Last month Joan Hardin watched her home go from green to red, to green again - on the El Paso County Sheriff's Office home assessment list, "green" stood for OK, while "red" meant destroyed by the Black Forest fire.
Ultimately her home survived. But a month after the Black Forest fire destroyed much of the historic ranch buildings on Hardin's property, she believes starting over might have been simpler had the fire taken everything. Now, she must pick a company to clean her home, and decide whether or not a partially damaged historic garage can be saved.
"I had a moment this morning," she said on Tuesday, "when I thought, you know if the whole thing had burned down, I would have had it a whole heck of a lot easier."
While some homeowners who lost their homes might already have checks in-hand from their insurance companies, or are else putting together a list of lost contents, Hardin and other homeowners have different insurance struggles before them. Hardin has to get her home cleaned, but doesn't yet know if her insurance company, Colorado Farm Bureau, will pay the full cost. While her home survived, she lost three historic buildings - a 130-year-old barn among them - that were too old to insure, and in many ways, irreplaceable. Their contents, motley collections of historic farming tools and family treasures, where the only articles that she could insure. They were part of the original Vollmer brothers homestead, founded around 1900, that was sold to the Hardin family in the 1946.
"Saddest thing about losing that, is there are not many of those old barns out there," Hardin said, gesturing to the slightly scorched expanse of trees before her. "The best part of the whole place were those old barns," she said of her property.
The barn was two-stories, with wood so weathered and nearly "pertified" that it was impossible to even drive a nail into it, Hardin said. In the winter it sheltered three of the Hardins' 100 head of cattle, which Hardin and her husband Don liked to bring into Black Forest from Truckton for the local children to see. At Christmas, the barn would glow with Joan Hardin's lifetime collection of lights, which she stored in another old shed that burned.
Now, all that remains of the historic Hardin ranch, where Don Hardin grew up, is the Hardins' green-painted house, a homesteading cabin, a modern barn, and a large pile of melted metal. The Hardins also lost a semi-trailer where they stored generations of family antiques, which were all insured, Joan Hardin said. Another wooden garage, built more than 80 years ago, was partially scorched, but it too might be destroyed, as it makes no sense to repair half of it, Hardin said.
Hardin Road, where the Hardins live and which was named for the family, has a similar mixture of homes that were utterly decimated and others that survived, but now must contend with an entirely new Black Forest, devoid of some neighbors and some of its charm.
But even without her barn, Hardin intends to bring the cattle back this winter, once they rebuild the scorched corrals. She even plans to decorate the remaining buildings on her property with new lights at Christmastime.
"This is our life, such as it is," she said.
Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261