As of yesterday, Jason and I are official owners of 1.1 acres of Arizona dirt up in New River! Finally, some breathing room, elbow room, lounging room, baby raising room, exploring room…finally desert mountain views and magnificant sunsets. Finally, plenty of sky for dreamy, lazy fall days and brisk, starry nights. Finally, a place for an outdoor shower surrounded by bamboo or ocotillo. Finally, a place we can unbox many of our dreams that have been packaged and waiting on the shelves for so long. A place that Kaia can wander and discover nature. A special place where I can hopefully labor with and birth my next child. And finally, a canvas in which my eager and inventive architect husband can paint and create and build the house we’ve been longing for.
Yes, we scored all of this for the grand price of…well, let’s just say the price of what about 12 – 15 acres in the good old Midwest would cost ya. When you break it down that way it seems absolutely insane that we even considered this undertaking. But, Californians and native Arizona folks will understand that, well, it’s just the price you have to pay for your own space here. And really, it’s just DIRT. Ok, some native brittlebush, scattered cholla, and a few grand and proud Ocotillo (my favorite desert plant). But, unlike a parcel of land most any other place, there are no trees or grass or lakes or ponds or streams. There is, however, a tiny little wash that we really, really hope runs during big rains or the Monsoons.
Jason is finalizing the house plans and is working to get them to bid very soon. As of late, I’m most anxious about landscaping, in which we’ve designated a large chunk of our budget to go towards. It will be all about xeriscape and native plants. When I moved here eight years ago, I swore I would NEVER build a house without at least a strip of grass. I needed that grass to sink my bare feet into, need that soft dirt beneath to dig my chewed up nails into, to feel like I was home. When we built our first tract home in 2000, we were adamant about not having desert landscaping. So, on our little plot of land grew ficus and oleander and lantana and grass.
With my renewed love affair with the desert, we are now quite adamant about staying true to the incredibly resilient and vastly different landscape and plants of the desert. My thoughts swirl with ideas for desert wildflowers and Mexican poppies bursting with color in the spring. I think about native deer grass swaying gently, dancing with the wind of our quite breezy lot. I want hummingbird-drawingi Chuparosa, graceful golden Columbine, bold Penstemon, and plenty of Creosote which smell divinly of earth, dirt, and leafy bark after a rain. Looking out the expanse of glass in our living room and bedrooms, I envision seeing Palo Verde, rugged Ironwood, and the medicinal Mesquite tree. Can you believe the lovely and delicate seeming Sacred Datura (what an awesome name) and Evening Primrose plants are native to the desert climate? Other must-haves are sumptuous and antioxidant-packed Pomegranate, fragrant Sage, and a tiny little herb garden with Rosemary and other herbs. While the aforementioned plants aren’t desert natives (yah, so I’m straying a bit from my “only desert native” anthem), they grow wonderfully here and will add flavor and healing to our lil’ paradise. And of course, there will be lots and lots of Ocotillo. It’s all about the Ocotillo. They look like little dead sticks, but out of nowhere, or after a rain… bright flowers bloom from their tips. They are indeed alive. And they offer a wonderful sculptural feel to the landscape.
So, we are busy trying to plan a little weenie/s’mores roast on our land at some point soon. We can gather around the bonfire (don’t worry, not on a no-burn day), lay on our backs on some Mexican blankets, and enjoy the great sacred space which has been reserved just for us.
OK, time for your assignment: Visit Arizona Highways Magazine’s website. One look and you too will fall in love with the desert.