Thursday, October 29, 2009

Forty-Third Weekend

Last weekend, October 23-25, was the forty-third weekend of the year. Here are some highlights.

On Friday morning we walked to our mailbox about a mile from the house. I set the GPS to measure the distance and our speed. Turns out it was a little farther than I realized. We walked 2.69 miles round trip. Our average speed was 3.9 mph.

We watched the fourth and final episode of Wives and Daughters. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it. On a ten point scale I'd rate it a nine.

I constructed semicircular ends for one garden bed with operable vents. I installed them and, with Julie's help, planted garlic and onions before reinstalling the plastic cover securely. We've had some strong winds in the last few days and the plastic seems to be ready for winter weather.

This past Saturday we stopped by one of the local nurseries to buy a large flower pot for Sansevieria. I find going to a nursery akin to a religious experience. I always get enthused, excited and motivated.

Maggie inspecting tubs awaiting planting.
Maggie in the sun room inspecting vegetable tubs awaiting planting. I cut the wire fabric covers to keep her out of what she might interpret as litter boxes. (Larger version)

Several months ago I potted an old ragged Mother-in-Law's Tongue (Sansevieria) after removing several leaves from the plant. I cut the leaves into sections and rooted them. In the end I came out with about 50 small plants. On Sunday we condensed eight pots of Sansevieria into two large pots. I like the results.

Every six months we have friends who pass through Flagstaff on their way to their summer or winter home. Generally three couples meet at our house or one other couple's house for supper. I was looking forward to supper last weekend in part due to concern about their health. One of the men is no longer able to work, has been forced to file bankruptcy, has no health insurance and is depending on his wife to maintain what is left of their business. He is overweight, shakes, has knees that can no longer climb steps and is basically house bound. His poor health and financial problems are the results of bad choices. He is fifty-one.

The high calorie, high fat supper was Saturday evening. Julie and I ate very light on Sunday. I walked five miles with a thirty pound pack and felt better physically and psychologically.

On Saturday morning I was highlighting a backpacking route on topographical maps when Julie accused me of "obsessing" about the trip scheduled for March. I lied and said I wasn't obsessing. She responded by reading aloud the dictionary definition. Unknown to me she took a photo. OK, I do obsess but only about good things.

Obsessing over a topographical map.
"Obsessing" over a topographical map with aging eyes aided by a magnifying glass. (Larger version)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cat and Mouse

Maggie, our cat, was playing with something near the walk by the end of the house. As I got closer I saw the mouse that was the recipient of her attention. I had things to do and continued my work. Later I noticed Streudel, a feral cat, with Maggie and assumed the mouse was doomed sooner rather than later. The game had been going for 30 minutes and I was surprised the mouse was still able to play unwilling in the cats' game.

Cat and mouse.
Maggie and the mouse in a recycled plastic container. The red toy mouse happened to be in the photo by accident. She rarely plays with it. (Larger version)

I finished my work and joined Julie for breakfast in the sun room. We heard the cat door swing close and saw Maggie pass through the living room and drop a mouse. I assumed it was dead but was wrong. It was alive and speedy.

I decided to intervene rather than risk the mouse getting under some furniture where Maggie couldn't retrieve it. I got a plastic container from the recycling bin, took the mouse from Maggie, placed it in the box, snapped the lid shut and placed it on the floor. Maggie continued to play with the mouse, batting the container about and rolling it over as we finished breakfast.

It was a good start to the day for Maggie and me. Before leaving for work I turned the mouse loose in the yard. The last time I saw it the cat was in pursuit.

A New Day

This morning before work I went out early to remove the battery from the car since it is failing, getting weak and needing replacing. As soon as I saw the sunrise I raced for the camera.

The sky was brilliant red, orange and yellow in the east. Looking north, south and west the clouds were turning shades of pink, gray and blue.

Sunrise in the east.
Sunrise in the east. (Larger version)

Sunrise in the southeast.
Sunrise in the southeast. (Larger version)

I removed the battery while watching the clouds change colors and enjoying the cool sharp morning air. Some mornings the sunrise is quick with brief moments of painted clouds. This morning it was a slow, lingering, ever changing beauty.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Record Year

I picked up a piece of corrugated metal and saw a small lizard. I herded the lizard away from my work materials so I wouldn't crush him accidentally. As I moved more pieces of metal I saw another small tail disappear under a sheet. I lifted the piece and saw a small rattlesnake about nine inches in length. Cute! This was the smallest snake I've discovered in the yard.

I herded the snake to safety and went back to work with a little more caution. As a kid I heard that snakes are always found in pairs. Not true but definitely a memorable saying to a six year old. I moved more materials and uncovered a second snake about 10 inches long. My lucky day!

Small Hopi Rattlesnake.
Small Hopi Rattlesnake about nine inches long. (Larger version)

Small Hopi Rattlesnake.
Notice the nail in the bottom right of the photo. I dropped the 16 penny nail to give perspective to the size of the snake. (Larger version)

The weather has been unseasonably warm lately so it stands to reason that snake season isn't necessarily over but I hadn't seen one in about three weeks and assumed I wouldn't see more until next year.

Normally I see about eight rattlesnakes per year and two or three non-poisonous species. I've lost count but this year I've seen 13 or 14 rattlesnakes in the yard and only one gopher snake.

At a breakfast on Sunday morning I was talking to a neighbour. She said she had seen more rattlesnakes this summer than usual. Her theory was that the increase in population is due to the drought. My initial reaction was skeptical but I'm not certain. Regardless, it has been a record year for sightings.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Road Pick Up

Yesterday we participated in the road pick up which occurs each April and October. A group maintains a four miles section. One volunteer coordinates the pick up with the county to obtain vests, tools, bags and liability waiver forms. A second volunteer distributes the items at 9 AM and retrieves them when finished at 11 AM.

This time was different in a few ways. One difference was the quality of the bags and the scheduled date when the county will load the full bags. Normally the county gets the trash on Monday after the pick up on Sunday. However, this year we were provided with thinner, weaker, less expensive bags and the country won't load the trash until next week "due to budget cutbacks".

About 25 people attended, the largest group that I've seen in the last five years. There wasn't enough vests or tools. Perhaps the reason for the large group was the potluck breakfast at 8 AM. Generally we meet in the parking lot of the Star School. This time the school was opened for the breakfast.

Julie prepared for road pick up.
Julie prepared for road pick up.

After breakfast we were given a tour of part of the school that included the solar electric system which is being doubled in size to about 35 kilowatts, new well that pumps water from 1,200 feet below, straw bale building and amphitheater. An anemometer was installed on a ridge behind the school and is being used to collect data for the installation of two wind generators. Two weeks ago when we had the wind storm the anemometer recorded an 80 MPH gust. The actual speed of the gust was over 80 MPH, beyond the range of the equipment to measure.

With a large group it took only an hour for the road pickup since each of us had a short section of roadway. After we finished Julie and I drove the the dirt road where we live and began picking up trash in the area where the road meets the blacktop. A woman whom I do not know but must live up the road past our house slowed down and said "thank you" to Julie. When she passed me she slowed down again and repeated "thank you".

It was an enjoyable morning. I hope we continue the potluck breakfast. It was another opportunity to meet old friends and new neighbors.

(Footnote: The Star School is a charter school with 115 students, mostly Navajo. It is located about two miles from our house. Since we are a few miles from the grid, the school generates electricity and implements sustainable practices.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fortuitous Timing

I had a great morning yesterday. The brain was working better than usual. I solved problems quickly. One developer with far more experience than I have asked for help and I found the solution and passed on a couple tips that were new.

Later in the morning it came out of the blue, unexpected, a complete surprise. A vice president sent an email to the vice president in the area in which I work. The email complimented my work and work ethic.

The day was going great. I had signed up for a workshop in the afternoon conducted by a psychologist from the office of Employee Assistance and Wellness. The subject was "Personal Sustainability" and was based on research from the field of positive psychology. I was feeling good and looking forward to the workshop.

Shortly before leaving for the workshop a co-worker sent me a message about a suspicious report. I checked and immediately realized I had developed a program that erroneously deleted 1,295 accounts. Neither I nor the analyst who tested my work caught the error. Oops!

The good morning was balanced by the blunder of the previous afternoon. Or, rather, the blunder of the previous afternoon was balanced by the good morning. (Half empty or half full?) I wasn't feeling as euphoric as during the morning. I thought seriously about canceling the workshop and fixing the problem but decided the workshop was valuable enough to justify postponing the work.

The timing and content of the workshop were fortuitous. I went in thinking about the problem and how I would fix it as well as feeling a little frustrated with myself for such a blatant error. But, after the first mindfulness meditation exercise I forgot I had a problem to fix. The timing of the workshop was perfect and had immediate practical application.

(After the workshop I came back to the office at 5 PM, worked a while then came in at 7 AM this morning, restored the accounts and fixed the program.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


We met Tom from Conneticutt on the final sandy climb that leads to Keet Seel. We had stopped in the camp ground, selected a site, dropped our packs and headed straight to the ruins. He caught my attention because he was carrying his pack, wearing jeans and boots that reminded me of 1960's era combat boots. He was struggling up the incline and appeared to be hurting. We spoke as we passed him. He responded quietly without expression. During the tour he stayed on the outside of the group and found a seat. He looked like an exhausted man in his seventies.

He left before the rest of us while the ranger was talking. Later Julie and I returned to the camp ground and I looked for him but he wasn't there. A couple in the first campsite asked if we had seen him. They had met him outside the ruins and volunteered to carry his pack to the camp ground while he participated in the tour. A few moments later we heard someone calling loudly. He was disoriented and couldn't find the camp ground.

As Julie and I erected our tent I noticed he had a tarp and sleeping bag, no stove, no fleece clothes or cap. He seemed ill prepared. I'm not certain what he ate but he was the first to lie down. The night was colder than I expected. Julie and I had a tent, a base layer, outer clothes and mummy sleeping bags but we felt the cold. He must have been extremely uncomfortable.

He was the first to leave the next morning. Julie and I left about ten minutes later and expected to catch up with him but never did. We leap-froged another couple and talked with them briefly each time we passed one another. They told us this was his first backpacking trip. He had bought a new pack and set out alone without much preparation.

The trail leads downstream until it enters the main part of the canyon and joins another stream. At this point the trail turns up the joining stream. Julie and I stopped at this point to eat before crossing the stream and starting the climb out of the canyon. The couple passed us again and asked if we had seen Tom. In a few minutes two brothers from St. George, Utah, caught up with us and stopped to talk. It was at this time he came by. He had turned downstream rather than upstream and gone the wrong way before realizing his mistake.

At the top of the switchbacks where the trial begins descending into the canyon I heard someone say hello and turned to see a smiling face. As we talked he quickly volunteered that he was turning back. He is a pilot who lives in Oregon and had flown down to see Keet Seel while his wife attended a church camp.

He seemed like a pleasant person, content, full of experiences. His knees had been replaced and he was feeling uncertain of his ability to negotiate the rough trail down to the stream.

"This is the first one that's ever beat me back. But, I've had a good life."

When he said something about being too old I asked his age. "I'll be 82 next month."

Seasoned backpacker.
Backpacking at eighty-two.

I am inspired by both men. Tom wasn't afraid to leave his comfort zone, was willing to endure discomfort without complaining, kept going when some would have turned back. I hope his aching muscles and joints have eased and that he remembers the trip with fondness. I hope he goes backpacking again -- with better preparation and an experienced friend.

The gentleman from Oregon inspired me by his gracious acceptance of his age and situation. He didn't appear sad, rather he focused on his "good life." He acknowledged it was time to quit, to plan shorter, easier trips. As we parted I looked back and watch him start up the trial with short, slow, uncertain steps. The steps of an old man. I felt for him.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Keet Seel Ruins

Ruins - the remains of something destroyed. Ruins isn't an apt description of Keet Seel. About 700 years ago the last of the occupants arranged things neatly, sealed the doors, locked the village and left but never returned.

I took 320 photos during our hike and tour. Below are a few but I'm omitted photos that show small details. I've been to Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Walnut Canyon, Wupatki and other well known sites. This is the best. The only experience that can compare is visiting a small remote site that isn't managed by a park service and is generally known only to locals.

We met a few people on the hike and at the campground. Tomorrow, I want to tell about two of them.

Keet Seel from the campground.
Keet Seel as seen from our campsite. (Larger version)

Keet Seel.
This view shows most but not all of Keet Seel. The spring, turkey pens, tower and route to the top of the cliff are hidden. (Larger version)

Ladder to Keet Seel.
This 70 feet ladder provides access and crosses some of the faint steps cut into the sandstone by the Ancestral Puebloan people. (Larger version)

View from Keet Seel.
The view looking out from Keet Seel. It must have been wonderful waking to this scene each morning. (Larger version)

Northeast Keet Seel.
The northeast section of the village showing one of the three streets. (Larger version)

The log that locks the Pueblo.
Archaeologists were puzzled by this log until they asked the Hopi. It's the lock that communicated the people has left but may return. Note the precarious granary behind and below the log. (Larger version)

Another view of northeast Keet Seel.
Another view looking northeast. (Larger version)

Southwest Keet Seel.
Looking southwest. (Larger version)

The overhang that protects the village.
The overhang that protects the village. In the winter the morning sun warms the buildings. In the summer the overhang provides shade. (Larger version)

Ranger and visitors.
In the foreground is Max who gave us a tour. He does this multiple times per day with humor, knowledge and zeal. He is Navajo and used the term 'we' when talking about the differences in native cultures. He did a fantastic job. (Larger version)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hike to Keet Seel

As we drove through Tuba City I had a sudden thought. Unlike the rest of Arizona, the Navajo Reservation is on daylight savings time. This would cause us to be 30 minutes late for the 4 PM orientation required to get the permit. We would have to wait until 8:15 AM the next morning which would give us a later start than planned.

We arrived at the visitor center and Pat, a (Hopi?) ranger working behind the counter, said "Let's go over here. I can do the orientation now". Rather than showing us a packaged video used with groups he gave us a map, opened a photo album and gave us personal instruction on the route, the necessary regulations, water requirements and warnings about quicksand. He was soft spoken, pleasant, just a nice guy. A hiccup in our plans turned into a good experience.

As we left the trail head we had near perfect weather: blue skies with few clouds, cool to slightly warm temperatures, and a slight breeze. Perfect weather for hiking in a desert.

Below are a few photos of the hike. Tomorrow I'll have photos of the ruins at Keet Seel.

At the beginning of the hike.I set the camera on the ground and took this photo about a mile and a half into the trip as we descended into the canyon. (Larger version)

View of the canyon.
Our destination is about six miles up a side canyon beyond the stream. (Larger version)

Walking in the stream.
We crossed the stream many times and in some areas had to walk in the stream. (Larger version)

35 feet high water fall.
This water fall is 35 feet high. Above it are two smaller falls. The way around the falls is to the right. (Larger version)

Taking a break.
We took a break before the climb around the falls. Notice the stuff on the ground between my feet and above Julie's head. Cattle graze the canyon. (Larger version)

The trail to bypass the falls.
Julie climbing the trail around the falls. (Larger version)

Breakfast above the falls.
We left early on our trip out and stopped above the falls to have breakfast about the time the sun illuminated the area. Julie warmed her feet in the sun. A few minutes after this photo we were back in the cold water in the stream below the falls. (Larger version)

Photo of Paul.
As we hiked out I turned and faced east to look at the scenery. Julie asked for the camera and instructed me to face east again. (Larger version)

The final climb.
Julie nearing the top of the climb out of the canyon. This was a fairly easy section. The steep sandy sections near the stream were more difficult. (Larger version)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Anticipation Building

Four hours before we leave! This is the weekend of our trip to Keet Seel.
Keet Seel is one of the best preserved ancestral pueblo villages in the Southwest. It is located 8.5 miles from the Visitor Center. The hike is rugged, strenuous and the trail is marked by mile post spaced about every 1 to 1⁄2 mile. The trail drops sharply (1000 feet) (305 M) from the canyon rim to the canyon floor on rocky switchbacks and sand dunes. Once in the canyon, the route then follows shallow streams and gradually rises 400 feet (125 M) over the last 5.5 miles (9 KM) of the trail. Walking through water is unavoidable so plan on getting your feet wet. The final two miles cross several deep sandy gullies.
Originally we had planned on leaving early this morning so we could arrive by 10 AM to take a 5 mile ranger led day hike to Betatakin which is near Keet Seel. However, we arrived home late a few nights this week and decided to save the Betatakin trip for another time. We're having a slow morning and will leave in the middle of the day so we can attend a 4 PM orientation that is required to receive a permit.

Exercise, nature, historical ruins, a good book, cool temperatures and another adventure with Juile (who just read 'rugged, strenuous' and exclaimed "you said it was an easy hike"). It's going to be a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Aftermath! Sounds ominous. Actually, it wasn't that bad. The wind hasn't ended but isn't as strong as it was on Sunday and Monday. Today the prediction is for winds between 13 and 16 mph with gusts as high as 29 mph. Not bad.

We generally keep things put away or secured in case of wind since it's not an uncommon experience. In general, small items didn't move. Only one tab of one roofing shingle was broken and is easily repaired. It was a cistern that caught me unexpectedly.

Uprooted dead tree.
This dead tree was the favorite perch for doves. They would fly to the tree before coming to the feeders in the yard. An earlier wind storm caused the tree to lean. This storm pulled it loose and rolled it to it's present location. Since it's not in the yard and isn't a potential problem, I'm going to leave it to nature.

I think this piece of culvert weighs approximately 300 pounds. Before the storm it was on the right side of the drive beside the closest Juniper. The way the wind moved it is a bit of a mystery. The scuff marks on the ground show the wind pivoted one end and moved it somewhat perpendicular to the wind rather than rolling it.

The cistern in the foreground has moved about five feet to the right. The two should be aligned so that the back cistern would be hidden in this photo. This was the biggest surprise. The cistern weighs just a little over 300 pounds empty. It contained about 80 gallons of water which would add about 640 pounds for a total of almost 1,000 pounds. I'll have to drain the water to reposition it.

Cistern pumping.
It appears the pipe did not break or crack because the cistern walls flexed. No harm was done. For the last few weeks I've planned on finishing this project. I'll build a retaining wall around both cisterns and fill it with soil to insulate the pipes and to anchor the cisterns. I'll have to cut a pipe to realign the cisterns. In the spring I'll dig trenches to connect the cisterns to the house and the garden. There was no rush this past summer since our monsoon season was a bust.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Windy Day

Today: A 20 percent chance of showers. Areas of blowing dust. Partly cloudy, with a high near 70. Windy, with a southwest wind 28 to 31 mph increasing to between 41 and 44 mph. Winds could gust as high as 60 mph.
Today was windy. Julie and I canceled our morning walk and found inside activities. The wind generator shrieked throughout the day and things that I thought I had secured firmly changed locations at the whim of the wind.

Yesterday we accomplished part of our outside work. We're preparing for winter weather and have a list of things to complete so we can move to inside projects.

One of our inside projects is the installation of a two feet by 25 feet tile counter in the sun room. Last winter we purchased saltillo tile on Craigslist, small blue tile from Habitat for Humanity and a few colorful trim tiles from a local business. Yesterday with blue skies and pleasant breezes we settled on a pattern, cut the tile and returned it to storage until a cold weekend when we'll install it. I'm glad I didn't leave that task for today.

Tile awaiting installation.
Tile awaiting installation. (Larger version)

This afternoon about four o'clock I got cabin fever and decided to brave the wind and take a short walk. Normally I tip my head into the wind and remain ready to grab my cap. Today, I pulled a hooded sweatshirt over my cap, went to my shed and got a pair of earmuffs that I wear when operating loud power equipment. My cap never moved.

Earmuffs on a windy day.
Earmuffs on a windy day.

Next weekend is a play weekend. We have a permit for a backpacking trip to Keet Seel on the Navajo Reservation. I'm glad our permit wasn't for this weekend. The hike includes sandy ground. Forty miles per hour winds and sand wouldn't make an enjoyable hike nor a peaceful night in a tent.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Blue Zones Reaction

A few months back I read The Blue Zones by Dan Bleuttner. Following are three pieces of information from the book followed by my reactions to the book.

Herein lies the premise of The Blue Zone. If you can optimize your lifestyle, you may gain back an extra decade of good life you'd otherwise miss. What's the best way to optimize you lifestyle? Emulate the practices we found in each one of the Blue Zones.
    Four Blue Zones
  • Sandinia
  • Okinawa
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Costa Rica
    The Nine Lessons
  1. Move Naturally - Be active without having to think about it
  2. Hara Hachi Bu - Painlessly cut calories by 20 percent
  3. Plant Slant - Avoid meat and processed foods
  4. Grapes of Life - Drink red wine (in moderation)
  5. Purpose Now - Take time to see the big picture
  6. Down Shift - Take time to relieve stress
  7. Belong - Participate in a spiritual community
  8. Loved Ones First - Make family a priority
  9. Right Tribe - Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values
In my opinion, the blue zones lessons make sense. They align with published research. Over the last several years I've read books, news articles and subscribed to email services that focus on health and longevity. The consensus appears to emphasise the importance of diet. However, exercise trumps diet and relationships appear to be most important. Each of these can be found in the blue zones lessons.

After reading the book I have three reactions. These are not contained in the book but are my opinions.

First, we live in a time and environment that violates all nine of the principles. Our population is mobile so, for many, family, friends and community are absent. The speed of our lives, popular culture, corporate marketing and the media push us toward processed food that is quick if not nutritious. It appears net participation in a spiritual community -- whether christian, pagan, jewish, muslim, atheist, animism, buddhist, etc -- is declining. Technology (remote controls, elevators, automobiles, power appliances, etc) have deprived many people of movement and natural exercise. Many of us are educated but have not learned stress management. On the contrary, multitasking and a fast paced life are valued. Few people seem to have a sense of purpose, a reason to begin each day, other than to earn money to buy more stuff, to stufficate themselves.

Second, creating a personal blue zone is challenging. It requires courage and a side step out of the crowd to slow the pace and create time. Exercise takes time. Planning, shopping and preparing healthy meals take time. Nurturing family relationships and friendships require time. Stress management and participation in a spiritual community necessitate time. Working 40 hours per week with a commute through congested traffic leaves little time for a blue zone self. Many people have too much debt and must work full time or work multiple jobs.

My third reaction relates to the spiritual aspect and, in part, to the admonition to belong and participate in a spiritual community. My personal religion focuses on evolution. I am an evolutionist. I define religion as beliefs, values and practices that anchor our lives, give us a sense of purpose, enable us to cope with life's passages and provide an ethical guide. I find all of these components in my understanding and interpretation of evolution. I question how we can create a blue zone environment and violate our evolutionary heritage. We evolved to live in small personal communities of about 150 people or fewer. Daily life was controlled by the weather, seasons and cycle of the sun. Natural exercise was abundant. Stress management came naturally through family, clan, evenings around the fire and extreme weather (summer heat, winter cold, heavy rains) that caused people to stop work until the weather improved. Diet was primarily plant based and was void of modern chemicals. We no longer live in this kind of environment and community. Can most of us maximize our longevity, our contentment and the richness of our lives apart from this kind of environment? This is not to say that we should eliminate technology but we should create intentional communities and environments.

Nature or nurture? I think nature is the stronger influence but not the determinate. Recent evidence suggests that our genes may set outer limits but are under the influence of environmental stimuli. By creating a blue zone for ourselves we won't lengthen our lives but we will increase the probability of living to our maximum limit and living with increased quality of life in our last years. Even if we die early due to accident, the richness of our lives will be improved now.

After reading the book I asked myself, "how can I create a personal blue zone?". Diet and exercise are easy. Stress management is doable. Maintaining family connections is more difficult due to distance. Finding and participating in a spiritual community with intellectual honesty and a sense of personal integrity is extremely difficult. (Read that to mean "I won't go to church/synagogue/meeting just because it's expected of me or it may add to my longevity. I have to believe with honesty and be myself rather than conform to some dogma or code of behavor.) Perhaps the most difficult is finding a group with blue zone values to surround myself. These things are difficult but not impossible.

My reaction to the book may sound negative, a condemnation of current American society and culture. So be it.

Mojoman asked about my reaction to the book. He has read the book and written his reaction to it. I haven't read his article yet since I wanted to write mine first because I generally like to form my own opinions before reading or hearing other peoples opinions. He always writes thoughtful articles so I encourage you to read Marathons Not Required.

Browse the Blue Zones website.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Eighteen Degrees

I woke up this morning and the bedroom seemed cooler than normal which was an omen. I checked the outside thermometer. Eighteen degrees.

A few days ago the low for last night was forecast as 29 degrees. Then it changed. The low would be in the mid-thirties. I decided to take a risk.

Last week I tried to get the garden beds covered. I purchase half inch metal conduit and shaped hoops to span the beds. The conduit was ten feet long so I went in search of clear plastic twelve feet wide or wider. It wasn't to be found so I decided to wait another day and try more stores. No success. Ten feet was the widest I could find. My solution was to cut one foot from each end of the hoops to shorten them to eight feet so I could use plastic ten feet in width. Thursday night was the forecast low for the week. Since the temperature wasn't expected to drop to freezing I thought I would wait until today to work in the garden.

In hindsight I wish I had found the time to cut the conduit and cover the beds earlier in the week. I regret I didn't pick tomatoes, peppers and squash yesterday.

But, all was not lost. Salsify, parsnips, carrots and beets are standing tall.

Today I cleared the beds, cut the hoops and covered one bed. Tomorrow I'll plant a few things to over winter.

After covering the bed I used a light meter to check the light inside the plastic and was surprised. I'm not certain about the quality of the light but it's bright. Tomorrow I'm going to add some water filled bottles to supplement the stone block as heat stores and install a thermometer to monitor the temperature.

One morning this week I sprayed neem oil on rutabagas, squash and radishes to stop the spread of powdery mildew. The freezing temperature took care of that problem.

The predicted lows for the next five nights are 35, 50, 46, 38 and 41. Ahhh, what could have been but for one night of eighteen degrees.

Covered garden bed.
Covered garden bed. I shaped the hoops by bending the conduit over the large black culvert in the upper right background of the photo. Under the blue tarp is about ten yards of old horse manure. (Larger version)

Hoop for garden bed.
Hoop for garden bed. This photo was taken last weekend and shows the first hoop that I shaped and tested. (Larger version)