and more Tools, that’s a problem for me with a micro retreat. How do you keep and store all the tools you will need for a self sufficient life? As an armed Gun Nut with an arsenal big enough to equip a squad, just the guns, ammo and reloading equipment and supplies I have on hand,, take up the space of a moderate sized bedroom.
While a micro retreat may be great for an individual or two, it becomes a problem for families and groups of like minded preppers, as the logistics greatly change.
I also see where success of a micro retreat will vary greatly by region. Some regions just have too short of a growing season to be successful, even with a greenhouse, because a passive greenhouse system will not work well in some regions. Without a heat supply to the greenhouse, the chance of crop failure is very high. Relying only on the sun becomes problematic, as in some regions, you may not have any sunlight for extended periods of time (where I’m currently residing, we haven’t seen any sun due to overcast for a week now).
Micro retreats may work well in some regions and for some people. It’s certainly something one needs to consider, and the author’s well thought out article, is definitely out of the box thinking, and that’s something all of us should be doing more of. Thank you Jose.
Yeah, tools take up a degree of space but they are invaluable! To include reloading.
As I noted in my other posts, depending on ones family size, small could be better.
However, as I look around, my Amish neighbors tend to have large homes. But they also have very large families. Many hands make for light work. And in a post SHTF, pre-industrial like society, man power or beasts of burden power, will make a awesome come back.
Ever stack a few cords of wood manually? Yep. Been there done that, bought the tee-shirt, worn and faded.
I think a micro retreat can be a great idea. A small piece of arable land combined with perhaps a container home or a travel van, could be a life saver if you need to leave your permanent home. Make sure there is access to water, whether a well or rain water catchment or spring, and also have means to purify water.
It doesn’t have to be a large property. It is possible to raise a lot of food on a small plot. Potatoes don’t require much space, are easy to store and provide lots of calories and nutrition. Carrots, too. Sweet potatoes work well in warmer climates.
A small greenhouse can provide the ability to have fresh veggies at least three seasons of the year. You can use part of the greenhouse for a small chicken coop for a few laying hens, or even put in a small fish raising set up. Check out the Kratky method of inexpensive hydroponics. Sprouts are very easy to raise, and nutritious. Plant berries around the property, and maybe a couple of small fruit trees, too.
Cooking can be done with a rocket stove combined with a “hay box,” information about this can be found on YouTube. The bonus about these two cooking methods is that they require very little fuel.
Many people have survived on a small piece of land all through history, and even today in many parts of the world. We can, too!
Note the important phrase: “homesteading in the mountains surrounded by family, friends, and acquaintances…” Keep in mind that in rural areas people know each other. It would be extremely unlikely that a person could set up any sort of SHTF ‘retreat’ and that it would remain unknown by the permanent residents of the area. You cannot hide in the countryside. Anyone new sticks out and is noticeable. If you want to set up a micro-retreat, do it on a family or friend’s property where someone lives there year round. People survive in groups, not really as individuals. If you really want to survive SHTF, make friends and put your long-term survival stuff where friends and family already live. Or move yourself to your SHTF location, and become a part of the local community. Few people can survive on their own for more than a few days. You will need the community expertise, and help, to fill in the knowledge gaps.
I pondered this one for a bit.
Looking back in history, on one hand, a smaller space is easier to heat, maintain.
On the other, space was needed for things like stocking food for the winter, i.e. root cellar.
Take a good hard look at dwellings in the past: Kitchen, dinning room, living room were all one room.
Bedrooms were not much bigger than a bed, a nightstand and a dresser if that.
Closets did not exist.
Space for a pantry did.
At a time, there were large farm houses.
But they also had larger families.
I think it was Marketwatch that did a study and found the most time people spent in a home was the kitchen, followed by the bathroom, excluding time spent sleeping.
Again, excluding sleeping, I spend the most time in my home in my office, then the kitchen, then the bathroom.
We have a library, and a living room. They do not get used often.
However, the library is there to house all our books. And we still need more room.
The living room, it has books in it too. But that is were we also have the over 10 years old TV, CD/DVD player for the few times we watch something (most recent was It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!).
We aren’t super micro but we are small – one bedroom, one bath with open living/dining/kitchen. I designed it myself. This is our downsized homestead retreat that we live in permanently. Carport, chicken coop, shed and fenced garden. We’ve made friends, go to a local country church and plan on riding it all out here. Our kids, with their families may or may not make it here if it all goes to hell.