October 31, 2009

Halloween Pumpkins and Paws

Last week I was asked by our local vet and friend, Dr Mary, to volunteer at the Halloween festival that she had organized at her Willcox clinic. I ended up at the entrance, welcoming people and directing them to the various activities.

There were educational booths on Parvo vaccination (prevalent in our area), snake bite vaccination, nutrition and how to get your kitten/puppy off to a good start. There were kids activities (face painting, go fish, bandana making), K-9 demonstrations by the Border Patrol, 4-H agility demonstrations, and there were doggie contests.

I asked Dan to come along as the official photographer, and we felt that we had to enter at least one contest. Since Emma does not do tricks, and would be really bad at retrieving a hotdog (nothing would be returned to the judges), she was entered in the Longest Ear contest. The competition was dismal (the basset hound did not show up until after the judging), and Em won first place (a monetary gift).

I think there were more volunteers than participants, this being the first year of the Festival, but a great time was had by all.

October 30, 2009

Those little debbles

This title is a combination of "devils" and "tribbles", as in Star Trek's "Trouble with Tribbles". The little debbles are actually white-tailed antelope squirrels and they live under a big rock, next to the bird feeders. There is an entire family of them. We saw them a lot in the spring, but they seemed to disappear during the summer, which made us speculate whether the snakes kept them under control, so to speak.

It is colder now, at least temporarily, and the snakes have probably gone into hibernation and the little debbles are out enjoying the sunshine, and the birdseed. One of them was bold enough this spring to try and gnaw a hole into the plastic birdseed bucket, prompting me to buy a metal can. I do enjoy watching their antics.

October 29, 2009

Another hill climbed

It is back to beautiful weather today, although it is still cold, barely 50 degrees. We decided to take a little hike anyway, and walked out the back gate and up the horse trail into the National Forest. Our destination was a small hill nearby, lower than Blacktail Hill and behind it.

We climbed to the top in no time and to our surprise found a mine shaft. There are a lot of mines in our area (once known for gold), but there is usually not a trace of whatever had been mined there (with the exception of the copper mine). Same here: just a big hole that I could not convince Dan to further investigate. Might be rattlesnakes overwintering in there, or a mountain lion...

The view from the top was, as always, beautiful. We took a different side for our descent and noticed that the entire hill was made of pudding rock, which is a sedimentary rock made of all kinds of other rocks (a conglomerate). There is a lot of volcanic rock in the area too, and that would mean lot of minerals such as gold and diamonds.

October 28, 2009

Cozying up

So, The Weather is here: the wind is nasty and there is the slightest dusting of snow on the mountains. I did go for the morning walk; after all, it's like a normal Oregon morning and I am not likely to either be blown away or melt.

After breakfast Dan built a fire in our never-been-used fireplace. I am happy to say that this one works a lot better than the one in Oregon. How cozy! Now we have to teach Emma not to chew up the firewood on her doggie bed.

Meanwhile I have a nice pot of bean and kale (from the garden) soup on the stove. I will have to remember to cover the lettuce and cilantro with the plastic-covered box tonight. Frost in the forecast ...

There are still hummingbirds out there, and Dan reported birds sitting close to the fireplace chimney. Keep that nectar, and the seeds, acoming!

October 26, 2009

Improved guest digs

It may be nice weather now, as a matter of fact it is gorgeous, but everybody is all atwitter about the cold front that is forecast to be sweeping through mid week. They are predicting 25 degrees and snow showers! This has spurred Dan on to make Cheerio's guest stall a bit more comfortable. Winds here can be fierce, and the new stall is rather exposed from our prevailing wind direction. So, boards were bought and painted this weekend, Dan is installing them as I write, and tonight Cheerio will be eating and sleeping protected from wind and rain. Or snow.

Barbara brought by this gigantic and beautiful head of cauliflower that was grown by her friend Leo, who lives down the road from us. We shared in the spoils and will be having it for dinner tonight. I must talk to Leo to get his secret to not letting winterveggies bolt here in the AZ summer.

October 25, 2009

Nothing quite as pretty ...

... as a cactus in bloom. Perhaps it is because you do not expect something as formidable-looking as a cactus to produce something so beautiful and ephemeral. This one is in a pot on our patio. But why is it blooming now? There are hardly any insects to pollinate it. But it did brighten my day.

We stayed true to our new-found routine and hiked up the Stronghold Divide again. In record time too: 1 hour and 2 minutes! Driving to the campground we came upon some deer and caught this young buck (you could just distinguish his horn buds) in the lens. I am happy to say that the area where this little herd hangs out is off limits to hunters.

Here it is almost November, and we are still hiking in shorts and short sleeves. Another beautiful day today.

October 23, 2009


Our friend John, who lives down the road, has been ailing, and we have been taking care of his horse and dog for awhile. John is concerned that the horse is not getting enough exercise and asked Dan to bring him up to our place and ride him on a regular basis.

So, after putting the finishing touches on the last stall in our barn and making it "horse proof", Dan went down after lunch today and rode Cheerio up. We took him and Buggs on a ride and put him in his guest stall for dinner.

Cheerio and our horses are quite familiar with each other as we have been riding with John for years. Buggs and Cheerio are ho-hum about each other, Cody will be his usual pest, but it will be interesting watching Cheerio have his conversation with Bueno when everybody goes out into the arena tomorrow. Cheerio is bigger than any of our horses, and a very no-nonsense and quiet guy. I have seen all the horses on one of our big rides spook, and have Cheerio just stand. He is unflappable. A bit lazy too ...

October 21, 2009

Final fall planting

The weather is back to its usual gorgeous self today: sunny and temps in the 70's. It was a perfect day to put the broccoli and brussels sprouts seedlings in the ground. I have been concerned about their wimpy-ness in their little pots in the cold frame and hope that they will grow into strong and productive plants once in the ground.

Quail are still using the garden as their (dust) bathing house, because it is the only spot where they can find moist soil most of the time. Once there, they do not hesitate to partake of whatever vegetable that is accessible through the chickenwire box. So, the garden looks much like it did in spring: box city, but the boxes allow us some harvest of our leafy greens.

Yet, the endive, kale, chard, Chinese cabbage and lettuce are all up and doing well, as is the garlic and the shallots. Even the zucchini that I seeded in August is bearing now, so we still have summer squash. The peppers are not quitting yet, and were probably the most successful crop this year.

All that's left now is to cover the box over the lettuce with plastic before frost is predicted. Perhaps we will have homegrown lettuce all year this way.

October 20, 2009

I love clouds

The day was off to an interesting start. I had just let the hens out of the coop when they all gathered around me and threw eyeballs at something at my feet. It was the smallest and most beautiful Diamondback I had ever seen. But the poor thing was about to be dispatched by hen beaks and the snake tongs were in the garage ... He conveniently crawled into an exit-less hole, just big enough for a little snake. I could then put the grain scoop on top of him, weighted down by a rock, while I went and got my tools.

I always regret it when I don't take a picture and today is no exception. Dang! When Dan let him out of the box out in the country he did his best to rattle, but he only had one little button. Born this year, probably.

Meanwhile, we have been having some odd weather. At the end of last week it looked like the monsoons were about to return and we all had a sleepless night on Sunday when thunderstorms repeatedly shook the foundation of the house. Nice not to have to go to work the next day. There came a nice bit of rain (0.35") with the storms, and that is always appreciated.

Today started off uncharacteristically cloudy, and we had a beautiful ride in cooler and breezy conditions. I love watching the clouds roll across the landscape: that is when you can see that we are Big Sky Country as well (and not just Montana). Right now we have more squalls passing through: lots of wind, some rain, and more thunder and lightening. I am glad we took advantage of the best part of the day.

October 18, 2009

Stronghold - week 3

It is still beautiful fall weather and it being Sunday, we went on our Stronghold hike again. It is just the right distance to be challenging and yet leave time, and energy, enough to do something in the afternoon. What a privilege to regularly hike in a place where people come and vacation!

Dan was able to sneak up on this gorgeous collared lizard on the way down.

October 16, 2009

On the loose

It is gorgeous weather, and warm for a typical fall day. We had a great ride this morning, and the best run yet that I have had with Buggsy. I am starting to like speed! We came upon some hunters, in their truck, but it got Buggs all worried. I think he remembers his time in the Chiricahuas, 4 years ago. Lost for days, dragging a slicker and with a saddle on his belly and hunters shooting their guns all around. He had but one objective after the encounter: home, to my safe stall.

Once home, we got a phonecall from a neighbor that there was a horse on the loose. Dan immediately set off in the truck and I just happened to spot the horse from the house. The beautiful young paint was quickly caught, and Dan walked him home. We then heard all the "horror" stories about this young horse. Fact is, he is young and displays teenage behaviors but he was easily haltered and led. People that know nothing about horses should not own them, or at least get educated about them.

Buddy, as he is called, spent some hours in our roundpen, striking up a conversation with our boys until his owner came to walk him back home. Buddy appeared to be walking along fine initially, but at last glance Dan saw him streaking across the country. So, he is off again in the truck...

October 14, 2009

Looking down on Blacktail

We took a "Danny hike" today. This means doing some exploring in "our backyard", aka The Coronado National Forest. Dan has been doing these types of hikes with Emma when I am otherwise engaged, such as shopping in Tucson or working in the yard/garden. I opted to go along today.

Dan's objective was to try and find an airplane wreck on Mt Glenn that has been there since the 70's. When we first came here you could see some of the fuselage in certain light conditions, but we had not seen it for a long time.

Hiking here generally means going steeply uphill, and today was no exception. We followed an old mining road for awhile and then just decided to climb to the top of the ridge to see where we were. This means going up a 45 degree slope with little to hold on to (I must remember to bring gloves on these hikes). I am generally not hot on this type of climbing as my balance is nothing to write home about and once you get to slide, it's a long way down with only prickly pear and spiny agaves breaking your fall.

Once we got to the top of the ridge, lo and behold, we were higher than Blacktail Hill, which we consider to be a good climb! We had a short break, on a 45 degree slope but thankfully there are plenty of good-sized rocks to sit on, and enjoyed some water and the fabulous view of the valley.

Still, no sign of the airplane. We'll try again next week.

October 11, 2009

Close encounter

It is gorgeous fall weather again today and we have so far (week 2) stuck to our resolution to hike up to the Stronghold Divide on Sunday morning. My parents had the routine of going for a long walk on Sunday morning, at some small town parks while I still lived in the Netherlands and on country hikes after they retired and moved to the country. Now I am continuing the tradition.

The hike was beautiful but uneventful, until Emma spooked out a deer who jumped across the path about 5 feet away from me. I heard him coming but thought it was Em until I saw horns and then a tail. Dan had a camera at the ready but the buck was too fast. I have never been so close to a live wild deer.

Dan took the pictures this time and I asked him to take a picture of me and Emma. My mother-in-law has been asking for one. We also saw this perfect little cactus that I had to water just a little bit. It has been so dry here.

October 7, 2009

Driveway beautyfication

It is still a good time to plant, and after my rigorous pulling of weeds the last couple of years, there was a large bare spot when you turned into our driveway. The area is well irrigated by run-off so I decided to take advantage of that and make the area a little more welcoming.

Yesterday Dan dug up the soil with the Tonka Toy and improved it with horse manure so it was all ready for me to plant today. I chose plants that have either shown to be hardy here without additional irrigation, such as Texas Ranger, or are truly of this desert, like the Soaptree Yucca and the Desert Spoon. I put large basins around them to catch the water when it rains. Meanwhile, I can irrigate them while they are getting established this fall and winter, and by spring they will be on their own.

I have learned my lesson and mulched with pea gravel and put protective cages around each plant right away. They are all "rabbit proof", but the animals are curious and will nibble anyway and then spit out the leaves. Meanwhile, there are no branches left when the plant is small.

I know it does not look like much now, but once water is applied, plants do grow here.

October 4, 2009

Hiking the Stronghold

The weather has been mimicking my mood perfectly the last couple of days. It rained yesterday and it was cloudy; this morning we woke up to heavy fog. I had energy to burn and it was cool so we decided to hike the Stronghold. Last time we were there was with Shannon in March. It is a shame we don't do this hike more often as it is so close to home, and it is beautiful as well as a nice workout.

We walked the 3 miles to the top in one hour and 10 minutes, which is not bad as most of it is uphill. It was one hour going down.

My closest family now, with Shawna of course. She happily stays home.

October 3, 2009

Sedona and the Grand Canyon

We had a great time those couple of days in Sedona, with a trip to the Grand Canyon. But the experience is overshadowed by the death of my mother who passed away on September 30, at age 88. I shall remember her in the beauty of nature: a passion we shared.

Here are some pictures.

View from our room.

Grand Canyon.

That is the (very tiny looking) Colorado River at 4 o'clock in the picture above.

A hike in Sedona.