Bruce and Carol McElmurray - Retired Living in the High Country
Place of Residence: S. Colorado, at 9,750 feet in the Sangre de Christo Mountains
Recent Articles/Projects for MOTHER EARTH NEWS: Aug/Sept 2010, Firsthand Report. And we're now bloggers for The Happy Homesteader blog.
Background: Married to Carol, we live in a 880 sq. ft. cabin remotely along with our three dogs whom are our 'children'. We implemented many of the things we learned from MOTHER since its inception as a magazine in our current lifestyle. We were helped by so many contributors over the years we desire to now return the favor to other MOTHER readers. We heat with a wood stove and cut our firewood by hand from our 11 acres. We went back to the land and are essentially do it yourself people.
Personal History: After 8 years of serving in the USAF I decided that civilian life was better suited for me. Carol is a school teacher by training but worked several years in medical offices. I retired from the insurance industry 14 years ago when we decided to finally live our dream here in the mountains. We had purchased our land 33 years ago anticipating future retirement. We have had our successes and disappointments but have never for a moment been disappointed over our lifestyle choice.
Current Projects: I do volunteer work 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 us much time for on going projects as much of our time is devoted to year round survival and maintaining our lifestyle. We are frequently visited by various wild animals whom we have learned to coexist with successfully. We finished our shell house ourselves including the plumbing and electrical prior to our retirement and moving here full time. Over the years we have had several past projects which we have also done ourselves including the construction of a two story garage, a wood shed and decks on the house and wood shed. We are living proof that going back to the land can still be done today and want to share out experiences and projects with others, including our daily experiences. We get on average 264" of annual snowfall so much of our time is dedicated to clearing snow and getting in firewood in preparation of our long winters.
Talkin’ Self-RelianceWhat 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 mind-set, 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: We like to camp, garden, hike, fish and prospect for gold when time permits. We have found our little slice of paradise and hope to encourage others to find theirs too. We hope our experiences will encourage others to plan and prepare for a similar life whether it is in the mountains or elsewhere. I believe we have come to realize that we were always latent mountain man and woman and this lifestyle has helped that side of us to blossom. Neither of us are professional writers but we will do our best to share in an interesting and personal way. Here are some more interesting aspects of our lives:
Crops You Can Grow at 9,000 FeetSpinach, peas, Swiss chard, rhubarb, potatoes
Regular Wild Visitors Deer, elk, bears, coyotes and an occasional mountain lion
Necessary ResourcesElectricity 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. I can’t imagine not having her to share this wonderful experience with. Having a good partner by my side makes the entire mountain lifestyle special.
More Places to Find Us on the Web: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com/ and we are both on Facebook.