Retirement in rural southern Colorado: If you don’t take the risk, how will you ever know?

Four years ago, on June 17th, Mike and I sold our nice home in suburbia and left behind everything familiar to us. After living up in the Fort Collins area for the past few decades, this move felt like a gigantic leap of faith.

906 Deer Creek Lane front view

Here’s a photo of our past home in south Fort Collins. In the past four years it has increased in value more than $100,000! Wow, the prices of homes up in metroland are growing by leaps and bounds!

morning sun on comanche drive

After over a year of emotional and financial struggle, we triumphed over a million difficult challenges to create this passive solar home west of Walsenburg Colorado. We have been quite happy living here for the past few years. Retirement agrees with us, and especially in such a quiet, natural part of the West. BTW, passive solar works great down here!

Most of my worries about moving here never came to pass, and other completely unexpected problems replaced those. The biggest challenges for me have been health-related. My body made a quick decision to start falling apart soon after age 60, creating new opportunities for compassion towards others who suffer. And the truth is, I have met so many here who have been forced to retire early because of health concerns and disabilities.

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

Huerfano, meaning orphan, is a poor, rural county down near the New Mexico border, with a total population of around 6,500 and an average age of 54 years. With few good jobs and an abundance of natural beauty, the Huerfano attracts those with less money and more appreciation of rugged country and rural life. We live on three acres in the Pinon-Juniper ecosystem right around 7,000 feet elevation.

Judging by the rapid increase in traffic in Walsenburg, the many homes sold here in the past few years, and how crazy Highway 160 has become in the summer, it looks like this area has been “discovered” by those living up north in metroland.

AMAZING sunrise over the Spanish Peaks January 2018

We have found this area to be slow and quiet, especially in the winter, and windy as hell. If you hate the wind, don’t move here! The slow country ways are what now attract me. I can go into La Veta and always see people I know. I like that.

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

Laura Lee Carter is a professional photographer, writer and psychotherapist. Her midlife crisis included a divorce and the loss of her career as an academic librarian, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful flowed from these challenges. Laura now sees midlife difficulties as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for personal liberation. She has produced four books and one workbook on personal change, midlife psychology and how country living changes you.

Don’t miss her new one: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

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!

A Happy New Day at Hippie Days in Gardner Colorado!

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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!

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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!

 

Journey Back to Self, Finding Home…

richard gereI saw a great profile of one of my favorite human beings last Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning. Richard Gere has been a bit of a guru for me ever since he found me at exactly the right moment, in the midst of a tremendously depressing afternoon in the summer of 2004. From the television, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hang on, it all changes.” That was enough for me, and he was so right!

Richard now works as an advocate for the disadvantaged of the world. He recently played a homeless man in his film “Time out of Mind”, twelve years in the making. He also works to bring attention to the terrible plight of immigrants worldwide: People without a country.

I find Richard has a knack for asking the important questions, questions like, “Where am I safe in this world?” and “How did I end up here?” And then he said, “We’re all about our stories…”

fe truth I have been focused on lately is how so many of us seem to find a way to return to our original or true self through the chaos that midlife can be. For example, the constant questioning of how I ended up so unhappy with my life at age 49, led me to rediscover who I am, and what I needed to accomplish before I died.

I see now I was in search of a new sense of home and comfort within myself. I was looking for my place in this world.

What did I love and want more of in my life? What parts of my life did I need to jettison RIGHT NOW? What voices in my head were leading me to unhappiness, and which ones were wise and compassionate?

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Finding the right voices to listen to has led me to this place in rural Colorado, where the birds sing me awake each morning, and…

“the sun pours in like butterscotch and sticks to all my senses.” Thank you Joni!

How did this happen? 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!

Enjoying a Celebration of Never Moving Again!

moving Day June 2014Today marks two years since we left our perfectly nice home in suburbia for the adventure of a lifetime. It may not sound like such a big deal to move to small town USA to build a custom solar home in the southern Colorado foothills, but it was for us at age 60!

320 west 2nd St. Walsenburg

We moved to Walsenburg on June 17th 2014, to sleep on the floor of this hundred-year-old rental, moving in the next day and staying there for 13 months…
IMGP3203…while our new home was forming far too SLOWLY  20 minutes west of town at 7,000 feet. Mike worked as the contractor and purchaser of all things when we found the builder was not taking competitive bids, but just hiring his local friends.

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Then on July 30th, 2015 we moved into our new home, HOME AT LAST!

For weeks after that move we just sat and stared out the window, mesmerized with the awesome views out our front windows, too exhausted to do anything else. We finally made it to our goal after many, many challenges and so many days of absolute stress.

Why did we do it? Our trip to Pueblo yesterday answers that question quickly. Being in cities always ruins my day. We need to go there occasionally to buy certain things, but the stress, the heat, the traffic, the bad air and bad manners of other drivers always convinces us we will never live there again!

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We have no patience with cities anymore, and why should we when we have a magnificent place where we can escape them?

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champagne_toastToday we will drink a toast to surviving all these many changes and challenges, and also to never moving again! Instead we will try to get our patio finished this summer, enjoy the great wildflower displays everywhere, the cool mountain breezes each evening, and offer encouragement to others who have found their new home in this small slice of heaven.

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

Back to our very special construction project!

So in the past few weeks we got the drywall, taping, texturing and painting finished in our new house out west of here.

To give you some idea what it looks like now, check out the future living room:

IMGP3585And the kitchen:

IMGP3589From outside the island and inside:

IMGP3596And then we have the Master suite:

IMGP3602And of course the views outside from there!

IMGP3587It can’t be long before we move in now, can it?

Did I mention I am NOT a patient person? I probably should have mentioned that to our builder BEFORE we started… LOL!

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Business is Picking Up In Huerfano County Colorado!

IMGP3555Ever since Mike and I “discovered” this rural section of southern Colorado in 2013, we’ve been wondering why others aren’t moving here. Come to find out, they are! The realtors in the La Veta area and here in Walsenburg are having record months lately. And why not? The beauty of this place in spring is astounding!

I asked Susie here at Acorn Realty about the local market when I saw that we had 12 home sales in the small town of Walsenburg in April, selling for everywhere from $20,000 to $200,000. She’s excited to see so much interest in our area, and attributes her improving sales figures to the baby boomers, who know a great deal when they see one!

DSCF0689Also, as the county has begun to allow more marijuana grow operations, business has certainly picked up. In fact, we should have quite a few more jobs here in the next few years, and they should pay well.

DSCF0978At present this county is such a mix of welfare cases and hard-working families, rundown and well-kept homes. But the homes west of Walsenburg have fantastic mountain views, and with land and home prices so reasonable at present, I cannot imagine that it won’t grow quickly.

Click on photos for full-size views, and follow us on TWITTER!