Still commuting to Denver as a firefighter, Josh Ciardullo and his family go rural after being drawn to the Wellington area.
By Libby James
North Forty News
The Ciardullo family—Josh, 36, Erica, 33, and their son, Henry, 10—open their eyes every morning to a long stretch of open fields, some green, some dryland tan, illuminated most mornings by a brilliant rising sun. Recent transplants from “suburban Boulder,” the family is reveling in the open spaces that surround them.
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They have been living in a house they designed and built, perched on a gentle hillside overlooking 33 acres of land in Indian Creek Meadows north and east of Wellington, since the end of June. Already, there’s a flock of chickens out back happily squawking and hunting for tidbits around their mobile chicken coop. “The wheels make it convenient to move to a new patch of ground,” Josh explains.
Caring for the chickens has become Henry’s task. Every morning he feeds and waters the chickens and makes sure they are safe before he heads off to meet the bus that takes him to Eyestone Elementary School, where he is a fifth grader. “Henry loves
animals, and he loves this place. There’s been an amazing change in him since we’ve lived here,” his dad says.
Every school day, Erica heads south to Lesher Middle School in Fort Collins, where she teaches history. Five times a month, Josh commutes to Denver for a 48-hour shift as a firefighter. The rest of the time, he’s well on his way to becoming a self-sufficient farmer, irrigation engineer, cattle rancher and all-around fix-it person. He admits that if he didn’t have a job that allowed him so much free time, he would not be able to make all his dreams come true.
He and Erica grew up in the Denver area and had no experience with life on a farm. A couple of years ago, they built a house in Lafayette, which seemed fine and was convenient to their jobs. Erica was teaching in Denver at the time. They became familiar with the small Indian Creek Meadows development off Nunn Road east and north of Wellington when they came to visit Josh’s good friend Matt Medeiros and his family who were living on an acreage nearby. Quite often they spent the night with the family. It felt as if they were on vacation.
When Erica decided she needed to change schools, and Henry seemed to be spending less time outside and more time peering at a screen, the couple began to think about a move. “Lafayette was seeming a bit pretentious,” Josh said. “We became interested in growing our own food and owning some land.”
The lot they purchased in Indian Creek Meadows was one of the last to sell. The seller threw in the additional acreage, water rights included, because the land was not suitable for development. Josh describes the property as an unusual combination of agricultural and residential in a development that has only a dozen homes.
Meanwhile, their friend Medeiros, who had been a firefighter, was injured on the job and forced to find different work. He was in process of putting together a construction business. The Ciardullos were among his first clients. Josh says it was a great match, describing Medeiros as a perfectionist as well as “a guy who can do anything.”
The house that resulted suits the family perfectly. It has an open floor plan. Simple, spacious and uncluttered, it gives one a feeling of being outdoors. All the walls are white, contrasted with dark flooring and a couple of comfortable-looking couches. An open staircase leads to a second floor where there’s an expansive view in every direction.
What’s apparent in this place, and in talking with Josh, is a whole lot of potential. This year a small garden was all there was time for. “We’ll probably get a few carrots,” Josh says. “Next year it will be much bigger.”
One day, there will be an orchard out back as well. No doubt the chicken population will grow, and once the irrigation system is worked out, there will be cows. Josh has plans for a couple of outbuildings as well.
He feels fortunate to have a mentor in the neighborhood with experience raising cattle. His lack of agricultural experience doesn’t bother him. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading,” he says. He’s also been volunteering at Harvest Farm in Wellington, to increase his ag knowledge.
Mostly he’s pleased that he and Erica were able to sell their Lafayette house at a price good enough to enable them to start over with a new house, a big chunk of land and an environment that is nourishing to all three of them.
“People dream of buying land ‘someday,’ ” Josh said. “I decided, Why not do it now? It was a push financially, but we were able to manage it.”