For the past 23 years, Debbie Ohler has kept the books for The Independent, through two sets of owners. Now, as she prepares to walk through the gilded doorway called “retirement,” we learn a bit about how this dedicated bookkeeper will be keeping herself busy once she leaves the newspaper behind.

Debbie and her husband Chuck have lived in their home near Pine Springs for the past 32 years, and she has many plans for projects now that time will be more abundant, she said.

One of those projects was to remodel their laundry room and kitchen. Debbie proudly showed off the finished rooms, noting how happy she was to finally be done with them. “We were going to do this three years ago,” said Debbie. “It’s just never ending,” she said, laughing.

But that’s okay, because, as Chuck said, “People are defined by projects.”

Chuck also spent a few years working at The Independent, where he used his computer skills to do the layout and act as tech support. Back in the day, he was a drummer for the Albuquerque Orchestra, and according to Debbie, “Chuck drums on everything. The table, the sink…”

“Yeah, the new sink isn’t quite as nice. The old sink had a little more tonal quality to it,” he said with a chuckle.

“We have a list of projects,” continued Debbie. “If I had time I could do this; if I had time I could do that,” and Debbie is not a woman with little to do.

In addition to the one customer she’ll retain in retirement, Debbie will be gardening, quilting, remodeling more of the house and grounds, creating art to add to her home’s facade, and tending to the 32 animals in the couple’s care, she said.

These include one glorious beast of a dog named Stetson, one cat, 16 Nigerian goats, 12 chickens, one rooster, and a 36-year-old parrot named Dusty. “He used to call one of our dogs,” said Debbie of the bird. To this, Dusty mimicked a hearty human laugh, as though the memory of the caper tickled him.

The Ohlers have been keeping goats for about 17 years. “I used to make cheese. I used to make soap,” said Debbie. “We showed for quite a while with the club, and then we did milk testing. And I really love the milk testing, because the goats don’t have to look pretty, you don’t have to look pretty. You could go out in your pajamas and just milk, right? Nobody cares. It’s about the milk.”

The Ohlers’ goats’ milk was so good, in fact, they have a national champion in their pen whose milk won the title of Highest Butterfat Content in the nation, she said proudly.

“I love milk!” exclaimed Debbie. “I just love the whole milking process.”

Though the couple isn’t keeping the goats for their milk anymore, they do make great pets, said Chuck.

“They are fun,” he said. “They are just really cool animals. They’re about as smart as a dog. They all know their names. And believe it or not, you can house train a female goat. We’ve never successfully house trained a male goat though.”

The Ohlers’ yard is not only filled with animals, but also colorful pots full of plants. Debbie is currently growing potatoes, tomatoes, chiles, strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, basil, and rosemary, as well as several blooming flowers like hollyhocks, lavender, and red-hot pokers.

The colors naturally occurring throughout the Ohler’s property are enhanced by a large sunshine block barn quilt Debbie painted and attached to the couple’s solar shed. She said she plans to add more to the home’s exterior.

Actual quilting is another hobby of Debbie’s. On her bed lies a massive optical illusion quilt created out of a repeating black, white, and red square pattern that tricks the eye. She calls it “Night and Day.”

The color choice was Chuck’s, said Debbie, and initially, she didn’t like it at all. “After I got it done though, I really like it now.”

She displayed other incredible quilts. One is stitched together with diamonds and rectangles of deep, jewel-toned batik fabric. Another is made up of varying geometric shapes in orange, teal, purple, and cream. All are exquisitely made.

Debbie’s home is also filled with paintings she’s done. Though Debbie said “I’m not an artist. I just dibble,” her paintings encompass a wide range of styles.

One wall features watercolors, another wall holds a palette knife brush creation, and elsewhere are a series that Debbie painted then embroidered, giving the finished pieces an unexpectedly realistic texture.

Debbie expressed no hesitation about settling comfortably into retirement. She said she’s very much looking forward to keeping busy around the house with her husband of 36 years.

“I have to be doing something,” she said.

Debbie recalled a conversation she had with a friend who was also nearing retirement. “‘Aren’t you ever going to retire?’ I asked him. He said ‘Yeah but I don’t have anything to do. You’ve got hobbies. You’ve got goats. You’ve got things. You do a lot of stuff. I don’t have anything. I said ‘Well you better start looking. Everybody’s got to do something.’”

Debbie Ohler has no shortage of “somethings” to choose from. One of the things she’s most looking forward to is to simply be at her home in the beautiful East Mountains.

“We drove every day to town in our younger years,” said Debbie. “We said we’d eventually retire and be out here, you know? That’s the goal. If we like it that much, let’s be out here. But you make that sacrifice to be able to be home. Now we need to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy where we live.”

Congratulations on the next phase of your life, Debbie. And we thank you.