Self Reliance and Early Preparation

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Being prepared for remote high elevation living starts before you make the move if you want the least stress possible. We had researched and made inquiries as to some of the potential difficulties we may experience to be as prepared for this lifestyle as possible. People in the community we had selected to live in had plenty of advice for us. We were given some good advice and some not so good. When you plan to move to a remote location and live there full time it is imperative that you get the best advice and information before hand that you can. It will make the transition much easier by utilizing others past experience. Some of the things we were told simply did not make realistic sense so we ignored them. Others gave us advice that had more of a sound basis and helped us avoid the same mistakes they had apparently made. For example we were told that propane would not work at our altitude because of the thin air. I’m glad we checked that out and found out it was a myth beforehand. When the power goes out those with electric stoves are unable to prepare hot meals unless they have generator backup. With a propane stove we have no problem carrying on life as usual. Some heating appliances that use propane only need a small jet adjustment for high altitude to be very efficient. 

One of our smartest decisions was to take a small engine repair course. The nearest small engine repair facility is over 40 miles away, so running in to get a small engine repaired is not always possible. We chose the Foley Belsaw course and found it provided us with the knowledge needed to keep our equipment running well.  It provided the needed tools, test equipment and 4 HP engine to work on. The final exam was to disassemble the engine and then put it back together again. Then it needed to run.  A word of caution is when you test the reassembled engine don’t try to hold it down while someone else pulls the starter rope because you will vibrate all over the place. The course gave us the basics and hands on learning to make sure we were comfortable with what we were doing. What we learned from that reasonably priced course has been very valuable in living as we do. With the volume of firewood we burn it is essential to keep our chain saws running efficiently and reliable. We spend a lot of time running those saws each year as we cut 10-11 cords of firewood. The old reliable saw is a Stihl that we have used on a regular basis for 20 continuous years which runs just like when we first purchased it. Knowing how to maintain it has helped us keep our chain saws running well along with our wood splitter and wood mill which has a 13 HP Honda engine. We have also been able to help neighbors keep their equipment in running order. Being able to maintain our own equipment has made what could be difficult living far easier. It is also our belief that preventative maintenance is much better than subsequent repairs.   

We took the course and their advanced course prior to making the move and I’m glad we did. There are several times it has benefited us throughout the years.  We were the type of people who could take things apart but getting them back together could sometimes prove to be a problem.  Obtaining some how to education before we moved paid for itself several times over. If you are unable to pay for a home study course the libraries are full of “how to” books that will walk you through small engine repair or a host of other projects. Utilizing the library and the resource it provides helped us with doing plumbing repairs and electrical repairs.  In the end it made us more self reliant and saved us a lot of money on tasks that we were perfectly capable of doing ourselves. Before making a move to remote high altitude living it is important you learn as much before making the move as possible. 

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and living in the mountains go to: