Thursday, March 01, 2007

Five Years on the Ranch

March 1 was our five year anniversary of living here. The pictures in this post are switching back and forth from five years ago to now, looking from the same vantage point each time. There have been some changes.

We weren't sure how we were going to celebrate the occasion. Popsey suggested sleeping on the living room floor, because that’s where we spent our first night up here, on a mattress on the putrid carpet. But that’s one of the memories I’m not very excited to re-live, along with a few other memories. But heck, the bad memories are more fun to write about, so here goes. These are some of my worst memories from the last five years:

• Our realtor walking through one of the units covering her nose and mouth with a scarf due to the unbearable stench
• Hearing Popsey and our plumber scream like women when they pulled a particularly hideous clump from a drain
• Waking up and discovering we had no water (our tank was leaking)
• The power outage when we had no lights, water, or heat for four days. It came back on, and before I had a chance to take a shower and wash the dishes, it went out again for another two days
• When Popsey pulled the ceiling out of the bathroom in the cabin and a gazillion ant eggs rained down on his head
• Endless hours wearing rubber dust masks and scrubbing stinking walls with TSP
• Living in a small trailer with a horribly uncomfortable bed while we worked on the main house
• Cooking dinners while living in that trailer, when the refrigerator was in one unfinished unit, the stove at the other end of the property in the trailer, and the silverware in another far flung location
• The oozing, festering poison oak which I suffered from almost continuously until about a year ago
• Watching Popsey lose 30 pounds he could not afford to lose while working too hard
• Watching myself not lose 30 pounds while working too hard
• Watching Popsey wear out his hips
• Watching Popsey recover from two hip replacements

It has certainly been interesting.

Now I should make a list of some of the good memories, but there are way too many. The best things are just getting to be here every day looking out the windows, watching the stars, hiking in the woods, throwing the Frisbee for Mooka, planting trees, and watching the wildlife around us.

When we first saw this place I knew instantly it was right. It took a little longer to convince Popsey (hours not days) because he knew enough about construction to be very, very afraid. Ignorance was bliss. I was seeing underneath the decrepit structures and antiquated plumbing—the south-facing direction, meadows, big sky, and ancient oaks. In retrospect the neglected structures served a purpose in that they scared anyone else away from trying to buy it and develop it over the years.

We've achieved many of the goals we envisioned for the land in the beginning. We wanted to remove the industrial waste and neglect of a depression-era failed chicken ranch, and return the place to the natural wildland of meadows and forests it once was. A lot of the work was subtraction: removing, burning, dismantling, demolishing, trips to the dump.

We developed techniques, like when tearing down a rickety structure, we would remove the walls, get out of the way, and let the roof fall down by itself. That way no one has to climb onto the roof and risk falling through. A few times we tied a corner of the building to a vehicle and drove away. We learned that structures can surprise us with their strength. They could be leaning way over and look like they're on the verge of collapse, yet when we're trying to tear them down they stubbornly refuse to fall. We would take away support after support, until the roof was practically suspended on nothing but air, and still it would just hang there.

We still have plenty of work to do, but now when people come here they don't say “You’ve got your work cut out for you,” or “This place looks like a junkyard” anymore.

Instead they say, “You’re having fun.”

It seems like we're going to stick around.


  1. We bought our ranch in Feb of 2002 as well. We didn't have the tearing down that you've had and I haven't suffered from poison ivy, (thank heavens) that must have been awful.
    I've gained at least 30lbs and hubby has lost and gained not sure where he's at right now.
    Also we don't have the gophers as bad here in westcliffe! :)

  2. I love how Mooka is in every picture. What a lucky dog, huh?

    The ranch looks amazing.

  3. Contragulations on five years. I can't believe it has been that long already!

  4. Mooka's lucky. We're lucky. The gophers...are not lucky.

  5. Love Mooka. Love what you've done with the place. I can't even begin to imagine the blood, sweat, and tears. Sounds like that's all been transformed into smiles.

  6. Thanks for finding us author mom dognut! Your Aussie looks so much like Mooka! So cute. Our cat Frieda looks a lot like your cat too. Parallel universe.

    About that blood, sweat and tears...we've been really thankful there haven't been any major injuries on the job, what with all the tearing down buildings and burning. And there haven't been too many more tears than in our previous incarnation. But sweat, now that's another story. Global warming seems to have kicked in for sure, and last summer it got up to 115 around here. So there has been some sweat. Also, when Popsey used to work in the fire service he earned the nickname "Hydrant," for good reason. Ewww.