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The Survivalist Blog:
The most popular preparedness books bought by Survivalist Blog readers in their shopping at Amazon. Interesting.


The winner in this category was clear; the most purchased book was - are you ready? Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse. I would have never thought a novel would make it to number one in sales, but after checking my records, sure enough it's at the top spot.

1. Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse
2. Crisis Preparedness Handbook
3. The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency
4. Gardening When It Counts
5. Tactical Pistol Shooting
6. The Encyclopedia of Country Living
7. The Merck Manual 18th Edition
8. Total Resistance
9. Travel-Trailer Homesteading Under $5,000
10. Rancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead

Another review: 

“Rancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead” by Phil Garlington

Reviewed by Wendi Wilkerson for Billy Bob Briggs' web site

Imagine Hunter S. Thompson as an exact cross between Dennis Weaver and Randy Weaver. This is Phil Garlington. At least that’s how I imagine he must be, after reading “Rancho Costa Nada, ” Garlington’s ingenious treatise on his “independent” lifestyle as a desert-dwelling slacker. This short, easy ­to- read how -to book thoroughly examines the financial, psychological, and material logistics of how even a lazy slackass with a bad attitude, no technological capability, and a disarming lack of handiness, can successfully become a desert homesteader.

It starts with cheap land: Garlington paid $325 for his patch of scorched, worthless earth at a tax-default land auction. He paid approximately $300 for building and equipping his desert shoebox, and $179 of that was for a U-haul to drag his stuff to his property. Things really got started because of that last firing. After having been canned from his umpteenth reporter job, Phil Garlington decided to abandon modern society. Not because there was anything particularly wrong with it, but because he had no cash and no income, and he needed a cheap place to crash. Moreover, he was tired of being fired for things like “bad attitude” and “insubordination,” and he was bored eking out a living as an itinerant journalist.


The thought of living like a refugee was less horrifying to him than the thought of facing yet another drone-like occupation that served merely to feed his addiction to modernity. So he fled the daily grind into the sunburned arms of his desert homestead. Setting up camp in the burning waste of Smoke Tree, a settlement in Imperial County, California, may seem like a drastic method of gaining this freedom, but it worked for Garlington. He built a shoebox-shaped shack, or hogan, out of sandbags, tarps and “crapboard” (Garlington’s own invention made of scrap plywood he glues into architecturally valid 4-by-8 panels) along with anything he managed to scrounge together and haul into the mighty desert.


Garlington even has a second hobo residence. He has a small trailer closer to the town of Blythe, so that when he does need the occasional crap job, he doesn’t have to go the 40-plus miles back to Smoke Tree. He lives the same kind of refugee life in the trailer as in the desert. And he’s pretty content, though he admits that it’s hard to convince the ladies to come out to his deep desert Bedouin bachelor pad.


Like most of the other desert folk, Garlington sometimes works crap jobs for a few months out of the year, socking away a few grand for necessities, etc. The rest of the time he either sits around the homestead reading novels and writing the occasional freelance piece, or he travels. He usually travels during the summer, thus avoiding the 120-degree misery of the summertime desert. Because he lives a Spartan existence without air conditioning, a refrigerator, a big entertainment system, or even a phone line, Garlington doesn’t have to worry about any of the occasional urban yahoos who vandalize the desert stealing things while he’s gone. There’s just nothing worth stealing.


The question is, why would anyone want to live like this? Yeah, maybe Garlington is a soul maverick, a lone wolf, or an asocial geek. But why us? The key idea is freedom: no landlords, no major debts, no pollution, no blaring media, no traffic, no cubicle slavery, no structured responsibilities beyond what you owe solely to you. Sure, there are the bosses of the crappy chimp jobs, but they don’t really count, because there are always other chimp jobs you can get if the first one does not agree with you. However, in exchange, you must give up nearly every modern convenience, the large-scale company of others, and every idea about personal freedom that our greedy media culture has ingrained in you. It takes a massive deconstruction of the psyche to pull this off and survive it.

Most of us couldn’t. Garlington thrives in his desolate world because he’s always been asocial, and the next logical progression in his evolution is hermitity. This isn’t to say that he shuns the company of other humans. He has a few colorful and intriguing neighbors living only a few miles from him, the most interesting of which is the man he calls The Demented Vet.


The Demented Vet makes six brief monologue intrusions into the text. He’s a severely disgruntled vet who spews wild tangents at anyone who comes to visit, not unlike the Ancient Mariner haranguing the wedding guest. One of the greatest words ever invented comes from this Demented Vet: Sapismo, or, “the infinite capacity of the narcoleptic middle class to absorb a financial drubbing from corporations and the government.” Do you worry about the 401k, health insurance, dividends on tiny stock portfolios, and the relative largeness of your car, home or bank account? If so, then you’re sapismo, just like me. Garlington includes these monologues as entertainment for his readers and as a cautionary tale for himself. He realized not too long ago that one of the unforeseen dangers of living in the desert too long, “You start sounding like the Demented Vet.” It changes you.


And that is the thing with this book. The truth behind this is that it isn’t really a how-to book. It’s “A Year in Provence” written by a painfully literate desert “redneck.” He has a fine appreciation of his desert, and a definite affection for his strange, independent neighbors, and a slight sense of delighted astonishment at their, not to mention his own, ingenuity and creativity in building fulfilling desert lives.

This is a practical, illustrated, methodical chronicle of individual evolution. Pretty surprising stuff coming from a lazy slackass with a bad attitude, no technological capability, and a disarming lack of handiness. I give it three stars, and the Greenpeace Grant for Excellence in Gonzo How-To Authorship.



A review from EmergencyPrepBlog.

 This is a review of a book that’s rather unusual. It’s Phil Garlington’s own account of how he built a shack on 10 acres of desolate desert land and how he lives in it. Even the author says that it’s not a good idea for most people, but there is some information in it that could prove helpful if you ever have to build some sort of short or medium term shelter.

If you’ve ever thought about buying some of that cheap Nevada or Wyoming land on eBay and living on it, you will definitely want to read this book all the way through first. Read the whole thing, including the chapter entitled “Don’t Do It”.The book is Rancho Costa Nada, The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead. He means it when he says dirt cheap, too. Without ruining the story, I’ll tell you that he bought his 10 acres of land and built his home on it for less than a grand.The book is out of print, but at one point it was listed as one of the top 10 survival books on Amazon. It’s only 122 pages, so that’s saying something.The real values I found in it are that it paints a good picture of what an isolated extremely minimalistic life can be like, and provides useful information from someone that’s actually done it. What works and, perhaps even more importantly, what doesn’t work is spelled out for you. I see it more as an “if it ever comes to that” guidebook than a “here’s how I’m going to do it” manual.

 There’s a lot of good info for if/when you find yourself having to make a place to stay for an indeterminate period of time. This could be due to a major climatic or environmental disaster. Perhaps an earthquake, flood or chemical spill makes it so you can’t go in your house. In that kind of situation I can see myself being able to use what I picked up from this book to take scrap materials and make a livable shelter that will provide a comfortable place to stay while withstanding high winds, high heat, and rain.

If you’ve ever thought about building a good-enough hunting cabin that won’t break the bank and will hold up for a long time while holding little interest to people that might happen upon it, this would be a good book for you.The author was a reporter before heading for the desert, and his writing skills are apparent in this book. He writes well and teaches well. He could have left out the sidebar conversations with another desert dweller and I wouldn’t have missed them, but in the end they do provide a good insight into the people that have chosen such a lifestyle. If nothing else, they can serve as a warning.It’s a good book that doesn’t take forever to read.This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 at 9:09 pm and is filed under After the Disaster, Reviews, Survival.


The Reno-Gazette review:

Roughing it modern-style

Sick of cubicle life and wage slavery? Phil
Garlington’s new book “Rancho Costa Nada” will give
you hope. The former Orange County Register reporter
finally ticked off one boss too many, so he ditched
traditional living and moved to an isolated 10-acre
desert plot bought for $325. He explains how to build
a sturdy home using scrap materials; how to work out
your own power, water and sanitation; where to find
seasonal work; and tips on transportation as well as
many other aspects of withdrawing from society (like
how to hook up with women who might look down on
someone with no running water). Most readers won’t
actually do what Garlington did, but it’s heartening
to know that if you had to tell the boss to shove it,
you could survive just fine.


TheAnderson Valley Advertiser

Rancho Costa Nada:  The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead

By Phil Garlington, with photos by Mike Garlington



A how-to book set in California's baked and barren Smoke Tree Valley near the Colorado River.  After getting fired from two jobs in a row (bad attitude, insubordination) an itinerant newspaper reporter tries homesteading ten acres of worthless desert that he'd bought earlier at a land auction for three hundred bucks.  He builds a comfortable hogan out of sandbags and junk.  He also examines the ingenious Mad Max ways of fellow homesteaders who have jumped the tracks and pitched the mortgage, the boss, and the utility bill.

While working for the Orange County Register, veteran newspaper reporter Phil Garlington was assigned to cover a tax defalut land action in rural Imperial Counlty.  One of the parcels on the block was ten acres with a starting bid of a hundred dollar bill.  After some desultory bidding, he picked it up for three and change.  "You'll never find this," said the county clerk as she turned over the deed.  But with GPS you can find anything, and Garlington soon stood on his baronial estate, in the desolate Colorado Desert, 45 miles south of Blythe, California, 17 miles from a paved road, and so close to the Chocolate Mountain Naval Gunnery Range that the concussions from morning bombing runs rattled the coffee cups.

The Gunmen

 For several years, the Rancho served as a weekend retreat for Garlington and some of the reporters and photographers at the Register who sought a remote venue for discharging firearms.  The gunmen built a rifle and pistol range, a skeet pit, a few shade shacks.  They popped caps during the winter.  During the summer inferno, the land healed, hundreds of spent brass cartridges winking in the sun.

Then Garlington suffered a series of personal reverses.  The Register dismissed him in a newsroom-wide layoff of one.  His overseers cited bad attitude.  He took another post as editor of the Palo Verde Valley Times, but within a mere nine months he got canned there for insubordination.  A trend seemed to be emerging, or perhaps some kind of masochistic self-sabotage.  At any rate, it was then that Garlington asked himself, " Could I live at the Rancho?"

Instead of going through the demeaning hassle of finding another job and of then taking the program from another group of junior widgets, could he instead live cheap and rent-free on his title deed in the sun-basted desert?

Desert Homesteaders

By that time he'd found out that other people could.  At first Garlington thought he had the valley to himself, since he never saw anybody during the shooting weekends.  But then in Blythe he met the Hobo, who turned out to be another land baron of ten acres in the Smoke Tree.  He introduced Garlington to half a dozen other year-round homesteaders who manage to thrive in a harsh and waterless climate.  The Tukes family, with their fleet of Mad Max sand rails and carts; the irascible J.R and his feral dogs on breakaway leashes; the elusive Mystery Lady; Alba the Dog Woman, and the ranting Demented Vet.  They all had laagers of trailers with ingenious devices that helped them estivate through the sweltering summer.   The Hobo, for instance, buried his trailer and installed a periscope to watch the wildlife.

Garlington began his homesteading venture pretty much broke.  He had a few hundred cash and the tail end of a credit card.  He had a Geo Metro and a few basic hand tools.  Unlike the other homesteaders in the valley, he had no pioneer skills.  But #### it.  He was through crawling on his belly thorugh Human Resources with his battered resume.  He would have to figure it out. 


Finally Frugal sent a note:

How perfect, then, that I came across this article about a gentleman named Philip Garlington, who hasn't worked full time in two years, yet travels frequently. How does he do it? He camps! Apparently, he spent last winter in a Yosemite campsite that cost $2.50 (who knows how much the propane for his heater cost. . .) He recently traveled across England in the rainy season (less expensive, then), camping out and walking from town to town to avoid spending money on public transportation.

Of his lack of regular employment, Mr. Garlington says: "I'm as unambitious as a Buddhist," and in fact avoids paying rent by house-sitting for other people. Granted, as a veteran, he has access to VA health benefits, so his healthcare needs are taken care of. He drives a compact car, and doesn't have the usual monthly bills we 'normal' people do, such as utilities and internet service.

I know that I'll never be---by choice---as frugal as Mr. Garlington, but to read about someone who "prefers leisure time to income" and actually walks the talk is kind of inspiring. I hem and haw constantly about whether I should strive for more money or more time---it seems the more money one makes, the less time one has to enjoy it. Having more free time would be lovely, but without money, what does one do with all of those extra hours? A modified version of Garlington's plan might be the ticket----travel without luxury, work without commitment. The key for me will be to find a happy medium, a balance between too much and too little. I don't know tht I'll ever get there (wherever 'there' is), but I'm certainly going to try.

 Finally Frugal