Go North, Young Woman
December 16, 2006 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I want to buy 20 acres in Canada so that I have a refuge and a windfall when the coming global apocolypse comes down, I'm ready. Where can I buy now that would be the best investment, esp. for not much money?

I like Quebec for its easy access, and I kinda like French, but that's a pretty whimsical reason. But if gas is $10/gal, i'd like to be somewhat available. On the other hand, I don't want to be overrun with gun-toting USians looking for fresh water, so maybe privacy is of the essence. Anyway, I'm open. Your thoughts?
posted by DenOfSizer to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for 20 acres plus a house water, electric, gas, etc.? Cause you can certainly find 20 acres for not much money, with no structures on it, but then you'll have to build a house.
posted by Science! at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2006

My father is a Canadian living in the US, and he gets brochures for cheap land up north fairly frequently. The problem, as I understand it, is that these cheap lots are completely lacking in utilities and ammenities -- not only do they not have a hydro line in, they probably aren't on a road, or if they are, it's a one-lane dirt track that isn't particularly passable in anything short of a 4x4 truck or serious SUV.

If you're serious about surviving in a post-industrial era, you should probably forget about gas/cars/etc. You want some land that you can clear and farm, some forest land you can harvest timber for heating from, and a dwelling built to last a long time without access to replacement parts. The apocalypse isn't going to be pretty, or easy, after all. In a worst case scenario, you'll be living completely without outside assistance, without power, food, etc imported, possibly for years.

Sure, you could spend a crapton on a solar/hydro/wind system, but realistically, building a house that's usable -without power- is probably a more viable long-term solution...

Now if what you really want is some relatively inexpensive land you can use as a real-estate investment primarily, with the secondary bonus of being someplace you can run to with your shotgun if/when the crap hits the fan.. well, that's a different story.
posted by Alterscape at 9:12 AM on December 16, 2006

Unless you luck out and purchase some land with oil under it I think "a safe place to hide" and "a good inverstment" are mutually exclusive here. A truly safe place to hide will take you years to sell if you ever decide to and thus probably not a good investment. A place of value that will be easy to unload will probably have lots of neighbors and/or interest due to resources there and thus not a safe place to be.

Throw in the towel and do this just for safety. Your continued life after the coming plague will be an investment worthy of the purchase.
posted by pwb503 at 10:00 AM on December 16, 2006

What makes you think people will abide by property laws when the "coming global apocalypse" comes down?
posted by limon at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2006 [3 favorites]

Are you Canadian citizen? If not, do you think the post-apocolyptic authorities will mind having you in the territory formerly known as Canada?
posted by alms at 10:20 AM on December 16, 2006

I'm not sure how serious you are about moving to survive the "global apocalypse," but I am not sure that Canada is the place to go. I don't see why land anywhere near the densely populated (Southern) regions of Canada would be any safer to live in; if there is any time at all for the world's population to do so, you will be inundated with people fleeing the cities. There is a reason why Canadians have a "garrison mentality," preferring urban clustering and always staying somewhat suspicious of nature and outside forces. The landscape and climate in much of Canada is really, really harsh. Do you have serious outdoors survival skills? You need to if you're going to relocate to wilderness up near the shield mountains. If this is a nuclear global apocalypes, or involves enough nukes or atmospheric particulate to precipate nuclear winter to some degree, you're fucked.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:31 AM on December 16, 2006

Playing the nuclear or airborne disaster angle a little more, assuming that the U.S. gets stomped with some sort of horrible weapon for our global arrogance or for being a superpower, any dangerous matter that ends up in the atmosphere is going to be carried to basically all of eastern and most of central Canada by the jet stream. It generally heads east and does this deal near eastern North Dakota where it turns sharply north. When the U.S. government detonated hundreds of nuclear bombs over the Nevada desert in the 50's, radioactive dosage as measured by thyroid dose increased drastically all across eastern North America and has remained high. Food was measured as poisoned by radiation all the way in New York.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:46 AM on December 16, 2006

If you're worried about global collapse of some kind, I think your best bet is to stay where you are and begin doing everything you can (advocacy, donations, your vote, etc...) to head off the disaster. Humans are spread over all the easily inhabited sections of the planet and have used technology (that will soon vanish after the apocalypse) to spread into the portions that aren't so easily inhabited. You wrote about USians looking for water, which I found apt since the entire American west is an artificially sustained hydraulic society that will collapse massively in an apocalyptic scenario. But Canada will also collapse, because pre-industrial revolution means cannot sustain that many people on that land in that climate, and there will be a short lived (as almost everyone dies) but violent exodus into the wilderness. All of the novels and movies featuring savvy city dwellers escaping into the wild after the apocalypse and eventually thriving are lying to you. If you grew up in modern civilization, haven't had years of outdoors training from a knowledgeable mentor, and live within a few hundred miles of major population centers, I don't think you're going to have any kind of competitive edge. If this does go down, its going to be the first nations people way up north in Canada and in other remote parts of the world who are going to pull through.

Maybe I'm greatly inflating the level of your concern. You talk about the global apocalypse, but the specific concern you write about is really expensive gas. What level of upheaval are you looking to survive?
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:01 AM on December 16, 2006

I just wanted to make a post saying that I feel better that at least one other person is wearing a tin-foil hat and is thinking about this. I have been thinking (more recreationally) about this very problem - my issue is whether to try and fortify the home (which I will always be at) or fortify a wilderness retreat (which would be easier, cheaper, and better - with the exception of getting to it quickly and easily).

Thanks for asking this. I'll also be reading for answers and opinions.
posted by plaidrabbit at 11:06 AM on December 16, 2006

Best answer: if you are looking for a weekend retreat that you can joke about being your apocalypse hide-out, anywhere scenic will do. It shouldn't be too hard to find in Quebec. But you're probably looking at a 10+ hour drive from nyc. You could probably get a nice lake lot or something like that for CA$20-100,000, depending on your proximity to a major city and the quality of the lake. house not included.

If you are actually looking for a place to hide when the shit hits the fan, you probably need to go west as well as north. You need to find a place where there is a lower population density, arable land, wildlife to eat, etc. The rural prairies will fit the bill. Quebec quickly turns into boreal forest as you go north and you need to get off of the canadian shield to find good farm land.

In Saskatchewan, you could buy a nice "quarter section" (~160 acres) for about CA$15 - 40,000. For this price, you'll get apiece of land that has been used for agriculture, (either "dirt farming" or grazing, or a mixture). It should have good road access. if it is a the right area it should have "bush" as well as open land (you'll want a mixture). While you're at it you might want to buy a whole section (~640 acres), I wouldn't want to sustain myself indefinitely on less than a quarter section.

You would probably need to drill a water well, unless there is a natural spring nearby (reasonably common).

I have no idea how you get there from the city if the sky is falling.
posted by nazca at 11:10 AM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

How would you get to your 20 acres in the middle of nowhere in circumstances like that?
posted by textilephile at 11:12 AM on December 16, 2006

Saskatchewan is probably the best value for your money. You can buy a really nice house there for under $150,000 so I'd imagine land would be cheap. The summers are quite pleasant but the winter wind is very very cold. Good luck.
posted by dobie at 11:14 AM on December 16, 2006

A deep water well probably isn't going to work so well if there's no electricity, and a hand pump can only draw water upward a finite distance (like 30 feet if I recall correctly). Springs would be worth a mint.
posted by stam_broker at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2006

A deep water well probably isn't going to work so well if there's no electricity

Good point, but in much of the area the water table is pretty high. You'd have to dig a 180 ft well to insure continuous water for you McMansion, but for light use, a shallow hand-drilled, hand-pumped well will get the job done.
posted by nazca at 11:32 AM on December 16, 2006

Response by poster: You all raise interesting points. I am looking at a global warming scenario, where the Great Plains of the US becomes desert, and Canada becomes considerably warmer; the breadbasket of North America would wend its way north; I don't expect zombie-style invasions of people fleeing a sudden apocolypse, but I do expect a harder, more pioneer-with-a-touch-of-Mad-Max kind of zeitgeist. 20 acres would be a minimum investment for me and my family, and a foot in the door for scouting so that I can make my fortune in real estate. I plan to sell my coop in NYC just a bit before the Katrina-ization of same in, oh, say, 2024. I'm looking for a spring, and some natural gas or something would be sweet. So really, what I'm looking for is an analysis of some sweet real estate in the making, given say, a 2 degree temperature of the earth in the next 40 years - which would make formerly frozen Artic propety look nice and breezy.
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:25 PM on December 16, 2006

If you're planning to retire in Canada, you need to check out the immigration policy. Check the archive at Google Answers for some really helpful advice. Unless you want to become a permanent resident (which requires you to meet a lot of criteria--see this website to assess you Canada-worthiness), you can only spend up to 6 months a year there.

By the way, if you wait until you're in your fifties, it's harder to move there. They use a points-based test to determine whether you are eligible to immigrate. Based on your education, job experience, age (you lose lots of points if you're over 50), etc., you earn a certain number of points. You have to meet the minimum threshold to be eligible for immigration. Quebec, by the way, has it's own immigration criteria.
posted by HotPatatta at 2:43 PM on December 16, 2006

FWIW, we purchased 5 acres near Quesnel BC (nearest large city is Prince George, for $12000, 3 years ago. It's now worth $17-20k. The bubble that has hit Vancouver and Van Isle is spreading its tentacles into the interior, so sooner is better if you are serious. Going further afield into less connected areas (Quesnel has a Walmart, Wells and Likely do not) will get you cheap(er) land at the expense of ease of finding work and shopping convenience.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:15 PM on December 16, 2006

Best answer: A few random thoughts and comments:

1) Don't count on climate change predictions. Sure the US midwest may go dustbowl, but so may the Canadian Prairies. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty the more detailed you want your picture of the climate future to be. Having said, consider that most summer river flow in the Canadian prairies is glacial. It is reasonable to suppose that once the glaciers go (and going they are), there will be big hydrological impacts.

2) Of course, as others have pointed out, land is dirt cheap in the prairies. You might also make a go of it with a small windmill and solar panels.

3) Forget the Canadian shield -- that means Quebec north of the St. Lawrence river and Ontario north of the transcanada highway, more or less. Well, there are small scraps of useful farmland (usually on valleys choked with glacial till), but bedrock is never far. You can't eat rocks.

4) My brother bought 70 acres in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Farmland, decent sized river going through the property. The soils don't drain very well (lots of clay), but this has always been, in my mind, where I'm going when the shit hits the fan.

5) Have you looked at the Maritimes? Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have lots of cheap land, and the people and the communities there are awesome.

That may be the most important point. It may matter much much less whether you can set up your solar powered bunker and hydropondic avacado greenhouse than finding a place that has a solid community. Different societies and communities react differently when the shit hits the fan. New Orleans post- Katrina provides an example of how an ugly dysfunctional society reacts to stress. In my experience in rural Quebec -- certainly I never experienced a cat-5 hurricane or 20 feet of floodwaters -- storms or orther stresses tended to bring out the best, not the worst, in people.

If you're worried about the apocalypse, you should devote a lot of your thinking to trying to guess how different places would react to either a sudden or a slow collapse. You want to be with the barn-raisers, not the looters.
posted by bumpkin at 9:52 PM on December 16, 2006

Read up on climate change a bit more - it's not so simple as a tidy, even, global warming. Average global temperature may rise by 2°, but the predicted changes are different for different places and seasons. There are likely to be more extreme weather events - maybe storm surges and hurricanes aren't going to be a problem inland, but flooding or drought may well be, so consider both water security and the presence of high ground (and really, don't build on a flood plain). If the North Atlantic Oscillation (sort of like El Niño but ... not) shuts down, Northern Europe is a bit fucked, by way of getting significantly colder, but the Canadian Maritimes get cold currents at the moment anyway, so they'll be less affected, and might not get colder at all.
posted by Lebannen at 7:51 AM on December 17, 2006

If you are a US citizen, why not think about Alaska? It's north as well, and you don't have any of those pesky immigration problems.
posted by willnot at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2006

The bubble that has hit Vancouver and Van Isle is spreading its tentacles into the interior, so sooner is better if you are serious.

As it did in '81 and '92 (or so), this bubble will burst spectacularly, and the bust will have an equally depressing effect on other areas of BC.

On top of this, the pine beetle problem (which is projected to kill 70 to 80% of the trees in the north, particularly, and in some areas is well on its way to doing so) will devastate many small towns in the north, as the forestry industry (BC's #1 industry) spirals into the dirt. I have friends who have lived in the same large houses for 20 or 30 years in the north, selling up and moving to smaller places or renting and banking the cash, to preserve their net worth. These are people who know what's happening on the ground, and they're scared.

'Get in now before you're priced out' is very bad advice for this region, in my opinion. There's a storm coming in BC.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:22 PM on December 17, 2006

Go East. No, really the Maritimes. The "long reach" section of New Brunswich's St. John river is fantastic. You could probably get a nice plot of land off the water on the Kingston Penensula for fairly cheap. On the water is going to be more obviously, but really it's fantastic up there.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:27 AM on December 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

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