Mountain Homesteading Challenges

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Previously when I have done topics on living on a mountain remotely in a small cabin and heating that cabin with a wood stove I have extolled the virtues of our lifestyle. There are occasional challenges associated with living as we do and this blog is about one of those challenges. I have to admit that I do not consider myself a writer and most of my blogs are more conversational and written as if I were talking to one person. I have never been to any writing schools nor have I been trained to convey my topic in a professional way so I often struggle to convey my topic clearly. Therefore I hope the true magnitude of what this topic is intended to convey will come across properly.

There are many challenges in living as we have chosen to live and Carol and I have a tendency to simply accept them without question as being the normal challenges that are required to live this lifestyle. In the past I have painted a pretty rosy picture of all the wonderful benefits of living here on the mountain. Having said all that here goes my attempt to tell of some of the challenges we face from time to time but don‘t often dwell on because we simply take them in stride.

Last night for example the temperature dropped to zero degrees Fahrenheit and our wind gauge was registering 25 miles per hour wind speed. I think the wind gauge lied as when I needed to go outside around 1:00 AM to check on what was banging on the house it was all I could do to stand up in the wind gusts. Come to think of it the gauge has never registered above 25 MPH and the wind has sometimes been so strong that I would have to grab onto something to steady myself. Snow was blowing and swirling every which way and for those interested in mountain living this does happen a few times a year. Not often but certainly on

That also means that when you choose to heat your small cabin with a wood stove you are required to get up numerous times during the night to put wood in that stove. A small cabin requires a small wood stove but when it gets really cold that stove won’t accept enough wood to keep going at a sufficient rate to keep the cabin heated. Larger stoves will burn for 8-10 hours without having to refuel them but a smaller stove in order to generate adequate heat needs to be fed wood every few hours. I believe I got up three times during the night to refuel the stove and then make sure the wood caught before I returned to a nice warm bed with flannel sheets. With the wind roaring throughout the night and the temperatures around zero it is imperative that we kept that stove going and even by feeding it regularly the inside temperature still dropped to 53 degrees.

Some people would consider this an inconvenience but we simply accept it as a natural way to maintain our lifestyle. The most difficult part is crawling out of that nice warm comfortable bed to keep the stove going and being able to fall back asleep again. Fortunately this is not a regular part of our weather pattern so we don’t have to do it often. Finally when it was time to arise for the day I remembered why I had gone outside last night. What was banging against the house was the bird feeder so I took it down to bring inside before it became broken from the numerous impacts with the house. As the sun came up the mountain chickadees reminded me of my removing their food source by perching along the front window reminding me they were hungry. Our winter birds consist of chickadees, nuthatches, finches and both stellar jays and grey jays (known as camper jays). We also provide them with suet feeders as well as sunflower seeds. Clearly in this brutal weather they needed food to help survive and stay warm so I trudged out to restore their feeder for which they all seemed highly grateful and couldn‘t wait until it was back up.

Following that the dogs needed to go out into the back yard to relieve themselves. With the wind blowing snow from all directions they were not very happy in doing that but took very little time to attend to business and come back inside where they gathered around the wood stove. If any of this sounds like complaining it is certainly not intended to be but as previously stated we consider this one of the natural conditions of living here. Therefore if you are considering living as we do in an environment like we do these are some realities of being able to enjoy that lifestyle. I would not want anyone to say we sugar coated mountain living because our attitude is that these occasional inconveniences are more than worth coping with in order to live where and how we do. It clearly is somewhat different than being able to simply turn the thermostat up a few degrees when you get cold. The prevailing question might be is living there worth doing this when it gets cold? Our answer would be it is more than worth it and there are small inconveniences in life where ever you may live.

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