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Your Homestead Tell and show others with words and pictures how you built or are building your homestead and how you keep things going day-to-day. One thread per member, please.

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  #1  
Old 07-03-2015, 01:05 PM
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Default Colorado Homestead

Hi all,

My intro is here.

Forgive me if I'm repeating anything from that link. My wife and I moved to Colorado Springs a couple of years ago from Georgia. I am originally from Mobile, Alabama while she is originally from near Schenectady, NY. She is more from the country than I am even and has mastered a lot of skills (and learned a number of new ones) around the house. I was in the Marine Corps but eventually got out and started working in IT (software mainly). While I enjoy programming and getting these machines to do interesting things, I've come to realize in the last 5 years or so, it's not for me. Let's say I like the actual work but I don't care much for the politics of an office job at some corporation. To be honest, I've never understood them and the need to BS to get something done.

I am hoping for us to get back to some basic degree of living. We do love it here in the Springs but rent and home prices are very expensive especially compared to the south. What we'd like to do is buy 4-5 acres towards the middle of the state (we're eyeballing Lake, Park, Chaffee, Fremont and Teller counties). The plan would be to spend maybe $30k or less for property and then build the cottage ourselves. For resources, we'd like to use wood and propane for heating, solar and on-grid electricity (if possible), well water and roof collection (for indoor) and cistern for water (for gardening). Of course there would be other expenses to finish it up but we'd own it as free and clear as you possibly can own something in this country these days.

As far as input/output goes, we'd like to seriously scale down expenses. Our original plan for here was to rent for a year or two and then buy. Based on what I make we could easily do that but I'm not sure how sustainable that is. If we bought a 250k house (which is very average for this neck of the woods), I could expect to have a mortgage of around $1300.00 (30 year) or more. To me, that's fine for now but when you think of it realistically, that's unsustainable. And the rent is pretty darned high here too. It's insanity really if you plan to keep doing that forever.

At any rate, I am using this as a placeholder on this subject to get advice, offer encouragement to others and maybe help keep me honest on this goal. This is now a real goal we've set. It is the plan. We don't have it fleshed out hardly at all but we know what we want. We've had a very tiny taste of freedom with being able to move out to this awesome state and work a lot more independently. We like how this tastes thus far but it's far from being truly independent. We'll find a way to make it happen. If anyone knows the area or similar to it and has suggestions or obstacles we've not thought of, please let me know. I continue to look forward to interacting with you.
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Old 07-04-2015, 02:31 AM
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Default Property Tours part I

Drove out to Canon City, Cotapaxi and Hartsel.

Property #1 (about 14.5 miles from Canon City): had to drive through the San Isabel National Forest. Had a scary climb up a mountain but once we got through another 10 miles or so, the property to look at was not bad. That area is pretty arid though. We did not see as much a variety of plants and trees that we would have liked. It's very peaceful and quiet out there and the canyons are lovely but this one came in 3rd place today. The drive back down the mountain was even scarier. Had to go first gear most of the way to keep from building up momentum and skidding down the hill. It didn't help that there was a makeshift memorial on the steepest part. Probably someone went to fast and couldn't stop themselves from hurtling down the mountain. God bless them.

Property #2 (Cotapaxi property about 30 miles from Canon City): Was very nice. Had some decent trees. The land's flora was a little more diverse. There was a funky homestead across the dirt road though. Whoever was there made a combo cobhouse/metal shack. Still, I don't care. To each his own. It was easy to get to. They seem to be building something of a very small rural community there which I kinda liked. The property was flat with hardly any outcroppings. There were a good bit of ponderosa pines there as well. I'm not 100% sure but I think this one came in 2nd place on the day.

Property #3 (Cotapaxi about 35 miles from Canon City): We couldn't really get to it. I was driving in my Honda Accord. We also have a Toyota Tacoma but we didn't bring it. We would have needed it to get there and even then the road had been washed out from the recent rains. We've decided we'll need to be able to get the Accord to any place we want though. This place actually was in the most populated area we went to today. Needless to say it came flat in 4th place.

Property #4 (Hartsel about 66 miles from Colorado Springs): The main road to get out here was not marked. The next two roads that we needed to get to were not marked either. When we stopped at a gas station in Hartsel, we borrowed a map from a guy who worked there. My wife found the place on the map he had and took a picture of it. We made directions from the picture and my wife guided us eventually to the right place. The soil looked very rich and dark there. In addition to pines and very diverse flowering plants growing there were Aspens! So far, this area to us seemed to be the most conducive to being able to grow. Mainly the thing we are looking for in property is gardening and water viability. There seem to be many wells in this area too. While there were a good bit of rock out-croppings, looking at the ground near the creek and ditches, it did not look terribly to dig through like the other 3 areas that we toured today. This one I can say is in 1st place at the moment.

We still plan to look in the Teller County and North Park County areas next to compare.
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Old 07-04-2015, 11:05 AM
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The first thing that popped into my head when reading your first post is your looking at spending 250k on a small piece of property like that. And a 30 year mortgage......

I am assuming you want/need to keep working but it sounds like you are unhappy with your work.

I've been through the whole thing that you are just starting. If you truly want to have a small homestead and eventually be able to get rid of the job you hate I would concentrate on finding a property that you can save up for or pay off quickly like in 5 years. Having that much debt over your head for the next 30 years will never allow you any freedom at all.
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Old 07-05-2015, 01:22 AM
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That is some pretty country you are looking at.

We vacationed there in '90. Stayed at the Garden of the Gods Campground and went up to Denver, down to West Pueblo, out to the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge, drove into The Sand Dunes from the backside, saw Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, visited the Brass Ass in Cripple Creek, rode the Durango-Silverton Train and just genuinely enjoyed ourselves.

I would think your location would be abundant with potential and opportunities both, especially in some of the less densely populated areas. Good luck with your search for the perfect home stead.
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Old 07-05-2015, 11:30 AM
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The first thing that popped into my head when reading your first post is your looking at spending 250k on a small piece of property like that. And a 30 year mortgage......

I am assuming you want/need to keep working but it sounds like you are unhappy with your work.

I've been through the whole thing that you are just starting. If you truly want to have a small homestead and eventually be able to get rid of the job you hate I would concentrate on finding a property that you can save up for or pay off quickly like in 5 years. Having that much debt over your head for the next 30 years will never allow you any freedom at all.
Thanks Coaltrain. You hit the nail on the head as far as living in Colorado Springs. And I appreciate you saying that .... it's good to get reinforcement on our idea. Now, I have to admit if someone really wanted to live in the city, Colorado Springs is a fantastic place! It's perfect in most every way for us: great views, lots to do, near the wilderness (with all the amenities of a decent size city -- we have about 500k people here), great schools.... I could go on and on. However, what's not so great is that property here is pretty expensive for such a small/medium city. It's way more expensive even than Atlanta (never mind the homes here are built way better). Jobs here also don't pay nearly as well as the one I have right now.

I should have posted also that our budget initially was $30k for land (4+ acres). I could make a down payment for $10k and pay the rest off in two years. Closer to Canon City, you can find decent land for that much. However, I am finding out that closer to the middle of the state, I can find what we need for $10k! Just one payment and that's it. To me, that's awesome. The more expensive lands honestly do not offer more features than the land out in Park County. Even in Canon City [Fremont County], there is really no hope for me staying in an IT job where I have to commute to an office. Which I am ok with.

Our plans are to find land, do some camping, gardening and building a 400 sq ft cottage as we go. Then once the kids have settled on what they want to do, we're moving out there. Hope that clears it up and makes sense.
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Old 07-05-2015, 11:35 AM
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That is some pretty country you are looking at.

We vacationed there in '90. Stayed at the Garden of the Gods Campground and went up to Denver, down to West Pueblo, out to the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge, drove into The Sand Dunes from the backside, saw Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, visited the Brass Ass in Cripple Creek, rode the Durango-Silverton Train and just genuinely enjoyed ourselves.

I would think your location would be abundant with potential and opportunities both, especially in some of the less densely populated areas. Good luck with your search for the perfect home stead.
You ain't wrong Jjr -- it's absolutely beautiful out this way.

You start to take it all for granted when you go out for hikes to GOTG and the other places you mentioned. My oldest daughter and grandbaby actually live out towards Royal Gorge. It is beautiful country. We moved out here because my wife does better in dry and cooler climate (she's had auto-immune RA since she was 13). We are hooked and do not want to live anywhere else if we can help it.

I see you have NWLA on your location. I'm assuming you're not too far from Shreveport. I'm from Mobile, AL. originally and we did live for a stint in Slidell (down total opposite from you). Man, I love it down there in La. Truly is a sportsman's paradise and the food ain't shabby either
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Old 07-05-2015, 03:05 PM
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I should have posted also that our budget initially was $30k for land (4+ acres). I could make a down payment for $10k and pay the rest off in two years. Closer to Canon City, you can find decent land for that much. However, I am finding out that closer to the middle of the state, I can find what we need for $10k! Just one payment and that's it. To me, that's awesome. The more expensive lands honestly do not offer more features than the land out in Park County. Even in Canon City [Fremont County], there is really no hope for me staying in an IT job where I have to commute to an office. Which I am ok with.

Our plans are to find land, do some camping, gardening and building a 400 sq ft cottage as we go. Then once the kids have settled on what they want to do, we're moving out there. Hope that clears it up and makes sense.
OK - makes much more sense to me now! That is exactly what I was trying to get at but I know my writing skills don't always get my thoughts through properly.

I did exactly that 25+ years ago. Bought a piece of land (5 acres) for $7k but I did have to finance it but paid it off quickly. Then just about every weekend I would get a load of building supplies and trek to the property in the mountains 150 miles away. We tent camped while we were there. It was slow going at times and always ran out of materials before I did time or energy but the shell was up and livable within a year - and all paid for as we went.

And the rest is history now.
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Old 07-05-2015, 05:04 PM
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You ain't wrong Jjr -- it's absolutely beautiful out this way.

I see you have NWLA on your location. I'm assuming you're not too far from Shreveport. I'm from Mobile, AL. originally and we did live for a stint in Slidell (down total opposite from you). Man, I love it down there in La. Truly is a sportsman's paradise and the food ain't shabby either
We're just a few minutes South of Shreveport - Bossier.

The food is good, but I don't get to enjoy it that much now. I suffered a massive heart-attack in '12 so I try and eat healthy these days.

It is not the "Sportsman's Paradise", I grew up in, or remember either one, but still much better than many states and locations can offer.
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Old 07-06-2015, 10:30 AM
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OK - makes much more sense to me now! That is exactly what I was trying to get at but I know my writing skills don't always get my thoughts through properly.

I did exactly that 25+ years ago. Bought a piece of land (5 acres) for $7k but I did have to finance it but paid it off quickly. Then just about every weekend I would get a load of building supplies and trek to the property in the mountains 150 miles away. We tent camped while we were there. It was slow going at times and always ran out of materials before I did time or energy but the shell was up and livable within a year - and all paid for as we went.

And the rest is history now.
That's exactly the plan. One of our criteria was that it be absolutely no more than 3 hours away -- so that excludes the western slope I guess which we love so much but that's ok.... you have to be able to go on vacations too

I'll be honest here. I was in the USMC for 6 years. What I learned there plus what I'm studying by reading and just trial by error now is *all* I know about self-sufficiency. My wife is a very skilled gardener and cook/baker. She is truly a natural. Me -- I'm a software person by trade. Like I mentioned before, I love the actual work of programming and computers but I hate the politics of corporate folk. I am sick of it. It pays well, I guess but that's about it. I'm the first of most my family who went to college but I am starting to believe it's in my genes to be working with my hands. I'm happier that way and am physically much better in shape when I do as opposed to sitting on my duff all day.

Glad to hear this has been done by you and it sounds like you wouldn't change it for anything
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Old 07-06-2015, 10:35 AM
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We're just a few minutes South of Shreveport - Bossier.

The food is good, but I don't get to enjoy it that much now. I suffered a massive heart-attack in '12 so I try and eat healthy these days.

It is not the "Sportsman's Paradise", I grew up in, or remember either one, but still much better than many states and locations can offer.

Man, I am very sorry to hear that for both your heart and how La. is becoming less what it was. A very good friend of mine from Fordoche tells me even down near Baton Rouge, it's not the same as when he got out of the service in '95. Different world from where he grew up.

I've not been told I have heart issues but I have an uncle and a brother with arrhythmia. The uncle (he's about 70) has had 4 heart attacks in the last 5 years -- dunno how he is still with us. If I may ask, is there anything you would do differently if you had to do over (if that's even a factor -- I realize sometimes these things occur over genetics no matter what)?
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Old 07-06-2015, 10:56 AM
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I've given some thought to the utilities. In my mind, this includes:

Water -- always first out here in the dry west. (for brevity, I'll try to only cover this part in this post)

Heating -- if I was in the south, I wouldn't give this much thought but out here, it can get cold and snowy though not nearly as bad as some people think when they think of the Rockies and high plains/desert.

Electricity -- Nice to have but out here not nearly as important as the other two believe it or not. Comparatively cheap to other more populated areas of the country.

The idea is to have two points of failure for each of these resources rather than having each type of eggs in one basket. It would be ideal if you can get a well dug but I'm also finding that no matter how much you research and do your homework, you can find your water becoming undrinkable or it can just go dry (permanently or temporarily due to drought). So, it seems it would be a good idea to have a backup plan like a cistern.

I had a talk with a USMC buddy of mine who used to live on the outskirts of Canon City when he was stationed at Fort Carson (he joined the Army after he got out of the USMC). He had a cistern he had to fill up. He told me it was a big PITA at times, mostly during winter months. He also had two teenage boys living with them which further complicated things. After a couple of months of hauling water around and fretting over availability and cost, they had to drastically change how they did things. They had to take Navy showers, flush after a few #1's instead of every time and make good use of gray water.

In Colorado, it appears that unless you have 35 acres or more, you can't use either well water or collected rain water for outdoor usage (can't do the latter [or not supposed to anyways] no matter how much land you have). If you're fortunate enough to get the well permit, you can only get what's called a "household" permit and not a "domestic" one for gardening and livestock unless you're at 35+ acres. A law also was changed very recently that allows you to collect rainwater from your roof but only for "household" use.

At any rate, his advice was to get a 1000 gallon (or bigger) plastic one and have it put in the ground. He also recommended two septic systems ... one for sewage and the other for gray water (from showers, washing machine,etc.). We would then be able to use the gray water for outdoor gardening. The cistern would be good to have "just in case" and for watering for chickens and rabbits. Also, he mentioned this was about $80 a month for the water refill -- probably closer to $120/month 10 years later from his experience.

Have any of you guys had to make use of a cistern? What kind of concessions did you have to make when you did? How many gallons did you use at a time? How much typically did you spend per refill? Were you able to have this serviced or did you have to get it yourself? My friend lived closer to a town (Canon City) and was able to go get it. Our hope is that with also having well water it won't cost quite as much as if you were depending solely on the cistern for water needs. If there's anyone from this area, I'd love to hear any advice on the subject of water.
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Old 07-07-2015, 04:15 PM
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I am dealing with a lot of the same issues...looking to buy here in the mountains of NC. A portion of the area is expensive vacation homes - beyond my reach. The remainder of the available houses on the market are isolated, difficult to reach, and require more upkeep than I can manage as a middle aged single woman. Given the choice, I prefer the latter!
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Old 07-07-2015, 07:00 PM
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oldmaidnc - I'm getting to know that feeling.

We'd like to be far out enough that:
  • We can grow an acre-size garden.
  • We're not in our neighbor's business and they're not in ours.
  • I would like to take a shot at a deer, rabbit or turkey on my property without worrying about hitting someone else's property or scaring them.
  • Zoning, regulations and permits are much less of an issue than it is in a real city. Impossible to get this to zero though in the state of Colorado
  • With $10k I can buy the land and be done with it.

We'd like to be close enough so that:
  • My wife who has auto-immune RA can go get infusions in Colorado Springs once every 6 weeks or so.
  • I can see my granddaughter every couple of weeks (she is about 50 miles away from us)
  • I can have some sort of limited communications to the world if needed (phone and internet -- may be tough though).

I think what you have to do is look around and set some boundaries where the land can't be too far out so you can't manage it and your life but it's got to be far out enough so that you can afford it too. That's a hard balance to keep, I have to agree.
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Old 07-07-2015, 07:05 PM
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So, I've decided to start getting more into the spirit of things. I'll be honest, I have not fished since I was a teenager some 27 years ago. My mom lives in a senior residence in Colorado Springs. She introduced me to an older guy who lives there who is an avid fisherman. He mentioned to me a few of the nearby lakes but told me he is now restricted to fishing near downtown at Memorial Park (Prospect Lake).

He says the fishing there is unbelievably good. He even gave me about 6lbs of trout he had in his freezer. I smoked them on my Egg and gave back to him about a third of them. At any rate, I broke out an old pole probably not used in close to 30 years. I also got my fishing license. I am waiting for the weather to clear a little bit and see if I can't pull in some trout over the next few nights. I believe this will be an essential skill down the road.
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Old 07-07-2015, 07:34 PM
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I was raised fishing in the ocean & sounds. Now I am in fly fishing country & I don't have a clue!
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Old 07-07-2015, 07:58 PM
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oldmaidnc - I'm getting to know that feeling.



We'd like to be close enough so that:
[*]My wife who has auto-immune RA can go get infusions in Colorado Springs once every 6 weeks or so.
Well I hate to admit it but you have a point there.....

I also have the same RA - my Rheumatologist is 2 hours away which is a grueling trip for me every 3 months. I am on a biologic now but likely will go to infusions soon. There is no way I could make that trip every 4-6 weeks especially in the winter trying to get out of the mountains - my only hope would be to get it at a local hospital which is 25 miles away.

I never bring health issues to the table when I discuss this stuff - maybe because my RA disability has only been 4 years now. But now I do see the need to be at least within striking distance of the medical facilities I need to stay alive and at least partially functional.
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Old 07-08-2015, 12:03 AM
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I'll be honest here. I was in the USMC for 6 years. What I learned there plus what I'm studying by reading and just trial by error now is *all* I know about self-sufficiency. My wife is a very skilled gardener and cook/baker. She is truly a natural. Me -- I'm a software person by trade. Like I mentioned before, I love the actual work of programming and computers but I hate the politics of corporate folk. I am sick of it. It pays well, I guess but that's about it. I'm the first of most my family who went to college but I am starting to believe it's in my genes to be working with my hands. I'm happier that way and am physically much better in shape when I do as opposed to sitting on my duff all day.

Glad to hear this has been done by you and it sounds like you wouldn't change it for anything
There is politics everywhere. Church, social & fraternal organizations, work & volunteer places, so there is really no escaping it. I ignored it, best as I could, but did not care for it either.

I have had elevated blood pressure for a number of years and was on medicine, had regular check-ups and exercise was the only thing the doctor ever really encouraged me to do. I did not go home and sit in the easy chair after the work day ended, so I considered I got enough exercise through my work (walking a great deal most days) and work at home. I probably would have reduced the number of soft drinks and fatty foods could I have seen the future.

I had a couple of stress tests in the 5 - 6 years prior to the heart attack, and one heart cath and nothing showed a problem. I went to the emergence room for an allergic reaction I had following eating some crawfish. The doctors began telling me I was having a heart-attack, but nothing matched or fit the questions they were asking me. Having never had a heart-attack, the doctors did cause me some concern and against my better judgement I consented to a heart cath.

After the procedure was completed the doctors went out and told the wife darndest thing I ever saw, "All the instrument were showing your husband to be having a heart-attack, but we can't find a thing wrong with his heart."

Some time later I was telling a friend about the situation, and he told me, "If your having a heart-attack you will know it!"

I find it hard to believe I went from nothing wrong with my heart to a 100% & 90% blockage in two separate arteries in just a little over five years. I never had any classic heart-attack symptoms but my friend was right, I was pretty sure what was happening when the heart-attack began.

Two stents, two hospital bills, air transport service fee [small rural hospital had me air-lifted to West Monroe] and ten months to a year of convalescence and I was about where I am today. I am sure I was gaining strength with each passing month, but the first five to six months sure did not feel like it was happening.

I just wish my doctor could have realized or caught the blockage and had the stents inserted before the heart-attack caused damage to my heart. I am not in invalid, but don't have the stamina that I did before the heart-attack.

My diet has completely changed, but there are a lot of low-fat & fat-free products out there in the market today that taste pretty descent. The wife is a good cook and she can make chicken & turkey (with spices and herbs) into a pretty good meat sauce.

I had two "meat" hamburgers for the recent Independence Day Holiday, one at lunch and another for supper. Labor day will likely see a repeat, and for Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners I will likely allow myself a small slice of ham. Hebrew makes some 97% fat free franks and I eat a few along during the year, but for the balance of the year is it almost exclusive chicken, turkey, fish or seafood.

Each blood analysis since the heart-attack has seen a slight improvement in the numbers (all within the acceptable or good range) and the first stress test conducted since then also, on 15 June 2015, I performed at 125% of the level expected for my age, so I guess over all I am doing great for the shape I'm in.

I really don't want another heart-attack, so I try and eat right and get some exercise too. But I can assure anyone, from first hand experience, prevention is 1,000% better where the heart & circulatory system is concerned than treatment and correction following problems encountered there.
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Old 07-15-2015, 12:52 PM
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Thanks for the insight, Jjr. That's really appreciated. What you say here:

"... prevention is 1,000% better where the heart & circulatory system is concerned than treatment and correction following problems encountered there."

I've heard this at various times in my life. Sounds like good sound advice. I will have to start laying off the bacon and the pulled pork

Well... we are meeting with a realtor from the Denver area to have a look at about 4-5 properties in the Hartsel, CO area that have interested us. These don't seem to have any electricity wired near them but luckily in that area, solar elect. won't be an issue. I will keep everyone posted and try to get some ideas from anyone interested in giving input. I honestly would be very grateful for any I can get.
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Old 07-19-2015, 09:16 PM
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Well, we found our spot. It is 5.41 acres in Hartsel, Colorado. We close on it either on Friday or Monday of next week. It was only $7900.

Our next steps are to sell our 2004 Toyota Tacoma long bed. With the proceeds we plan to include some more money and buy a Jeep (or anything reasonable and dependable as a 4x4 high-clearance vehicle) and a medium sized trailer for hauling wood and water container.

After that, we plan to start building some planters and a couple of 10x10 sheds. These will be for storage of a few tools and such. We haven't figured out how many or what size the planters will be but the idea is to have them ready for planting when April 2016 comes around.

Our fishing has improved somewhat. We were amazed while fishing for trout at the amount and size of crayfish (crawdads) out here. We found that we can trap and catch an unlimited amount. My wife and I built a couple of crawdad traps. Moving out into the sticks permanently is still a number of years off but it's good to be able to learn some of these skills now when we can afford the trial and error. We plan to make us a low-country boil with the crawdads pretty soon.
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Old 07-20-2015, 10:33 AM
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coaltrain Male coaltrain is offline
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Congratulations on the property! You are now on your way toward you dream.
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