Screening Steiner


One of the long awaited amenties at AZ West has been our own movie screen – a plan that finally came to fruition this month!  A while back when visiting USC to give a lecture, I met A.L.Steiner and mentioned that I would love an opportunity to see “Community Action Center” – her new film that she made in collaboration with A.K. Burns.  This conversation ultimately ended up with her agreeing to screen the film at AZ West in connection with HDTS.  And the heat was finally on to get a screen made.  Chris Engman, artist and current USC MFA student stepped up to help engineer this endeavor, along with the help of Lucas Wrench – our totally unflappable and every helpful summer intern.


The screen itself is a pretty awesome piece of sculpture – set back in the private wash area behind our new encampment.  In addition to CAC we also got to watch C.L.U.E. – a collaborative work that Steiner made with robbinschilds (I became completely obsessed with this film when I first saw it at the New Museum…)  One other bit of cool trivia is that part of C.L.U.E. was filmed in Joshua Tree – bringing the work in full circle.


Palo Verde Breakfast


I started gardening this year in metal livestock troughs (24 inches high to keep the animals out).  Growing food in the desert has been both fun and challenging, with a steep learning curve that I’ll write more about later.  But all that hard work made me realize how smart it is to take advantage of native food sources that are both free and readily available.  One of my favorites is Palo Verde beans.  You pick the pods when they are still fresh and green, blanche or boil like edamame and then eat the seeds. Or they are just as good fresh off the tree.  I’ve also read that you can dry and store the beans and sprout them at other times in the year…  Other really good edibles that we have discovered at AZ West are Mormon Tea, Mesquite and Chia.


good footings


For the last year we have been slowly replacing all of the customized Wagon Stations with new “stock” Wagon Stations that are available for people involved in activities at AZ West to stay in.  And while expanding the Wagon Station encampment it also became time to address the never ceasing issue with wind.  Even though four strong people can barely lift one of these units, our desert windstorms have managed to flip and smash them on an ongoing basis.


About two months ago TK engineered a new footing and a tie down system – along with fasteners on the hatch and back entry door.  So far they have weathered at least two fairly fierce windstorms and nothing has flipped yet… fingers crossed!


The Loop That Katherine Ran

Katherines map

I got a really nice note from Katherine Ball today – Katherine was last year’s resident on Indy Island, and she came to visit AZ West a few months ago, just in time to help put the finishing touches on the Encampment (more about that soon!) and to help demo Yucca Crater.  (A brutal hot sweaty undertaking which she took on cheerfully and uncomplainingly)

Katherine likes to go on epic runs – and while out in the desert pioneered a new route around the rocky mountain next to AZ West.  Today she sent a map and detailed description of her journey, which I’m about to try out this evening as I walk the dogs…  (my disclaimer is that I’m walking not running, like Katherine was, and one of my dogs is a geriatric 16 year old, so we will see how far we make it on our first pass.)

Katherine’s instructions:   HERE IS THE LOOP I RAN:

Go down your driveway like you are heading to the highway, into Joshua Tree.
1. Make a Left on the first dirt road that follows the powerlines and runs parallel to the highway.
2. Travel along it, bearing a slight  Left when it forks (don’t go left at the cross).
3. Follow it to a car turnaround and head Left through a canyon (one of the first rocks has a bunch of Playboys behind it).
4. The canyon path will peak by a dirt road/wash by a house.
5. Go Right and snake your way through the rocks (10 – 20 minutes?)
6. There will be an opening with a lot of washes.
7. Go Left around the big rock with the science device/tower, follow the wash.
8. You will come to a dead end (less than 5 mi)
9. Climb up the boulders on the Left side.
10. Walk through wash with the rocks carved by boulders.
11. Go Left at the end/road (?) and cross by abandoned look out.
12. From the lookout, find a trail that is near it (forward) and runs parallel to a road. This trail will intersect the road on your Right and then the trail will branch off to the left and bring you to the backside of the canyon that connects to your wash. You will make a Left into your canyon and follow it to the Wagon Stations.

****It will be challenging to complete the loop on your first go. I suggest trying to make it to the lookout or dead end coming from both counterclockwise and clockwise, then connect them.

1.     Head through your canyon.
2.    It will veer left as it dissipates.
3.     Find the trail that is on your Right and goes perpendicular.
4.     The trail will take you to a road (within 1/5 mile).
5.     Make a Right on the road and look for the abandoned lookout. There is a trail that goes there, or you can just aim for it.
6.      The wash that connects to the dead end is approximately 1/3 mile. You will make a Right into the wash. I think there is a trail or road but I am not sure.


Where the heck did the last two months go?  There is so much to catch up on – further progress in the new container compound, the new chicken coop, raised bed gardening,  poop (not quite) composting, the amazing new encampment, outdoor kitchen and open air showers,  Hannah coming back for a visit from the UK,  a one week class as part of the Institute of Investigative Living, a bunch of art getting shipped out,  a trip to the Salton Sea and Slab City, new art starting up, some seriously nice new bowls for the kitchen,  a new dog,  Travis Boyer’s Margarita performance, A.L. Steiner’s awesome screenings, Lucas our new summer intern…  And the news of today is:  New baby CHICKS!!
More soon…  Promise.

deep sleep


Tortoise hibernation is a controversial subject and there are lots of differing opinions about the best way to do (or to not) do it – especially with winter temperatures on the rise.  While Rosemary Desert Willow, our tortoise from the local rescue, sleeps in her deep burrow in our back yard, just like she did in the wild, her  babies spent last winter in a huge terrarium that took up most of my desk in the office.  Finally this year I finally decided to take the leap, and after weiging the pros and cons it seemed like  the refrigerator method was the way to go –  If the babies stayed outside all winter in their shallow burrow they could freeze to death.  Same thing goes if I put them in a shipping container (plus there are rats in the containers who seem to find their way into almost everything) and there aren’t really any other out structures that at AZ West that could maintain consistent temps.


After two months at 41-42 degrees Fahrenheit in their refrigerator bedroom the babies were finally ready to wake up.  Ravenous, but in good spirits, they are now back to  living on my desk until it gets warm enough outside to put them back in their outdoor run.


new life


Now that we have moved the studio out of the shipping container compound it is time to breath new life into the containers.


Lars Fisk and his girlfriend Betil are visiting  from NY to help mastermind a buildout of  two little guest cabins in the the central container – the units will be minimal, like the inside of a van, and just right for an overnight stay when it is too hot or too cold to sleep in the Wagon Stations.


By the end of Friday Lars has the container all insulated and framed out – ready for plywood sheeting which will happen next week.

Lars Fisk's Shipping Container 1

These are the shipping containers that Lars built out as his own home, installed in a secret location in NY – they are incredibly well thought out…  After using my own three containers as a studio for seven years, I’ve come to have a love/hate relationship with these structures.  But after checking out the living compound that Lars made,  I started to believe feel that there might be a way find love for them after all.

Lars Fisk's Shipping Container 2

His five 20′ containers are configured in a way that feels both spatially complex and surprising roomy.  Part of this success is because he didn’t attempt to use the ultra long 40′ containers so his rooms are small, but the proportions feel really good. (which is why we are splitting up my long unit into two separate apartments)  And they are tucked full of “special features” like the rooftop greenhouse and circular skylight, hand crafted for the upstairs unit.

Lars Fisk's Shipping Container 3
Lars Fisk's Shipping Container 4

After my second visit back to check out his progress (it seems like things were always completely new and different each time I stopped by) we started talking about my container compound in the desert and Lars suggested that he could come out for a visit and do a consultation.  That was last year.  Now this year he is back for phase one which feels like the begining of a whole new life for this small compound.  I’ve given the project a two year window (all projects at AZ West have prescribed timeframes so that nothing is left dangling too long) so there is a lot yet to come!

good stuff


There is good stuff going on in the studio these days… (lots of it – and lots of different things…) More soon!