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Prairie Life by Bill Radford

Home sweet home

2022 was an anniversary year: ten years since we moved to our little house on the prairie.It was all about the horses. After years of keeping horses at various properties in the Rustic Hills neighborhood ó a touch of country in the city and in walking distance from our neighborhood at the time ó the horses were being boarded at the Powers Ranch on the east side of Colorado Springs. (That property has since been sold; sadly, any trace of the ranch is gone.)While the ranch provided them a good home, Margaret wanted to be able to enjoy the horses all the time; instead of driving to see them, she wanted to look out our back window to check on them. So our house-hunting journey in the country began.We mostly looked in the Falcon area, though we also checked out Fountain; thereís a house there, with 20 acres of land, that we still sometimes think about and wonder if we should have tried for. We settled on a property in the Southfork development in Falcon and even made a bid; while the bid was accepted, it turned out the owners werenít going to be ready to leave for a few months, which would have left us homeless for a time after the sale of our home in the Springs closed.A renewed search brought us to this house. It was late summer and green still dominated the landscape. The house, a manufactured home, has curb appeal even though there are no curbs: Itís a pleasant blue, framed in front by two conifers with what was then a small, lush lawn between the two trees. From the back, you can view Pikes Peak. There were scores of trees planted throughout the property, including a grove of then-glorious cottonwoods, which have since, unfortunately, died, and a honey locust that has more than doubled in size over the 10 years. The neighborhood seemed kept up; in some areas we had looked at, some properties had deteriorated into seeming junkyards. And the price was right, making for a smaller mortgage than we had been paying.So, we had found our new home. We did make some changes right away, including installing hardwood floors. We also added fencing for the pasture and a run-in shelter for horses.Weíve continued to make changes, of course. Inside, we removed the battens óthose vertical strips you see in manufactured homes ó and mudded over the vinyl wall panels to make it feel more like a stick-built home. We got rid of one row of kitchen cabinets to open that area up. We replaced some treacherous steps out the side with new steps and a patio. In the last couple of years, we added central air as the summer sun seems to be more brutal each year.Outside, the run-in shelter eventually became part of a barn. Nana the goat went from a dog pen in the backyard to a larger area with a shelter in the pasture and fellow goats; now Nana, Pepe and Chica share a stall in the barn and their own, large pen. We initially added a handful of chickens and one chicken coop; now we have two coops and 20 chickens. (Including one that is ailing and living in a plastic tub in my home office as I type this.)Last year, we invested big time in a large greenhouse in an attempt to have a viable garden despite the hordes of grasshoppers that seem to get worse each summer. The greenhouse did, in fact, keep the grasshopper invasion to a minimum that summer, but this year the prairie winds became too much for the greenhouse covering and shredded one side of it. That left it open to both grasshoppers and rule-breaking chickens that hopped their fence to devour the greenery.Would we ever move? If a property with a pond became available, we might consider that. And at times, we even flirt with the idea of moving back to town: a cute little Victorian in Old Colorado City, perhaps, with a small yard to maintain instead of these 5 acres. But, of course, thereíd be no room for the goats and horses and 20 chickens.So it looks like weíll stick with home, sweet home here.TERRORIZED BY TUMBLEWEEDS: In a previous column, I predicted this fall would be a strong tumbleweed season after observing the overabundance of Russian thistle on our property. While thereís no official tumbleweed monitor, I would say I was right, based on the number of tumbleweeds Iíve seen flying across the roads, piled up against fences and filling one of our horse stalls.And then there were headlines like this: ìTumbleweeds swallow home south of Colorado Springs.îìTumbleweeds take over Colorado highway.î ìTumbleweeds cause turmoil for Colorado rancher.îThe story of the couple whose house was ìswallowedî by tumbleweeds even caught the attention of the New York Post, which ran with the headline, ìToo much weed! Colorado couple gets trapped in home by tumbleweeds.î”I opened the front door and it’s whole tumbleweeds,” one of the homeowners told a local TV station. “We couldn’t even get out of here.î

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