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!

Life in the Tin Can

We’ve only been here a week so maybe we’re still in the honeymoon phase, but so far life in the Tin Can is a lot of fun!


The bed came from our old house. It’s very comfortable. I’ve been cooking on a propane camp stove. We have electricity so I can also use the microwave oven, a crockpot and a rice cooker. We eat dinner at the table. Jason eats breakfast there too, but I eat in the bed!

We have a kitchen! Jason built a kitchen counter and put in a little sink someone was going to throw away. No water comes out of the faucet though. The sink drains to a bucket under the counter. We just throw the water at trees.

To get water to the trailer we have to dig a trench from the well, sink the submersible pump, get electricity up to the pump and lay pipe for the power and the water. The water will come to a 44 gallon well tank. That’s what builds the water pressure. Then the water goes through a filter and splits off to the cold water and the water that goes to the propane powered water heater. Jason bought the pipe we need yesterday.

For now we’re getting by on water from Walmart. Until I came here I had never been to a Walmart. Then, on our last visit here, we needed some storage tubs. We checked the big drugstore and the dollar store first, but they didn’t have any. So off we went to the Walmart in Las Vegas. (This experience led to the creation of a great slogan for Walmart. “Walmart. When you just can’t find it at the dollar store.” ) Since we’ve been here this time we’ve been to Walmart twice. They do have the best selection of contact paper. And the cheapest water. It’ll be even cheaper now since we realized we could just refill the plastic jugs at a machine. Although we’re recycling the jugs I feel bad about how much plastic we’re going through! I think we should get a big refillable water container, but Jason thinks this situation isn’t going to last much longer. We’ll see…

Buying water has made me very aware of how much we use. I’m always tsking and saying, “How wasteful,” mostly to myself. We’re actually using a lot less than we did when we lived in a real house. We’re averaging five and a half gallons a day for all three of us, which is pretty good when you consider that a standard toilet uses 1.6 gallons every time it’s flushed. That we’ve managed to keep our water use so low is actually amazing when you consider that …

...this dog is getting washed everyday.

…this dog is getting washed everyday!

One week ago today I stocked up at the Whole Foods in Santa Fe. I spent about $200.00 there. We already had some food that came with us from California.

All of this stuff, except for the water, came from our old house.

All of this stuff, except for the water, came from our old house.

Lots of food!

Lots of food!

Even more food!

Even more food!

Getting enough fresh organic vegetables is definitely a challenge. I’m going to have to start growing something soon! We’ve been eating cabbage and carrots mostly, since I figured they would last with or without refrigeration. The refrigerator is very small. I bought a few cans of green beans at Whole Foods. Yuck!


The tiny fridge.

One night I made them as a salad with fake bacon bits, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Disgusting! They totally tasted of tin can. Last night I made them Thai style with a peanut sauce. I think the can taste was disguised, but the mushy texture was not. I also made rice and a soup with coconut milk, ginger, carrot, cabbage and silken tofu. I used to make this soup all the time, but with a lot more veggies – and certainly not with purple cabbage. Jason thought the food was delicious and ate all of the green beans and rice and most of the soup. He’s very easy to please. I didn’t eat that stuff. I drank Chardonnay and had some walnuts and a piece of chocolate.

A couple of days ago I made a salad out of cabbage, apples and walnuts with a creamy silken tofu based dressing. It was ok. The next night I cooked the leftover salad with Field Roast Italian sausage and mustard. It wasn’t very good, but the potatoes I made to go with this dish were yummy. One of my more successful dishes was just potatoes and Field Roast sausage.

This one even looks good!

This one even looks good!

Another dish that worked out well was kind of an accident. The little refrigerator froze our romaine lettuce so I pretended it was spinach and added it to a stir fry of seitan strips, shiitake mushrooms and snow peas. It tasted great!





I also liked this ginger apple “cheesecake.” I cooked sliced apples and candied ginger in Miyoko’s creamery butter. (No palm oil, and delicious! Expensive though, $6.99 at the Santa Fe Whole Foods.) Then I mixed silken tofu, agave syrup and a little corn starch with my immersion blender. I added the apples and ginger, blended them a bit and cooked the thing in the microwave for ten minutes. That was a fun way to get some extra protein!


Today we’ll go to Las Vegas to do laundry and buy some more vegetables. They have a natural grocery store over there, so I’m hoping they’ll have some nice organic produce. Except for vegetables, the food needs to last at least another week or two. The next time we stock up the food should last for a month.

Cleaning this 202 square foot place is pretty easy! Spring is the windy season here, but so far it hasn’t been too dusty in the Tin Can. We sweep every day and wash our dishes in a lime green plastic tub with water heated in the electric tea kettle. After I rinse the dish cloths I put them in the microwave to kill germs. It feels pretty tidy and sanitary in here.

The all important shower pan!

The all important shower pan!

Jason put a shower pan in the soon-to-be bathroom. We use a second tub to wash ourselves and a bucket to wash Lucky. The water just drains beneath the trailer, but it’s so dry here that the small amount of water we’re using is absorbed by the ground. I was worried it would create a mosquito breeding area, but the water’s not pooling at all and I haven’t seen one mosquito here yet.

The outhouse isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It’s actually kind of fun to run outside at night when the stars are out or early in the morning when the light is soft. Still, we’re getting it cleaned once a week, instead of the usual every two weeks. I mean just think about it! Two weeks of … On second thought don’t think about it!

I'd hate to see High Tech #2! Also, who's going to say, "This looks like a relaxing place for a smoke"?

I’d hate to see High Tech #2! Also, who’s going to say, “This looks like a relaxing place for a smoke”?

On the other hand, like everyone else here, the guys who brought the outhouse were very nice. No one seems to think it’s odd that we’re living this way either. I was a little afraid of rural life. I had visions of gangs of Reavers, like in Firefly. Of course, it’s nothing like that! There is no weird evil vibe to this place. Over 80% of the people here identify as Hispanic or Latino. Many of them, including our nearest neighbor, come from families that have lived in this area before it was a part of the United States. Yet they’ve been very welcoming to us newcomers. They seem proud of their beautiful valley. New Mexico is a purple state. It can go either way in elections, but Mora County is overwhelmingly Democrat.

Except for a shade in the bathroom area, we have no window treatments in the Tin Can. We fall asleep seeing stars and wake up to pale pink sunlight coming through a tree.

The sun rises just to the left of this tree.

The sun rises just to the left of this tree.

So everyone’s been kind to us here. We have food, water, a place to wash and a place to go to the bathroom. No one is sick, injured or depressed. Most importantly, Lucky has adjusted beautifully to life in the Tin Can. He’s even more spoiled than he used to be – for one thing in our old house we never let him sleep with us!


Everything’s OK for Lucky!



We have arrived!

Ahh ~ Urban Legend Merlot in the Tin Can!

Actually we arrived Thursday afternoon. The time has been going fast though!

The Tin Can was pretty much how we left it. One or two mice had gotten in, but it wasn’t too bad. The initial cleaning took a couple of hours – not a couple of days like it once did!

Not too shabby! Well ok, a bit shabby.

Not too shabby! Well ok, a bit shabby.

Remember how the port-a-potty was supposed to be delivered between 3:00 and 4:00? When it hadn’t arrived at 5:00 Jason called the guy. He said, “Oh yeah. Sorry. I forgot about you.” I thought it was so cool that he just told the truth and didn’t try to blame it on someone else, or his truck or the weather. He just threw the thing in his pick up and drove up here from Las Vegas. It was snowing by the time he got here, but neither he nor his his helper seemed to notice. They stood around talking to Jason while the snow built up. People are like that here. No one seems to be in a rush.

This is how the outhouse looked at 7:00 am Friday morning. That blue water had ice crystals in it!

This is how the outhouse looked at 7:00 am Friday morning. That blue water had ice crystals in it!







It snowed off and on all night and kept snowing Friday morning. It was just a light snow, but it was fun while it lasted!

This is from that same 7:00 am excursion. A bit prettier than the outhouse!

The Tin Can got iced!

The Tin Can got iced!

St. Francis got covered in snow!

St. Francis got covered in snow!






Lucky's lawn chair got covered in snow too. Good thing we brought the pad inside!

Lucky’s lawn chair got covered in snow too. Good thing we brought the pad inside!

Lucky loves snow. He’s been here when it snowed once and to Tahoe in the snow twice. As soon as he got outside he ran all around the Tin Can. He’s more comfortable here than I remember him being on previous visits. He didn’t stay by the car when we first arrived like he usually does. I think having the fenced in area really helps. He’s been having fun sitting at the gate watching the prairie dogs run around in the neighbor’s field.


Lucky in his lawn chair before the snow.

Lucky in his lawn chair before the snow.


Lucky in the big bed after playing in the snow.

Lucky in the big bed after playing in the snow.

The snow was gone by the time we came back from our errands. We went to the planning department, the DMV, the post office and to the cooperative that provides Internet service. People were very nice to us!

Friday night was clear and cold. We went outside to see all the stars. Jason saw a shooting star, but I didn’t see any.

This morning when I first opened my eyes I saw a bright light shining through the trees. It took me a few seconds to realize it was the moon! The light is different here.

When the sun came out it looked like this. It's been sunny all day today!

When the sun came out it looked like this. It’s been sunny all day today!

It was 18 degrees when I first went out this morning. That’s pretty cold for us California transplants! The Tin Can hasn’t been too bad though. We bought a new space heater, but it’s no better than the last one. Lucky’s been sleeping with us most of the nights, which is warmer for everyone!

This image is not one I could have imagined when I was a young woman. Good thing I gre up!

This image is not one I could have imagined when I was a young woman. Good thing I grew up!


New shelves for my clothes!





Jason’s been making the Tin Can a little nicer for us. I can see one problem I’ll have working with him, he’s very fast! He built shelves for my clothes while I was still trying to decide which of this stuff I really need right now.

Now he’s making a kitchen counter and putting in a sink.

It's starting to look like a real kitchen!

It’s starting to look like a real kitchen!





He’s done already! Time to take Lucky on a walk around the land. My new favorite thing is to stand in different places on the site where the house will be and look out of the imaginary windows!