Thursday, August 22, 2013

Climbing Upwards

Sometimes life feels like a big hill with an upward climb that never ends.

Sometimes there are snakes on the path and other obstacles, or refreshing streams and gorgeous views, but at the end of the day, the climb must resume.

About 2 weeks back we finished installing the beam at the house. The big 12ft 8x8 oak beam and 2 oak posts. The open space and addition of 40 sq. ft  has done wonders for our lives. We no longer feel we are living in close quarters. It's beautiful and strong. The place has truly transformed.

Getting to this moment though has been an uphill climb. I spent many hours selecting, moving, and preparing the wood and the site for installation, making sure everything was up to all local and regional codes and would make the inspectors happy. I even bought a truck, in part, to get those beams and other lumber to the homestead. I went by myself on crazy wood-snagging adventures to get those beams, depending a little bit on luck and God's Providence to cut and move these multi-hundred pound monsters into my rig.

And it all worked out. It took some time, but it worked out.

There is still more to do, true, but the main event is over. It passed inspection and now shelves and furniture as well as a new dishwasher remain. There are other aesthetic features to handle to be sure, but the rush to get to them, while pressing, is not quite as stressful.

With all that said, I hope the heating season is far more pleasant this time around than it has been the last 4 years, since now the hot air can flow freely throughout the space. I am hoping that our winter feels a bit more luxury and a little less pioneer.

Ok, a lot less pioneer.

Which reminds me, it's time to order some more slab (fire) wood.

Over and Out,


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Retreat Locales, Thoughts on Skoelsen, Rawles

Fox Hollow Circuit Hike Trail Head at Dickey Ridge,
Shenandoah National Park
This afternoon Clare and I had the mutual bright idea of heading up to nearby Skyline Drive for a picnic at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center and Picnic area this afternoon. It was a perfect day, and the short (1.3 mile Fox Hollow hike) is a very enjoyable family friendly jaunt, which tours the remains of the old Fox homestead that existed there years before FDR's administration bought them and the other 2,000 residents out to form the National Park.

The view from the Visitor Center proper (not shown) is fabulous, looking west across the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain to the far ridge that is known (or was known), as I understand it, as the Devil's Backbone in the far distance. To the right is a picture of the East-Northeast View, which, I believe, looks toward High Knob (the mountain on the right. Beyond it is I-66, which is the commuter corridor that takes one to Washington, DC.

As far as I am concerned the Shenandoah Valley has it all, but is under-sung in certain circles when it comes to its appeal as a potential prepper redoubt. Retreat locale gurus Joel Skoelsen and J.W. Rawles have contributed much excellent data and research to the discussion of retreat locales. And while I respect their opinions, I think there is more to be said about the East Coast and retreat locales in general when it comes to a societal collapse, or "the crunch" as Rawles speaks about it in his novels.

Their main criticism, as I understand it, is population density. Rawles only recommends several states in the Upper Mountain Northwest as a viable option for survival, whereas Skoelsen recommends several regions cut off from population centers. In their world view, if you live on the East Coast (or an East Coast State) chances for survival are slim, or go down drastically because of such a high population density.

I agree with that basic premise, except with regard to one thing. Terrain.

Navigating the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains is not easy. Skoelsen believes that residents living in the Shenandoah Valley are too close to high population centers (Baltimore/DC/Northern VA) and will suffer numerous roving bands and so therefore recommends the Piedmont Region (Eastern/Northen Tenessee & Eastern Kentucky) for extra insurance against them.

That is fine and all, but my personal opinion after spending my free time this summer hiking in the mountains is thus: anyone traveling on foot scavenging for food and crossing these mountains is basically pretty screwed. I am in decent shape and love to hike. Still, these hills are not easily crossed. Anyone "heading to the hills" better have their gear in order, a pre-defined route, and plenty of food and lots of practice. That equals about 1-2% of the population.

EMP, Economic Collapse, or Nuclear War, as the East Coast goes, I think we in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond (West Virginia) have a better chance of dodging the bullet than most. I will take those odds and for numerous reasons. See for yourself. This region is not a known nuclear target (or at least if it is, it is not being published.) In an EMP Collapse, unless autos work, as mentioned above, few people are going to be crossing these mountains. In an economic collapse, I surmise everyone will be just as screwed and be lucky to have the needed gas to drive here, and the stragglers that do come out this way would actually be few in number.

I believe there are many fine places to live to avoid the societal shit-storms dead-ahead. I've considered other regions, but for one reason or another (finances being one of them of course) am definitely ok with the Northern Shenandoah Valley region. Here is my list of the pros that make this region and those around it an excellent choice for a retreat locale:

1.) Beautiful and remote without being in BFE. The valley is about 70 miles from Washington, DC. You are close to the amenities and resources of a major metropolitan city yet isolated by rugged terrain from it.

2.) Excellent growing season and soil. Water, springs, rivers, creeks, and brookes are available in abundance. It is an outdoorsman's paradise.

3.) Where I live in particular, disgruntled mountain folk still dwell in high numbers. They are survivors and have an air of ruggedness. They do not like outsiders. This isn't always good, but these people are not fools. They don't trust others easily.

4.) Not downwind of nuclear power. Lake Anna is 63 miles away, but the Shenandoah is nearly always upwind of that locale.

For me at least, these considerations make this area an attractive place for preppers who have or want to live on the East Coast. I'd say most rural places in the Valley are pretty sweet locations for all of the above mentioned reasons. I think there are other places up and down the Eastern Seaboard that meet much of this criteria as well, but you have to look for them.

The final consideration is that in life and in the days ahead, we will need each others' skills and talents to survive. No man is an island for long, or generally wants to be when it comes to providing essentials for oneself and others, regardless of how self-sufficient.

Anyhow, if you have found this article online and have a question about the Shenandoah, be sure to comment in the notes.

In the mean time, stay safe out there.