Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Life in a Commune

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.  We got voted into the commune and bought a tiny house here.  It needs a lot of renovations before we can move in, so we're living beside it in our RV.  Thankfully we have water, sewer, and electric (one of the members set up an RV connection on our switch box) so there's no rush to move in.






Here's our little house.  It's 324 sq ft, so a little more space than the RV.  So far all we've been doing is using the shower.  Another commune member got that working for us in exchange for some chimney covers left in our yard.  There's A LOT of stuff piled around the house.





I'll be using what I can for various projects.  For those of you keeping score:

  • Our land, about a 4th of an acre, cost us $1,750.  Some lots are bigger, some smaller
  • The house cost $5,000.  Most lots are empty, but we wanted a structure to start with.
  • The monthly fee to live here is $25
  • Sewage is free.  We have a lagoon with Effective Microorganisms
  • Water is from the local village and very cheap
  • We have electricity here.  About 50 amps.  We pay that to the city also.  Half the commune is located off-grid, but it's so hot in summer I just can't imagine going without AC.
  • Dying is low-cost.  We have an organic cemetery where a body can be wrapped in a blanket and buried for just the price of digging the hole.  (My mom and I signed up for plots).
This is an adobe house, and it's got some major cracks inside and out.  I need to clear the creosote trees off the land so I can build a shed (I just bought the kit for it) then I can put all the stuff surrounding the house in the shed and empty the stuff in the house.  Then I'm going to replaster the entire outside and tape and plaster the cracks inside.  Until that's done there's nothing else I can do.

I have been struggling to find anyone who will come and tear up trees for me.  'Trees' is being generous.  This is just overgrown scrub brush, ugly and useless.  Also, roots from some trees close to the adobe are causing me more cracks.  I want it all gone.  After fighting on and on to try to get someone I'm buying a chain to attach to the back of my car to tear the stuff up myself.  People in the commune have offered to chop down trees, but unless the roots are gone this stuff will just keep coming back.

So, here's the plan:
  1. Clear the lot of trees, cactus, and scrub brush
  2. Build a large shed that will be a windbreak and storage (the winds from the east are insane here)
  3. Clear the outside and inside of the building, putting the stuff we want to keep in the shed and taking the rest to the dump or metal recycling.
  4. Plaster, plaster, plaster.  Stop the cracks from getting any worse.
  5. Clean clean clean.  So many spiders in that little house.
  6. I was thinking about putting down a floor since we have flooring, but I probably won't.
  7. Block all the cracks around the doors that are letting all these spiders in.
  8. Purchase beds, refrigerator, kitchen counters and storage, washing machine, and TV. (We have a window box AC unit in there now.
  9. Get Dish for TV (we already got Hughes Net for Internet)
  10. Move out of the RV.  Put everything in the house or the shed.
  11. Clean the RV, top to bottom.  Repair any broken items (our screen door handle for one), get air in the tires.
  12. Put the RV up for rent with pick ups in El Paso, Deming, and Columbus.  This thing is too expensive to just be a driveway decoration.  I want it to be making me money.
  13. Build fencing off and around the shed.  Eight feet of the shed is going to be walled off from the rest of the shed and left open to be a barn.  This is where my sheep and chickens are going to live.  I'll have a canopy partway coming off he shed for shade.
  14. Get meat chickens, layers, and sheep.  Brooders will go in the shed.  (I'll have to get electricity hooked up there)
  15. Build a greenhouse behind the house.  This is for my aquaponics.  I'll have carpenter bee nests all over it it for pollination (it will be open in summer and covered with plastic in winter.)
The aquaponics is the final task on my big list of projects.  I've already done aquaponics from when I lived in Pahrump and had a pretty good system with lots of plants and 26 tilapia.  I want to go big time with aquaponics here.  This is my design plan:

The three circles are towers.  These will hang above grow beds.  A hose will go up a shaft in the middle of the towers.  This is connected to the pump in the in-ground fish pond.  The water will flow down the towers, into the grow beds, which are above rubbermaid watering troughs that are made into growbeds for two trees each.  The trees are partway over the fish ponds and will drain into them.  So, pump to towers -> to grow beds -> to tree beds -> to pond.  One pump for three growing systems.

I will have tilapia and Australian crayfish in the ponds.  The crayfish will require a grate over the ponds, so I'll have to look into something for that.  I expect to get this going by September or so.

Anywho...

The commune is City of the Sun, in Columbus New Mexico.  The village of Columbus has about 700 people and very few businesses.  There's a small grocery store here and a Dollar Store.  For serious grocery shopping you have to go 30 miles north to Deming.

The commune is 3 miles from Palomas Mexico, an awesome safe town that I love to visit.  This is where I go for prescriptions or eating out.  There are only 3 restaurants in Columbus which aren't always open.  This is a sleepy town with an easy border crossing.  There's never a line.

I got involved briefly with the website, and am helping somewhat with a sick commune member.  I've also written a play for a theater in the small town owned by one of the commune members.  I'll be playing one of the principle parts with another woman.  :)  That will be in October.  I can't wait to get into acting again!!

So, that's my life here so far.  I'll keep you updated as I get things going. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tomorrow We Get In

Tomorrow is when the votes are due back for me and my mother to join the commune.  All indicators point to yes.  I will be paying for my membership and moving into 'the Casita' which is a small building we are purchasing here.

The casita will eventually be our main home.  I'm going to move out of the RV completely and might rent it out or put it for sale.  Part of me wants to keep it so we have the option of travel when we feel like it...or just a big bug out vehicle if the SHTF.  Though...it's so expensive.  I'll probably be better off selling it and grabbing a small trailer if I need one.

My to-do list after I get in is long.  I'm still in the RV space at the commune because I don't have a long enough electrical cord to get to the RV connection a friend here put on the building for us.  That comes Friday.  We'll be moving over then.

After that we have a bunch of priorities.  We're staying in the RV for the summer, probably, since it's too hot to do much work outside.  We want to use the shower in the casita, however, so number one is to clean out the shower there and fix a big gaping hole in the fiberglass.  I'm not sure how to do it.  I'll take a picture and bring it to a hardware store.

Next, we want to be able to do our laundry in the casita.  That means buying a washing machine and getting it hooked up somehow.  We basically have to do this kind of stuff ourselves or find a good handiman.  The village is too far for us to get installation type services from the stores (I think). 

Once we have a washer, we need a good set up to hang dry our clothes.  We can't get a dryer unless we upgrade the electric.  I think we're fine without one. 

All the brush has to get cleared out.  Some of the trees are really close to the Adobe building, and are making cracks in the walls as their roots infiltrate.  I had to get rid of one bush already that was blocking the area where we need to park the RV.  I soaked the roots and then tied a rope to the back of the SUV and yanked it out.  I'm guessing I'll just have to do this a few hundred more times. 

The bushes have annoying spines, and I need gloves before I can continue.  As for the cactus, of which there are many, those things will probably be allowed to live.  I don't know how I can get them out without getting impaled by a thousand thorns. 

Anywho...a list is probably a good idea:
  1. Pay for the membership
  2. Buy the Casita and deal with the things needed for transfer of ownership 
  3. Get extension cord for the RV electric so we can move the RV over there
  4. Get Hughes Net Internet
  5. Fix and clear out the shower so we can start using it.
  6. Rip up the shrubs and weeds
  7. Get a washing machine and hook it up
  8. Get a shed to store all the supplies piled around the building
  9. Clean out the building and start setting it up to be a dwelling for us
    1. Get rid of the spiders
    2. Fix broken windows
    3. Put down flooring
    4. Install light fixtures/ceiling fans
    5. Install AC window unit
    6. Fix the back door (which is not secure)
    7. Fix the adobe cracks and leaking areas
    8. Put in a kitchen
    9. Purchase furniture
    10. Set up TV with Dish or DirectTV (probably Dish)
  10. Move in
  11. Fence the back yard
  12. Paint the front of the building like a Mexican Easter Egg
  13. Build chicken coop.  Get chicks.
  14. Build a greehouse.  Start aquaponics
  15. Get a flatbed trailer to tow with the SUV
  16. Get a carport as shelter for sheep. 
  17. Get sheep
  18. Find someone who will kill the sheep when they're ready
Oh God, I'm overwhelmed.  I'll leave it at that for now.  The good thing is that we have all we need in the RV, so we can move in whenever we're ready.  No rush on anything.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Last Pre-Commune Post

At the next monthly meeting the commune will vote on whether or not my mom can be members.  The Oracle is coming to divine the tea-leaves and there will be prayers to High Lord Zoraster so we might be assured my acceptance is of His great will.  At that time I will give up my materials and financial instruments so that all of the holy order may share equally, and further shall I partake equally of the work, which is currently the raising of soy beans.  Give praise, my friends, for soon I shall be on the path to true enlightenment.

Nah, I'm playing.  It's not that kind of commune.  :p  But we are going to be put up to a vote at the next meeting, and then I will be buying one of the plots of land here and getting back to homesteading.  We've decided on buying a 250sq ft adobe building and making it our tiny house.  The small parcel will let me get back to aquaponics (which I used to do with a modicum of success in Pahrump) raising chickens (chicken feed is 1/3rd the cost here as it was in Pahrump) planting and irrigating fruit trees (mulberry and pomegranite) and possibly raising some sheep for the meat.

We are proceeding as though we're going to be here for good.  My mom has started getting into the healthcare network here.  We're amazed at the quality we're finding in this rural area.  Gone are the 12 hour waits in emergency rooms or 2 month waits for doctor appointments.  My mom went to see about pain associated with her gallbladder two weeks ago and has already had a HIDA scan, ultrasound, and labs, all of which she has gotten the results of within a day or less. Does this sound normal to you?  It's not to me.  I lived in Boston and Las Vegas, and though I got great care at Brigham and Womens in Boston they were desperately understaffed and overcrowded.  In Las Vegas both me and my mother got horrifyingly bad care, and that's only if we set up camp in the ER for the hours and hours it would take to be seen.  When I was seen for kidney failure I was left on a gurney in a busy hallway for the ENTIRE time I was in the hospital because a room never opened.  AND I THOUGHT THIS WAS NORMAL.

So, Columbus and Deming get an A+ for the health services they offer.  Hopefully I'll be able to use them if I need them because I'm on Obamacare right now and my pre-existings are a list a mile long.  When I didn't have Obamacare I paid $980/month for insurance.  I can't afford to go back to that.

But enough about politics.  We've been in the RV space at the commune the last month and a half now.  We've met many people we like, and a few who we can't connect with.  The people in the village are super-nice, and this goes for Deming also.  Being on the Mexico border is nice too, especially when you need cheap meds. 

What wasn't nice was that my Verizon hotspot was bouncing off a Mexican tower and they said I was roaming.  The problem happened on and off for an hour or so until yesterday, when it went on all day.  I tried to get some kind of resolution, but you know how it goes.  I have to jump through hoops and accomodate them for a problem they're causing me.  I canceled my service today--which would be scary, since it was my only reliable Internet for the last two years, but I couldn't use it anyway since I was 'roaming' so screw it.

I went to the Walmart 30 miles away and got a T Mobile phone with a data plan that seemed reasonable.  It's really spotty.  I need to get a better solution, but I'll just deal with this for now. 


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Wrench in the Cheap Grocery Plan

I just returned from the nearest town to take my mother to an urgent care for gall bladder related pain.  Now she's booked for a HIDA scan on Thursday. 

Cheap food is fatty food.  Hotdogritos, mac and cheese, kielbasa, chicken thighs--this diet is killing her.  It's not great for our waistlines either.  My mom and I have reached our peak heavy weights once more.  I'm too scared to weigh myself.  Her weigh-in at the doctor was not good.

So, that's it.  Time to take drastic measures and forget about the budget.  I'm thinking of trying the 'Personal Trainer Diet' again, or something similar.  We'll see.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Driving a Car into Palomas Mexico

This is loosely related to my low-cost grocery posts because I went into Mexico today to get 94 bottles of mineral water for $40.   This should give me water for 30 days (probably a little less).  Ordering carbonated water from Walmart.com was the cheapest option I'd found prior to this.  I could get a six pack of water for $2.99.  Going to Mexico saves me about $8. 

I live a few miles from the Mexican border now.  The town in Mexico has far more to offer than the small border village I currently live in.  There are dentists, pharmacies, a furniture/fixture store, a proper grocery store, restaurants including a Chinese one, and various other stores. 

We went into Mexico a few days ago to buy a bowl, because one of my bowls got broken and I only had two.  While there I went to the grocery store and got a mineral water.  Only $.40!  So I asked if I could get a few cases.  The manager said he'd have two cases for me on Friday if I wanted them.

I drove the car into the border so I could easily transport these cases of water back to the USA.  Driving into Mexico at the Palomas border is easy enough.  You go by a lot of uniformed officers, some with AK-47s who suss you out as you pass. 

There's a building to park at immediately on your left as you go in where you can get your vehicle papers and insurance or whatever.  I did not stop at this building since I was told you could drive within 20 miles of the border without insurance. 

I got to the first intersection.  There's no stop signs.  No lights.  You just have to proceed carefully.  Then I turned left and parked at the lot in front of the grocery store.  This is a market, not a super market, and has only 7 spaces in front.

As we park the peddlers descend on us, having seen our USA plate.  One guy is selling sunglasses.  Anther is selling swing chairs.  As we get out two men start cleaning our windows (without asking, but that's how it is).  My mom tells them in Spanish she'll tip them on the way out. 

In the store the manager recognizes me and I ask him in my weak Spanish if he has the water.  Yes.  They ordered 4 cases of water in the hope I would come back to buy them.  The manager tells one of the men hanging around the store to go into the back and get the four cases.  This man doesn't work there, it's just a guy like the window cleaners hoping for a chance to carry out people's groceries for a tip.

He carries our four cases to the car and the window cleaners help him load.  We give out $6 in tips and then head back to the USA after once again fending off the sunglasses and hanging chair vendors.  (They're not that aggressive, it was worse in Algodones.)

The Palomas port of entry is awesome.  There's hardly ever a line.  We drive through the speed bumps and hand our passports to the border agent.  Another agent takes a German Shepard around our car to sniff it. 

Do we have anything to declare?  Yes.  We declare the cases of mineral water.  The agent goes to the back of our car to look at the cases then waves us to continue into the USA without filling any paperwork or paying any import fees. 

And that's it.  We're back in the USA.  @-@