Thursday, January 12, 2017

Castle in the Sand
By Michael

Demolition Mama.
“It smells like poop.” One of the girls said this. These were among the first words uttered when we entered our 1931-built Ajo house. And it did, it smelled like poop. After tracing the smell to the ill-fitting toilet in the front bathroom, it was an easy fix. Nothing since has been easy.

Our house is a little gem that’s been neglected and futzed with. For decades nobody positively addressed exterior drainage issues and leaking roof issues, nor the resulting mold and termite issues. We’ve been gutting and gutting until we’re down to studs and siding and foundation.

And that’s where her gem-like qualities become apparent. The house has a nice layout and said studs and siding are (mostly) solid redwood. Because we’re nearly gutting the place, we feel free to move walls and relocate whole bathrooms to make the space work really well. It’s going to be a nice home, someday.

But there is so much still to do before we get on a plane and return to Del Viento, still afloat in Fiji. We’ve been tackling the back of the house and evidence points to a more challenging job when we get to the front. The slab foundation is only underneath the back half, probably added on in the 1950s. In the front half, we’re still walking on tile floors that feel spongy and think that the foundation is wood-on-dirt, we’ll see, we’ve been afraid to discover too much in that realm just yet. After all, we’re living (camping, really, camp stove and everything) in this place while we de-construct and construct, so there is a necessity to isolate the work areas (best we can) and eat this elephant in chunks.

It’s an adventure, and what we bargained for, and what we paid for. The biggest question when buying this house sight-unseen in a place we’d never been wasn’t whether we’d like the house, but whether we’d like this little community out in the middle of nowhere.

We like Ajo very much. It’s a charming oasis in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. It’s filled with interesting people and stepping outside our yard we always find a welcome respite from the drudgery of home renovation. I’ll write more about Ajo in my next post.


This room where I piled the bags of concrete is
the future master bath. We've big plans for this
relatively big space.

Windy is the Mold Abator. Here she is
scrubbing a Borax solution into studs.

This is the inside of a stripped room looking out,
through the hole created where I removed the
base plates, cut off some studs, and pried away siding.
This is what termite damage looks like.

This is St. Shaun, my brother-in-law (recall the truck guy)
on the roof re-attaching the live wires that feed the house.
This is the tail end of replacing the main panel. He's a
master electrician who drove out to work with us for
a week and get the electrical started. He's been knighted.

From the second bedroom looking up into the attic.
See me up there?

See the mold on the back of that drywall?
That is just a sample of what we've found.
Note the vines growing inside the walls.

Windy supervising a rock delivery for her landscape vision.
See that big agave in the foreground? I found it and another
at the dump. We planted them and they're doing great.


  1. I don't doubt for a second that it will turn out great! the front yard where the agave is has so much potential, Windy's vison will just make it awesome. Can't wait to see the finish product, I'm sure you feel the same way.

  2. Love it! Even though it's clearly a ton of work, all I can think of is how convenient it must be, working on a home that isn't floating. Best of luck with your grand plans....

    --the Milous, waiting for it to stop blowing stink so we can head to Cuba

  3. Looks like you got yourself a handyman's special. Good luck, you're fortunate to have Windy's help.


Thank you for taking the time to comment; we look forward to reading your feedback. Don't forget that you may also contact us directly at (please type DEL VIENTO in the subject line)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...