Monday, February 14, 2011

Goodbye, Rocket Man

Last night our old horse Rocket died. Thankfully, he only had one day of being off his feed before he went down. Somewhere between 27 and 28 years of age Rocket Man, our nickname for him, was a dark bay thoroughbred who came to us by way of one of Bob's Charco Broiler buddies, Nick. He was a horse of good breeding but bad temperment and Nick had decided to get rid of him because he'd just put a lot of money into having him trained only to be told that he was untrainable. Bob, a man who loves horses and didn't buy that label of untrainable, offered to take the thoroughbred off Nick's hands. That was about 1988.

(Rocket and Sid in their younger days.)
We soon found ourselves the proud owners of four horses, three of Nick's and one that Bob's dad gave him. For years the four, all geldings, lived, ate, and played together on our 1-1/2 acre pasture out back. Bob rode them, trained them, even harnessed them to pull weight like a sled or a plow. And then we started losing them. Rattler, Bob's favorite, was a playful, intelligent quarter horse, bitten on the nose by a rattle snake as a colt but friendly and willing. He died of an infection in his heart, possibly the result of that snake bite. Sid, the black quarterhorse Bob gave to me, was small in stature with the nicest feet and hooves I've seen. An hornery horse always looking for a break in the fence from which to escape, Sid had been infested with parasites as a colt and the scar tissue in his gut led to his early death.

(Roamer and Rocket, fall of 2010)
For the past fifteen years or so Roamer and Rocket have lived out back, settling into old age and earning that moniker hayburners. When the grandkids asked to ride them we explained that they were both retired now and resented being asked to carry people on their backs. Rocket probably died of natural causes. He made it through the winter in good shape, plenty of fat on his ribs and long guard hairs on his coat. He died on a warm, dry evening in mid February.

Starting today Roamer will live the life of a solitary horse which is not the best life but maybe for an old horse not too bad.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Judy's Scrap Bag Quilt

When my stepmom passed away two years ago I came into possession of a bag of fabric scraps that had belonged to her, probably quilting scraps. I got them out a couple of weeks ago and sorted them by color, letting my mind work on ways to create a quilt of some sort using these little scraps. I soon realized that most of the scraps were quite old and had probably belonged to Judy's mother who was also a quilter. I went to and searched for vintage fabrics which helped me to date the fabric scraps but even better than that showed me there are a lot of people who appreciate and even specialize in collecting vintage fabrics. What a visual treat that was!

Since the scraps were various shapes and not large enough to cut into squares or rectangles of a decent size I opted to applique them to a solid piece of cloth rather than piece them together. Applique is not something I'm good at - just can't seem to master that tiny stitch around the edge that anchors the cloth to the background fabric without being obvious. But I did it anyway and those little stitches do show. I found some old solid green fabric in my own collection and used it to make the sashes. I added a solid piece of fabric to the back and now I'm quilting this little 23"x23" scrap quilt and when it's finished I'll frame it and hang it. I think Judy would like it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Drop City, Libre, and Domes

I just read a very interesting book titled "Huerfano" by Roberta Price, a memoir of the years she lived at Libre, a commune in the Colorado mountains near Walsenburg. It brought back memories of my brief visit to Libre in the summer of 1973 with my husband and five-year-old son, Patrick.

In 1972 we bought a 3-acre property in rural Colorado and pondered whether to raze the old farmhouse or remodel it. Bob designed houses for a living back then so it was logical that he would draft several designs before settling on one that would fit our needs and budget. I thought we'd agreed on a wrap-around addition to the 24'x24' story-and-a-half farm house until the day he told me about geodesic domes. Next thing I knew he and a friend had crafted a scale model of a dome out of balsa wood and hot glue and were talking of nothing else. While we considered, designed, and dreamed we bought a 14'x53' mobile home and parked it next to the old farmhouse. This was to be our home for the next few years - more years than we like to admit.

The summer of '73 we decided to take a little vacation to Taos, New Mexico and along the way visit Drop City, a commune near Trinidad, Colorado, where the hippies fabricated geodesic domes from car tops hacked out with axes and welded into triangles to create hexagons and pentagons. The place was deserted by then, having reached its zenith a few years before.


In reading the book "Domebook 2" Bob learned of the Libre community in the mountains sixty-five miles northwest of Drop City near Gardner, Colorado. This was the place where many of the Droppers migrated to after Drop City self-destructed. We had both read Peter Rabbit's book "Drop City" and knew that he was now living at Libre, an experiment in communal living. We drove the unpaved roads to that community one bright summer day, stayed a couple of hours and talked to people there who were building a small school, then followed that same road back to the interstate highway and headed south to Capulin volcano without seeing the 40-foot dome the Red Rockers had built near Libre. I'm not sure what we were looking for at Libre but we found nothing to ever take us back there.

We parked in the visitors' parking area at Capulin Monument and hiked to the rim where we perched long enough to take a few photographs then returned to our car and headed south over Raton Pass and along the winding roads into Taos, New Mexico.


In 1973 Taos was still a quiet town known for its artists and the Taos Pueblo. We visited the pueblo, ate fresh hot bread baked in a horno, bought beads from a little Native American girl, and were invited inside a second-story room in the pueblo. I'm told that tourists are no longer allowed inside the pueblo so I feel prvileged to have seen it in 1973. We also walked through the streets in town and stopped in at many art and book shops. But our focus was on the new and innovative architecture and house construction on the outskirts of town. We toured a home being built of empty aluminum cans. The air trapped within the cans was to provide the insulation and the cylindrical shape was to provide the strength.


We came back home from that vacation ready and eager to build our own dome. Bob decided on a 5/8, three frequency alternate dome. He also decided to attach it to the existing farmhouse. I had lobbied for that as I loved the old fir floors in the house and had a sentimental attachment to the house. Bob has said many times over the years that if he had it to do over he would never have opted to attach the dome to the old house for it was a very difficult thing to do. As a dome is built, layer upon layer of triangles, the walls shift. But Bob had attached the lower walls of the dome to the old house which did not allow for shifting. After fighting it for awhile he finally detached the dome walls and cut openings in the old house which allowed him to march the freestanding dome walls right though the old house. When the dome was complete only then did he go back and secure the walls to the existing house.

Building the dome became a lifestyle for us. We scrounged for building materials and traded Bob's talents in design for bricklaying, electrical work, and more. Bob built the dome with the help of various friends after hours, for we both held full time jobs. It took years. There are so many stories I could tell about those years of building the house. The insulation story is one of my favorites. But I'll save that for another blog.

We moved in before the house was complete. That may have been a mistake for once we were in the construction slowed to a snail's pace. We were low on money and enthusiasm. So we learned to live with unfinished walls and no wall cabinets in the kitchen. And we joked with friends about when the house would be finished, but it weighed heavily on Bob, not much of a joke to him. Over the next few years he added a greenhouse to the south side of the old farm house, enlarged the east-facing deck, converted the deck off the bedroom to a sloped roof over the entryway and added a front porch. He also removed two triangular windows on the east wall of the dome and framed that space in, something he'd been threatening to do for years because the sunshine that streamed through those windows each morning made eating breakfast at the table an unpleasant experience.

Now the year is 2011; it's been thirty-eight years since we made that trip to Drop City and Libre but Roberta Price's book brought it all back to me, the promise of building a unique home inexpensively and quickly, one that would envelop us in an atmosphere of good energy and creative vibes, and a home we could build ourselves. We did it and I've enjoyed the entire experience. We both love our little dome home on the Colorado prairie.