By Mike Rosso
In January 2017, I left the country and spent almost two weeks exploring parts of Guatemala. Being away from the U.S., as well as being a minority with a very limited knowledge of the local language, is always humbling but very gratifying. I love seeing how folks in other cultures interact and live their lives. I enjoy the sights, the smells, and also hearing random dialog in an unfamiliar tongue. It’s easy to get caught in the bubble of U.S. culture, especially living in a remote and isolated place such as Salida, and sometimes a trip overseas helps to pop that bubble.
This past January found me much closer to home and I’ve been taking advantage of dry weather hikes, a ski pass, and my temporary living situation on 40 wooded acres, twelve miles north of Salida for some R and R. The reason I’ve got temporary digs has to do with an unlikely conversation which took place last March, and has led to big and exciting changes.
It was at a casual gathering at the home of Kirby and Margo Perschbacher when my friend Bebe Plotz brought up the idea of my buying a parcel of land she had for sale just south of Salida. My offhand reply was “I’ll buy your lot if Kirby will build me a house.” Kirby is the owner of Oak Construction, a Chaffee County native, and he and Margo are big supporters of this magazine.
Though the suggestion was made in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, it seemed providence was shining on us all, and within a month I had a verbal agreement with both Bebe and Kirby to move forward to make the idea a reality. Of course, High Country Bank had a say in whether this was even feasible, given my career as a regional magazine publisher doesn’t put me in very high income bracket, but they looked at the equity in my existing home – purchased in 2004 before Salida’s real estate boom – plus my own credit record and decided I was worth the risk and signed off on a land and construction loan.
Not wanting to take a chance on a fickle economy, I put my town house on the market in September, and had it sold by early December. Getting moved out (not to mention getting out the December issue) proved to be quite demanding after 13 years of habitation, but I’ve been blessed to have been offered to live in my current location by a dear old friend, MA, until late- Spring, when my new house should be completed.
After deciding where to locate the house on the two-acre lot, we began the process of design. As an advocate of passive solar heat, I had an ally in Kirby based on his own building philosophies, so the 1,250 square-foot house was designed to maximize and maintain solar gain and for energy efficiency. I hope to grow old in this home, so decided on a one-story, with grade-level entrances and at least one ADA compliant exterior doorway. The cement floor has been retrofitted with tubing shoud I decide to have a radiant heat floor system down the line. I’ve always been a huge fan of New Mexico territorial-style architecture, so rather than a flat roof, the home was designed with an open gable roof for snow shed with a 20-by-6-foot exterior porch on the east side, offering sheltered exterior living space.
Once the loan and building plans were approved, work began in earnest this past summer, and other than some feet-dragging by Excel Energy, things are going pretty smoothly. As of today, the roof is on as well as the doors and windows. Most of the electrical work has been finished as well as the plumbing. The first stucco coat is halfway completed and the insulation guy, a fellow named Tex is finishing up his end as I write this and the next step is a drywaller from Leadville.
As you can imagine, this whole project has been very consuming, with so many decisions to make; appliances, cabinet styles, paint, location of outlets and many more. I’m also excited to have a new home office for the magazine, which dominated my old home. It has a great view, lots of work space and a door I can close when I need to focus on other aspects of life. My current office is piled on a dining room table at my temporary place.
So I begin this new year working from rural Chaffee County with two cats in residence – my own and a big barn tom who comes with the place. It is quiet out here and conducive to creativity, introspection and admittedly, naps.
In the coming months, I hope to write in more detail about the new house project, from dirtwork to finish. – Mike Rosso