ABCs Of Mountain Homesteading, Part 3: Make the Commitment

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Part three and the last of a three-part series on mountain living. Part one was about Ability, part two was about Basics, and part three is about Commitment. If there would be a part four it would be Determination but would be redundantly like Commitment so this is the final in the series. Frequently in life all the careful planning and preparation sometimes falls short of its intended goal. Things happen differently than we may have expected. It is during such unexpected events that commitment comes into play. When our best plans do not work out just the way we had intended we need commitment and determination. It is when these unexpected obstacles present themselves that determination and commitment are important to continue to fulfilling our dream of living in the mountains. When they do occur we sometimes tend to want to fold up shop and retreat to what was a more comfortable place. Establishing your home in the mountains in a fairly remote location will almost certainly guarantee that some curve balls will be thrown your way and knock you off balance.

Unplanned Occurrences

One of the first unplanned occurrences for us was an unexpected earthquake. There had not been an earthquake in the past 100 years or more but out of the blue we had a 4.7 magnitude earthquake. We were apparently very close to the origin (4-5 miles) which we discovered later. Our house started swaying and we heard this noise which sounded like a jet breaking the sound barrier. Then we heard this grinding sound which we subsequently figured out were the rocks grinding together as the earth moved. Since our area isn’t one that is known for having earthquakes it came as a total surprise to us.

Our homestead held up very well except one basement door shifted which I had to repair. We had never been in an earthquake before and having discovered what they were like we questioned if we really wanted to stay and risk experiencing another one. A firm commitment to our lifestyle convinced us that we would stick it out as there may not be another one for another 100 years or longer. Even though they are scary to go through people on the west coast have them far more frequently and don’t run from them so why should we.

Natural Events

Hail storms, lightning strikes, wildfires, earthquakes and other hazards need to all be dealt with as they occur and having the proper commitment to our lifestyle is essential in doing that. Without a clear commitment it becomes easy to cut and run when things get tough. We have had a lightning strike near our home, a small earthquake and non destructive hail storms. Non-destructive, that is, if you don’t count the damage to my garden. Whether it is nature lashing out, unexpected financial challenges, injury or illness, do you stick it out and keep working on fulfilling your dream or bail out and return to what was previously more comfortable? It is during these tribulations that will define your commitment to mountain homesteading, because they all can or may happen in the mountains.

Living With Wildlife

For us it is living with the wildlife, the company of our dogs, and the improvements which we have made to our home and property each year which make our lives better and helps us hang on during times of trial. Periodic visits by bear, mountain lion, bobcat, lynx, coyote, deer, elk and a host of smaller animals are all part of the experience of living remotely on a mountain side. If you are afraid of accidental confrontation with wild animals maybe a more civilized lifestyle nearer to people would be better for you. When these accidental meetings occur it is much different than having a set of bars or fence between us and the animals like in a zoo. We certainly have had several unplanned confrontations but we have found remaining calm is the best way to survive when they occur. Trying to shoo away a bear or mountain lion just won’t work. Are we ever in danger from all the wild animals we co-exist with? Not very often and we have found the behavior of most wild animals far more respectful and predictable than most humans we encounter. That is never a guarantee it will always be that way but we certainly don’t consider the encounters we have had reason to abandon our lifestyle and move to a “safer” place.

Winters can be lonely when you live in a remote area in the mountains. Coping with the wind and snow we receive yearly is sometimes daunting. Over 260” of snow is a lot to keep up with and it definitely takes commitment to stay the course and deal with all that snow each year. Also having to contend with potential wildfires (we have not had any intimate threats yet) can be a scary proposition. We had a Colorado Department of Forestry audit and came out with a very favorable score against a possible wildfire. We constantly continue to work to protect ourselves against such an occurrence but simply having the threat is no reason to leave for more comfortable surroundings.

If a wildfire ever materializes, we will evacuate, if possible, to a more temporary, safe area. It requires commitment to persevere through wildfire threats, severe weather, and other potential hazards. Perhaps commitment is realizing that when you live on a mountain serious circumstances can unexpectedly be thrown at you but being committed/persistent and prepared will see you through the difficult times. Life in the mountains can be challenging and there are realities to occasionally face. If you possess the Ability, Basics and Commitment you should be properly equipped to handle them successfully and be able to experience a different but highly enjoyable lifestyle.

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