A mid-summer trip to Pueblo

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My favorite time here in the southern Colorado foothills is the morning. I wake up to such a marvelous array of natural sounds. I love to hear the birds greeting the new day.

IMGP6401Then I go out to my garden and appreciate it all!

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Yesterday we took a trip up to Pueblo to visit a farm east of there to buy fresh produce. I love buying  directly from the farmers and the prices are quite good!

Yang's

Then we drove into Pueblo to visit Yang’s Gifts in the Pueblo Mall. Why? Because I won a FREE gift from there! What fun going through the store choosing something just for me and for free! I love this store, but then I have always appreciated jewelry, fans, and beautiful clothes from Asia.

One thing Mike and I now disagree on. I enjoy occasionally driving into Pueblo or Trinidad to shop. He gets quiet in the city and his joy level visibly increases when we leave town.

cropped-sangre-de-cristos-in-spring1.jpgHe gets happier and happier as we get closer to home.

How to NOT get “Lost in America”

Lost in America the movie 1985

I just read a new review of the Criterion re-release of the 1985 Albert Brooks film “Lost in America” in The Atlantic.  This film is a satire about two upper-middle-class Californians who decide to quit their great corporate jobs, and go “find themselves” by traveling our country in a Winnebago.

I couldn’t help thinking, as I read this review, how pessimistic their viewpoint is. Perhaps these Californians failed at their goal simply because they didn’t have a good plan from the beginning. It’s one thing to quit your “boring, predictable existence earning a solid wage” with no real plan at all. It can be an entirely different experience to spend the time to find out where you most want to live ahead of time, and then create a sustainable lifestyle in that place.

Like so many of us from the Boomer generation, the main characters in “Lost in America” achieved financial success and yet could derive no pleasure from that success. What I have learned from decades of living is that financial success provides no pleasure, unless it also provides personal freedom.

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Our greatest success in choosing this new, rural lifestyle has been the freedom we now enjoy. Many would find our lifestyle boring. If you have no interest in weather, wildlife, sunrises, and an ever increasing appreciation of the natural world, you would probably run back to the city after only a few weeks, if not days.

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The silence here can be deafening, unless this is the kind of silence you’ve been seeking your entire life.

Is Walsenburg a good place to retire?

I noticed this question under the list of searches that brought readers to this blog… It reminded me of a enjoyable conversation I had yesterday with a newcomer. She was wondering herself about the pros and cons of moving here. There are so many dimensions to that question. Here are a few:

320 W. 2nd St. Walsenburg

Our hundred year old rental in Walsenburg, where we lived while building a new home

First of all, it depends on where you plan to move. Walsenburg is one of the oldest towns in Colorado, and unfortunately it looks it. Such a strange mix of very old, rundown homes right next to nice, well-kept ones. There are certainly a few slum lords in this town.

The good news is homes are still quite inexpensive (less than $100,000) there. The bad news is you will probably have to spend quite a bit to update your home, possibly starting with your connection to the town’s water system! If you don’t mind putting lots of sweat equity into your new home and you realize it isn’t easy to find dependable employees to work on your projects, come on down! BTW, rentals are extremely difficult to find in Walsenburg or La Veta. Especially ones you could stand to live in. Walsenburg has two full-size grocery stores, the only ones in our county, and only a few decent restaurants. It also contains the ONLY STOPLIGHTS IN THE WHOLE COUNTY!

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The view along Highway 160 west of Walsenburg!

I cannot honestly recommend Walsenburg as a nice place to live. However, as you progress west of there on Highway 160 and see the tremendous view of the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains ahead of you, you will then understand why many are moving here for the geography alone! We moved here to enjoy passive solar living in a rural setting, with endless blue skies, strange and wonderful rock formations, and that still unspoiled frontier feel.

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Too bad we didn’t get a view!

Navajo Ranch, located in between Walsenburg and La Veta, offers incredible views, plus phone, electricity and good, dependable water available to all the lots. This is where we chose to build, with no regrets two years after moving up here! The lots are still inexpensive and the quiet is wonderful…

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One of my favorite cottage gardens in La Veta!

If you prefer to move to a quaint small town, choose La Veta, only about sixteen miles west of Walsenburg at around 7,000 feet elevation. La Veta still has that small town feel with around 800 year-round residents, however it almost closes down in the winter months. Both La Veta and Cuchara, eleven miles further south on Highway 12 and at 8,600 elevation, attract many families in the summer, but they go back home in the winter months. You will find lots and homes much more expensive as you proceed up to La Veta and Cuchara.

And remember, not everyone can breathe above 6,000 feet.

A major part of my discussion yesterday with my new friend was about making friends in this area. I made only one friend in Walsenburg in my year living there. I found few open to friendship of any kind, and some downright mean. La Veta seemed more open to new people, although some only acted friendly at first. This bothered me a lot when I first moved here three years ago, but now I have developed a couple of good connections with women in La Veta and in the Cuchara area. We have concluded that new people, especially single women, are seen as a bit suspicious around here.

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We found our place somewhere over the rainbow…

Surprisingly, I don’t think much about friends anymore, because I enjoy spending time at our wonderful home alone and with Mike. Everything about this place seems right to me now…

To learn lots more about my transition from wondering if I made a mistake by moving here to loving it, check out my new book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

 

“Don’t spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now, was once only hoped for.”  — Epicurus

Living in the simplicity of the present

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I have been changed by the experience of leaving city life behind. The greatest change has been my new ability to at least occasionally be in the present. I see now that before I moved here, I was constantly stressed out, and in distraction mode.

“Distractions are both more tempting and more destructive than we realize. It’s tempting to fill in every little minute of the day with productivity or distractions. Don’t. Leave some emptiness.”  – Zen Habits

It seems to me that cities are set up for constant distraction. Any time you feel uncomfortable in any way, you can call up someone to go see, order some new kind of food, go out shopping or to see a movie. People in cities spend most of their time sitting in traffic or driving somewhere else. Cities are distraction machines, and the Internet is the ultimate, easily available escapism.

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Being in the present means you are not planning ahead. You are sitting still, willing to be here now to observe and absorb your present surroundings with no thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow, and no need to distract yourself. I find many of the observations of ZenHabits.com useful in my new mindset:

“If you’re filling your life with distractions, its probably because you’re afraid of what life would be like without constant Internet, social media, news, TV, games, snacks.”

To be honest, I never really had the time to gain full awareness of all of this until I moved away from modern American life. I knew I was anxious and not as relaxed as I wanted to be in the city, and now I see why. Cities simply raise anxiety levels. I know because it took me at least a year away from a city to see how anxious I have been most of my life, and then find ways to allow myself to truly relax.

I have been a worry shopper my whole life. Once I solved one problem I moved on to the next one. Here there is so little to worry about, leaving me much more time to focus on what is important to me. Now that’s a great new challenge! And what is important to me now is a few important relationships, and appreciating the natural world and its wonders.

We can sit and dream about so many things, but we would be wasting our lives. This present reality is all we get. Let’s learn to love it.

 

 

Naturalist report from Spanish Peaks Colorado

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In a summer of many terrible wildfires in the West, we are fortunate to have received over 12 inches of precipitation from March through June in our area. How do I know? I measured every inch of it myself for COCORAHS. We are also fortunate to have such vigilant volunteer fire fighters patrolling our area at all times.

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Our temperatures are not too bad at 7,000 foot elevation, and our solar home is keeping us nice and cool this summer. The highest temperatures here have been in the low 90s and our well-insulated stucco home hasn’t gone up past 76 degrees inside yet, with no need for AC. Every room has a ceiling fan when more air flow is needed.

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Our greatest surprise has been the plethora of different birds stopping by our bird feeders this spring and enjoying our bird bath. Mike also built a bird house to Blue Bird specs this spring, and we did have a few Mountain Blue Birds check it out…

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but in the end a pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers laid eggs inside. We were thrilled to watch them so close to our home, bringing bugs back for the babies to consume. Mike looked inside the nest a few times while the parents were away.

Then we were so disappointed to find they had all flown the coop while we were up in Fort Collins this past week! In fact so many of the birds we’ve come to expect at our feeders are not around anymore…

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I had another surprise in my garden recently. I LOVE to see so many lovely cacti (common name Cane Cholla) around this region. This photo was taken along I-25 on July 2nd on our way up to Fort Collins. I read that if you cut off a small section and stick it in the ground, it will begin to grow immediately, so I tried that this past May.

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The other day I was messing around in my native plants garden, and was shocked to find that my tiny seedling was already flowering! You go girl!

IMGP6233Keep your eye out for a major bloom along I-25 north and south of Pueblo soon!

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All in all, I am quite pleased with the turn out in our new native plants garden in the southern Colorado foothills. Note the Mirabilis Multiflora that volunteered to bloom right in front of Buddha… Life is good!

Best of Boomer Blogs, Number 505

IMGP6244I woke up entirely too early this morning. In fact the moon was still slowly sinking in the west when I went outside, and I could see the orange haze from wildfires west of here. I enjoy working in my garden at this time of day, before the sun comes up.

It’s my turn to present a few blog posts from my fellow Boomer bloggers. Today I received an interesting mix of posts about food and drink, along with a couple about death and the pain of loss.

now that the barn burned down see the moon

Over the holiday weekend Tom Sightings had a premonition that something was wrong — only to find out that a friend of his had died suddenly of a heart attack. Now he shares with you his way of saying goodbye to a friend.

It can be hard to see the blessings in the tough challenges that arise in life. Here Carol Cassara writes about a different way of viewing the pros and cons of life’s major challenges.

beer toastOK, so some of us are better than others at embracing life’s challenges. In fact some us choose to drown our sorrows, but what does that do to our health? On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, asks whether we should limit our alcohol consumption. A recent study showed even one glass of alcohol per day can increase your risk of breast cancer. In contrast, a huge study is being undertaken to see if a glass of wine, a beer, or a cocktail every day might prevent a heart attack and help us live longer. I wonder who funded that study?

No matter. Alcohol is not my drug of choice… and I also cannot stand SPAM!

spam and eggsThis week Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting had food history on her mind. Though not a fan of processed products, she nevertheless pays homage to a product consumed today around the world. Some love it, others hate it. Here’s Ms. Baer’s tribute: Spamming the World for 80 Years. 

After a three day trip back to the city we moved here from, the longest time we have spent in a city since moving to the country, I came home feeling so relieved that I never have to live in a city again!

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In a world full of self-absorption, better known as selfie obsessions, I thought I might add my own version with my garden and the Spanish Peaks behind me as I peer into my own dining room…

Happy Summer! Have some fun while the sun shines!

 

 

My 4th of July Trip Down Memory Lane

I lived in Fort Collins and Loveland Colorado from 1995 until Mike and I moved south in 2014. I moved to Fort Collins with one husband and left with another. The divorce in 2001 was brutal for me, not because I lost a love, but because I felt like a loser afterwards for a few years. Of course, it did not help that I lost over 75% of my income, but loneliness was my major issue.

I felt certain that I would spend the rest of my life alone.

horsetooth in summer

We went up to Fort Collins this past holiday to visit old friends. I got up early my first day there and visited some of the places where I lived, like Horsetooth Reservoir.

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My first husband and I purchased a log home overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir, Lory State Park and the Bellvue Dome in 1995. Early in the morning the air is so cool up there, and the reservoir looks fantastic! I was surprised to see how the hillside leading up to our log home has been transformed into a bevy of large, luxury homes. When we lived there most of the houses were old and rundown.

Old Town in summer with flowersEveryone says home prices in Fort Collins are through the roof now, and I can see why. It really is beautiful…for a city. It felt a lot like Boulder did decades ago with all the hip, outdoor-types moving in. I enjoyed how green it was with flowers everywhere.

The next day I drove down to Loveland to see a friend, and had a look at our past home on Morning Drive. I’m sure glad we didn’t stay there long! It looked so crowded in, and it’s only a block or so from a major highway leading up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Overall, I enjoyed visiting my old haunts. I felt somehow stuck in my past for a day or two. Then I returned to our fantastic new home in the foothills of southern Colorado, and knew I was home.         The cool, quiet of nature suits me just fine!

My theme song now!

memoir of retirement 2016Hello and welcome to my world. I’m new to southern Colorado, and recently compiled a book about the ups and downs of moving from Fort Collins Colorado to west of Walsenburg to build a passive solar retirement home:           A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.     Please contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my other books…   Cheers, Laura Lee  (email: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)