Moving and finding good services

I feel like I have moved a million times in my life. One of the most memorable was in junior high. I got so stressed out on my first day of school I actually started crying in gym class. The stress was just too much when I couldn’t find my next classroom, and everyone else seemed to know exactly where they were going.

That’s one of the reasons why I am so glad my final move is finally behind me. How do I know? Because after two years here, I have finally found someone who can cut my hair properly.

Yes, one of the toughest parts of moving is lining up all the service people you will need in your new area to make you feel comfortable doing things like buying the foods you love, grooming your dog, getting a great massage, and loving your new haircut.

In a combination of two tiny towns with a total of less than 4,000 people, good services can be hard to find. That was one of my original reasons for trying to make friends here, for good referrals! Since we only have two grocery stores and one dog groomer in the entire county, that search was easy. But I had to try three different hair stylists to find one I really like.

Medical services have been much more complicated. One of the reasons we thought this area was a good choice was because there is an emergency room, a small hospital and a nursing home nearby. Come to find out the service is very good at these places, but the financial end of things is completely screwed up, to the point where many will not go there simply because they mess up the billing so badly.

If you receive a bill ever, it is usually far more than six months later, so you can’t even remember what you went to the doctor for, and they always mess up the insurance payments. We’ve started driving 40 minutes to Colorado City or even as far as Pueblo for medical care, mainly because things are too messed up here! Alas, the many things you don’t find out until after you move somewhere new.

shoulder-massageI still haven’t found a good massage therapist around here, and I really need one! I had the most incredible one up in Loveland. She was such a good friend and master masseuse. No one else can even come close!

How did I end up here, feeling so fortunate?

It’s a long story, one I can now share with you in my new memoir!

A Great Day in Spanish Peaks Country!

imgp5357

This morning I woke up too early, but since I was already up I went outside to take a few sunrise shots. Then we started getting ready to drive up to “Uptop” to enjoy the 2016 Welcome Gathering for the Spanish Peaks Celtic International Music Festival.

imgp5387

Uptop is up at the top of Old La Veta Pass. It’s a bit of a ghost town now, but still fun to visit, especially on a glorious fall day like today!

imgp5391

This is where the train used to come through over a century ago.

imgp5384

It has an cool old chapel and an old tavern where the Celtic musicians set up to play and guide the courageous ones through some Irish dances.

imgp5375

And since I LOVE anything Celtic it was GRAND!

imgp5376

I loved the harp the best. I seem to be developing a love affair with all kinds of harps.

imgp5393

On the way home we stopped a few times to try and capture the amazing fall colors up there. Here’s Mike looking back towards the Spanish Peaks.

imgp5395

It’s days like these that make me so happy that we decided to move down here.

 On the way home we got in our FIRST traffic jam ever on Highway 160. Still don’t know what happened there… So we took the county road home and got in the middle of a cattle jam instead! So much more enjoyable than a car traffic jam. It was fun watching the cowboys herding the stray cattle across the road.

Want to learn more about our recent move from busy, noisy Fort Collins to  this place of silence and lovely nature watching?  Go here!

Do we want to grow or not?

After living here in rural southern Colorado for the past few years, I am often struck by my ambivalence towards attracting more people to this area. One thing is for sure, they are coming!

Each summer I see more people coming here to vacation and look for land or homes. The general trend is lots of Texans seeking a cooler place to summer, but I am now seeing more cars and RVs from other states, even as far away as New York.

And who can blame them? With sunrises like these, and towering peaks just a few miles off of Interstate 25, with rolling hills full of wildflowers, and cute little towns like La Veta, this place is some kind of paradise for nature lovers.

It’s not just me either. I checked with a local realtor this morning. She said the past few years have been “fabulous.” Our local water district reports that after  five years with almost no requests for new water taps or hookups, they have received twelve requests in the past two months.

The 2008 recession hit this area very hard. Huerfano County still has one of the highest unemployment rates in our state, so it’s good to see things picking up and new businesses opening in Walsenburg and La Veta. My only fear is that too many people will move here and ruin our rural, relaxed atmosphere. Our saving grace seems to be how many choose to go elsewhere for winter.

I met a very interesting woman here a few months ago. She has lived in Aspen for the past forty years, and she cautioned us about telling too many people about this place. She hates to see what happened to Aspen, with a median home price of $1.5 million. I understand that kind of caution, because I first moved to Boulder in 1966. I saw so much change there over the decades, and most of it not good.

I cannot see Walsenburg turning into Aspen any time soon, but I would hate to lose the natural beauty and quiet that makes this such a great place to call home.

Did you ever wonder what it feels like to move to a very culturally different place to live a more natural way of life?

Here’s what that feels like….

Outdoor or Indoor Kitty?

To give you some idea of the questions that we wonder about living here, away from all cities or even towns, recently we were discussing whether our cat should be let out to roam a bit, or is it too dangerous with the wild animals around here?

charley-and-rasta-on-mikes-lap

Charley the cat has been an indoor kitty since we got him last August. He was just a kitten then and had no idea where he was. Since then he has grown bored with our great indoors. He wants out!

Friends around here have both encouraged and warned us about letting animals out to roam. Especially dogs seem to disappear if you don’t keep close track of them.

IMGP4761

Rasta never goes out without us close by. He was raised a city dog, and has no idea that other animals might come by to eat him. Einstein is his middle name, LOL!

But Charley is a whole different animal. He’s young and strong and a natural hunter. He loves exploring the sunflower groves outside our home, and he’s a great mouser. He needs to go out, it seems.

So this morning we let him out for a while. He loved it! I guess we’ll keep a close eye on him, and let him out a bit in the morning when most animals aren’t prowling for a meal. We’d hate to lose him.

Allowing your mind to lie fallow…

Fallow: —adj, 1. (of land) left unseeded after being plowed and harrowed to regain fertility for a crop.       2. (of an idea, state of mind, etc) undeveloped or inactive, but potentially useful.

I got excited yesterday when I heard Meg Ryan, in her excellent interview on CBS Sunday Morning, mention the usefulness of doing nothing and allowing your mind to lie fallow for periods of time, with the purpose of generating more energy and fertility in your thought process.

I love this idea, and yet I find it to be an idea without strong acceptance in our hard-driving, demanding culture.

Because of my unfortunate recent experiences with TBI and concussion, I have had no choice but to take time to relax my brain so it can heal. But there is always a judgment from deep inside, one who feels lazy and unproductive at these times.

“Spacing out” is the best way I can think of to describe those times when my mind is simply exhausted and cannot focus on anything more. The good news?  Meditation comes so easily to me now. It’s like my mind naturally relaxes and can think of nothing for a while. And even better, some of my best ideas later come from these times of allowing my mind to lie fallow, much like some who say that humanities best ideas have emerged from periods of relaxed thought.

When we daydream, we free our thinking of logical limits to allow knowledge, experiences, and ideas to essentially float freely in our mind and mingle with each other in a way that our logical mind cannot handle.  Sometimes this undisciplined mingling creates that flash, that ‘aha’ moment.  Aristotle had his eureka moment in a bathtub and Newton had his in an apple orchard.  Where are yours?

Some call this mindfulness, others think we are really sleeping while awake. Either way, I have no choice at this point and I love the overall effects. Afterall:

 Sleep is the BEST meditation.  – Dalai Lama

I am filled with gratitude that I can now live like this forever.  Please go learn more about our move from Fort Collins to here in my new memoir!

 

Getting used to something so right…

I was singing along with that old Paul Simon song, “Can’t get used to something so right…” this morning, and realized sometimes I have that problem myself.

After over two years in the brand new world (for me) of rural southern Colorado, I would say I’m just beginning to settle in.

This adventure started back in mid-June of 2014, and I can assure you I wasn’t sure at all about this place. It all seemed so backward, slow and poor to me after living in Loveland and Fort Collins for years. People kept asking me why we moved here, and I wasn’t so sure myself. Luckily my husband is an “eyes-on-the prize” kind of man. He knew exactly why he was here!

My first year here was not good. Between feeling like a fish out of water myself, and the extremely challenging feat of building a custom solar home out in the foothills, my best description is STRESS CITY!

But once we moved out of Walsenburg and settled into our new home, life improved dramatically. After so much stress and our second move in a year, we spent weeks doing very little but enjoying our marvelous new environment…

AMAZING sunrise over the Spanish Peaks January 2018

OK, we spent most of our first winter here doing that!

One thing you need to know about this part of the country, things really do slow down here in the winter. I can remember days last winter when I went into La Veta, and it looked like a deserted ghost town.

In the spring things liven up quite a bit. The tourists start coming down here and clogging up Main Street in Walsenburg. This past spring I started taking a yoga class and walking around La Veta in the mornings. I also started making a few friends and feeling more like I belong here.

Laura standing at build site before slab 2014

Just yesterday I realized how right this place feels to me now. I love living in the country, I have a wonderful husband and home, I have new friends who care, and I rarely have to deal with all the things I hated in the city.

Life is good and getting better. Mission accomplished!

Want to learn more about the experience of moving from the city to the country to live a quiet, relaxed life? Check it out here!

How Living Close To Nature Can Change You

NICE view of sunflowers in garden and Spanish Peaks summer 2017

In 2014 we moved from Fort Collins, with the 6th largest county population in Colorado (333,577), to the least populated, Huerfano at about 6,500 souls. Huerfano county is the home of the Spanish Peaks, seen above…

The Huerfano means orphan in Spanish, and so many of us here are orphans, because we are elders. We lived in the town of Walsenburg (pop. 3,000) for our first year here, while building a custom passive solar home to the west. As we complete our first full year of living in the foothills, close to nature, I find those who live in cities to be busy, always busy. What is that doing to their soul?

I feel I have learned so much on this topic by living close to nature for the past year. Getting far from any city has been a reawakening for me, and living here permanently is a wonder. I love to experience those unique emotional experiences which defy our habitual way of thinking. Living here has been all about defying my previous limited state of mind. I called myself “metrofied” before I moved here, but I had no idea how horribly stuck I was in “city mind.”

IMGP7674

It is so soothing to observe how cities change us, and then leave, transitioning to a slower, calmer way of being. In my first year here I became aware of the constant anxiety level I maintained by living in cities. Then I slowly let it go. When I feel anxious now, I quickly see there is truly no reason for this feeling. Now, only when I get impatient or angry do I realize that I used to feel that way so much of the time back in Fort Collins, where the traffic was horrendous, and everyone was some form of tense.

The true change for me is the awareness that I can now live in the present. I have been seeking this experience for most of my life. Instead of worrying about the past or demanding more in my future, I can just be here now, loving my life. The down side to this new way of being? Great difficulties going back into cities! I don’t want to waste one more moment of my limited lifespan sitting in traffic and breathing city air.

I am filled with gratitude that I can now live in nature forever…

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”  —   Henry David Thoreau

Laura and rasta close up

Want to learn more about moving from a good-sized city to the outback? Then check out my book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado 

Share this information with your friends, and please feel free to contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Be sure to follow us on Twitter

A Happy New Day at Hippie Days in Gardner Colorado!

IMGP5265

For ten years now, the tiny town of Gardner has hosted “Hippie Days.” What’s that? A two day meeting of the minds, or as the organizers like to call it:                                 “A NO BAD VIBES Music Festival.”

For the past two years we haven’t been able to attend. Last year we were moving the end of July, but this year we finally made it!

IMGP5252

Here’s the first, and one of the coolest things we saw! This 1961 VW van was on the way to the junk yard when these folks picked it up for $113. It was stripped down, but they now tow it around with a water bed in the back. How cool is that?

IMGP5259We saw lots of booths selling hippie things like tie-dye clothes, jewelry, glassware…

IMGP5268… and a FREE concert all day and all night! The whole thing is free,

IMGP5281even the camping in the back of the venue.

This, of course, made me start thinking, my own personal addiction. How come I’ve never related to hippies? First of all I was born a little late for the whole hippie movement, and second I’ve always been too serious and scholarly for that lifestyle.

We still have one of the original hippie communes in our county, and some of the residents have lived there most of their lives. It’s hard for me to imagine living out in the country with no land ownership, building your own home, etc.

IMGP5253But I did LOVE that purple van with its COOL shiny crystal balls!

How did I end up here, feeling so fortunate?

I’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:

A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Postscript, June 2018: There was no Hippie Days last summer. New word: Hippie Days will be held on July 27th and 28th in Gardner this summer!

 

My Brother John is a blessing!

IMGP5231We had a very welcome visitor this July. My brother John came up from Sedona Arizona to visit for three weeks. Why was he so welcome? Well, besides the fact that I hadn’t spent any time with him in years, he spent most of his time here working around our property in the hot summer sun.

See, John has been a  “dirt guy”  his whole life. He understands how to prepare ground in a very level way so that concrete can be laid and drain effectively. There is so much more to know than I ever imagined about preparing soil properly so your home doesn’t wash away!

patio before concrete Comanche drive

We were in need of a lot of dirt work to prepare for a new concrete patio on the south side of our home. John did all of that work by hand, and then proceeded to fix our driveway, so it drained properly and nobody was tempted to run over the drains and ruin them. He also shared lots of good information about weather patterns, clouds, etc.

IMGP5227

We kept telling him to relax more, but he said this was nothing compared to the work he is used to down in Arizona. And as an added bonus he played beautiful acoustic guitar outside my window each night as I was going to sleep.

Now that’s one great brother…

It was so fun hanging out with him. Who else remembers all the crazy things we used to say and do as kids? Who else can still sing along with Frank Zappa’s Mother-mania album, the one our Mom really hated?

So wonderful to spend time with my big brother again!

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. Once they came home a few years ago and there was 6 feet of snow on this road. They couldn’t go home!

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 includes an old straw-bale cabin on a mine site plus 100 acres. Their water comes from a spring nearby, and what delicious water it is! 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 and, did I mention, they have no water or heating bills… 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.

Postscript: This home was lost in the Spring Creek Fire , July 2019.

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’re glad we chose a lower elevation, especially since our home survived the Spring Creek Fire in 2018!

memoir of retirement 2016We are newcomers to rural Colorado, so after two years I compiled a book about the total experience of moving here to build passive solar  in the foothills:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado Please feel free to contact me directly for copies of any of my books! MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com