July 29, 2011


They just keep coming, and there is nothing we can do about it so we decided we might as well go and enjoy ourselves. As our treat I booked us a room at a Tucson resort: Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. It would get us out of our (lovely) routine and we would not have to worry about feeding others, but get waited on ourselves.

The place is very nice, built back into the Catalina mountains as part of the landscape. There is a golf course, of course, and a couple of swimming pools, but a lot of the vegetation is native and great care was taken in building the resort to leave the 3500 saguaro cacti on the site unharmed.

We ate like king and queen and were very well taken care of, but we had a great time staying in shape at the same time. We had brought our bicycles and swim suits, and we spent the bigger part of each morning cycling and swimming. The resort had one pool for adults only, and every morning we had the pool to ourselves.

We made one short car outing: we drove the Catalina Highway to Mt Lemmon at 9,000 feet. I had made that trip once and Dan had never been there.

So we are home again, and content to get back into the routine and scale down the portions a bit. I do find, however, that I am burning more calories these days and can pack the food pretty well. And what's even better, I think that I am in the best shape of my life. Ever. Not so bad at 62. Now if only I could get rid of those wrinkles...

July 24, 2011

More water

I thought I had jinxed the storm yesterday afternoon by letting the horses into their stalls early as it looked very threatening over the Stronghold. Thankfully, Mom must not have been watching me and we got more than 0.5 inches out of it. There were a number of storms during the night with lots of lightening and thunder, and by 5 am it was still dark. I generally don't lolligag in the morning, but it was wonderful lying in bed with the windows open, listening to some gentle rain.

So there is water in the Playa and water in the pond. Our perimeter creeks ran heavily and diverted the majority of the water into the watering hole. The spadefoot toads there have come to life and are croaking for all they are worth: there's lots to be done before the pond dries up again. I could hear the bleating of one of them a mile away on our belated morning walk, he sounded like a lamb.

Emma could not resist running through puddles and even Shawna got into the act. All three horses rolled, so for a day or two it will be Mud City here. Good thing it's water soluble. Then again, there's more rain in the forecast. Bring it on!

July 22, 2011

Rain sage

I love this plant, leucophyllum laevigatum. It blooms a gorgeous purple with great enthusiasm after it rains, attracts any type of bee, and is fragrant to boot. Right now it is doing its best next to the front walk, but because it selfseeds readily, I also have plants near the driveway and next to shop/shed. All of them are abuzz today.

Everything is happy with the recent rain, and we are hoping for more. We will have a 50% chance through the weekend. The garden is going nuts with Mom's water, it's the best.

July 21, 2011

Back on our feet

The Forest Service recently opened the Forest now that a bit of rain has fallen, lessening some of the fire danger, and we felt we needed to treat Emma to a good walk. Poor dog has had to do with 45 minute morning walks only for a couple of months ... We went out the back door and did our quickie "round Blacktail Hill". It was still overcast after last night's rain, and not yet too steamy.

Monsoon rains bring out all kinds of other critters. I walked through swarms of just-hatched termites early this morning, and our path was suddenly covered with these velvet mites (trombidium sp). There are centipedes galore, and I watched one frustrated hen pecking at the chicken gate as one of these managed to escape 24 beaks.

During the hike it took me a little while to adjust my frame of mind after the regular cycling we have been doing. Why am I not going 16 mph when I put a fair amount of energy into my legs? Still, it was a nice hike, and Em certainly enjoyed the change of scenery. She is the only one sacked out; Dan and I are in fine shape.

July 20, 2011

Oh yeah, baby!

The first significant rain of this year's monsoon is falling right now.

There is nothing like it: the smell, the sound of the thunder, the running water. A perfect time to sit on the porch and watch it go by. In taking these pictures I scared a poor cotton tail who vacated the premises in high speed with ears pinned back, and fortunately found shelter very quickly: bunnies do not take well to wet coats. And I saw to my surprise, and delight, that at least Bueno had the sense to stand under our new horse porch for some protection.

July 18, 2011

Summer luxuries

It's the simple things. Like driving down to the local library to pick up some summer reads, stop at the convenience store for a Klondike bar and then watch a storm march down the valley, hoping it will make it to the bajada and dump some rain on the WD. And it's Monday!

July 14, 2011

Kansas Settlement

We upped the ante today and rode our bicycles to Kansas Settlement, sort of in the middle (width-wise) of our valley. Riding in the valley is pleasant with straight, empty roads, and gentle uphills. There is not much to Kansas Settlement other than a few houses and a cotton gin, but it does looks a bit like, well, Kansas. There is a lot of agriculture in this part of the valley, where here they primarily grow cotton and pinto beans. But this is not Kansas but the Arizona desert, so you might wonder who conceived of growing thirsty cotton here?

We had a great ride, ate an energy bar at the Bonita Bean Company which we made our turn around point, and kept the cruising speed of shorter rides. Our legs are feeling the way they did just some weeks ago when we did 20 miles for the first time. We are on a roll, and Dan now has the confidence that he will finish the 45 mile Cochise County Classic in fine style. Great morning!

July 13, 2011


It's that time of year: eat whatever is in season in any way delicious until you are sick of it. By then it will be time for another crop to arrive and start all over again. This wonderful word was coined by the Italians and explained to me by Mario Batali. So we are hitting whatever is growing in the garden hard and just loving it. It means a lot of salads, with some roasted chicken (no WD hens) or eggs, some veggies grilled and in different combinations, but always great tasting. Some grilled flatbreads along side. And for dessert, why, cantaloupes of course!


It is also scorpacciata for the hens: overgrown zucchini, melon rinds, anything green, it is all much appreciated. This is a different kind of compost pile, one that produces delicious eggs.

I must admit I am not one for a lot of canning or freezing. I would rather spend my time outside and eat whatever is fresh in the winter. I am totally enthused by Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman and am making plans and preparations to put his ideas into practice starting in August. I thank my friend Phil for telling me about this book. I am looking forward to a great winter garden.

Meanwhile, everybody is getting a second wind in the monsoon season. The cactus wrens are building yet another nest, we see a lot of brandnew quail chicks and plants are setting bloom again, including the tomato plants that shut down during the June heat. With plants everywhere greening up, the beans in the garden are being less molested. It is a good time of year. This cactus, which normally blooms in April deferred and decided to put on its show this week.

July 12, 2011


We are in the monsoon season. Hurray! Days of very hot, dry, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky weather is over until September or so. Not that it is raining a lot here, but other areas are seeing moisture. But there is always the chance of today-will-be-our-day because there are clouds and thunderheads galore.

In spite of lower temperatures, in the 80's and 90's, bicycling has become a very wet affair for us because of the higher humidity. Not that that stands in our way. Heck no, we are going hell bent for leather with increasing speeds and distance. Here is the perfect post-ride indulgence: a smoothie made with fresh fruit, 1/3 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon honey, and a cup of ice. My thanks to Ellie Krieger. This one is made with cantaloupe, and with them just now coming on in the garden, I see a lot of cant smoothies in our future.

July 4, 2011

What a treat!

See who came and paid us a visit at the watering dish this evening. And not much in a hurry either. A bobcat! Our first sighting ever.

Monsoon signs

Humidity is up - to almost 40% in the early morning. Do I hear a groan from Webb back east :)? There are clouds forming now in the afternoons and there is at least the promise of rain.

I water the "orchard" every week: every tree gets 45 minutes of deep watering in its basin, and what do I see when changing the hose from tree to tree but some little spade foot toads swimming. Then it's quickly digging back into the soil when the tree drinks up all the water, but with a good rain storm they will come out to croak and attract their mates.

This morning, on horn worm patrol, I found a small tarantula in a tomato plant. I doubt he would help in controlling the horn worms, as a matter of fact I have never seen a tarantula hanging out in vegetation. Still have to see a desert tortoise, which will also emerge with the wetter weather. Come on, rain! 

July 1, 2011


On this morning's inspection tour of the garden I noticed that one of the tomato plants looked a bit ratty on top. Stems were bare and leaves were missing where there should be new growth. When I first started gardening here, I had no idea what caused it. Now I know. Tomato horn worms! Or, tobacco horn worms! These are tobacco horn worms I just found out because their "horn" is red rather than black. They are the larval stage of the sphinx or hawk moths, aka hummingbird moths, which are desert pollinators so I should not be too hard on them.

But those worms are disgusting! They seem to grow to finger size in a day or two and they can defoliate a tomato plant in short order. The worst thing is that they are very well camouflaged so it takes some persistence to find them. The first year I encountered them I picked them off by the dozens. At that time I did not have chickens, so I fed them to the roadrunner with whom I became very popular. But now the hens benefit and they make short order of them. Do not believe that hens are vegetarians, they are sharks in feathers.

So the Pacific Northwest has disgusting slugs, and the desert has horn worms.