ABCs Of Mountain Homesteading, Part 2: Back to Basics

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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B – Basics

Part 1 of the ABC’s of homesteading listed considerations regarding Ability: physical, mental, financial, attitude and emergencies and this part deals with the Basics of homesteading. Sometimes people tend to make remote homesteading far more complicated than it really is. Or they set their expectations too high and end up disappointed. If you are the type of person who prefers all the amenities that many cities and suburbs provide then perhaps remote mountain homesteading is not for you. There usually aren’t shopping malls, hair salons and restaurants etc available without a long drive. As previously mentioned the attitude of both or more partners in a relationship should be compatible to make this type of lifestyle change and be happy.

Heating Basics

When I refer to basics it is intended to mean a more simple lifestyle but shouldn’t be confused with lack of hard work. Living in the mountains is not totally austere living but the basics are much different than living in a more populated area. Having thermostatically controlled heat for some (like us) would be a luxury while others consider it necessity. We choose to be even more basic and heat with a wood stove. The carbon foot print is less and the particulates emitted from burning wood equals the oxygen created during the growing process leaving a zero impact. Our thermostat is the living room window. Actually quite simple, if it gets too hot inside you open the window a little, too cold inside, make sure the window is closed and add firewood. Not as easy as setting a thermostat but much more basic and totally efficient.

The term basic has different levels of meaning to different types of homesteaders. To us basic means having shelter that is energy efficient and simple. While having more room to navigate around each other in a larger house would sometimes be more appealing we believe it is better to have adequate room without the excess. What room we have we use daily and don’t have extra rooms that are rarely used or only used on occasion. When heating with fossil fuel those extra rooms are usually heated/cooled but rarely used. We chose a living area, pantry, bathroom, kitchen, breakfast room, partial basement and sleeping loft. That to us is basic while others with large homes might disagree and contend their extra rooms are basic for their life style. By sticking to the basic or simple lifestyle we have less house to clean, maintain and heat than would be necessary in a larger home. Sometimes smaller is better and in our case we prefer it that way.

It is our personal choice to heat with a wood stove and we consider that basic. Wood stoves have to be emptied of ash each day, constantly fed with firewood and cleaned once a year along with the chimney (a particularly dirty job) coupled with routine maintenance like replacing gaskets and such. Propane/natural gas heat, ceramic heaters, electric heat and most other forms don’t require much care other than replacing the filter regularly and adjusting the thermostat. Those other types do however miss the radiant heat which emanates from a wood stove when we come inside from the cold and making it nice to warm up with. I remember when we lived in a city we had an electric heat pump. It would heat our entire house but it blew out cold air and hence we never warmed up like we do with a wood stove. To us basic is heating with a good reliable wood stove. It entails more work but is more comforting plus the exercise in obtaining the firewood is great.

Basic Skills

Another consideration of remote living is that it does not have all the service providers available and usually found in a city environment. Hence it is advisable to acquire some basic skills to take care of periodic maintenance problems when you can‘t wait for a service provider to respond. Being able to handle some repairs or tasks is a very valuable asset to remote mountain living. Skills like basic small engine repair, electrical skills, plumbing knowledge, carpentry skills and routine home maintenance skills come in very handy when you live further out from a populated areas. I do not attempt automotive or diesel tractor repair unless they are very simple. Our tractor is small and if it needs repair we have a utility trailer where it can be transported for the appropriate work to be done by our local farm cooperative. Motor vehicles are so complicated to work on now days – requiring specific tools – we find it is better to take them to a skilled automobile repair facility that is equipped with those tools. Otherwise small or routine maintenance problems can be accomplished without having to pay hefty trip charges if you possess the skills.

The term basic when used in mountain homesteading depends on where you might individually draw the line for minimal requirements to accommodate the lifestyle you choose to live. While you can homestead with all the comforts of big city living coupled with its amenities in the mountains, it really boils down to personal choice. We have energy and water saving devices, heat with wood, grow our own vegetables and do as many of the routine services we can. Much of homesteading in the mountains is nothing more than common sense and hard work which provide exercise and self confidence.

Part one of the ABC’s of homesteading dealt with ability and the physical, mental, financial, attitude and emergencies. Part two covers the variances in the term basic and how some are unwilling to simplify their lives while others choose to live closer to nature and embrace the basics with a more simple life. We believe we have chosen a lifestyle which fits us and is simple and basic. Perhaps to sum up the ABC’s, part two, would be to say that simple living is a personal choice along with being happy with the basics of life and plenty of hard work. Part three and final part will be about the ABC’s of Commitment.

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