This Land is Our Land

This Land is Our Land

We now officially own our land. One year after deciding that this was where we wanted to set down roots, it finally happened. We had some lag time with the title company and then a few other issues needed to be straightened out but as of yesterday, we closed.

I was looking back on this blog at my entry for October 3, 2018, and that was when we decided this was home to us. A lot has changed in a year. People have come and gone, plans have shifted, time has slipped through our hands, but we’re here.

Now we can set our plans in motion. We have so many things we want to do but chose not to start anything until we knew this was going to be home…for good.

Three years ago when Dom dislocated his knee and was unable to walk for almost a month, he created the above vision board. Nothing causes us to refocus in on our life goals like a serious illness or injury. We have carried this vision board from West Virginia to our new home in Glenwood. It sits in my coffee packaging room to remind us of how far we’ve come and all the things left on the board to fulfill.

In red, I’ve circled all the things that have already manifested…right down to the round tents and the dark skies! We dreamed, we went off the beaten path to get ourselves back on track, we pursued our passions, we found a place with bountiful diversity, we are home in nature, this land is our land, and even the trees circled in the lower left-hand corner of the board looks like our land. I think I’ll repost this board and circle new things that manifest as we move forward!

I also want to create a new board that will be a continuation of the one we started, because we’re always changing and growing.

Four years ago at this time, we sold our home in Los Lunas, and almost to the day four years later we are now in an even better place without a huge looming lifetime mortgage or outrageous bills that would force Dom to work two jobs. That was the ultimate goal for us. We wanted to be in a position where we could build our own environmentally safe house where I wouldn’t get sick from mold. We’re halfway there.

Over this last month, we’ve accomplished a lot!

We got the underside of some of the oak trees trimmed up and removed the huge grapevine bush to make way for our outdoor kitchen. We’ve been cleaning up the wood slash that was in different areas to cut down on fire danger. I think this was the most tedious job I’ve had to do in property clean up. It’s ongoing when you live in a place that is so dry it can easily become a tinderbox and go POOF! in an instant.

We’ve been enjoying BBQs and friends hanging out. We have some friends staying with us for a while and Simmi has been in her glory having kids to play with every day.

We have a White-Nosed Coati living nearby. He doesn’t seem to have any family so I’m unsure how long he’ll stay in the area.

The rock foundation was busted up and the covered porch was removed. I’ve been moving rocks away from the area so that the trailer can be hauled off soon. If you would have told me last year I would be strong enough to haul rocks alone for 4-6 hour time stretches, I would have told you that you were insane. But here I am strong as an ox. It took two years to recover from biotoxin illness but I did it! Every time I go outside and walk around I remind myself of how far I’ve come. From the trees I cut down, to the wood I haul, and the boulders I throw to save our rickety wheelbarrow from certain death, I am strong again.

Every time I procrastinate, it’s because I am still in an old mindset believing it’s going to hurt, or I’m going to have to stop because I’m in too much pain. Then I go outside and start moving my body and I become addicted to the fact that I am NOT in pain and it doesn’t hurt to move…it actually feels good. That’s how I know I’m getting better.

Dom works about 60 hours a week right now. He’s working on a build at the Apache Creek Firehouse, and there are two clients that hired him to do some repair work on their log cabin and deck. He chose to only take one day off, and that time has been spent cutting firewood from branches we cut months ago. In two weeks the firehouse will be finished so his schedule will open up and be a little more fluid again. He’s started designing our cabin and he’s hoping to get that started soon.

The firehouse addition is a monster job. The concrete work, steel framing, metal roof. Oye! He’ll be happy when this job is complete. There are three more roofing jobs after this that are lined up and will take him through the winter months if the weather agrees.

The temperature has plummeted to about 17 degrees at night. What does that mean for us tent folks? Nothing really. Haha

It’s amazing how much living in a home with four walls and a heat source can dull us. We’ve become scrappy creatures over these last six months. When we moved here the temps were hovering at about 22 degrees. We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders wondering what the big deal was. It was 17 last night and it was fine. We haven’t hooked up stoves or a heat source in our tents yet. We sleep well in the cold. Geez, when I think about it, in Scandinavian countries parents leave their kids bundled up in the cold to sleep during the day.

The key is warmth. Are we warm at night? Absolutely! 17 degrees and toasty warm under the covers. No fear of Simmi being cold either. If she were cold, believe me, we would NOT hear the end of it. The protesting would start and not stop until we got her warm.

When the trailer is removed, we’ll be moving our tents up next to the rig and we’ll install some heaters. Simmi will have a catalytic propane heater and we’ll have a woodstove. I’m still on the hunt for a few of them. A friend of ours gave us a tiny one that was super cute, but not big enough to warm the tent before we go to bed. We’re not planning on heating our tents throughout the night, just an hour or two before bed so we’re cozy and can enjoy the early part of the evening by firelight.

I’m really happy with the way things have progressed and the future is looking bright!

A Flurry of Activity

A Flurry of Activity

The months of July, August and now September have been a flurry of activity. With our lives in a constant state of flux (the story of my life) sometimes I feel I don’t have a second to breathe. Our attention and time forever pulled away from us towards something pressing that needs to be done. Property clean up, well and septic inspections, getting rid of things on the property that isn’t needed, and it keeps us in a holding pattern with what we want to do just out of reach!

It’s frustrating but necessary. The one thing that Dom and I learned in walking through this life together is to remove those things that stand like a roadblock in front of us before trying to blaze a new path forward. In the past we would push and push passed something difficult and end up feeling frustrated. Now, we get frustrated as we remove those things that hinder us from moving forward FIRST so we can have a clear vision of how we will proceed.

The weeds are high, the fruits and veggies I planted are still ripening, and little by little the landscape is changing. One trailer is now gone, and in a few weeks, the next trailer will also be gone. Dom had to take down the porch that was connected to the second trailer, and then he has to jackhammer the foundation and remove all the concrete and stones before the trailer can be taken out.

It took most of the day to remove the roof and most of the lumber, which is being reused to build a new area for our washer and dryer and for my coffee roaster.

Some areas of the stone foundation are about a foot thick and the stone and concrete stairs that lead to the door are over three feet thick.

Dom is currently working on three different building projects so his time is extremely limited. We reserve Saturdays for him to rest and take Simmi for some daddy and daughter time down in Silver City where they can play at the park. Most of the time I stay at home with the much needed quiet and catch up on work that might have slipped through my fingers during the week.

We’re under a time crunch with the people coming to take the trailer by the weekend of the 27th. Dom is also going out of town for a few days. I’m often left scratching my head wondering how it will all come together! It’s overwhelming at times.

Not much has happened with the roastery because when we got rid of the first trailer, some of our furniture was being stored in it. We had to move our stuff into the roastery. See, constant flux! We’ll be moving one of our bell tents near the back of the roastery and using it as a storage tent. Once the roastery is completely cleaned out, we can start stuffing the walls with straw light clay.

On the back of the roastery, some of the lumber and roofing from the trailer were used to build an overhang for Ruby my coffee roaster.

This coming weekend Dom will shoot to have another overhang and platform built for the washer and dryer. They were located in the porch that Dom took down. We’ll be moving them to the back where our bathroom is and the washing machine will be plumbed into the hot and cold water. The gray water from the washer will run through a series of brown filters before it empties into the new garden near the roastery.

These are all the little roadblocks that were in the way before we could get down to business!

We were supposed to close on our property the end of August, but the title company was pretty busy, so our new closing is October 1st. We’ve had inspections done. The well inspection passed, and then the septic fun started. Gus Faust was our septic inspector. He did an amazing job, worked with us trying to figure out exactly where the septic even was, and finally unearthing it so it could be inspected. It’s a great system that was installed in the 90’s in perfect condition. The one thing about the system is that there was an addition built onto the front of the rig, and we need to remove it. The septic needs a clearance of 5′ all around it.

That’s another roadblock that needs to be cleared.

Gus removing soil on top of the septic tank to inspect it.

Our shitter isn’t full! Haha Yeah, I had fun putting Cousin Ed on our tank.

Next steps are to remove the front addition. We’ll be reusing all the lumber for a small addition on the side of the roastery. Below is a photo of what would work on the side. To the right of the roastery was where the first trailer was. Now that it’s gone, we can build a patio and the addition for coffee tastings and events.

There have been so many roadblocks but I’m very glad for them. It has caused us to slow down a bit and rethink how we want to move forward. In the process, we have gained new experience as well as insight into what is really important to us. If it wasn’t for the addition needing to be taken apart, I would have never even considered putting an addition on the side of the roastery. Sure, it will take a bit longer, but man, is it going to be fantastic.

I was gonna try and go at breakneck speed to get our market garden completed but then decided that breaking my neck for a few veggies is low on my list of priorities. With the two dogs no longer around, the deer have come and decided that they aren’t afraid of us so they have been hanging out in the garden eating up all my cucumbers. They can’t resist all the acorns that are falling from the oaks. They haven’t touched our peppers…yet! But I feel that one of these days I’ll go out and see all my plants topped.

We’ll finish up the market garden sometime this fall, and start marking the new kitchen garden as well. With our coffee business ramping up and getting ready for homeschooling Simmi in mid-September, I’m still learning how to balance it all. We go at a snail’s pace, but I enjoy every frustrating moment of it all.

We cherish firelight evenings in our tent as Simmi reads to us. The soft glow causes us to calm our brains down and enjoy our time together. After the addition is put onto the roastery, we will be turning our attention to building a winter two room shelter. Most of what will be used will be gathered from our property. Dom has been designing it over the last several weeks. We could go through the winter in our tents, but we’d like to pack them away until late spring and then put them back up for guests in a new location.

I love cabins with living roofs, so that is what we are going to work towards. I can’t wait until we can break ground to start this project.

Our lives have been a flurry of activity…and I love it!

 

 

Answering Questions About Tent Living

Answering Questions About Tent Living

There have been a lot of questions about our decision to live in tents, and I thought I would take some time to answer them. Some answers are easy, others are a little more involved and deserve a more detailed explanation.

Before I start, I thought I would share a video from one of our TV shows, Parks and Recreation. This episode scene was about camping. Not as a lifestyle choice like we’ve decided, but I think it gives a funny representation of what different people think of when they get a chance to go camping:

Camping conjures many images to the mind. Some are fascinated by our decision to live in tents, while others say, “Yeah, but why?” As they smirk unsupportively.

I’ve compiled a list of questions that were asked of us over the last six months from family and friends.

1. What’s the point in living in a tent? Did I miss something? 

This question is the most obvious but deserves the most attention. There are a few reasons we chose to live this way. Our number one reason…it’s the most economical. It seems like that should be the first thing that people think of when they ask the question, but for whatever reason, it’s not the solution they would come up with. Economically it makes financial sense to not be tied to a massive mortgage! We didn’t want to make a commitment to a bank to spend 30+ years of our lives paying for an overpriced house and land AND that doesn’t even include the interest we would be paying. No. That wasn’t for us. We made the decision to live in a remote rural area where it takes an hour or more to get to a supermarket. There is no major industry in our local area, and to try and get a mortgage requires one of us to have steady 40 hour per week work that is consistent day after day and year after year.

That wasn’t for us. We already went the route of owning a house and land with a big mortgage and it required Dom to work two jobs. His commute time was 40 minutes each way, and when he was done with his main job, he went right to his second job. On the weekends, if he wasn’t on the schedule to be at work, he was digging ditches, doing earthworks, digging garden beds, and laying our farm infrastructure. This is NOT sustainable. He was burning out and exhausted. We live on one income. Our daughter is disabled and very early in her life we made the decision that I would be the primary caretaker during the day. I know that sounds strange since most families with disabled children still work multiple jobs, but due to her food allergies and her neurological disorder, she was most safe at home with us.

Living on land we own in tents while we build our farm infrastructure AND emerging coffee company makes good financial sense. It is a sacrifice of sorts, but not much. We still have a building on the property that contains electricity, running water, and a bathroom, but even if we didn’t have that we were planning on building one from scratch. Having access to the current structure affords us the ability to jump in quickly and be fluid with our coffee company. That was important to us. If we didn’t have the building to work from, we just would have made it happen from a tent. Not a big deal at all.

The second reason for living in a tent is that is completely free of all electricity, the tent can breathe, and it is by far the healthiest environment that we’ve ever slept in. Conventional housing contains some pretty nasty environmental toxins. If there was a leaky roof or water damage and the owner did not address the issue, I suffer. Most (almost ALL) landlords are quick to claim that they have never had a water damaged building. Oh no, they would say, our building is clean! Until I start losing my hair, my breathing becomes labored, and I have an autoimmune flareup. Mold always triggers an autoimmune flare up. Hair dye also triggers an autoimmune flareup, but I haven’t dyed my hair in years. I know my triggers.

Our tents are not moldy, they breathe and provide the best living experience for us to date.

2. Aren’t you cold at night? 

It’s chilly right now. We all have different thoughts about what we can handle when it comes to the cold. Living in a regular home with heat, we became accustomed to having the heat set at night to about 70 degrees. However, when we lived in our little place in Reserve, Dom and I didn’t have the heat on at night. We did have a little electric heater for Simmi in her room, but that was set low. Usually, the nightly temperature in our house was about 30 degrees in the winter after the fire died down in the wood stove. We did have propane heaters as well, but we didn’t use them because the odor from the propane bothered us. That sort of prepared us for the cold nights. Until we moved into our tents, that is…

The first night we slept in our tent, the temperature got down to 22 degrees. We were snuggled under the covers (we have a heavy down comforter) and Simmi sleeps under six blankets all year long. Yes, even in the summer. It’s weird, I know. Anyway, while 22 degrees is pretty cold, we were very warm, and sleeping in the crisp cutting cold air was actually refreshing. I never would have thought that especially since most of my life my body temperature has always been low. I freeze even in the summer. I can wear a sweater all year and still be chilly.

The thing that happens when you live outside most of the day, is that you become acclimated to the cold. We as a society are used to being in 70-72 degrees year round. During the winter thermostats are set to 65-70 and during the summer, air conditioning is set to 70-75 degrees. That’s a lot of money wasted via electricity or gas to keep you warm or cool.

We have wood stoves for our tents but we haven’t set them up. It’s spring and it won’t drop below 20 degrees. We can handle that. This year in the fall, we will set up our wood stoves but we don’t intend to feed the fire through the night. It’s not necessary.

The biggest takeaway living in tents during the cold seasons is to make sure you’re properly dressed and that you have warm bedding. That’s about it. If you’re comfortable (not shivering) there’s no need to worry about the cold. I worried a bit about Simmi being able to handle the cold, but she’s proven herself to be far more robust than I gave her credit for. We were prepared to set up a special propane heater (doesn’t give off the propane smell) in her tent at night if she got upset about the cold…but she didn’t. She falls right to sleep in the crisp air and wakes up refreshed and ready for the day. No complaints. Wanna know when the complaints start? When we’re in the business hub starting a fire in the wood stove in the morning. We fire it up while we’re making breakfast, and she sits there like she’s freezing to death while the stove is generating heat. Why does she do that? Well, that’s exactly what she did when we lived in the little adobe in Reserve. Every morning she would sit in front of the wood stove complaining about how cold she was. This was why I worried about her not having heat in the tent in the first place. It turns out, it’s just a habit of hers. She likes to complain about being cold while she’s getting warm. Go figure!

3. Don’t you miss modern technology?

We have all the creature comforts of electricity, internet, phone, heat, bathroom facilities, and running water. We lack for nothing. We live in two worlds currently. Our business hub which is being rehabbed contains all the creature comforts we have been accustomed to. We aren’t interested in living without those amenities, we just want them to be separate from our living space, aka, our camp.

I LOVE technology. Never forget that for a moment. If I could still have an active cell phone in my possession, I would! I am a technology whore. I would do anything for it. It also lead to me becoming electro-hypersensitive (EHS). No more blue tooth devices, streaming wirelessly, cell phones, or wifi. I used to LOVE wifi! No wires or cords anywhere. That was my favorite. But do you want to know what I love more than wireless capability? The fact that our daughter’s learning disabilities are dissolving. Since being in this place without any wifi signals and no cell coverage, Simmi is now reading and comprehending. She used to HATE to try and read, and now she can’t wait to read us a story. That is a huge win, and it wasn’t a coincidence.

4. How do you light your tent up without electricity?

This was a big question. I guess when we’re all used to having technology we never think of alternatives. We currently use taper candles which give off the greatest light and when you combine it with the beauty of the off-white canvas tents, the glow of the candles becomes magical in the tent and from the outside. I love how our tents seem to glow at night. We’ve found that two taper candles light our tent well, three taper candles make it quite bright. We do also have oil lamps, but Simmi and I can’t handle the odor they give off, especially in a confined space. If we’re outside at night, oil lamps work great, but while in our tents or if we’re in the hub after dark, we use candles. Yes, even in the hub we use alternative light source at night if we’re not at camp.

However, one thing that has changed in our habits is that we try to head down to camp at sunset or before. There have been times during these two weeks that we were in the hub after dark, but we’ve made a point to change.

Here’s why…

We know all too well what happens with farm life. Before you know it, it takes over. There are so many projects, too many things on the list that still need to be done, that our personal lives start to disappear. It happened to us when we previously had a CSA. We would be up till all hours of the night trying to get personal things done because all our time during the day until night was spent on outdoor projects.

I’m more interested in balance these days.

The funny thing about candles is that nowadays candles are used for “romance.” No one thinks of using them instead of light bulbs. But that’s why we’re called Firelight Farm. We do have a flashlight, but we need to get a red filter on it. Artificial light after dark is really bad for our circadian rhythm. Artificial light at night turns off the body’s ability to use melatonin which helps us go to sleep at night. Also, melatonin is very important in the regulation of female hormones. I wouldn’t be surprised if women who have problems regulating their hormones or go into early menopause do so because of the habitual use of technology and artificial lights after dark. If you’re up all night and can’t sleep, shut off all your devices (unplug and power them down), turn off all lights and use candles instead. Shut down the electric where you sleep and above all shut off the wifi! It raises blood pressure, blood sugar, cortisol levels, and causes all kinds of physical problems.

We are only awake for a little while after we get to camp. So far we have used a total of 4 taper candles in two weeks.

5. You’ve mentioned that you were going to have an outdoor kitchen and full bathroom, but I haven’t seen that yet and I’m so curious? Please post pics! 

We are planning on building two outdoor kitchens. The first one is our personal camp kitchen not open to the public. The second is our farm to table outdoor kitchen for events we are planning. We are hoping to start our personal camp kitchen by mid-May after we finish rehabbing the business hub. We currently have composting toilets down at camp, but when we build our full freestanding bathroom at camp, it will be complete with flush toilet. We don’t have a date for when the bathroom will be started.

6. Will you plan on living in tents for the rest of your life?

That would be a resounding no, although, we are well on our way to becoming feral. Our plan is to continue building our coffee business, our farm infrastructure, then build a coffee roastery and commercial kitchen. After that, we will turn our attention to building our house and Sara’s house. Our intent is to build all our structures from the materials on our land or obtained locally and/or repurposed.

7. Are you afraid of wild animals and bugs?

Yes and no. Wild animals are here in the Gila Wilderness. We live in an area that has snakes, bears, mountain lions, skunks, wolves, coyotes, eagles, hawks, scorpions, poisonous spiders, fire ants, and more. Our plans are to build a perimeter around our tents to guard against any dangerous animals, but it has been a low priority. If we start to hear coyotes, foxes, and wolves at night, we’ll step up our game and add fencing.

One of the more pleasant things about camping in fall, winter, and early spring is the lack of bugs…other than flies. When there are farm animals there always seems to be flies. We’re in growing zone 7B which means the winter months don’t get too cold and during the day it warms up nicely here. No need for more than a light jacket during the day in winter. This will be our first summer here, so I’m not sure what kinds of bugs will be active and desperately trying to get into our tents. Haha, We will us diatomaceous earth in the nooks and crannies of our tents as well outside around the base of the tent, but other than that, we don’t use bug spray or other types of chemicals.

Those are the majority of the reoccurring questions we get about our current lifestyle. And make no mistake, this is a lifestyle choice.

Many who have been camping might wonder how we could ever do this. We have our very comfortable beds and bed frames, area rug, and our special chairs, and clothes in our tent. All the comforts we would have had in our past bedroom are in our tent. Simmi has her very comfy mattress, dresser, all her favorite blankets, clothes. What more does one keep in their bedroom? How much room do you need? We spend 7-9 hours per night in our bedrooms. That is a long time each day. That is the same every day of the year, and it’s the same in a tent. I don’t think I would be happy sleeping in a sleeping bag on the hard floor or even on a cot. I wouldn’t be happy waking up and putting my feet down on shifty tarp that’s hard to clean or keep clean. I know that I wouldn’t be happy in a thin vinyl tent that feels like a hobo motel!

That is not my idea of camping full time for the next few years. We live very well here. Anyone that will come to stay with us for the week (family or friends) will stay in a tent like ours, with a comfortable bed, warm blankets, and clean sheets. They won’t be sleeping in a vinyl tent and sleeping bag on the ground. If they visit in the winter, they’ll have heat from a wood stove that they will have the option of using through the night.

Any other questions? Leave a comment, I would be happy to answer them…if I have the answer.

Our First Full Week on Our Land

Our First Full Week on Our Land

We did it. Finally, at long last, we are getting settled on our land. There were a few things that changed prior to moving onto the land and it worked out really well, but we needed to shift our plans. Originally we were planning on building our coffee company’s business hub along with our bathroom and outdoor kitchen. However, our friends who would have lived right next door to us decided to move and made their three RVs and workshop available to us. This was a godsend. I was under the gun (Dom was too!) to get Buffalo Mountain up and running as soon as possible which would have meant that our coffee company would operate from inside one of our bell tents until the building was finished. But now we will be rehabbing the main RV, it will become the business hub until we build our roastery and commercial kitchen.

The RV was a large Winnabego and four rooms were added onto the RV to give them a bit more space. This was their landing pad for when they build their dream home…but their plans changed. I can relate for sure. I can’t tell you how many times our plans have changed within just a week or two. Anyway, we are super thrilled to have the opportunity to transition our coffee company fairly quickly. One room will be used for my art studio, the second room will be used as our office, the third room was created to make the bathroom much bigger, and the fourth room which is located in the front of the RV will be used for handling coffee, bagging up products.

The way we were operating Buffalo Mountain before was extremely tight. We had only one room to use for EVERYTHING. If I needed to put together coffee wedding favors for 100 guests, the room needed to be cleared out so that I could work on the art for the front of the favors. The largest wedding I’ve done had 200 guests and I needed to get everything done in a room that only fit a 3×6′ table.

I’m also a hardcore introvert, so having two extroverts bopping around (one who is with me 24/7) and only having a small space to work was challenging to say the least.

But we made it work.

And now I have a room for each important part of our coffee company. I no longer need to have my office in our bedroom or trying to teach Simmi a new lesson since I homeschool her at the table that I need to work at. She now has her very own special nook for her art projects, beads, and her little tv.

The front of the hub, pictured above, will be painted and finished. They were in the process of building the rooms which were ingeniously created from pallets. The inside is still unfinished, so we’ll be finishing the rooms and painting everything in the next few weeks.

We have been sleeping in our tent but didn’t get much set up down in camp. We turned our attention to getting the hub ready for all the equipment, supplies, and inventory.

Today we brought down our chairs and rug for our tent. We’ve been living like hobos for the last week. We let Simmi sleep with us while she got used to living in tents. It’s a big change for her…for all of us. Tonight she’ll sleep in her own bed in our tent and tomorrow she’ll be moved to her own tent. All her things were moved into her new space. We need to build low profile shelves for her clothes.

Even though our tents are four-season tents, we decided that because it is already spring, not to bother hooking up the woodstoves. The nights have been chilly, but our blankets and comforters are super warm. Simmi has a habit of sleeping with 6 blankets, even in the summertime. There is no way that this child of ours could be cold! The first night we were here the temperature got down to 22 degrees. Since that first night, it’s gotten much warmer at night.

We have our kitchen tent set up, but we haven’t moved our kitchen supplies in yet. We need to purchase a hose to run to our camp so we can create our kitchen sink. We have an on-demand camp water heater that hooks up to propane. Once we have our sink set up, we’ll be ready to live down there most of the day. For now, we’re cooking in the RV, and catching up with laundry.

Simmi did well going back and forth every few days with more of our boxes of things. She wasn’t happy about being crammed into one seat (she likes to sprawl) but she was a trooper.

The horses are doing well. They’re antsy to get out on pasture. Dom made some strides getting more posts up for them and now they are spending a few hours each day out there. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we can get the rest of the posts up and the tape going for them.

I love seeing them every morning and throughout the day. They have such a beautiful presence about them.

Our kitchen tent. It’s more for eating and hanging out. We’ll be setting up a separate smaller area for our camp stove and sink.

The photo above was from our time living in Maine. It was the first time we had an outdoor kitchen and it helped to prepare us for living outside again.

Mineral Creek has been flowing. We usually cross the creek to get to our camp, but now we have to take a back road from Mogollon.

We live in such a beautiful part of Catron County.

We’ve been watching a few of our friend’s dogs and Simmi is obsessed with feeding them. They’re fatties, but for some reason, she is always concerned with their nutrition.

Our special guests until May. Puna and Bohdi. These fatties are always ready to attack with lots of love and slobbery kisses.

The round pen is up in the pasture.

There’s a swing in front of the hub and Simmi is on it at least 3 times a day.

One of the things I love so much about the land are all the sprawling scrub oak trees.

In the back of the hub is a shade garden with cactus, scrub oak and juniper.

This photo was taken at midday. The shade is a welcome addition in the heat of the day.

Dom’s workshop.

Another structure built with pallets. We’ll work on finishing this building too.

Inside the workshop.

This week we’ll also be working on creating a new coop for the chickens.

This past week my new bible arrived. I’m not kidding you! This book is a treasure trove of amazing ideas. Author Anna Edey created many different systems for managing graywater and blackwater from toilets. The one system I was most interested in was a composting flush toilet where worms are at the heart of the system. I’ve known about her composting flush toilet for a long time, but just ordered her book two weeks ago.

Our bathroom at our camp, along with our graywater will be created using the Solviva method. Eventually we want to convert the business hub over to this system as well.

Things are going well and we’re making great strides.

 

When Your Whole House Fits in the Car

When Your Whole House Fits in the Car

 “A home is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fantastic celebration, even if by celebration I mean that you couldn’t keep your eyes open past 10 and blissfully slept your way into the new year.

The day after Christmas we took a road trip to buy three Stout Overland 5000 Bell Tents. We purchased them from a man who owns a glamping business at the Grand Canyon. Brand new, these tents cost between $1,200- $1,700 each. They are four seasons and each tent has a stove jack for a woodburning stove.

On the right is a photo of what bell tents look like when they’re all decked out. Each of the tents is 16 feet in diameter and the center pole height is about 10 feet, which is great for Dom since he’s so tall.

Our original plan was to create a series of hybrid tent cabins to live in, but after we finally added the cost of each tent with canvas, lumber, and other materials we would need, the cost was around $850 per tent to create. That was WAYYYY out of budget for us.

As I was looking through craigslist for tents, I came across an ad for three bell tents. The price was hard to pass up, so Dom and I decided to purchase them. The look is very different than what I had drawn out on paper for our tent cabins since I wasn’t thinking of creating round tent structures, but it will work just fine.

The bell tents take only about 30 minutes for a person to put up, which is FAR less time than it would have been for us to build the foundation and frame and then sew the canvas for the top.

By choosing these tents, we have saved ourselves a lot of money as well as time. You can’t go wrong with that great combination.

The man we purchased the tents from also threw in two more tents for free to use as spare parts for our tents, but he said that if I’m creative enough and can mend the other two tents, we’d have five. I’ll be examining the two extra tents to see if they can be salvaged. If so, we will use them to create one of them as our kitchen, and the second as our living room/dining room. It will be a house of 5 tents.

Our coffee company will also have its own tent and it will be the only tent with full power for use of my computer, Agnus, and some of the electronics and lighting I use when I’m working. This tent will also have a work area for Simmi to create her jewelry, art, and school work.

Dom and I will have our own tent, and Simmi will have her own.

We’re pretty excited about how everything is coming along. Next week we will start the process of mending any small holes or tears in the tents, prepare the location for the tents, and start going through our things to see what we don’t want to take with us.

As we think of everything that needs to happen before we can move down there, we’re estimating that we won’t be living down there full time for at least two months. It all depends on how quickly we can get certain things accomplished.

We have electric and well water, but we still need to get a phone guy out there to put in our line.

I love how things are evolving. I also really love that we don’t have a mortgage or looming debt hanging over us! Dom and I had a discussion about forest fires which happens frequently in Gila where we are. We love that if we needed to evacuate the area, we could empty the tents, and take them in the car with us. It would only take an hour or so to get them all collapsed and put into the car. That is a HUGE weight off of our minds because when you live in an area that is prone to fires, losing a house can be devastating! If we lost our belongings we would still have tents to live in. How cool is that?!

The land is currently covered in snow, and we’re supposed to get more snow through next week. It’s the perfect time to go over each tent to make sure they don’t have any little holes, rips or tears. I do need to reinforce some areas, but until I get each tent out and all the areas marked that need repairs, I won’t know what I need to complete each repair. It might be a patch kit, or I might need to get a used duty sewing machine. The sewing machine I have has a hard time sewing the binding on a quilt, so I wouldn’t even attempt to make repairs using it.

I’ve never worked with a round space before, so it was a little difficult for me to conceptualize how everything would fit into each tent. I wanted to have everything to scale on paper so I knew what would fit, what would still need to be made, and what we need to get rid of or store away for when we build our house.

In a room that is square or rectangle, it’s easy to draw furniture and walkways into a room but when you’re dealing with a circle and the ceiling starts out very low and works its way up to a 10-foot height, things get a little tricky. So I created the size of the tent to scale on paper, and then each piece of furniture was cut out to scale as well. That way I could manipulate where each piece would go and it would show me just how much room we had to walk around.

When I worked on Simmi’s tent, she didn’t quite understand how her bed and shelves were to scale, so I found an ephemera cutout that I use in my art to be Simmi and placed her on the bed. That seemed to work for her and then she saw just how big her tent was.

In Simmi’s tent, she will have her bed, two small nightstands, and a series of 5 or 6 two-tier shelves. These will hold all her prized possessions and clothing. She wanted a larger table and two chairs for her and her friend to do activities like arts or crafts. We will most likely get a small portable propane heater for her tent, but we are still unsure. I am uneasy about having a woodstove in her tent. She is old enough to have one, but if we did allow it, it would need quite a bit of “mama reinforcement” otherwise I’ll be up all night wondering if a stuffed animal got too close to it, or she put her clothing a little too close to the stove.

I go through at least a hundred scenarios in my mind of what could possibly happen when an 11 year old has a woodstove in her room. A propane heater is more appropriate. Where we live right now there is a propane heater in her room, but she doesn’t go near it. We only used it a few times last winter, and since then got another heating source for her room.

I could be completely overreacting to the heating situation. I just know she’s fascinated by fire, and when we have the woodstove going (which is nearly 24/7) in the main part of the house, she’s always hovering around it, sitting by it, and enamored with the glow of the flames. She can’t help herself. What kid can, right?!

There will be no electric in her tent, just a few battery operated lanterns for light. We’ve played with the idea of putting an electric heater in her tent, but I really don’t want any electric in either of the tents where we sleep.

The tent in the photo to the left I’m still messing around with. This tent is more of an idea since we don’t know what shape the extra tent given to us is like. We would need to build a new dining table (ours is way too wide) but our chairs can all be used.

I have other drawings, but I’ll post them at a later time.

There have been family concerns as we’ve started to discuss our master plan. Dom and I seem to be the family pioneers, doing things that aren’t typically done by our extended families. We don’t know anyone in either of our families that has ever lived in tents while building a house. It seems so….primitive.

But there aren’t many families that set out with the goal of not having a mortgage either. Or a non-electric house. Or limited types of technology because of my sensitivity to different types of motors in both sound and electric magnetic sensitivity.

But here we are! On quite the adventure. On Facebook, youtube, and Instagram I have found many families who have lived in tents during the years of building their farm and home, and those who have chosen to live in RVs. Anything to avoid paying rent and utilities in one place, while trying to build a home or infrastructure in another.

I often think those who are carrying more than one mortgage or paying rent AND a mortgage must be so stressed out. Or maybe they found a better way.

For us, this is the best way. It’s healthy and freeing to reconnect to the natural world. I believe we as a people are far too disconnected from the “real world.” Nature is the real world. The changing seasons with its ebb and flow of fleeting light in winter and extended shine in summer all play into the health and well being of us as humans. We are so disconnected from the sun, spending most of our days inside at work or in our homes. If we go out, it’s only briefly. We have come to fear the elements.

Living in fear is a poor use of our time and energy. We have this gift of life, and yet we hide away in dark homes or in closed up buildings all day at work. We are no better than animals in the zoo who have lost our true habitat.

We must not fear the unknown. We don’t have all the answers, but it’s okay not to know. We do not walk into this life natively, believing that nothing will ever harm us, or that we will never be inconvenienced. It’s going to happen.

Will there be bears and mountain lions? Yes. Are we aware that they browse our property? Yes, and I’ve found bear scat on one of our walks. It happens to be exactly where we’ll be putting our tents. But wildlife has always been a part of the real world. The world we are entering. Learning to live with them and keep ourselves protected is important. I can tell you this much though, it isn’t like braving the wild real world of Alaska where grizzlies roam.

Being afraid of the real world should be a personal indication that you are disconnected. Reconnection is the cure.

Anyway, I digress!

Here are some photos from Christmas 2018- New Year 2019:

Christmas eve was filled with excitement and wonder. We think Simmi is secretly an elf (Like Buddy the Elf) because as soon as the weather turns cold in early fall, she starts singing Christmas songs and it doesn’t stop until after we put the decorations away. This is also a struggle since she would keep Christmas decor up all year if she could.

Even though the electricity from the lights bothers me, I deal with it because I’ve always loved white lights at Christmas. Simmi would have been upset if we didn’t have lights around the window too.

Christmas night Sara joined us for dinner. She always has something stylish to wear, from well-appointed unique hats to the lavishly gorgeous embellished suede and lamb fur coat. And lets not forget the badass boots that go above the knee. I know you can’t see those in the photo, but she’s sporting them! Sara will be moving onto the land sometime in 2019 with her three gorgeous horses.

This is Josey (Joseph) and Leaf.

This is Galeno the great. I gave him the last part of his name because he’s a fatty and likes to keep eating. Haha.

My girl in her silliness wanted me to take a photo of her new hair style. She was pretty pleased with herself!

A very sweet friend of ours, Wendy, gave Simmi water colors, paint brushes and lots of creative things for Simmi to do. Simmi was plotting for at least three days which one of Wendy’s gifts she would open first. Wendy did not disappoint! Thank you Wendy for all the love you put into make Simmi’s Christmas magical.

The first thing she painted was a horse. Of course!

Christmas night was filled with great conversation, awesome food, and lots of laughter.

By the end of the evening, I think we completely wore Sara out. Haha

New Year’s Eve was fabulous. We definitely drank a little too much wine that night! We also hydrated too with plenty of water. What? You don’t drink ice water out of a large wine glass? 😉

New Year’s day we woke up to a foot of snow!

Not a soul to be found on the roads!

From the weight of the snow, Sara’s hayport collapsed. After we had some coffee and breakfast, we headed down to her place to get everything dug out.

We had some help from a neighbor getting the tarps out.

Sara one of the best humans I’ve ever had the privilege of getting to know. She’s a horsewoman and an extremely gifted writer. I’m creating a space on our blog for her to write.

New Year’s day breakfast. Ya can’t beat homemade flatbread, brie, grapes, and meat.

Josey was sporting some icicles.

That face!

It’s been an amazing start to the new year.