Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Relocating/Do you know anyone in Asheville, NC that wouldn't mind having a tipi set up on their land? :)

Hello all,

I realize it's been a long time since I've written, but I figure now is as good a time as any. Things are going will here in Silver City. Jill is still working at the Co-op, while I am trying my hand at free-lance web design. So far I've designed the site for the Silver City food Co-op and am currently working on a site for a local art gallery. It's been a lot of fun, I've been able to learn a lot, and get paid for it at the same time, and be able to set my own work hours.

They weather has been great here. Spring is a dry season this time in New Mexico. I could probably count on 1 hand the number of times it has rained since March. Day time highs are consistently in the high 70's and 80's while night time lows are in the 40's and 50's, perfect weather for the tipi. We've been getting better at cooking over the fire in the dutch oven. we've made bread a few times, each time learning a little more about how to arrange the coals to ensure even cooking. We've also made pizza a couple times which has turned out really nice.

Last weekend we went on a great backpacking trip with a couple friends in the Gila. We went out for two days to Sapillo box, which is a narrow box canyon along the Sapillo river. We hiked about 4 miles out, including 30+ river crossings/walking in the river for long periods, and even one part where we had to swim for about 20 yards because the river was so deep, and the canyon was so narrow. We caught 6 trout and had a nice feast that night.

As nice as it is here in Silver City, and as much as we are enjoying it, Jill and I both feel like it's time for us to move on to something new. We're planning on moving to Asheville, NC sometime this summer. We're looking to go somewhere a bit more permanent so that I can go back to school, and so Jill can get a job in her field to help her figure out if she wants to return to school and get her MSW. Asheville seems like a good place. It's a bigger town, with more opportunity, but not too big. It's right next to the Appalachian mountains, and Smoky Mountain National park. Not the big mountains we've gotten used to in the west, but still a nice wild playground.

Our main concern right now is finding a place to set up the tipi. This will be the third place we've been set up. I was able to find the first two places rather easily, and they both worked out really well. This time it's proving a bit more difficult. We've contacted some farms in the area and tried to get the word out on Craigs list and different messages boards, but haven't hear anything yet. I thought I might as well post something on the blog about it in case anyone reading out there is in the Asheville area and might be able to help us out, or see if anyone has any suggestions for us.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Cooperative Effort

Much to the surprise of the residents of Silver City who insisted finding a job in this town was mere impossible, I have managed to get a job at the Silver City Food Cooperative. This is the perfect job for me, as I can get back to my cashiering roots and with my employee discount Josh and I can eat well on our small budget. But working here has made me start to ponder the word cooperative. Surely the food co-op is a prime example of cooperation; employees must cooperate to keep the store running and members are owners of the store making every decision a cooperative effort amongst all. But when I think of the word cooperative, what truly comes to mind is living in a 14 foot cone with another human being.

When it finally hit me that I would be living with Josh in such a small space, I was more than a little concerned about how things would work out. To my delightful surprise, it has not only been 100 times easier than I imagined, but it is usually a lot of fun. That is of course if you are willing to cooperate. When it comes to getting things done in the tipi, a little bit of cooperation goes a long way. It makes life easier and makes getting tasks done faster and more efficient. Cooking dinner for starters is always a cooperative effort. Josh starts a fire and maintains it, while I chop vegetables and prepare the meal. In the mornings Josh often chops wood and I will clean up around the tipi or do the dishes from the night before. Now maybe this sounds like we have taken on some outdated gender roles, but in truth this situation suits us best. Josh is faster and more efficient at starting fires and chopping wood, and I like to think I am a little better at cooking and after seeing Josh’s version of a clean dish I will gladly do them any day!

There are other tasks that require both of us to work together to get them done. For instance, emptying the ozan after a heavy rain requires that I hold up the bucket, while Josh dumps the water into it (hopefully without getting too much of it on my head…). Showering also takes some cooperation. Josh has recently built a free standing shower, but before that we would either have to hose each others heads or hold up the shower to get the job done. We also recently learned that using a dutch oven can be quite the cooperative effort and after only 23 hours we finally got our beans cooked!

All in all being in the tipi has been better than I could have ever imagined, and being in it with Josh has been spectacular. Every day brings new challenges and it is always exciting to see how we can work together to solve them. Only time will tell what new obstacles lay before us, but I am confident that with a little cooperation, we will get through them all and still have smiles on our faces in the end :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


It doesn't rain in the desert, it certainly doesn't snow in the desert. Since we've moved in we've been flooded out of the tipi, and seen 5+ inches of snow, not exactly what we were expecting when we left Montana and Traveled 1500 miles south, 2 hours from the Mexican border. Around town they say it's the worst winter they've seen in 20+ years, but i'll take 30 degrees and raining over -25 degrees any day. in between the rain and snow the weather is nice. We are at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet so even at the lower boundaries of the united states it's going to be cool in the winter. The day time temps are in the low 50's and the night time temps are in the lower 30's to upper 20's, go three hours west, and down a few thousand feet in elevation to Tucson, AZ and the temps are in the mid 60's.

When thinking of how we would set up the tipi, Jill and I had the wonderful idea of using a large tarp, 16X20 feet, to put underneath where the tipi would be set up. This would keep things clean and keep bugs out, and as a bonus it's water proof! I should have known it wasn't a good idea. I'm always skeptical of things that are water proof. Water can't get in, but when it does, and it does, it also can't get out. Our first night in the tipi came a substantial all night down pour, when we woke up there were puddles in the tipi. How could it be? water must of seeped up from underneath the ground through the tarp into the tipi, right? OK, I thought, i'll dig a ditch around the tipi, to catch all water that might roll down the slight hill we are on and channel the water to another area. As I finished digging the ditch I realized that wasn't the problem at all. The tarp really was water proof, and even if it wasn't why weren't there puddles on the ground outside the tipi, if water was sipping up through the ground? And why would the soil and plants be rejecting precious water in a desert, where this water must be scarce? It didn't make any sense. What was actually happening: The rain was collecting on the tarp outside of the tipi, then rolling into the tipi through the liner in the bottom. The tarp really was water proof, but that became a hindrance rather than a bonus. So water came into the tipi, but didn't go out. Solution: I cut all of the excess tarp that was on the outside of the tipi so it couldn't collect water, problem solved, not as easy as it sounds, it took a couple days of waking up to big puddles before we really got the problem worked out. And once the wood dried out form all the rain, we were able to make some nice fires and cook some meals, although in the meantime we enjoyed eating at the many cheap delicious Mexican restaurants in town.
Our first visitors, Ben and Kristen!

The land we're staying on is great. it's 40 acres of rolling hills, cacti and bushes far enough away from town to not have lights drown out the starry night sky's but close enough to walk or ride our bikes into town. There's a dirt trail that runs through the property, right into town, so we don't even need to use the main roads. The owner of the land has been great, he showed us around, set up a mail box for us, has given us access to all the fire would we could use and given us access to the vacant house on the property which has electricity and running water. We've been able to settle in and find part time jobs, which is difficult in Silver City with a high unemployment rate, and things are going well.

We've been able to do a little bit of exploring so far, driving into the Gila National Forest, and to Tucson, Arizona. It's certainly a different part of the country than Montana. I've never been a strong speller. In grade school, a teacher taught me how to remember the difference between "dessert" and "desert" by explaining "dessert has two 's' because you always want more." I guess she didn't read much Edward Abbey. The arid places of our earth are different, vast, often empty, but there are still plenty of people who want more, and plenty of people who will continue to be confused by the difference of dessert and desert. In pictures it's void of all water, plant live is scarce. In person it's no less intimidating. Everything is sharp and pointy in the desert. Cacti needles liter the ground, small burs get into your shoes. Even the trees have thorns. It protects them from predators who would other wise devour the plants in a place where the next meal may be far away, from people who would other wise trample all over their land and use up the precious resources. The desert is for outcasts. Either those outcasts that want to be alone, or those outcasts who want to live where it never rains but still have green lawns, like in Las Vegas, outcasts all the same.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death"

The horse stands, head over the fence, staring in my direction as I drive the gravel road home. Not necessarily an extraordinary sight until I mention that it’s -21 degrees and falling on this clear brisk starry Montana evening. It makes you wonder what you really need in life, if a horse can survive -20 degree nights with snow up to it’s knees, and 100 degree summer days with no shelter or air conditioning. It’s winter and it’s been cold in the tipi, but not unbearable. If you live in south Florida and the temperature hits 50 you may fear frostbite, it’s all about perspective. The temperatures were in the 30’s the other week and it felt like summer. But no matter where you’re from, 0 and below is pretty darn cold. There’s a special tingle in the air when the mercury drops below 0 on the thermometer. It stings the nostrils, and clears your sinuses, it’s like taking a wiff of horseradish. When it’s this cold I don’t spend much time in the tipi, mostly just to sleep. Anything that can’t be done while wrapped up in blankets and sleeping bags will have to wait for anther day.
The discovery of fire was a pretty big deal, I’m sure, but when it comes to spending time and energy on a task that might raise the temperature from -20 to 20, I think I’ll pass. Even if I were to start a fire on this night, it would still be too cold to do anything useful. I’ve found that the best way to be warm on a cold night is to stay warm. So instead of exposing myself to the elements while trying to start a fire, I do some jumping jacks, then wrap myself in blankets and allow my body heat to keep me warm. The toes are a problem, it’s hard to keep those little guys warm, double wool socks and slippers work to the extent of avoiding frost bite, but they’re always a bit cold. The tipi holds up well in the snow, the canvas freezes and the snow mounts on top. Wet snow can pile up pretty high and weigh the canvas down, I pound on the inside of the walls to knock the snow off so it doesn’t stretch the canvas and cause problems later. The snow around the bottom is welcome insulation.
The winter in the tipi has been a great experience. I’ve learned that humans my not be as fragile as previously thought, it turns out we work just fine outside of room temperature. Jill and I will be headed south for a whole new set of adventures and experiences in New Mexico, tipi in tow. You’ll be able to follow our journey here. And I’m sure my posts will be much more frequent, she’ll make sure of it :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My First Real Tipi Experience

Please enjoy this special treat: a guest blog entry from my lovely girlfriend, Jill :)

Since Josh moved into the tipi I have only spent a night or so there, never staying more than one night at a time. Last week I finally got my chance to stay for almost an entire week! I arrived on Tuesday night and didn’t leave until Monday morning.

As Josh has described, life in the tipi is wonderful. It’s simple and relaxed and really does bring you closer to nature. Never have I experienced so vividly the sounds of nature: the sound of rain hitting the canvas of the tipi, the sounds of the wind rushing by, the sounds of roosters starting their calls at 4 am and not stopping ‘til 6pm, the sounds of endless geese migrating somewhere (it certainly did not appear to be south…), and of course the nonstop moans of nearby cows who sounded as though they were being tortured or mutilated or plagued by mad cow disease.

There are also a few perks to living in the tipi that Josh has failed to mention. The first is all-natural hair gel. I discovered this one night as I lay in bed (well something very similar to a bed) and suddenly I felt a little tickle in my hair. I instinctively whacked my head only to find that I had squished a golf ball-sized bug into my hair line (it MAY have been a bit smaller, but I was sleepy so it’s hard to say). This left a thick, sort of gel-like substance in my hair, giving me a nice cowlick, something I imagine looked similar to Cameron Diaz’s hair in There’s Something About Mary. The other little perk is something I experienced early one morning. As I squatted down towards the cold ground to relieve myself, I found myself immersed in a cloud of steam as my warm urine hit the frozen ground. Who knew living in a tipi meant you got your own personal sauna every morning!

But in all honesty living in the tipi is superb. It forces you out of your normal indoor living habits. No longer can you sit on your computer or cell phone for prolonged periods of time-they will die, there is no cable to be watched, you can’t waste precious energy by taking 30 minute-long, scolding hot showers (one of my favorite pastimes I will admit), and no more making a quick meal in the microwave. Preparing meals, washing dishes, reading a book are all more comfortably done outside beneath the sun rather than indoors. And of course, practicing your dance moves at 8pm is an activity best done outside the tipi, under the immense, star-filled sky.

-guest blogger, Jill Wagner

Monday, October 5, 2009

Testing, 123, testing

"I'm surprised that thing is still standing, those Indians really knew what they were doing." Those were the words of my neighbor, greeting me as I returned from a weekend away from the tipi. It appears the tipi faced its first major test this weekend, and passed with flying colors. There was trash scattered about, a few inches of water (which was presumably snow at one point) in the pots and pans I had left outside, and my canvas door had been ripped away from the opening of the tipi and twisted multiple times around the wooden dowels, the force of the wind causing the rope to rip right through the canvas.

But the tipi its self looked as if nothing had happened. The bricks had blown off of my tarp where I am storing my bike and kayak, but the tipi remained stoic and strong. Not a single stake was pulled from the ground, not a single pole had been shifted. There was about 2 gallons of water collect in my make shift Ozan waiting to be drained. The design was improvised after having earlier trouble with leakage. I cut out a 6 foot circle from a painters drop cloth and tied it to the poles inside the tipi, about 8 feet in the air, to create a sort of inner roof, that would catch any water that might come through the opening at the top. I wasn't sure if it would hold up in a big storm, sure enough it did.

So the tipi has been test, but I haven't. I'm sitting in the tipi, in my sleeping bag, wearing my winter coat and hat, listening to the snow fall onto the canvas, stumbling to find the right keys as my fingers are half frozen. My test will come soon enough. What's it like to live in a tipi in the Montana winter? I'll let you know.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cool, Clear skies.

Well, today was the first official day of fall in the northern hemisphere and it has been accompanied by the first two mornings of frost in Montana. I've woken up to frost and 30 degree temps the past two days. It hasn't caused any problems as far as sleeping at night. I haven't had any trouble staying warm. It is harder waking up in the morning. The quickly vanishing sunlight and the lower mercury make for a situation better faced from the inside of a sleeping bag. I'm a bit disorganized at the moment, which makes adjustments more difficult to make. I have been doing some cleaning of the tipi and thinning out my things but it's a bit of a clutter. I just need to figure out a system that allows me to adapt to the cold weather. I need to get all of my stuff ready in the evening, while it is still daylight, so I can wake up in the morning, before the sun has filtered into the tipi, and leave for work without delay.

One thing that has been nice is sleeping outside in the cold weather. The great thing about living in a tipi is that you don't forget about the outdoors when the weather turns coold. It's right there. If I were living in a house I wouldn't think to forgo the warmth and comfort of my bed and sleep on my lawn, but since I'm in a tipi, I'm already sleeping on the lawn. I might as well go outside where I can look up at the stars. There's something special about sleeping under the stars in sub-freezing conditions. The air and sky have a sterile, fresh, clean look and feel. The stars are brighter and crisper. Your breath hovers in a cloud then evaporates.