Last winter we spruced up the inside of our Ajo house and our plan for this winter is to spruce up the exterior – as in stucco. I had planned to tackle that job myself. I was chatting with a neighbor when she told me about a man who had stuccoed her house and done a good job. With little intention of actually hiring the fellow (tradesmen are ridiculously expensive these days) but since estimates are free, I had him come over and give me an estimate. I was expecting the estimate to be in the $10,000 – $15,000 range but at least then I would know how much money I was saving by doing it myself – a very satisfying bit of knowledge that I have savored on many occasions. Much to our surprise, his estimate for labor and materials was $4,679. It was an offer too good to refuse.

The man’s name is Juan. He comes from Sonora, Mexico. He’s seventy years old (Mary guessed fifty!). He started the job today.

I had to custom cut some strips of cedar to fill in gaps in the house’s wood siding, getting it prepared to the stucco. The usual tool for cutting strips of wood is a table saw. I didn’t bring one so I rigged up a poor man’s table saw from my Skil Saw and a sheet of OSB. It did an admirable job of cutting straight-edged strips.


Mary is painting a few small areas (closets and the pantry) that she didn’t get to last year.

I’m going to build a hearth for the gas fireplace we bought on Craigslist, install a mini-split heater/air conditioner, and do something about the old kitchen counter. The place could use some landscaping and another terrace and rock wall are planned. The problem is getting a source of rock. Last year I scoured a local arroyo to build two walls but that source is pretty well cleaned out of good rock. I’ve taken to exploring the countryside on my bicycle but have yet to find a decent source.

As far as vegetation goes the options are limited. The summers are unmercifully hot here. No one, and I mean NO ONE has a lawn here. Most lots are either bare desert sand or cactus studded. I don’t care for the cactus route. Citrus trees seem to be one exception to the rule and they are attractive to my eye with their bright green foliage. They do need regular water however. We bought an orange tree and a grapefruit tree at Costco yesterday. I’ll have to set up a drip irrigation line on an automatic timer if they are to have any chance of surviving since we are not around during the hot months.

Our plan was to flip the house – fix it up and sell it. We may still do that but we’re in no big hurry. We’ve grown quite fond of it and owning a piece of land down here does have advantages. It has a nice bathroom which we use daily, a kitchen and it provides us with a free place to park our motorhome.

I’m not totally preoccupied with fixing up this house. Nick tipped me off to a $60 digital microscope and I’m having fun with it. Amazing what goes on at the microscopic level:

For example, that tiny eagle on the back of a $1 bill: