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.


  1. yay! I'm so glad you updated!! bummer about all the flooding but glad its all taken care of! Had a great visit from John Haley and now he's off to you guys! Have a blast- miss you both!!

  2. Howdy,

    I just bought a tipi.. i will be living in it full time starting in may. Im also from montana.. missoula



  3. I'm so excited to find your blog today! After several years of dreaming, my boyfriend and I finally bought a tipi, minus the poles, and we plan on living in it year around as soon as we find some land, hopefully by late spring or early summer. I think I read all your updates, but I have lots of questions and apologize for asking anything you might have already answered. How did you transport your 25' poles when you moved south? Did you have to cut them shorter? What kind of vehicle did you use to transport them? Was it a problem keeping yourself decently clean for work during the winter when temps were below zero? I may have to build a shower shelter for that. Maybe with a little heater. How did the refrigeration work out in the cooler/hole-in-the-ground setup you had? Is digging a root cellar of sorts sufficient for keeping food from freezing in the winter or do you just go without those items that can't hold up to being frozen (canned food, produce, etc.)? How did you find people to let you put up a tipi on their land? Did they let you dig an outhouse or did you have some other way of taking care of that issue? Thanks for sharing your stories. It is nice to find a blog about tipi living from a person actually living in a tipi instead of just information on history or construction of a tipi.

  4. laura,

    That's awesome you and your boyfriend will be living in a tipi soon! It's a great way to live. Send me an e-mail and i'll be happy to answer any questions you have based on my experiences so far: dillinjl@gmail.com

  5. Hi, I came across your site and wasn’t able to get an email address to contact you. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me back.


    Hailey William