In January of 2020 we bought 11.5 acres in the mountains of Colorado. My wife calls it our final nesting place – the place where we plan to spend the rest of our lives so we decided to call it The Cosmic Nest. We have long wanted to build an art environment and live within it and we are finally making it happen. The site we chose is at 6500 feet elevation and quite steeply sloped over most of it. It is covered with lots of juniper trees and some piñon pines. We started working on the site in March of 2020, cutting trees and grading. We opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate breaking ground. The following photos of our building process. The further along we get, the more art there will be. For now, though, we have to get the basics built. Embellishment will come later.
The plan is to build concrete foundation walls, backfill inside them, and pour a slab on top which will be the floor of the shop/garage. We bought a 50′ x 53′ (approx.) Quonset hut that will cover our house, garage, and shop. The house part of the Quonset will be on a wood and steel post foundation on the south side of the slab. There is room for a walk-out basement under it. In the basement will be tanks for water, storage, and a mosaic studio for Nita. The shop/garage will be larger than the house and includes an office loft for me.
I came back to the Nest in the beginning of May, 2020 to continue the dirt work. My wife, Nita, stayed in AZ at our current home, so I was working by myself. First I created a spot to park our Whimsy Dragon – a home-made travel trailer I built. Then I rented an excavator and started digging on the build site. There are lots of boulders here. A difficult place to dig. I guess they call it the Rocky Mountains for a reason! There was an old concrete foundation on the build site that had to be removed. Fortunately the rented excavator was up to the job. I also built a little deck next to The Whimsy Dragon so I could look at the mountains while enjoying refreshment after hard days with chainsaws, excavators, shovels, etc.
I had to go back to Arizona for a few weeks in the beginning of June. By the time I got back to Colorado near the end of June it had gotten really hot – mid 90’s most afternoons. I needed some shade! The first thing I needed to do was build a roof over the little deck by our trailer. I was still by myself so I had to figure out how to put this structure up by myself. Success! Once I got the roof on, I figured it would be good to have an outdoor kitchen so I built a counter with a sink and added some shelves.
I wasn’t able to work as long each day as I had hoped due to the heat. I only worked in the mornings and, in the afternoons, I would drive up into the mountains to 9,000 to 10,000 feet where it was cooler, or I would take that time to do supply runs. An hour or two in my air-conditioned truck felt good. I got an 1100-gallon water tank for the site and a 325-gallon one for my truck so I can go and buy water. bought the lumber to make the forms for the concrete footings and stem walls. I got the footings dug and formwork in for the building foundation before I had to go back to AZ at the end of July.
Nita came with me when I returned to Colorado in mid-August. Also joining us was our friend, Greg, who came to help for a few weeks, and ended up staying three months! So great to have him with us. Local and not-so-local friends showed up all month. Perfect timing as we were getting into territory where doing it all by myself would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible.
It started to cool down in September so we could get in some longer days. The goal was to get the slab poured before winter, and winter was coming! We had lots of concrete still to pour for our foundation walls. That didn’t stop us from finally getting some artistic stuff going on, like casting shapes in the foundation walls and Nita’s mosaic backsplash for the sink in the outdoor kitchen.
Getting into October and we are racing against winter now. Building forms, calling for concrete deliveries, taking the forms off and setting them up again. Gotta get that slab poured! Winter teased us right near the end of the month with about an 8-inch snowfall.
The snow melted pretty quickly and we were back at it. Now it’s November and we are backfilling the foundation walls with material from our property. Many more hours on the excavator for me. Just as we finished filling we got another snow. Just a little, though so it melted quickly. Then many tons of gravel spread and leveled. On top of that we put styrofoam insulation, re-bar, re-mesh, and PEX tubing for in-floor heating. We got the slab poured during a short warm spell just a few days before the next snowstorm hit. For the concrete finishing we hired a local guy with lots of experience. He was on the power trowel until well after dark but they got it done and it looks great.
The last thing I wanted to get done before leaving for the winter was to build a shed. We had all that lumber from the concrete forms and needed a place to store building materials besides our big red trailer. It turns out we had just enough of the plywood concrete forms to make the walls for a 16′ x 16′ shed. We were done for the winter by December 14, 2020. It was snowing hard when we left the next morning to go back to Arizona. We got out just in time.
We will be back to building in the spring of 2021. By that time I will, hopefully, have figured out how to create a separate blog for The Cosmic Nest. Stay tuned! I’ll post a link to the new blog here once I have it.