Wins and losses when moving from Fort Collins to the southern Colorado foothills

We moved from Fort Collins to here in June of 2014 to build a direct gain passive solar home in the foothills west of Walsenburg. We rented a hundred-year-old house in town for 13 months while building our own version of a retirement dream home. There would be few surprises when we finally arrived in our new home, but moving to Walsenburg was the greatest culture shock.

When you decide to move to a very small town after living in the city most of your life, false assumptions can be made. After all, you really don’t know exactly what to expect, because you have never lived in such a tiny town before.

The first mistake we made was assuming that rentals would be available in both La Veta and Walsenburg in June. We discovered the end of May there were none we would even consider living in, and we were closing on our house the middle of June! We quickly made friends with Susie, the primary realtor in Walsenburg, and offered her a hefty bonus if she would find us something quick.

We also assumed utilities would be much cheaper in a small town, but we were wrong about that too. We did call the utility departments for both La Veta and Walsenburg before renting, and quickly discovered that only propane heating was available in La Veta. That would add up quite quickly in this cold part of the country, so we began leaning more towards Walsenburg in our selection process.

One thing we never would have guessed is that city water in Walsenburg would cost over $60 a month BEFORE you figured in how much you used that month! This town has lost about a third of its population in the past decade, so their water capacity is far larger than they need or can pay for, one reason why they are welcoming marijuana grow operations at present.

We did find a decent house to rent just in time, but it was so small we had to find additional storage for some of our furniture. The local realtor helped us with that too.

Work finally began on our new passive solar home in December 2014!

One total win for us was how friendly and welcoming our new landlord Bob was. He helped us whenever he could, and even provided new music for us to listen to as we explored our new home county. He then invited us up to his commune home near Gardner, where he has lived since the 1970s. The people who live in the communes in the northern part of Huerfano county have been so friendly and welcoming!

Another total win has been the quiet beauty of this part of Colorado. The views are phenomenal down here, and the weather is just a bit milder than up north. We love it! It’s definitely big sky country!

Most of the people we have met here have been friendly at least at first, although most seem hesitant to truly welcome new people. Most don’t seem to want to be friends. I’m still trying to figure that one out. I have heard a few interesting explanations so far!

I wrote quite a bit about making friends here in my journal, which then turned into a published memoir. When asked whether it was OK to write about how others have treated me here, I turn to Anne Lamott:

“Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”


Sunrises are outrageous at 7,000 feet with no neighbors!

It’s been a long & winding road to this wonderful home in the foothills below those beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains, one I’d love to share with you!


Passive Solar Heat & the First SNOW!

IMGP4415Monday night was exciting up here! We saw first sleet and then snow falling, and it snowed all night.

As some of you may know, I’ve been recording precipitation data for the CoCoRAHS project since 1998, at the seven addresses I have lived at in that time. Yesterday’s reading was particularly difficult because of high winds and drifted snow, although I did record almost an inch of precip!

Let me put it this way, it was difficult getting out of the house on Tuesday morning. Some places there was almost no snow and it was a foot deep elsewhere. We live on a county road so they took care of the road plowing.

And our solar heating has been working great! For example, outside we got down to around 20 degrees last night and inside we were around 60 this morning, but as soon as the sun started coming in, we jumped up to 66 quickly. We do have supplemental electric heat, which we use sparingly, and I also have hot flashes, which help a lot!

IMGP4413The sunset was beautiful here last night, a constant reminder of why we choose to live up here!

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Midlife change is so worth it!

Rasta Mike and Laura FB smallAlthough Mike and I did consider ending it all before we met in lucky 2005 (see previous post), we both agree joining forces has been the BEST thing that has ever happened to either of us!

Together, through a great love and stubborn persistence, we have assisted each other in attaining our most treasured life goals, goals we would not have attained without each other’s support.

Find Your Reason Cover tiny for HPMine was to become a writer. So far I’ve written three books! Mike’s was to build his own passive solar home with a spectacular view.

IMGP3968Mission Accomplished!   And, BTW, the passive solar is keeping us toasty warm this fall! More often than not we have to open a window to cool down our home. So far, so good. We have only needed to use our supplemental heaters on the coldest and cloudest days.

IMGP4312The sunrises up here are GLORIOUS!

And all in all, I would say we are a good example of:

“Don’t give up in midlife when things feel hopeless!”

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If you can change your mind and change your priorities like I did, there are do-overs before it’s all over! That is the message of my books and blogs.

And, finally, the rat is dead! Mike found it in his car and killed it! He was so happy! We still have our new cat Charlie. He’s not so good with rats, but he’s great at finding bugs, and re-defines playfulness for us!

IMGP4397Rasta and Charlie are still not the best of friends, but we’re getting there…

IMGP4406still coloring mandalas, and LOVING IT! It’s so healing for my poor recovering brain…

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Sunset, Sunrise – Life in Colorado!

Sorry if I’m boring you, but I cannot get over the fireworks up at our new home in the foothills west of Walsenburg in southern Colorado!

Last night the sunset seemed to go on and on.

IMGP4330It started out like this, and then transitioned…

IMGP4340into this

and this.

IMGP4346Then this morning I woke up to this! Yes, the snow is getting deeper in the Sangre de Cristos! We get plenty of warning here. Winter is coming soon!

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I am filled with gratitude that I can now live like this forever.  Please go see my new memoir!

What’s the deal with dogs and cats?

Miss KittyI’ll bet you didn’t know the second thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up, after Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke! was a psychobiologist.

Yes, I wanted to study animal behavior.

IMGP4322So when we added a kitten to our household this week, with a well established puppy named Rasta, it only took us a day or two to realize that neither one of us had ever had a cat AND a dog at the same time in the same house. We kept looking at each other as if one of us would know how this works.

Well, this is how it works from my perspective. The dog keeps expecting the cat to act more like a dog, and the cat keeps expecting the dog to act like a cat.

For example, they play in very different ways. The cat loves to chase everything around, although he hasn’t killed our car motor rat just yet as far as we can tell. The dog only wants to fetch his toys for us.

I will say our dog seems more territorial and loyal. He keeps trying to defend me against the cat!

They observe each other more with curiosity than disdain, and I can tell they basically enjoy each other, although Rasta has his moments:

IMGP4328They are both equally “lap happy.” Both love a good lap, and even more so as the weather gets colder. Rasta is only eleven pounds, so I’m curious which one will end up weighing more.

All in all we are quite pleased with our new addition and we’re hoping Rasta will feel the same soon.

Now if Charlie would just kill that nasty rat!

A new family member!

IMGP4296We got a black and white, multi-purpose cat this week! He’s a cutie, plus we hope he’ll help us with our pack rat problem! I think his name is Charlie, but Mike keeps changing his mind…

OK, so we were pressured into it, sort of.

We have one smart pack rat who insists on camping out in our car this winter. Yes, we’ve tried everything to get him out of there. Leaving the hood up and traps don’t work, and poison was just a waste of money, so we got a cat.

We’ll keep you posted on the rat-cat conflict. Let’s see who wins!

Rasta and Xmas toy 2013Of course Rasta is not at all pleased with the prospect of sharing our undivided attention, but he’s slowly getting used to this tiny intruder.

IMGP4308We’re making progress!