>The Retreat Site

This section is a broad overview covering the type of location, weather, animals, where to put things (house, water supply, etc.), security issues and more.

For a checklist of criteria to consider when selecting a suitable site, go here.

My survival retreat is in the Arizona desert. Lots of Saguaro Cactus, Cholla, Prickly Pear, Ocotillo, Barrel Cactus, sand and sunshine. The area is hilly, even mountainous (no sand dunes) and prone to flash flooding in winter and during summer monsoon rains. Dry washes abound and only flow after heavy rains.

Rodents probably outnumber water molecules (kidding): Jack rabbits, cottontail's mice, rats, pack rats, desert rats, gophers. deer, wild horses, javolinas (peccaries), lizards, some mountain lions and plenty of rattlesnakes in summer.

The landscape is full of exposed magma, black stone from intrusions (magma flows between rock layers below the surface), lava flows and volcanic rocks litter some areas. The other dominant material is quartz-laden, pinkish granite.

The average yearly rainfall is about 7 inches and has been as little as two plus inches and as much as 18 inches in the past 20 years.

Insects abound, more so near water. Those that you will notice most are honeybees (the new improved aggressive kind), fire ants (you'll wish you hadn't stepped on them), wasps (busy burying worms), flies and gnats (busy bothering you) and nocturnal beetles that are quite dexterous with their front legs.

On many flat washes, tamarisk (or salt cedar) is the invasive weed, while mesquite dominates low areas, especially river basins. I bought my first 10 acres on eBay in the mid-90s the second 10 adjacent to it a few weeks later, giving me a total of 20-acre rectangle 660 feet on the east-and west side, 1320 feet (1/8 mile) on the north and south boundaries. Altitude is about 2200 feet.

Rugged and deeply eroded, probably 95% of my land slopes toward one or another of the several branches of my main wash which is the lowest feature, catching all rain runoff from my land and from hundreds of acres upstream. During full flood, the water in the main wash leaving my land is about 3 feet deep and 10 feet wide and moving quickly, probably about 300 to 600 gallons per second.

The 5% of the property which doesn't slope contains more than 20 places where soil washed down, over and around outcroppings of rocks, filling in the area, creating an almost flat surface where one can easily build.

For my first house, I chose one of these flat areas near the northern boundary. Near means perhaps 150 feet away, because two important items must be uphill from the house: the water storage tank, and above it the rain catchment surface. That way, I catch water on my northern boundary, it flows into a tank, and that tank is still 15 feet above my house, so water is gravity fed to the house. more...

On Growing
Survival Food

More DVDs
Are Coming

This web site is here because the knowledge about survival is critical to many of us right now. This survival retreat in the desert is the demonstration of various technologies which help us become free of dependence on fossil fuels, the grid and other things which are part of the problems we face as a global community.

The DVDs will appear here as they become available.