Making Home in Ajo

The Robertson family takes a break from cruising to establish roots on the mainland in Arizona.

del viento
The Ajo house requires a lot of work, but big plans are underway for the old space.Michael Robertson

“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.

del viento
From the second bedroom looking up into the attic. See me up there?Michael Robertson

In our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we lived the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along with the Roberston's onboard Del Viento on their blog at