The last leg of our American road trip (#VanLife Part 3) takes us through every southern state on our way to Florida. For our first stop we were house sitting for a retired couple who live completely off-grid in the New Mexico high desert with their two dogs, Tess and Brady. We spent merely three weeks in this desert oasis, but somehow left with years worth of wisdom.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
New Mexico is a southwestern USA state bordering Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico. It is the ancestral home of several Native American tribes. The first European settlers to the area were from Spain. These settlers named the land New Mexico over 200 years before the country of Mexico was named. In the early 1800s, New Mexico became a Mexican territory, but that was short lived. After the Mexican-American War in 1848, New Mexico joined the USA and was later named the 47th state. Now with a population of two million people, New Mexico boasts the highest percentage of Hispanic Americans in the United States and the second highest percentage of Native Americans.
Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and has the distinction of being the oldest capital city in the country. It has a semi-arid climate, with cold, dry winters and hot summers. With the pueblo-style buildings and numerous art galleries and craft shops, Santa Fe is well known as a center for arts. It is even one of 34 cities around the world named a UNESCO Creative City for Crafts and Folk Art!
Our house sit was located in the high-mountain desert just south of Santa Fe. After driving 30 minutes of rough dirt road, we arrived at a beautiful home with a stunning vista view. It is a small home sitting on 60 acres of wild desert complete with cacti, jack rabbits, and coyotes. If that isn’t interesting enough, this house is completely self-sufficient. High efficiency windows capture and retain sunlight, keeping the house warm even during the freezing high desert winter (though there was also a wood stove for particularly cloudy days, which was quite nice). All electricity comes from a solar power installation, and the water is all rain caught and filtered.
The home has one bedroom, one bath, full kitchen, large living room, office, and reading nook. The outside is spacious and complimented with comfortable outdoor seating. There are no TVs in the house, but the co-op internet is stable and was more than adequate for our work schedule. Our hosts have an eye for art and decorated their home and property with beautiful pieces by local artists. We felt like we were in a secluded art gallery made just for us.
We took to the self-sufficient lifestyle pretty quickly, with only one major change to our daily habits: our water usage. We began showering less often, and the showers we did take were very short. We flushed only when necessary and washed our dishes in tubs. It took only a couple of days to get used to, but I enjoyed the experience and gained a greater understanding of the amount of water I use in a day… it’s a lot!
Our hosts are a couple who have opted to forgo the hustle and bustle of the city for the tranquility of the country. They have owned the home for 10 years and still love it. We were house sitting in New Mexico for them while they traveled to Australia on holiday. We couldn’t wait to hear their stories and see their pictures.
Our pets for this sit included a small herd of barn cats and two dogs, Tess and Brady. Those dogs were big! I have to admit I was a little nervous about their size at first, but they turned out to be incredibly gentle and loving. They are both excellent guard dogs who enjoy sitting in the snow, chasing rabbits, and wrestling in the living room. I can definitely see why the owners chose to have these two dogs with them out here. They took very good care of us. I’m pretty sure they thought they were our babysitters instead of the other way around.
It was not particularly convenient to go to Santa Fe, as the driveway was extremely rough and bumpy. Thankfully, our hosts provided us with a rough-and-tumble Subaru so Darla didn’t have to take the brunt of it. Still, we chose to adventure to town only every few days. This wasn’t a problem, though, since we enjoyed the quiet and tranquility of the sit. We spent a lot of time working, reading, cooking, and taking long walks. The desert had plenty of new flora and fauna for us to explore and the dogs were fun to watch bounding fearlessly through the cactus bushes.
The sit itself was much easier than I expected. When I first heard the house was off-grid, I had assumed we’d have to put in a little extra daily effort, but there really wasn’t much house work to be done at all. I fed and watered the cats each day, threw seeds out for the birds, and of course took care of the dogs. There were a couple of heavy snow days, but even that offered a great opportunity for some hot chocolate by the fire.
Josh finished the first round of editing on his novel while in Arizona. By our house sit in New Mexico, he was sitting on about 180,000 words (30,000 over the recommended upper limit for debut novels). Because of this, he started his second round of edits in New Mexico with a goal to cut at least 10% from each chapter. It was really interesting to watch his struggles and successes with this. I think it really changed the way he looked at his writing.
THE PHANTOM MENACE X GAME OF THRONES
When a long dead conflict is sparked violently back to life, Alexius must leave behind his forbidden love to accompany his master in search of the shadowy figure who stokes the flames of war.#pitmad #A #F #SF
— J. Brandon Lowry (@jbrandonlowry) March 7, 2019
I made a lot of headway in my social media campaigns for the online fiction writer’s community #WeWriteFiction and was able to catch up on some blog pieces (thank you for your patience). The seclusion also allowed for some great reading time. I finished Titus Fogg by Aaron Piper, a really enjoyable self-published book about a magic kid in the regular world. I also breezed through Stranded by Bracken MacLeod, a horror-scifi about an oil rigger stranded in the ice.
House sitting in New Mexico was an excellent experience and challenge to our previous views of needfulness. We loved Tess and Brady, our home, the amazing scenery, and the quiet. It was a house sit we will never forget and likely one we will continue talking about for years to come. I love when these sits aren’t just in new places, but require new skills and experiences as well. Up next, check out our adventures in Santa Fe!