Well well


It is hard to describe the feeling when your well goes out.  On Tuesday afternoon when the water first stopped flowing I figured the problem was one of the above ground pumps that moves water around the property.  Finally when it became clear that the well wasn’t filling the main holding tank, I started to have flashbacks to life at AZ West before we had water.  That was back before the kid, the studio, the guest house and the encampment with it’s string of visitors.  Having water brought in by truck was expensive and difficult, even back then – so it is hard to imagine trying running this operation with no water now.


Then Walter from North American Drilling showed up with my reality check.  The well hadn’t run dry – but the pipes and pump were going to have to be pulled… at a price.  On Tuesday the rig arrived to pull up all 660 feet of pipe.  (my well is deep!)  By mid day the final lengths appeared…


revealing a hole so tiny that it doesn’t even show up in this photograph.  Or it is there if you look really hard.  About the size of a pea, and the culprit of all of this effort and expense.  By Wednesday night there was new pipe (PVC so it won’t rust out) and a new pump because the original one appeared to be on it’s last legs, and everything has been buttoned up and water is flowing throughout the land once again…  The entire saga has been a bit of a financial setback – but all the same, it is sure nice to be able to flush the toilet and take a morning shower.



IMG_9440The last two months have involved a lot of traveling.  While I was away on my last trip a monster windstorm took out the siding on my house, flipped the outdoor toilet and shower, blew a huge steel water tank half way down the road, and ripped doors off of the Wagon Stations.



It feels like progress out here always comes with a price… for every three steps forward there are at least two backward.  So now starts the process of putting everything back together again.  We are always in need of extra hands at times like this – if anyone in the area has some tight woodworking skills and can come help get everything back on line this month give us a shout!




I first started the renovation of AZ West in the year 2000 – twelve years ago.  Hard to believe….  especially since so many “temporary” decisions, like the Ikea lights, have gone overlooked for over a decade now.  Finally, humiliated by the passage of so much time with no real action, I commissioned TK with the fabrication of some long-percolating plans for lighting prototypes.  The living room lights above are a simplified reference to wagon wheel lamps.  Below are ceiling lights designed for the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom wall sconces…


I made my first lights for AZ East (in Brooklyn NY) back in the 1990s by using long showcase bulbs wired to dimmers, dialed down until the long filament became a visible wire.  Ever since I’ve been sold on exposed bulbs.  Now add to that, a quest for the ultimate mood lighting…  The AZ West lights were designed with the theory that many small light sources would create a better, more brightly diffused light then a single main source.  (think about how great the light is from patio or christmas tree lights)  – a theory that seems to hold true.  Each ceiling lamp has eight 25 watt bulbs, and is wired to a dimmer switch for perfect control over the brightness.


And no, we don’t still have our christmas tree up in late January  (in the background behind Moon Cloud) – I’ve just been documenting the lighting project for the full time that it has taken to come to fruition!


New signs at AZ West

IMG_8468While we are showing off the new HDTS signs, I also wanted to remember to post the signs that just went up a few weeks ago at AZ West.  With 35 acres all cobbled together – and with each parcel serving a different function – it’s becoming more and more important to help people find their destination on the property.

IMG_8471IMG_8474Skylar helped us figure out an economical way to build the metal frame and Randy Brill executed the router carving. Then Patrick and Marcus kept warm on a winter afternoon by digging 40″ holes and trying to get the whole thing leveled out in three directions.


Hot water

Solar showers are high on our wish list as part of the new kitchen and bathroom area in the encampment. In order to try some preliminary tests with solar hot water we temporarily repurposed one of the composting toilets as a test shower. To do this we connected four sections of 50′ black garden hose together, then we connected that to a shower-head, last we added in mixers to control the hot/cold ratio of the water – and walla… a shower!


Reports from our lone resident were that the shower was warm in the mild November weather –but not long lasting and hot.  I’m not sure if a long hot shower is even possible with a solar shower in November (average temps are in the low 50’s in the day), but it would be good to know if using the black hose is a better or worse strategy then using a black water tank.  Anyone out there have any good answers for this?




Marcus’s Poop


Among the new amenities currently underway at the Wagon Station encampment are composting toilets. Being total novices to the world of composting, we thought we’d start with simple toilets that use five gallon buckets to collect the poop, then composting it in an official composting area closer to the future vegetable garden. The toilet enclosures were actually a lot of fun to make – we started out with a minimal plan and a pile of wood, but turned out pretty stylish!


The composting bins were conceptualized by Ari (and built once by dry stacking) and then remade with mortar by David Baker.  Later on they will get a coat of white paint.  According to the Humaneur Handbook, the “compost” should age for a year before we use it – hence the two sided bins.  Cement block was used for the bins in order to keep out rodents (later lids will be added) and to keep moisture and humidity in.

Since all this happened in November, which is fairly late in the season, the only humanure guinea pig left living in the wash area was Marcus, our month long resident of the Magasin 3 Wagon Station.  By the time that Marcus traveled on he had left us a five-gallon bucket filled with pure goodness – stay posted for the results!

Wagon Station Update

IMG_6363While the billboards were being painted in the clean space, and Lay of my Land” was being fabricated in the center sculpture studio, there was yet another work simultaneously coming together in the studio’s “flex” space… where seven customized Wagon Stations, recently extracted from the land A-Z West, were assembled to prepare them for a journey to Stockholm, Sweden.  And as soon as that group left the studio  TK and Ernie began work on seven brand new units.  These will be  positioned out in the desert later this month, when Tova, our first Swedish resident, comes to stay in one for a month as part of the Magasin 3 project.

More Studio Catchup

IMG_6905Part two of studio catchup features of “Lay of My Land” – a new sculpture for my September show at Regen Projects.  It’s a sculpture of A-Z West, split up into sections representing the individual parcels that has been painstakingly acquired and added together to create a seemingly united whole.   When the frame arrived from Chuck’s place up in Baldy it was BIG.  So big, that it caught all of us off-guard, but fortunately the new studio swallowed it up perfectly.


IMG_7062Dan came down from Portland for a social visit and ended up making rocks, and Jim came out from New York and made models, and Neal and Erin came out from LA with endless heavy dusty bags of hydrocal stuffed in their cars. And somehow in the end it all came together.  Now, believe it or not, as I post this I’m actually now sitting in Stockholm where we are now making other variation of this sculpture for a show at Magasine 3 (that opens next week!)  but that part comes later….