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How to Avoid Theft from Your Rural Property – A Checklist

by Victoria Gazeley

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Our new neighbours, not yet even moved in, recently had most (if not all) of their winter fire wood supply stolen at some point in the night.  Our properties are far enough apart, and uphill from us with a creek and hill between, that we didn’t hear a thing.

It was going to be their only source of heat for winter.

It’s a sad fact that there are turkeys out there who would do such a thing, likely so they could turn around and sell it.  I highly doubt it was for their own use.  When we mentioned this on our Facebook page, our friends there had so many stories to share.  And lots of advice…

So how do you avoid becoming such a statistic?  It’s not always completely avoidable, unfortunately, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the changes of someone taking off with your stuff.

A Rural Security Check List – The Basics

In putting together this list I tried to only include solutions that didn’t involve expensive security systems, which, to me, sort of scream “I have really nice stuff to steal… over here… yep, RIGHT HERE!” I could be wrong, and I’m not saying I wouldn’t have one, but just something to think about.  I also didn’t include methods that include firearms, because that whole area is rife with controversy, and depending on where you live, potentially illegal.

So here are my ‘you can do this right away and with little or no cost’ ideas for making your rural property more secure from thieves:

  1. Be very careful who you invite onto your property, or who other people invite.  I’m thinking primarily about contractors you hire to do work who then hire sometimes questionable folk to assist (especially if you’re hiring on the low end of the fixed-price or hourly rate scale.  I don’t want to accuse anyone (because I honestly have no idea) but it wouldn’t surprise me if the fire wood thieves were connected with the crew who were working on that property to move the house on a few days previous – maybe even friends or acquaintances).  I’ve heard many a story about ‘workers’ or their buddies who took advantage of the trusted positions provided them working in homes and on properties to help themselves to a few things.  A sad state of affairs, indeed – effectively, you’ve paid them twice.  Hopefully the work was good…
  2. Always park a vehicle in the driveway/garage.  Obviously this is challenging if you’re out or away in the only vehicle you have, but if there’s any way to have a car, truck or van parked near the house when you’re away, it will at least put a question mark in any would-be thieves’ heads.  And questions in a thief’s mind are a good thing – you won’t be seen as easy a target.
  3. If you’re going to be away, do the standard thing with the lighting timers, and preferably have someone you trust come stay for a few days.  At minimum, someone should be by to check on your property daily, at varying times so there’s no routine being observed by any goofs lurking about.  If you have livestock, this would be the case anyway, but something to keep in mind even if you don’t.  You also might even want to put up a ‘Video Surveillance’ sign or two (always good to create the question in any potential theif’s head:  “Do they or don’t they?”).  And if you can, leave radios on timers.  In the country, you’re not disturbing anyone, and you might just keep that squirrel out of your attic as a bonus (apparently there are certain types of music they don’t like – who knew?).
  4. Get to know your neighbours.  Of course, if a member of their household is the thief, you’ve got a whole other problem.  We had this exact scenario when we were growing up – one particular neighbourhood kid was notorious for breaking into homes and stealing, well, just about anything he could get his hands on.  He was a super friendly guy, smiling and chatting one moment then stealing your power tools later that afternoon.  And he wasn’t scared – of anything.  So one day, my Dad put the fear into him saying that if he ever took anything from our place… well, I’ll let you imagine how the rest of that sentence played out.  It worked – we were, I think, the only house in the neighbourhood who never had a break-in.  Just sayin’…  (Note: this guy wasn’t violent, though – not a tactic I’d really recommend these days, but rather an anecdote to share… Your and your family’s safety is, of course, your first priority.)Hopefully if you know your neighbours a bit and they’re trustworthy, they’ll be willing to peer over the fence every once in awhile for you.
  5. Keep an eye on what’s going on in your communityEvery week, I scan through the police reports in our local paper.  Not something I would have ever imagined myself doing before moving here, but it helps me stay up to speed on where there are ‘hotspots’ of petty crime.   Also, talk to people at the farm store and other places rural dwellers tend to congregate.  In other words, just keep your ears open and your eyes peeled.  Needless to say, the more rural you are, the less turkeys will be around to take advantage of opportunities, but the further you are from other eyeballs who can keep an eye on your place.  It’s a good thing to do, regardless.
  6. Make sure any power tools or anything of value is stored out of site.  Some one our Facebook page shared a story about someone stealing his pick-up truck from a woodlot while he was about 100 feet away, but slightly out of sight.  And he’d left his jacket on the tailgate, so not only did the thief/thieves get his truck, but also his wallet.  Anything that’s left out in view – portable generators, expensive tools, chain saws, lawn mowers – anything that’s not tied down is a potential target to someone casing your place, so be sure to put everything away (preferably in a locked building/shed) when you’re finished… or even if you just take a lunch break.

So there you have it – 6 easy, no cost ways you can build a more secure homestead.  Some take a bit of effort (like getting to know your neighbours), but it’s worth it.  Do you have any tips on rural security to share?  Any stories where you’ve had stuff stolen and made security changes as a result?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!



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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Dorwin December 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm

For $20 bucks or so, you can buy solar powered motion sensor security lights. You can mount them anywhere, with no need for electricity. I have a few mounted around my place, and have used them for years, right through harsh Wisconsin winters and all. In a rural area, these could easily be mounted on trees, just point the solar panel towards the south to charge the batteries.


Casey January 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Dog is Man’s best friend.


Victoria Gazeley January 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm

True! I’ve decided the cost of having a dog isn’t worth it at the moment, and the dog would be with us if we went on vacation not living outside by itself, so not sure that would be helpful if we’re away. BUT for people it works for, it’s a great solution. :)


Skip Thomsen November 21, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Hi Victoria!

Regarding your conversations on
security for the homestead, I’d like to share a system that worked
really well for us. We had no locks on the doors to our house or
shop. So I rigged a switch on each of the three doors to activate an
enormously loud car horn on the roof of the house. My thinking was
this: The first priority of any burglar who set off the alarm would
be to get out of there as fast as possible. We had neighbors out in
the woods all over the place, but the intruder would not know how far
any of them were, or whether or not they could hear the horn going

We had our own electrical system that
used batteries (lots of them) for storage, so we had 12 volts
available to run car horns. If you have only 110 volt power, you
can get some loud alarm horns from any number of places, including
Amazon and even eBay.

A little story is in order here. One
day we were expecting some friends from town. They said they’d be at
our place around 2PM. So that morning we went to our local store for
some groceries and our friends decided they’d just come up a bit
early, so they arrived before we got back. Oops.

Well, it seems that one of us
absent-absentmindedly flipped the alarm switch on the way to the
garage when we left, and our friends decided to come up early. So
when they got there and opened the front door, which any of our
friends are welcome to do, the alarm went off. Oh, did I say it was
wired to not turn back off when the door was closed?

When we got there, our gun-happy
neighbor had come over, turned off the alarm, and was not going to
let them leave until we got home to verify that they were indeed our

Can anyone say EMBARRASSING?! They had
a good sense of humor, and they only had to wait about ten minutes
for our return, but hey, we got to test the system in real time!

We did rig it with a relay so that it
would stay on until somebody turned it off. All our neighbors knew
how to turn it off, and some of them were so enamored of the system
that they installed one, too.

If anyone is interested, I’d be happy
to more complete instructions on how to build the system.


Victoria Gazeley December 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

What a great story! And a genius way of setting up an alarm system. I’ll be pondering that one for awhile… :)


Linda Forkash May 22, 2014 at 2:14 am

I’m interested to know more about your horns and system. Please contact me. Thank you


susan cole May 22, 2014 at 2:37 pm

My family has a camp in Maine. Some older man and wife had a lot of wood cut up for the winter and someone was taking a lot of it . The old man put some gun powder in one log he knew who had taken his wood when house up the street from him had a side of its house blow out.


Victoria Gazeley June 12, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Wow – that could have ended badly… I can see his frustration, though!


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