Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
While I was outside shoveling snow the other day I asked myself whether I would choose this lifestyle again if I had the chance. A lifestyle that now becomes increasingly difficult and harder as I am getting older. What was easy to do like shoveling tons of snow each winter when I was in my 50s requires considerably more effort now that I’m in my 70s. Our winters are long and start early and end late because of our high elevation and a significant amount of that time is therefore spent with a snow shovel in our hands. Our Kubota tractor with the snow thrower attachment efficiently handles about 80 percent of the snow removal but regretfully not all of it. There is the back yard to keep clear for the dogs to use, around the perimeter of the house plus walkways steps and decks to do. So the nagging question I pondered was knowing now what was involved in homesteading and maintaining this lifestyle would I do it all over again. Starting with a raw piece of land and through tremendous labor, time and effort developing it into a livable remote homestead would it be worth doing over again? Undeveloped land is getting harder to find and opportunities are becoming more limited or affordable to forge out a homestead. So the predominant question after all these years is would I do it again if I had the chance?
In addition to the snow there are other tasks that need to be routinely done as well. Getting in 11-12 cords of firewood for next winter will take at least 2-4 weeks, sealing the house, garage, woodshed and decks against harsh weather conditions, removal of broken tree limbs and fallen trees that happened during the winter just to name a few of the more physically required tasks. Then there are the never ending repairs and maintenance issues. Hence maintaining a lifestyle like we do is physically demanding and requires a lot of effort. We are always looking for ways to make these tasks more efficient but even when we streamline them it still requires considerable time and effort because as we get older we lose agility and the all day endurance to do them like in past years.
Would I do it again is the lingering question as I slowly work through the snow outside and think about the issue. I have taken several days pondering this question and weighing and evaluating the matter to formulate a honest response. I have considered the independence we enjoy and the ability to care for ourselves in difficult circumstances. The harsh weather and high elevation coupled with the steepness of the terrain and also factoring in that we are getting older and that makes simple tasks take a little longer and become harder. When I consider all the positive aspects like living with wildlife, pure sweet well water, fresh air, blinding blue skies, the overwhelming smells of spring and fall along with the fact that all the physical work we do actually keeps us more healthy in spite of having to slow down some.
When we recently visited a friend in the hospital we were talking about all the injuries my wife and I have received over the past 18 years. The many stitches, broken bones, hernia, and some I’m sure we have forgotten. The accidents that should not have happened but did none the less happen not to mention the endless use of band aids. What was missing from our discussion were the illnesses we didn’t have due to being outdoors so much of the time and the physical demands this life style plays in keeping us more healthy than other more sedentary lifestyles.
When I think of the deer, bear and other wild critters that are frequent visitors I put that clearly on the plus side. The many species of birds are abundant. Or walking to the other end of our property and being able to sit in the swing while we hear the whisper of the breeze through the trees and the sound of an underground spring that bubbles forth out of the mountain are priceless. Watching the birds flit in and out of that spring having gotten a drink of water or taking a quick bath. A quiet place to just sit and reflect that does not have the background noise of sirens, traffic, neighborhood noise and all the other ancillary noise found in different situations. No traffic, factory or other obnoxious smells; just the wonderful smell of the woods. Being able to have a small garden that provides us fresh vegetables is another bonus.
Then I move on to think of the small city nearby where we do much of our shopping and the trips to Alamosa where we have outstanding medical providers, good dental care and shopping opportunities. Especially for a small town when you would think that you would have to go to a larger city for quality medical care like we enjoy. How we don’t have long bumper to bumper commutes, endless traffic lights or traffic jams to contend with. I can only remember one time in all these years being held up in traffic when a large truck over turned blocking the road. The Alamosa trip is enjoyable due to the drive through the San Luis valley which has some of the most beautiful mountain views along the way that makes the trip pass quickly.
This all brings me back to my question whether I would do it all over again? Having considered all factors I would not hesitate to do it all over again and hope to continue with this lifestyle until I simply can’t do it any longer. As a matter of fact I would not only do it again but I would recommend it to others who have a somewhat adventurous spirit. Starting with a raw piece of land and going forging a homestead provides one with the deep gratification and satisfaction that can only come from taking something rough and raw and turning it into something much better.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle go to their blog, McElmurray's Mountain Retreat.
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