The Big Dig and Other Mountain Adventures

The Big Dig mid-way through.  Walls were hand built from stones gathered from the site.  Just like Machu Picchu, each stone was precisely cut…OK, maybe not, but they were precisely wrestled into place.

The Big Dig started innocently enough as most of Karen’s projects do.   In fact, the Big Dig didn’t start as a Big Dig at all, as my dearest wife just wanted a hoop house (which is a poor man’s greenhouse made of plastic instead of glass),  and we were going to build it on one of our few pieces of flat land.  But then, we asked “How does one get water to the Poor Man’s Greenhouse?”   Not easily it turns out and that’s how the idea of the Big Dig came about — let’s carve a level pad into the side of the mountain — lower than the house — and harness Mother Nature to get the water down there.  Our current plan is to capture, pipe in, and store the rainwater coming off the house.  I’m beginning to think this might require a water engineer with Hoover Damn experience.

More on the Big Dig in a moment.

Every day starts and ends the same way: putting on or taking off my Mountain Man Boots (in a mini-Mountain Man size).  No need to contemplate which pair of Italian loafers will match the day’s suit as there are no suits in a Mountain Man’s life.  No, my version of Dressing for Success includes anything that will keep the cactus thorns out and warmth in.  I’ve been accumulating the necessary tools on the journey to Mountain Manhood and have a wide assortment of hand tools and power tools (with directions always near by)  I’ll be armed and ready when duty calls. To those of you who may be aware of my DIY reputation, I say that old dogs can learn new tricks. We’ll see.

I often tell folks how lucky we were in finding this place and I mean it.  First, how could we possibly have found a place we love and that we can afford?  In this market? After literally years of looking? Remarkable. But, that’s not the most remarkable thing; the most remarkable is we didn’t have a clue Sandia Park existed before we happened on it.  It’s a near perfect blend of drop-dead beauty in a far-away place that’s also only 30 minutes away from civilization (restaurants, bars, stores).   When was the last time that your neighbors waived to you when driving past?  This happens all the time on La Madera Road, the 5 mile long narrow mountain road leading to our place.  La Madera Rd is well known is these parts as its one of the few — maybe only — side road that is paved and runs for miles.  It’s like living on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood.  “Where do you live?”  “Up LaMadera Road”. “Oh yes, I know where that is…”

Once a week KR and I have a big night out… at the Lazy Lizard, which is our local bar/restaurant just down the mountain from our house. A cold Corona and the special meat loaf sandwich are the Sandia Park equivalent of fine dining back in LA.   I sometimes eat lunch at the Shell Station just down the mountain as it sits next to the only automotive repair establishment in the East Mountains.  Both the Jag and LowBuck have already visited.

This coming week promises to be another average week in the life of a Mountain Man:  the plumber continues his quest to build the water supply system for the hoop house, the Roof Guy will come and repair the roof, I will chop and/or gather more fire wood, and Karen will rue the previous own’s decision not to put any form of heating on the second floor (except the fire place).  (NEWS FLASH:  none of these guys showed up!  Which is one of the downsides of living in America’s version of a mañana culture.).

You’d think I’d be getting in better shape with all this Mountain Man activity.   Yesterday (a Saturday) hunted for rocks up the mountain, then dragged the wheel barrow up to them, then loaded them in and dragged the wheel barrow down the mountain to where we need them in the Big Dig.  I did this three times.  Then I chopped some wood, moved it to the central wood stack (versus the outliers).  The day before I had to cut a tree that our 30mph winds blew down over the Big Dig.  Rather than getting bulked up, I’m just falling asleep at 8, too tired to eat my daily protein.

Our plans are evolving.  We will head south to PV around the first week of December.  Hang out in Mexico until late January at which point I pick up the reins of travel again and we’re off to India and other nearby places.  We’re back in PV from March – April and then come back to the mountains May-ish, in time to use our new hoop house.  If its finished by then: )

Here are some pictures.  Take care and keep in touch. fw



The Objective – something like this.


Step One: carve out a level pad in the mountain


Step Two: capture rain water from roof.  Here gutter man installs new gutters.


Step Three: get the water from the gutter into a pipe that goes under the driveway to…


Step Four: storage tank to keep the rain water.


Step five: get rain water to the hoop house via irrigation system


Close supervision is the key to every successful project




KR during one of her many days of wall-building.


Bogart has transitioned easily into being a Mountain Dog. He’s fond of finding a rock to jump on in order to survey his turf.


Man eating wild turkeys roam outside my office, as do deer, foxes, and assorted birds


Supercharged convertible trash collection vehicle. The Bullet taking trash and recyclables to the dump


The Bullet is also used as a dirt-packing vehicle as it goes back and forth over the new driveway turnaround


Bogart and Squirt oversee the Big Dig as well.  You can never have too much help.


Karen works on one of our half-dozen bird feeders in chilly weather.   Feeding birds, fighting chipmunks, and searching for new animal sightings occupy both of us.


This is as formal dress as a Mountain Man gets — a shirt with a collar: )


I’ve been riding my m/c much more often as he’s not stored in a garage across town, but here at Laguna. In early October, I had the not so bright idea of taking a five day ride into the mountains in southern New Mexico. A convinced a friend of mine, Chuck, to go along and we camped out for four nights. That’s when I realized I was more of a wimp than a Mountain Man as I froze my you-know-what off.


Morning coffee at the Big Dig site


Mountain Men and Women get up with the sun.


In November, the day’s first job is to build a morning fire to lure the rest of the team up.  I wonder what it’s  going to be like in January?

2 replies
  1. Ryan Manuel Reza says:

    Awesome job you two! Have you considered a gray water collection system? I have always wanted that for our house.

  2. Gregg Power says:

    Wonderful – you should be able to raise some very interesting vegetables in the hoop house. Keep the news bites coming, your lives are far more interesting than those of us residing in city life, even somewhat remote city life.

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