The Eye of the Beholder ./part 1

•8 November 13 • 1 Comment

It seems that we always begin a new post with something to the effect of, “Sorry to not have written more, it’s been pretty busy around here …”  In this case, Kate has charged me to say some things about what we’ve been up to this summer.

I think last we left off with a picture of empty corral panels set in the driveway.  Though many have heard already, meet Drishti.

He likes to snack from the front flower bed.  He also likes to nap.
He also likes to eat, did I mention that?

Drishti has some new friends to hang out with, too.
He also likes to go out for walks.

Of course, Mister Drishti dropped in here somewhat unexpectedly.  We weren’t quite fully prepared.  And the birds now, too.  Snow is coming.
So, construction of the barn began ..
         There were a couple delays .. seasonal monsoons brought afternoon showers and a tree in the driveway was struck by lightning, then fall came on fast.  

And then we had Move In Day!  Yea!



In the meantime, Kate also managed to finish the plastering upstairs with some natural clay we found locally.  We also managed to keep a little water in the garden.



and of course, Kate converted some of the goods into yummies ..


Blue Hubbard pie & quiche.

I keep saying in here somewhere there is a joke about what I call ‘farm math’.
Barn materials:           $4500
Animal feed:           $800
Tack & equipment:            $1900

9 eggs & a horse ride:             priceless.

[sunflowers are free*]

* ” free” — see ‘farm math’ *

Springtime in the Rockies

•27 May 13 • 3 Comments


We can tell the seasons have changed because of the birds populating our land.  We wake up every morning to the sound of hummingbirds buzzing through the air to land on the feeders hanging from the juniper trees by the house.  Black-headed grosbeaks and western tanagers have been showing up in flocks.  And our baby chicks are entering that awkward adolescent pullet phase.  We finally moved them from the living room to a coop Jeff built outside, and everyone is much happier with that arrangement.


Jeff’s been spending a lot of time in the garden and it looks great.  He planted beans, corn, squash, carrots, onions, beets, potatoes, peas, flowers and cover crops, as well as inoculating logs with shiitake and oyster mushrooms.  We have to haul all our water, which presents some challenges for gardening.  Jeff has constructed a simple watering system to help the garden flourish.  The cistern we build this summer for rain catchment will make gardening (and life in general) a lot easier.


I’ve been keeping busy with music, both solo and with my band Muddy Mountain Orchestra.  I’m also going to be working on a natural plaster crew in town.

[voice change _ jeff here]

As some of you may have heard, the southwest region is in the third year of severe drought.  Mountain snowpacks in the region measure in the 30% of average range.  We did finally get one significant rain event last week, almost 1.25 inches in a two hour shower, though because the soils are so dry – almost hydrophobic – much of it just runs off the surface and barely soaks in.  If our cistern was in place, we may have captured several hundred gallons, but a lot of the surface run-off did get to the pond area we dug out last year.

I have also been doing a bit of truck mechanics.  What passes for auto mechanics around here is a sorry state of affairs.  While it is not my intention or necessarily interest, I have been almost forced into a place of being our local mechanic.  I have learned a lot about keeping vehicles running and general small-engine repairs – trucks, chainsaws, tillers, motorbikes – and have even become somewhat skilled at carburetor adjustments.

We’ve managed to get a few things done in the house.  We finished the ceiling in the kitchen area and are working on some window trim.  We have a new front door.  Kate is gearing up for some finish plaster upstairs.

Kate has also been indulging herself of all things horse and enjoying all the learning she’s been engaged in.  She is pretty excited about someday being able to have her own horse here, I think the dogs and chickens are all pretty excited about that, too .. and Rusty.

Peeps ‘n Things

•13 April 13 • 1 Comment

Happy Spring!  I mean winter.  I mean spring.  Jeff tells me that’s how it goes in the Rocky Mountains this time of year.  We had near 70 temps a couple weeks ago, then snow a couple days ago.  And of course, the spring wind.

We’re still gearing up to get started on work projects this season, but we have some other things to share.  We’ve gotten started on our chicken flock!  So far we have Black Astralorp, Buff Orphington, and Rhode Island Red youngsters, 1-2 weeks old.  We’re going to add a few Ameraucanas when the shipment comes to the feed store next week.  It will be challenging to protect them from all the hungry predators we have around here, but we think the dogs are up to the task.  That means we’ll have our own fresh eggs in about 20 weeks.


My mom got us a solar oven for Christmas and we’ve been using it for lots of our cooking.  Beans and rice came out great, as did these delicious squash cookies.  Lots of folks up here on the mountain have these…sun is one thing we have an abundance of, and the cost of operation is free!

We’ve been roasting our own coffee pretty much since we got here, and it occurs to me that folks might be interested in that.  We moved from Oregon where fresh-roasted, high quality coffee is easy to come by, so we were a little spoiled.  We tried to have coffee shipped in but it was cost prohibitive, and we didn’t love any of the coffee we could buy at local stores, so we started buying green beans online (@ Sweet Maria’s) and roasting it ourselves.  We do it “mountain man style” according to the coffee bean website, which is not recommended, but we think it turns out great.  Basically, that means we roast it in a skillet in the trailer and get an uneven, sometimes a bit too dark, roast, and we love it.  Every once in awhile we have to buy coffee from the store when we’re awaiting a shipment of green beans and we fondly refer to it as ‘crap.’


Jeff has been immersed in his “job” as Community Liaison for a forest thinning project that is happening in our community.  I’ll let him tell you more about that, but I will say it has taken lots of dedication, and he’s really educated himself about forest issues and worked hard to represent the community of Lama.


I just returned from a trip to Portland – the first time I’ve been there since we moved.  It was great to see old friends and play music in old haunts, but I had a harder time than I expected being in the city and I was really glad to get back to the mountain.  I guess I’m not a city girl anymore!


Stay tuned for updates on this season’s projects, including a water cistern and a horse barn!

Prospero Año & Horse Power

•12 January 13 • 2 Comments

I’m writing this from our cozy <unfinished> strawbale house, where the temperature is 65 degrees at 7:30 PM even though its 9 degrees outside and we haven’t had fire in the stove since 10:AM.  Its been colder than usual the last few weeks – a jet stream is apparently hanging out over the area and temperatures have ranged from somewhere below zero when we wake up to just below freezing at the warmest part of the day.  We’ve been staying nice and warm though, thanks to our thick walls and all the socks we got for Christmas!   We’ve gotten some snow, and Mona is glad because snow cones are one of her favorite foods.

So far, the new year is prosperous for us.  Several months back, we sold my city car and with the money we bought a late-90’s Toyota pick-up for me, which has been a much better vehicle for mountain living.  With the leftover cash, we drove to Telluride, CO and bought an ’84 Chevy pick-up with a snowplow attached to the front.  The guy we bought it from called the truck “Rhonda,” but we renamed her “PhoeBe.”


You have to start Phoebe with a screwdriver and I doubt she’d pass any emissions test, but she sure can plow.  Currently it is the only operational plow vehicle on the mountain, so Jeff has become pretty popular.  I decided he should call his business “Let’s Get Plowed!”  Pretty funny.  He mainly does it by donation for gas money <she’s a heavy drinker, afterall>; and in addition to cash he’s also gotten paid in plum jam, canned pears, and lots of good karma with the neighbors.


I’ve been working with a crew of women doing the alis finish on a new construction house.  Alis is kind of a cross between paint and plaster.  Its made out of clay, sand, wheat paste, and a variety of decorative additives like pigments, straw, and mica.  I really enjoy the work and the beautiful end result, even though it was kind of hard to lift my arms after the first couple of days.  The woman leading the crew is named Carole Crews, and I did a natural plaster workshop with her last summer in preparation for doing the finish plaster on our own house.  If you want to learn more about natural building finishes, check out her website at


Its a good thing so much prosperity is flowing our way because over the last several months I have developed a deep obsession with horses that doesn’t seem to be going away.  I’ve been taking lessons weekly, and the plan is to get my own horse next fall.  <which means Jeff needs to build a Barn between now and then .. > Yee haw!!!

As usual, there are a few extra pics on our photo page here ..

Howdy Strangers 2.1 ..

•27 December 12 • 4 Comments

O.K., let’s try this again.  We have been having some tech issues to sort out.  Though we will try to be better about writing more regular once we get this sorted out soon.

Christmas ever here blessed us with light new snow.  Though ironically, it made for crappy sledding on Xmas day ..  but we had fun nonetheless as we retreated indoors for fireside wine.  It’s been some nice slow days recently.
The fall here was beautiful as well, though almost no rain at all.  We found a nice little aluminum boat we took over to the lake for a test run with the motor.. <Nov. 30 in the pic above:>All our critters, dogs and cats, are fine and happy.  We did lose Palo late this fall, he is missed .. then came the mice, which Rusty quickly got control of.  Now if we could get him to stop bringing mice IN – that would be good.

We managed to get a good amount of work done on the house over the season.  We got the ceiling/ roof insulated and all closed in with finish boards, as well as the half wall in the loft.  Kate finished base coats of earth plaster (mud) around the entire exterior of the building!  And we added a deck out back the loft.


and certainly some flowers ~  

We should try to be better about writing more.  Sometimes we get busy and other times there’s maybe not much to say .. We will keep some more photos in this album, but for now the only other picture over there that is not in this post is the yin dogs yang eating and kate and her mustangs.


Its been too long ,

•6 October 11 • 3 Comments

Sorry its been so long since we’ve written.  As you might guess, summer turns out to be our big project time, and we’ve been quite busy here on the mountain.


The summer was one of the driest in New Mexico history, and it was pretty scary.  We spent many days enveloped in smoke from fires in Los Alamos and Arizona, and the national forest that borders our property was closed for a good part of the season.  The monsoon rains finally came and gave some relief.


We spent lots of time working on the house.  I concentrated on mudding the straw walls, and we figure I put about 3 1/2 tons of material on the walls – a mixture of sand, dirt, straw, and water.  We celebrated when Jeff put the last bit of straw in the walls, as it felt like a big milestone to have that done.  Jeff constructed a temporary kitchen area that is much more user-friendly than the old arrangement – I’ve even started using the indoor oven!  He also built our garden space by digging out a 20×30 area and burying straw bales in layers of manure, rich composted soil, and straw mulch.  He then planted a cover crop that flourished during the rains, and we just put up a frame that we got from a neighbor that will serve as a greenhouse.




We have been doing other stuff besides working on the house.  Jeff became the president of the domestic water association, which oversees the community well where many folks on the mountain get their water.  Shortly thereafter, the pump operator retired so Jeff has been acting as operator as well.  I started a new band with some friends on the mountain called The Muddy Mountain Orchestra.  We’ve had a couple of gigs and its been lots of fun.  We fired up the horno a few times for pizza parties, and the highlight was the Pizza Potluck Pickin Party in September, when we invited the whole mountain and some friends from town and had a great night of music and food.



Permaculture Design Certification at Lama Foundation

•26 June 11 • Leave a Comment

For the past two weeks I have been up at the Lama Foundation for the Permaculture Design Certification Course with Scott Pittman of the Permaculture Institute, based in Santa Fe, NM.  There were 20 of us taking this particular course, and Scott’s depth and breadth of knowledge and experience was quite impressive.  I think I can say we all had an enjoyable week and shared a tremendous amount of information, though for me it was also a lot of time sitting on my arse in a classroom setting ..


On Saturday at the mid-point of the retreat, we had the unexpected opportunity to have the whole group over to our place for a tour of the property and some of the permaculture related elements we are doing here.  There is quite a crossover between off-grid necessity and permaculture design elements – composting, natural buildings, water management, gardening, community.  Later that day we visited Brad&Janet’s (of KTAO Solar Radio fame) place in Taos, then finished with some top-bar bee hives.


The group consisted of folks from NY, LA, Florida, Seattle, and of course Taos and Lama.  At the end of the week we finished with the talent show, a mandatory part of earning the certificate of completion.  This “final exam” was a nice relief of playfulness after a long two-weeks of intensive study – we covered a lot of material that may be more appropriate as a couple of semesters at University.



While I was away playing camp-school, Kate was at home tending all the dogs and cats and working on mudding the inside of our house.  She got a long way and it won’t be long now before the inside is “done” for this season.  Then we’ll move onto getting the garden area built, add the deck off the loft, and maybe start plastering the exterior and other project possibilities.