Moving again….

This year started out with events I would not have imagined six months ago: a house sale and a move. Last June, I followed my heart home to Wyoming’s sagebrush country, selling my Santa Fe house and moving to a house on “the rim,” as it’s called in Cody, above the Shoshone River. (Click the link at “a house” to see the “after” photos of the house. It did not look like that when I bought it!)

The Cody house needed some love–I’ve never bought one that didn’t–and it was too big for me. But it was in a great location, and I figured I spend a few years fixing it up, and eventually trade it for a little cottage in the historic neighborhoods around downtown (which, of course, would need fixing up, because that’s how I roll–and how I earn an income from my real estate deals).

Only the universe had other ideas. Just before Thanksgiving, a stranger knocked on my door and asked if I would ever consider selling my house. I said I’d talk to my friend Yuliya Martsul, who is also one of the smartest real estate people I know, and see what she thought the place was worth. I showed them around and then I called Yuliya.

Six days later, I accepted an all-cash offer on the house at a price that paid me back for the work I had put into it, and covered my move. The closing date was–gulp!–mid-January.

My Cody house lit up for Winter Solstice. 

Which gave me seven weeks to thoughtfully downsize, pack, search for a smaller place in Cody, and move. Piece of cake, right? After all, this would be my sixth move in ten years, so I’ve had plenty of practice.

“Right-sizing” from 2,200 square feet to something smaller and packing was the easy part. Finding another place to live in Cody proved impossible.

So I pivoted–flexibility is my middle name since I stumbled into this side-gig of buying unloved properties and re-storying them–I would move into the cottage in Montrose, in western Colorado, that I had bought for my winter writing retreat earlier last fall. (Have I confused you yet?)

My sweet Montrose cottage, built in 1938

My plan was simple: Winnow my stuff down to what would comfortably fit into the 672 square foot cottage–five rooms, counting the bathroom–and store what I couldn’t bear to part with. I’d look for a Cody place come spring, I thought, when the real estate market might be less insane.

Okay. Except that I would be moving from far northwestern Wyoming to far western Colorado, eleven hours south, in January, on a route that’s pretty much off the map for movers. Fortunately, Rick Cook of Cody’s Cook Moving & Storage, who has moved me twice before, figured out how to fit me and my not-very-much stuff on one of his trucks headed for Las Vegas, Nevada. (Thank you, Rick, and ace mover/driver Phil!)

The only hitch was that I would have to move January 7th, a week earlier than I had planned. Which gave me just six weeks to get ready. And to finish some projects in the house that I hadn’t bothered to with, thinking I had lots of time.

Packing, packing, packing….

So between giving away some furniture and lots of books, downsizing my files, and packing, packing, packing, I was up on a ladder on my front porch replacing the tacky front porch lights with much cooler and more efficient ones that didn’t blind people coming up the walk. And finishing the cabinets in the kitchen, replacing a couple of really ugly bathroom faucets, and the like.

Cool front porch lights that are downward-aiming to preserve the view of the stars.

And I spent a week of that six in Montrose overseeing foundation work on my cottage, which had plumbing issues before I bought it, resulting in part of the beautiful stacked sandstone foundation under the oldest part of the cottage collapsing. Fixing that involved jacking up one side of the cottage and digging out the cellar, which fortunately I did not have to do myself!

My Montrose cottage getting a partial new foundation.

It’s no wonder that I was a little insane by the time the week of January 7th rolled around. And wouldn’t you know, that was the week when Wyoming’s way-too-balmy-and-dry winter delivered a real northern Rockies blizzard, dropping a foot of much-needed but very inconvenient snow with sub-zero temperatures and howling winds. Fun stuff.

Thanks to last-minute help from my dear friends Connie and Jay Moody and the careful loading skills of Phil and his crew, my belongings were out of the house by closing on the afternoon of the 7th. My neighbor Bill helped me load my huge Christmas cactus, Arabella, into my truck, and Jay and Connie kindly housed me, the truck, and Arabella until the roads cleared enough for me to head south two days later.

Phil’s big truck pulled up to load my stuff, despite snow and howling wind.

Where the Guy welcomed me (and Arabella) into his comfortable farmhouse an hour’s drive from my cottage until Phil arrived with my stuff on a sunny Tuesday morning not quite two weeks ago.

Are you dizzy yet? I’ll save the details of the renovation I’ve done on the cottage in the past twelve days for another post.

Suffice it to say that I’m settled, my stuff is all out of boxes and stowed away, and I am happily exploring my new surroundings–I have a river to walk here, too–and I’m back to work on the new book. Whew!

My snug office in the cottage, with Arabella, who is covered with buds and ready to bloom again, for company.

Field Trip: Desert Wildflower “Super-bloom”

Saturday morning, I packed my gear in Red, my pickup, and hit the road for a marathon field trip to the shale mesas of far western Colorado to see a once-in-a-lifetime spectacular display of spring wildflowers. I left town at a few minutes after nine in the morning, and backed Red into the garage at just after seven-thirty that night; in between I drove 458 miles and spent several hours wandering back roads ogling so many thousands upon thousands of wildflowers that I was almost jaded by the time I headed home.

Oh, another several hundred orange globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea) flowers, backed by a waving expanse of needle-and-thread grass (Heterostipa comata) with perky sue (Tetraneuris ivesiana) coloring the distant hillsides bright gold. Yawn…

(That's what's blooming in the photo at the top of the post.)

I hadn't intended to do the whole trip in one day, but when I got the alert from Colorado Native Plant Society (thank you, Jan Turner and Jen McGuire Bousselot for the heads up!) that the desert blooms on the mesas above the Grand Valley were spectacular, I looked at my calendar and realized that the only day I could reasonably play hooky was Saturday, and the coming heat wave would soon end the display. 

Was my 450-mile drive and the dregs of exhaustion I can still feel worth it?  

Definitely: I am still cruising on the high of seeing what normally appear to be barren shale slopes lit up with millions of wildflowers, blooms that only occur en masse like this after an unusually wet winter and spring, on plants that manage to compress a whole life cycle–sprouting from the clay soil while it is still wet with spring snow, and growing, blooming, attracting pollinators and setting seeds–before the soil bakes to concrete-hardness with the late spring heat. 

Here are some of my hundred-plus photos so you can see for yourself:

Scarlet globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea) and Cutleaf blanketflower (Gaillardia pinnatifida), the gold flowers with maroon centers. (The burgundy grass is cheatgrass, an invasive annual from Eurasia that is incredibly flammable, leading to frequent fires and larger cheatgrass invasions.)

 

Yellow perky sue, orange globemallow, pink and white sego lily (Calochortus nutallii)

 

The sego lilies came in rose too, and you can see ants sipping nectar from the base of one cup-shaped blossom in this clump.

 

The Indian paintbrush was blooming like crimson flames. 

 

Oval-leafed buckwheat (Eriogenum ovalifolium) with pom-pom balls in white touched with pink.

 

Short-stemmed lupine (Lupinus brevicaulis), the whole plant no bigger than my thumb

 

Jones desert-star (Amsonia jonesii) filled dry washes on north slopes with its fragrant, starry flowers.

 

The cactus were blooming too, including this prickly-pear (Opuntia polyacantha), in the less-usual magenta-flowered form. That's I-70 in the background, and the Book Cliffs in the far distance. 

 

And this mini-barrel-shaped cactus, Colorado hookless cactus (Schlerocactus glaucus), a species only known from the shale mesas of western Colorado. (I think the white daisy-like flower is sand aster, Chaetopappa ericoides, but didn't key it out.)

Every time I came around a ridge or over a mesa, there were masses of wildflowers as far as I could see, like this vista:

Those are the usuals, pink and white sego lilies, scarlet globemallow in orange, and yellow perky sue. Plus you can't see the charming fuzzy seedheads of desert parsley, already done blooming, or the rattlesnake grass with its rattle-like flower-heads, the tiny white easter daisies, or the charming little blue annual flowers on thread-like stems with yellow centers that I should know but can't remember… 

 

Just another view of wildflowers everywhere, and Book Cliffs hazy in the far distance…

By three-thirty, it was 87 degrees and the wind was gusting up to 50 mph. I decided to ignore the wildflower display and just head for the paved road and the long trek home. Except I kept seeing new species.

 

Like this spiny sagebrush (Picrothamnus desertorum or Artemisia spinescens) with the ghostly white branches from last year and its yellow flowers, blooming a clay pan where the soil was already dried into cracks deep enough for me to insert my middle finger in all the way–these are tough plants!

One more photo–this time of Red, my trusty companion whenever I get the urge to play hooky and make a ridiculously long trip to see more wildflowers than anyone could ever imagine…

My smile of delight carried me all the long way home that night. In fact, I'm still grinning two days later. It was definitely worth the trip.