Living the Life in the American West

living in a rural paradise

Because of our wide open and unpopulated countryside, many, many people are looking at our area as a good place to raise their kids or to retire. Almost no pollution, almost no crime, it's not "reach out and touch your neighbor," and the countryside is simply gorgeous. These are all reasons why I came here, too. I just happened to get here a bit earlier than most folks (1994). I also came here having a pretty good idea what I was getting into. Since getting here, I've met a lot of folks who don't have any idea... For example:

For our first 5 years in Boncarbo, our nearest neighbor was over 2 miles away. There were summer visitors on the ranch but most of the year, we had the whole 700 acres to ourselves. Big cattle ranches on three sides and a 6,450-acre state wildlife area on the fourth, it was heaven (for us). Horrendous downpours and hail during thundershowers in the summer. In winter, everything from 2 inches of snow every day for a month to 5 feet over a Thanksgiving weekend, with quite a few 2-3 foot snowfalls thrown in, right up to the middle of May (we just had 3 snowfalls in December, 2006, totalling almost 10 feet in the backyard - it was 9 days before we could get out). And don't forget the -20° sometimes. 23 miles to town: 2 miles to the county road and then 13 miles to pavement. A little bit of planning and discipline and we never had a problem. Not even a bear problem. Even the three-and-a-half years of playing the game with Qwest before we got a phone line were no problem (cell phone use here still relies on wind direction). Then folks from Santa Fe moved onto the property right next to us. 48 hours and we had bears coming out our ears. Two more weeks and people in town were hassling me about "those folks from Santa Fe who come here and want to change things."

I've been here 14 years now but I'm not a native. I do have to say, though, that living in this wilderness in the heart of America is not for pansies, or for folks who are sure they know better. If you come here thinking you're going to change things for the "better," we have a place for you up north: it's called "Boulder." I once had a sheriff's deputy ask me what kind of owl that was sitting on top of my dog run fence (it was a plastic one, and that deputy actually came here from Boulder).

Most of us in the bush like things just the way they are here. Folks who don't like it here get chewed up and spit out pretty quick. If you think I'm pulling your leg a bit, I've got some friends down in Taos, Mora and Rio Arriba Counties you should meet. One side of their families came here in the 1600's. The other side has been fighting terrorists since 1492.

To help ease your transition into this social and physical landscape, following this is the Living the Life section of This info is compiled from several different sources: The Rural Living Handbook (kudos to the Turkey Creek Soil Conservation District and all their contributors for a job well done) plus a variety of USDA, National Forest Service, USGS, NMSU, CSU, and CDOW brochures, etc. Most of the info here is applicable to a pretty wide area of the Intermountain West. The most important page in all of this is the Code of the West, everything else flows from that.

There's lots of advice in this section of the website but you really need to know: I'm neither an expert nor an authority. I'm a refugee from the city, too. I have lived in the bush for years at various times in my life but southern Colorado is different from the Maine woods, the Canadian Arctic Islands, the "Emerald Triangle" in northern California, Gisgome, BC, Lac Edouard, PQ, and English Harbor, Newfoundland. So what's here is advice, take it or leave it. It's up to you... just don't be silly and you'll probably be fine. And if you're not arrogant about it, the neighbors might even be helpful.

I've gotten a lot of inquiries in regards to Living Green (ecologically and environmentally sane). It's been a life-long interest of mine and it's finally going mainstream. So I'm drawing on miscellaneous sources of information to back up some of my ideas and starting to put articles into a section called Living Green. One of the first sections is about a utilities retrofit I'm looking at doing on my modular home.

As always on this hobby-site-that-is-taking-over-my-life, things flow as they flow (and yes, I'm getting to be an old codger, too, things just don't move like they used to...)

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