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Archive for August, 2013

Grey Water Issues

Lorrig House adjusted 2011

Yes, it was a perfect place. Beautifully situated at the top of a hill that led down to a ravine which attracted all kinds of wildlife. The trees really did whisper constantly in the breezes and told endless stories of the things they had seen in days gone by. The smell of the pines refreshed the soul and brought peace to endless cycles of life.

But, that house did have issues. The first of which we discovered was grey-water areas. Being city folk, we had no idea what that was but when some friends came to visit and pointed out that little flaw we knew that home improvements were in our near future. For the uninitiated, a grey water area is where waste water (except sewage) drains right out of the house, down the yard and eventually into the little stream in the ravine. We knew we had a septic system but we just hadn’t realized that the only thing that went into it was the waste from the commode. So I quit washing diapers (one of our strategies for being able to afford the mortgage) and returned to diaper service.

While we were saving and planning for the new septic system we discovered another little flaw. The pipes froze in the winter. Of course that first winter we thought, ‘No problem! This little issue will be fixed when we enclose the plumbing with the new septic system.” Hahaha! In spite of every action we took over the next nearly three decades, (replacing pipes, opening cabinet doors, applying heat tape, new construction, etc…) those pipes froze at least once each winter we lived there. Actually, we had kind of resigned ourselves to this being just one of costs we had to pay-like a hidden fee at a resort-to live there. But it seemed to be a small charge in exchange for the joy of waking up to sunlight streaming through the trees and the peaceful nights where moon shadows cast their dreamy images across the earth.

Of course we thought our new septic system would take care of several issues with the little cabin but we were disappointed that our first upgrade had to be something so invisible. I’d been secretly hoping that we could replace the 1960’s era shag carpet that went throughout the house. My husband thought the carpet was cool (in a retro-kind of way) and I have to admit – it was no ordinary carpet.

Long-two and a half to three inch-strands of the most indestructible fiber on the planet in varying shades of green and blue. The aqua-marine kind of blue that a girl who grew up in the Caribbean recognizes right away as being a perfect color for the ocean but insane in a log cabin in the forest. Color wasn’t its only issue. The pile was so long that the vacuum cleaner needed to be tilted at a bit of an angle so that the strands didn’t wrap around the roller and bring the whole process to a whining stop that threatened to melt the rubber belts in the machine. That carpet was so deep that whole pockets full of change could literally disappear into its vast abyss. A metal detector might have useful in those days for retrieving lost valuables. It took us quite sometime to discover the treasure hidden under the carpet, but back to the septic system…

Wanting to be responsible members of society, and diligent homeowners, we decided to make that our first priority. Here is where we discovered that besides the house having issues the land had problems as well.

On the surface it looked to be what we always thought it was, a little more than one acre of the most perfect terrain in the country. Lovely sloping hill at the bottom of which sat an enticing little seat where someone in ages past had placed a board between two trees as a resting place and the trees had obligingly grew around it to securely welcome guests. Ponderosa pines grew up from the ravine to the top of the hill and broke into a lovely meadow that attracted deer in the early years and provided a perfect play area for children. At each entrance to the home from the road someone full of foresight had planted lilacs which had grown to nearly the size of small trees where they flourished and bloomed as fragrant guardians.

But at the El Paso County Regional Building office you would not believe what a troublesome lot we owned! Actually, it was there where we first learned that we didn’t own just one lot, but rather six smaller lots which joined together. And there were county roads at the west and east ends of our property which we never saw nor were maintained, but since they were on the paper at the planning department they caused us quite a bit of additional trouble and expense.

Now our new septic system required more than just installation. We also needed to transform those six lots into one, by vacating internal lot lines. It was totally outside of reason (and code) that a septic system be put on one lot while the house is located on another.

Although we pointed out that since properties in the Black Forest were no longer able to be subdivided into plots less than 5 acres there was never going to be a problem with someone selling the house and septic system separately, we encountered that type of silence and stare that only a seasoned bureaucrat can give. That one that lets you know they really aren’t interested in details or facts and seems to indicate that its really in your best interest sign on the line and hand over the check. So, fees and permits paid, internal lot lines vacated, we looked forward to the new septic system.

It was funny how knowing that the swing set was sitting in the (non-existent) road, didn’t really change the way everything looked from the outside but it kind of set the stage for things we never dreamed of in the future.

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Lorrig house LR

Nearly three months ago on June 11, 2013, our home was consumed by a forest fire that ravaged our serene neighborhood of 27 years. This blog was named after that special place we called ‘Whispering Pines’. One and half acres of heaven on earth with a cozy little red log-sided home which had it’s origins as someone’s summer vacation cabin in the 1940’s. Here, in a tribute to the home we loved, I’ll take a few blog posts to say goodbye.

Everyone who lived there over the past seventy years built on their own addition (including us), and somewhere along the line a little summer getaway place became the year-round residence that eventually became our home.

Our realtor laughed at our loan closing saying, “I knew as soon as I saw your face as we drove up the driveway that you would buy this house!”

It seemed to me that it wasn’t actually until I walked into the kitchen and saw the fossils in the beautiful flagstone floors that I knew I wanted to live in that house-but who am I to second guess a professional’s opinion?

True, there were some major drawbacks. Like one bathroom. Of course our house in town had just one bathroom and we had gotten along just fine, but we’d grown from just the two of us in that house to four of us and a vision of an even larger family hovering in our minds. The baby was just six months old at the time so the need for the extra bathroom seemed a little remote. And there was the fact that it was listed as a two bedroom home. Our house in town had three and as our family was expanding it didn’t seem wise to backtrack…

But, I’m a creative thinker. Just because the Multiple Listing Service called that cabin a two bedroom, I thought it had potential…for four! The dressing room off the master bedroom seemed like a perfect nursery to me and the large upstairs room actually had a door between the chimney and the closets which handily converted it (in my mind anyway) to two separate rooms. The one bathroom was a little bit of a stretch to overlook but-if the pioneers had made it with outhouses and chamberpots-we could probably survive.

So we purchased the little cabin in the big woods and settled in to make it our home.

The pine paneling throughout the kitchen and dining areas proved to be the perfect wall treatment for growing numbers of children and we loved the peacefulness of forest living right from the start. My husband marveled at how the pressures of work seemed to lift the moment he turned onto the dirt road and the children and I spent countless hours on the long back porch, at the swing set and sandbox or just walking down the street. That first summer, our three year old son, brought me a little fistful of wildflowers he had plucked from the meadow and it seemed to me that we had discovered our very own Shangri-La.

One of the greatest attractions of living in Colorado, is the beautiful mountain environment. We had looked at more mountainous areas on the west side of town, up in Green Mountain Falls and Woodland Park. Since my husband had a tech job in the city (and the 1980’s were a little bit before telecommuting became popular) we felt that Black Forest provided all the best aspects of mountain living without the drive up ‘the pass’ and with bonus of the majestic view of the Front Range each time we ventured out of our little cocooned life in the trees.

Yes, it was the perfect place.

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