Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winter Camping!!

We came to Guffey for a few days over the holidays, and are sitting here on the love seat we brought from home. (It's awful nice to have this comfortable reclining sofa--the one that came with the RV was a rather uncomfy sofabed.)


This trip has been an adventure for sure. First, we came down for a day trip last week, to bring the loveseat. It had snowed the day before, Kenosha Pass was reported closed, so we took a different route, through Canon City. It was nice to know we have that option, and easier traveling to avoid icy roads.

It snowed again, Christmas Day and the day after, so we waited until Sunday the 28th to come stay for a few days. We were expecting the propane company to bring our tank on Tuesday and needed to be here for that. We also wanted to be here to relax a bit, read, enjoy some time away.  Monday was cold and snowy; we spent the day indoors working on various projects. We got our new roll-up window shade installed as well as some for the smaller windows that attach with velcro. 


Since then, it's been COLD! Frigid, I would say. Monday topped out at around 15, with a low of -9. Tuesday morning was around -15, and we woke to discover that the freshwater tank must have frozen--we had no running water. In expectation of receiving the propane tank around noon, we ran the furnace a lot, hoping to thaw the tank. We followed the water lines, trying to find where the freeze might be, we pointed an electric space heater toward the pump and water lines in attempt to thaw. There is really no way to access the freshwater tank without cutting a hole in the underbelly or removing a large portion of it. This RV is supposed to be the "arctic package", but I guess there's only so much cold it can handle. When we bought it, the former owner had built insulated skirting around it which we took apart and brought here, but haven't had time to put it up yet. 

Tim is dunking a bottle into the tank to bring up water.

Tim managed to thaw the frozen water in the water tank we use to haul the water here with a submersible water heater (another story) and draw water out with a bottle tied to some twine, which I heated on the stove. We dumped hot water into the fresh water tank to try to thaw it, but that didn't help either. 


Eventually, the propane delivery came, we managed to get the tank set up and the propane flowing, Tim helped the driver get his truck out of the snowy driveway, and we were back to working on the water situation. We actually reached a high of +13 at one point, but most of the time when the guys were out installing the propane, it was around 0. Later, with a 200 gallon tank of propane to use, we turned up the thermostat on the furnace, and Tim redirected one of the ducts to blow hot air down toward the freshwater tank. We've got heat, electricity, a stove, oven and microwave to cook with, plenty of food, jugs of water, and we're fine.



Resourcefulness!
Around 6 pm, the temp dropped to a whopping -23! Yes, that was a minus in front of the 23. We've got plenty of propane, so left the furnace on, with the duct pointed toward the fresh tank. It was on all night. This morning, we still have no running water. At this point, Tim brought in a cooler full of water, which he managed to draw through the pump. At least we now have running water! (All the way to the potty :) The water heater is full and hot, so with the pump functioning, we even have hot water. (Time for a shower??) 

With a little snow predicted for tomorrow, we think it's best to pack up and go home. The exit tube for the black & grey tanks are frozen, too, so we can't dump them. They are minimally full, we can't completely winterize the RV, but we'll do what we can. We will put antifreeze though the water lines, and leave the tanks as-is. There should be plenty of space in them for frozen water to expand, so hopefully they won't crack or cause problems. Tim hopes to get back here on a warmer weekend to put up the skirting, and hopefully get those tanks emptied. Now that we have plenty of propane, we'll leave the thermostat on to around 50-55, and hope for the best.


It's surely an adventure!



Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Background

Just another pretty view from the lot, last October.
So many things have fit together for our move to Guffey. This move has clearly been God's leading for us. We don't know what He has in store, but we know He wants us there. Here's a bit about the background, leading up to this point in time.

For a long time we've talked about "downsizing" for our retirement. We've observed in our own families as well as others, that downsizing is inevitable, sooner or later. When these moves become necessary later in life due to health issues, the homeowner does not have the physical ability to carry out the process of cleaning up and purging all the stuff that is so easily accumulated. Tim and I don't want to leave our mess for someone else to clean up, and wish to do as much of it ourselves. Moving to a smaller home and living with just the necessities seems right for us. We also feel it would be best to have a single-story home without steps either to an upstairs or to a basement, so we can access everything easily on one floor. We also want to build our own home while we are still physically able, so now seems like the right time.

Things have come together for this move in amazing ways.  Here is all it has all come about:

THE PROPERTY
  • We visited Guffey for a vacation the first part of July, and "fell in love" with the area.  We saw property flyers for vacant land and began looking around.  Next thing we knew, we were calling a realtor!
  • After viewing a few properties, we were drawn to one of the first ones we saw, Buck & Doe.  The price was better than other 35+ acre lots, the layout is nice for a house, barn, & garden, and of course for the horses.  This property already had electricity (worth about $10k each lot).  And, the wells nearby are all good and not too deep.
  • We made our offer, a low one, thinking we would have to go a bit higher, but our first offer was accepted, and the process was in motion.  After that:
  • The "witcher" found some spots that look quite promising for a well.
  • The electrician thought he could get the power in for us in time for our vacation.
  • We have a clear line of sight to a wireless internet tower, which will allow us to use our new wi-fi phones, and should be able to have that available in time for our first vacation.

TEMPORARY LODGING

  • After searching a bit for a 5th wheel, we found our Hitchhiker.  The owners, Bob & Pat, needed about a month to move out, and we didn't need it for a month, so that worked well for both of us.  It's in great shape and having been lived in, it has lots of nice extras, such as the skirting around the bottom with extra storage, a front deck, and (best of all for me!) a full-size refrigerator.  Later, with our change of plans moving our September trip to October, it allowed Bob & Pat the extra time they needed to move into their new place.
  • We purchased our2004 Nu-Wa HitchHiker on September 20th, and took it to the property October 3rd, where it will remain as our home while we build.

TIM'S RETIREMENT

  • While considering when Tim will retire, we'd gone through different scenarios about when we'd sell the house and move.  Since Tim will be 62 in October 2015, we thought we'd wait until at least that time to make the move, but since winter would come shortly thereafter, we wondered if Spring 2016 might be better for a move.  That seemed so far away…
  • Along came a "phased retirement" package from HP.  What a surprise!  The plan itself wasn't suitable for many employess, but for us, it will work out well. Tim will be able to leave HP earlier, May 31, 2015.  Prior to that, he'll only be working 4 days/week from Dec 1 on.
  • Tim will be glad to get out of HP and the stress of being in such a worldly environment.
  • With this time frame, we could put the house on the market sooner and possibly move as early as June 2015.  (Tim thinks that as things have been going, he wouldn't be surprised if someone would drive up the lane and ask if they could buy our house.)

MOM

  • We knew we wouldn't be able to move forward with this idea with Mom living with us. She would need to find a new home at least by the time we'd be ready to move. And, with her here in the meantime, her needs would make it more difficult to visit the property on weekends, as well as to get the house ready to sell. Certainly, less comfortable for her. A lot would be going on, she'd be ignored more, and life wouldn't be as fluid around here.
  • We wanted to make a plan for her to be somewhere else by March 2015, so we could more seriously get ready to move.  We spoke with my sister & husband and my brother, Jeri & Gary and Tim. Jeri & Gary offered to have her move to Green Valley, where they live, and they had found a nice independent living facility not far from their home. That was a welcome surprise to allow us to move forward. We tentatively planned for Mom to move sometime after the holidays.
  • We had planned a couple of vacations to visit the property, one in September with J/G coming to care for Mom, another in October with by brother Tim coming to care for Mom.  In late August, Tim had emergency heart surgery and would be unable to make the trip in October.  J/G offered to have Mom come to stay with them for the month, to cover both of our vacations, but then one thing led to another, and a unit would be available at The Peaks by the end of September. Mom moved there permanently on September 23. This has freed us up to visit the property more frequently and make a mess of things around the house while we clean it up. :)

HOUSE PLANS

  • We've been planning on a small, one-story home, and have begun thinking about what we might do: A "kit" home? A yurt? Some other round kit? We are attracted to the round concept, and even a yurt was somewhat compelling.
  • First, we visited a yurt and chatted with Dan & Emma at Colorado Yurt Company. Prior to our visit we discovered that Park County, where the property is located, is not amenable to yurts as permanent dwellings. Dan and Emma were very helpful, and provided lots of information about codes and that their yurt would meet or exceed wind and snow load codes, etc. They indicated they were willing to come to the county to help us obtain a permit if we decided to go that route.
  • We continued to search for other options, particularly looking for round plans or kits.
  • We stumbled on to Smiling Woods Yurts, which are actually wooden round homes with a dome roof similar to a yurt in style. They will meet our county requirements. We have now made plans for this home. More on that later.

THE BIG PICTURE 

It is exciting to us how one thought, one plan, one contact, seems to lead to another, until we settle on something that makes total sense for us. We think about property and some of what we most desire, and find just the right spot for the right price. We need internet, and there it is on the hill in sight. We need a place for Mom, and there it is. We start thinking about retirement in October, then HP comes along with "how about May (and you can work part time until then)?" We think about round homes and find just what we're looking for. It's been amazing to us how things just seem to "happen", and it's right. The whole thing just seems to be God's leading, and we want to give Him the credit!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wildlife

Here are some of the locals around our place in Guffey. These elk stopped and looked at the horses for a bit before coming onto the property, but apparently decided they were no threat. Then they meandered by, stopping to graze a bit on the way. There was one young buck, the others appeared to be cows. The photos were taken through the RV windows (and plastic insulation).


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Window Shades

One thing we've been working on is to create some insulating window shades for the RV. The ones that came with it are difficult to pull up and down, and don't provide much insulation for the single-pane windows, which are quite drafty. Tim and I have been working on creating an insulating shade that we can roll up when not in use, to retain the heat within the RV and keep the cold out. We also don't really like the clunky valences that came installed in the RV, which block out a lot of the sunshine and the view, besides not really being our style. They look like this:
This is our living area, and Tim's new "office".
This process has been going on for quite a while. When we are at home (Wellington), we work on the design, come up with a prototype, then we take it to the RV to try it out. We started with one, made with inexpensive materials, and when we thought we had a winner, we made a more permanent shade. Tim works on the wood, I work on the fabric.

At this point it looks like this (without stain and finishing touches).

Unfortunately, it hasn't been working as well as expected. The shade is made with two layers of fabric (blackout drapery liner), filled with a layer of Reflectix. It does the job well as far as insulating, however it just isn't rolling up well, and bunches at the bottom, making it even more difficult to roll up and down, and each time we roll it, it seems to get worse. So, we're "back to the drawing board" trying to perfect this thing before we make more of them. We also may try to come up with a better way of rolling it up and down; there is a dowel running through the top for us to wind up, but it doesn't go so easy.

I spent the day today coming up with something I hope will work better for the shade.  We won't know until we roll it up and down several times to see how well it holds up. Last weekend we decided we won't do the roll-up style for the smaller windows. For those I'm just making a flat piece we can put on with velcro (oh, oops, "hook & loop) tabs on the corners. We'll have to find a place to put each one when we take them down, but we can handle that.

In addition to these shades, over the weekend we covered all the windows with the plastic film that's taped on and blown with a hair dryer to tighten. Even that seemed to make a big difference, as the next morning was 3 degrees outside, and it seemed warmer inside. (The previous morning had been 11 degrees.)

Well, well, well...

One thing we're working on at this time has been our well. Even though we aren't on the property full time, it'll sure be nice not to have to haul water every time we visit. Also, as soon as we get the well in we can begin the process of applying for a permit and moving forward with a septic system. So much to do!

After acquiring the property, we knew that one of the first things we would need to do was to get our well. Curious as to where it might be drilled, early on we had a "dowser" (also known as a "witcher") come out to determine where there may be water. One of the local well drillers highly recommended this process, and said that they are 80% effective in locating a spot for a well. It was very interesting watching this guy walk around the property--his willow stick took a dive here and there, and he determined that the best spot would be where two underground streams appeared to intersect. We each took a turn walking around with the willow stick, and sure enough, it just goes down on its own when it finds water! Amazing. Science apparently can't explain this. I got to thinking that perhaps God created this phenomena to allow people to get the water they need for sustenance. It seems like something He would do.

Our lot was purchased as two 20-acre lots to make the 40-acre lot we have. In order to get what's called a "domestic" well, which may be used for watering livestock and a garden, the State of Colorado requires a lot of 35 acres or more. So, shortly after acquiring the property we had the lots consolidated to meet the requirement. As soon as that was completed we submitted our request for a well permit. We received it just before the Thanksgiving weekend, so first thing Monday morning we began calling well drillers to ask for estimates, etc.

One of the well drillers we spoke with wanted to send someone out to do a site assessment as part of the estimate process, and fortunately he was able to come before we left Monday afternoon. These folks don't pay much attention to the dowsers, but look more at the geology instead. The spot he thought would be best is very close to the spot that the dowser had chosen. He also said that the dowser's prime spot would probably work just as well, but since his recommendation was closer to the electricity and the house, and easier for the rig to get to, we'll probably stick with that spot. This driller said that he's always found water in the locations he's chosen.

We were able to get on the schedule, so probably sometime in February they'll be able to come drill. Yay!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter Challenges

We had a chance to visit the property for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was nice to be there and enjoy some sunny weather, as well as get several things done. It's funny...when we plan a trip to Guffey, I think I will have plenty of time to read, catch up on posts, etc. NOT! It usually seems like we're busier there than we are at home!  Now that we're back in Wellington, I'll have to try to do some catching up. We did manage to get our weather station up and running (it turned out that the computer had crashed), so if you wish to see our current weather conditions, look to the right.

Visiting the RV, without living in it full time has its challenges! We've been prepared for this, and don't plan to visit quite as frequently in the winter. One thing we need to do at this point is haul our water, since we don't yet have a well. We got a couple of 300 gallon water tanks, so soon as we unpack the truck, Tim takes one of these tanks to Guffey (about 7 miles from us), to fill it up at the fire station, where the water is free. He brings it back, fills the RV (100 gals), then fills our other tank (near the horses' pen) with the remainder, so we can water the horses. It's kind of a drag, but do-able, and we're getting used to the routine.

Since it is winter and we are not at the RV full time, we need to winterize it each time we leave. This means draining all the water, not leaving anything in the cupboards that may freeze, etc. We did all that the last time we left, however it was VERY cold for a few days (below zero overnight and never above freezing during the day). When we returned on Friday, filled the tank and turned on the water pump, we found that a couple of the plumbing parts had frozen and cracked. We had quite a bit of water to mop up in a hurry. Tim managed to remove the cracked water filter and accumulator and bypass them so we could have water, but the pressure was quite low, and the pump didn't seem to be working properly. After spending a good deal of time Friday on this, we had to spend half our day Saturday driving to Canon City to the nearest RV parts store, an hour away. We were able to get the parts we needed and learned some more things about winterizing. This included the purchase of some food-grade antifreeze we can put in the system as part of the winterization process. So, now we believe we're set.

The last time we left Guffey, I had guessed that maybe things wouldn't freeze if I left them inside the refrigerator, which was turned off. I thought that it would insulate things from freezing, so I left a few things in it. Well, it was so cold, that the things in the refrigerator did freeze. Fortunately, there wasn't much, and the only things damaged were a couple of cans of soda. Now I know that if cold enough, the refrigerator does not insulate against freezing. This trip, I only left things in the refrigerator that will survive if frozen.

The other thing we found upon returning to Guffey was some mouse puckies. We knew there was a possibility mice might find their way in to the RV and had thought about getting some ultrasonic mouse repellers, which we've heard work well. We didn't get them previously, because we wouldn't have known whether they worked or if there were just no mice getting in. Now that we know they are finding their way in, we purchased some of these ultrasonic devices, and left them plugged in, so hopefully next time we won't see evidence of mice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Photos

Here are some photos of the property and where we're planning to put the house and barn. The first two were taken before we put in the driveway.

At this time, the trailer was parked where we plan to build the house.

Another view. This is looking toward the NW.

Now we have a driveway! The barn will be to the right of the horses.
The trailer has been moved to its permanent location.
The driveway as seen from the North side of the street.
The house will be in the trees, facing South.



We see some beautiful sunsets!

I like the way this mountain to the NE lights up occasionally.

Making Plans

We've been spending a lot of time planning our future house, and having a lot of fun with it.  Tim (the computer expert) has been teaching me how to use Sketchup, and I've had fun being a bit of a computer geek the past few days. Sketchup is a 3D design program, with a free version that has been quite helpful. We've put the perimeter of the house we're planning into the program, and are able to add walls and sample furniture models and move them around to determine just how things might fit, where we might put things, and the best way to design the interior.

We really want a round house, and have found a kit design we are planning to go with from Smiling Woods Yurts. It'll be like a wood version of a yurt, with a dome/skylight at the top to bring light in to the expansive floorplan. Take a look at the photos on their website. We plan to have lots of windows to the south, with a view of our property and the mountains beyond.

Yesterday we were able to visit the Smiling Woods home of some folks about an hour away, so it was great to be able to "touch and feel" it and get an idea of what it is like. It was nice of them to open their home to us and tell us about their experience of building. Their home was smaller than the one we are planning, and it looked pretty similar to this photo from the Smiling Woods website:

At this point, we are thinking about a larger diameter, without an extension to the side as in this photo.  Tim will be his own contractor and do most of the work, but I'll add a helping hand as much as possible. There will be lots more to come on this as we move ahead. We are very excited about this plan!

Besides that planning, we've been talking with Park County about the permitting process, trying to find all the info we need for planning. It's a confusing process, and guidelines are not all spelled out clearly in one place. In the process of submitting a permit for the barn, we found that even the county personnel don't understand all the ordinances or interpret them the same way. We believed we could build the barn prior to the house, but were told at one point that it is not permissible to do that in our zoning. We've got it straightened out, and we will be able to proceed with the barn. We really need the barn to create a workshop and storage space for the process of building the house. Now we are moving forward with a rezoning process to accommodate our future needs.

We are still waiting for the well permit, and just have to sit back on that one. It seems things move so slowly, but there isn't much we can do about it. Running water would really be nice. :)

Additionally, we are designing and constructing some insulating window shades for our RV, to keep the cold out during the winter. The single-pane windows are quite drafty, letting the heat out and the cold in. We think these shades will make a big difference, look nicer, and be easier to operate than the coverings currently in the RV.

This is Thanksgiving week, and we plan to visit the property for a few days. Perhaps then I'll have time to catch up on posting more of how this all came about.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Weather Station Offline

Unfortunately our weather station is offline. That'll be one drawback of having it there while we are here and unable to do anything about it. Likely, the power went out a bit and it needs to be reset. In the meantime, WUnderground seems to be picking up the temps from another location nearby--I didn't know the program would do that, but it's kind of nice.

I've also noticed that the weather widget at the right does not appear in some browsers. I'm not sure I can do anything about that, so if you see a blank hole under "Weather at the Ranch", that'll be something I can't fix just now.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weather in Pike Trails Ranches

We have our own weather station, broadcasting to Weather Underground.  See the widget to the right? That shows the current weather at our property. It's called "Pike Trails Ranches", which is the name of the subdivision we're in. You can click on the widget at the right for more details.

It's been fun to compare the weather there to Wellington weather.  We are SO looking forward to living in Guffey.  Right now I'm sitting here in Wellington, where it's 48 degrees with 34 mph wind. Guffey is currently showing 50 degrees with 10 mph wind! It's generally 10 or so degrees cooler in Guffey, but less windy. In the summer, Guffey temps are usually in the 70's, which is perfect for us. 85 degrees would be an unusual high for them. The winters there are apparently pretty similar to Wellington; perhaps a little colder, but less wind there will make it really nice. Guffey is considered a sort of "banana belt" compared to the rest of Park County, where it can be quite cold and windy, and it's really pretty temperate for 9,000 feet.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our Mountain Gaitway

We've wanted to keep track of all that's been happening in our lives, and the changes we are making as we move to our Mountain Gaitway. Yes, I know I've misspelled "gateway". The change was prompted by our gaited horses...kind of a play on words.

In July 2014, we vacationed in the area of Guffey, Colorado, and "fell in love" with the area. We've been in lots of places with our horses, but we felt this was the most beautiful and the best riding. We just plain liked it there. We began looking at properties for sale, and (Iong story, short...) purchased 40 acres at 9,000 feet elevation. It's in the subdivision, Pike Trails Ranches, in Guffey, CO. Here's our property below, and as the caption reads, this trip did touch our souls, and the journey has just begun.