Bruce and Carol McElmurray, Retired Living in the High Country
Place of Residence: Southern Colorado at 9,750 feet in the Sangre de Christo Mountains
Recent Articles/Projects for MOTHER EARTH NEWS: Aug/Sept 2010, Firsthand Report.
Background: Bruce and Carol live remotely in a 880-square-foot cabin along with their three dogs. They implemented many of the things they learned from MOTHER since its inception as a magazine. They have been helped by so many contributors over the years and desire to now return the favor to other MOTHER readers. They heat with a woodstove and cut firewood by hand from their 11 acres. They went back to the land and are essentially do-it-yourself people.
Personal History: After 8 years of serving in the USAF, Bruce decided that civilian life was better-suited for him. Carol is a school teacher by training but worked several years in medical offices. Bruce retired from the insurance industry 14 years ago when the pair decided to finally live their dream in the mountains. They purchased their land 33 years ago, anticipating future retirement. They have had successes and disappointments but have never for a moment been disappointed of their remote-living lifestyle choice.
Current Projects: Bruce volunteers for a local German Shepherd Rescue and Carol is a volunteer for Global Media Outreach. Living at this altitude in a somewhat remote area does not leave the couple much time for ongoing projects, as much of their time is devoted to year-round survival and maintaining our lifestyle.
Bruce and Carol are frequently visited by various wild animals whom they have learned to coexist with successfully. They finished their shell house themselves, including the plumbing and electrical prior to their retirement and moving into the house full-time. Over the years, they have had several past projects, including the construction of a two-story garage, a woodshed and decks on the house. They are living proof that going back to the land can still be done today and want to share experiences and projects with others. They get on average 264 inches of annual snowfall, so much of their time is dedicated to clearing snow and getting in firewood in preparation of long winters.
What are some of the biggest challenges of this lifestyle, given that you and Carol didn’t start homesteading until after retiring?
Bruce: Having to share such small quarters (an 880-square-foot cabin). That took some adjustment. Now, with four dogs, the cabin is even tighter. But with the proper mindset, it’s not only doable but cozy. Because we live so remotely — 20 miles from the nearest post office — we need to be self-reliant. When things break, we try to fix the problem ourselves rather than call a repairman. In addition to cutting wood for heat, we have a portable sawmill for turning some of our trees into lumber for building projects.
What do most people not understand about living in such an isolated location?
Bruce: The never-ending litany of work, such as annually cutting 9 to 11 cords of firewood, clearing and mulching the dead trees from our lot, hauling logs for milling, sealing exposed wood surfaces from water and ice, repairing the annual snow damage, and moving the rocks that seem to always be in the way. The climate is harsh, which requires a lot of ongoing house and property maintenance.
Other Fun Facts: The couple likes to camp, garden, hike, fish and prospect for gold when time permits. They have found their little slice of paradise and hope to encourage others to find theirs, too. They hope their experiences will encourage others to plan and prepare for a similar life, whether it is in the mountains or elsewhere. Bruce believes they have always been a latent mountain man and woman and remote living has helped that side of them to blossom.
Here are some more interesting aspects of Bruce and Carol's lives:
Crops You Can Grow at 9,000 Feet: Spinach, peas, Swiss chard, rhubarb, potatoes
Regular Wild Visitors: Deer, elk, bears, coyotes and an occasional mountain lion
Necessary Resources: Electricity and Internet access — so we can share our lives with others and be an inspiration for them to follow their own dreams.
Great Person to Share Mountain Living With: Carol. Bruce can’t imagine not having her to share this wonderful experience with. Having a good partner by his side makes the entire mountain lifestyle special.
More Places to Find Bruce and Carol on the Web: www.BruceCarolCabin.Blogspot.com/ and they are both on Facebook.