Homesteading Report: Overwhelmed by the Colorado Winter

They loved their Colorado mountain valley, but ultimately the Colorado winter was more than they could handle.

| November/December 1974

  • 030 colorado winter - KR MEDIA PRODUCTIONS-FOTOLIA
    Her mother's cabin was not up to the job of sheltering them from the worst a Colorado winter could offer. 

  • 030 colorado winter - KR MEDIA PRODUCTIONS-FOTOLIA

As my husband and I and our two-week-old son, Eric, rounded the last curve into our mountain valley, the meadow met our eyes in all its delicate beauty. The Colorado winter was only just releasing its grip on the land. Sloping down from a grass-covered hill, the aspen trees—as yet bare of their leaves—surrounded a small lake, and covering the mount were the firs that gave our valley its name: Conifer Hill. The property belonged to my mother, and was our new home.

Before we could get into the cabin, though, we had to chop through the ten inches of ice that had accumulated in front of the door. Moving in consisted of setting up a bed in one end of the house, shifting Mother's possessions to the other, and building a fire in the stove. We were home.

That spring was idyllic. Larry didn't have a job, but we had enough money for food and gasoline. While the snow was still on the ground, the picture that greeted my eyes every morning was soft and gentle and filled my heart with peace. Then leaves started to bud, and a pale green merged with the darker color of the pines. We saw the first flowers of spring, heard frogs begin their croaking from the lake, felt the world coming alive.

When our income tax refunds arrived in April, we bought a tipi kit and spent a few days putting together our summer dwelling. I was supposed to be the seamstress in the farm but Larry turned out to be more capable of handling the heavy canvas, reading the instructions, and not having tantrums at the sewing machine, so he did the work practically singlehanded.

Then summer came and we cleared ground for the tipi, set it up and moved in. I had an outside kitchen—wood stove, cabinets, and table—under a plastic tarp.

The major problem I faced that summer was keeping our shelter clean. Although I had our clothes piled in boxes, they usually overflowed onto the floor. The carpet we had laid over the dirt helped the housekeeping, but became damp and mildewed. Laundry was another headache. We couldn't afford to take our wash to a laundromat and I hated imposing on friends for the use of their facilities.


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