When I realized that last summer was not going to turn out to be one of crazy adventure but instead going to be one that presented me with the opportunity to make a house in Ridgway a reality for me, I also decided to take on a bit of a project.
While I was mowing a neighbor’s lawn around her raised garden beds (very similar to mine) I realized that it was a giant pain. I had to maneuver the mower around a million corners and it still needed to be edged with a weed eater. I needed to think of a different plan for my beds. Then I started to think about summer monsoons and tracking mud into the shed…
A vision for my shed patio was born. (Hurray for another #damselNOTindistress project!) I went to Home Depot and started browsing their options for patio pavers. I started out envisioning this as a relatively inexpensive project but as DIY things often do, the scope expanded and I decided to do a more “complete” job and I wound up spending about $1000 on pavers, sand, gravel plus delivery, and the rental of a paver cutter. Initially I thought, I probably should have put this project off for a few years but when we had multiple thaws over the winter it was totally worth it. (Not to mention it just felt like further staking a claim to the property!)
The project started out with digging out a level paver surface. Let me tell you, this turned into a way bigger thing that I thought! I wish I would have laid the pavers and installed the garden beds at the same time to eliminate the need for cutting pavers but hindsight is always helpful.
Since I don’t have a pickup truck, I splurged on delivery of gravel ($125) for the paver area rather than asking a friend to take multiple trips to Montrose. Spreading the gravel went extra fast thanks to help from a neighbor and from little Miss LC. The help was especially awesome since I was trying to do this amid 60 hour work weeks!
Fortunately, a friend volunteered to bring me some paver sand from Montrose which saved me another hefty delivery fee and signaled real progress on my project! Laying the pavers went fairly quickly and they’re pretty darn level. Once I had all of the whole pavers laid, I rented a cement/paver cutter from Home Depot and trimmed out all of the partial rows. I’m glad I didn’t stray from my pattern to force the pavers to “mostly” fit into the spaces. Everything looks so great this way.
Early in the fall, my friend moved to California and gave me her patio table and then my boss found me an old umbrella he wasn’t using so the whole thing feels really quite nice. I was really conservative about over planting this year since I didn’t have water on the property until just last week but they still look good!
Last fall flashed by before I could get any progress photos of the lot. Our mid-February spring weather stretch has melted all the snow off and I had an unexpected chance to catch up.
Sprocket models in the middle of our views to the east… hello, dear Cimarrons, I love you so. The sun comes up from behind those lovelies and they light up with alpenglow almost every night. There will be a coffee porch facing them.
Here’s a shot of the property looking southeast from the alley:
Looking northeast from the alley: the house will be in the center of the photo up by the street. Note that the dirt pile is gone along with all of the assorted logs and wood that were scattered on the property.
Here’s a (very skewed) panorama looking north from the property line.
And then, finally, a couple of views from the street. I’m going to try to be better about taking photos like this as things come together!
Last Tuesday, the planning and zoning commission in Ridgway decided that my plans for the house were okay with them even though they differ from the home design standard a little bit. It was nerve-wracking although clearly it turned out okay. I treated myself to takeout Thai in order to celebrate.
That means that I spent the rest of the week giving the draftsperson the go-ahead to finish up with the plans, lining up an engineer, and starting the loan application process. I spend almost 30% of my nights in a shed and the other 70% in a rental house, I would really like to get this process going, you know?
This all feels so surreal. It also feels strange to talk about publicly because so much at this point leans on my finance and in America we don’t talk about finances because people feel bad about money and it’s “impolite.” (I’d argue that dollars are just facts/numbers not value judgements but alas…) So, here goes, if this whole house plan grinds to a halt at this stage, it’s because it’s tied up with my financial situation.
In the meantime, here’s the elevations and floor plans. Architect is … me.
I get a lot of questions about what my life looks like these days. Most of them go something like “Wait, where do you live?” I get it, my life is a little bit complicated these days. It doesn’t fit into a nice pretty social media package that I can tie a bow on.
During the week, I am a teacher at a rural high school about 40 miles from Ridgway. I have a rental house in that town so I don’t have to commute back and forth everyday; it’ll be worth it from my house but paying Ridgway rents + commuting is just too much! I lease the house with a roommate that is also a teacher at my school. We have another roommate for the winter that teaches skiing at Telluride. Since we’re all sharing the house, this brings costs way down for all of us. We’re all busy with work and traveling on our weekends so it all works out. Sprocket really likes having more people around to love.
During the week, I try to keep up my workout routine, stay on top of grading since I’m a failure at doing it over the weekends, do my laundry, and get enough sleep. I don’t have internet at my house so I’ve been a little bit better about reading books and a little bit worse at running up my cellphone data.
On Thursdays, I pack up the Jeep so that we can leave directly after school on Friday. Friday is the only day of the week that I drive to school; the rest of the week I walk the half mile each way. I hit the road at 3:30 and head for Ouray. I usually have time to make a quick pit stop at the post office in Ridgway and take Sprocket for a quick walk before I start work at 5pm.
Friday and Saturday night routines are similar: I close the shop, go home to the shed and feed Sprocket. Depending on how tired I am, sometimes I will go visit a local establishment for a drink before I retire to the shed.
Saturday and Sunday mornings have gotten a bit more difficult in the winter. I want to make sure Sprocket gets some activity and time to move around since he’s so cooped up while I’m working all the time but it’s also been really cold! I’m taking my cross-country skis back down to Ridgway this weekend so I’m hoping to get in some exercise with him more frequently before I go to work at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday, after we close up the shop, I head back to the town where I teach to do it all over again.
Crazy the things we do in order to make dreams happen, huh?
I’m at the point where I need to pick a plan or hire someone to design a plan for my house. Once I do this, I can get bids and look for someone who can break ground in the spring. Basically, until I start making some at least basic decisions, there’s not much more that I can do (except keep saving money).
The first thing about this is that it’s terrifying. I’ve done so much thinking about what I need in a house and I know that I don’t need a big house. I don’t need a bathroom for each of my bedrooms. I don’t want it to be ugly. I don’t want it to be sterile. In some ways, buying an already built house suddenly seems appealing because fewer decisions. The reality in this area is that I can’t afford to do that. Somehow it’s still cheaper to build plus get something that doesn’t need to be remodeled, efficient, and small.
The other frustration is that I want both small and a real house.
If you get on Pinterest or browse any Tumblr of adorable small houses, at some point you realize that they’re not really lived in. The words “guest house” and “studio” and “sleeping quarters” or “cottage” start appearing.
When they do, you realize there is either a a giant 4,000sq ft monstrosity to support it just outside the frame. Or, they often have bedrooms so small they don’t have closets because they’re vacation homes where their owners store all their clothing. If you do manage to find a “full” house, in 2016 apparently “small” means less than 2,000 sq ft. TWO THOUSAND SQUARE FEET. I grew up in about 1,600 sq. ft. with a family of 4 and we had a whole giant formal living room and a big entry way we neverused (and the dining room was barely touched).
I’ve lived in 930 sq. ft. with another person and a dog and I know that we had so much wasted space. I don’t want to go too much smaller and I’m willing to consider plans up to that size but I really really don’t want to go bigger.
Um. Hi? How is it already more than a week into June? The last few weeks have passed in a blur of washing dishes, waiting tables, mowing lawns, and working around the shed. While this isn’t quite a crazy adventurous live-in-the-Jeep-and-climb-mountains-all-the-time summer, so far I’m happy as a clam being home in little old Ridgway and Making Stuff Happen.
#shedlife is treating me quite well. Summer in Colorado has arrived which means upper 40s and low 50s sleeping temperatures in Ridgway; with a big old cuddly dog that’s about perfect! Friends have been super kind about offering up showers and laundry. Thanks to my #vanlife background whipping up a meal on the two burner is no big deal (plus I eat at the restaurant when I work a lot). Between work, the library, and the park, bathrooms have been no big deal.
Mostly, it’s good to feel like I’m home.
I’m going to have to splurge on a lantern of some kind for evening reading. After a long day of working and on rare occasion, hiking, after a half hour or so I’m usually nodding off but it’d probably be helpful to not be propping my flashlight up on my shoulder. I’m eyeing either Goal Zero’s Lighthouse or Lighthouse Mini… I’ll probably be pulling the trigger on something in the next couple of days so if you have thoughts about these two or something else, give me a shout soon!
In addition to everything else, I’ve been moving some dirt around and making things happen in the garden; update on that coming really soon. Sprocket has really taken to his property he stays but sits and intently observes anyone walking past us.
One step at a time, things are happening and I feel really great about what’s happening. Just please, remind me of this in October when I am very sad about my low hiking level this summer. Sprocket tries to guilt me everyday.
As my summer has started to come together, it appears that I’ll be in the Ridgway-Montrose area for the best time of the year! This meant that I would be around enough to tend to the beginnings of a garden. I especially wanted to get some raspberries going since it takes a couple of years for them to really get established and growing. Since the lot is bare and might be so for awhile, I wanted the garden to help make it appear that someone cares about the place so raised beds just seemed a lot more substantial.
Considering that I’m a combination of cash poor and kind of cheap, I initially decided to make my beds out of deconstructed pallets. After knocking apart two pallets I decided that was pretty much a waste of time and decided to go to Home Depot and make a different game plan.
I LUCKED OUT. When I went to Home Depot, I found enough slightly flawed 6’x3″ fence boards to build 3 beds at 18″ each I also grabbed three 10′ 2x4s to be the uprights and put all of it on top of Ruth for the trip to Ridgway. Once I started building, things went absolutely swimmingly. (It also helped a lot that my shed was mostly empty and I could use it as a flat stable place to assemble things.
Sprocket amused himself by frequently climbing the dirt pile (happily diminished last fall by someone who needed fill) and checking out the view of the Cimarrons.
I paused before tackling the next two boxes to artificially level the first and see how it looked:
And then Sprocket convinced me to stop and enjoy the sunshine for a minute:
Building the second two boxes went fast after figuring things out with the first one. The batteries on my drill died and I forgot to bring the charger so I had to go borrow an impact from a friend. My #damselNOTindistress wish list totally grew: it was so much easier. Here are the completed boxes before they were leveled in the ground:
I got a little over ambitious and created another project for myself when I set the boxes level to each other even though the ground slopes to the east; I’ll eventually level the area around them I guess because I’m a glutton for punishment.
I’ll be headed back down to Ridgway soon to fill them from the dirt pile!
Before we’d head for the Outdoor Retailer Show, F and I had put in an offer on a lot in Ridgway. As life circumstances changed, the question became do we forfeit our earnest money or does one of us purchase the land solo? After thinking about the question for a week, I decided to go for it.
Last Wednesday, it became official, my very own chunk of land in my most favorite town:
After signing paperwork, Sprocket and I headed over to the property with a bottle of prosecco to toast our future.
I’d say the views from here are pretty sweet. Who knows what the future holds but I do know, we’re a lucky pair.