Dirt Work, Family and Farming

Early morning pastel in Spanish Peaks County…

It’s been all dirt work around our home lately! My brother John, a self-described ‘dirt guy,’ came in Sunday and he has truly spruced up our sky garden area.

After proper leveling, provided by John, we added pavers and gravel to the lower-level of the garden to give it an even finished look. More plants to come in soon around the bird bath…And so many native plants are just starting to bloom after that big snow last week! We also put in a few new trees. Perfect time for my parents to visit today.

John is a man of very few words. He always has been, but even more so since he lives alone along Oak Creek near Sedona. When I asked him this morning why he likes to work in the dirt, he answered: “It’s organic.”

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Photography by Laura Lee!

Let me begin by saying, I never thought of myself as a “photographer.” What does that even mean? We all write but few of us are “writers.” When I began writing professionally I had no definition of “writer.” Then I read an article in a writing magazine that said, a writer is someone who sits down everyday and writes. That was me.

Now I find I am constantly taking photos from our foothills ridge simply because they need to be taken.


I mean how can you watch scenes like these everyday and not want to preserve them for others to see?

Since I started taking photos like this, I have posted quite a few on my Facebook page. Yes, everyone seems to love them, and a few have encouraged me to begin selling them so others can enjoy…


the views we enjoy everyday.

So here I am, launching myself into a whole new area of endeavor. I have so much to learn about lens and filters and everything else, I’ll admit that.

But life is for learning, right?

Is early retirement on your to do list?

They had a thought-provoking lead story on CBS Sunday Morning this week: “I quit! The joys of leaving your job for good” There they said more than half of Americans dream of saying, “Take this job and shove it!” One statement that was made was the realization by so many workers that we are all expendable, so why offer up our loyalty to the place where we work? I learned the hard way how that works in my last position as an academic librarian! But before you quit your job, here are some things to think about. The fantasy of quitting before normal retirement age should include:

  • Don’t have kids
  • Buy a small house or condo
  • No big, expensive vacations or fancy lifestyles
  • The ability to ignore all commercials!

I especially enjoyed a statement by a surgeon who quit her job in her 50s to pursue her love of art. I related to her best. The interviewer ask her how she felt when she left her job for the last time. She said, “They don’t control me anymore!” She had been saving half of her income for years to accomplish her goals. Her mother’s response was even more interesting, reflecting major generational differences. Instead of congratulating her, her mother was embarrassed and told her friends she had to quit because she was sick. The previous generation generally believes that winners don’t quit. I found this true of my parents too. They couldn’t believe we would be able to pull this off.

Mike and I were relieved of the tough decision to quit our last jobs in our 50s. Mike’s job in solar engineering got sent to China and I was fired by Regis University in Denver. I was devastated for less than a year, until I met Mike through my own dating service. We joined forced, determined to prove that those assholes weren’t going to get the best of us! Luckily we had checked all of the boxes above and saved like crazy starting in our early 20s, so we have been able to convert the lack of jobs into our own version of success. Moving to a beautiful, but less expensive area and building a direct gain solar home also helped a lot!

Our view in retirement

We completely agree with the guy in the CBS story who followed his gut and his dreams and said, “I would never go back.” In retrospect, we wouldn’t change a thing either…

What’s growing in my southern Colorado Foothills Garden?

Walker’s Low Catmint does great here, and so far no rodents have eaten it!

I have been establishing a rock flower garden with both native plants and local varieties for the past few years. I don’t dare raise vegetables and fruit here, mostly because of the extreme winds we get sitting here on the side of a ridge at 7,000 feet. It is not unusual for us to receive westerly winds over 60 mph. But in the summer the winds usually calm down and we are left with long, lovely warm days.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon around our birdbath, and BTW the birds really do bath in there!

I have had great luck also with Rocky Mountain Penstemon and Knautia Red Knight. They are both just about to bloom in spite of some very cool weather this spring. Last year the deer ate some of the blooms off so this year I will be patrolling the area!

A couple different types of Gallardia and Yarrow with some Lavender of course!

I’m trying out a few different colors and types of yarrow this spring. I have heard so many different things about the animals only liking one color of flower, so now I have yellow, red, and pink coming up, a veritable smorgasbord of deer food! I should also mention Blue Mist Spirea. It’s a small bush that seems to love it here. It’s a woody plant so no deer nibbles there. I heard a new theory recently, that animals don’t like to eat plants that give off a strong odor like herbs. Have you found this to be true?

This spring I went out and realized I had almost all purple flowers, so I’m making an effort to add new colors. I added a beautiful red Sunrose, some red Jupiter’s Beard, some cinquefoil and other yellow varieties. I’ll let you know how they do…

Finally, I added a new solar water fountain to my garden. What a great idea to let the sun keep it running, but you do have to add water everyday. We are amazed at how sensitive it is! The second you come between the sensor and the sun the pump stops.

We see everything from the largest raven to the tiniest hummingbird coming by everyday. We feed the birds and they do come!

In the summer of 2014, Mike and I sold our nice house in Fort Collins to move temporarily into an old miner’s home in Walsenburg, while constructing a passive solar home near the top of Navajo Ranch Estates west of Walsenburg Colorado. To learn more about downsizing to a tiny town and then living in the Colorado countryside, consider reading my book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado available from Amazon or directly from me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

A curious new skill!

I have written here before about how a traumatic brain injury can shake up our brain to the extend that we may discovery a skill we either never had before or never recognized. For example, I wrote back in 2016 about Melody Gardot’s transformation following her serious brain injury. She’s an American woman who only discovered her unique ability to create and sing music after suffering a serious head and spinal injuries.

Well, just recently I have discovered I have an uncanny ability to recognize the voices of well-known people when they, for example, narrate a program on TV or provide voices for animated movies. I don’t remember ever being so sensitive to voice tones or accents, but I now immediately key into who is behind the voice. It reminds me a bit of that voice and noise recognition software you see on crime shows. Once I hear a voice I feel like I need to keep searching to find out if my hunch is correct. I also notice how similar some voice tones are, for example the voice of Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) is quite similar to Barack Obama.

Would you like to learn more about this strange phenomena? Check out an article on this topic:
https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/when-brain-damage-unlocks-genius-within

Let yourself be moved!

Follow your heart – listen to what you care for – connect with fierce compassion. Lean into what you love – serve what you value – let yourself be moved. Allow guidance from the great fullness of life to inspire your actions.

Gratefulness directs us into the territory of the heart. When we tune into our deepest cares for the world, we are moved to be: Advocate. Friend. Ally. Guardian.

Large or small, notice what you love and take a stand for it. A tree. Oceans. Justice. A child. Humanity. Animals. Diversity. Peace. Life needs us to be protectors. We are with you, ever-grateful for the opportunity to love and serve the world...

Jeff Chemnick’s Aloes in Wonderland in California!

Here’s a man who decided he loved plants, especially all kinds of succulents, including cacti, as well as palm trees, dragon trees (Dracaena draco) and Queensland bottle trees (Brachychiton rupestris). But Jeff’s real specialty is cycads, specifically Mexican cycads. Jeff is now a leading expert in the field and has one the largest private collections.

Choose your own passion and then go for it!

“Mary Poppins Returns” made my week!

I had such low expectations about watching “Mary Poppins Returns” I almost skipped it. Please don’t! This delightful mix of grim reality and pure, positive fantasy is a not-to-be missed escape into the world of magical musical surprises. The superior performances by Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, plus so many great guest performances by Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth and you-know-who, from the first Mary Poppins movie, makes this an elevating experience for those of any age.

With so many delightful new songs, this movie takes off when Mary Poppins magically appears and begins to sing “Can you imagine that?” in the bath tub scene. She certainly convinced me: “Nonsense can be fun!” Then there was the “A cover is not the book, so open it up and take a look!” song, which simultaneously reminded me of my twenty-five years working in libraries, and also my dating service experience. Such great dating advice!

A few words from “Where the lost things go”

There is also a dream sequence called “Where the lost things go” to soothe the children who have lost their mother recently. Although not an easy theme to take on with children, Mary makes the loss a tiny bit less painful because “Nothing’s lost forever only out of place…”

Truth be told, I’ve always loved a good musical, but I wasn’t too enamored with the first Mary Poppins movie from 1964. I guess I had to grow up to finally appreciate a world where the women and children sweep in and save the day for the miserable adults who take life far too seriously. Oh those adults, who “think a great deal too much, of that I am certain.”

Now I see we all do think too much and in that way miss the opportunity to enjoy so many happy coincidences and surprises life can offer us. Don’t we all need a Mary Poppins to sweep down into our lives when things are looking grim and show us the bright side while we somehow solve the adult problems of life?

TODAY OR NEVER!

This fun film supports our favorite childhood fantasy of effortlessly flying away when things get tough, elevating our minds to new levels, while accenting every daily positive. And BTW, this film is wonderful with a little help from my little friend THC, along the same lines as Disney’s Fantasia!