When Sean and I left Southern Colorado for the Midwest this past spring, our plan was to stay only long enough to thaw out and warm up, returning to our alpine valley tiny house a few weeks later…
The valley itself was still frozen solid and regularly dumped on with snow, even in the middle of May. When we were finally able to leave, we blew out of there like a blizzard ourselves, and without much thought. The winter had been so very very hard and was lasting so very very long, and we were desperate to escape it for a while…
Ok ok, to be honest, we left there cold and cussing and straight up miserable, ready to just light the little Jellybean on fire or push it off a cliff, had we been able to get it out of all the snow.
In fact, after such a long and rough season, with winter kicking off incredibly early for the year and nearly derailing our wedding (more on that later), we were questioning whether this was the best place for our long-term homebase.
Oh yeah, did I mention that we’d discovered our onsite water well was a no-go? Not a total suprise, as this was a risk we knew we were taking when we bought the land. But still, not having readily available water was one of the factors that really made us think about some things.
I’ve already complained enough about how most evenings last winter saw subzero temperatures that sunk into the double digits, which, ultimately, was a major issue. Add to that, the constant wind would blow the fine snow over our freshly shoveled driveway each night, with the top layer hardening again in the early morning hours.
Our daily routine required digging out of over-the-knee snowdrifts, and eventually we simply parked at the end of our driveway — where the county snow plows clear the road — and would trek the half-mile journey from our house to the end of the path in the snow each day, twice a day. There’s some joke in there about walking a mile in the snow to get to school each day or something, but we were always too exhausted to find it.
Don’t ask me how we hauled water, propane, fuel, and all of those other things needed for daily off-grid survival last winter… I don’t even know.
When the temperatures DID warm up a bit, the melting snow mixed with the very fine dirt and sediment underfoot created one giant field of mud, lying unseen just below the white surface.
And when your still new driveway has been disappeared by the ever-blowing snow drifts, you will go accidental off-roading. And you will get stuck in the mud.
And you WILL be stuck for days.
A major lack of trees among this innermost part of the valley also means minimal natural protection from the raw elements, and many times we felt incredibly exposed, despite being incredibly secluded, out on our little homestead.
Being no longer immediately surrounded by thick layers of trees had a profound effect on me, as well — one that I didn’t recognize until months of living without them. I guess I thought that the southwestern aesthetic of the San Luis Valley, with its majestic sunsets, massive mountain ranges on every side, and a sandy array of beautiful desert colors, would sustain and placate me.
But, as spring marched on in cold and muddy fashion, and with no evidence of a warm season present among the slushy landscape, I developed an insatiable need for the green vibrancy and living evidence of lucious grass and endless forests.
I’m not here to bemoan our property, though. I am FAR from ungrateful for it.
Really, I’m just frustrated and sad that it’s been so hard to make things happen on our land, and the thought of veering very far from our original plan invites one of those lumps of burning snot and tears that lodges in your throat just before a great big sob.
It’s like, everything we had thought about this valley, companied by an amazing summer here in the place we had just decided to call home, changed drastically with the drastically changing seasons.
Funny how that works, huh?
We come home from our wedding and honeymoon, and then suddenly the honeymoon is over. Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong: the Jellybean’s power supply/system craps out, then the only farm & home store within a two hour radius doesn’t order the right parts, plus road conditions through mountain passes prevent travel to surrounding cities in any direction for days at a time, and eventually we just can’t leave our property at all, so yeah… You get the idea.
And in the middle of all of this, I guess I didn’t feel like writing something yet that was like, “maaaaaan… did we mess up coming here…” Then it would be really real.
At some point, Sean and I silently agreed that we just had to get through the winter and get out of there, everything else be damned, and we’d figure out the rest later.
So, after a few days of being back among the warm and welcoming open arms of friends and family, we settled on the idea of spending the entire summer in the midwest rather than just a few weeks — taking a much-needed break from our off-grid survival adventure.
And a wave of relief washed over us.
We needed the break, needed the escape — needed high ceilings and long showers, needed full kitchens and tall trees outside the window. We were desperate for time to think and space to stretch out, desperate to regroup and recharge. That is what we actually needed in that moment to “survive.”
But — where in the heck were we going to get all of that?
Part two, “Life in the Ozarks,” coming next. 😉