Guest Post: First Big Snow, Hawks and Traffic Jams

By Margaret

We had our first significant snowfall yesterday after a rather long Indian Summer (is that still a PC term? Probably not.) It’s hard to believe that just two or three weeks ago it was a balmy 65 degrees and we were practically still wearing shorts, but not really. The weather people say that we’re going to have less snow than normal this winter in southwest Colorado. When we heard this, we were bummed because we just invested a lot of money in a used ATV with a snow plow AND some great cross country skiing equipment for me. We’re looking forward to exploring all that the Ridgway/Ouray/Telluride area has to offer in terms of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.

 

While it’s too early to say for sure, it appears that the weather is going to catch up with us. We had about 7 inches here from this last storm and appear to have another 7 forecasted for early next week. And we must really be in luck because in between the weekend looks clear and sunny.

 

We had a couple of challenges with the chickens. First, a hawk had stalked and then attacked one of the hens last week. He didn’t get her, but the flock was pretty freaked out the rest of the day and the entire next day, pretty much just staying in their coop. Since we are not allowed by law to hunt down red-tailed hawks, I had to think of a cheap and fast deterrent. I heard that plastic owls will keep hawks away, but those cost too much money. My idea was to string nylon cord in a criss-cross pattern about 7 feet off the ground of the entire chicken enclosure. The thinking here is the hawk won’t want to negotiate between the string and will feel insecure about getting caught down in the yard. So that’s what we did. Plus, I also strung up strips of aluminum foil here and there to add reflection and further deter the hawk.

 

The deterrent is working so far. It’s been a week and the hawk hasn’t returned. He may also have gotten scared by my screaming and yelling when I saw him perched on the post a week ago. Crazy woman lives here, he may have thought, not worth it.

 

The other challenge has been the overnight temperatures, which have been getting down into the teens and last night dipped to ZERO degrees F.

 

Yeah, F.

 

Not that it made that much difference in the temperature, but I installed a very small electric heater inside their run, which I had previously wrapped in greenhouse plastic and surrounded with straw bales on three sides. I figure it at least kept their coop about 10 degrees instead of 0. Maybe I’m kidding myself and it didn’t make much difference. In any case, I was pleased to see that none of the chickens appear to have frostbite or any injury due to the cold the last couple of days.

 

I bought a water fount heater a few weeks ago and have been using it, but it’s not inside their run, it’s near the fence, and the chickens just don’t want to be out and about when the wind is blowing and it’s snowing and cold. I put out a black rubber bowl of water inside their run, which does freeze up, but I can go out there and poke at it or add hot water a couple of times a day. Not ideal. I don’t know what the answer is except to shovel a path for them, lay down some straw and encourage them to walk over to the fount. They were doing that today since it’s been warmer and sunnier.

 

The good news is that the hens are continuing to lay between 3-5 eggs per day, usually just 4, even though there are 7 of them now. (One died in Sept from unknown causes). No slow down in production yet. I’ve been giving them scratch and occasionally corn.

 

What I love about this place this month: how beautiful the snow looks as it arrives, falls and settles. How bright everything is now when the sun shines. I love the “traffic jams” of cattle drives that are always unexpected and so far, still amusing. I love how three cows escaped from the ranchers near our house last month and have been wandering around free. Our new neighbors call them the Three Amigos. I think it’s hilarious how they are renegade cows. I love the wild turkeys. Today I discovered our area is in the flight path (and resting path) of sandhill cranes. I’ve seen them fly overhead and have heard them up on the Buttes, but I haven’t yet seen them up close.

 

There’s a lot of reasons to love this place. We’re still finding new ones.

A very very very fine house

With 8 chicks in the yard, life used to be so hard, .... yeah yeah you get it.

I thought I would post some pics of the house!

Guess we should start with the entry way. We like a separation of the entry from the living area, so we made sure to have a foyer type area. The far door on the left is a powder room, and the immediate left door is a nice big coat closet. My tapered foyer table fits snugly to the right of the door, glad there was a spot for it:

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From there, into the main living area. This is taken from the top of the stairs that start from this living room. The shades are closed on those big east facing windows to keep the morning sun from heating up the house (remember, we don't have air conditioning!) The room is anchored by a truly massive glass-front wood stove, the biggest I could find. It makes our 42" TV look almost small next to it! 

As it turned out, the "great" room isn't as great as I'd hoped - meaning, I thought it was big enough for two couches, but as we began to fill it, we quickly realized it was a one-couch room. The good news, its coziness is something we've grown quite fond of. It's a great space for hanging out, not too big. Here's a shot from the great room, looking back toward the kitchen, showing off the big beams that dominate the large air space above the room:

The kitchen, like the living room, is a small space that somehow manages to be just enough to be comfortable, convenient and not cramped. The house lacks a pantry, so the big floor cabinet on the right serves that purpose. The white door on the left is the access to the basement level. (The house has an unfinished full basement, 1200 sq. feet, with 9 foot ceilings!) at the bottom right you can see the "heirloom" cherry sideboard I made years ago. It's got a nice spot in the dining room, where this photo is taken from. 

There are two bedrooms on the main level, including a guest room with queen bed:

A full bath on the main level serves both bedrooms:

Climbing the stairs in the great room, you come to the 2nd floor loft, which is Margaret's office. It has a commanding view of the great room, and views of the Cimarron range out the huge picture windows:

The loft also has room for "Roderick", our sleeper couch. A nice spot for reading a good book or looking out the north windows towards McKenzie Butte. 

Right behind the loft is the utility closet with washer and dryer, and across the hallway from that, my "office". Which at this point houses another guest bed, and lots and lots of books:

The office is definitely still work in progress, but for now it houses the musical instruments, and the pictures snagged from Casa Daytona: Houserville park and the old Penn State main. 

At the back of the 2nd floor is the Master. Windows on the west and south keep it cheery, and at 14X13 it's big enough to feel like a master and have plenty of room for a couple dressers and bookcases, but still pretty cozy. A cathedral ceiling allows for a ceiling fan and a feeling of spaciousness.

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And off the Master is the master bath, with a water closet, large tile shower and small but servicable vanity area:

And then, there were chickens

Don't do it, they said. Predators will go on a rampage, they advised. You don't know how to take care of them, they admonished. 

And hey. They may all be right. 

But so far, so good! 

All snarkiness aside, we're into about week three of the Great Chicken Experiment. Margaret purchased four Buff Orpingtons (the tan ones) and four Black Stars (the dark ones), all hens. They're supposed to be good layers, and docile. 

Some of our brood.

Some of our brood.

Our favorite so far is a Black Star with a light brown head. She's amazing. Endlessly curious, always coming up to us. Following us around the yard on our daily list of jobs: gardens, mulching, edging, and on and on. She even has come up to Skillet to check her out. We call her Rock Star. 

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So how are we keeping them safe? We have a nice cozy coop for them with a 9 foot fully enclosed yard. Egg boxes and door have good, heavy duty latches fr closing up at night. We decided to make this enclosure tough to get into by running hardware cloth along the ground, stapled to the enclosure frame and held down in place with heavy duty landscaping staples. It's all covered with mulch and straw, and should prevent diggers. I hope.

The door opens during the day, and the chickens can free range in the yard . And see that weird thing on the fence, to the right of the coop, that looks like the seat and lid of a toilet bowl? Well, that's another crazy idea.  It's a latched door I made out of plywood that allows entry into the space in between the inner and outer fences of the yard. This constitutes a 4' wide space along the entire perimeter, something like 250 feet so far! So these chickens got room to RUN, baby.  

So like I said, so far so good! The chickens are really comical and fun to watch, as we were warned. A good replacement for TV, is one is so inclined. So far their favorite treats are RED fruits, like berries. 

Looks Like We Made It

Yes, it's true, after all this time and effort, I sum it all up with lyrics to a Barry Manilow song. Let that be a lesson to y'all out there who take your lives too seriously!

But the momentous day finally arrived June 1, 2016. Actually it was 1AM, so technically June 2nd. That's when I rolled up to the house with my dog and my truck and my wood shop in tow, withOUT the intention of returning to Broomfield. Here for good, and finally! Dead tired after moving and driving all day, I get out and stare up at the picture perfect Milky Way hanging in the whisper quiet sky over the house. 

But things are official now. And what better way to make things official than with a bottle of bubbly? 

Speaking of official, our official address is 2119 County Road 1A, Montrose CO. 

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So yes, it's June. And a generous June it is - flower-wise. Check out the meadows of Lupine down towards the creek behind the house:

In classic Emerson/Olivero style, we pretty much had every box unpacked and totally moved in less than 48 hours after the moving truck arrived. Next project: Garden and chickens! 

 

Insane In The Propane

I'm sure we all have images in our heads of what "country living" must be like. Let's face it, most of us live in cities or suburbs these days, far removed from places that are far removed.  What's it like meeting the basic needs? Getting things done?

Case in point: heating your new home. Certainly we could have sprung for a heat pump, radiant floor heating, or other such option, if we were willing to fork out the dough. Already overbudget as this place is, we opted for the standard, the cheap, way to go: Gas furnace, forced air heat.  But this ain't no city street with a natural gas line conveniently at hand. Nope, us country folk use PROPANE. 

I have to say, the heat works wonderfully. Quiet furnace, heats the interior quickly and evenly, all very nice. 

On our most recent visit, we took a look at the propane tank - first, we had to re-shovel the short path to it from the driveway through the 2 feet of snow on the ground at the moment. When we check the gauge, we see that it's only at 30% full. 

Not good. Running out of propane in the middle of winter, in a house that's 300 miles away, well, it's not the best situation, is it?

The next morning I call Pioneer Propane in Montrose, give them my name, ask them about the propane fill. They start with: "Yeah, we've been trying to get a hold of you."

"What's the story?"

"We can't deliver to your house. The driveway needs to be plowed." 

"I see. But it IS plowed. I shoveled it myself. I had no problem getting back here. When was the last time you tried to deliver?"

"He came by last week. He could't go in. It has to be wide enough for a truck."

"Yeah, but I drive a truck. I drive a Tacoma. It's plenty wide for that."

"No, that's not good enough. It has to be wide enough for a four wheeler. We've had a couple incidents of getting stuck in people's driveways, and we can't risk going back there."

"But I need propane. I'm at 30%! What do I do?"

"You need to plow it sir. When can you have it plowed?"

Sigh. "It'll be done today. When can you come by?"

"In the next couple days."

Sometimes when I'm walking on the county road I look at the house and think "It's too close to the road, it should be further back." It's hard to describe. There's so MUCH space and nature up on this mesa, and neighbors are generally set back such that you basically can't see each other from your homes. So seeing my house, with its big picture windows and expansive deck, seems a little...immodest, almost. I dunno.

But that was my thought BEFORE i started shoveling.

I hung up the phone, and thought: well, guess I know what I'm doing today.  I went outside and grabbed a shovel. 

Four and a half hours later, my back and shoulders throbbing, I stopped and snapped a couple photos of my handiwork (and Margaret's: she helped too) A 12 foot wide path, scooped, hacked and scraped. From the county road, all the way to the house. I paced it off: 135 paces. That's 270 feet; basically the length of a football field, give or take. For the geeks in the audience, that over 3,200 square feet that was rendered flat, pristine and basically snow free.  Good enough for a precious propane truck? Time will tell.

But I can tell you, I no longer think the house is too close to the road. 

I can also tell you, I am officially in the market for an ATV with a plow. Lord Almighty. 

The view from near the county road. 12 feet wide, with a yellow plastic shovel. 

The view from near the county road. 12 feet wide, with a yellow plastic shovel. 

And, the back half of the driveway, back to the house. I had to prune a couple of the pinons to get a good clear path. The truck you see is the fella installing the carpet on our stairs, crossing off one of the few items remaining on the punch list. Woo hoo!

Under a thick blanket of snow

First of all, my sincere apologies for not posting earlier to this blog! Life has been having its way with me, is all I can say. I know that can't satisfy of justify, so let's just move on...

We're in the final few days of 2015, and Margaret and I have made it to the house for a few days of enjoyment and admittedly some work. The house is not 100% done, there's a few items left to do like installing gutters on the roof, switching out the basement door to a nice wood door, not the ugly fire door that's in there now, and the stairs still need to be carpeted. 

But our contractor Clint told us that the county has inspected the house, and approved it. Which means, in a few short days, he should be driving over here and handing us the occupancy permit. It's been a long road to get here, some awesome, some terrible, but you have to look at the end result, and feel the gratitude at how it's come together.

We got here after the the Christmas storm was winding up. All told, there's like 20 inches of gorgeous champagne powder on the property. Which some how, our Subaru Outback with new snow tires managed to tame and get us from CR1A (which was very nicely plowed, thanks Ouray County), THROUGH the plow berm and back the ~200 feet to the house. Bravo, Subie.

From the house, looking back toward the county road. 

From the house, looking back toward the county road. 

So far, lots of little things getting done. Margaret and I work well as a team on this place. We got the rest of the ceiling fans installed in the bedrooms, the rest of the light fixtures installed, and we installed the Levelor cordless blinds we got for the great room and the powder room on the main floor. We're filling nail holes in the trim with colored putty, washing the basement floor to try to get some of the dirt off of it, stuff like that. 

Other than that, we plan to enjoy too. We'll be here for a few days, so we're looking forward to cross country skiing in Ridgway, meeting up with new friends in Log Hill for drinks and conversation, and heading over to Telluride one day. 

Late morning view from the deck. The storm clouds finally cleared to reveal the Cimmarrons across the valley. 

Late morning view from the deck. The storm clouds finally cleared to reveal the Cimmarrons across the valley. 

Every time we come here, Skillet gets a little more comfortable with the place...

Every time we come here, Skillet gets a little more comfortable with the place...


Now I know how Dorothy felt

Margaret put it this way:

"I never thought I'd hear myself saying this. I'm building a house in Ridgway but right now half the house is in Nebraska or Kansas somewhere. The other half is coming down the highway next week. Hopefully out of the way of severe weather."

Yeah, when you have great big chunks of house barreling  down the interstate somewhere in NE Colorado or Nebraska, the words you don't like to hear are "Tornado Watch":

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Landing on a witch would not be much of a consolation prize if the house boxes get scooped up.

Tennis ball size hail is not really that great a proposition either:

Fortunately, the next couple days outlook is a bit better than this! we'll keep our fingers crossed, as we finish the last few details of signing our life away on the construction loan, which should close tomorrow.

Next week, the great box party!

Pieces

I always knew there would come a time when the scribbles on napkins, the software images, the hypotheticals and possibles would start to become realities. And that time has come!

Up on the mesa, Clint has been busy prepping the site for the foundation pour, in between rain storms.

 

Meanwhile in Wayne, Nebraska, the boxes are taking shape in the Heritage Homes factory. Four cubes that fit together to make a house!

 

Top two halves, about 3 weeks into the build. Roof in place, but no shingles. 

Top two halves, about 3 weeks into the build. Roof in place, but no shingles. 


A view inside one of the lower boxes, this one of the wall that holds up the kitchen island. The dining room extends in the background.

A view inside one of the lower boxes, this one of the wall that holds up the kitchen island. The dining room extends in the background.

Kitchen cabinets being installed.

Kitchen cabinets being installed.

A week later in the build, a view of one of the bedrooms. Walls painted, doors installed.

A week later in the build, a view of one of the bedrooms. Walls painted, doors installed.

Siding getting attached, along with trim on the windows.

Siding getting attached, along with trim on the windows.

Exciting stuff! Will all the pieces fit together? How will they fare on the arduous journey to the western slope of Colorado? Soon we find out!
 

A Hole in the Ground

Clint was nice enough to send along a couple of pics today. "Yes, Dave, I really am working on your foundation!"

Obviously there has been some snow between the first picture and the second. You can also see that the basement is not that deep. After conversing with Clint a bit on this, we decided to keep the basement relatively high. This will allow the septic system to drain better, and will position the deck views and loft views that much higher. 

Lastly, we decided to add a couple grand to our budget and get a door added to the basement on the north side, right next to the deck stairs. We figure this is money well spent to increase the flexibility and utility of the basement space. As Margaret says, who knows, we may fully finish it one day and have it as a air bnb. 

But with the basement relatively shallow, we won't need any fancy trick with the french drain, walk up steps, etc. 

  

A little R&R

April was a much-anticipated month for me, for reasons that have nothing to do with the house we're building. April was the month I sat for the Professional Engineer, or PE, exam. 

This is an event that I've been studying for and working towards, for roughly half a year. Every day, I'd go into work and work a full day. Then, at 5:30 or so, I'd put aside that work and grab my books, and study for 2 or 3 hours. Basically every day.

It's been a tough road, not just for me, but for Margaret as well, who's had to tolerate my absence and lack of energy. 

So when the topic came up of what I wanted to do after I was done, I thought, "I want to go RELAX and BREATHE." And that's why we spent a lovely weekend last month in northern New Mexico. 

Pedernal, "OKeeffe's Mountain", as seen from Ghost Ranch. 

Pedernal, "OKeeffe's Mountain", as seen from Ghost Ranch. 

In particular, the Ojo Caliente, Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch part of that wonderful state. O'Keeffe country. The Chama river valley, where I did my vision quest five years ago. 

A Ghost Ranch tree immortalized in one of O'Keeffe's paintings. It still stands today, 80 years later, 

A Ghost Ranch tree immortalized in one of O'Keeffe's paintings. It still stands today, 80 years later, 

If you're a fan of Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, as I am, I don't need to tell you about the unique power of a desert landscape on your head and heart. 

The area's remoteness, dryness, harshness, strips away my sense of security, routine and thoughtlessness. While the incredible colors, shapes and forms awaken the soul and senses in a way that, for me, only the desert can do. 

Why do we do anything in life? Do we have purpose? Do we have legacy? 

Pot sherds in the ruins of a Pueblo above Ojo Caliente.

Pot sherds in the ruins of a Pueblo above Ojo Caliente.

Ghost Ranch. Timeless forms, yet ever changing. 

Ghost Ranch. Timeless forms, yet ever changing. 

For me the desert has always welcomed, never judged, It simply holds things up for us to look at, offers opportunities to reconnect to something timeless. To drink so deep, where there is no water to be seen.  

The Chama valley stretches below Margaret and Molly, with the snowy heights of Pedernal watching over. 

The Chama valley stretches below Margaret and Molly, with the snowy heights of Pedernal watching over. 


Despite being in the desert, the property we stayed at was nestled in a lush Oasis of trees, shrubs and farms in a high canyon of the Jemez mountains. Up a twisty 8 miles of dirt that makes CR1A inRidgway feel no where near as remote. But the solitude here was most welcome.

Despite being in the desert, the property we stayed at was nestled in a lush Oasis of trees, shrubs and farms in a high canyon of the Jemez mountains. Up a twisty 8 miles of dirt that makes CR1A inRidgway feel no where near as remote. But the solitude here was most welcome.


A stake in the ground

You'd never know that just a few short weeks ago there was over two feet of snow on this ground . The universe promptly flipped an atmospheric switch, and 60 degree sunny days came one after the other, leaving the ground bare, dry and delightfully soft. Good for staking.

Margaret and Clint measuring off the basement footprint. I think the tree right behind Margaret's head is a goner.

Margaret and Clint measuring off the basement footprint. I think the tree right behind Margaret's head is a goner.

This is a pretty interesting part of this whole building process. Our property is an almost 6-acre parcel, and the platted building envelope on the property is over an acre of it. With different views in different directions, meadows over here, clumps of trees over there, where we put our house says some things about our relationship to our land.

Guided by a marvelous book entitled "A Pattern Language" by Alexander et. al, a team of architects who years ago set out to define the "rules" that govern good design, we have decided to use one of their "patterns". Which is this: when blessed with a meadow, don't plunk a house in the middle of it. Rather, place it on the forest's edge, with a nice view of the open.

Sadly, a few trees will have to go. But in truth the footprint of this house is only about 28 feet by 48 feet, fairly small. I think we have a good placement. The big window wall of the great room will face almost due east, so our days can begin with plenty of glorious sunlight to go with our french roast, and to avoid too much solar gain in the hotter 2nd half of the day. Clint wants to make sure that WE'RE sure about where the house goes, after all you can't exactly move a foundation once it's in place....but we reassure him. No worries, mate, it's a good spot.

Neighbors up the mesa, Jim and Linda, chatting with Clint and checking out the build site. Jim and Linda run a wonderful air bnb out of their home in Log Hill Village, up the mesa about 10 minutes, which we stayed at for two nights. On the far right you can see one of the stakes.

Neighbors up the mesa, Jim and Linda, chatting with Clint and checking out the build site. Jim and Linda run a wonderful air bnb out of their home in Log Hill Village, up the mesa about 10 minutes, which we stayed at for two nights. On the far right you can see one of the stakes.

Margaret used the weekend to reunite with her boyfriend (that's Mt Sneffels). Yes, it was t shirt weather.

Margaret used the weekend to reunite with her boyfriend (that's Mt Sneffels). Yes, it was t shirt weather.


Late afternoon light on the Log Hill Mesa escarpment, overlooking the Uncompahgre Valley and the Cimarrons. An easy walk from Jim and Linda's place to here.

Late afternoon light on the Log Hill Mesa escarpment, overlooking the Uncompahgre Valley and the Cimarrons. An easy walk from Jim and Linda's place to here.

Equinox

Some Photos to enjoy of this beautiful corner of the world. Margaret and I are down here for this glorious, 60 degree weekend to meet Clint our contractor and stake out the house footprint, and take care of some other details like appliances, flooring, wood stove... More on all that later. In the meantime….

Log Hill Mesa is snow-free after the big dump a couple weeks ago. View from the FairwayPines area towards the Sneffels Range. 

Log Hill Mesa is snow-free after the big dump a couple weeks ago. View from the FairwayPines area towards the Sneffels Range. 

The escarpment on Log Hill Mesa. A good place to have wings.

The escarpment on Log Hill Mesa. A good place to have wings.

Someday we'll look back on all this and laugh

A house: Way more than meets the eye. (this is a similar house design to what we're building. This one is in Buena Vista)

A house: Way more than meets the eye. (this is a similar house design to what we're building. This one is in Buena Vista)

It's easy to forget how lucky we are sometimes. 

And how so often in life, the best things are the simplest things. And how many ways we are truly blessed. 

But these are good thoughts to re-ground ourselves....Especially when you're reeling from the sting of sticker shock. 

Actually the original sticker shock with this whole project came when we first started imagining (what we thought was) a nice, modest home and began seeking out local contractors to build it, for as it turns out, around $250 / square foot. (Actually, one guy told us cheerfully that we might be able to get something for less than $200, but only the simplest of designs and cheapest of materials). Our 2000 sq foot dream home was going to cost us half a million dollars...How does anyone do this, we thought to ourselves. 

So, we regrouped. Re-examined our values, our needs, our budget. Eventually, we discovered modular construction companies, who purported to offer high quality homes at a fraction of site built costs. So far, so good. 

And really, it has been good. The modular company has done a fine job. But still, a project as huge as constructing a home is dominated by two inescapable truths that must not be underestimated:

1. There are a TON of little things that go into making a home.

2. None of these things are free.

Am I blaming myself for being a total greenhorn? No. Some slack must be cut here; after all, Margaret and I don't have a lot of experience building homes from scratch. In fact, I'd wager that not many people do what we're doing at all, and even fewer do it TWICE, or more times. 

It all reminds me of that age old Steven Wright quote:

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it. - Steven Wright

Word. The lessons we learn in this exercise may never be applied in our lives again. So what did we learn? Margaret and I were presented with an final estimate over $80,000 higher than what I had so foolishly thought we could have this dream for. That's a lotta clams. 

But you know what? We can adapt. We don't need a garage right away, for example. We make not like paying down a larger mortgage, but we can deal with it. 

So yeah, someday, we'll look back on all this and laugh. The sting is starting to fade, and it's being replaced with an excited tingle in the stomach. We're now just months away from actually having this thing. 

 

 

 

 

...3....2.....1.....

And so, another year comes to a close for all of us. It's been a whale of one, that's for sure. Through endless hard efforts from countless people. the Colorado Front Range has gotten almost back to normal after the historic floods of 2013. Almost. An afternoon spent at a Habitat for Humanity build in Lyons a couple weeks ago with my workmates showed just how far many of the residents of Lyons still have to go. But still, in aggregate, the progress has been terrific to watch. 

Yeah, 2014 has been a ride. Skye getting her license and starting to drive herself everywhere has about doubled the number of gray hairs on my head ; 0 . Our immediate family has been touched with some tragedy as someone close to us has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given mere months to live. At the same time, Margaret and I celebrated 10 years of marriage together this past summer., which kind of blew my mind that so much time has gone by. And this year marked the 17th of my very long career at Seagate. So many signs of getting old!

So many signs that for whatever we may be contemplating in our lives, there's never been a better time than right now to make them happen, to let them in. 

Yes, we live in a world that seems more like a maelstrom of conflict than a home some times, with its countless global crises, divisions, wars, on and on. It can kind of feel hopeless sometimes.

And yet, how extraordinarily lucky are we. How blessed. Think of how much we have at our disposal, how many different things we can do or places we can go with our lives. Think of how many people we can touch. Think of how much diversity of experience we can have. Think of all the things that our bodies do really WELL Think of all the people in our lives who love us. 

2015 will bring many changes to all of us, I'm sure. For me, it'll bring me one year closer to a dream of living in Ridgway, in the form of (finally) a house on our land, a process I look forward to sharing with you in this blog. 2015 may also bring some great losses for our family. But that's not for me to know right now. All I know is that there has never been a better time than right now, folks. Forget New Years resolutions. This isn't about shoulds. You got something out there you want? 2015 is the year you reach out and grab it. 

Wishing you a 2015 full of adventure! 

You will never run out of excuses. You will only run out of time.


Playing House

I have no idea how many houses I've designed in my life. At least in my mind, or on napkins, things like that. Probably, we all have, right? Moats, drawbridges, trees growing in the living room, you name it. Opening your mind to all the possibilities is a lot of fun. 

And you can bet that as we hatched this plan to move to Ridgway and create a homestead, we've been scratching out house ideas on napkins for a while now. Of course, just because you can make a drawing of an idea, doesn't mean that it's even remotely buildable. We soon realized that if we weren't careful, we'd be designing ourselves into some tight spots and painful reappraisals. 

Enter Chief Architect. This Texas-based company makes software for budding amateur architects like yours truly, to let our fancy take flight, while they make sure in the background our designs are buildable, practical, would meet applicable codes, etc. At first I balked at the $200 price tag, but in retrospect I can't imagine going through this process any other way. Let's just say, it's nice to live in the computer age!

Our house layout will have roughly 2200 sq feet of living space on two floors, and a 600 sq ft deck. Three bedrooms and two and a half baths, plus an extra study, will allow for some comfortable spaces for guests. The main feature of the house will be a cathedral ceiling great room with a woodstove and a two story picture window wall looking towards Cimarron Range and Uncompahgre Peak. 

A rendering of what the house might look like when done, when seen from the south east. Note the large picture window wall and wrap around porch. And Skillet will have a fenced yard again!

A rendering of what the house might look like when done, when seen from the south east. Note the large picture window wall and wrap around porch. And Skillet will have a fenced yard again!

A view of what the full homestead might look like. Detached two car garage with full woodworking shop in rear. Fenced off area to right of house includes a small orchard, plenty of free range chicken forage, and a 50 ft long greenhouse. 

A view of what the full homestead might look like. Detached two car garage with full woodworking shop in rear. Fenced off area to right of house includes a small orchard, plenty of free range chicken forage, and a 50 ft long greenhouse. 


1st floor of the house plan. A large great room with a glass front wood stove will be the main hangout area. Note the large wrap around deck connected to the front entry porch. 

1st floor of the house plan. A large great room with a glass front wood stove will be the main hangout area. Note the large wrap around deck connected to the front entry porch. 

2nd floor of the house plan. Mostly the master suite and an office loft. A small study will have a pullout sleeper sofa.

2nd floor of the house plan. Mostly the master suite and an office loft. A small study will have a pullout sleeper sofa.

A full basement will include two window wells and a couple additional windows as well. This basement will be unfinished at first, finishing it will be a future "someday" kind of project. To elevate the deck on the main level, this basement will only be sunk into the ground five feet or so.

A full basement will include two window wells and a couple additional windows as well. This basement will be unfinished at first, finishing it will be a future "someday" kind of project. To elevate the deck on the main level, this basement will only be sunk into the ground five feet or so.


Nothin' But Dirt

This, dear reader, is fantastic news. 

As we get closer to the building of an actual house on this land, one of the questions that comes to the front of your mind is:

What's under that grass?

What if there's bedrock just a few inches below? This is a distinct possibility out here in high desert country. A short walk to the back of our land, where it backs up to McKenzie Creek Canyon   reveals sandstone ledges and rock outcroppings forming a canyon rim. So definitely, there's bedrock under that grass, and pretty close. 

Enter Clint, our contractor. He's a front range guy himself - after getting his Hydrology degree at Colorado State University up in Fort Collins, he also sought the peace, quiet, beauty and community of western slope living. Now, he's our contractor. 

I think he was as relieved as we were to hear his news. Digging down several feet in the spot where we want our house, he gets nothing but dirt. The septic field looks similarly clean of obstructions. 

They say most home building issues come from problems putting the foundation in. We're one important step closer to being happy home owners!

What In The World...

...are we doing? Well, there comes a time in a fella's life (and a gal's too) when a certain "been there, done that" feeling overtakes you as you gaze over suburbia. I could put on my liberal freedom-hater rant shirt and go to town here, but I don't think so. The reality is, suburbia has been very good to me and mine. I have lived on the Front Range of Colorado for 20 years now. It's offered me gorgeous sunsets, friends, shopping and movies a'plenty, and all the coffee shop latte's I could possible stand. It's been a good deal.

Maybe it's a kind of mid-life crisis, I don't know. Why do sane people pick up and move to the mountains? It's cold! There's bears! The roads aren't even paved for cryin' out loud!

I have visited that small corner of Colorado called Ridgway several times over the past years, each time with that question whispering in the back of my head.

And then I get there. And I go, "Oh yeah. This is why. Ahhhhhh...." (that's the sound of filling your lungs with clean mountain air tinged with pinon, pine, aspen and sage. Or the sound of looking up at a billion stars on a quiet night.)

                                          The incomparable Sneffels Range of the San Juans

                                          The incomparable Sneffels Range of the San Juans

For those who don't know, Ridgway is a small town in the SW corner of Colorado. It sits in a flat valley where the Uncompahgre River emerges from the steep, rugged, spectacular San Juan mountains. The elevation is about 7000 feet, the population about 900 full time residents. It contains the only traffic light in Ouray County. It's a metropolis compared to the rest of the county, which is full of farms, ranches, pinon benches, canyons, rugged cliffs, aspen meadows, and dozens of snow covered peaks above tree line. It is a place where large non-human mammals outnumber the humans many times over.

It is a place for fresh starts. For us, it's a place to homestead. 

Our land, situated on top of Log Hill Mesa, 7500 feet elevation. Many Pinon, Ponderosa Juniper, Sage and Oak call this place home. We hope to also someday.  

Our land, situated on top of Log Hill Mesa, 7500 feet elevation. Many Pinon, Ponderosa Juniper, Sage and Oak call this place home. We hope to also someday.  

And why not? What is the point of wisdom not applied, not used for anything? 

So Margaret and I have purchased a 6-acre parcel of land on a quiet, dead end county road, in a sunny spot on a mesa above the Uncompahgre and the valley floor. It's not as rustic as you might think: We have electricity and running water right at the lot line. We have neighbors. But we don't have covenants. Or anything obstructing our view of Cimarron Ridge across the valley.

The merging of the conveniences of modern living, with a sense of wildness. View east towards the Cimarrons.

The merging of the conveniences of modern living, with a sense of wildness. View east towards the Cimarrons.

So, welcome to this blog! In this blog, I'd like to chronicle our adventure of homesteading and making a new life in Ridgway, from the very beginning. Hopefully we can also share some of what makes this place so incredibly special to us. Thanks for reading!