High in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains: Foothills versus Mountain Living in Southern Colorado

Yesterday was so interesting! We visited some new friends who have lived up above 8,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains west of here for the past few years. Loved hearing their stories about living up high.

I know many have romantic visions of life up in those beautiful mountains, but remember this too:

Manuel's snow tractor

The approach to their house is a windy, dirt road off of a major highway, a road they and their few neighbors must maintain, unlike the county road we live off of, 15 miles west of Walsenburg.

We heard stories about when the deep snows come, and the big state highway snowplows plow their road closed! That’s why they need to maintain snow-moving equipment themselves….imagine that!

snow over the windows

I asked them how deep the snow gets up there, and they decided one picture was worth a thousand words!

WOW! We have had a few snows of a foot or so, but nothing like this! They told us stories of  a few snowstorms where they shoveled for eight hours straight. If they didn’t have heavy equipment they wouldn’t be able to get out for weeks!

Their property is an old straw-bale cabin on a mine site and their water comes from a spring nearby. Such delicious water too! They heat with a large wood stove, which requires a great amount of log splitting to prepare for the winter cold. They have electric service, mainly because the costs of returning renewal energy back to the grid here requires outrageous fees and insurance requirements, and going off grid presents other problems with reliability and initial  installation costs. We are stuck here until better energy storage solutions are developed worldwide.

The natural beauty of their landscape is beyond words! They maintain a number of wildlife cameras and see so many different animals around their home. Bears are so commonplace that they have named a few of them! It’s a wonderful place that requires a lot of work to maintain.

We recently built a passive solar home right at 7,000 feet and are told by our new friends that we are really saving a lot of money in the winter by absorbing the sun’s heat directly into our insulated slab, which helps to hold the daily sun’s heat within our home overnight.

solar water tubesWe hope to add a few of these solar thermal water tubes to our home soon to increase our thermal mass and help to moderate temperature swings both in the winter and summer. Beyond solar, we depend on Cadet forced-air electric wall heaters on thermostats for all of our winter heating needs. They usual turn themselves on during the night and turn off soon after the sun comes up most days. In the summer, the positioning and excellent insulation in our new home keeps us cooler than most without the need for air conditioning. We have ceiling fans in every room.

We have rarely been “snowed in” this past winter, but we did purchase a Subaru and love how well it works on steep snowy roads. Overall, we find we are probably too lazy to live up high.

We’re doing great right where we are!

A Few Lifestyle Differences Between City and Rural Folks in Southern Colorado

So here I will continue to describe some of the differences I have observed between those who choose to live in or near cities, and those who seek out the rural areas of our country.

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The most obvious difference is love of silence and nature. We had my brother John here for the past few weeks and he spent almost all of his waking hours sitting outside observing the birds, the plants, the bugs, the clouds and the weather. I told you before that I call him “Mother Nature’s Son” and for good reason. Rural America is only for those who greatly prefer a natural setting to high stress, traffic, noise, hustle and bustle and an incredible array of shopping options.

Our sense of time and relaxation is different here. Sure there are lots of hard-working people in the outback, but time takes on a different meaning here. The only people here who are in a great hurry are the outsiders, the locals live on a more relaxed schedule. No hurry to get on to the next task, take your time and do it right. As I mentioned previously when I wrote about the only time we went back to Fort Collins in our two years here:

“I saw people everywhere waiting for something, a place to park, a place to sit in a restaurant, a chance to go through the next stop light, an opportunity to pay for their purchase.” 

Sunflowers on a county road

My commute to La Veta….

Even today, I still find myself sometimes getting anxious when I’m preparing to go somewhere in town. Will it be crowded? Will I be able to get in? And then I arrive and there is hardly anybody there. It takes time to adjust to little traffic and no big rush.

One wonderful, interesting result of no longer sitting in traffic with my foot on the brake constantly, no more right knee pain! I injured that knee in a ski accident in high school, and was planning on treating the long-term pain with surgery before I moved here. Now, my knee is fine.

One discovery for me has been how important religion is out here in the country. I have found one of the great delineators between people is what church you attend, or if you are even religious. In discussions with new people, church almost always comes up. My religion is nature and the earth is my church. Some here can understand that perspective and many cannot. They would prefer that I come to their church.

The other important issue locally seems to be whether you smoke marijuana or not. In some cases I have begun friendships only to find them backing away when the subject of marijuana comes up.

As far as new friendships go, I would say rural people are more hesitant to welcome newcomers into their life. I have heard that they like to wait a few years to see if you will be sticking around before actually becoming friends. And then there are those who came here for the purpose of being alone permanently.

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Overall I am surprised at how different rural living can be. It has certainly changed me in so many good ways. I have so much less anxiety and stress, that I almost cannot tolerate how bad I feel when I go to even small cities. I feel my anxiety level rising immediately…

I can now fully embrace my love of silence and nature. So I will continue my quest for like-minded souls in this area.

 

Oh, the lives that could have been…

Isn’t it fun to fantasize about the other lives you might have had if your mind had been more open, and you had known yourself better in your 20’s, when you chose your first career?

Flower Arrangement

I love working with living things and color!

Rooting and transplanting different kinds of plants and succulents is one of my favorite pastimes now, and I love growing all sorts of plants!

I see only now how much more fun I would have had if I had found some kind of work in some artistic field like floral design or gardening. I feel I could have expressed my full being through a job like that.

It seems to me now, that I was so pre-programmed to work in universities. I do completely enjoy reading, thinking and the freedom of my own intellect. I love intellectual exchanges with others. But I also love the beauty and freedom of light and color.

 harpPerhaps I could have been a painter in another life or a musician. I have fantasies of playing the harp lately.                 No, not something practical like the guitar, the harp!               What does that mean? Perhaps I’m headed for heaven? Or is hell looking for a harpist.

marijuana leafOf course, there’s still time. It seems like everyone presently moving to this rural Colorado county wants to become a ‘grower.’ Perhaps I can still run a greenhouse eventually, and put my green thumb to good use. At least I can plan how glorious my new gardens will be here, after we get our patio done!

It’s never too late to find out who you might have been!

The Best of Boomer Blogs, #456

Welcome to the longest-running Boomer Blog Carnival online, started sometime back in the early 2000s! This is our version of a clickable magazine of recent posts by long-term, reputable boomer bloggers.

Relax, ENJOY and click away!

abiquiu NMSummer is all about relaxation, and for some that means vacation. Veteran traveler Carol Cassara over at Heart-Mind-Soul today offers us 5 ways to have a relaxing vacation and also a list of must-packs that will come in handy on any vacation.

Tom Sightings in Volunteering an Opinion reflects on the benefits of volunteering in retirement Here he offers a few facts and figures as well as some perspective from his own experience.

Kinky BootsMeryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting says: There is nothing like a day in the city to energize mind and body. She enjoyed a day in the Big Apple recently with friends, eating and theater-going: Showtime in the Big Apple.  However, she also reminds us there is no place like your chosen home.

purple cancer cellOn The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about the first inventory of the accumulation of cancer-causing chemicals in the human body. Up to 420 chemicals known or likely to cause cancer have been detected in blood, urine, hair, and other human samples, the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization, found when it reviewed more than 1,000 biomonitoring studies and other research by government agencies and scientists in the United States and around the world. Biomonitoring studies measure the burden of chemicals present in the human body.

You are enoughI say whether you chose to go on vacation or stay home this summer, take a mind vacation everyday. Tell that busy, demanding part of your brain to shut up and take time to RELAX. De-stress and embrace the ‘F’ word, FUN, one of our greatest and undervalued pleasures in life.

 

Free Your Mind… It’s OK to Relax!

Purple buddhaOne of the BEST lessons I have learned from my husband Mike is how to truly relax. I have a natural guilt around sitting around spacing out. If you are anything like me, you will first need to be convinced that it’s OK to relax.

Consider the long and arduous history of mankind on this earth. Yes, they had to keep busy looking for food and protecting themselves from anything that wanted to eat them, but I feel certain they also knew how to relax. I just can’t see a caveman or woman being all stressed out over their to-do list. Primitive tribes today still know how to spend hours doing nothing.

Tension and relaxationIt’s healthy to relax, stare off into space, and enjoy this present moment. In fact, it can even be ‘productive’ in its own way. Did you know some of our most creative ideas came from spacing out? Ask Newton. That’s how he first noticed gravity.

You are enoughSo the next time you are feeling pressured to get too many things done, remember relaxation can be very good for you. De-stress and embrace the ‘F’ word, FUN!    You do enough. You are enough. You have enough

What does freedom mean to you?

Today I am feeling a tad bit more patriotic than usual, perhaps because I finally live in the right place for me in the good old USA. Having finally found MY perfect place, I appreciate my freedom even more than ever!

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I appreciate the freedom to choose and receive a great public education, to find jobs I have enjoyed mostly in public universities, the freedom at age 49 to find my perfect mate, the freedom to save up for retirement in a reasonable way over decades, and then my ultimate freedom to choose the best place to live out the rest of my life.

Since I have lived in a number of other countries, I appreciate so many freedoms that others simply do not have. As a single woman, I enjoyed so many freedoms not available in other countries, and as a married woman I have been free to define myself separate from my marriage partner.

Find Your Reason Cover smallI have done the research. This is the BEST TIME to be alive in human history, and especially as an American woman! We live longer, healthier and freer than anyone else, and yet it sometimes seems, all we do is complain! Yes there many things wrong in the world, and unfortunately we are constantly bombarded with this news. But please take a moment today to appreciate what we generally take for granted. We are a country with free public education, freedom for women, safeguards for children, great medical care, and best of all, the right to VOTE! You’ve just got to love that!