The Cabin In The Woods

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Living in the mountains at 9,800’ elevation is wonderful beyond description ‘but’ it comes with a lot of work. In the summer months we spend considerable time cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking firewood. Since we heat our small 890 square foot cabin with a wood stove we need to have between 9 and 12 cords of firewood available to see us through the next winter. Without question our winters are long and last anywhere from 6-8 months. Our snowfall on average is 264” per season but spread out over up to 6 – 8 months it is manageable (more on that under snow removal). The 4-5 months where we don’t have snow is spent with our small garden, property maintenance and getting firewood for next winter.

Average Day In The Mountains

A normal day starts early by arising around sunrise. We like to get an early start to our day since we live on the northeast side of the mountain and the sun sets on the opposite side which is early afternoon for us. First things first – we get our dogs out in the fenced in backyard to relieve themselves and then we sit and do some meditation while we enjoy a hot cup of coffee. This quiet morning time gets our day started off gradually.  

Then it is time to get the dogs fed the first of their three meals for the day. Next we get the three bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds and get breakfast ourselves. I usually spend about an hour on the computer answering emails and checking on friends. Then outside to clear snow, cut firewood, mulch limbs, seal exposed wood or other labor intensive tasks. At our age it takes longer so we have to plan our activities carefully in advance.

Between meals for ourselves and the dogs coupled with dog walks and letting them in and out throughout the day we work on needed tasks. Carol has household duties so she vacuums, dusts, prepares meals, bakes, keeps the wood stove going and helps me when necessary.  When the sun sets we then sit and relax for the rest of the day.

Snow Removal

With the volume of snow here in the mountains we spend a lot of time clearing it away. We have a small Kubota tractor with a snow thrower on the front and a blade on the rear. There are a few areas around our house that we can only get by shoveling. Since we live in an A-Frame the first order of business is to get the snow off the roof. Snow sliding down a steep roof can literally ruin your day so that is first.

Then we shovel it out to where it can be removed by the snow thrower. Snow removal is not something to procrastinate about as if it snows again it can be very troublesome to remove accumulated snow. The wind blows frequently in the mountains so if I had a recommendation it would be having a tractor with a cab enclosure. It can be miserable throwing snow in the wind. Fortunately our snowfall is spread out over several months so we don’t often have to deal with large snowfalls. Six feet over two days is the most we have dealt with.

Living With Wild Animals

We not only live in the mountains but our homestead is pretty remote; hence we live with wild animals. My experience has been that the wild animals make for excellent neighbors. In our 20 + years here we have found them to be very respectful of our space and we reciprocate. When we are outside we never know when we will encounter predators or wild animals. In our time here we have not had any real serious encounters.

We have mountain lion, lynx, wolves, coyotes, bobcat, elk, deer, turkeys and a wide array of smaller critters. We have had a bear sit down about 25 yards away just to watch us work on firewood with a chainsaw. A mother bear actually raised her tiny cubs at our home and used us to train them. Mountain lions will let you know if you happen to get to close. When they coil on the ground, lay their ears back and snarl you need to stop encroaching until they settle down.

Deer frequently follow me around while I work. We used to have a turkey that followed me around like a pet, especially when I would dig fishing worms as she liked to share. Respecting their space and staying calm has seen us through multiple encounters. When you are able to gain the trust of any wild animal and be accepted by them you are at a special place in the animal kingdom. A place that is felt and not easily described.

Living With Canine Companions

We live in our small cabin with our three German Shepherd Dogs. We prefer the German Shepherd breed for their intelligence and loyalty. Of all the breeds the German Shepherd is third on the list for intelligence only behind Poodle and  Border Collie. With our lifestyle we only have each other and the dogs to talk to. It is amazing how much they understand and how it is almost like having three extra people around. They communicate very well and let us know their needs and respond to our direction for them.

We could not ask for any better companions and they are good to live with because living as we do they let us know if there is anything lurking outside the house. They live inside the house with us and have full and complete reign of the house. Their intelligence and protectiveness makes them the perfect fur family for us.

In summary, life in the mountains is pleasurable beyond description but it entails a tremendous amount of work. We especially like this time of year when part time residents are gone and it is very quiet and peaceful. We enjoy the simplicity of our lifestyle albeit a physically demanding one. I would highly recommend it for those who are not afraid of intense hard physical work. It is clearly not a suitable lifestyle for everyone but it is just right for us.

For more on Bruce, Carol and their mountain lifestyle and fur family go to their blog site at:

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