The End?

I had planned to call this post Summer. It’s in the mid-80’s in Mora and the sun is sharp and strong. In the heat of the day I stay in the Tin Can, covering the windows, running the AC and waiting for evening.image

Lucky, however, insists on staying outside all day.

Lucky, however, insists on staying outside all day.

There’s always a sacred second when we take down the curtains and let the beauty in. Then I drink crisp white wine on the deck and wander around in a robe and gown letting the breeze swirl my nightclothes. It feels like a spa treatment or like slipping into the ocean in Hawaii. We eat dinner at our tiny table as the sky turns pink. We fall asleep surrounded by stars, cooled by the pine scented breezes drifting through the screen door.image

On June 21st Shannon from the New Mexico Forestry Division pronounced our trees healthy. We lost one, maybe two, to the bark beetles, but the rest of our trees are strong enough to repel or survive a beetle attract. Some have been damaged by porcupines, who climb to the tips of branches to chew off the fresh bark. The image this created in my mind was so cute I could hardly blame them. We talked about shade trees with Shannon and she offered to come by in the fall and assist us with planting a few.

On June 28th Jason and I woke up in Santa Fe on our 57th birthday.

imageOn June 30th our propane tank was delivered and we had hot showers without having to heat the water in an electric tea kettle. Life in the Tin Can suddenly became luxurious.

On July 6th we went to Fort Union. We packed drinks and snacks and set out early to explore the ruins before it became too hot. It was too hot anyway. At one point I ran the 1/4 mile back to the visitors center to refill Lucky’s water bottle. I was wearing Ked’s and a hiking skirt. I felt wild and free running (flying!) over the soft dirt path, past the adobe ruins with the sun beating down on my straw hat.imageimage






On July 7th Jason worked hard all day and into the evening. Our neighbor came over with his back hoe and covered the septic tank. The huge pile of dirt, picked clean of treasure rocks, was gone.image








On July 8th just before 8:00 am, Jason had a stroke.

We were talking about the appropriate Buddhist response to injustice. I had the iPad and was reading to Jason quotes from Dr. King, Thich Nhat Hanh and Ghandi. He was dressed and finishing his coffee. I was still in my nightgown, but thinking about getting up and getting on the treadmill. My running had been going well. Despite the sadness, unfairness and violence in the world I have to admit we were happy. We were planning to go to Taos that afternoon to have Jason’s plans for the house copied. We wanted to get the building permit before we left for our trip to the Bay Area. The mood was a bit celebratory. We were already flirting and looking forward to the night.



Jason said something loud and unintelligible. I heard a crash at almost the same time and in the second it took to look up he was on the floor. He was conscious and trying to reach his phone. I grabbed mine and called 911. He was flopping on the floor, half trapped by the bed. What was happening was obvious. “What is the nature of your emergency?” “My husband is having a stroke.”

Mora’s ambulance was in use. An ambulance would be sent from Las Vegas – forty miles away. I said, “He’ll die by then. I’m putting him in the car.” The voice said, “Meet the ambulance on 518.” Jason, still writhing on the floor, said “Get dressed first.” I put on the first clothes I touched, yelling at Jason to smile and raise his arms. As if these tests to see if someone is having a stroke will help someone who is actually in the midst of one.

Jason’s right side was useless. He crawled with one arm, one knee, one foot. I dragged him by his arm, tugged him by his belt, and somehow we were outside. He told me to bring the car closer. I drove closer to the gate, but the distance still seemed endless. Lucky had gotten out and was patrolling the chucho holes like he did every morning. He looked confused when I screamed for him to get in the car. He did it, but he was shaking and seemed terrified. Jason crawled through the dirt. For a second it seemed impossible that he would get into the car. He was twisted and half under it. I couldn’t lift him. I looked around thinking someone could help, but there was nothing but blue sky. Somehow most of Jason did get into the car. I shoved his right foot in, slammed the door and took off.

When I saw the ambulance I mashed the horn wildly. They pulled over and a man walked toward me smiling and snapping on rubber gloves. He made some stupid joke and asked if Jason worked for me. The question confused me. Yeah, he’s been working his ass off for me for for 25 years. I managed to say, “He’s my husband.”

Jason was taken to Alta Vista hospital in Las Vegas and treated there before being airlifted to UNM in Albuquerque. That’s where he is now.

On Friday night one of the doctors showed me Jason’s CT scan and explained which areas of the brain have been affected. Only the areas dedicated to speech and motor control were impacted and it’s too soon to say how much of the damage is permanent. Jason’s intellect, personality, memory and vision haven’t been damaged. He’s still very much himself. He’s hoping to be recovered enough by August to work in the Bay Area that month.

Jason and I took a chance living in a remote area and saw the nightmare come true before the dream. I have a lot of questions about Jason’s risk factors for another stroke. At this time I don’t think he can go back to Mora and I’m looking at rentals in Albuquerque. It’s too soon to say if both of us will be confident enough about his health to live in Mora full time again. I don’t know if the beautiful house Jason designed will ever be built. So, for now, this is the end of the blog. Thanks for following our adventure. The months I spent living in the Tin Can were wonderfully happy. I wish this story had a better ending, but I’m very much aware that the ending could have been a lot worse.

Prayers, beads, drumming, medication, rosaries, candles...all good wishes are much appreciated. Love, Kate

Prayers, beads, drumming, meditation, rosaries, candles…all good wishes are much appreciated! Love, Kate


The Return of Big Fun!

Last week Big Fun came back for a couple of days!







We rented the tractor to back fill the leach line trench that passed inspection. We also wanted to finish some mowing. I put one scoop of rocks into the trench, but it’s actually kind of hard. Not hard like shoveling rock, but there are a few levers and you have to position the thing right to get the rock in the trench not on the ground. I let Jason do it! I did do the mowing though. We set the mower high so we wouldn’t kill the wildflowers. There are a lot now and they look very pretty!image




We’re getting very close to finishing the septic system. It should be done before Jason goes in for his procedure on the 27th. Yesterday Jason back filled the trench for the sewer line so that it falls 1/4 inch per foot. He spent a lot of time measuring the tench depth with a laser. When it was perfect Jason set about 110 feet of pipe and I covered it and filled the trench.

Still smiling! He was working all day and the temperature was about 1,000 degrees.

Still smiling! He was working all day and the temperature was about 1,000 degrees.

I dug this trench with the Ditch Witch, which Jason picked up when he returned Big Fun to Floyd. I also dug a trench from the house site to the septic tank.

That's a big swerve for a tiny tree!

That’s a big swerve for a tiny tree!

Jason dug the small parts near the underground water and electrical lines that he already installed. The sewer line passes over the water pipe and electrical conduit.





All roads lead to the septic tank!

All roads lead to the septic tank!




We’ve been busy working on all the stuff that will take water and waste away from the Tin Can and garage and house sites ~ but of course we also want nice, clean water to come into these places!

Ta da! Water from our well now comes out of a shower head in the Tin Can. Amazing!

Ta da! Water from our well now comes out of a shower head in the Tin Can. Amazing!

We had a thorough test done on our water and it came back with coliform. (Total coliform ~ not fecal! Yuck!) The tester wasn’t too concerned about this and was even less concerned when Jason told him that the well was dug ten years ago and that he had only run water out of it for about 15 minutes before bottling it for the testing. The guy said, “Well that’s pretty good water then!” He advised pouring six ounces of bleach down the well pipe. Then we had to use a hose to wash the bleach off of the pump wires and pipe. After that we needed to run the water for a 1/2 hour to get rid of the bleach.

It has its own house, but we need a propane tank to make it work.

It has its own house!

Jason installed a water heater. As soon as we get a propane tank we’ll have hot water in the Tin Can. Our electric tea kettle can have a break! The kitchen sink needs a new faucet before it will work. We’re planning to filter the water there, but that’s probably not necessary. I already drank a lot of the well water. It tastes great and nothing bad happened to me.

One day, when it was too hot to work, we drove the Santa Fe Trail to Trinidad, Colorado. We saw some new scenery along the way. On the way there we went through Cimarron.imageIt’s pretty around there, but Cimarron has the creepiest historic jail ever. I stepped in and ran out. I’m not sure if I was more afraid of rats or ghosts! It was hot outside and very chilly in the jail. Not like a nice, air conditioned chill either – more like a cold, clammy chill!

...inside though it feels like something is waiting for customers!

Feels like something is waiting for customers!

Not too bad from the outside...

Not too bad from the outside.








Trinidad is an interesting town, with lots of history.

I didn't know there was a woman Buffalo Soldier!

I didn’t know there was a woman Buffalo Soldier!

This pretty house is a museum.

This pretty house is a museum.

Behind the museum.

Behind the museum there’s lots of cool stuff!










The main street has a lot of banners dedicated to historic figures who lived or worked in the area. I loved this one about Mother Jones. It reads, “In 1913, at the age of 76, Jones was in Colorado helping organize coal miners. She was arrested, imprisoned and escorted from the state…” I bet she was! Way to go Ma!

There’s also a memorial to coal miners on the main street.


And one for the canaries who died in mines.

And one for the canaries who died in mines.






Before we left Trinidad we stopped by Kit Carson park to walk Lucky under the trees. This bronze statue of Kit is considered one of the best equestrian statues in the United States. Frederick Roth sculpted the horse and  August Luckeman sculpted Kit Carson. It was dedicated in 1913 – right around the time they were kicking Ms Jones out of the state.

imageWe took a different route home and passed through Wagon Mound.

This is how the town got its name.

This is how the town got its name.

On this drive we saw some pretty little deer, some elk and these other things. They look like antelope, but they’re not. They’re pronghorns! They’re related to giraffes and are indigenous to North America. They’ve been here a long time – like a million years – and they’re beautiful herbivores ~ so naturally people come here to kill them. No comment.


imageWe had a fun, carefree day going to Trinidad. At home I have one worry – our trees. Several of them seem to be infested with Bark Beetles, either the Western Pine Beetle or the Mountain Pine Beetle. It’s bad news in either case. We may lose quite a few trees. I felt sad about it for a couple of days, but I’ve decided to love and care for this land no matter what. Tomorrow a young woman from the New Mexico Forestry Division is coming over to assess the situation. Maybe it won’t be that bad. Stay tuned…

Everything else is going very well. I was worried about Lucky in the heat, but he’s been adapting just fine!

He loves the melted ice water in the cooler!

He loves the melted ice water in the cooler!

He hides under the Tin Can!

He hides under the Tin Can!






He really wanted to ride on the Ditch Witch!

He really wanted to ride on the Ditch Witch!

Jason’s doing well too. There have been some scheduling problems, on the hospital’s side, with his surgery, but they’re going to try to fit him in. Jas has been working hard and eating and sleeping well.


Even I have to admit this dinner was good!


He made this sandwich!





I'm putting these beautiful things in everything! (Garlic scapes. Yum!)

I’m putting these beautiful things in everything! (Garlic scapes. Yum!)

So remember how I freaked out about the neighbors shooting and possibly selling their place? Right after I published that post the neighbor, Ed, stopped by and invited us over for dinner. About an hour later he came back with his wife, Marilyn, to clarify exactly what we ate since Jason told him we’re vegan. (So my first mistake was thinking that his wife didn’t come with him.) We had dinner with them last Thursday and they’re about the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. It was lovely to visit a clean, pretty house and to chat with a friendly and interesting couple. There was no discussion of them selling their place. (Another mistake! This is why I shouldn’t listen to rumors!) After dinner Ed took us on a ride in his big ATV and told us about all the people who live in the canyon near their house. At one point we passed a property where they have lots of rabbits running around, sheep with big curly horns and two emus! I felt like I was on the little train at the Oakland Zoo. We’re going over there for the 4th of July. Oh and there hasn’t been any shooting for a long time now.

Lately I feel so much tenderness and concern for this land. I’m even more aware of our water usage now that it’s coming from our well instead of a big box in Taos. I’m also more grateful for water! Digging all these trenches – and finding nothing over and over again – has made me think about how pristine this land is. I don’t think anyone lived here before. I had fun with the big machines, but I’m glad we’re almost done with this part of the work. I want to walk gently on the land. You never know who’s there for one thing!

See the frog?

See the toad?

So cute!

So cute!









I think it’s a New Mexico Spadefoot Toad. It didn’t seem to be afraid of me, but it did start using its back legs to dig a hole. Gradually it disappeared into the hole!

So there are still fun things to discover here!

Hello Gorgeous ~

~ Hello Gorgeous ~

P.S. Just a minute ago Jason came in and said, “Depending on how you feel about it, we can use our toilet.” I’m like, “Depending on how I feel about it?” He said, “Well it’s kind of weird in there.” Ha! It’s not that weird. So when I said we were close, I guess we were very close!

What’s New?

Well this little creature for one thing ~IMG_20160526_074238It’s probably a long-tailed weasel. Jason got pretty close when he took this picture and the weasel wasn’t at all afraid. After reading about these guys it was Jason who should have been afraid! On DesertUSA it says that this cute animal is known as, “nature’s psychopath.” Apparently they’re vicious predators. Still, we felt very lucky to see this one on our morning walk around the land. The males usually stake out an area of about 40 acres for their territory and we only have 16 acres. Of course it would be best if they don’t stake out any territory too near us since they do this by dragging their body over a firm surface which causes their anal glands to release a “…strong, foul, musky odor…”. Um…no thanks!

The Bluebird eggs still haven’t hatched. Jason waits for the mom to fly away and peeks at them sometimes.

We’ve gone to Santa Fe a couple of times. I love the sorbet at Ecco! They always have new flavors. Jason likes the watermelon, but my favorite was sangria.

Red berry & Mango. Yum!

Red berry & Mango. Yum!


That sorbet was almost as good as the real sangria at Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill!








We saw bunnies again in Santa Fe. These two were behind a fence on the lawn of a high school for the arts. Young people are often out front dancing!FullSizeRender (4)FullSizeRender[1]





Jason’s surgery still hasn’t been scheduled. He’s doing fine though, eating healthy, resting and trying not to work too hard.IMG_0262[1]






Here he's fixing a hoe in his pajamas!

Here he’s fixing a hoe in his pajamas!



Jason did get that big rock over to the house site. I like it because now I can always see where the front door will be some day!IMG_0270[1]

The well house is almost finished.


Yesterday I stapled in hardware cloth to keep mice out. Then Jason put up the plywood walls. So now it’s even closer to being finished!

The blue thing in the well house is the pressure tank. There’s a plastic diaphragm in there that’s pushing down on the water and keeps it between 40 and 60 PSI. The big excitement was when Jason turned the water on at the well house and it came out at the pipes near the Tin Can and at the garage site. So it actually works! On Thursday we took some of the water to Santa Fe to be tested. I tested it myself and it tasted great to me!

Our neighbor dug the leach line for the septic tank and used the back hoe to push the rocks we bought into the trench. Now there are 2 1/2 feet of rocks in the trench. Next Jason will put in the pipes. First there will be 20 feet of four inch solid pipe. Then there will be 130 feet of four inch perforated pipe.

Remember my trenches? His are a lot straighter ~ but then he is a professional!

Remember my trenches? His are a lot straighter ~ but then he is a professional!

Our food is holding out – except for the fresh vegetables. The little fridge isn’t doing too well since it’s warmed up a bit. I actually had to throw away some broccoli and a few mushrooms this week. That hurt since it takes almost an hour to get to the store and organic vegetables cost about $1,000 each. I can see a vegetable patch is going to be pretty much a necessity out here! IMG_2833[1]

I did make a good dessert one day. It isn’t exactly one of the glorious banana puddings (Nilla Wavers!) of my youth, but for a healthy dessert it was yummy. (Just silken tofu, Kite Hill almond milk cream cheese, coconut extract, agave and a banana with a sprinkle of sucanat on top. Baked in the microwave for six minutes.) I’m trying to make sure Jason eats enough protein during this wait for his surgery so we’ve been having a lot of sneaky tofu!

Lucky is doing very well. Yesterday he rode in the back of the pick-up for the first time. I was going to walk to the trench, but at the last minute I decided to hop in the back myself. Good thing! Lucky was so scared he was shaking. I had to hold him on my lap until we got across the field. On the way back he was pretty relaxed though. I guess he’s starting to become a little bit more of a country dog. (But he’s still our baby!)IMG_2832[1]IMG_0276[1]IMG_0297[1]Here’s one last new thing ~ we have new driver’s licenses! I think I look depressed (I’m not). Jason thinks he looks weird (no comment). I guess we’re really going to stay awhile!IMG_2889[1]


Stories with no pictures ~ Pictures with no stories

Sometimes things happen that don’t fit into the theme of a particular post and sometimes I get frustrated with my formatting and don’t add all the photos I had intended to include. So this is just a catch up entry where I can note a few occurrences, make corrections and add some photos.


  1. One day, when Jason and I were on our way back from Las Vegas, a huge rattlesnake crossed the highway right in front of us. It was 4 1/2 – 5 feet long and taking its time.
  2. On our next trip to Las Vegas we saw two trucks pulled over by the side of the road. Two men were outside chatting near the trucks. As they spoke one man casually reached into a grocery bag, pulled out a huge rattlesnake and tossed it into a field. It was very much alive.
  3. Apparently the hotel where we stay in Santa Fe is haunted. When we had the car serviced the guy who drove Jason from the dealership back to the hotel mentioned that his niece works at the Drury. She showed him a video she took with her phone of small objects, a spoon and a salt shaker, moving around by themselves. Jason asked the guy if his niece was scared, but he said, “No. For us that kind of stuff is sort of expected.” He’s Zuni. The hotel used to be a hospital.


  1. Nine mile hill does not gradually rise for nine miles. It rises for six miles. The hill starts at the nine mile marker outside of Las Vegas.
  2. There are not “guys” at Floyd’s. There is only Floyd. I was confused because another customer was in the shop on the day Jason was there and weighed in on the probability of Jason being able to haul the trailer with the Ditch Witch up nine mile hill.
  3. Night doesn’t always fall hard here. Lately it takes forever to get dark. I’ve fallen asleep twice while it was still light. Also we don’t marvel at the stars every night. Sometimes it’s cloudy ~ but the clouds are interesting and beautiful!
  4. I now think it’s funny that I cheerfully wrote, “I think the bathroom will be the first project!” That makes it sound like we were putting in some new tile or a sink or something. I had no idea what is actually involved in getting water out of the ground and to the point where it comes out of a faucet with the twist of a handle. I also had no idea what was involved in getting the water you don’t want anymore to go away.

Photos, etc.:

Here’s an example of my last point. Three times Jason and I have gone out to “shoot elevations.” I’m not sure what we were doing exactly, I just held a tape measure in different locations – near the septic tank, on top of the septic tank and in two places far from the septic tank. One time Jason bent the tape measure, one time he attached it to a huge, long piece of wood that kept trying to blow over and the last time the tape measure was normal. The first time Jason set the thing that looks like a camera (he says it’s a transit) on the electrical box and complained that he didn’t bring his tripod. The second time he set the transit on his truck and complained that he didn’t bring his tripod. The third time he had built a tripod and he didn’t complain. After we do this he makes notes like this:


This is just a small part of getting a flush toilet. Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t just keep the outhouse!


The orange is some kind of Desert Paintbrush. We have the most of these!

Flowers ~ I don’t remember there being so many flowers on the land. Maybe I wasn’t here at the right time or maybe I just wasn’t looking!








The bluebirds haven’t hatched yet, but we did discover that there are hummingbirds out here. I had just decided there weren’t any living on the land when one showed up! Now we’ve seen a few!


This bluebird decided to sit on the tripod Jason built!

This bluebird decided to sit on the tripod Jason built!







Food ~ I went about $10.00 over budget for food this month. Next month will be more challenging because I’m subtracting that $10.00 and I’m pretty much out of wine! We did have some good meals this month. Guess which plate is from the night Jason cooked dinner!










(Did you guess Jason made the quesadillas? That’s right! Haha)


Clouds ~ I love the clouds!









It really looked like a giant ghost!










And then there’s Lucky ~

He actually had to go to some bother to get the pillows exactly like this!

He actually had to go to some bother to get the pillows exactly like this!


Bad news & Birds

So here it is May 17th. It’s in the mid-40’s, there’s an icy rain falling and Jason is outside building this:


Lucky’s scrapes are almost healed, but he started licking one. That’s why he has to wear the blue collar.

It’s a little house for the well. It will be insulated so the water in the pipes won’t freeze and it will have a door so Jason can check the pressure gauge and get inside to fix things. I helped pour the concrete pad!

Mostly I just mixed concrete. It was fun. It reminded me of baking!

Mostly I just mixed concrete. It was fun. It reminded me of baking!

First it looked like this...

First it looked like this…

... then it looked like this!

… then it looked like this!




We poured a pad for the hot water heater too. This will have its own little house too.

Last week the septic tank was delivered. The guy who brought this over makes them himself. It weighs 6,000 pounds!

It's the septic tank!

Jason and I had fun walking around on top of the tank. It came with a filter that has to be cleaned once a year. I thought it was a pretty fancy thing to be hidden in a huge concrete box!


Here’s the filter!

This cool truck set the box down like it was as light as a feather ~ and exactly in the right spot!

This cool truck set the box down like it was as light as a feather ~ and exactly in the right spot!

Next week our neighbor will come over with his backhoe and dig the trench for the leach line. It will be about four feet deep and about 150 feet long. Twenty feet of that is just to get the leach field away from the septic tank. The rest will be covered with gravel, but only 2/12 feet deep. Then we’ll put in four inch perforated pipe. At that point the inspector, Kandee, will come out. If everything’s good we’ll cover the pipe with more gravel. Then we’ll cover the gravel with a filter fabric and dirt. At this point we’ll need to get the Ditch Witch again and dig two trenches to the garage/guest room and to the house site. I don’t know what’s after this and I don’t want to ask Jason. Every time I say, “Yay! And then we will have a real toilet!” He says, “No. We still have to…” So apparently there’s even more to it than all of this! Stay tuned…

We’ve pulled some big weeds and cacti and trimmed some dead branches off of trees over the past week. This all got brought up to the shed for a compost pile. We’ve had a food waste compost bin for awhile now.

...Jason made the bin in about five minutes!

Jason made this bin in about five minutes!

The bad news is Jason is back in atrial fibrillation. He was diagnosed with a-fib about a year ago and had a cardio inversion. The cardiologist said that this procedure might not correct the condition for long, so neither of us was terribly surprised that his heart is irregular again.

We found a good doctor at the nearby Mora Valley Community Heath Services clinic. He’s from the San Francisco Bay Area! He heard the a-fib right away and referred Jason to a heart specialist in Santa Fe. Jason met with the cardiologist yesterday and will go back for an echocardiogram on Thursday. It looks like Jason will be having an operation called a mini maze pretty soon. We’re trying to get the water and toilet in before he has the procedure. Having to use an outhouse while recovering from surgery seems a bit much!

A-fib is supposed to make people tired and I guess Jason has had a bit less energy than usual. Still, it’s amazing he’s gotten so much done and he’s as cheerful as ever! He was very happy to discover this creature the other day.

Some kind of horned lizard?

Some kind of horned lizard?

We made another discovery recently. I kept telling Jason that I heard something in the Tin Can bathroom area. It was like a crunching sound. Once, when I was washing up, it was so loud and close that I tossed my shower gel and ran out of the room. That caused Jason to investigate, but he didn’t see anything. Then one night he heard the sound and decided it was under the trailer. I said, “What kind of stupid animal would move in under the Tin Can?” I wasn’t trying to insult the animal, but there’s 16 acres and a shed to hide in so why would anything want to move in right below us ~ especially when there’s a dog living in the Tin Can?

Jason said, “Well it’s either mice or a chucho. That’s all we’ve seen.”

It was birds making a nest!

It was birds making a nest!

imageThis explains why Lucky didn’t seem to be concerned. He doesn’t care about birds. I think he knows by now that there’s no point in chasing them! The bird was certainly not stupid either. I mean if you were an egg-eating predator would you know that there’s a nest in here? The birds had to fly up under the Tin Can to get to a flat area in between the bumper and the trailer. To see the nest you have to open the section where the yellow wire is coming out. We’re resisting looking at the nest and waiting to hear some little peeps!


The Internet, the Pump & the Treasures

IMG_0235Here are the treasures! We pulled these rocks out of the septic tank pit and from the dirt piles.

Here I am climbing on the dirt piles looking for rocks.

Here I am climbing on the dirt piles looking for rocks…

...and in the pit!

…and in the pit!










The picture makes the pit look deeper than it is – it’s only seven feet deep. However, I should mention that one should never venture into an unsupported pit more than four feet deep. It could cave in and bury you! I only got to do it because Jason was watching. I was surprised to see a mole peek out of a hole in the pit. It must have moved in right after the pit was dug because moles don’t live seven feet under the ground.

This is the biggest rock we found. We tried to roll it up two sticks into the back of Jason's truck, but it was too heavy. It probably weighs 250 pounds. We'll use "Come'alongs" to pull it into the truck and put it over by the house site.

This is the biggest rock we found. We tried to roll it up two sticks into the back of Jason’s truck, but it was too heavy. It probably weighs 250 pounds. Jason plans to use “Come’alongs” to pull it into the truck and put it over by the house site. What will we do with it there? Visit us when the house is finished and see for yourself!


This is like a Ditch Witch, but it makes a very thin trench and backfills it at the same time!

IMG_20160505_103420 (1)

I don’t know what Antonio is doing.

Further excitement ensued when Daniel and Antonio came out from La Jicarita Rural Telephone Cooperative and laid the DSL cable and the tubing for the fiber optic cable that is coming soon. Daniel said the fiber optic is ready, but “it has to be heated up.” I don’t know what that means. I just know we’re no longer burning through lots of data! Also we don’t have to connect my phone to the computer to watch our show anymore. The internet cable is ready for the garage with guest room too. The guys who did the work were very nice. When he left Daniel explained that they had to dig one small area by hand and said, “I hope we didn’t mess up your pasture.” I never imagined I would have a pasture, but I guess I do!


Jason put the pipes into the tripod when it was on the ground then he walked it up. The silver thing is the pump.

We’re a lot closer to having running water now! Jason dropped the pump into the well. This sounds really easy – like you just toss the pump down a hole. Of course it’s not like that at all! The well is 125 feet deep and the pump runs on electricity so you have to put the pump at the end of long pipes for the water and attach electrical wire to the pipes. Jason built a giant tripod to hold the pipes upright while he taped on the electrical wire and connected them to each other.

The tubes are 20 feet long. He wrapped the ends with Teflon tape before he screwed them together.

The pipes are 20 feet long. He used six of them.


He’s connecting two pieces of pipe. It doesn’t smell bad. He’s just wearing a mask because he has allergies!

This si a ?. It keeps the pump from just spinning around in the well.

This is a torque arrestor. It keeps the pump from just spinning around in the well.


Here’s he’s wrapping the end of the pipe with Teflon tape. The green, red and black wire is the wire for the electricity to the pump. He used electrical tape to tape this on every four feet.

Rope holding the tube up?

The rope attached to the stake is to help lower the pump and the pipe and can be used to pull the pipe and pump back up.

It looked cool when a tube was waiting to be attached!

It looked cool when a pipe was waiting to be attached!

All done!

All done! Easy peasy!

This was Jason’s first time installing a well pump! He used the instructions on the pump and did some research, but he also just laid awake at night thinking about the best way to do this. Pumps have a five year warranty, but most people say they get seven or eight years out of them ~ so I guess he’ll get to do this all again some day!

Of course we can’t work (or watch other people work) all the time. One day we went to Santa Fe for no reason. We didn’t do any errands or anything productive at all. We took Lucky on an interesting walk in Hillside Park. There’s a path that winds up a hill to the old location of Fort Marcy. The Fort was only in use for about 20 years and has been abandoned since 1868 so all that remains in a small dirt mound that supposed to be part of an old wall. Along the way there are plaques that tell all about the history of Santa Fe. It was good that our outing had this physical and educational component because otherwise all we did was eat!

It started with chocolate sodas and a cherry chili truffle from Kakawa.

It started with chocolate sodas and a cherry chili truffle from Kakawa.

Then I had two types of sorbet ~ pineapple and sangria! Next …

...Jason had corn from a vendor on the plaza. I just had a bite.

…Jason had corn from a vendor on the plaza. I just had a bite.






We decided to take some treats from Chocolatesmith back to the Tin Can.

I love their green chili pistachio bark! We also bought some mocha almond bark, a cherry chocolate, a coconut chocolate and a chocolate covered orange peel.

I love their green chili pistachio bark! We also bought some mocha almond bark, a cherry chocolate, a coconut chocolate and a chocolate covered orange peel.



Of course we had to have some real food too! We picked up burritos from Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill before we left town. Everything I’ve had from this place has been great!

They warn you that they're slow. No problem...

They warn you that they’re slow. No problem!

And people wonder what vegans eat! haha

They make a yummy Margarita too! And people wonder what vegans eat ~ haha



Beautiful sights

We’ve been here four weeks today. We’ve seen some beautiful sights. Sunrises, sunsets, marshmallow clouds…

...but today the sky looks like this.

…and today the sky looks like this.

Last week we went to Santa Fe for two nights. We took Lucky to his new vet, bought groceries  and had the car serviced. In between these tasks we went on some lovely walks. The weather was perfectly springlike. The days were warm and breezy and the evenings were a little balmy.

So Santa Fe!

So Santa Fe!


On the way to Canyon Road.









Taos is looking good too right now.

These trees are flowering in Santa Fe and Taos. I'm not sure what they are. Maybe Prairiefire crabapple or Texas redbud?

These trees are flowering in Santa Fe and Taos. I’m not sure what they are. Maybe Prairiefire crabapple or Texas redbud?

The best restaurant-style broccoli (fake) beef I ever made!

The best restaurant-style broccoli (fake) beef I ever made!

Here in the Tin Can we continue to be happy and cozy. I’ve gotten better at cooking with the propane camp stove and microwave oven. Dinner is always an event! I’ve had some fun with Westsoy seitan.

(By the way, propane camp stoves aren’t really supposed to be used in enclosed spaces- so don’t try this at home! Then again, why would anyone want to? The camp stove can’t simmer. It just goes hot and hotter!

Not exactly beautiful, but the sweet potatoes were yum!

Not exactly beautiful, but the sweet potatoes were yum! The barbecue is pulled pork style steitan. The other stuff is mostly zucchini and Jason made his signature salad!

This Thai-style soup, masaman curry and Asian slaw dinner was Jason's favorite.

This Thai-style soup, masaman curry and Asian slaw dinner was Jason’s favorite.

We spend a lot of time on ordinary life – cooking, eating, doing laundry, grocery shopping, watching Korean dramas and walking Lucky. The vet in Santa Fe thought Lucky looks great and he does seem to be very happy here.

But why, when he has a nice lawn chair and velvet blanket, does he want to lie right in the dirt?!

But why, when he has a nice lawn chair and velvet blanket, does he want to lie right in the dirt?!









Our water usage has gone up a bit. We’re using 7-8 gallons a day now. For some reason filling these bottles is a lot of fun! We use a machine is Taos. Apparently the water in some of these machines isn’t the purest, but we’ve had no problems with it.

Whenever the bottles overfill like this Jason and I laugh like crazy. Why? I haven't a clue!

Whenever the bottles overfill like this Jason and I laugh like crazy. Why? I haven’t a clue!

.25 cents each! The white things on the truck are drop pipes for the water pump.

.25 cents each! The white things on the truck are drop pipes for the water pump.

We still have one trench to backfill. It’s the waterline to the house site. Otherwise all the electrical and water pipes are buried and the trenches are covered. We’re getting power from the breaker panel (aka pedestal) so we’re no longer relying on the spider. And the big excitement (and the most beautiful sight of all) is this…


This is where the septic tank will go!

image Our neighbor came over and dug this big hole with his backhoe. (First he worked all day, then he fed another neighbor’s cows, then he stopped by around 5:30 and dug the hole. Jason and I thought this was impressive, but he didn’t seem to think this was an unusual work day!)

The septic tank will probably be delivered Wednesday because there’s supposed to be a big storm, with snow and rain, coming. It should be over by Wednesday.

Before we moved to Mora I was complaining to a friend about having to use an outhouse, but, I added, “It will only be for two weeks.” She laughed and said, “It’ll be more like two months.” It looks like her estimate was accurate! I didn’t exactly understand what was involved in building a septic system and getting water and power not only to the Tin Can, but to the garage/guest room site and to the house site. By the time the septic system is done the plumbing will go to all three locations too!

This appeared one day. So progress! (I guess.)

This appeared one day. So progress! (I guess.)

One of my favorite jobs here was mowing the lawn. Jason just fixed his little tractor, but before he did that we rented a big tractor from Floyd. I spent two days riding around on it. It was a lot of fun! Not as noisy as a Ditch Witch, but very dirty. It makes dust fly around. It’s super bumpy too. I got knocked out of the seat (but not off the tractor) a couple of times and there were places on slopes I was too afraid to mow. Still, I wanted to buy one after the first few minutes. They’re very expensive though – maybe 14,000 – and it rents for 200 a day so it doesn’t make sense to own one. I just want my own!

Big Fun & the Tractor Ninja!

For now we’re waiting to see what the weather will do. Right now I can see out of windows on opposite sides of the Tin Can. To my left the sky is blue; to my right it’s black. Rain is falling softly on the metal roof. Did I mention that I love it here?

P.S. Estimates for a professional company to install a septic system are $8,000-10,000. Even with the very reasonable monthly rental fee, with weekly cleaning, for the outhouse ($170) we’ll spend less than $3,000 putting in the septic system ourselves. Whenever I get tired of the outhouse I think of that!

Let me show you how to get the mud off of your shoes Princess

I guess I should have asked Jason if he wanted to be a guest editor before I said he would. He said it would take too long. He does type very slowly. I do too, but he thinks I type fast because we were in a typing class together in high school and he was amazed at how well I was doing compared to him. I sort of remember the class, but I don’t remember being one of the super fast typists!

Anyway, in order to better understand what we’re doing I conducted a brief interview with him. A lot of it was boring, but here are the most important points.

We rented a Ditch Witch for one day on Wednesday. Jason picked it up at Floyd’s Rentals in Las Vegas. The guys there weren’t sure that Jason would make it to Mora hauling that thing. They were especially concerned about the section of the road known as “Nine Mile Hill” where you gradually climb for nine miles. The guys at Floyd’s were nice about this though and wished Jason a lot of luck!


This truck thing has been one of the differences between living here and living in California. Jason suspects he he owns the only 2-wheel drive pick up in the state of New Mexico. People here trailer everything and they expect to see dirt roads. His truck is a full size GMC Sierra 1500, which has always been sufficient for his work in the Bay Area, but there may be a new truck in his future.

Going up the hill Jason only managed to go 35 mph. By the time he arrived with the Ditch Witch it was about 2:00. He set it up for me and I drove it. Between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, when the Ditch Witch had to be returned, we dug about 1,000 feet of trenches.

My lovely sinuous trenches!

My lovely sinuous trenches!

You have to go very slowly driving the Ditch Witch. It runs on diesel and smells a bit. It’s also noisy. Going forward it looks like nothing’s happening, but the blade is digging furiously behind you as you go along. The trenches it makes are very neat! They were only five inches wide, but the electrical trench is 26 inches deep and the ones for the water pipes are 42 inches deep.


This is the part that amazed me: In all the digging we turned up nothing interesting! No Spanish gold, no Indian artifacts, no treasures of any kind. Not even a pretty rock. Nothing yucky either! No bones, dead animals or disgusting bugs. Just brown dirt.

Now for the Q & A. (All of Jason’s answers have been edited for clarity and I cut out all the boring parts.)

Q. We dug three trenches. What are they for?

A. Two are for water and one is for electrical. One water line goes from the well to the garage and office space. This one stops at the trailer, but it will be capped off later when we no longer live here. The second goes from the well to the house site. The third trench takes the power from the meter to the well pump and from the meter to the trailer.

Q. Why are we bringing power to the trailer when we already have power?

A. Right now the trailer’s power is coming from a construction powered distribution box (otherwise known as a spider.) It’s a temporary system for electrical. The main reason it’s not good for long term use is its susceptible to weather. If it shorts we have no more power.

The Spider. The reason we have lights and heat!

The Spider. The reason we have lights and heat!

Q. How did you decide how deep the trenches should be?

A. This is the maximum required by the Planning Department in Santa Fe.

Q. I saw you putting white pipes and thin grey pipes in the holes. Please explain:

A. The white pipe is Schedule 40 PVC for the water line. It’s one inch. The grey pipe is the same, but it’s 3/4 inch. The difference in color is to distinguish between power and water.

Q. Then last night when we should have been eating dinner you were outside putting multiple colored wire taped together into the grey pipes. What are these wires?

A. Red and black are always hot wires. (They carry the power. If you cut one of these and you’re touching metal you will get shocked.) The white is neutral. This one can shock you too, usually if it’s wired wrong, but it’s not as bad as getting shocked by a red or black wire. The green wire is the ground. That can’t shock you.

Q. Have you ever been shocked by any of these colors?

A. Sure.

These wires aren't connected to anything yet so they can't shock anyone.

These wires aren’t connected to anything yet so they can’t shock anyone.

Q. What will we do today?


  1. Continue pulling the wire through the conduit. We can pull 60 foot sections at a time. Then, when all the sections are done, we’ll glue the conduit together.
  2. Dig a big hole (by hand) near the meter to get the conduit from the trench to the breaker panel.
  3. Lay out the electrical conduit from the well to the breaker panel.
  4. Backfill the trenches for the water pipes.

Q. Sounds like a lot of work. Please comment:

A. Yes, it is a lot of work. Get dressed so we get get started.

Q. But it’s snowing!

A. Get your gloves. We’re an hour and a half behind schedule.

Three hours later

At first it wasn’t really snow. It was hail. imageOur nearest neighbor, Ivan, stopped by to check on us. He suggested we put hay bails around the Tin Can to help insulate it, since this cold spell is supposed to last until Tuesday. (Today is Saturday.) The hail got heavier as Ivan and Jason talked, but I got right to work.

I was just going to back fill one of the trenches where Jason had already installed the water pipe. I filled in a little trench yesterday, but moving dirt is one thing, moving mud is another! After an hour, with hail turning to snow…

I had finished this much...

I had finished this much…


and I had this far to go.

Several things were making this task difficult. One of them was that my tools and shoes were getting so heavy with mud I could hardly lift the shovel, the rake or my feet. Jason was running the conduit and pulling the wires, but he happened to pass by one time. He noticed that I was struggling a bit and he showed me how to shove the dirt into the trench so that I didn’t have to actually lift the shovel all the time. His economy of movement was quite impressive and even elegant. Still, I felt this was a good time to remind him of something.

Me: Remember you said that I would be a princess out here?

Jason: You are a princess! This is what princesses do. Here, let me show you how to get the mud off your shoes, Princess.image

I don’t know how thick this man thinks I am, but I read the Daily Mail and I’m pretty sure I never saw the other Princess Kate pushing mud into a hole. Harry might do it for a couple hours though, if he was in the mood. However, I have to admit that standing the shovel up and scraping your shoe on it works better than stabbing at your shoes with a mud encrusted shovel or rake.

Around 1:00 the snow started falling heavily so we came in for lunch. Well I came in. I had to text this picture to Jason’s daughter and ask her to call her Dad and tell him to come in. (I could have called him myself, but it was more fun to sic his kid on him!)


I took this picture through a window because I’m not (that) crazy! Those dots are snow!

I steamed some broccoli and topped it with that Miyoko’s Creamery butter, heated a box of Dr. McDougall’s tortilla soup and made some toast for Jason in the frying pan. It was a good lunch. So good that Jason has gone back to work. I guess that trench won’t fill itself so I’m going back out too. I think I’ll start fresh with a new pair of shoes though. This time I’ll wear my classic black Hunters. I knew they’d come in handy out here!

Yikes! We have to work!

But we’ve been having so much fun…

On a trail at Carson National Forest above Taos.

On a trail in Carson National Forest above Taos.

We were waiting for a stretch of clear weather. We had planned to rent an excavator for a week and didn’t want our digging interrupted by snow or rain. Now Jason says we can dig the trenches to lay pipe from the well to the Tin Can and for the conduit for the power to the well pump using a Ditch Witch. He wants to make one trench for each of these things, although some people put the power and the water in the same trench. Jason thinks it’s easier to make any needed repairs if the water pipe is in one trench and the electrical conduit is in another. I don’t actually understand any of this, but I do understand that we won’t be browsing cute shops and drinking frappes in Taos today.

It was fun while it lasted!

In Taos. It was fun while it lasted!

I do want running water so I’m happy that we’re starting the process. We’re hoping to have all the trenches dug today. The hole for the septic tank and the trenches for the house and garage foundations will require the excavator.

The permit process for getting the septic system was painless. After 25 years of dealing with the planning departments in Bay Area cities Jason couldn’t believe how easy it was. He did have to draw a site map that shows the locations of underground power and future buildings. imageWhile we were waiting for good weather Jason did a few things to make the Tin Can more comfortable. One of the best ones was extending the deck and setting up my treadmill. It’s been a lot of fun running on a treadmill outside! I always want to run outside, but I tend to fall down. Once I tripped in a chucho (prairie dog) hole and fell on my face.

They're very cute and very curious!

They’re very cute and very curious!

Nice view!

Nice view!







I didn’t go with Jason to pick up the Ditch Witch. It’s nice to have a little time by myself in the Tin Can ~ and I have to do my running! Jason took Lucky with him, which is nice since Lucky has some scratches he is not supposed to lick and he has to wear this thing…imageToday I’ll take pictures of the ditch-witching and I’ll  ask Jason to be a “guest editor” so he can explain what we’re doing. I really did intend for this blog to be all about building! However…

Isn't this bird great?! It's a Mountain Bluebird.

…isn’t this bird great?! It’s a Mountain Bluebird.

And what about these beautiful elk?! They were just relaxing in front of a house in Angel Fire. imageWe had a great afternoon there yesterday. We walked Lucky on the paths around the Visitor’s Center. We walked for over an hour and never saw anyone else. It was a little cloudy, but only a few raindrops fell on us. image

Today the sun is shining. It’s nice, but not too hot. Good trenching weather I guess!