Thursday, June 30, 2011

Seeking input from readers

Dear readers, I would love to pick your brains to answer some questions.

I just received an email from a woman, the gist of which is copied below:

The reason I am writing is because I realize there is an economic tidal wave coming. Here is my problem. I have very little money and I am 60 years old. I don't have relatives so I don't know what to do to try and survive through the coming economic conditions. I am thinking that I need to get into a rural area and grow my own food. But land prices are high, in my opinion. I don't know that I can buy anything. I also don't know that I can find any work at my age.

Living rurally as you do, do you know of people who do my kind of work being able to work in your area or other rural areas? My CNA has expired but I am trained and I have spent the last 5 years doing in home, live-in health aide care. I spent 2 years being a CNA.

I have some ideas I could give, but would love to have your input as well. Many heads are better than one. I will coalesce all your suggestions into the return email to give this woman the benefit of all your collective wisdom (and naturally I will credit where credit is due).

Besides helping her individually, this is a good topic to address in general. Thank you to all!


  1. Oh boy, this is the types of topic that gets me worked up. I LOVE to speculate about such things.

    She has a very useful skill and can use that nursing skill anywhere in the world if she wants to. She might want to consider renting a home or apartment in the rural area of her choice now so she can establish relationships of various sorts while she still has time to prepare.

    She should prepare now and that means honing her skills, having a willingness to do jobs she may have turned down just a few years ago (elder care, work at a childcare facility, babysitter, or whatever job may align itself with the need for basic medical care).

    If she relocated now instead of waiting for the ideal situation, she might meet LMIs who seek a medical component for their team and she might, therefore, be invited into their group retreat.

    A second scenario might be to learn new (old) skills such as canning, butchering, smokehouse curing, and pickling. These are skills that don't require a parcel of land, but rather the skills and tools necessary to do for others with the food provided by them. She could do the canning, pickling, and small scale butchering in her home or apartment in exchange for part of the end-product. If she had a small homesite, she could build a smokehouse in the backyard (providing current zoning laws allow for it) and make hams and bacon from pork provided by the farmers. If she were to acquire these skills and offer these services, she could potentially have many partners and thereby provide food for herself without the need to grow it herself. Not all farmers and ranchers have time to do their own canning, butchering, etc. and many of the back-to-the-land people are not skilled yet in these
    bygone skills, but they may have been able to raise a crop or increase their herds to a surplus.

    The key point, in my view, is a person must be willing to change and learn new skills and recognize opportunities when they arise. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen people practically begging for a mature, responsible babysitter and these people are willing to pay $10.00 - $15.00/hour. Imagine how much more they might pay if that babysitter was also a CNA? Communication will be key in finding a new home, a new career, and new relationships. She'll have to put forth the extra effort, but the dividends could be lifesaving....literally.

    Good luck to her.

    Anonymous Patriot - 61 years old and no longer worried about the future because I have prepared as best as I can.

    PS, Patrice, you put out a call for suggestions several months ago in regard to a new money-earning task Don could develop in order to increase the family income. Did he ever decide on one? Of course, divulging his plan might result in increased competition and as much as I like competition from the consumer point of view, it may not be to his/your advantage to provide details. :)

  2. Depending on what part of the country you are in, prices can be high. Does that mean you are prepared to move to a more affordable area? If you are looking to go rural, the USDA has a mortgage program called Rural Development program that is specifically designed to help low-income people move into the country. []
    I'm a disabled veteran and I found a foreclosure property at a very good price. The USDA program helped me get it, even with a foreclosure on my credit report. Call your local USDA rep for the area where you want to move to and talk to them. They were very helpful to me.
    If you can't qualify, you can try to buy on a contract (owner carries the mortgage instead of a bank), or even do a lease with option to buy. Just make sure that your payments will count toward a down payment at closing. If you decide not to buy it, it just gets counted as rent.
    Never give up. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way. Good luck.

  3. Oh, one more thing that I think should be kept in mind - not even the most savvy of farmers can raise enough food to feed himself/herself consistently. This is a misconception held by many and it could prove dangerous. Nature throws curveballs all the time - one year the wheat crop might flourish and the next it might fail completely. One year the tomatos might be abundant and the next year the seeds may fail to germinate. This is why people canned, pickled, smoked, and brined - so they'd preserve food during times of plenty in order to have food during times of shortages. Most everyone knows this, but I state this for those lurkers who have just found your blog. Anyhow, your reader/questioner should not have unrealistic expectations. We are going to need each other's help.

    However, even an apartment dweller can raise a few tomatoes or zucchinis or beets in containers. This will prove to be a great learning experience now and help greatly should she ever get additoinal room for growing her own veggies. And there are dwarf fruit tress that can also be grown in pots, further adding to a sense of self-reliance.

    OK, finally done.


  4. What about some kind of community living? I ran across this place while link-hopping the other day: I don't know how it works; if they give you a little land or what. But it might be something worth researching.

  5. I have some suggestions for your reader, Patrice. She is welcome to email me at: for the details. Thank you, and best wishes from Kansas.

  6. Let me tell you what I would do. Renew your CNA certification. Rural areas have a great need for health care workers, even CNAs (I am one). I'll be in the same position in 3 years (I'll be 57), when I get my Rural Nurse Practitioner license. My plan is to find an area that needs what I can provide and move there. The good thing about health care work is that it is very "barterable (I like to make up new words..) and that is how I will run my clinic. Working in health care you get to know the community members and they get to know, and hopefully, trust you. While you are helping the people in the community, you will also be able to learn what you need to know to survive. You just need to take it one step at a time. The public health service might be a good place to start, when it comes to info about what geographical areas to look into. If you need a job in three years, let me know! There are many Rural Nursing organizations that can help, or give you ideas. GOOD LUCK!!

  7. Here in the San Luis Valley (South CO), the paper is full of people looking for nurses or live in help. The water table is ~4 feet down, and some of the more rural areas go for ~$15,000/40 acres (I've seen the sign at the Real Estate office for 80 acres for $15k). There are only 7 roads into the valley the size of Mass. and it's mostly farmers (potatoes, barley, wheat).

    You would be an asset to our community, and many, many of us are preppers.


  8. You did not say where she lives, but I would encourage her if she is in a big city to do what she can to get out, and the sooner the better.

    Even without moving to a truly rural area, getting out of the city will be a huge step in the right direction. We live at the edge of a town, and surrounded by farms, an hour's drive from a fairly big city. For various reasons it is the best we can do at the moment.

    Don't let pursuit of perfection keep you from improving your situation.

  9. I am 60 and partially disabled. The only thing that will save me is my family. We are among the fortuante who have prepared as best we could for the past fifteen years. We own our 5.5 acres free and clear -or as free and cl;ear as property can be with the government capable of taking anything they want at any time.

    It IS a good idea to renew your CNA, because even in small towns or rural areas, there are people who will hire you for home health care.

    We have a good friend who is almost 60 with no family. She lives in a small condo in town, but she has asked us if things collapse, would it be possible for her to rent a room or two in our home. She would have people around, and she would have access to a small garden of her own, etc. We will have to see what happens, as we have family members of our own that we might need to provide a home.

    However, since you may not be able to afford a place of your own, and as one comment above reminded everyone don't take for granted that you will automatically and instantaneously develop a green thumb for growing food to sustain you, you might consider this:

    If you have a rural area in mind, put out feelers for someone who might need a home health care provider AND who could give you room and board cheaply or for discounted wages. If they would allow you a little space for a garden of your own, that would be wonderful.

    I think you're right about getting to the country. Calamity can be swallowed a lot more easily when you are not having to fight off looters and angry crowds in the larger towns and cities.

    Don't think about how you did not prepare before, only think about what you are going to do now. Save what you can, and, since there is only yourself, go as small as you can as far as housing/land goes. There will be less to take care of and to protect and less taxes to pay.

    You might also check out some sites that show ways to build "tiny houses" and earth sheltered spaces and try to find even one acre of land. BE CAREFUL of land covenances and restrictions, though. It will take reserch and work, but get going and GOOD LUCK.

  10. Pray to God and ask him for His blessing in assisting in a path for your future move.

    Renew your CNA certification. Put together a professional resume. Start packing. Purge, sell, or donate anything that you cannot carry with you in your vehicle pulling a Uhaul trailer.
    Decide what state/s and where you want to work and move to.
    Place an advert looking for a roommate or two, in your same age group or slightly younger. You could even consider 2 or 3 roommates who may need just slight assistance, in exchange for a fee for your services of caretaking. Draw up and have a Signed/notarized work contract with them to secure your payment and/or housing arrangement. Check the Senior Citizens Community Groups in the area that you are seeking to relocate. Post an ad in their monthly advert or newsletter as to what and where you are wanting to reside, or as a live in arrangement. Perhaps consider expanding your resume to include weekday nanny (only if you are capable), advert for private duty with a local nursing agency. Check with the traveling agencies that employ healthcare workers. Many times, they will offer longterm employment placement and pay you for housing as well. In these cases, Be ready to leave your location when called, and go to the location if you get a job offer. This will also allow you to check out the local surroundings and make an informed consent to move there permanently if it works out for you.

    God bless your new direction in life!


  11. There's a ton of good advice on here only little tid bit to add to it is simple (LOL):

    You sound like you need to give yourself more credit for your capabilities and the ability to make a move to anywhere a success....

    I'm pretty close in age, also without relatives to help out, was in worst shape financially, and don't have such a multi purpose degree like you, and I did it...It is possible...Make the decisions to "just do it" and then take the ACTIONS to get there - the only thing that can stop or slow you down is yourself.......Believe in yourself and stick to your goals, you'll get there and it might not even be as "bad" as you imagined it would be ;).....

  12. I am in the process of moving to Western NC. There are several sustainable,intentional type communitiesin the mountains. I have had a discussion with several female friends who are in similar circunmstances as you and they have bonded together to form an "extended family." Be sure to throughtly reserach any group that you might be interested in. Renting or finding temporary situations is a smart idea before you commit to the rest of your life. You have been given many good ideas here and I hope they have been helpful in making a plan for your future.

  13. Go to where God would have you.
    Find a church where God would have you attend.
    Be loyal to that church.
    Seek to give of your talents w/in the church.
    Seek God's direction on your life.
    Seek advise from the elder women in the church.

  14. Visiting in rural Kansas right now and there are plenty of ads in the local paper for home health nurse/companion, etc. Land/home prices are also very reasonable in my opinion. For example, there is a 2 bed/1 bath home in town for sale for $20,000. Most of what's available around here is word of mouth, not published on-line, just in the local paper or posted at the local market. You have to come out and get to know people and then, it seems, opportunities open up. Best bet would be to pick a rural area and start visiting/checking it out personally.

  15. Save the Canning JarsJune 30, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Write the vision down and make it plain.

    *1000 sq. foot garden (already established)
    *Apple, peach, pear, apricot,walnut, pecan trees that are mature
    *Edge of a small town more than one hour away from a big city
    *A 1000 sq. ft. house with a wood stove and well that is paid in full.
    *One years worth of food

    Whatever your vision is, write it down and make it plain. Commend your plans to the Lord so they will not fail. He says we have not because we ask not, so ask Him to supply all of your needs and some of your wants.

    And where is your utopia? Ask Him. He says if any lack wisdom, He freely gives it. Just wave your list and ask for some of that FREE wisdom (no coupon needed). He owns a thousand cattle on a thousand hills. Ask God to sell off a few cows for you because you're going to need some cash to make this happen. And by faith thank the Lord in advance for all He has already done, and all that He is going to do for you. May you always live in plush, green Goshen when famine and plagues strike Egypt.

  16. Being in the same age bracket as this lady, I will take a contrarian view point and say it might be very difficult for a city lady in menopausal years and losing physical strength to survive in a rural area. I assume she would be starting from scratch hoping to develop many of the ideas promoted on this site
    I would suggest, if possible, growing what she can where she is, trust God for His help, help others as suggested by many previous writers.

  17. Any homework you do now will save a lot of money later.

    All rural areas are not equal.

    In general pay in rural areas is very poor. That is why people commute into cities. Broadly, areas that serve as bedroom communities, but have very little economic productivity themselves, and tourist areas, pay poorly and can be expensive. Areas with resource extraction often pay the best. You will have to see how all this pertains to your trade.

    Never let any certification, license, etc. laps. There prime function is often to keep late comers out of a trade. If the trade has any sort of demand, they are generally harder to get as time goes on. Renew your certification, but also keep in mind any state and local restrictions that may apply. You don't want to move to an area and find that you cannot work right away because there is another restriction you were not aware of.

    Avoid moving to an area with a job in hand. The area I work in has a reputation for having a growing economy. Even back when the economy was strong. people would move here and find it takes longer to get work than they anticipate, and burn through saved cash and credit cards quickly.

    You do not mention your vehicle situation. Your car is your gateway to freedom, and your ball and chain in the countryside. Consider how you are going to get around. Avoiding the expense of a vehicle would be a major plus.

    Sixty is a difficult age to find work. Any income stream you have will help a lot. While it is wise to worry about the economy, having no cash flow is not a very survivable situation anywhere. Frankly, you are better off living in a small apartment with a roommate in the middle of the city, then under an overpass in the country. Please be careful.

  18. Why not consider a 55+ community?

    You would have an instant network of friends and a relatively secure community.

    If you can pay cash for the housing,the yearly lot rent would usually be cheaper than an apartment/house rental.


  19. In my area of rural central Virginia, rents are very cheap and although high-paying jobs are in the cities, there are a lot of jobs for CNAs. I see ads for positions of this sort really often in the local papers. I know that an apartment in the city costs about the same in rent as a 5 acre parcel with a single- or double-wide trailer out in the rural area where I live. The farther you get from the cities, the cheaper it gets, but the farther you have to travel to work. In the case of home healthcare, many older people in rural areas need this service. They don't want to leave their rural homes to go live in a retirement community or nursing home in the city. In a case like this, you may even be fortunate enough to gain a rural-life mentor of sorts. The wealth of knowledge there is a precious fading box of treasure.

  20. Patrice, i hope i'm not crossing any boundaries by suggesting this . . . but one of your biggest fans is a lady, named Kris, who is around 60-something, living on next to nothing money-wise on a suburban piece of land, and has documented her methods and journey to learn to store up years worth of food and supplies on her very small income. Her blog is I think that she would be of considerable encouragement to your reader there.

  21. I've really enjoyed reading the comments on this particular thread. There are a lot of terrific suggestions and insight here.

    I sense a lack of self confidence in the reader because of her age and her solitary life. To help her overcome that, I agree with other contributors here on these key points:

    1. God will help when you ask.

    2. When there's no money, learn instead.

    3. Nursing will never go out of style. I recently saw a nurse in her 60s treat a patient with such love and compassion as to make me feel humbled.

    Just Me