Monday, July 29, 2013

The Homestead


E left the barn and walked to the front porch. Their home was a patchwork of additions and modifications that acknowledged today’s world. A broad front porch offered respite on warm evenings during the summer. And, a screened in “summer kitchen” off the back offered storage for frozen meat that was harvested to feed her family and hands during the cold winter months.

Each window had a shutter . . . . of 3/8 inch steel. It would stop most rounds though high powered rifle rounds were beyond their ability. The area directly below the windows was also protected by steel plate – backed by concrete block and a couple feet of packed sand. This offered solid protection for all but the .50 cal rounds or larger. And, thankfully – few of those rounds were still out there.

Her home had the feel of “family” . It had been built by her father – an art professor who worked magic with wood and concrete and metal. In fact, most of the furniture in the home was built from oak and cherry and hickory harvested on this very farm. Her mother’s touch could be seen in the rows and rows of books in their “library” in the basement. It was, quite literally a library with nearly 3,500 volumes covering everything from making soap to “Little House on the Prairie” through all the disciplines of mathematics and the sciences. She had been a school teacher with a passion for teaching, reading and learning. She missed them terribly – both killed in the last reinforced raid a number of years earlier. E was determined that she would pass on both their legacies of education and self-reliance to her children and grandchildren.

The basement also held their family armory – a room sized reinforced safe with dozens of weapons, tens of thousands of rounds of hand-made ammunition and a wide array of edged fighting tools. It was a formidable cache that provided the entire family a fair bit of comfort.

Finishing out the basement was their “pantry”. Much of this portion of the basement consisted of a separate storage area that was built well into the hillside and then covered for concealment. All totaled there was roughly 2,500 square feet of floor space that held shelving providing storage for about 6 months of supplies for all households on the property. Virtually all of it was grown or harvested on the property. Everything from pickles (and the dill to flavor them) to the stone ground flour. It represented a continuous effort on the part of all that the stock was well maintained, rotated and replenished as various growing seasons rolled by.

A remote corner held the “power room” and housed an aging diesel powered generator, refurbished lead acid batteries and an ancient military grade inverter. She considered all of these as “backup” systems. Traditional systems of lighting, heating and cooling has long since been abandoned and replaced with much older technologies. E dearly loved her grandpa’s Kerosene lamps – and that is what provided their evening’s light. As for electricity to run their comm system, shortwave and HF transceivers – that was provided by the battery bank and charged daily from salvaged solar panels. As long as they limited their listening time and transmit power, she was confident this equipment would last for decades more.

The primary house was meant for “family” – E and Brad, Bill and Marion – Willie’s parents, Jan (Bill’s twin sister) and Ted – the parents of “the twins” James and Johanna and finally Freddie and Alice. It was a strong family with their son Bill choosing one of Brad’s deputies – Marion – as his wife. Jan fell in love with Pastor Ted on the first Sunday he led worship in one of their town’s small churches. And Freddie had been making eyes at their neighbor’s daughter since they were in diapers together. Their marriage was no surprise at all . . . other than being on the same day as Jan and Ted. Still, it had been a wonderful day!

The home was large enough that each family had a bedroom, sitting room and a “nursery” of their own. Both her grandfather and father had a powerful belief that as “the slide” took hold of the nation and the world – the ultimate survival tool was the family. Close knit, skilled, determined and willing to sacrifice their last full measure for each other. In the early years of the swarms their theory was tested multiple times. Their continued survival was a testament to just how right they both had been.

Their farm was also a reflection of both her parents and grandparents. Grandpa had seen the very beginning of “the slide” – his journal detailed its processes and his thoughts of the cause and where it was all headed. Surely he was part soothsayer for his predictions were stunningly accurate.

His fears lead him to purchase property that could sustain a core group of 20-30 people. It was a tract of land that grew an entire section beginning with his family’s farm and added to as he could. The house was located roughly in the center of the square mile of property, 640 acres. He had some simple requirements – a running stream with a sizable pond. 100 acres or so of timber – much planted in a rotation crop of Ash for firewood. A steep hillside to build their home into – this embankment held their arms cache and pantry as well. Two to three hundred acres of tillable land that could be used to raise oats, wheat, corn and traditional truck garden fare was of primary concern. An orchard with a variety of apples, peaches, pears and plums appealed to his sweet tooth and a small vineyard simply because Gramps enjoyed his wine.

The remaining hundred or so acres was divided into fifteen homesteads that eventually housed the hands and their families that were needed to work the land. The exchange was simple – work for shelter and food. Over time hands became family and to the surrounding countryside – the “Triple C” farm was, indeed – one big family.

Closer observation – much closer observation – revealed fighting positions scattered along the entire perimeter of the property. Each position was large enough to hold four fighters. Crossing fields of fire provided a lethal deterrent to raiders and well placed IEDs bolstered this. In all, there were twenty such positions. E made sure that at least once a month a drill reminded each person of their position and purpose. To say she used a “firm hand” would soften it much too much. Describing her as a hard driving SOB would be much, much closer to the truth.

Under the barn, beneath many feet of dirt, stone and concrete were their fuel stores. These had been built up over the years, little by little. Chemically enhanced to extend their storage – they would provide a few thousand miles range per vehicle. Few knew of this unique resource – and E liked it that way. It was a mix of gasoline, diesel, bio-diesel and kerosene. Their vehicles included two Jeep Wranglers, a number of Ford F250 diesels, a pair of Ford 150s, a number of quads and six dirt bikes taken from raiders over the years. In any other era these would be considered “ancient” - yet in today’s reality, they were a true boon. Each had been salvaged over the years, spare parts assembled over time and then lovingly maintained and protected. Their primary job? Just to sit in waiting in case they were needed yet again. All vehicles were in good working order and were driven, in turn throughout the year. That said – horses, wagons, bicycles and feet were the primary mode of transportation. The vehicles were primarily seen as “bug out” insurance or as fighting vehicles should the need arise.

As evening settled, the family began to gather. The table was huge, made of oak left from a stall her grandmother once had. At least that was the family story. Untold meals had been eaten around the table. E had warm memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas meals and birthdays – all while seated at this very table.

Once everyone was in their place Ted asked that they bow their head for the blessing. “Lord, bless this food to your servants; let us always remember it is in service to others that we are shown your way. We pray for a bountiful harvest, the safety of those working the land and those that protect it. We ask that you protect us and our community from those intent on doing us harm. And, we ask for the strength to defend our home and those we love. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen!” “Amen!” was the response from all seated around the table.

It was surprising the comfort this small task brought E, yet it offered her the opportunity for peace each and every night. This night their meal was simple – a venison roast with new potatoes, carrots and fruit. Bread was passed and soon a simple desert of apple crisp made the rounds.

This was E’s core – her home, her farm and her family. She would die, if need be, to defend any one of her family or the farm hands of her extended family. They would do the same – without hesitation.

Soon enough they would all be tested again . . . .