In our almost one quarter of a century living at 9,800-foot elevation, with our nearest neighbor close to one mile away, we have learned some valuable lessons. One of the lessons we have learned is that remote homestead living is a never-ending learning process and it has been filled with repetition.
Heating During Long Winters
Life at this elevation comes with considerable repetition, especially when it comes to the tasks required to heat our cabin. Each year, we need to cut, split and stack between nine to11 cords of firewood since our primary heat source is our wood stove. We recently added two Electric Thermal System heaters (ETS); however, our primary source of heat remains our woodstove. The ETS heaters keep us from having to get up at night during real cold weather to feed the woodstove. They also keep it warm so when we get up in the morning we don’t have to get the wood stove going immediately.
Firewood: The Never-Ending Task
Getting our firewood for each winter is repetitive and time consuming. We try to get it early each year but depending on the weather it sometimes takes us most of the summer to accumulate a sufficient amount of firewood. Since we enjoy the radiant heat we continue to use our wood stove as our major heat source. As can be seen in the photo we are not the only ones who enjoy the radiant heat.
Another repetitive task is shoveling snow. When we bought our property 40+ years ago the HUD report said that our average snowfall was 264 inches per winter. We have received less than that amount for the past few years and weather patterns seem to be constantly changing. We are getting more wind now and less accumulation of snow. We seem to be repeatedly clearing snow from either storms or drifting. This condition appears to be the new pattern for 6 to 7 months of the year.
Tree Growth Rings Reveal Past Weather Patterns
A changing weather pattern can be evidenced by the growth rings on the trees we cut for firewood. There may be 10 to 20 years of tight rings where there was little growth due to less moisture. Then there will be several years of more rapid growth where the growth rings are spaced out further. Some trees are up to 100+ years old or more, so we have a good indication that weather in the mountains runs in cycles.
Snow and Fine Dirt Wears Finishes on Structures
While snow removal and gathering firewood are repetitive and consume much of our year, we also have other tasks that are equally repetitive. High elevation weather/wind can be hard on outdoor finishes on structures. Even when using top quality exterior stains and sealers they need to be applied more often than in less environmentally harsh places. This is all repetitive work that must be done more often to preserve our homestead’s value and protect exterior finishes. It seems that when we don’t have a snow shovel or chainsaw in our hands we have a paint brush or paint roller.
Maintaining our lifestyle is hard work in this environment. I wouldn’t have it any other way and am thankful for each day we have. I believe our almost quarter of a century proves it can be done even in senior years. Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. We love our lifestyle and the effort it takes to maintain that lifestyle, plus it keeps us healthy.
Didn’t See That Coming
Many of these repetitive tasks were unforeseen when we planned to retire in the mountains. Coming here from city life, we could not imagine this much snow and wind, and dealing with it. The reality of life in the mountains has to really be experienced to understand what it is all about. Repetitive tasks are good for us as, over time, we have become more proficient at them. We had some skills when we embarked on this unique lifestyle but we have acquired many more over the years.
Learning Challenging Skills
Adapting to this type of lifestyle takes perseverance, willingness to learn and dedication. Prior to our marriage I’m sure Carol would never have imagined that she would get so excited over a walk behind snow thrower or new chainsaw. She has not only learned how to use both safely but also how to properly maintain them.
A Lifetime Of Learning
It has been an ongoing process and the more quickly we were able to learn, the faster we were able to successfully acclimate to this lifestyle. Anyone desiring to live a similar lifestyle as ours should learn all they can beforehand and be flexible enough to adjust their goals as realities are revealed. Going back to the earth is enticing and once the routine job tasks have been mastered it is extremely rewarding. Our reading of Mother Earth News over the 50+ years helped us to be more prepared by learning from those who went before us.
A Totally Transformed Lifestyle
If you don’t care for repetitive tasks, you may be disappointed as that is a very large part of remote mountain living. If you are prone to jumping right into a task without thinking it through, you may be putting your safety in peril as remote life does have some inherent dangers. If you master the obstacles along the way, you will most certainly be rewarded beyond measure. We have not regretted for one moment choosing this lifestyle, especially with this recent pandemic as we were already isolated.
Photo provided by Bruce McElmurray
Bruce and Carol live in their small cabin in the S. Sangre de Cristo mountains of S. Colorado with their two German Shepherd Dogs. They live remotely and heat their cabin with a wood stove. For more on Bruce and Carol visit their blog site. You can read all of Bruce's Mother Earth news posts here.
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