Compound Garden


Last spring I started growing things in metal stock tanks in the middle of the shipping container compound (above)… this spring the garden is going full force.  Three tanks are filled with greens (two are mine, and one is Emmett’s) and we will soon add a fourth for a summer crop of tomatoes and cucumbers.  The prepper in me sometimes wishes for more room,  but the high metal sides do a really good job of keeping the critters out.  And I’ve been wanting to read up on vertical gardening and square foot gardening to see if there is a way to maximize the space that we already have.


S0120981 One great thing about the garden is green smoothies every morning.  Our friend Kartz (one of my big-time heroes) battled brain cancer with kale juice, and got me interested in the alkaline diet last time she came for a visit – I’ve been thinking that I need to write about diets soon, and all of the different ones that people I know prescribe to.  (there are a lot!)



Edge of Something

S0100957AZ West started out as a tiny 700 sq foot homestead cabin and over the last twelve years has evolved into an elaborate compound of structures and parcels of land.  For my first six years in the desert all water was hauled in by trucks that were notoriously unreliable.   We lived by the rule “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”.   House guests who offered to wash dishes were watched with an eagle eye to make sure that they didn’t use more then a trickle.  Even the cooling systems (evaporative) require water – so when there is non, life becomes untenable.

Nowadays I have a well, and the house borders on the edge of bourgeois.  But there are regular reality checks that serve as remiders that we are living in the desert .  Last year the pump in the 660 foot  deep well failed and had to be pulled and replaced two times in less then twelve months – and last week a secondary pump that pushes water from a holding talk to all different parts of the property had to be replaced.   It isn’t a question of whether a part of the system will fail, but a question of when it will fail.  As a result I’ve learned the art of appreciation – this week we are celebrating our shiny new blue pump that is optimistically pushing water to all edges of the property.


S0120859Last weekend Katie, Sarah and Kate hosted a Women’s dinner.  I’m of a generation (of women) who pushed hard to be beyond gender and I’ve spent so much of my life trying to defy expectations based on things like class, sex or age – So I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about celebrating my gender identity .   But I’m an eternal fan of Katie, who I trust completely, so I set out following a hand drawn map and a series of signs that said “women”. We parked in the fenced yard of a small stucco house and then walked down an old washed out road that turned into a rough trail that terminated at the ruins of a stone cabin.


S0350887It was high up in Pioneertown where the nights get chilly – and there were few flashlights between us, but it was a really extraordinary evening.  It also made me realize how many truly exceptional people have moved here in the last two years. (both women and men alike) Katie who is out here teaching desert youth, Angela who lives in a world of her own, Peggy who I think just found herself, Kelly who has wonderfully dry humor and deadpan honesty, Lucy who is totally sincere and sweet, another Kelly who became my new hero when she told me that she lives in the back of her red Toyota pickup for up to eight months a year (while tracking tortoises),  And I reconnected with Stephanie Smith who has been here for years doing her thing – which is ever evolving and always fascinating.

S0570912I’ve been living in the desert for almost thirteen years – and every so often there is a real shift.  Right seems to be one of those times.  Several years ago the recession put a damper on investors snapping up desert properties to make a quick buck – and now those of us who are left on the ones who truly love this lifestyle and couldn’t live anywhere else.  And being added to this mix is a younger generation of desert explorers bringing a new depth and thoughtfulness to our community.  I know things will continue to change, but sometimes I wonder if we will look back on this period as one of those moments when things seemed to be in just the right  equilibrium.



Visit A-Z West

People have been asking how they can visit A-Z West, and we love sharing this special place with those who feel an affinity.  In order to provide the best experience for visitors, without interfering with A-Z West’s simultaneous function as a personal residence and studio, we have set up two different ways to visit:
The first is by taking one of our intimate guided tours, which happen four times a year.  These tours last about two hours and offer a glimpse into just about every nook and cranny at A-Z West.  They are administered by High Desert Test Sites as a fundraiser, and there is a modest tour fee that directly supports HDTS programing.
Another way to experience A-Z West is by staying in the A-Z Wagon Station Encampment during either our spring or fall “open seasons”.  During this time the Wagon Stations can be booked from a period of one night to a week or more.  The one thing that we ask in return is that each guest staying at A-Z West helps out during our communal morning work hour, fondly known as the “Hour of Power”, every weekday from 10-11 AM.  The Wagon Station encampment consists of ten A-Z Wagon Stations, a communal outdoor kitchen, open air showers, and composting toilets.  Our 2013 “season” when guests can come stay in the Encampment is from April 13 to May 5, and from October 5th to the 27th (pending availability).  If you wish to stay in the encampment please send an email with a bit of background info about yourself, and what dates you would like to come to
Because A-Z West is a private residence, and also the site of a full time studio practice, please respect that there will also be certain times when the property is closed to visitors.  These are periods when we are working under tight deadlines for upcoming exhibitions, or when Andrea needs to focus on having a private life with her son or just a bit of alone time in the desert.

Truck Stalking


I have a long running obsession with Australian trucks and off road camping vehicles.  On this last trip I also saw some great flat-beds that are manufactured to fit on smaller trucks – each one comes with different sorts of attachments, work boxes etc.  We didn’t have much time to scout trucks, but I managed a few sightings while on a drive to a camping store with Lucina and Charlie.


Here are a few other Australian camping rigs that it’s easy to become obsessed with:  The Earthcruiser, the Wothahellizat, and trailers like the Conqueror series or another vehicle also called the Conqueror that looks a bit like a sci-fi motorhome.

National Gallery Homestead


Charlie Sofo – an Australian artist who will be living in the Homestead Unit and conducting his practice for two periods over the next month.  You can follow Charlie’s blog here.   On the first day of Charlie’s inhabitation, his friends Joyce and Michael  (who coincidentally have a daughter who lives in 29 Palms!)  and his brother  Liv who works with them, brought fresh vegetables from their organic garden in Camberra.  The next morning, feeling a bit like a stalker,  I checked on the unit and discovered traces of Charlie’s inhabitation….


Secret of the Stump


I’ve just spent the last week installing a new Homestead Unit at the National Gallery of Australia.  Little did we realize that a stump that I acquired from a, friend who reclaims trees in Idylwild, and then turned into a stool for the homestead, would be ferrying a few boring beetle passengers.  The sea air must have rejuvenated the beetles, and when we unpacked the unit in Canberra there was a bunch of sawdust in the packing blanket.


Since Australia is a essentially a giant island with it’s own unique ecosystem they are super strict about marauding pestilence – so a team of conservators worked with Australian Department of Quarantine to assess the invaders and and to check if they had spread to other parts of the artwork or shipping crates.  Ultimately it was decided that the stump would spend two weeks  in deep freeze chamber that the National Gallery has set up for exactly these sorts of situations.