Mud and Straw
The Steens have done a lot since I photographed their work for Home Work. They live in a beautiful part of the desert, at the end of a dirt road. They’re on a creek and in addition to their good-feeling house, there are numerous buildings scattered around the grounds — all built of natural materials. They wrote the original best-selling The Straw Bale House book, and run strawbale building workshops. They mastered straw bale building years ago, but the unique thing about their work is the plastering and coloring, the surfaces. When you see this wall (that separates their office from the rest of the living room), you can’t help but run your hand over it. There are bits of golden straw. embedded in the solid surface. It’s tactile, the kind of surface that feels good to be around.
Here are a few pics from the Steens:
On Sunday we all drove over to Bisbee, an old gold and copper mining town five miles from the Mexico border. There’s a good-vibes motel consisting of trailers, including some great old Airstreams, and this vintage diner:
Into the Mountains
This whole trip started because a running friend, Mike Durrie, asked if I wanted to go on a trip into the mountains in Sonora, Mexico. His daughter and son-in-law run bird-watching and river-running trips and the plan was to hike into a mountain camp, stay there four days, going on hikes to a remote ranch and then to Arroyo Verde, a unique canyon with exotic birdlife and diverse plant species. It was a great trip and I’m tempted to write a lot about it now, but will keep the blog short and cover it more fully in a later newsletter.
Ten of us came into Alamos, which is a drop-dead beauty of a town in the foothills of the Sierra Madre, colonial style, built in the 1600s. The buildings have high arches, 3-foot thick adobe walls, and are painted a variety of bright colors. A photographer’s delight. I got up early the first morning and walked around shooting photos as the sun came up and the town came to life. We spent two days there.
Then five of us, plus Mike’s son-in-law Dave, took off in a big 4-wheel drive Ford van. We drove to the end of the road — it took 3+ hours to go 23 miles, rocky roads, through streambeds, creeping over boulders. Then we hiked 3 hours to get to the camp, much of the trail steep and rocky, criss-crossing a stream, swimming occasionally in green pools.
The ranchers in this area split roof shakes from a local pine tree for their buildings.
Hard-workin’ little woodstove built out of 50 gallon drum. An example of Mexican ingenuity, evident throughout Mexico, making useful objects out of junk. There was an oven in the lower half. It worked beautifully.
We slept on cots under the stars. Dave was the chef, his wife Jen had pre-prepared all the meals. It all went harmoniously, it’s a pleasure to be around people that are thoughtful . . . things like doing dishes, cleaning up, serving meals.
Here are a few pics from the trip:
I am gathering a LOT of material these days that I think would interest people of similar outlook — builders, designers, people who work with their hands, people who are interested in how things are put together. Pretty soon we’ll have a builders section on our website, and I’ll be posting photos of interest to builders. This way I can communicate current info I’m gathering without waiting years to get it into a book.