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Colorado!
Karen, a.k.a. Tabberone, with a loving grip on her husband, Mike.
BossAndSlave
The boss is on the right

This is the view looking due north from the house. The snow-covered mountains are the Continental Divide, part of the Colorado Rockies. Karen wanted the backside of the house facing north so Mike would have this wonderful view while he was washing the dishes. We are in a valley at 9,300 feet. Those mountains are about 40 miles directly north of us. Their peaks are over 13,000 feet above sea level.
BackWindow
Trivia question: Why are these mountains called the Continental Divide? What geographical happening signifies the Continental Divide?

Living Off The Grid

We have been living off the grid since we moved to Colorado in the fall of 2000. Click here to read a detail of what it is really like to live on solar and wind ten miles from the nearest power lines. It is not the pretty picture presented by renewable energy advocates.

January 2001, we had some visitors. This is why we put up a barbed-wire fence. We live on Open Range where the critters roam, anywhere they want. Telling a one-ton pot roast on the hoof to move along is not as easy as it sounds. Cows don't make that much noise when they visit but they do leave some rather large calling cards on the ground.
CowInYard

May 22, 2002, we had some rain. Around here we get about 15 inches of rain/snow a year. It is regarded as a semi-arid region. We even have small cactus growing wild around here. Sights like this rainbow are rare but pretty.
Rainbow

Where The Buffalo Roam

To get to town, we have to use County Road 53. It's twelve miles of unpaved road. Park County regularly has road graders ditching and leveling the dirt roads. They leave behind a fine crop of sharp rocks which cause a lot of flat tires. A lot of flat tires.

Sometimes the local bison get loose from their grazing areas and have meetings rather near the road or on the road. Unlike the cattle, these guys don't always shy away from a motor vehicle. They are not domesticated. And there is the question of years of inbreeding. They can get downright ornery when they have to get out of your way. The popular name for theses critters is American Buffalo but they are really in the bison family.

SUNSETS
Every so often, we get really nice sunsets. So nice, that we have to take two pictures of it. The left picture is due west of the house and the right picture is a continuation picture to the north of the house.

REVERSE SUNSETS

What's really different is a reverse sunset. This colorful sunset isn't in the west but in the east. It happens sometimes in wide valleys when the clouds are just right. On November 5, 2002, we had a spectacular reverse sunset. These two pictures overlap about 25% and show the view from our house looking to the northeast while the sun was setting in the west. And yes, that is snow on the ground. The City of Denver is in that direction some two hours away.

Moon Rise
Clear nights and high altitude makes for some spectacular full moon risings. This view was from due east from our front gate. The City of Colorado Springs is about 45 miles in that direction. March snow is on the ground.


Monsoon Season
The word monsoon is most often equated with South East Asia and other tropical climates. In Colorado, the word is used by locals to describe the almost daily rains we usually get in late July. We get almost daily thunderstorms here and even heavier daily thunderstorms on the front range where Denver and Colorado Springs reside. It is not unusual for the front range thunderstorms to drop 4 to 6 inches of rain along with tornados and large hail. It happens way too often. But, since the thunderstorms are scattered, so are they heavy rains, tornados and hail.

Here, in the middle of Park County, a heavy rain will run ½ inch. Most thunderstorms are less but the moisture accumulates day after day and many county roads that are dirt, like County Road 53, get slippery as owl snot. Our hail is usually about the size of marbles or less and tends to be softer than the golf-ball sized hard hail on the front range. Park County has only had three tornados, all in the last three years (2012 and 2014) with only one touching down in Lake George in 2014, about 25 miles east of us.


FLOODING
In desert areas, one will see flash flood warning signs for motorists. Desert sand does not hold moisture well. Spring rains have caused furious and deadly flash flooding. We have our own version of flash flooding around here. At 9,300 feet? Yes, we get flooding. Every three or four years. Most flooding takes place in the summer when thunderstorms and hail arrive back-to-back. A few years ago we had a spring-time flood when we got several April snowstorms followed by immediate warming. The ground was soaked.

Our area is considered "dry" or semi-arid. Again, we are exactly in the middle of Colorado in a valley at 9,300 feet surrounded by many 13,000 and 14,000 (plus) feet high mountains. When we get rain, contrary to what many "environmentalists" claim, the ground around here soaks in the moisture and keeps it. Day after day after day of monsoon season thunderstorms can create very soggy conditions. When waterlogged ground and heavy thunderstorms unite, we get flash flooding. Standing at our house looking around, one would not guess that we are at the low end of a large drainage basin. We found out when we experienced the first flash flood. If our house had been located fifty feet further back our crawl space would have become an under-house swimming pool.

We typically get about 15 inches of rain a year. Sometimes more, sometimes less. For a stretch we got rain, rain and more rain. The ground was soaked. On Friday, August 20, 2004, we got another storm followed by a lot of hail. The ground was white from the hail. Another thunderstorm followed and stalled over the area. What happens then? The new rain melted the hail and then flash flooding. The water rushed down so hard we could hear the rumble of the water. This is a shot of our house from the north side showing some of the water that day. This is NOT standing water. It looks like a pond but it is a steady and heavy flow, as can be seen in the next picture.

These pictures were taken around 5pm. Our house is the dim white spot just to the right of center, in the dark strip between the water and the horizon. To the far left side of the picture the river of water is flowing down to where we stood on County Road 53, about ½ mile from the house.

When we turned around, facing north away from the house, this was the water flowing over County Road 53 right where County Road 53 meets Chimapavi Trail. The culverts, larger than average, cannot not handle the volume of water. The culvert at this location is large enough for a man to crawl through. The water on the road was several inches deep. The only reason the road did not fully wash out was because the water had backed up over a large area and the force of the water was spread out as it flowed over the dirt road, County Road 53.

To the right front you can see that some of the water flowed down the road instead of over it. Our nearest neighbors were not as lucky. That flow of water in the left of the picture was heading their way. The side road from County Road 53 to their house washed out and was impassable.


SNOW
The winters here usually are not as bad as people think, snow-wise. The weather is unpredictable because of the various mountain ranges around us many with peaks over 13,000 feet and 14,000 feet (the 14K mountains are called Fourteeners out here). Weather fronts tend to move around the mountains or bounce off them, making weather predictions somewhat of a guessing game. We're in a valley at 9,300 feet and while we do get snow from the north it is the snowstorms that come up from the southwest that really do the damage. Those southern storms carry moisture from the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico and like to make things interesting if there is a cold airflow from the north. The snow tends to blast in from the east off the front range.

We started taking pictures. This picture was taken January 5, 2007. The snow in this picture was moving horizontally from left to right That's correct, horizontally. Did we mention the wind? Relentless. We figured we were going to need photographic proof of why we couldn't get out to the post office some 15 miles away along unplowed snow-covered dirt road.

The winters of 2006-2007-2008 were doozies. Beginning the weekend before Christmas 2006, "let it snow" became more than a melody. In a five-week period we got six major snowstorms that dumped on us. The first storm liked Colorado so much it stayed a day longer than projected. These storms seemed to all hit on Thursday, Friday, and/or Saturday. The first storm being a two day event. The snow around here tends to be dry which makes it perfect for skiing and drifting. Did we mention the winds? Relentless.

We finally managed to get the Jeep up to the road. Being smarter than we look, which is fortunate, we began parking Jeep #1 on Maskoke Trail, because just driving up to the road was a chore. The wind was constantly changing direction and re-drifting the snow every night. But the snow did not bother our dog, Killer, who loved to roll around in it.

The winter of 2007-2008 was even worse. Park County declared a "snow emergency" and was borrowing snow equipment from neighboring counties in order to send deputies and rescue personnel to see what rural residents were still alive. Some people had been seen or heard from for weeks.

The winter of 2013-2014 was bad. The county will not plow to the door of homes far removed from the snow emergency routes. We sit about ½ mile off of County Road 53, which is a snow emergency route. The county will plow to our front gate. A family five miles past us on Maskoke Trail was out of luck. They were effectively snowed out of their property for most of the winter. The drifting was so bad their truck could not make it in through the snow.


Francis
So, you ask, what does it take to liven up our day? A visit from Francis, of course. He dropped by one Monday morning around 530am and announced, rather loudly at our bedroom window, that he was hungry. So, not knowing the donkey words for, "Sorry we're all out of Donkey Chow", we fed him. We discovered donkeys like Cheerios. His owner came and got him later that day. Took us several hours to locate his lost owners.


Living at 9300 feet In The South Park
The South Park
Park County is physically located smack in the middle of the State of Colorado. Except for the northeastern corner and a small slice of the eastern side, the rest of the county is referred to as South Park. Yes, the same South Park as in the television cartoon. Population of the South Park area is less than 3,000. The Continental Divide makes up the western and northern sides of Park County. The mountains are mostly over 10,000 feet high with many over 13,000 and 14,000 feet.

Altitude
The lowest altitude in South Park is over 8,000 feet above sea level. Much of the South Park is relatively flat compared to the surrounding mountains. The mountains around this valley are often 13,000 feet high with several exceeding 14,000 feet. The official altitude at our house is 9,321 feet above sea level. The air is quite thin but that is not the only obstacle.

Winter Temperature
In the winter, temperatures at our house have dropped to as low as minus 37 (yes, MINUS -37) and while that is not an every day experience, that is cold. It is not unusual to have daytime temperatures in single digits and have negative numbers at night. Any low temperatures combined with the winds we get makes being outside very long somewhat tricky. Avoiding letting the water pipes freeze gets to be a winter-time game. Houses have to be well insulated and have double and triple pane windows. Even then, sub-zero nighttime temperatures penetrate the walls making for chilly mornings.

Wind
In the Northern Hemisphere, weather fronts generally move in a constant west-to-east direction. Depending on a few factors, we get a fair amount pf moisture in the mountains from either Southern California or fronts that pass through Oregon or Washington State. As the east-moving air masses encounter the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the air compresses. As the front moves over the mountain range, the air expands creating winds that are relentless. We can have two or three days of constant winds over 25 MPH with gusts twice that speed. The winds beats everything to pieces.

Heating
For those who live in towns, like Hartsel or Fairplay, there is the option of electrical heat. Most seem to prefer LP or natural gas supplied in 500-gallon tanks or larger. But with winter temperatures often below minus 20 or more, wood stoves and fireplaces are common. Common but not that effective. We use coal. Not only is it cheaper than wood or gas but it burns hot and steady. As for air conditioning, it is not needed in this area. Low humidity combined with 60s and 70s in the summer make open windows very effective for keeping cool. Rarely do we get above 80 degrees.

Water
We are on well water and septic. A few of the towns, like Fairplay and Alma, have municiple water and sewage but most of the homes outside those two towns are on well water and septic tanks. Depending upon location, well water can be very expensive. Some wells are over 1,500 feet deep which requires 220v pumps to raise the water. If you are on solar power that can drain your batteries really fast.

Power Sources
We live ten miles from the nearest power line. That means we are on solar panels, wind power, radio telephone and two generators if the renewable energy fails us. We are on septic and well water. Cell phone coverage is very iffy. Oh, by the way, solar and wind power is not free or cheap. We have 24 deep-cycle batteries to store power for use at night. And then there is the supporting electronics and maintenance. The set-up costs to have reliable solar power 24/7 runs over $50,000 and those things wear out and have to be replaced. Power is never free or affordable out here. Anyone who tells you that solar and wind energy are free is lying to you.

We installed a wind generator a few years back. It is on the top of a 65-feet high aluminum pole we like to call our lightning rod. Lightning not only fuses the generator but burns out the supporting electrical equipment: the controllers and the inverter. After a few strikes we had a lightning arrestor installed. So far, so good.

Shopping
Park County, which is about the size of Rhode Island, has two traffic lights. South Park has one traffic light in Fairplay, the county seat. Depending on the weather, the town of Hartsel is about a thirty-minute drive from us, mostly on a dirt road. North, East, South and West of Hartsel there is a Wal-Mart, a full one-hour drive, or more, in any of those directions, from Hartsel. Hartsel has a gas station/convenience store, a mercantile that sells some food, a bar/restaurant, and three small stores for the tourists. It takes about fifteen seconds to travel from one end of Hartsel to the other on US Hwy 24 at the speed limit of 45mph.

In Fairplay, about twenty minutes north of Hartsel, the is a small grocery store, a hardware store, three gas stations, county offices, a small variety of eating establishments, and a variety of shops for the tourists.

Roads
Most of the roads in South Park are unpaved. The County has stated that it is unlikely any of the roads will get paved in our lifetime. The main roads are Colorado 9, which runs north-south through South Park, US Highway 24, which runs east-west through the county, and US Hwy 285, which runs southwest from Denver through the county. There are a few other county roads that are paved, or partially paved, but not many. In Fairplay and Alma there are some paved residential streets.

Critters
Domesticated Animals.

Lots of cattle and some bison and the occasional horse roaming about. This is open range and animals run loose in a lot of areas. There are a few loose long horn cattle here and there. The bison are supposed to be penned but they do get loose. Roaming loose we find llamas and donkeys, called burros out west, but very few. Ranchers will include one llama or one burro in with a group of cows for protection from large predators.
Wild Animals
Hundreds of proghorn antelope reside in large herds in the winter and in small groups in the summer. There are a few deer and even fewer elk around here. The deer and elk tend to stay further north of us. According to local lore, one can estimate the winter by how large the herds of antelope are. Larger than normal herds mean a severe winter. Smaller herds mean a mild winter. that is, if one supposed the antelope watch the Weather Channel. What is often not observed is young antelope. They are hidden by the mothers and fed by mom in secret to avoid preditors.
Ground squirrels, not to be confused with their lower-altitude cousins, the prairie dog, dig holes everywhere. Prairie dogs dig holes but tend to to also pile up the dirt around their holes making a distinctive marker, unlike ground squirrels. Groungd squirrels are burrowing rodents and pests. Tree squirrels are considered to be game and the hunting of tree squirrels is regulated. Ground squirrels are varmits Like prairie digs, they are flea-ridden and disease-ridden pests, and are trapped as such. They are varmits. Their smaller brethren, picket pins, are related and similar to chipmunks, and appear to be cute, but are burrowing rodents as well. And of course, there is the ever present field mouse, small, destructive and breeds like a democrat,

Mountain blue birds and swifts nest nearby and we have a lot of hummingbirds. The number of summer birds is much higher than we expected. During the winter we have a lot of horned prairie larks who seem to be reliable predictors of approaching storms. They go into a feeding frenzy just before bad weather. We get a brief appearance from a variety of other migratory birds as well.

We get more than the occasional badger. They tend to dig a lot of large holes, either looking for a ground squirrel snack or just digging a place to sleep for the night. They dig holes very quickly. And deep. We have not seen any bears around here yet but or neighbors have. And one did see a mountain lion nearby. Coyotes are common out here. Unfortunately, village idiots occasionally come out here to shoot coyotes for fun. 95% of a coyote's diet consists of rodents and insects. They help keep nature in balance.

One year we had an over-wintering mountain weasel that had a spring litter of five young ones. They were fun to watch. They eat ground squirrels which we considered a plus. Long and thin, they go into the ground squirrel burrows and catch them napping. The five babies ran around and rolled around enjpying their environment.

This picture was taken on the deck where we had placed a water bowl for them. Since there is no body of water nearby they left for other areas. They make their homes near water.

A Cup Of Joe For A Joe
by Green Beans Coffee Company
Karen and Mike, also known to you as Tabberone, have been actively participating in various troop support programs for a number of years. An important one we have discovered and supported is one run by the Green Beans Coffee Company of Larkspur, California. The Green Beans Coffee Company runs coffee houses in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Middle East and at other US military bases around the world. Your donations are converted into email chits that are randomly given to military personal who are based near these coffee houses. You are then sent an email by Green Beans Coffee telling at what location your donation(s) was distributed. The military recipient of your donation is also given the opportunity to email you a thank you with a message, which many of them do.

Modern military deployment has changed very much since WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Back then there was no internet or cell phones. A soldier very rarely could call home or even go home on leave. But modern deployment does not alter the dangers they face. Green Beans Coffee is one of the little pleasures they can enjoy. Any donation makes a service man or service woman smile. We contribute every month.

More information is available at http://www.greenbeanscoffee.com/coj/index.php
We rarely link to other sites. It is a really good cause.

Our Soldier Wall

Between Cup Of Joe For A Joe and AdoptaPlatoon we have had a bunch of adopted soldiers over the years. This is a picture our soldier wall, as of April 8, 2014. On display are items we have been sent by various organizations and individuals. We just got our fourth American flag the beginning of April 2014, the third flag from the left in the picture. It has a certificate from the United States Forces, Afghanistan, stating the flag was flown over the headquarters in Bagram, Afghanistan on April 7, 2013. Signed by Maj Gen Kenneth R. Dahl.

Our first flag, second flag from the left in the picture, has a certificate stating it was carried on a Kiowa helicopter during a combat mission on August 7, 2009, in Operation Enduring Freedom, by the 7th Squadron of the 17th Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In the corner is their unit patch, "Death Rides", Task Force Pale Horse.

Our second flag, far right, has a certificate stating the flag was carried on a combat mission August 8, 2012, by the First Military Intelligence Battalion, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on an unmanned aircraft (drone), in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Signed by CPT Anthony J. Palumbo.

Our third flag, On the left in the large rectangular frame, has a certificate stating it was flown "in the face of the enemy" on February 3, 2013, by Bravo Company, 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Kandahar, Afghanistan, sent to us by Sergeant Palmeri, one of our adopted soldiers through AdoptaPlatoon. Sergeant Palmeri sent us a post card almost every time his unit received a parcel from us. The framed flag was very unexpected.

To the right of the third flag, is a certificate of appreciation from the 335th Signal Command, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, 2011-2012. It cites Karen for her contributions. Signed August 29, 2012, Bagram Airfield, by LTC John W. Weeks.

Second row down, third from the left, is a certificate designating Karen as a "Warrior Medic" from the 115th Combat Support Hospital, Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2009-2010, signed by CH (MAJ) Thomas B. Vaughn, Jr, Senior Hospital Chaplain.

The bumper sticker (upper right in brown frame) says in English and Arabic "Stay back 100 meters or you will be shot". The framed t-shirt came from Green Beans Coffee, by way of Afghanistan, and is autographed by some twenty-five soldiers. Plus there are seven postcards from a Sergeant Palmeri on the wall as well.

And some other things. In the bottom right is a frame with various insignia representing units with whom Mike was stationed: Fort Carson, Colorado, West Berlin, West Germany and Cu Chi, South Vietnam. Also in the frame is his Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart (with Oak Leaf Cluster). The frame below that holds his certificate of award of Expert Infantryman Badge, Berlin Bridage, 1965.

 

 

 

Charlie Company & Delta Comapny
4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, 25th Division
March 1967 through October 1967
Manchu - Keep Up The Fire