We are also former SoCalifornian's who have also lived in SW CO. We used to HS and are UC'ers though we birthed them all in CA. :)
People have answered your questions re: HS and HB. I agree with what they said.
We LOVE NM and Albuquerque. (and we have lived a LOT of places)...IMHO, it's the perfect weather (4 seasons but mild and dry....but you can have snow for excitement)...but no driving on snow which I HATED. I love the big skies, dry air and beautiful scenery. Somehow it's a good fit for us, but some people don't like it and I can understand why.
IMO, the N. Valley (which is where we live) is best for gardening and stuff...the soil is near the river so it's not as bad. We do have to ammend soil but we have great crops but you do need to mulch a lot. There are also areas south that are cheaper and are also somewhat agricultural. We live near the 25/40 interchange and have chickens, turkeys and dogs. MY husband LOVES the irrigation ditches....we can irrigate each summer...which is amazing in the middle of a city. It's something we looked for in a house. THe ditch runs behind our house, buffers us from behind neighbors and is also a nice path to walk along....super cool.
DH and I agree that it's great to be able to ski like he does in the winter at the Sandia's and drive home to a snowless road in town in one day. I like that since ABQ is the "big" town around here, we have so many great programs for the kids like UNM has a music prep school with Suzuki and all kinds of music lessons on Sat. Along with museums, some international things, that kind of stuff but w/o big city traffic and crowds. Granted, I miss things in Socal like abundant international foods, more ethnic diversity and such but given the price you pay, I think ABQ gives you more bang for your buck. Lots of hot springs around, hiking etc. ANd a major airport so we can see family when we need to in a reasonable fashion. (we used to live off the grid and it was torture getting back to CA if we wanted/needed to.)
HTH, you sound like a good fit IMO>