Lifestyle Design… The Search for Land
Hello everyone, and thank you for checking out our new blog post. Crystal and I have been hard at work since that last time that you heard from us. Raising kids, getting our daughter ready for college, paying off debt and clearing off to do lists around the house.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Crystal and I have been working hard to pay off all of our debt to move out of Illinois to start a homestead in Southwest Colorado. We have been watching the real estate market for years and reaching out to agents with specific questions as it related to certain properties that caught our eye.
Our initial plan was to look for something in the 10 – 12,000-foot level and build a passive solar home with majestic views surrounded by nature. Conceptually that would be awesome, but in the real world that type of property presented a ton of obstacles. The two biggies were the risk of wildfires and avalanches. Both catastrophic in potential devastation and both hard to prepare for. Not insurmountable but difficult none the less.
The next issue was finding a flat buildable site that would allow access for heavy construction equipment to enter the property. That coupled with the expense of digging a well and installing septic through bedrock became more aggravation that it was worth. The thought of traversing steep property as we age didn’t sound fun and the lack of access to hospitals and doctors was a problem as well.
Being from Illinois, we are accustomed to flat farm ground with topsoil reaching depths of 3 1/2 feet. Nothing like what we are signing up for in Colorado. We are dealing with high desert conditions, short growing seasons and rocky/sandy soil. The other thing I did not take into account was the groundwater contamination as a result of centuries of mining in Colorado as well. If you spend $100 per foot to dig into a mountain for a well, the likelihood that you would hit unusable water is more of a risk than I was willing to take. So… we started to come up with solutions to the problems listed above.
We decided to broaden our search radius including outlying areas in the 7 – 8,000-foot level that was close to a protected wilderness area to indulge our adventure seeking weekend trips. Although it is more expensive, we decided to look for a property with an existing/producing well to avoid the cost of a bad well.
Our search took us closer to south-central Colorado where property prices and taxes were reasonable. We found that each county has its own set of building codes, covenants and in some cases HOA’s. So, we started pouring time into combing through county legal documents to decipher the least restrictive counties possible. To make a move of this magnitude we want to make sure there are no time bombs waiting for us. I would like to build a shed or chicken coop without some local official henpecking me on every little detail. It’s not that we would build anything unsafe, but in my experience, local municipalities can be a real pain in the butt when it comes to enforcing local rules… Even if they are stupid or archaic.
The good news is that we have a few likely candidates and if they pan out on paper we plan on taking a trip out this summer to look in person and possibly make an offer. We are looking for 30 – 40 acres to give us a buffer between would be neighbors. Although most well permits only grant access to supplying water for 1 acre of that.
The other thing we will have to work on is trees. A lot of the properties we have found have very few if any trees on site. We have been looking for beneficial/fast growing trees to give us shade, windbreaks, firewood, and lumber. For that reason, I am researching propagating black locust trees as a property boundary/windbreak that we can propagate in Illinois, plant ASAP in Colorado in hopes of having them established by the time we move. Black locust will grow quickly almost anywhere in the continental US that also improves the soil as a nitrogen fixer, and is very rot resistant in addition to the other attributes listed above.
We also have to make sure that we are close enough to town for our son to easily get to friend’s houses and social events. Close enough that a trip to the store doesn’t take a full day and that medical care is easily accessible. All of that while staying remote enough to not be too close to neighbors or nosy people that unsolicited opinions about the do’s and don’ts of our property.
We are at the “when perception meets reality” stage of our relocation planning but the information that we have uncovered about the area in the past few years is priceless.
I will put another post out once we get back from our property search but just wanted to put out an update since it has been a while. Sidenote, the photo in this blog post is one of the properties that we are looking at. Just wanted to give you an idea of the property terrain.
Have a great summer everyone, and we will post again when we return from Colorado!
Justin & Crystal