Sunday, September 30, 2007

Guess I shoulda mentioned...

I’ve kinda put the cart before the horse in this blog. I should have given some kind of background information to give you a better idea of how we even got to this point. Some of you know… but for those who don’t… please bear with me, or just skip ahead!
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

What's happening in our future

September 27, 2007

First, I have to thank a total stranger for the inspiration we’ve found on his website: 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 d├ęcor & 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!)