Monday, December 31, 2007
December 31, 2007
It’s hard to believe that today is the last day of 2007! Where has the year gone? Our family has undergone lots of changes this year… some good… others not so good. Just like every other family in the world I suppose. My philosophy is: CHANGE is GOOD! I like change… (and not just moving furniture & painting – for those of you who know me!) I understand that not everyone does… but I think change offers an opportunity for new things to happen in your life… and God is faithful… so we should rejoice in the changes life brings!
Winter has come in Nebraska. We had a white Christmas, which is unusual for us… at least in the past 15 years maybe. Our “big snow” is usually during State Basketball Tournaments. While we don’t have nearly snow Colorado currently has - it’s still plenty for us here.
The other morning I woke to Skeeter whining – obviously needing to go out to potty – and noticed that it looked really gray & cold… the neighbor’s lilac bushes were covered in heavy frost. Had we not been in the city it would have looked much like an Ansel Adams picture!
That aside, this cold is chilling me to the bone… how am I going to make it in Colorado?? I’m not questioning my desire to move… just wondering how many layers of clothes I’ll have to wear to be warm during the winter months! I’ve been cleaning out my closets… getting rid of clothes I no longer wear (still have a few I’m hanging onto for some reason) and will need to replenish said closet with thrift store sweaters, thermal shirts & sweatshirts. I look beyond the cold… look at photos I have of our property & the surrounding area… and am filled with anticipation!
Yesterday we had a family Christmas dinner. Our family goes beyond “blended”… we joke that we don’t have a family tree – it’s more of a family “bush”! Having a blended family makes it challenging for everyone to get together for holidays… our “rule” has been: here’s the date / time / place – come when you can during that time! It’s nice to get together, fun to see the little kids playing, and the big kids playing Pitch or Cribbage. Made me wonder… again… about Christmas “future”! I’m starting to think “Christmas in July” is a good plan – at least we wouldn’t have all the other family Christmases and weather (snow & ice) to plan around!
I have been jotting down some random things… as they come to mind… things I will miss about living in Nebraska… and things I will not miss! I’m sure this is not a complete list… that things can & will be added… but these come to mind now.
Some things I will miss:
v Hanging out with our family & friends on a regular basis! We are a close family… and our friends have become our extended family. I will especially miss my girlfriends!
v Meeting my military kids at the airport! (My daughter will be leaving Iraq in January ‘08, her husband will be coming home a few months later… and my son will be going back to Iraq for 15 months starting in May ’08)
v Going barefoot in the summer!
v Going to Husker football games! (Yeah, they’ve had a rough year… but we still love ‘em & bleed Husker RED!)
v Running to WalMart to pick up a “few things”! (It’ll be close to 50 miles one way out there!)
v Garage sales and thrift stores. I’m sure they’ll be there… but not without a good drive to get there!
v HuHot! Carlos O’Kelley’s, Mazatlan, Panera Bread, USA Steak Buffet, The Mill, Barnes & Noble, Popeyes, P.O. Pears…
v “Warm” Nebraska winters.
Some things I won’t miss:
v Traffic lights! Lincoln is horrible!
v Lincoln’s traffic in general (again, primarily due to poorly timed traffic lights – see above)… but especially on “football Saturdays”!
v Sirens! Ugh!
v Streetlights blocking out the stars at night!
v Loud neighbors & their big, loud trucks at all hours – again… on “football Saturdays”!
v Car alarms going off randomly… and unattended to! Ugh!
v People knocking on my door wanting to sell me stuff I don’t need or trying to convert me! Go away! I’ve already been converted!
v Barking dogs at all hours of the night! I’ll take the coyotes – at least they know when to quit!
v Squirrels! How can they be so darned cute yet SO destructive?
v Hot, humid summers… and sweating profusely.
v Ice storms!!God Bless... and Godspeed! Have a Blessed New Year!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
To the right is a photo taken from the road looking down at our lot. You can see that it has a pretty good slope. The cabin will probably be tucked behind the trees - we can use the shelter from the north wind.
To the left is a photo taken from the north lot line... that clump of trees is the same as the picture on the right. The road at the top is a right turn only... otherwise dropping off into some pasture land I think may be BLM
Will have to try to find some snow pictures! It's gorgeous! Did I say that?
I recently watched “Reading Rainbow” with little Hayli (she fell asleep). The half hour program was dedicated to dogs. The puppies they showed were SO stinkin’ cute & really made me wish we had one! We’ve not been looking seriously – just notice when there is an ad in the paper for free puppies. (My experience with spending money buying a pet has not been good…free is definitely better!) Anyway, seeing these puppies today really made me want one… or two! Part of me thinks we should get a puppy before we head to Colorado… and part of me thinks we should wait until we get there before making that commitment. I am really not looking forward to potty training! Geesh! After all these years I finally got Jerry house broken!
Well…. Just when I think things are moving right along… or maybe even settling down some…someone throws a wrench in things! My son Alex (US Army) has a 9 month black lab – named Skeeter - who is going to be needing a home ASAP. (Please refer to the picture of Skeeter in the upper left corner.) Alex will be deploying to Iraq for a second tour beginning in May ’08 and will be taking some classes that will require him to be away from Skeeter beginning NOW… so of course, Jerry & I are the obvious targets! Ha! He’s a pretty good dog… although we’re not fond of the name. Doesn’t really go with any of the dog names we thought we’d choose from if / when we got a dog.
A few years ago while driving back from Colorado (it was way after midnight) Jerry was having a hard time staying awake so we started talking about anything… everything… then finally… dog names. Here is a sampling of what we came up with:
- Smith… and Wesson.
- Remington - (Remy for short) – I really like this one!
- Winchester – (Winnie for a girl, Chester or Chet for a boy)
- Marlin. (Are you seeing a pattern here??)
- Fred & Ethel, Ricky & Lucy, Ozzie & Harriet, Laverne & Shirley, Lenny & Squiggy… this list could go on forever! Ha!
- Clifford (yes! As in The Big Red Dog – although this would really only work for a “red” dog I think!)
As you may notice… Skeeter is not among the names on the list. He’s been with us for a few days now… and I’m thinking his name should be “Mama’s Boy” as he follows me around and whines if he can’t find me or if I’m in a room & have the door closed. He is mostly house trained… has had a couple minor accidents… human error… and knows a few commands (the usual: sit, stay, lay down, potty?, outside?). I checked with a local pet supply store that has obedience classes to see if Skeeter can gain some socialization skills… he doesn’t play well with others (dogs, that is).
My daughter will be coming home from Iraq in January & will be taking Hayli home with her in February… so I guess we’re trading one pooping machine for another.
Just in case I don't get back on here for a while...Have a Blessed Christmas and a Safe New Year! Keep praying for our military... and remember...
When you're down to nothin', God is up to something!
Peace & Joy be yours! ^j^
Thursday, December 6, 2007
This morning we woke to a beautiful snowfall… it’s still snowing… big flakes... we’re supposed to get 3-5” according to the little man in the television. Beautiful is a relative term however. Beautiful as in – it’s beautiful coming down, beautiful on the huge branches of the pine trees. And beautiful tonite when the moon shines on it making it sparkle! But right now, most beautiful when viewed from my living room window while sitting under a warm blanket drinking coffee! That’s about it. In my opinion snow in Nebraska is not nearly as beautiful as snow in the mountains. We’ll see how I feel next year at this time! I wonder how much snow is on our mountain right now. Last year (Dec. 2006 to May 2007) the Sangre de Cristo Ranches area had 271 inches of snow. If I did the math right... that's just under 23 feet of snow! Yikes! and Brrrrr! (Note to self: get new snow boots & wool socks & long johns!)
Jerry is not thrilled with the idea of shoveling the driveway & sidewalk… but Hayli (2 ½) can hardly stand it that she can’t just go out in her pajamas & snow boots to play in it! Sounds like the neighbor has cranked up his snow blower! I think it needs a tune up!
In other news... I did a "case study" regarding toilet paper usage in our house! This study was done mostly to calm my nerves regarding how much toilet paper would be needed in the (hopefully unlikely) event of being snowbound in a cabin for 3-5 months. Based on using 2-ply, double roll toilet paper...during the month of November (minus 3 days in Kansas) two of us used one roll of toilet paper approximately every 4-5 days. Does this seem excessive to you?? Maybe we need less fiber!?!?
CURRENT & ONGOING PROJECTS: RESEARCH…and LOTS of it!! Jerry & I are both reading as much as we can about building, “solar systems”, composting toilets, water collection systems/cisterns, hunting (ok… that would be Jerry – I’m not into killing stuff unless I absolutely have to), winter gardening (starting plants in small containers in a sun room setting), canning & preserving food, etc. We’ve bought a few books (we’ll have quite a library by the time we move out there!). I’ve been reading online…random “living off the grid” & “green-living” sites and also blogs of people who are currently living off the grid and/or are building in the same area as we are going to be.
One gal who is in an MSN online group I belong to sent me three books… the Foxfire series by Eliot Wigginton… ever heard of it? Many thanks, Mary for those books! Recently purchased books include: “The Good Life” by Scott & Helen Nearing, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Solar Power for Your Home” by Dan Ramsey with David Hughes, “The Cabin” by Dale Fulfinger & Susan E. Davis and most recently “HOME WORK Handbuilt Shelter” by Lloyd Kahn. Thanks to my friend Angela for steering me toward the Nearing book… it is very interesting, especially so because the people lived in Vermont, self-sufficiently thru the years of the Great Depression.
WINTER PROJECT: When I was in junior high school I learned to crochet… simple stuff like hot pads… nothing fancy! Well… I got the itch to try it again after watching a friend crochet scarves. I went out & bought crochet hooks & yarn… and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was… just like riding a bicycle… just jump back on & start pedaling! Anyway, in a couple days’ time I whipped out a lap-size throw which I gave to Jerry (Merry Christmas!). He loves it… says it’s very warm & encouraged me to do more! So… I bought MORE yarn & am currently working on a larger throw. This one I will give to my dad for Christmas (it's purple - as in Kansas State - but not that purple!) & make another for my mom. I can make one in a 2-3 evenings (plus Hayli's nap time) so it goes quickly! If I have time I’ll make scarves for my kids.
I’m also hoping to start sewing my first quilt/bedspread! I saw a picture in a magazine recently that sparked the idea. Although the type of fabrics that were used was not mentioned specifically, I decided to visit a local thrift store & buy men’s dress slacks… wool blends mostly. I was going to cut them into pieces, sew them together & then do kind of crazy quilt stitches (you can tell I know nothing about this, right?) as decoration. But I may use the “slacks” for border & put a large piece of flannel-type fabric in the center, cut out triangles to make trees (I think they call it “appliqué” in the quilting world). I thought I’d use something soft like micro suede for the back. I’d like the colors to be neutrals – browns, tans, grays, blacks – I suppose it depends on what I can find. I’m wondering about making this more of a duvet –type cover because I have a comforter that I thought was great when I bought it & now I’m not digging it so much… but I could cover it with this… and not have to spend money on quilt batting, etc. Anyway… I was counting on my mom’s expertise (and patience!) to guide me through this project. (In the last 25 years the only thing I’ve sewn has been beanbags! I should be embarrassed… but sadly, I’m not! ) Mom recently (Oct. ’07) broke her arm & is expecting about 6 months of recovery / rehab so I can probably count her out on helping me in a hands-on way… maybe just verbal direction. My good friend, Julie (who is also an expert quilter) just moved to North Carolina – so I can count her out as well for at-hand advice & help! Guess this will be a true test to find out what I can actually do! (Are you getting the sense that I don’t have a lot of confidence in my sewing abilities? Hmmm? You’d be correct!)
Also this winter we will continue downsizing… getting rid of furniture and “stuff” that we won’t need – or won’t have room for. We sold our sofa & loveseat to the son of some friends… he needed them more than we did… and we bought a couple recliners (smaller & easier to move). We continue to have a booth at a local antique mall and put stuff on eBay… small stuff mostly… things that are easily shipped. I had planned to have a garage sale this fall but the weather didn’t cooperate.
I put up our Christmas tree after we got back from Thanksgiving on the farm…no lights this year... just hand made and/or rustic looking ornaments. I put together a BIG Rubbermaid tote full of beautiful but fragile Christmas ornaments...things I no longer use now that I have only one tree (instead of 4). These will go with my daughter whom I know will appreciate them. Besides, I am pretty sure she’s been coveting some of them so she may as well have them!
I’ve been methodically been going thru our house making note of items for Christmas re-gifting and am finding the list is getting longer! WooHoo!! To go along with the re-gifting theme… I think I will wrap these gifts in newspaper tied with raffia!
Thursday, November 29, 2007
11/29/07This morning we got a phone call from the man who will do our culvert / driveway & building site leveling! He said he looked over the job and was just calling to give us an estimate! We were pleasantly surprised that it was substantially lower than what he initially told us that same job normally runs! He said he would also drop a couple large posts into the ground at the entrance of the driveway so a gate can be placed there. And he will begin work immediately! We are SO excited… this is truly the first step of the building process. Can’t wait for spring!
Sunday, November 25, 2007
We just returned home from celebrating Thanksgiving with my family in Kansas. As I spent most of the day cooking, I wondered if we would make it home for Thanksgiving next year? Will we be snowed in? In all my 44 years … I have only spent 2 Thanksgivings away from my parents. Not being whiny… just stating fact.
Anyway, that aside… in talking with my parents about our plan to move to Colorado & build a cabin & live off the grid – my dad seems to think that I am a real sissy! In some respect he’s probably correct in that assumption! Several times he said, “I just can’t picture ‘that one’ living like that.” The words ‘that one’ came with a pointing finger – directed at me! Granted, I’ve never asked for “hard manual labor”…that’s what I used to consider hauling irrigation pipe or working in cornfields! In fact, growing up I tried at all costs to avoid it! (And being in a Kansas cornfield in the July heat & humidity is no picnic! Ha!) I’ve never voluntarily lived without running water or electricity or any other “luxury”. Never had any desire to “pee in the grass” on a regular basis or take showers outside in cold water. Quite frankly, most of my experience with those things has come in the past 15 years when we’ve spent some time camping…and we generally showered in a bathhouse! (But, in my defense… I WANT to live this way! )
We never went camping when I was growing up… not as a family anyway… and I think dad’s only “camping” experience was compliments of Uncle Sam during the Korean Conflict. Let’s just say, he’s not a fan! My mother’s idea of camping and/or roughing it (along with some others I know) is staying at a motel and running out of towels! I pulled out the pictures to show them our lot and the views we have from our lot and the road… along with a few from one of our camping trips. I don’t know if it has sunk in yet… that this is what WE want to do and that WE have talked about it at length for several years. They seemed interested in looking at the pictures and asked questions about the lot… I think it’s just going to take some time – and maybe a trip out to see us when our home is built! It will be difficult for me personally to be that far away from my parents… especially since they are now in their 70’s… and my brother is no longer a half hour from them!
With Christmas gift-giving looming on the horizon… I am contemplating the idea of re-gifting (or recycling, if you will) things that have been given to us or that we have purchased ourselves that we no longer have a need or room for. I’m sure some would consider me to be a scrooge… not attempting to be thrifty or frugal… which is what I’m really trying to do. But when you want to simplify your life and lead a life without stuff that ultimately ends up owning you… well… “Drastic times call for drastic measures!” (Who said that?) And while we don’t “need” or want anything for Christmas we would gladly accept certain things others no longer need – such as: flannel sheets, cast iron skillets, board games, sweatshirts/sweaters or cash – as a donation to our “building fund”!
It is now about 4 months until the “Mother of all garage sales” happens… and only a short time after that we hope to leave… that means we have to continue to get rid of stuff at any cost! My plan to have a garage sale this fall fell thru due to crazy Nebraska weather patterns but that just means that items I had boxed up are marked and ready to be sold! Even after relieving my closet of 5 bags of clothing I find that I still have more I should let go. I’m going to call our local City Mission & see what they need and hopefully I will be able to alleviate some of their need!
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The lot is long & narrow… 5 acres with some trees but they’re not Aspens… more pine tree varieties… along with some sagebrush & a few cacti. It’s an interesting mix! There are Aspen nearby… and wildflowers (Lupine, columbine, wild iris, wild roses, Indian paintbrush, etc.) that just grow in the road & out of rocks! The diversity makes for a pretty landscape.
I belong to a couple MSN groups and some of the ladies are following my blog. I am glad they’ve taken an interest…although I get the feeling some of them are reading & responding (within the group – not on the blog) mostly out of curiosity. I suppose that is to be expected. To those ladies I say, “Keep watching & see what happens… & watch your mailboxes for an invitation to visit.”
One thing these ladies mentioned was keeping warm! Believe me, there is enough fallen and/or dead wood there to keep us in firewood for YEARS!! We started clearing the other lot we have there… and have LOTS of wood stacked between trees… not to mention the makeshift fence we made of small trees & large limbs along the approximately 600' front of the property line (and the trees that have fallen that we didn’t get a chance to cut yet!). That wood can be easily loaded in the truck, transported to the other lot (a few miles away) and restacked.
WATER: Surprisingly, none of these ladies in the online group has asked about water or bathroom!!! You’d think that those things would high on the list of priorities! ***For the record, just let me say the bathroom facilities are still being worked out. Will have to work out details of using a composting or incinerating toilet with the powers that be – in the county Court House. *** We wanted to have rain barrels (yes, they still make those!) to catch rainfall but it seems any water, rain included, belongs to the State of Colorado! Oh for Pete’s sake! We’re also looking into having a cistern (the pump would be gravity run or run on solar power). Having a cistern would require also having water delivered. It is our understanding that this can be done… for a price… but it is very reasonable in comparison to drilling a well… not to mention convenient (moreso than filling jugs & hauling it ourselves*)! The latest estimates I have on drilling a well (with no guarantees!) are: digging 100’ to 300 ‘ at a cost of $20-30/foot comes to somewhere between $2000.00 and $9000.00. And there’s no guarantee of hitting water or how long the water will last IF it’s found! That’s a LOT of money for a “gee, I hope we hit water at 100’ & that it lasts 100 years” well. A 1000- gallon cistern with a 12 volt pump, on the other hand, we estimate will run in the neighborhood of $1500.00 (for the fiberglass cistern, pump & digging) plus approximately $40.00 for 1000 gallons of water (delivered – plus a per mile delivery charge). At least we would be guaranteed to have water! We will have to learn to be very conservative with it (no long showers!) and probably “recycle” the gray water (watering plants, garden, etc.) - if that's ok with the State of Colorado! * In the past, when we’ve gone camping for extended periods of time, we’ve filled gallon jugs from an Artesian spring between Ft. Garland & Alamosa. It’s along the highway & free… you just have to stop & “do it yourself”. One good thing about this water is that it is ice cold – we didn’t have to try to keep it cool. We just put the jugs under a shady tree & used it when we needed it. We used it mostly for washing dishes & a little cooking. The bad thing about this water is that... it's ice cold! We tried putting it in the solar shower… but we were under enough tree cover that the sun really didn’t warm it much & it was VERY chilly! Scratched that idea! Although we both drank water (from the spring) from bottles when we were working, Jerry got sick – and I didn’t – from some bacteria that was in the water. We’ve since learned that there is a purifying tablet we can use in the drinking water. We spoke to one woman who said she raised her children on that water… evidently her tap water isn’t that great?
DIRT/LANDSCAPING! Thanks to some nice folks who belong to an online owner/builder group (in the Sangre de Cristo Ranches/San Luis Valley area) we got the name/number of a gentleman who does dirt work in the area. We’ll need to have a culvert & driveway put in and while he’s at it… a leveled building site! Once we get that done we’ll have a place to put our camper & start building. We’ll be pulling out the sagebrush in our “spare time”. Guess we'll need to buy grass seed & pray for rain! It would be nice to have a "yard" of native grasses & wildflowers... no mowing! Anyway, I’m willing to give it a try just to get rid of the sagebrush… as snakes come with sagebrush! Eeek! I’m sure there are uses for the stuff…will have to research that some, too! Due to the rocks &the slope of the lot any landscaping will be au natural! We are talking about some sort of garden – whether it’s fenced in (not that a fence will stop elk, deer or bear if they’re hungry!) or in a “hothouse” situation. Some of the people I've been visiting with online who live out in the Ranches - said they've had fairly good luck planting gardens... so there's hope! We’d just like to be able to have fresh veggies! I know lots of people garden in worse conditions (than rocky soil, cacti, sagebrush, etc.) … It sounds like it’s a matter of improving the soil (black dirt & composting) and keeping the weeds out! If only the critters would just eat the weeds & not the produce! We didn’t really check to see what kind of wild edibles there were when we camped there. Not sure what fruit trees and bushes would do well at that altitude and climate. I’d love to have blueberries… but I’m afraid the critters would too!
I would like to try to raise a few chickens… mostly for great eggs but also an occasional chicken dinner (if I don’t get too attached to them!). I saw (online) someone in the Ranches had a chicken coop & is doing just that. I’m sure one would have to take some serious construction precautions in building a coop & scratch yard to prevent thievery (coyotes & the like).
The latest info I got regarding big critters... is that there has been a cougar near the school in San Luis - just south of where we'll be. This animal is responsible for the death of 2 goats - so far! Also, someone spotted a bear crossing the road one night! I think that would be a bit freakier than a herd of elk! A couple we know in Forbes Park had gone for a walk & when they returned there was a bear in their driveway! The same couple had a bear on their deck trying to get to the bird feeders! Note to self: let the birds fend for themselves!
Friday, October 5, 2007
Our “plan” is to recycle old building materials as much as we can in an effort to save money and kill as few trees as possible. We’re not tree-huggers… just trying to be a little bit environmentally conscious! We’ve rummaged around my parents’ farm & there are some things that we may be able to use: windows, doors, a propane refrigerator, the old cast iron kitchen sink & the like. If these items prove to be reusable, we will do our best to incorporate them. I have already gone thru mom’s “cold room” and reclaimed / recycled several large canning jars to use for storage.
No self-respecting cabin would be complete without wood floors… but have you priced wood flooring lately? Holy cow! The cost is very prohibitive! Thanks to my friend, Becky - you don’t mind if I use your name, do you? - (and the HGTV Rate My Space website – there are lots of ideas for budget-minded people!) we believe we have found an affordable way to have wood floors without the huge expense. Imagine if you will – ¾” or 1” plywood, sanded, then routing about an 1/8” groove the length of the board at random widths (to make it look like tongue & groove boards). The plywood is then stained & varnished… and voila! Wood floors!! Sounds crazy, huh? Looked great in the pictures on the website & for a fraction of the cost of “real” wood flooring we’ll try it! Also on Rate My Space someone recycled dog-eared privacy fence – making it into a bathroom closet door. What a great idea! I thought it would be cool to use this same concept – only as a shower door!
Here’s another “ for instance”. Since we will be short on space (we’re talking very cozy!) storage will be a huge issue. Nearly everything we will have in the cabin will have to be multi-functional! Instead of a standard bed (head/foot, metal frame), we’re thinking a “Captain’s bed” of sorts would be more functional… you know, a wood platform with cubbies underneath to store baskets or tubs of clothes. Mattress on top, clothes storage on the bottom! No dressers or closets allowed! No room! Ok… maybe the old ugly wardrobe we have can come too.
We, being somewhat unconventional, have no desire to have built-in kitchen cabinets. Instead, we’d like to use furniture (again – recycling stuff!) we already have to create our kitchen. We already have a dry sink (this sucker is heavy! – but hey, it was FREE!), a Hoosier-type cabinet, an old pine pantry cupboard, and an enamel top kitchen table (another freebie!) that will most likely serve as our kitchen furniture. Using furniture will serve three purposes: 1] the usual function of a kitchen (storage &counter/work space), 2] reusing things we already have, and 3] my desire to be able to rearrange furniture! Heh heh! It makes Jerry crazy when I do that. Lani & I used to make bets on how long it will take him to notice when I had redecorated or moved furniture… it just makes life a little more interesting! J
Speaking of reusing & recycling stuff… we have come across quite a few old fruit crates with the original labels. I am currently using them to house books… and will probably continue to do so in the cabin in one way or another. They’re just neat, rustic and utilitarian! Exactly what we’re looking for!
Some ideas we’ve seen for incorporating nature into the home: We had the opportunity a few years ago to look at a log home that was for sale near Westcliffe, Colorado. The fireplace had been made using different types of quartz that are native to the area. It was really unique… not to mention making good use of something that was “found”. This cabin also had part of a tree standing in the corner – the limbs had been sawn to about 6” each & it was used as a “coat tree”! I like the ever-popular tree stump end table & twig furniture! NO dead animals heads (or other parts) sticking out of walls! Ick!! I could do an animal skin rug… maybe. We did see a group of stuffed ground squirrels playing cards once in a shop & they were pretty cute. But otherwise… um… NO!!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Jerry & I started looking at land in Colorado quite a few years ago. We discovered a little town called Westcliffe… in the Wet Mountain Valley… Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Sangre de Cristo translates – Blood of Christ. On three separate occasions we went with different realtors to look at raw land that was for sale as well homes for sale (with some land included, or land for sale with an attached house!). It didn’t take us long to figure out that we could easily spend Jerry’s entire retirement pension on land – with or without a house – and have nothing left to live on. With the price of land being prohibitive & not really an abundance of employment opportunities - we ended up ruling out Westcliffe. Jerry continued to research different parts of Colorado… and the cost of land just seemed to keep going up!
When we started selling antiques & general household items on eBay we never dreamed that eBay would be the place to buy land… but as it turned out… it was! Jerry started looking at land for sale on eBay & discovered one seller in particular who seemed to have quite a few lots for sale in the same area… bidding on the down payment, with the balance payable over a period of time on a land contract … and after some discussion we decided to bid on one of the properties. We won the bid & on our next trip out we finally got to see our land! That is essentially how we wound up owning property in Colorado. For whatever reason, the cost of land in & around Ft. Garland was not as outrageous as the rest of Colorado.
Malcom Forbes purchased several thousand acres (something like 80,000+ acres, I believe) of land east & south of Ft. Garland in the late 1960’s and divided the land into parcels – mini-ranches of 20-40+ acres and lots ranging from 2 – 10 acres and the land was sold thru FORBES MAGAZINE to people all over the world. Forbes Park (a gated community) & the Sangre de Cristo Ranches are part of this land deal.
Ft. Garland, for those of you who don’t know, is in the south central part of Colorado. If you look at a map & locate Estes Park (it’s nowhere close!) & draw a line straight down… you’ll run right into Ft. Garland! It’s about 25 miles from the New Mexico border! Ft. Garland is a small town… just over 200 people I think… but we have grown to really like it. There are two diners in town, a market, a hardware store (complete with bait/tackle/hunting & fishing licenses, etc.), two service stations, a couple of antique/ junque stores… I’m sure I’m forgetting something. But one of the greatest assets the community has is a wonderful community center!! We discovered this when we were camping & mentioned to some new friends that it would be nice to take a HOT shower instead of a solar heated (or not heated) shower under a tree! They kindly directed us to the community center. This place has an Olympic size indoor (heated) swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, weight room, meeting room with kitchen and his & hers showers!!! Children & adults can take swimming lessons there… I believe aqua-exercise classes are offered as well.
The nearest shopping is in Alamosa… about 30 miles from Ft. Garland. There is a WalMart there & several other places to shop, restaurants, Adams State College, medical facilities, etc.
Ft. Garland is approximately 75 miles from Taos, New Mexico (great for skiing, shopping, historical kinds of things) and probably at least that far (although I’m not sure really) from Pueblo (not crazy about this town!). Interesting places to visit: the old Army fort at Ft. Garland is good if you’re a history buff, then there’s the Sand Dunes National Monument (or is it a National Park now?) – which is not only educational/interesting (the visitor’s center) but also recreational! And then there are places like the alligator farm north of Alamosa (which is kinda cool!) and the UFO lookout place (just in case you’re wondering, we haven’t been there!). I’m sure there are lots of other points of interest… these are just some we’ve visited. The Old LaVeta Pass is a pretty scenic drive on the way to Cuchara ski resort which is not far away – just about 45 minutes – give or take (depending on if you take the Old pass or the New pass!).
As of yet Jerry hasn’t broken down & bought an out-of-state hunting permit yet… but we’ve heard that the hunting there is pretty great. LOTS of elk & deer! He is anxious to be able to buy an in-state hunting permit someday soon!
Saturday, September 29, 2007
First, I have to thank a total stranger for the inspiration we’ve found on his website: www.coyotecottage.com Please take the time to look at the website… how this family lives… and their philosophy behind choosing this lifestyle! Jan & his wife Sonja have built their own home and are living off the grid in Washington State. His site has a wealth of step-by-step instructions and information resources! **Jan, if you ever look at this… Thank You!! **
Early on… soon after we bought this property, I affectionately dubbed it “Miracle Mountain”… for the simple reason that I thought it would truly be a miracle if we actually got anything built. Well, things are getting serious now! Jerry retired and building a cabin there has been heavy on his mind since then. For the past few weeks Jerry has been working on drawing house plans. He has tweaked & twisted, rearranged, and re-done them several times. I think we may actually be close to getting exactly what we want soon!
The basic idea is just that! BASIC!! Build the cabin ourselves and do it for very little money! Why not?? Yes, we’re somewhat (er…did I say “somewhat”?) unskilled at homebuilding (neither of us has ever built a house from the ground – up); yes, we’ve (*ahem!) sort of become couch potatoes; and yes, we’re citified & rely on 24-hour services (not that we use them late at night or early in the morning… but they’re open – just in case we ever do!). But we’re willing, bound & determined to let go of everything that we have known all these years… and become as self-sufficient as we can!
Now I ask you…why build or buy a huge house, spend a huge amount of money on it & be tied to a 30-year mortgage? Been there! Done that! We’ve lived in fairly good-sized homes… filled them with LOTS of stuff that had to be dusted, cleaned & polished that we later had to sell, give away, throw away, or abandon. Some wise man (probably a woman, actually) said: ”The most important things in life aren’t things!” YOU don’t own your stuff… your STUFF owns YOU!! Please understand that we have downsized a couple of times… it just seems that even though we don’t necessarily go looking for stuff, stuff keeps finding us! Anyway, we’ve just reached a point in our lives where the thought of simplifying our lifestyle – getting back to basics – living, having only ourselves / each other (& God) to rely on is just what we’re needing. We have a few outstanding/ ongoing bills that we’ll be paying on… but at least our domicile will be paid for… free and clear… and in about 5 years we will essentially be debt-free! !
One of the hardest things I personally am dealing with now… and we haven’t even started building yet… is… the thought of downsizing yet again… only in a more severe magnitude… literally getting rid of nearly all our worldly possessions… and having only the most basic of household necessities. May I say again, we do not consider ourselves to be “materialistic”… but seem to have accumulated LOTS of stuff over the past few years. I’m sure that once we’ve gotten rid of our furniture &other stuff I will revel in a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity. But until then… we will continue to whittle away at our possessions… selling them at the antique mall, on eBay, garage sales, household auction… or giving them to our kids or charity. Yesterday I took a first (albeit small) step… and went thru my closet… bagging up clothes I haven’t worn for a long time, things that I probably won’t wear again, things that someone else may be able to use. It felt good to weed thru &thin out my closet some. (Jerry, always needing to be a step ahead, weeded out his wardrobe after he retired.) I have boxes of stuff (picture frames, scrap booking supplies, music, etc.), not to mention all the wall décor & miscellaneous decorating stuff that I will be parting with. Ouch! But really… why do I keep holding onto my stuff?? Because my stuff might have the slightest bit of sentimental value? Because I might need my stuff… someday?? When is someday, by the way?? I’ve never seen it on the calendar. I figure “someday” will never come so why hang onto this stuff and drag it around like an anchor around my neck? It’s all going!!! SIMPLIFY… Throw Everything Out!!
Okay! There are some rather scary (not like Boo! – scary) aspects to living this lifestyle:
1) Not having electricity readily available is a BIG one (for me, at least right now)! Again, we’ve become used to flipping a switch & the lights coming on, pushing a button and the TV comes on, sitting down at the computer &surfing, opening the refrigerator door & feeling the cool air coming out of it. I’m sure we will grow accustomed to reading by the light of a kerosene lamp… much like our ancestors did over 100 years ago. Our televisions, VCRs & DVD players will most likely become things of the past. Computer “work” (surfing, emailing, blogging, etc.) will be a luxury… at a coffee shop with free wireless Internet access. And keeping our food cold? Hmmm? We haven’t quite figured that one out yet – but we’re working on it! Propane, maybe?
2) Although the notion that we will have to chop wood (and keep a large quantity on hand) to have a fire to keep us warm, cook our food, and heat water to bathe in is not really that scary… but actually cooking using a wood fire or taking a very minimal bath/shower (due to the small amount of water that can be heated at one time)… those things are a little bit scary. How many burnt offerings will we be eating until I have adjusted to cooking with fire? (The nearest restaurant is a good 10 miles from our property… and only open until 8:00 p.m. ...and doesn’t deliver!) How am I going to shave my legs? And wash my hair? And do dishes? And laundry? Yikes!
3) And then there’s the business of doing one’s “business” outdoors! Yup! We’ll probably be doing our business in an outhouse… at least for a while. Sounds fun, huh? Bring back memories for anyone? When I went to Japan in 1980 I thanked my lucky stars that I had learned to “pee in the grass” as a little girl on the farm! I’m sure that I’ll soon be thanking those same lucky stars for a nice “one-holer”! I’ve actually been “researching” outhouses online… and have a nice little collection of pictures so we’ll have a variety of “styles” to choose from. Ha!
4) Then there’s my worst fear… the critters. The little picas (they’re little mice things that move at the speed of light!) are merely annoyances… a glue trap will cure that problem should they make it inside. The critters I’m worried about are much larger and have claws that will slice & dice you into little bits if provoked! There are black bears and mountain lions in these mountains… we’ve not come face to face with them… and hope that we don’t ever have to! Ok… I hope I don’t ever have to… but Jerry’s just itchin’ to kill something! When we’ve camped on the lot we’ve both carried handguns. How scary is that? Me, with a handgun! Jerry’s gun is MUCH bigger than mine… I carry a .22…just big enough to get a critter really good & ticked off if I actually fired & hit him (*don’t let that fool you… I am a pretty good shot!*). Jerry’s gun, however, would finish the job! (He jokes – at least I hope he’s joking – that he may not run fast, but he only has to run faster than me if there’s a bear! Hmmm?) The other nuisance critters are elk. They just wander around not minding if they’re trespassing on your campsite or not… crapping anywhere they please. Pleasant critters: We have had a hummingbird feeder in our campsite in the past and enjoy watching them hang around the tree eating. Butterflies & dragonflies are abundant!
I know this kind of lifestyle does not appeal to everyone. When we told some of our friends (*you know who you are!) what our plans were they looked at us like we had three heads! (They’ve also threatened not to visit until we have electricity & indoor plumbing. We’ll be sure & send an engraved invitation when that happens!)