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The thought of bugging out from a homestead almost seems like a contradiction. In the minds of most people the idea of the perfect bugout location is defined by a homestead. Why would anyone want to abandon an ideal bugout location? The answers are somewhat obvious:
Homesteads are usually far from the chaos of civil unrest and the term “social distancing” can be defined by a photo of anyone living on a homestead. But natural disasters respect no boundaries. Wildfires can threaten everyone and flooding will always happen and lately, have been happening more and more.
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The same is true for tornadoes, hurricanes, rockslides, and even some long-term natural calamities like drought and the random sinkhole. If history has taught us anything it’s that everything has a shelf-life –even civilizations.
Unique Challenges for Homesteaders
An evacuation or “bugout” is rarely a calm event. Most people actually holdout as long as possible and some choose to “bug-in.” But when a homesteader abandons the farm it’s a good bet it’s for a very serious and threatening reason. A wildfire is the most obvious.
Their immediate priority would be the same as any other evacuee: the safety and security of their immediate family. But homesteaders often have additional worries. Livestock is the biggest difference. Anyone bugging out will bring along the family dog or cat, but when you have a barn full of livestock and a henhouse filled with chickens everything gets complicated.
It’s easy for some to assume that people don’t get that attached to chickens. But anyone who has assisted in the birth of a calf, owned a horse, or spent any time hand-feeding goats is going to have some strong attachments. How many of us could just walk away and leave a horse in the barn to die in a fire or flood?
A Lifetime of Labor
There are other challenges that are logical as well as emotional. Not a lot of people will dwell on abandoning an apartment in the city but for someone who has built their home by hand, framed and constructed a barn with their neighbors, and can remember planting every tree on their property—it’s different.
Many people who have owned a home may feel the same to some degree, but so much of a homesteader’s lifestyle is defined by their skills and their hands it’s hard not to feel a connection to everything.
That varies. In the event of an oncoming wildfire or fast-approaching flood the obvious choice is to at least let the livestock loose. It only makes sense to give them a fighting chance to outrun a wildfire or hopefully find high ground in a flood. Unless you have the time and equipment to pack them up and pack them out it may be the only humane solution.
In the case of horses a possible solution is to pack up the saddlebags and ride them out. Whether or not that’s a good idea depends a lot on the location and the situation but for some, it may be the only solution.
Then again, there may be some planned solutions you could make and we’ll cover that later. As far as the buildings and other structures are concerned they’re not going anywhere unless you have a tiny home on wheels. But here again, there are steps you could take to at least protect if not preserve some of what you’re leaving behind. We’ll cover that too.
Packing for a Homestead Bugout
A lot has been written about bugout bags, bugout vehicles and all sorts of alternative bugout locations. Many of those ideal bugout locations define a homestead but that’s the whole point of this story. What’s interesting is that most homesteaders can actually pack differently for an evacuation.
Unlike many people who were born and raised in an urban environment and have rarely left the city, homesteaders possess a significant body of knowledge about survival. To a large degree their daily life has been defined by a series of tasks driven by the survival needs of every day.
That’s not to say that urban residents don’t have a certain level of survival skills, but how many people can start a fire without matches, craft a shelter from natural materials, and forage both food and water as an extension of their everyday skills?
The Standard Bug Out Bag
A lot of what defines the contents of a bug out bag is driven by the duration of any disastrous event. The standard recommendation is for something called a “72-hour kit.” It has enough food, water, and other supplies to sustain one person for 3 days.
Here’s what you usually find in a commercially available 72-hour kit.
- Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food)
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Manual can opener (for food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
What many lists for these 72-hour kits miss include:
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- Important documents that are irreplaceable
- Cash – at least $300
- Treasured family photos (even if you’re returning home they may be damaged or gone)
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription OTC medications
- Pet food and things you would need for your pet
- Infant and childcare supplies including baby formula, bottles, fiber diapers (can be washed and reused), child-dose OTC medicines.
- Hygiene supplies like soap, tooth paste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products
- Additional clothing particularly socks, underwear and hooded jackets
- Compact poncho
- Hats and gloves if winter or in a cold climate
- Solar power bank to recharge cell phones
And finally, unique homesteader additions to a 72-Hour Kit
- Home cooking spices, herbs and baking ingredients like yeast, baking powder, baking soda in small jars or bottles.
- Quick Fixes with a small tool case with a multi-tool, hammer, 12 large nails, Multi-screw driver, 24 wood screws, 100 feet paracord, wire cutter/pliers, duct tape.
- Individual nesting cook kits with frying pan, plate, small pot, cup.
- 2 Mylar blankets per person to improvise shelters, solar reflector oven, rain collection, signaling, added warmth.
- Hatchet Multi-tool with hatchet, hammer, spike, shovel
- Sewing Kit with needles, thread, buttons.
- And there’s more listed below
For families you would multiply the contents of the kit, at least to some degree.
You could assemble your own 72-hour bag and for anyone including a homesteader that might be the best approach. The reason is you will probably want to pack some of the items above and more that could allow you to engage the unique homesteading skills you possess.
But There’s a Big Question
These 72-hour kits are designed to be either packed in a vehicle or carried on your back in a backpack. That’s in case you need to bug out on foot. The question becomes how much weight can you carry if you have to bug out on foot, and for how long?
And don’t assume that if you’re in a vehicle that you can approach packing arbitrarily. If your vehicle breaks down or the roads are impassable due to traffic, landslides, flooding, wildfires or any other results of the disaster you’re going to be on foot.
The simplest solution is to step back and prioritize based on your family’s needs and your skills and ability to improvise solutions. You can also divided up equipment amongst your family or group and eliminate anything that’s redundant.
Just as important is your ability to improvise solutions. This is especially true for a homesteader.
- If you’re confident you can construct a shelter from found or natural materials you don’t need to carry all of the things associated with a shelter like tents and tarps. Remember, everything is on your back when you’re bugging out on foot.
- If you are expert at locating, filtering and purifying water you may only need a basic water filter/purifier. Packing water is heavy. One gallon weighs 7 and a half pounds. Keep the canteens and the water filter but use your skills to find and purify water.
- If you have experience with pioneer cooking skills you won’t need to carry a portable kitchen on your back. Many pioneers cooked on spits, stakes in the ground and logs splits.
- Pack a small, survival seed bank. If you find yourself away from home for a long period, or even when you return, you’ll have the ability to start a garden in the event of long-duration after effects.
- If you’re knowledgeable about natural, herbal remedies you can improvise solutions for basic medical needs. Medicines don’t actually weigh all that much but if you run out –you’re ready.
- If you’re accomplished at wild foraging, fishing and hunting you won’t need to pack as much food. Keep some high-calorie, high-energy bars and supplements but find your own food.
The list goes on but a homesteader may have many advantages during a bug out that not only includes what they can do with some basic equipment and supplies, but all of the things they can do without.
Duration is Always the Driving Factor
Any evacuation usually carries with an unknown factor. How long will you be gone? The only upside to most natural disasters is that they tend to be short-term events. Hurricanes can go on for a day but even something as threatening as a wildfire or tornado tends to come and go fairly quickly.
What’s always a concern is the damage any disaster leaves in its wake. A wildfire may come and go fast but what it leaves behind is usually a devastated landscape. The same is true for the flooding caused by major storms and hurricanes, and any areas in the path of a tornado.
Returning Home to Devastation
Even if an event allows you to return to your homestead after 3 days you will eventually confront the damage the disaster left behind. And that can lead to some thoughts about additional things you want to pack out when you evacuate.
Whether you’re surviving on the road or returning home to rebuild here are some things a homesteader (or any skillful person) should consider including beyond a standard 72-hour kit. This assumes you are in a vehicle that will allow you to transport a range of things both during and after the bug out.
A Homesteader’s Checklist for a Bug Out
We’re going to include a lot of stuff but we’ll try to prioritize. In terms of transport and organization the “bug out box” is a good concept. This assumes a successful bugout in a vehicle.
You would have your bug out boxes either preloaded with equipment for a bug out, or at least a checklist on the empty box so you can quickly fill it. These bug out boxes allow you to easily and quickly load up and get out. Here’s what to think about for each one of these bug out boxes.
The basic 72-hour kit we have already covered.
A tent that can comfortably sleep and support you and your family whether on the road, or back home and living outdoors following flood, fire or other types of damage. Don’t forget stakes, cordage, and anything else you need to set up and support the tent.
Sleeping supplies that could consist of blankets and pillows or simply sleeping bags for the family.
Even more additional clothing for the whole family. Times that call for an evacuation are usually a mess. There’s a good chance your clothes will get wet, muddy, ripped and torn. Laundry without a washing machine is always an option but that takes time. Remember extra shoes as well.
Cooking equipment that will allow you to cook outdoors over an open fire. This is basically that portable kitchen we referenced earlier. You could just buy a family-sized, nesting camp cook-kit or assemble your own stuff including:
- Dutch oven
- Large stockpot
- Large and medium pots that can be hung over a fire
- Large frying pan
- Medium and large saucepans
- Plates, cups, and cutlery
- Percolator coffee pot
- Fire grate to support pots and pans over the fire
Wash cloths for napkins and cleanup
Hand tools you would need to rebuild, repair and reconstruct your home and other outbuildings. This is where the homesteader really shines applying their knowledge and skills to starting-over or rebuilding.
- Nail assortment
- Set of screwdrivers
- Assorted wood screws
- Nuts and bolt assortment
- Washer assortment
- Hand saws for both rough timber and lumber
- Wedges for splitting wood and rails
- Sledge hammer
- Froe (for splitting shingles)
- Draw shave
- Hand drills and bits
- Tool belt
- Vise grips
- Assorted pliers
- Assorted chisels both wood chisels and cold chisels
- Assorted rope, cable and chains
500 feet of Paracord
Textiles and Sewing:
- Fabric for basic clothing repairs
- Sewing kit with needles and thread
- Buttons and snaps
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- 72-hours of pet food
- Watering bowls – A spare pot or pan could do but sanitation is a consideration.
- Harnesses, collars, leash, and anything else you need to lead and control your pet.
- Any other critical equipment unique to the needs of your pets.
All of the above is designed around the assumption that you don’t know how long you will be away from home, and you want to be prepared for the worst when you return to your homestead. But in the grand scheme of things it still doesn’t seem like enough to start over. That’s why you to literally think “inside the box.”
The CACHE Solution
A cache is a place (it could be a box) where you hide supplies and equipment in the event of a bug out. Most of the information about caches involve secreting them on the road or at remote, bug out locations. But there’s a different way to think about a cache.
A homesteader who is bugging out because of a threatening natural disaster will most likely return to their homestead at some point. That’s when the damages are assessed and the rebuilding begins. But if you’ve lost everything due to a wildfire or flood because you simply couldn’t pack it out –a cache on your homestead could save the day.
All of the bug out boxes we described could be place in your cache so they’re hopefully safe and available when you return. There’s a good article about how to approach caching that’s worth reading.
You could also cache additional tools, equipment and supplies that you simply can’t take with you. It’s all about finding a safe location for your cache(s).
Obvious things you need to think about is the types of disaster you might encounter.
- If you live in a flood plain or are concerned about flooding, you’ll want to locate your cache on high ground above any floodwaters. This could be a hill, a water tower on your property or a tower you construct, even the second floor of your home may be above floodwaters even if the first floor gets flooded.
- If wildfires are a risk burying your cache will offer good protection. You could also store your cache in a well secured, metal shed or outbuilding. A root cellar is also a possibility although they won’t fare will in a flood.
- A relative or friend’s home is also a possibility. If you have fair warning of a looming threat and they are living in a safe area, you could relocate critical equipment and supplies for the short-term. It’s also possible you’ll be living with them or possibly camping in their back yard.
- Security is an obvious issue and areas afflicted by natural disasters often become scavenging grounds for looters. Make sure you follow the rules of caching and make and keep your cache secure.
The Livestock Dilemma
This is all about time. If a natural disaster like a wildfire or flood is looming you may not have a lot of time to think about how to bug out with your livestock or may not have the ability to take them at all.
On the other hand, if you have some time and have done some preplanning you may be able to find some solutions:
- Relocate them to a neighbors or family member’s home that has at least the amount of land to hold them or even house them. Not simple but a shared agreement to do the same for them may make the proposition and planning easier.
- Sell them. You may not get the best price but you’ll find a lot more people who will come and get them quickly if the price is right.
- Turn them loose. We mentioned this earlier and if time is not on your side you may need to simply let them run free. Some will no doubt stay in the area but as any immediate threats appear they’ll at least have a chance to escape. Make sure they’re tagged so you at least have a chance to recover some of them later.
- Horses are a different story and few horse owners will abandon their horses. If you can’t transport your horse and are unwilling to quickly sell it you could hop on and ride it out. That’s a dangerous proposition if wildfire or any other fast moving disaster is the threat, but it’s an option.
- Butcher the livestock. You’ll need to refrigerate the meat somehow but moving meat is easier than moving livestock. The problem again is time and you’d probably be better off selling them quickly, letting them loose or transporting them. But if you can keep some of the meat cool on the road a few chickens might help.
Many homesteaders with livestock have the means to transport them. This is usually a trailer. If you are concerned about your livestock during a bug out and don’t have one, now may be a good time to think about getting one.
But even if you have a trailer for livestock it’s a question of how many can you transport. Most people who raise livestock only transport a few animals at a time either when they are purchased, slowly taken to market or in some instances –to the vet.
Just because you have a livestock trailer doesn’t mean there will room for all. Then again, if you have neighbors with trailers and your homestead is uniquely threatened you could organize a cattle train to move them out. This assumes there’s a location that can house them but it’s another option.
There Are No Hard and Fast Rules
Every homestead varies and the challenges you’ll face if you have to bug out will no doubt be unique to your situation. If you’re concerned about the growing threats of wildfires, flooding and the other natural shocks that climate change seems to be driving –now may be a good time to think about your options.
Your first priority will always be the health and well-being of your family. But if your homestead is your only home it’s definitely worth the time and effort to make some plans for a homestead bug out.
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