We are having a warm lovely fall here in southern Colorado! We had our first snow in the Sangre de Cristos south of us a couple weeks ago, and then some weather in the 60s settled in to warm our winter-fearing souls.
The 60s are my favorite temperature, just right for sitting outside and observing the many birds and quadrupeds that happen by our home. We have seen herds of deer and a couple coyotes walking by recently…
and the Road Runners come right up to our glass doors.
Unfortunately that first hard freeze did a number on my first crop of lavender.
We have had such a strange summer season this year. The winter and spring, which are usually super wet, were quite dry through June, when the Spring Creek Fire hit this area, destroying over 108,000 acres and over 140 homes and other structures.
This was my first view of the fire as it emerged south of Mount Mestas on June 27th.
Fortunately in July the rains finally came, saving our area from complete devastation, but still for the 2017 – 2018 water year we received less than half of average precipitation.
My brand new foothills garden did not like these ever changing conditions. It died way back in June, but made a phenomenal comeback with the 3.35 inches of rain we received in July! My garden is perpetually a work in progress. We are now waiting to get a bunch of red pavers to place in the lower level around the bird bath.
It gives me great joy to wander around outside and think about how Mike and my brother John worked so hard to help me realize this lifelong dream!
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:
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!
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.
We 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!