New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Urban Suburban Rural Security Landscaping and Lighting - Part 1

I was reading a blog by “Riverwalker” and got to thinking … No matter our age or if alone, a couple or in a family unit, urban, suburban or rural, we all want to be safe while in our homes or yards and we want our homes safe when we aren’t there. On top of that we also want our “homesteads” to look nice and be relatively easy and cheap to care for.

I currently live in Albuquerque, NM, which is rather unique in that we have a rural valley that runs through the middle of town that we affectionately call “The Bosque”. Part of this town is dubbed “The East Side”, which means the east side of the Sandia Mountains. My home is in the “Heights”, on the northwest side of the mountain. I have survived the “autumn of the bear” in my backyard and the “spring of the bobcat” in my trash; I’ve walked the Bio Park and seen a family of (5) coyote not more than ten feet from me; Have either a falcon or hawk that lives in my neighborhood and keeps the pigeons at minimum and a roadrunner that loves my birdbath; I’ve had to get help to remove a rattler that slithered its way into my garage and someone to get rid of the black widow and tarantula nests I’ve found in my xieroscaped yard. But what scared me the most, upset me the most; was helping to thwart several intruders/burglars in my neighborhood. All of this in my noisy crowded city? If all of this can happen here, what about the country?

I have been living alone for quite some time now and had done some research on security landscaping, which I implemented for my current urban home way back in the day. Now I am planning to retire and re-locate to a rural area soonest. Add to this what I have experienced here in the city and my memories of my grandparent’s farm, not to mention me currently battling squirrels, chipmunks and scoundrels, while my rural friend’s battle deer, elk, moose and bear - I felt this subject warranted new research. After all I want not only myself, my family and friends, but my home, its contents, my animals and garden to be safe from four and two legged uninvited guests too. I at least want enough time to arm myself if need be.

So I decided to re-research this subject from the rural and older age perspective and I thought I would share what I have learned. I not only searched the web from landscaping to law enforcement to homesteading sites, I also talked to my area professional landscapers, law enforcement, friends and neighbors. Believe it or not, even Homeland Security has something on this subject. Go figure. Then I talked with my friends in Maine, upper Michigan, Tennessee, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Texas, Oregon and Arizona. Most of who are living the rural, if not “boonies” lifestyle.

I found one FBI statistic that stated that there is a home burglary every 15.4 seconds somewhere in the United States. Most burglaries occur during the day, when occupants are away. Most occur during July and August, with the fewest in February. Most burglars are young males, under 25 years old, looking for small items easily converted into cash. About 70% of burglars use some force to enter a building, but open doors and windows are of course preferred.

Intruders also look for no to few obstacles blocking quick exits, and public access on at least one side of a property fence. Homes next to schools, along drainage ditches, and near parks or similar venues are among the most vulnerable.

To avoid getting caught, the intruder’s ideal home is one they can get into and out of quickly, easily, and not be seen. Above all they are opportunists.

While most police will say that dense landscaping is an invitation to trouble and that statistically houses that cannot be seen from the street are at a higher risk for break-ins than houses that are, there are other landscaping tips they do not stress that they really should. Like their own "3-7" rule, especially if combined with thorny plants. IE: security landscaping.

The 3-7 Rule is to keep shrubs near the house no more than 3 feet high to deprive a potential intruder of a hiding place; Keep tree limbs at least 7 feet away from the side of the house and at least 12 feet off the ground, to deprive the intruder of easy access to a second level window or balcony.

This means thin out overgrown foliage on large shrubs to expose branch structure; if you can see through large plants, no one can hide behind or in them. If a plant is too overgrown, remove it and start over with one that's slower growing or lower to the ground. Prune shrubs for clear views from windows.

If you live in an urban or suburban area and you are considering building a wall or fence, you need to think about building codes. Securing an area usually requires complete enclosure and possibly a structure eight to 10 feet high. Most local building codes allow only six to seven feet, unless you obtain a variance. Vines on walls can help discourage graffiti but some vines will make the wall or fence climbable. Thinking security may dictate where walls or fences are installed and how high they should be. And high cinderblock or other thick walls can muffle noises like a neighbor of mine found out after he raised his backyard walls to 12 feet and an intruder accosted his wife. Us neighbors heard some muffled noises but could not quickly determine if it was kids playing one block over or from their house. As a result, we were a little slow to alert the authorities and help.

If you are determined to have a fence in these populated areas, consider picket fences, lattice with large openings, walls with open patterns or other see-through design, chain link (not pretty but cheap) or solid iron picket (nice looking but expensive).

If these walls or fences need a gate, avoid one from a deserted alley or pathway or blind corner and the like.

Seating in a fenced or walled area should be placed not only for relaxation, but in a place where you can see passerby, around your compound and so forth.

If you are in a rural area, a fenced courtyard or backyard would be nice to keep the kiddies and pets in and others out. To accomplish this and still more or less, follow the 3-7 Rule, my farmstead friend created a solid straw bale four and half foot high wall and imbedded broken, very sharp wine and beer bottle glass all along the outside and top of it. She has told me it was high enough that her children could not touch the top until they were old enough to know it was sharp and the deer were discouraged from the wall, even at night, as the motion sensor lights would reflect off the glass on the outside and top of the wall. She also told me that the glass did not stop a two legged intruder, but the wireless driveway alarm alerted her at the same time the lights startled him and even though he continued to intrude, she was alerted in time to give the bugger a very armed “welcome” and detention (tied up in her root cellar) until the county sheriff arrived to take him away.

Again, no matter where you live, be sure to have your lawn mowed and have someone pick up newspapers and mail if you are away – IE: Don’t advertise that your home is ripe for the picking.


  1. I'm here in Nob Hill in an older, established neighborhood. The house had cinderblock walls but with a low spot in the back by the alley where people used to put out the garbage back when the house was new. There was also a tangle of cheap wire in a corner abutting the neighbor's driveway. I had a burglar come in through one of those gaps and promptly had them filled in by a wall-builder. Now, the back wall is a tall wooden fence that may or may not be too stable. I'd been thinking of replacing it with more wall when I was able to financially. What's your suggestion?

    And couldn't a burglar use the lattices you mentioned as a handhold?


    Pat in Nob HIll

  2. Strong lattices are a threat to home security as are gutters... read on and get some more tips. The information I gathered was that anything that hides an intruder or gives them easy unseen access to a yard or home are what they look for. Later on in my notes I stress motion dector/dusk to dawn lighting. Most of my homestead friends use the solar kind - even up north, so I know any of us here in NM can use them too.... Any suggestions from others would be greatly appreciated as I am not an expert on this subject, merely one who questioned the experts ;-} Bundle up the snow is on its way

  3. Sorry I've been busy getting my house ready to put on the market ...

    I would close up the gaps and low spots in your existing wall that borders the alley ... either strengthen the wooden fence or add some kind of brick. Or put a Motion Detecting lighting in. Have it on the house or farther in the yard pointing at the low spot or gap. I was told repeatedly that intruders do not want to be SEEN so the light aimed to spotlight an intruder should discourage them.


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