Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
When you live at 9,750’ elevation in the mountains of Southern Colorado you are well acquainted with snow. Lots of snow! According to the HUD report we were provided when we bought our land back in 1978, our locale averages 264” of snow a year. That is 22 feet of snow a winter and the key word in that report is average. Some years we receive 350” of snow and other times like last year we only received 185” of snow. It is only half way into November and we have received 60” so far this winter. So one of the major considerations a person would want to consider homesteading in the mountains is if you can deal with this much snow. While it accumulates over a span of seven or eight months, we sometimes receive up to five feet of snow in a single storm. You need to be pretty self reliant when you live remotely.
We are familiar with snow but more importantly in moving it out of the way so we can get around. The photo shows the two major tools we use to preserve our access. Our Kubota garden size tractor with the snow thrower attachment handles about 80 percent of the work but the rest is all done by hand with a snow shovel. I can’t even speculate on how many tons of snow we move with by shovel each year. The snow thrower takes care of the driveway but the remainder has to be done by shovel. That would include shoveling to the wood shed, shoveling off the deck, shoveling out the back yard, the garage, shoveling out under the sides of our A-Frame house where it piles up several feet deep and those other areas that the tractor can‘t reach.
While the snow thrower is fast and efficient the follow up work with the shovel can take several days to clear. We use all the precautions and safe shoveling techniques but we spend a lot of time each year with a snow shovel in our hands. One advantage is that it is easier to shovel snow down the mountain than up the mountain. Even though we do that as much as we can we still end up with ten foot or higher snow banks along our driveway at the end of the season. When you factor in the high winds we get in the mountains, which redistributes the snow, that means we do spend a lot of time with a snow shovel.
Shoveling to us is not a burden but just something that requires being done and kept up with so it doesn’t grow consistently more difficult to move as the season wears on. Much like cutting our 11 cords of firewood a year. It is something to be done and in the course of doing it the benefits out weigh the burdens. We stay more healthy due to the exercise and being outdoors much of the time and sleep very well at night. It won’t get done by itself so being self reliant is not optional with us. When we chose this life style, we realized we wouldn’t be able to maintain it forever. As long as we are able keep up we actually enjoy doing what we do in order to survive.
Snow is also good for having fun. We have a wonderful driveway to sled down and we have miles of un-plowed roads we snow shoe on. It is important to set aside time to have some enjoyable moments too. Should you choose to live in the mountains you need to be mindful of the climatic conditions for your area and be sure you are capable of handling those conditions both mentally and physically. The peripheral benefits are great and much better than can be accomplished in a gym. We have personally exceeded our pre conceived ideas of coping and actually enjoy what many would consider a hardship.