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!

Santa Fe

We’re almost there!


We spent the night in Santa Fe ~ in a room with a deep bathtub! I took a bath last night and a shower this morning. I’ve been so worried about the toilet I didn’t even consider that we won’t be able to take showers for two weeks. That’s how long we’re thinking it will take to get hot water to the Tin Can. We’ll save the shower water and throw it on the trees so the septic system isn’t important for bathing. It’s important for other things though! I’m hoping we’ll also have that done in two weeks, but it will probably be three. We have the port-a-potty for one month.

On a more more pleasant note…

Santa Fe has got to be one of the most romantic cities in the world!

Santa Fe must be one of the most romantic cities in the world!

















It’s early spring here. In the shade there are still bits of ice and snow, but daffodils are blooming and trees are flowering. It’s cold at night, but the days are warming up. I had forgotten the beauty of the late afternoon light here and also how blue a sky can be.image

Two new New Mexicans!

Two new New Mexicans!





Today we’re scheduling the delivery of the propane tank, stocking up on food and getting some work boots for me. Jason says hiking boots and work boots are not the same thing. They look about the same to me!

Before getting down to business we took Lucky on a lovely walk and stopped for lattes at Holy Spirit Espresso. We’ll imagebe on the land by 2:00 and we won’t be back here for at least two weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing the Tin Can again!







We have a lot to do, but we still have time for hugs!

We have a lot to do, but we still have time for hugs!


By the time we left the Bay Area I didn’t want to go. A couple of bad things had happened one right after another. Then Jason hurt my feelings. Except for some occasional bitter mutterings (“Humph, Happily Ever After, what a joke”) I barely spoke to him on the way to LA.

The brake lights on the trailer didn't work when we picked it up. That caused a one day delay.

The brake lights on the trailer didn’t work when we picked it up. That caused a one day delay.

The worry, stress and wrenching good-byes had taken their toll. I felt too old for this adventure. There was no exhilaration, just regrets about the past and doubts about the future. As the wheels turned forward I felt myself pulled back.

LA and San Diego had their bright spots. We visited with one of my brothers and his family, and ate Easter dinner with my son. In San Diego we walked along the water at dusk.imageStill, I was gloomy off and on until we crossed the Mojave. The desert from I-15 isn’t the prettiest sight, but the open land, the yucca and Joshua trees against the expansive sky, soothed me. The winds picked up and tumble weeds rolled across the highway.


Besides this dog is funny! He’s also an excellent traveler.

Jason drove through the wind cheerful and calm. (The gusts were up to 70 miles per hour!) In addition to doing all the driving and taking Lucky out early in the morning, he had been catering to my whims and moods. He should have been exhausted but he had only grown more energetic. With him being so sweet and happy it was getting kind of hard to stay crabby.

When we were almost to Las Vegas the guy who’s delivering the port-a-potty called. He’ll be dropping it off on the land at 3:00 on Thursday. I had been dreading this thing, now this seemed like the best news ever. I slept well at the hotel outside of Vegas.

The beds at the Element Hotel are very comfortable!

Lucky and I stayed in bed until I wasn’t tired at all anymore!

Today’s been a fun day. We’re in Flagstaff now about to take a very good dog for a walk. It’s about 40 outside and I seem to have lost both of my jackets. Fortunately, Jason has two!



“So we’re really going to do this?”

tree house

Lucky was just getting used to this place. Now it’s almost time to move on! Wednesday will be our last night in the tree house.

We have two more nights in this happy little house. Lucky seemed to like it here. He’s adjusted very well to the changes. We’ll spend Thursday night in South San Francisco so we can load up the U-Haul trailer we’ll be towing to New Mexico. On Friday morning we’ll be on the road. It’s still sort of hard to believe!

Jason and I bought the land in 2005 so we’ve had plenty of time to think about moving there. We’ve talked about living in Mora part time and about not living there at all. In the end though, we always came back to wanting to make this special place our last home

One reason

Jason calls this “Katie’s mountain” because whenever we discuss the layout of the house I ask, “Will I be able to see the mountain?” The real name of this mountain range is the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s a subrange of the Rocky Mountains. I want this view from my kitchen window.

When I tell people where we’re moving they often go, “What!? Where? Why??” I still don’t have a good answer for why. I generally mutter something about peace, quiet and the cost of living. That stuff is important, but there’s more to it of course. It’s embarrassing to talk about though. I’m afraid I sound a bit starry-eyed, like a teenager who just read Walden for the first time, but I don’t think Thoreau was wrong when he wrote that life was sweetest closest to the bone. In the Tin Can, in the middle of our 16 acres, a cup of soup tastes like heaven. In Mora nature is not an afterthought. Its majesty and mystery surround you. The sun rises in a pinkish haze and the nights are spectacular. Emerson said, “If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare.” In Mora you marvel and stare every night.

He’s not looking at stars. He was looking for the lunar eclipse. An hour later we saw it just fine from solid ground. Climbing on the roof was completely unnecessary.

Still, it hasn’t been an easy decision to move to Mora. We had a great life in the Bay Area and there are some people I’m definitely going to miss.

One niece, one nephew and Jason’s one and only daughter visited Sunday, along with one brother. My brother, Jason and I were all too sensible (aka old) to jump the creek and climb on this rotting boat. The weather was horrible, but how lucky to have six people in the same family agree that this is a great way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon!

I’m not too worried about the family though. Those people can’t escape us so easily! I’m looking forward to the adventures we’ll have when they visit. Some of them have already been out to the land.

My mother, the year before she died, tapped her cane on the land. That seems like a blessing to me now, even though she thought we were nuts for wanting to leave the Bay Area. One of my brothers was along on that trip too. My sister’s been to Mora. She pronounced it not nearly as bad as she thought it would be. Jason’s daughter has been to Mora twice. She helped him when he brought his truck out to leave on the land. My son has come out a couple of times to help mow the overgrown weeds. Our nephew, Nick, has helped Jason in Mora several times.

First fence post

I wanted two things before I moved to Mora: a real toilet and a fenced in area for Lucky. Here’s Nick digging a hole for the very first fence post. He and Jason fenced in a quarter acre. As we all know, they never got around to the toilet.

In this picture Louie looks right at home in Mora. He's actually a pretty urban person - even a bit urbane!

In this picture Louie looks right at home in Mora. He’s actually a pretty urban person – even a bit urbane!

They use this little tractor to mow the "grass". Apparently I'll be doing this at some point too!

They use this little tractor to mow the “grass”. Apparently I’ll be doing this at some point too!









I knew I’d learn a lot moving out to Mora. It’s already been a lesson in staying balanced while holding conflicting emotions. I’m sad to leave and excited to go. The decision has been made many times over the years so, despite not totally believing that we’re actually doing this, I guess we’re set. My mountain is waiting for me!



We’re in limbo.

Inverness drivewayBut if purgatory is anything like this it’s not too bad!

InvernessA couple Jason’s worked for lent us their charming vacation home. We’re staying here while 5105 is sold and until we celebrate a very special family birthday on March 23rd.

At first I wasn’t happy. It rained all of the time. Jason is still working down in the East Bay so he takes the car and leaves me and Lucky alone for hours and hours and hours.

Inverness deckI missed my job and my co-workers terribly – even more than I missed my old house. I felt mentally and physically exhausted, but I was restless and unable to enjoy the peace and quiet. I had ample time to reflect upon my sins.

There were many good and useful things I intended to learn before we made the move. I haven’t learned any of them. I can not do first aid on Jason or the dog or can vegetables or perform CPR.  I’m not too worried about the canning. You can buy all kinds of stuff that’s already been canned by professionals. Jason knows how to do first aid on the dog, himself and me – although he can be a bit creative at times. He once took a splinter out of my finger with a sheet rock knife. It didn’t hurt and it didn’t get infected either. I still do think the CPR is a good idea. Fortunately there are classes online for about $20!

I was also planning on being in optimal physical condition before I went to live in the Tin Can. It seemed that the small space would be more pleasant if I were about 15 pounds thinner and much more agile. I had intended to do yoga. Instead I took pictures of the dog and invented cakes.

Green tea cake with candied almonds

I made this green tea cake with candied almonds for mine and Jason’s birthday.

This is a chai cake with caramel icing. For my son’s birthday I made it with a roasted pineapple filling. One of my favorites!

How could I resist? Lucky is a very photogenic dog!

Despite my failings in preparing for the move I’ve been mostly cheerful and happy for a long time now and this might be the most important preparation. Because…

Mora Ethan Frome

…Mora is not a good place to go to the dark side.

So now I’m over being homesick. I’ll probably always miss my former job and co-workers but I’m ready (as I’ll ever be) to move on.

Oh – and the sun came out here. Lucky and I are having a lot of fun exploring!

2 bridge walk

IMG_2097 (1)


The Tin Can

Tin Can

Some people get dreamy looks on their faces when I tell them that Jason, Lucky and I are going to live in our Airsteam for a while. I understand why they look that way. I’ve seen those beautiful Airstreams too. The Tin Can is not like that.

There are a lot of blogs about gorgeous renovations and remodels of Airstreams. We won’t be doing anything like that.

We’re only planning on living in the Tin Can until we build the garage and attached guest suite. The guest area will have a living room with a kitchenette, a bedroom and a bathroom. We should be comfortable there during the year or so that it will take to build the main house. So there’s not much point in putting a lot of money and effort into fixing up the Tin Can. On the other other hand…

Tin Can interior up to date

It’s going to get old living like this after a few days!

And I don’t care what anyone says (including Jason) this is not an appropriate toilet for a middle aged lady (or anyone else!). In fact the whole “bathroom” is ugly and scary.

Let's do this toliet

No! Let’s not.

No one’s getting taken away by Calgon in here.

Jason got the Tin Can cheap because it had been abandoned in a field in Arizona for years. It hadn’t been completely abandoned though. Apparently it had been a home to many generations of mice. I cleaned their poo for a whole day before it occurred to me that this is the type of chore that could actually make one ill. Fortunately, the mice who made the Tin Can their home were not the type to carry hantavirus.

The plastic in the Airstream was so brittle it shattered when I wiped it with a damp rag. Between that and the inaccessible mouse droppings the interior had to be gutted. That’s how it came to be called the Tin Can. It’s freezing in the winter (and fall and early spring) and very hot in the summer. We do have electricity so we can run our space heater, which can’t really keep up with the cold, and the window air conditioner, which works pretty well. Of course we have no running water and the septic system has yet to be installed.

I stay out of the way!

While Jason was doing all this crawling and climbing I read about half of Live by Night. It was good – but not as good as The Given Day!

Jason sealed the Tin Can to prevent rain and animals from coming in. He spent a long time doing this, crawling under the trailer and climbing up on top of it.

So the Tin Can is gutted, fairly clean, mouse-proofed and water tight. We also took out the old folding bed and Jason built a frame for our air mattress. This was a little trickier than it should have been because the floor of the trailer is not even.

Floor's not level

Jason: Wow this floor is just like the Continental Divide!


I slept in the old bed on the first night we ever spent in the trailer. I look pretty rested so it must not have been too bad. Jason slept in the camp chair. I don't think he liked it.

I slept in the old bed on the first night we ever spent in the trailer. I look pretty rested so it must not have been too bad. Jason slept in the camp chair. I don’t think he liked it.

I helped make the new bed!

I helped make the new bed!

Jason did most of it though.

Jason did most of it though.

The new bed is very comfortable. Lucky and I spend a lot of time there!

The new bed is very comfortable. Lucky and I spend a lot of time there!

We’re bringing our real mattress and box springs from the house so the bed should be even more comfortable. We’re also bringing real linens because Jason thinks the sleeping bags are too slippery. Lucky and I are fine with sleeping bags and our furry – but we’re looking forward to the new bathroom. I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the first project!



Good-bye 5105

Nevin exterior Christmas daytime

Nevin Dining Room

I loved to lie on the couch and look at my dining room!

We have less than a week left at our old house. This is a hard place to leave. Jason and I have been very happy here!

Sometimes I would lie on the couch and look at the shadows on the wall.

Sometimes I laid on the couch and looked at the shadows on the wall.

Our darling Bijou grew old here. When she couldn’t walk anymore I carried her out to the backyard. As we walked around the backyard I whispered to her, “You’re still a happy dog, right? You still want to live, right?” I felt her wag her tail against my leg.Bijou

After she died I went to the backyard and cried until I thought I’d die. We had Bijou for 16 years. I never thought I’d want another dog. Then I found Lucky.

Baby LuckyLucky was about five months old when we found him. He was riding on BART all by himself. He’s lived in this house with us for five years.

Nevin Backyard

Lucky rules the backyard! He allows no squirrels to enter the area, but doesn’t mind birds at all!

Lucky in Mora.Car

We’ve visited Mora with Lucky four times. When we arrive he stays like this for awhile, right by the car.

Lucky doesn’t seem comfortable in Mora. I’m afraid he’ll miss this house too.Lucky in MoraMaybe Mora just feels too big for Lucky. I hope he’ll be happy there. And I hope whoever moves into 5105 is as happy here as we’ve been.



Under Construction

Hello ~ Thanks for checking in! At the end of March, 2016 my husband, our dog and I are moving to our land in Mora, New Mexico. So far we have electricity and a well. The well isn’t hooked up to anything and there is no toilet! We have an old stripped out Airstream (with no toilet!), which we affectionately refer to as The Tin Can. The beautiful, eco friendly house Jason and I are going to build will be called Happily Ever After. I’m hoping it will look a bit like a fairytale cottage!

Jason knows how to build. (Visit his website at to see some of his work.) However, I don’t know how to build anything. I tried to paint the back wall of a closet once and Jason told me I was doing it wrong. He had his back to me and he was across the room. I said, “You can’t even see what I’m doing.” He said, “I can hear you though.” Something about not enough paint on the roller.

Another time he was talking about a job and saying how easy it was to do something. I said, “When you say ‘it’s easy’ do you mean really easy? Like I could do it?” He looked at me for a second and said, “No, you couldn’t do it, but your sister could.” Okay so she can do a lot of stuff, but I can do something she could never do ~ lie on the couch for hours. In addition to not being able to build anything I’m real lazy. Should be interesting!

We do this a lot!

We do this a lot!

The Tin Can arrives!

The Tin Can arrives! Our neighbor came over with his back hoe to move the trailer to a spot where it probably won’t get blown away by the strong wind that swoops down from the mountain. Thanks!