Saturday, September 7, 2013

How to pick a location for your homestead - Part 1

You can listen to our podcast on this topic at:

2013 has been a very challenging and interesting year.  In 2012 we came to the conclusion that the state and region that we lived in was just not going to be sustainable.  We lived in Colorado, and it is a semi arid climate, very little rainfall on average, and with the drought that has been hitting the state since about 1997 it just was not going to be a environment that we felt had a good chance of providing what we needed in a grid down or massive economic issues.  State laws severely restrict rainwater capture.  Well water is restricted, and the drain on the aquifers that is taking place is also unsustainable.  Combine that with wild weather fluctuations that affect plants and growing food and you just don't have a good combination for building a sustainable homestead without significant hurdles.

So we started looking at our options across the country, and even considered going outside of the US.  We decided to stay in the US and fight for what we believe in.  This country is going to need people with guts, determination, free spirit, independent streaks to pull this place up by the boot straps and get it back on it's feet.  So we decided to stay in the US.  But where to go?  There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about a general location to relocate yourself and your family.

This process took a lot of time, so I won't pull any punches.  Take a look at your present location, evaluate the criteria, and decide if the place you live will be able to sustain you and your family even if you don't have basic services such as electricity, septic, water, and trucks delivering food to your stores.  Could you scratch out a living where you are?  If the answer is yes, then fantastic, the next steps are then choosing a specific location where you can begin building the sustainable homestead.   If the answer is no, then I hope to shed some light and information some of the things we considered.  This is going to be rather long so I will break this up into two or more parts depending on how this goes.

My initial gut feeling was that Tennessee and Kentucky were going to be leading possibilities, but as our research carried on it became clear that my gut was probably wrong.

Here is a list of some of the basic considerations we thought about when thinking about a location to move to(these are in no particular order):

  • Population Density
  • Precipitation(annual, and dispersion throughout the year)
  • USDA Plant hardiness zones (how stable are the temps, and how long of a growing season do you have)
  • Proximity to national borders (there could be and already are serious issues living too close to national borders with illegal activities, and will likely get worse as the economy declines)
  • Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters
  • Proximity to nuclear power facilities
  • Proximity to US military installations
  • Railroad transportation corridors
  • Water transportation corridors
  • Immigration and racial issues
  • Proximity to family and friends
  • State freedom rankings(laws, taxes, gun laws, regulation)
  • Elevation
  • Resources like state and national forest systems
  • Access to water resources like major lakes, rivers, and bodies of water
We spent a lot of time pouring over maps, looking up data, comparing, overlaying, and evaluating what it all meant.  What we found is there is no "PERFECT" place.  There are always compromises.  Only you can evaluate if you can live with the compromises and just how much of an impact they will have as our country continues down this path of economic ruin.

So where to begin?  I suggest that you start by looking at population density.  The greater the population density the more demand there is for resources.  When resources get scarce or hard to come by people start to get agitated, and problems ensue.  So our thinking is it is best to try and steer clear of major population centers as much as possible, and looking at the population density of the US reveals a lot.  Now you can do what I did and spend a lot of time looking at specific data, but I found one resource that really puts it all into perspective much more quickly than crawling through the numbers like I did.  That is a night time photo of the US from space.  The landscape is lit up by our lights... the higher the population density the more lights you see... at least that is the case in the US.  If you look at world maps due to various stages of economic development people don't have as many lights per person as in some of the "more developed" countries.  So here is a snapshot of the US at night.

We see the highest population centers in the US east of the Mississippi river.  We see the population centers decline pretty quickly going west of the Mississippi river, but with good reason.... WATER!  The further west you go the precipitation and water resources decline quickly.  You will notice most of the great plains going west are almost dark.  You see pockets of population centers scattered in some places, but not many until you reach the west coast.  The entire west coast into the central valley systems from the coast line are highly populated.  So given we know to try and stay away from major population centers and in order to have life we have to have water.  Next let's look at precipitation.


As you can see in this snapshot of average precipitation since 1981 until 2010 water resources start to dry up very quickly west of the Mississippi.  This really starts to narrow down your options and choices quickly.  The list after taking precipitation into consideration really boils down to Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Eastern Texas, Eastern Oklahoma, Eastern Kansas, possibly eastern Nebraska, western Washington, western Oregon, some parts of Northern California.  Most of those other splotches of precipitation in the center there are mountainous areas and we will explain in a moment when we look at the cold hardiness maps why those were never a consideration.

Also you have to look at how evenly distributed that precipitation is.  For example in CA most of their rainfall comes in winter.  So you would have to capture that water and ration it throughout the rest of the year to make it a sustainable environment.  To do this you need to look up these locations your interested in by doing a search looking for precipitation data by location.  Look to see how much precipitation occurs each month and looking for as evenly distributed pattern as possible.  We want to ensure that enough precipitation takes place each month that we will be able to keep gardens, crops, animals and people alive.  Next lets look at climate stability and how we can increase our odds of growing more food by looking at the USDA Plant Hardiness zone map.

USDA Plant Hardiness Map:
The key to sustainability and improving odds of survival is going to be in our ability go grow food.  We want the longest, and most stable growing climate possible.  So for this information we turn to the USDA Plant Hardiness map to determine the best growing environment possible.  In our case we knew we wanted to be in a hardiness zone of 6 or higher to improve our chances of being able to grow more food and greater varieties than you can typically get in a colder shorter growing environment.  

Now keep in mind that you will see major portions of the west that meet our criteria of zone 6 or higher, but you have to factor in the previous precipitation map which rules out most of these areas. 

Now with these three pieces of information, precipitation, plant hardiness zones, and population data we start to see our list shrink even further.  We can now remove Wisconsin, Iowa, northern Missouri.  Washington and Oregon the precipitation is on the west coast precisely where the population centers are so while it would appear that these two states have a great growing environment for plants most of the precipitation occurs where most people live so this makes these two states a harder fit.  Northern Idaho is still a possibility at this point based on the criteria outlined so far.

Now we have narrowed the list down to the following possible locations based on the criteria we were focused on: Eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Eastern Oklahoma, Central and Southern Missouri, Northern Idaho.  So next we decided to focus on the states freedom ranking to see if any of these places would be a good possible fit.

State Freedom Rankings:
There are a bunch of different sources you can find to try and help you sort out the pros and cons of the states when it comes to regulation, taxes, gun laws, and the overall freedom ranking.  There is a variety of ways to look at this data, but I did find this one web resource somewhat helpful among others.

Of the states still in our list of possibilities we see them ranked as follows:
Idaho - Ranked 4th out of the 50 states
Texas - Ranked 5th out of the 50 states
Missouri - Ranked 6th out of the 50 states
Oklahoma - Ranked 18th out of the 50 states
Arkansas - Ranked 29th out of 50 states
Louisiana - Ranked 34th out of 50 states

Now I have see variations of these rankings so check as many resources as you can and I think you will see a general trend where a few states are consistently ranked high in the freedom rankings.  Of those west of the Mississippi the 3 of them routinely ranked high were Idaho, TX, and MO of those on our list of possible candidate.

So now we are getting down to the finer points of decision.  Factors that will add up to a location being a go or no go.  These other factors that we will take into account in our next blog post and our next blogtalkradio broadcast.  

In summary we have boiled down our list of possible candidate states where we considered making our new home and setting up our homestead.  We weeded them out based on population density, precipitation, plant hardiness zones, and state freedom rankings.  Trying to ensure that each location left on our list could sustainably support life, farmstead/homestead living in a sustainable way.  We wanted locations that supported our Constitutional rights, our right to defend ourselves, and our freedoms to live as we choose.  The states we boiled the list down to were Eastern TX, Northern Idaho, Centeral/Southern MO.

In our next installment of the Be Prepared Channel we will start to dive into some of the other criteria that we considered and show you why we ended up moving to our new location.  Until next time remember, each day we have to prepare is a day of Thanksgiving.  So let's be thankful and remember to do something each and every day that furthers your prepping plan and goals.

Take Care,

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