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Crisp, clean air, clear running streams, majestic views every way you turn, and the sound of elk bugling in the morning makes Jeff and me want to pinch ourselves on a daily basis just to make sure we aren’t dreaming. The reality? We’re not! Here at the Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch we consider ourselves some of the lucky few who get to live in a beautiful place like this all the time. And believe me when I say…we don’t take it for granted!
We firmly believe in keeping our surroundings as beautiful 100 years from now as they are today…which means our grandkids and their grandkids will get to live the dream, too. How? By minimizing our impact and practicing sustainability.
Hate Wind? We Love It!
At the Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch, we are completely off the grid. That’s right, we generate our own power using the sun and the wind. We love to joke that it cuts down our complaints about the wind because at least we’re making power when there is a strong enough breeze outside to ruin even the toughest of hair spraying jobs (Idaho is extremely windy and it can make residents quite grumpy at times)!
While some may argue that it can be rather expensive putting an off-the-grid system in, it actually saved us money because we would have had to bring power in so far. Here’s how it breaks down:
Would Have Cost:
• $225,000 to run power 2.5 miles into our lodge at an altitude of 7,000 feet
• $500 monthly fee on top of our usage forever
• $52,000 PLUS we make money on the power we feed back into the system!
That’s $173,000 initial savings + no monthly fees + we’re getting paid to use it. Yes, we love the wind…well, with saving like those, who wouldn’t?
The Scrooges of Power Consumption!
Once we started generating our own power we started turning into the Scrooges of Power Consumption! Okay, not really that extreme, but we quickly became more and more conscious of how much power we were using. We bought appliances and office machines that we knew would use the least amount of power and, surprisingly enough, discovered that the best way to save energy was to simply turn off all the lights when we exit a room.
It does seem obvious, but the fact is that people in general are pretty bad at turning off lights. We have made it a family effort to help each other remember as much as possible to keep unused lights OFF. When we have guests at the ranch, or when we rent out our lodge, we suggest that someone in the group be designated as the light switch patrol to ensure unused lights get turned off.
As you can see, anyone can implement this simple practice. It saves money and energy. If you want to make a difference, all you really need is just a little creativity.
Home Cookin’ – Just Like Grandma’s
Our guests get treated like royalty with lots of home grown goodness in their meals. We raise our own veggies and buy from local producers and farmer’s markets. We also get lots of quality time with the kids (I won’t tell you what they call it) because we do lots of home canning to prepare for hunting season and feeding our family in the winter ahead. We put up things like peaches, pears, jams, jellies, salsa, beans, corn & peas. This is a great way to be prepared for emergencies, save money on grocery bills, and have nutritional food to eat. Of course, being from the “potato state” we also store a generous amount of Idaho potatoes. We get fresh eggs from the neighbors for breakfast and we grind our own wheat to make freshly baked, straight-from-the-oven, homemade bread. Perfect for that delectable raspberry jam! Yum, yum!
Elk Meat Has More Protein Than Chicken… Really? Really!
Our elk are not treated with growth hormones, or other chemicals, like many other red meats are. Our elk meat comes from herds that are accredited, tested, and certified so we have the highest quality, best-tasting elk meat around. More and more people are discovering the health benefits and great taste of this lean and tender meat.
Did you know that elk is:
• lower in fat
• lower in cholesterol
• lower in calories
• higher in protein and other nutrients that your body needs, even when compared to chicken.
If you’ve never tried elk meat, you are really missing out!
Of course, we don’t eat elk at every meal, so we raise a pig or two each year to supply us with plenty of fresh pork. This way, even the leftovers and scraps at the ranch don’t go to waste! We simply fill up buckets of table scraps and take them to the pigs for next year’s pork! How’s that for a little creativity? This really adds up to a lot less garbage that has to be picked up by diesel-fueled trucks.
If you can’t raise a pig, then find someone who does, or who can use the scraps or compost them. This benefits not just the environment, but it also benefits our family and guests directly with a healthier lifestyle.
Family Values Still Exist at the Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch
Family values are at our core, so our business is a real family business. We try to teach our kids to get involved in this idea of minimal waste and conservation. They each get a portion of our garden to raise their own produce, which helps them understand where their food comes from and motivates them to want to eat their veggies since they are the ones who grew them (well, okay, let’s be honest – at least they eat their veggies a little better).
One of their jobs at the lodge is to collect and smash all the aluminum cans for recycling. They have put a recycling basket in the kitchen and they encourage all the guests to save their cans and plastic bottles for recycling. They smash them up and we take them into a recycling center. They get some spending money and learn how to be conscientious of their environment as well.
Small and Simple Steps Bring About Great Things!
There are a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to incorporate sustainability in life and business. It doesn’t have to be expensive or earth shattering and you don’t have to sacrifice quality of life or luxury. We can all start small and get better with time… small and simple steps in the right direction are much more important and effective than huge steps in the wrong direction or not moving in any direction at all! Let us all strive to be more independent, providing as much as we can for ourselves and working toward being less dependent on others or the government for our existence.
Send Us Your Thoughts!
These are just a few of the things we are working on, but by no means have we thought through or implemented it all. We hope these ideas have sparked some creative thinking for you as you contemplate your own impact on your surroundings. If you have any ideas for us regarding other things we could try, we are totally open to new ideas and we would love to hear your suggestions. Please email us through our website at www.RockyMountainElkRanch.com with your comments. We know by helping each other, we can all make a difference!
by Alana Lerwill, Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch