Time To Make A Move

suziegruber
By suziegruber on Mon, Nov 27, 2017 - 11:30pm

This next contribution in our new Resilience Spotlight series, featuring stories from Peak Prosperity readers, comes from reader suziegruber. She recounts here the process she followed in making the decision to relocate to a location better suited to her resilience goals -- one of the topics PP readers express the most interest in receiving guidance on.

For the last 10 years I have lived in a very resilient although temporary living situation on a beautiful country property just outside Sebastopol, CA.  During my time there, I created water, heating, electrical, and food resilience, all without knowing how long I could stay.  I had also become part of a wonderful community of Peak Prosperity folks, meeting every Saturday morning for coffee, talking about everything from raising pigs to economic theory.  In many ways my situation was ideal, except for that small detail of being temporary, while the housing market around me went ballistic.  I had constructed “resilience” on a shaky foundation.

For many reasons personal, local and global, I became increasingly motivated to make a move.  I woke up one morning in June and realized that although I preferred to stay in Sonoma County to preserve the community I had built, I knew I could embrace moving to a new area where I could start over with a solid foundation under me because during those 10 years in Sebastopol I had learned a lot about my values and how to create family of choice, aka social capital.  Given the world scene, I decided I needed to move quickly to begin this reconstruction process.  I didn’t want to be a day late in making the move.  I had a nest egg sufficient enough to escape the uncertainty of renting in most other housing markets.  I’m also blessed by the flexibility to move quickly because I am single and I can work anywhere with a good internet connection.

In July 2017 I started by asking two dear friends of mine for strategic help.  One of them, an expert in finance and big picture thinking, helped me assess my finances so I could decide what I could conservatively spend on a home.  He also helped me sanity check how I was thinking about this huge decision.  The other friend, a real estate expert, helped me understand how to assess regions, specific neighborhoods and specific homes.  As a firm believer that dislocation looms sooner rather than later, I also read two books to help me assess specific areas: Rawles on Retreats and Relocation by James Wesle Rawles (out-of-print; I borrowed Adam's copy) and Strategic Relocation by Joel Skousen.  These books offer a hard-core survivalist perspective.  While I decided that as a single woman, I wanted to live in a town rather than a defensible country property (too much isolation, work, maintenance cost), I value their diverse, detailed regional assessments including categories like sufficient growing season, nuclear threats, population density, distance to major metropolitan areas etc.  To this I added requirements of alternative healthcare acceptance (my line of work), a grocery co-op as an indicator of community cooperation (thank you Becca!), a good regional airport (elderly mom lives in Los Angeles), state fiscal health and a nearby REI (presence of outdoor loversàsocial capital).

I quickly eliminated being east of the Mississippi River due to urbanized population density and distance from my mom.  Using both the books I mentioned above, I began assessing specific areas by creating an Excel spreadsheet with additional categories like median home price, property tax rate, right to die allowed, snowfall (less is better for me), population etc.  I eliminated staying in California due to its poor fiscal healthcrumbling infrastructure, personally invasive policies and tendency towards taxation.  I quickly zeroed in on Southern Oregon and jumped in the car.

I learned two important things about myself on that first trip north.  First, as a 52-year-old single woman rebuilding my tribe, I realized that I want to live in the middle of my community rather than in the outskirts or in a nearby town.  As things come apart, I am trusting I will be able to barter skills for what I need.  Second, although I have the skills to manage a country property, I want to focus my life energy on my life’s work and my community and not on building a homestead by myself.  I also knew I would feel physically safer.  I chose to sacrifice significant physical resilience (water, power, natural gas provided by utility companies) for emotional resilience (physical security, community).

I synthesized all of this information together and chose Ashland, Oregon.  Why Ashland?  Ashland Co-op, REI Medford, good regional airport, strong & aware community, active local agriculture, housing in town I can afford, good distance from major metro – Check!  Downsides: fire danger, questionable water resilience, local economy dependent on tourism, Oregon’s fiscal troubles.  Yes, those are big downsides.

I bought a cottage with a small garden and moved to Ashland on October 18th in the middle of the Sonoma County fires.  Phew!  It turned out I was only a handful of days early in my decision to move. The housing market in Sonoma County has inflated even more over the last month. 

I feel my new, solid foundation under me (increased emotional resilience) as I embark on this journey.  Since moving a month ago, I have helped plant a local pollinator garden with Bee City USA Ashland and attended a Jackson County Master Gardner daylong where I made new friends and learned about the local growing season.  I spent a Saturday rebuilding a fire-damaged wilderness trail with the Siskiyou Mountain Club.  In December I will attending a Tribe Training in Ashland with Bill Kauth & Zoe Alowan who Chris interviewed last year. 

Although I have more than 10 years of experience with physical preparedness, I’m prioritizing community in this phase of my life.  I am considering starting an Ashland Peak Prosperity Saturday morning coffee connection.  Anyone interested?

To share your own story, email us at [email protected]

24 Comments

ckessel's picture
ckessel
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 12 2008
Posts: 462
New location

That is a nice area Suzie. We have friends that lived in Talent for decades, moved to Sonora for family reasons and are just now returning to Merlin near Grants Pass.

The watershed in general for that area is the Rogue River which has Crater Lake as its source and is a very pristine area. There are of course a lot of straws dipping into it these days.

Good luck in your new digs.

Coop

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Awesome story, Suzie

Great to hear your thought process, what you valued and how you decided to work with that.  I looked at Ashland closely a number of years ago, too.

My wife and I came to several similar realizations about our age 63 lives.  We are not physically fit enough or energetic enough to be the lone homesteader way out in the woods, planting fields and building log cabins with an ax.  Nor do we have animal husbandry, construction or farming skills.  And we wanted to be around people.

So we are in a suburb around a small university town.  My thinking is that our goal is a neighborhood team, not a solo survival homestead. Strong teenagers to chop wood, a motor repair guy to keep the chainsaw running, and local subsistence farms within 10 miles.   We have the potential to bicycle should the number of cars on the roads decrease as is expected during a severe economic downturn.

Looking at the rainfall map, Ashland has a dry summer.  I am trying to imagine how I might work with that.  Thinking out loud here....

I understand that only the rainfall landing on the roof of ones home can be legally harvested in Oregon. However, water falling in your yard is public property and cannot legally be captured.

A pit-and-mound garden terrain may be more subtle than the use of swales, ponds and dams, hopefully, skating beneath the radar of the water police.

I read about a backyard gardening technique used in an arid African nation where crops were grown in a cement lined trough.  Water was delivered in small amounts to the deeper portions of the soil by a wicking system. (other wicking systems here  and here). ( Wendy explains the principles here. )  In my area, IBC totes are readily available on Craig's list and are comparatively cheap.  Cut in half, they form good garden containers. 

Wind barriers reduced evaporation from the surface of the soil and plants themselves.

It looks like the Ashland temperatures are moderate enough for winter gardening in green houses.

An industrious home gardener shows how he makes IBC totes into Wicking Beds.

dcm's picture
dcm
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Ashland

...is a beautiful place. The english major in me likes it a lot. The Shakespeare Theater is world famous and an excellent example of a small community coming together. Its a charming downtown with lots of good eating. A lot of folks participate in the theater. If I'm not mistaken, Outside magazine rated it a top place for all the things outside is into. The real estate is not cheap for the greater area but compared to Seattle and a lot of California.....

sand_puppy is right about the interesting water rules. Although I'll take a guess that more and more govts will go down that "stream of thought" as ground water dries up in a lot of places and global warming gives it that extra punch. 

Growing up in LA and now living in Seattle, one of the best things about it for me is its slight elevation gives you a better shot of being out of the fog pool in the greater river valley. The fog is pretty special in the winter months. Otherwise it gets half the rain of Seattle. (which I like) and actually has a predictable and warm summer, which I also like. 

A lot of retired money has moved into the area and I hear some locals resent it but I heard that in Seattle in the 90s as well which is kinda quaint now that Microsoft and Amazon has invited the world....

It's moderate and decent season cycle is perfect for maximizing growing diversity. Although California is our temporary food basket, that will all collapse with the ground water and oil. Once again, food will have to be grown everywhere.

Good choice.     

     

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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Rainwater harvesting

You have only 15 days left, and if they sell out, you don't have that.  Everything's 20% off, because they're closing down the store at

www.bountifulgardens.org

This is the site founded by John Jeavons -- and they're closing down now.  I've done business with them for some time.

I suggest  -- for rainwater harvesting -- these books.

Rainwater harvesting: https://www.bountifulgardens.org/departments/141

Desert or Paradise:  https://www.bountifulgardens.org/departments/158

And as always, the Jeavons books "How to grow more vegetables", https://www.bountifulgardens.org/departments/125

Matt Holbert's picture
Matt Holbert
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A version of pit-and-mound gardening

My wife and I use a version of pit-and-mound in Spokane. We started with a 5000 s.f. or so backyard after buying a small home on a large lot (.27 acre) last summer (2016). The soil was roughly 8 inches deep and covered with crabgrass and an assortment of weeds including bugloss. We rototilled the entire yard twice and hand dug it once. We then mulched half of it with leaves from neighbor's lawns and the other half was planted with a green manure mix. I rototilled both into the soil this spring. (Note that buckwheat does not do well in even a mild frost.) A local arborist dropped off a load of wood chips this spring -- free of charge. We then shaped the beds by taking soil out of the designed paths and building up the beds. I then filled the paths with the wood chips.

I did a section of the front yard in a similar way. Planted two fruit trees, several blueberry bushes and several hazelnut bushes. I'm trying to ease the neighborhood into the concept of permaculture. More yard will come out over the next year or two.

Because we are in the city we are able to live well without a vehicle. Zipcar, bicycle, walk and bus.

Two rooftop views of the backyard during the summer can be found at the following link. (I didn't have the technical skills to embed the photos.)

http://integraljournal.typepad.com/integraljournal/2017/11/garden-summer-2017.html

 
skipr's picture
skipr
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southern OR

Your story is a very timely one for me since I'm also in the final stages of deciding where to move to.  A few years ago I was driving around the Shady Cove area, which is a few miles north of Ashland.  I saw "Fire Evacuation is a Personal Responsibility" (or something to that effect) signs everywhere.

I'm a single retiree, so the move will be a much bigger change than my move to Boston in the relatively "normal" 80s since I was much younger and was moving there for a job.  In the present political/environmental/economic situation we are all in, there will be no changing our minds once we move.

 

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Matt Holbert's Backyard Garden Pictures

Here are Matt's Garden pictures:

MT's picture
MT
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Well Done Suzie!

Well done Suzie!
It would be great to hear back from you periodically to hear how this transition is progressing for you and what you learned (and can share) about building a community.

phoenixl's picture
phoenixl
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more on diminishing water supplies

Commenters here have all mentioned the importance of living where there is water and knowing how to augment your water supply. I am the water resources management expert on my campus and spent 20 years in Colorado learning the interaction of climate and hydrological systems and related State water laws, first of the western drier nine states and then for the country. Some general trends are:

Cities and state managers in the nine western states are worried because the trend over the decades has been decreased snowpack in the Cascades, Sierras, and Rockies, and those mountains supply most of river water - particularly later in the season when cities and crops need it the most. Even these nine states have varying state water laws that either try to protect (or allow waste) of water resources. All the states to the east of these states have such antiquated laws that there is effectively nothing in place to regulate the use of water or conserve it. Groundwater in almost every state can be easily over-pumped (pumped out faster than natural rain/snow can refill it) and with more evaporation from climate warming, you lose even more soil moisture that can't get down into the groundwater.

So, no matter where someone lives (or moves to) in the US, with few exceptions, their per capita water supply will shrink in the future (from more heat, less precipitation, and more people) and they will have to adapt to that. This is just talking about the amount of water available and doesn't include any additional problems of water pollution. Whether you are living in a city or countryside, learning various low-tech ways of making every drop count will give you great peace-of-mind. I haven't checked in the last few years, but some states (CA, OR, WA, CO) and perhaps some others have websites to explain more about the water issues of that state, and perhaps the water laws for that state. Hybrid states like CA, OR, and WA have more complicated laws because there is one kind of law for the wet (coastal) part of the state and then another for the dry side. You could probably look on the web for some better descriptions for prior appropriation laws (used in the dry areas of the country) and riparian (used in the wetter) but these laws focus mostly on surface water, and some ignore groundwater regulations entirely.

My advice if you were planning to move somewhere new would be to not only look up the state websites and related water laws for that state, then call or look up the city drinking water supply utility and try to get info from them as to quantities and sources (not so easy). Even better is to call geologists/hydrologists working in that state for the state environmental resources department (called different things in different states) and ask a water person there which areas are getting tight on water supplies or are likely to in the future. Of course, being a state employee they might have to watch what they say too. You will get the most honest answer about water supplies (quantity and perhaps quality) from a hydrogeologist/hydrologist at a university in that state.

My favorite book I used back when I taught water law was by a Water Law professor and he covers the basics from regions around the country. Now the new edition is pretty up to date, and if you can't afford it ($45) maybe you get if from a local university library or ask your local library to buy it?  

Water Law in a Nutshell (Nutshells)  

Jun 12, 2015 by David Getches & Sandi Zellmer

 

TwinTown's picture
TwinTown
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Congrats and thank you Suzie

Hi Suzie, we met at Rowe last spring in the bunkhouse! My sister is retiring in a few months and is leaving Seattle due to cost, safety, and lifestyle.  Ashland is on her list of locations to check out. Thank you for sharing and all my best.

suziegruber's picture
suziegruber
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Posts: 192
thank you for all the info and encouragement

Hi everyone,
Thank you for your thoughts, words of encouragement and information.  I especially appreciate the information about water because it is one of my biggest concerns with this area.  I am spurred to get more serious about conservation and reuse and see what I can do where I live.  For starters next week I will pick up a free moisture meter the city is handing out to all of the residents.

I will definitely keep you all posted of how it's going.  So far, so good.

Hugs,

Suzie

ronpoitras2's picture
ronpoitras2
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homesteading

I've been at this for a while, not in Oregon but in Maine.  Conditions are different here but the principles are the same.  My advice is to keep a wholistic perspective.  Every action must serve multiple purposes. In my experience water conservation is best served by having healthy soil. Soil with plenty of microbial activity and organic matter holds excess water for dry, hot periods. A healthy soil is also more likely to produce nutrient dense crops. Keeping the soil covered with mulch, or a companion cover crop, preserves the moisture, and helps keep weeds down.  This also feeds microbes.  Keeping cover crops growing during the non crop growing periods helps build soil quality, feeds soil life and if tended properly, also makes it possible to plant next season directly in growing beds without tilling.  Tilling destroys soil fungi which inhibits nutrient exchange among plants.  So much more to this... and there's always more to learn, and it's all so much fun!

Best wishes,

Ron

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Adam Taggart
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I choose Brookings, Oregon

[Posted on behalf of reader David C, who submitted this via email]:

I choose Brookings, Oregon, nearly ten years ago for some of the same reasons. Negatives are no REI or good airport, nor bigger stores - but Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland are reachable. Crescent City airport is in flux.
 
Good local shops, Farmers' Market twice a week, bus, hospital (urgent care now), banks, port. Beaches up and down the coast. Coast Trails. Wilderness. Fishing, Good water (Chetco River), coffee shops, bookstore. Tourism, fishing and lumber are big employers. I can walk everywhere. Schools, swings and pool are along the road, but I have no children.  Kitchen gardens are possible, if the local deer don't eat everything.
 
No snow, reasonable all round temperatures. Occasional fires (Chetco Bar, 190K acres)  to light the night sky.
 
House prices as rational as possible, open sites still available. RV and trailer parks.
skipr's picture
skipr
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coastal fires??

David C's comments reminds me of my early 80s bike ride from Seattle to San Francisco since I passed through Brookings.  It was very pleasant there, but horrible when the bike trail went more than 5 miles inland since Portland hit a record high of 107F when I crossed the Columbia.  I'm therefore wondering if forest fires will never make it to the coast due to their moderate temps and higher humidity.  I don't remember of any of this summer's forest fires getting close.  If they can't, it will pretty much finalize my relocation destination to the northwest coast.

 

Mark_BC's picture
Mark_BC
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I drove through southern

I drove through southern Oregon last August and man was it ever dry, and smoky. I guess that's just summer there. Beautiful area. I personally love coastal northern California and the redwoods.

Being in Canada I have a bit of an advantage because there is a lot of space up north to retreat to if need be. We have a nice 2 acres on Vancouver Island on a salmon bearing river, in a small community. I think that will be as safe as anywhere, except maybe some land-locked communities up the Inside Passage. Inside Passage Alaska doesn't get too cold, maybe consider Juneau.

If I had my choice it would be Australia or New Zealand but there is too much here for me to move away from. The elites apparently are setting up in New Zealand, if that tells you anything. Australia may have some problems due to the gutting of their economy over the last few decades and reliance on the same bubbles that we have over here, but with much less population pressures. I work for an Australian company and could go over if really wanted to, but I can't leave my family here.

phoenixl's picture
phoenixl
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homesteading at 60? ideas?

There were comments above about difficulties of homesteading when you are older. I have plenty of skills/knowledge but am 60 and no longer have the strength of a 20 year old. Anyone have ideas of how to leverage the knowledge and still be able to live outside of town with a bit of acreage but not be dependent on fossil fuels? So far, all I could come up with was either just build greenhouses and produce in those, or put up another small living quarters on the property and hire a young worker or two who get the free rent as part of their pay. Any other ideas out there?

Jeffleonard90@gmail.com's picture
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Thanks for sharing

Great timing, considering a move myself. Social capital is definitely becoming a major priority when making this decision.  would be nice to stay in California but the costs are getting out of hand(have been).  One thing I am keeping my eye on is the water from air technology.  If you can provide your own water cheaper, less desirable property will provide resilience.  

newsbuoy's picture
newsbuoy
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Re: Coastal Fires? better than Hurricanes

You will find that fires can occur WHEREVER there is fuel. Proximity to water,  wind direction, timing and luck. I've been "burned out" of two vacations two years in a row. The Glacier fires that closed the Highway to the Sun, and then the coastal fires near Medocino(?). Finally, this summer, decided on Colorado Rockies, near Buena Vista, and guess what? Last hour and a half of the flight into Denver we were breathing in the smoky haze from around 11k on down and couldn't see the mountains from Denver's downtown. Passed a fire on the way up.

Just no way to know.

suziegruber's picture
suziegruber
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Chetco Bar Fire

Hi Skipr,
This summer's Chetco Bar fire which grew to over 190,000 acres caused evacuations in Brookings, OR, one of the Oregon coastal towns.  Travel on Highway 101 was significantly impacted.  I think anywhere a town is on the edge of a forest, there is increased risk of fire.

--Suzie

suziegruber's picture
suziegruber
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Posts: 192
New Tribe Coaching Salon - Saturday, December 9th

If anyone out there is in Southern Oregon and wants to come together to build tribe, Bill Kauth and Zoe Alowan are holding a tribe building salon this coming Saturday from 9am until 5pm.  From Bill & Zoe:

  This workshop is for people longing for their own long-term, bonded community of people, we call tribe. This “new” tribe is designed to deepen love and connection in your life. It also creates a safety net to navigate rapidly changing times. This non-residential model (everyone has their own home) we have developed will bring you joy and save you years of struggle attempting to learn what we have to share. The Process: You will learn by doing – actually experiencing the ways of the tribe as you come to know the values, skills and needed structure.

If you are interested in joining us, please send me a message and I will put you in touch with Bill.

Hugs,

Suzie

phoenixl's picture
phoenixl
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Just how dry western forests are

Yes, Suzie's comment about forests is correct. Hard to believe when you can see green needles/leaves on trees, but the wood of the tree is ​drier than kiln-dried lumber you buy from lumberyards.​  So the long drought of the west has not only left you with standing trees that are perfect, dry fuel, but the forest management practices of the last century (stop all fires as soon as possible) has led to a build-up of fuels on forest floors, so one spark or lightning bolt makes the perfect massive crownfire that is essentially uncontrollable.

ronpoitras2's picture
ronpoitras2
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homesteading at 74

Setting up a homestead is a two phase process.  Development and maintenance. When we were first establishing our small farm my wife was working at a teaching job, so we had funds to develop our operation.  Now were both what some would call 'retired'  our work on the homestead falls in the category of maintenance of systems and operations established early on. We grow 80% of our own food. Our days are spent about equally between farm activities, learning new techniques and neighborhood exchanges. 

For income we rely on social security and a small pool of savings. We also sell eggs, fruit and some vegetables locally. We live a comfortable but rather spartan existence but like it that way.

If I were starting out I would spend as much of what capital I had on developing the homestead as I would on housing.  When we started out we bought a used house trailer for $2500, and later sold it years later for nearly as much as we paid for it.  Gardens and farm buildings and later a small energy efficient home were developed over that period of time. 

We obtained a lot of benefits from young folks who were able to help us along.  The 'woofers program (wwoof.net) is a great source of willing workers in trade for housing & food and gardening and farming experience.    Your local State organic farming & gardening organization may also be a source of apprentices.

 

skipr's picture
skipr
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Posts: 86
out of equilibrium forests

A while ago I saw a picture of a patch of Oregon forest when the loggers 1st arrived.  The trees were huge and there was very little undergrowth.  Fires were frequent and would only burn the undergrowth without touching the trees' crowns.  About 100 years later another photo was taken of the same area.  The trees were smaller and there was a huge amount of undergrowth, making the crowns much more vulnerable.  In some areas the annual rainfall was 200" when the loggers first arrived and they now get 80".  I therefore think that the present forest management practices are just trying to deal with the damage done over a century ago that threw the forests totally out of equilibrium.  If left alone, it would probably take thousands of years for these forests to come back into equilibrium, assuming there was no global warming.

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newsbuoy
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