Patricia Sanders

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since Dec 21, 2013
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bike greening the desert tiny house
My professional background is in writing and copy editing. I have degrees in English literature (BA), mathematics (BA), and fiction writing (MFA). I lived at Peter Bigfoot's Reevis Mountain School of Self-Reliance in the Superstition Mountains of AZ for six years and learned a lot.

My land is 40 acres in NE AZ (USDA zone 6a, semi-arid, 5800', very windy, gently rolling, open/grassy). I've built a little shelter there, but only have been spending about a month or two each year there. ASAP I want to build a tiny strawbale house, which would let me live there in the winter.

For now I'm working on the money side of things, writing books, and am traveling quite a bit. Will be biking in the Midwest this summer (2016) and would like to connect with permies out there.
St. Johns, AZ
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Recent posts by Patricia Sanders

My variation on the bucket bath uses about 3 pints of water, and I sit on the floor.

Details: Heat apx 1 pint of water (in winter to near boiling, in summer skip this step). While it's heating, lay a bath towel on the floor and set my bath basin on it - a bowl that is apx 10-12 inches wide, 4 inches deep. Jug of cold water, soap, 3 washcloths handy. Remove clothes and sit on towel. Pour apx a pint of cold water into the basin, add about half of of the hot water. Use soap and washcloth 1 to wash entire body. Pour the dirty water into a bucket. Use a small amount of cold water to rinse the bowl and the dirty washcloth. Pour that dirtyish water into the bucket, too. Again put apx 1 pint of cold water in bowl, add the rest of the hot water. Use washcloth 2 to rinse entire body. Dry off with the third cloth. Hang up all cloths to dry for tomorrow's bath. This gets me clean enough with under a half gallon of water.

I prefer this way to taking a shower because it feels meditative and helps me connect with my body and wind down at the end of the day. Now that I'm used to it, other options seem overcomplicated. However I do still love a good hot bath once in a while.
2 years ago
Being vegan sure simplifies things. When I lived at a moderate altitude (3300') in Arizona, that simplified things, too, because we could garden year round. That meant that, for me, the most tempting use for the freezer was to freeze persimmons to eat in the summertime. They're like sorbet. YUM.

I dry a lot - greens, stews, sauces. When it's sunny the cab of my truck makes a great dehydrator. You get those cardboard flats from the grocery store, that canned goods come on, spread out the food on them (maybe use parchment paper if it's something wet or sticky) and stack the flats one way then the other so they make a tower. Park where the cab will get warm but the food won't be in direct sun. Roll the windows up or down to regulate air flow and temperature.

There's the old trick of having an ice chest open at night and then closing it in the morning, keep it in the shade during the day. We did this with eggs, cucumbers, squash, anything we'd get a large amount of that needed to be kept cool a few days until farmers market. We had a big restaurant walk-in cooler that we would keep relatively cool this way without using the compressor.

Wrap a wet cloth around a jug or jar, and the evaporation will cool the contents.

My favorite thing on a hot summer day was to go for a dip in the water tank with my clothes on, then get on the bike and coast down the hill.
2 years ago
I'm near St. Johns AZ and have been in touch with a few other people in this area. Thinking about starting an informal group, but wondering if there already is one in the area - say, north of the White Mountains, east of Flag? Does anyone know of any?

If I do start one, I will post info on here.

3 years ago
Kristoffer, if you would be interested in going out to Arizona, you might check out Reevis Mountain School - the guy there is always looking for people who would enjoy being off the grid, learn survival skills and natural healing while working on the farm. You can PM me for more info. I lived there for six years.

3 years ago
Just a postscript/update here. Dean, sorry to take so long replying - I will PM you.

I spent a day at Canelo since last posting and am inspired now to build a "teensy" house first, prior to the above-described "tiny" house, to learn and practice the skills. The teensy house will have approx. 10x12 footprint but very similar construction to the above described.

I'm planning to spend another few days with the Steens on a build in SE AZ before returning to my place - great chance to see their current methods, and I will post about that, assuming they're okay with it.

Thanks, Dean and Jay, for the interesting exchange.


3 years ago
Jay, Chris,

I'm VERY grateful for your attention to my question and your comments. I'm sorry to take so long replying - I'm helping out on a farm and don't have a lot of leisure time.

I'm tending toward external corner posts because I'm going to wrap the house with porches/verandas so will need exterior posts anyway. Also the interior is so tiny, I'm loathe to give up any space at all.

To clarify, the "modified post and beam" system I refer to is, essentially, building the window and door bucks to extend from the foundation to the beam so that they serve as structural supports. Bucks consist of box columns the width of the bale wall made of 2x lumber sheathed with plywood or OSB, with additional support under the beam. My plan has two windows per short (14') wall and one window and one door in each long (21') wall - plus corner posts. THE STRAW BALE HOUSE describes this system as efficient in cost, materials, and labor, and it does seem to me an elegant solution.

Jay, your point about this being a challenge for a first-timer is well taken! I might just be overconfident in this case. I'll get the plans looked at.

Many thanks,

3 years ago
Hi! Designing a small straw bale house (rectangle, 11 x 18 ft i.d.), modified post and beam as described in THE STRAW BALE HOUSE (i.e. door and window bucks are load bearing), with a scoria bag foundation. The Steens recommend a post at each corner. I will set these posts on a stone or concrete punch pad below the rubble trench.

Simple question: If the posts are set into the corner bales, the scoria bags need to accommodate the post somehow. I haven't worked with bags, but it looks like they are not that easy to force into a shape like around a post. So, specially sewn bags? Mini bags to fill in the spaces? Adobe bricks?

OR the posts could be positioned external to the corner. Which would save me from notching corner bales, but might slightly complicate the roof framing (conventional hip roof).

Are walls more "solid" with the posts set in?

I have zero experience with straw bale building and working with bags, so would appreciate comments from people with experience.

Thank you!

St. Johns, Arizona
3 years ago
Hey Sean, if you're still looking for a place, I just posted about an opportunity in Arizona. It doesn't meet all your criteria but might be worth looking at.

3 years ago
I'm posting on behalf of a farmer in NE AZ who is looking for helpers, ASAP.

Up front, this guy is not what I would call permaculture exactly ... more old-school organic. He is in his 70s and set in his ways to a degree. So apologies if I am off base posting here, but I think he's close enough, and has lots to teach someone who wants to learn a wide variety of homesteading skills. This guy does it all, from cobbling to welding, and a person could get a priceless education from him.

This is a remote off-grid farm about 2.5 hours from Phoenix. The guy has been living and farming here for 35 years. It is a beautiful self-sufficient setup with solar power, 1 acre veg garden, 100+fruit and nut trees, vineyard, ~70 chickens, geese, turkeys. The farm produces year round and produce is sold at farmers market and to restaurants year round. It's located on a private inholding in the Tonto National Forest in a beautiful little valley. To get there you need a 4X4 or a horse, or hike in. The nearest neighbor is 6 miles away.

In addition to farming, the guy is a respected expert in wilderness survival and primitive skills, as well as an herbalist and natural healer. He teaches classes spring and fall and produces a line of herbal remedies that he makes at the farm. The website is

What he needs is someone who is reliable, honest, and clean (NO drugs or smoking), independent, has initiative, and is willing to learn and do whatever needs doing. Experience is not necessary if you are a fast and willing learner. In return you get food and lodging (AMAZING food; lodging in a private yurt or cabin) and participation in classes when possible. Someone who could stay several months or longer would be ideal. This would also need to be a person who is interested in or tolerant of both new age metaphysics and conservative opinions on certain issues, such as border security and overpopulation. The guy's a character.

Like I said, he's in his 70s and is currently running the farm, the herb business, and teaching classes with just one helper. I'm trying to get some more help to him ASAP. If you're interested or want more info, PM me, or check out the farm's website. Thanks.

Hi Helen! I wondered that too and almost asked him ... but I don't want to make the assumption that you have to be, say, a young strong guy in order to do this. I think it's Becky Bee who talks in a book about cob building, about a woman in her 70s who's crazy about cob and does it herself. I'm 48, and I'm perfectly capable of digging a hole, so I figure if I can dig a hole, I can just keep digging until it's as big as I want. Just a matter of pacing myself.

I'll try to post more, though like I said I probably won't get out to my place much this year. I PMed you!
4 years ago