Life in the sky castle

Great views
Great views

I sit looking out the window, my view is magnificent, I am looking down across a high desert mountain valley, words cannot describe the beauty of the landscape that falls below me, but this is a harsh beauty, full of plants, bugs and critters that poke, stick, sting and bite. Some might find this a torture, I find it to be my Heaven on earth.

PB and I moved out here 5 years ago this last December, in some ways it was a huge move, in other ways it felt like coming home. After buying up just under 6 acres on a mountain side, in the high desert of far western Texas, one of the first things PB did was build our cabin, what would become our sky castle. He made it a 2 story cabin, we live on the second floor, the first floor is not yet finished but we plan on making our bedroom down there, it’s cool in the summer and should be easy to keep warm in the winter since it’s partially underground.

The sky castle is built on somewhat of a slope, so the back side of the bottom floor is dug in to the earth about 4 feet (+/-), combine that with the thick concrete or soilcrete walls that surround the place, and we will be quite comfortable down there. There is a flat piece of ground right in front of the sky castle, the original plan was to build a quick temporary cabin for us to live in while we built our permanent home on the flat area, we built on the slope to leave as much room on the flat area as possible. Once PB had the “temporary” structure built, he decided he liked it just fine, we moved in and have been living in it ever since.

Original 16x16 room
This was our original room, 16×16

Today while looking out the window in the bedroom, I had the perfect view of a raven soaring past the window, our ravens are pretty big out here, I once saw one perched atop of a dead javelina out by the mailboxes, there was a vulture nearby and they were the same size! So this raven was flying around, gliding by, fairly high in the air, but at window level in the bedroom, it was magnificent! I love hearing them call out to each other, CAW CAW!

If I look out toward the front of the sky castle (from inside), the ground falls away toward the bottom of the valley, so it gives the appearance and feel of being pretty high in the air. If I look out toward the back of the sky castle, the ground is gently rolling up and it looks like I could just step out of the window onto the ground.

View of the property
View of the property from across the valley, the sky castle is in the center

From my living room window I often see small herds of deer, usually mule deer, but sometimes we get whitetail, they tend to be more skittish so they don’t come around as close as the mulies do.

Mule deer
A buck and a doe mule deer

Speaking of mulies, we also have herds of feral donkeys that come around, often in small family groups, sometimes just a couple and at times I have counted as high as a dozen or more. These family groups will bed down in the same place for a few nights before moving on to another area, they let out the loudest brays at night, it’s fun to hear, as long as they aren’t right outside your window. Fortunately the dogs are quite used to hearing them and aren’t usually bothered by them sounding off at night.

feral donkey
This is one of the feral donkey in the back yard

The sky castle is small by most standards, the main room is 16×16, that’s what we started out with, that was our everything room, now it’s the kitchen-dining-living-office room and not the bedroom too. Next we added a bedroom, 12×12, a pretty good sized shower with a killer view. PB keeps adding decks out toward the west side of the place, then he encloses the deck making another room and expanding the deck more. Now I have a small laundry room on the other side of our now mostly enclosed deck.

Adding the bedroom (to the left)
Adding a small bedroom (12×12) on the west side

My laundry room also doubles as my closet. In that room I have a bathtub that has temporary plumbing, cold water only, we plan on installing another on demand water heater OR perhaps a solar water heater in there… Over this tub PB mounted a wringer, now that thing is worth its weight in gold! I have 2 plastic tubs to do wash by hand, I can wash in one and rinse in the other, using the wringer to get most of the water out of the fabric, the clothes and towels dry in record time. I have a series of 1/2 inch diameter pipes running a foot or so below the ceiling, I can hang my laundry there to dry and keep my clothes hung up in there.

On top of my laundry room is a deck with a set of stairs going up to it, on this small deck area is the turret, this used to be a metal water tank, PB and I managed to get it up 3 floors high to the top of the laundry room and permanently mounted it to the flat roof. PB cut a hatch door in it and we use it as a storage closet, we keep winter clothes and gear there in the summer and keep our summer stuff in it during winter. We also keep our stash of paper goods, toilet paper, paper towels and such in it. It is water proof and seems to be rodent and bug proof, either that or the critters just haven’t climbed that high yet.

Snow last winter
This is pretty much how the sky castle looked last winter

The envelope around the sky castle is mostly soilcrete, the color of the whole thing and the rather organic shape makes my sky castle blend into the mountain side very well, if you are on the mountain road to the south and west of us, you have to look for the American flag that is flying on top of the turret, once you spot that then you can easily see the rest of the sky castle, but compared to the few other houses in the neighborhood, the sky castle is pretty subtle, it blends in so well, it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in spite of the fact that it has a castle like appearance.

Fairly current picture of the sky castle
This is a fairly current picture of the sky castle, on the right is the original room, heading left is the bedroom, farther left with the pointy roof is the mostly enclosed deck, and on the far left is the laundry room, above that is the turret/closet.

If you want to learn more about PB and I, you can find us in chapter 9 of Nick’s book, Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America

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