December 29, 2013

My favorite wash

Another hike out the back gate. It is a little longer than most, a little over 7 miles, but very doable before lunch and it is so worth it. The wash is beautiful, with varied plant life, birds, a natural bee hive (unfortunately every year there appear to be fewer bees in it), and it has amazing rocks.

It is obvious that there used to be a lot more water going through it as the walls are quite high and there is evidence of small waterfalls.

We scrambled out where the walls were not too imposing and bushwhacked our way to a hill top and down to one of the forest roads home.

December 26, 2013

The day after Christmas

The weather being beautiful and feeling the need for some activity after a wonderful and delicious Christmas, we took on Deer Saddle (so named by me to differentiate it from all the other hills "out back"). It is a short hike, but a tough little number that, at least in my case, involves going forward on all fours in a few spots.

The view from the saddle is spectacular. The Cochise Stronghold is right before you, and from the hill east of the saddle there is a nice view of our valley. We both took pictures, but mine do not convey the grandness of the landscape nor the steepness of the climb. The whole thing is only a little over 5 miles round trip. Leftovers were waiting for lunch at home.

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to all

From our house to yours ...

December 19, 2013

Natural Bridge (Chiricahua National Monument)

Over the years we have done this hike a couple of times, always in the winter because the trail is very exposed and would be hot in the summer. For some reason I come here in honor of my dad, whose birthday would have been this coming Saturday. He would be 104 years old. Whew! He never visited us in Arizona (he passed away in 1996, long before this adventure), but except for the elevation changes of the trail (he was a flatlander after all), he would have liked it here. It is very, very quiet.

The hike is at the beginning of the Monument, where the rock formations are not as spectacular as further in, but the photos should give an impression. It is the only trail where dogs are allowed, so there we go.

A tarantula enjoying a bit of sun.

In 2011 the Chiricahuas, including the Monument, burnt long and hard, which is one reason we have avoided the place lately. Evidence of the fire are everywhere, and the pines in the valley at the end of the hike are almost all gone except for the very end. Mom is working on the repairs however, and there were new grasses and small little pines already growing.

We had lunch at trail's end, at the view of the Natural Bridge, and it was a grand day.

December 15, 2013

This morning

The last couple of weeks it has been cold on the bike, a persistent northwesterly wind blowing which also means a headwind the entire (uphill) way home. Today would have been fine as there is little wind, but yesterday we had already decided to go for a little walk instead.

Just out the back of our property and around Blacktail. It had been awhile, and it is always a nice hike. Dan brought the new tripod, I took my trusty point-and-shoot.

We found the place well-trashed by cattle here and there. It does make you wonder about the Forest Service giving out grazing permits in a desert. But oh, I forgot, their motto is Land of Any Uses. It takes about 10 years for nature here to restore itself. Hope for rain, and keep those cows off.

Sunrise over Blacktail.

On the backside, Dan taking a shot (see his website).

Em, the Ham.

December 12, 2013

I am just a country girl

We went to get hay this morning, which makes me feel like a rancher. This means a trip to Willcox, 30 miles away, and even though there is not a dedicated Starbucks, there is "coffee" for on the way home.

December 11, 2013

Horse water

In the spirit of continuous improvement, we addressed the issue of providing water to the horses.

Over the years we have had a number of schemes, from having plastic garbage cans, which are difficult to clean and waste a lot of water, to smaller buckets with floats, which were also difficult to clean but wasted less water unless the float was stuck, which happened frequently.

The smaller buckets also froze, so we hauled water in the winter. This was not that big of a deal as we have water plumbed to the barn, but may become more of a problem when we are "old".

So we went for the gusto: the Cadillac of horse founts: Ritchie. There are two of them, both provide water at either end. One fount is shared between Cody and Buggs, the other one is between the arena and Bueno.

Thanks to Dave, our neighbor, for loaning us his Tonka Toy to dig new trenches. Next came running new water lines and electrical as these founts have a thermostat to keep them ice free. I am so grateful that Dan knows how to do all this stuff and does it well to boot.

Today we set the forms for the base, made and poured concrete, and this afternoon we installed the founts. I thought the horses would be all over them to check them out, but it was as if they already knew and had quite frankly expected nothing less. What took us so long to do it right anyway?

December 6, 2013

First snow

We had a day of rain again. Lovely! I am serious! There is a world of difference between a day of rain and 6 months of drizzle, or close to drizzle. I spent the day inside, putting up some Christmas decorations. It got cold overnight, in the 20's as a matter of fact, and this morning there was a wisp of snow on Mt Glenn.  But we are back to sun, so I spent the morning outside and Dan hung the outside Christmas lights.

December 2, 2013

Garden cleanup

After last week's rain we got some frost. Not enough to damage the winter greens, but the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil are toast. Today is a gorgeous day, shirtsleeves on December 2, and a perfect one to do some cleanup before other projects demand our time.

Even Shawna joined me for awhile outside.

Still some tomatoes and peppers for human consumption. The rest went to the chickens.

I did not think it worthwhile to show photos of the "before", so here are just some "after" ones. If major frost threatens all I need to do is throw some frost cover over the beds.

November 25, 2013

Special place, special morning

We had quite a bit of rain this past weekend, one inch according to the garden rain gauge, and suddenly it appears to be winter. After the rain the skies cleared (this is the desert after all, and not the PNW), and temperatures dropped to just below freezing last night. This spelled the end of the summer garden as the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil look a bit bedraggled today, but the winter garden fared well, thankfully, even without frost protection.

All this moisture and then clearing meant that this morning a huge fog bank rolled in during our morning walk, and for a brief while we were alone in the world. Certainly not a day to be cycling so we decided to hike our nearby, and always beautiful, Cochise Stronghold instead.

Surprisingly no fog there, just sunshine with cloud banks rolling in on occasion. When we got to our favorite lookout, the valley was blanketed in fog all the way to the Chiricahua Mountains. Skies cleared this afternoon and the temperatures are forecasted to be on the rise again tomorrow.

October 3, 2013

Grasshopper time

Every season has its insects here. Right now it is grasshopper and praying mantis time. I wonder how many different varieties of hoppers we have, they come in all sizes and colors and all seem to really enjoy hanging out in the garden. Thankfully the new juicy plants are well protected, but the tomatoes and basil are taking a hit.

The largest grasshopper is the horse lubber (don't ask me about that name as I do not have a clue), and I have seen them in a 10 cm size. The males are the only ones that fly and display a red wing flash.

This guy (unknown variety) was on his way somewhere on the dining room window, and finally did lose his grip.

The praying mantis are a favorite insect of mine. I saved one from the grazing mouth of Buggsy and it turned its head to me as if to say "well, thanks!"

September 23, 2013

Winter garden

I am serious this year, about growing a winter garden. Last year I kind of dabbled by putting in some kale and broccoli and covering the plants with winter blanket when it froze, and was amazed that plants survived hard freezes.

Scaling down the size of the summer garden helped. Rather than planting all the beds, I left 5 of them empty and amended the soil as time permitted, so there was no agonizing over having to pull still producing plants in our long (compared to PNW) growing season. There still is plenty of growing and eating of summer vegetables.

I was inspired by Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest and did my best doing succession planting for both the summer and winter garden. This resulted in having cantaloupes from July until now and having beans (just enough for a meal a week), with plants still producing.

Here are the winter beds. Most of the veggies are leafy: Asian greens, lettuces, spinach, various kale varieties, cabbages and escarole, but also green onions and carrots. Everything is well protected but still some mice managed to get in and nibble the growing tip from some plants, and I had to reseed. Currently all appears quiet on the rodent front now. Knock on wood.

September 14, 2013


I planted dill in the garden to attract swallowtail butterflies, not being a fan of the herb myself. But I should have remembered, they like parsley better too! Gathering some sprigs to add to cooking, I found a swallowtail caterpillar on one of the leaves.

In previous years I have repeated my childhood science experiment and put the caterpillar with parsley sprigs in a jar, covered it with wax paper perforated for ventilation and put it on the counter to wait for the butterfly to be born. It is just amazing to watch this transformation. Mom is Magic.

I picked the caterpillar on Labor Day, it cocooned 4 days later and 7 days after that, voila. After we released it from the jar it sat on the patio table for about 15 minutes, then took off into beautiful fall weather.

Meanwhile, a second caterpillar hatched on parsley I had brought in for Number One to munch on, so we are having a double dose of magic this year.

September 8, 2013

A special morning

The morning walk was beautiful today: a sunrise illuminating sheets of rain all around. Emma and I got sprinkled on, but the real rain waited until we were home.

We had gingerbread pancakes with pear sauce for breakfast while enjoying the rain in front of open windows and doors and watching the hummingbird migration go on unabated.

Garden minestrone and corn bread for dinner sounds like a great dinner for a day like today. A bit of fall is in the air.

September 3, 2013

Thank you, Monsoons!

Good rains this summer, and it is great to be able to take the horses out for a little noshing.

Bueno likes a lot of variety in his grass, so he got the patch behind the barn.

Cody and Buggs in the "pond", which is filling in nicely with mostly Bermuda.

August 26, 2013

Proud pepper mama

Seriously, all the credit goes to Mom for these beauties, but I have never grown peppers like these before. The plants are huge: they fill out a commercial tomato cage and they are bearing like gangbusters.

There are three varieties: Red Knight, which are the big blocky peppers; Cupid, those cute little sweet ones, and El Jefe, the ubiquitous jalapeƱo. I don't think I would have thought the small Cupids to be wonderful if I had not seen Bobby Flay cut up a pepper. He did it with the pepper standing up and sliced from the shoulder between the ribs. No muss, no fuss, no seeds.

Better go and stuff a couple of these honkers.

August 7, 2013

Coop remodel

If you want buildings to last in a desert climate, don't build with wood. When we put up the chicken coop in 2007, we used wood siding. It was a pill to paint, but I managed to put a number of good coats on. The siding on the most-exposed-to-weather south side started to show wear soon and by this spring it was pulling away from the studs.

Because I grumbled long and loud about the painting chore, Dan suggested that we replace the wood with metal so it would last (and he would not have to listen to be whine). We started the job in June, to beat the monsoons, but several other projects got in the way.

The job was finished this week. We worked on a side at a time so even though we did get rain, moisture in the coop was kept to a minimum. A number of mouse families were forced to evacuate however, which I hope sent them to emigrate to far lands so they will leave my spring garden alone.