Grit Blogs > Desert Homesteading

Desert Homestead B n B Guest House

Dave L HeadshotA couple months ago, a good friend who operates a very successful bed and breakfast here in the Arizona desert asked if we would be willing to accommodate guests when she wound up with double bookings. As a favor to her, we agreed. Then the wheels started turning and our mindset about our homestead changed a bit.

While our fairly frugal budget and our current income permit us to live simply and well, it is pretty much a no-frills operation here. We decided we could use some more consistent extra income here at the homestead to make visiting our kids and grandkids easier.


 Guest House with Ristra  
We really didn’t have much to do to make the Bear Cave attractive, in a rustic sort of way. We hoped to attract those who enjoy the outdoors, built-by-hand living, and good farm cooking. I trenched in some Ethernet cable from our straw bale house to provide internet access for those guests who wanted to maintain contact with the outside world. Stuff stored in the Bear Cave was moved and we relocated our computers to the main house.  

 Guest House Bedroom 

Our little 320-square-foot Bear Cave, now referred to as the Dragoon Mountains Guest House, sleeps four with a double bed and by pulling out the trundle bed. We lived in the Bear Cave while we built our straw bale home and loved it. We believed our guests would feel the same.

 Recliner and Day Bed
A comfortable recliner, a wicker-seated rocking chair, and the trundle bed doubling as a couch with pillows and bolsters provide relaxed reading for those who just want some time to wind down.

Winding-down, serenity, and plenty of quiet are really some of the big attractions.  Recently, I read and listened to two separate accounts on the importance of quiet.  One was an article in the Dec 9, 2011, New York Times by Pico Iyer titled “The Joy of Quiet.”  The other was an interview on NPR’s Diane Rehm program with Dr. P.M. Forni discussing his new book, The Thinking Life.

Pico Iyer, educated at Eton and Oxford, now lives in Japan. He refers to himself as a “global village on two legs.”  Dr. Forni is a professor at Johns Hopkins and writes and teaches on Civility and Ethics and their role in our social world. Both articles are worth reading and listening to in their entirety.

In his article, Iyer suggests that we people are moving away from what has become a barrage of input. He says that the average American spends 8½ hours per day in front of a screen and that the average American teen sends or receives 75 messages per day. Think of the people you see in markets, cars, parks, or wherever with eyes or ears glued to a communication device.

Iyer contends that Americans are getting tired of the constant deluge of input. He cites an advertising CEO as saying that the upcoming market among young people will be for stillness. In the article, he mentions a California resort that offers lodging for over $2,000 per night and features no TV, WiFi, or telephone. There must be an easier and cheaper way to locate the ‘off’ button.

Dr Forni’s book title speaks for itself. The subtitle is “How to Survive in the Age of Distraction.” Forni warns of the perils of not taking time to just think. He writes, “If we agree that life is important, then thinking as we go through it is the basic tribute we owe it.”

 Sunrise from Guest House
We asked family and friends that had visited us as unpaying guests what they valued most about their stay at our homestead. Most said the combination of silence, serenity and scenery made them want to come back. The ability to sit quietly with a cup of coffee or tea and look across the valley at our many mini-mountain ranges, our Sky Islands, was very meaningful to them.

 Guest House Kitchen
While many of our guests enjoy at least one meal prepared by us, most like to find their own rhythms for meals and choose their own diets. We stocked the guest house with basic kitchen utensils – plates, cups, glasses etc – and installed a propane range (a drop-in designed for RVs that I enclosed in a plywood box), an under-the-counter fridge, and a microwave. They’re good to go.

 Cochise Stronghold
On the other hand, hiking, biking, and rock climbing around our homestead appeal to many. We have had competitive racing cyclists stay here for winter cycling and lots of birders and hikers.

Apart from the extra income, which we appreciate, there are other benefits. We have the opportunity to share the land we have come to love – its history, its scenery, its wildlife – with people unfamiliar with the beauty of the desert. We have made lots of new friends. People from England, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California have been our guests during our first three months of operation.  

 Guest House in Spring
If you would like to quit a “day job” and spend your time on your land, you might want to consider sharing the beauty of your place and making some money and some new friends. We even found a network of guest houses that manages the financial end of things for us. If you’re curious, take a look at this website for yourself (  Or, if you feel you just have to come visit us to see what we’re doing, you can make arrangements there as well.

7/7/2014 7:25:27 AM

I have to admit that the house looks great and it would be great to spend a week there with my family. The owners of the last place where we stayed installed and my kids loved it, you should consider doing the same to make sure the guests will want to visit you again.

nebraska dave
3/16/2012 9:26:37 PM

Dave, I can definitely see that the Bed and Breakfast would fit into your lifestyle. It sounds like it would be a great place to get away from the bustle of life and reflect on what's important. I kind of like to hear a babbling brook and have a little more green but hey quiet and sunshine is good too. I'm just about to start some seeds and most likely will start my tomatoes and peppers right before I leave on vacation for a week. Hopefully, they will be sprouted up by the time I return. Then I can fire up the lights and turn off the heat mat. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it. All systems are go for garden planting at Terra Nova Gardens. The ground is plowed and disc(ed). The utilities are located and the post holes are staked and ready to be dug. Ah, life is so good. I've been waiting all winter for this time. It will be great when the fence is up. The rustic fence will go up right away but the critter proof chicken wire fence will take a little longer. Good luck with your B&B. Have a great day in the desert garden.

david larson
3/15/2012 4:15:59 PM

Hey Roxanne, Thanks for your kind words about the cold frame. Our new "baby plants" as Barbara calls them are putting down roots in the cold frame flats now until the soil warms a bit. We would love to have you enjoy the "Bear Cave" and share our experiences and the beauty of our little corner of the world.

david larson
3/15/2012 4:13:57 PM

Hi Cindy, we are enjoying both the financial and the exciting social rewards of the venture. New people arriving tomorrow from the Midwest. Look forward to meeting them. Thanks for your support.

roxane whisnant
3/14/2012 5:45:19 PM

Hi Dave, What a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing. If say, someone that adopted your idea on the cold frames (another of your GRIT blogs, which worked beautifully) this year and graced our family with cabbages, brussels sprouts, and salads ALL winter long here...perhaps wanted to visit the former "Bear Cave" and pick your brain(s) on straw bale building, would they get evicted? Just saying, I see an amazing value in what you're offering there. Gives me hope in visiting Arizona again and 'adopting' many more wonderful ideas. Great read. Thanks.

cindy murphy
3/14/2012 12:22:01 PM

Congratulations, Dave, on what sounds like is already a successful, exciting, and rewarding venture! I love B & Bs; I think you get so much more local flavor in one than you do in a hotel. If I was ever to visit the area, I'd stay at the Dragoons Mountains Guest House in a heartbeat.