The ABC’s Of Homesteading, Part 1: Ability

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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The term homesteading covers a large spectrum of different lifestyles ranging from the person with the garden patio to those who live as we do in the mountains remotely. We are able to grow some of our own vegetables and are mostly self reliant. This blog is about the ABC’s of modern day homesteading. It will be in three parts and may prove helpful if you are considering homesteading like we do. We live in a fairly remote area without the amenities of a city nearby. This blog is intended for people like us who have left urban civilization behind and tend to live where there are fewer amenities and people.

A – Ability

One of the first considerations is do you have the ability to homestead in the environment you choose to live in. We live in the mountains with few people around and it is worthy that you know whether you can sustain your lifestyle without lots of social activities and people. There are some in our community that put together social activities like dominoes’ and other game activities. We have discovered that attending those activities limits our acquaintances and are pretty much a waste of time for us. With the technology today we are able to stay connected to family and friends in other parts of the country/world and that is sufficient interaction for us so we can spend our time more productively doing those things that are needed like clearing snow, accumulating fire wood, property maintenance, and being outdoors in the fresh air. We found we are not small talk people and prefer other outlets for our interaction.

Another consideration is whether you are physically able to handle the rigors of remote life. We burn approximately 9-11 cords of firewood each winter and that takes some strenuous physical activity. We also receive an average of 264 inches of snow each winter and that too requires physical stamina. It is therefore helpful to recognize your physical limits prior to making a change. We have witnessed people with stupendous dreams of living in the mountains and doing all these things when they have physical limitations that make it extremely difficult. Often one partner may believe they can carry the load for both only to find out how physically draining and exhausting that can be.

Mental and physical ability are not only needed but attitude and financial needs must be considered also. If you are single you only have your attitude to concern yourself with. If there are others involved success may depend on the cumulative attitude. What sounds like fun initially may after redundancy become a burden. Having a family member harp about a routine chore can make life difficult for everyone. Hence having a positive attitude toward repetitive work activity is essential for everyone committed to living a lifestyle in the mountains.

Homestead Finances

Another consideration is finances. Going into the woods with a pocket knife and ax and hacking out a home is essentially a thing of the past. Even though we live remotely our county has various codes and procedures to follow much like other counties and states. To build almost anywhere now days can be costly when you follow the rules and codes. We prepared to move from the city to the mountains well ahead of time. We knew it would require some finances to fall back on so we limited our eating out to only occasionally. The average family in the USA eats out 5 times a week or 260 meals a year. If that is reduced to 12-24 meals the money saved can be set aside which can accumulate into a substantial amount. We also cut back on other expenses so we would have financial security when we finally made the move. The more self reliant you are the more you save by not having those services performed for you. We took small engine repair courses and studied ‘how to’ electrical and plumbing books so we would be prepared prior to making the plunge. Those efforts have paid dividends many times in the past 16+ years.

As stated at the start this blog is for anyone considering moving and homesteading in a more remote location. Service and repair fees when you live any distance from the nearest town usually have a trip charge added. Repetitive trips into town increase your fuel charges so we plan our trips carefully and have several pre-planned stops in order to make a trip more productive.

Medical Emergencies in Remote Places

Regardless of your plans there will always be something that will sometimes cause those plans to derail. One thing that comes to mind is medical emergencies. Two incidents come to mind: Like when I tried to move a large rock out of the way and ended up with a hernia which entailed 6 weeks of recovery. Or the time I slipped on ice falling awkwardly and fractured two bones in my ankle. We had to wait two days to see the doctor in that case. It is wise to be prepared to cope with emergencies in case of a mishap as it may be a day or two before you can get to medical attention. In life threatening cases we do have helicopter pads in the area so a serious case could be air lifted out if needed. These are usually unplanned situations that the remote homesteader needs to be prepared for. Also our dogs may need first aid and it is important you know what to do and how to do it if that arises.

To summarize, ability requires some realistic self evaluation prior to jumping into a move. Preparation can save a lot of heartache and inconvenience. Part 2 of the ABC’s will be about the basics of remote homesteading.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and homesteading in the mountains go