Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Home from Santa Fe

Just before we left for Santa Fe this lizard was saved from one of the cats by Julie. She tossed a towel over it. Earlier in the week she grabbed one by the tail. She ended up with a wiggling tail and the shortened lizard escaped her but not the cat.

Petrified rattlesnake.
I found this petrified rattlesnake beside the walk. Did it die due to one of the cats or some other cause? Due to it's size I assume it hatched this year. It's the first rattlesnake I've seen this year. I'm wondering if the cats have reduced the rodent population and the snakes are hunting elsewhere.

This cauliflower was small before our trip. The drip system worked well with the exception of one half of one bed. Chard, kale, brussel sprouts and cauliflower had begun to wilt. We got home just in time. I adjusted the timer and haven't had a problem since.

Red Cabbage.
Red cabbage was on the drip line that didn't provide enough water. However, the cabbage was in fine condition.

This peppermint was planted a few days before we left. I had two dripers in the pot but removed one just before we left.

Julie watering Bee Plant.
Julie watering a native Bee Plant that sprouted in a fortunate location. We purchased twelve xeric plants while in Santa Fe and planted them early this morning.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


We arrived in Amarillo and spent a few minutes with Julie's father before he drove us to the Alzheimer's facility that care's for Julie's mother. The phone rang with a call from Phoenix. Julie was scheduled for three brain scans in July as part of an Alzheimer's research project. The call had been expected for a few weeks but the timing of the call was ironic.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Working Vacation

I knew weeks ago that the timing of our trip to Santa Fe would conflict with work responsibility. I've kept a cell phone and laptop close. Thus far I've worked almost 12 hours while trying to join in on group activities as much as possible. I don't mind the responsibility and am grateful for my job and co-workers.

For me the highlights of today were visits to the Santa Fe farmer's market and a nursery. The Flagstaff farmer's market is held in two parking lots on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. By contrast, Santa Fe has permanent facilities that include water sources, shade for vendors, a building for indoor vendors and restrooms. Impressive.

Santa Fe Farmer's Market.
Santa Fe Farmer's Market..

There is a nursery in Albuquerque that specializes in high elevation xeric plants. A nursery in Santa Fe is associated with the Albuquerque nursery and carries many of their plants. Julie and I perused a catalog over the last month and visited the local nursery today. Saturday we plan on purchasing some items that we can't find locally.

Santa Fe Farmer's Market.
Julie browsing flowers at the Santa Fe farmer's market..

I finished reading the last of Sapolsky's essays and went in search of a book. I found a used copy of Oliver Sacks' An Anthropologist on Mars. This vacation is a combination of work, browsing, reading and being somewhat lazy. Enjoyable!

Monday, June 21, 2010


I understand there is a fire (or fires) near Flagstaff. I learned this through emails, phone calls and instant messages from family and friends. From what I've gathered there is a fire west of home moving notheast. This fire, most likely, will be contained miles from our house. Should it continue spreading, given prevailing winds, it would travel northwest of our property. I doubt it would ever come within ten miles of home.

Julie and I are in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for an annual gathering with her sister, her cousin and spouses.

Yesterday evening we were discussing these annual adventures and reconstructed this history.
  • 2004 - Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  • 2005 - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • 2006 - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  • 2007 - Colorado Springs, Colorado (Julie and I missed this one)
  • 2008 - Ouray, Colorado
  • 2009 - Buenva Vista, Colorado
  • 2010 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
This morning we participated in a docent led walking tour of historic Santa Fe. On Wednesday we are diving to Amarillo, Texas, to visit Julie's father and mother. We'll return to Santa Fe on Thursday and drive home on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Scuba Diving San Carlos

We are back from San Carlos with pleasant memories, new knowledge and good experiences.

We met a group of eleven in Cottonwood at 4 PM on Thursday and thirteen of us aged early teens to early sixties loaded into a fifteen passenger van. By 9 PM were in a Motel 6 in Nogales.

Friday morning we crossed the border and were in San Carlos by noon. After checking into a motel and having lunch we drove to a beach for checkout dives for myself, Julie and another member of our group. This was far easier then anticipated.

A San Carlos dock scene.
Julie resting after stretching while waiting for the dive boat. (Larger version)

The original plan was to take a boat to the island for three dives on Saturday but the weather was less than ideal. We boated to San Antonio Point and did a dive. By the time we arrived a few were feeling queasy from the rough trip. However, once in the water we found a gentle surge 25 feet down.

We moved to another location for the second dive but encountered another boat with several divers in the water. A few had rounded a point and gone too far into rough water. One had a case of motion sickness and had thrown up. All were attempting to swim back to their boat on the surface. Our boat crew picked them up, took them to their boat and we diverted to another more protected location for another good dive. Here we saw the first jelly fish.

Location of our fifth dive.
Julie sitting on the back of the boat at the location of our fifth dive. (Larger version)

Saturday was perfect. No clouds. No wind. No waves. As we made our way to the island dolphins began swimming in the wake of the boat. Nearing the island we saw sea lions.

Our first dive was the best. We went down 60 feet and saw a vast array of flora and fauna. Unexpectedly a sea lion passed over my right shoulder and down in front of me almost within reach. It was exciting to have them swimming close around us.

Lunch on the dive boat.
Fish tacos for lunch. (Larger version)

We moved to another location for the second dive of the day. The first choice for another location had too many jelly fish so we abandoned that spot before dropping anchors.

Sea Lions.
Sea Lions. (Larger version)

The location for the third dive looked excellent. Sea lions were lying on the ledges around the small cove and several were on a gravel beach. However, there was a strong current that required a fair amount of effort. Still, it was a good experience.

Julie enter the water for our fifth dive.
Julie enter the water for our fifth dive. (Larger version)

After our second dive on Saturday Julie said a strange thing to me. "Thank you for doing this with me." I liked that. It affirmed she was having a good time. It's good to have common interests that we can enjoy together.

Signaling OK.
Julie raising an arm to touch her head as an OK signal. (Larger version)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Garden Tour and Scuba Diving

The Yavapai Country Master Gardener Tour was held last Saturday. Unlike the local garden tour this one involved several communities and was limited to master gardeners and members of garden clubs. We picked up a map and descriptions of the gardens at a nursery in Cornville. The nursery was an unexpected pleasant surprise. We took time to tour the facilities

We visited one garden in Camp Verde, one in Rimrock and two in Oak Creek. The fifth and final garden was in Sedona but we didn't have time to stop.

In the afternoon we were in Cottonwood at the home of the instructor who taught the scuba class last February. He has a 12 feet deep salt water pool and invited us to use the pool for a refresher of skills we learned in the class. At the end of the afternoon we packed our equipment in preparation for a trip this weekend. Tomorrow afternoon we meet a group in Cottonwood, drive to Nogales, spend the night and drive to San Carlos, Mexico, Friday morning.

Next week I'll have photos of sea lions!

A Camp Verde yard. I enjoyed the openness and simplicity.

Inside an octagon shaped sun room in Camp Verde.

This yard in Rimrock had a wide variety of trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs.

This house in Oak Creek featured a Mexican theme. The photo doesn't reveal the cost of this house which probably exceeded $1 million.

The back yard of an avid golfer in Oak Creek. The front and side yards were formal.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hot Chicken

It's June, the month when the winds abate and the heat begins, the month before the relief of July's afternoon monsoon clouds.

By 9 AM on Sunday it was 95 degrees. I was working on our shed roof when Julie called me for lunch. The temperature was 104. By the time I finished eating it had climbed to 106.7 degrees and the humidity had dropped to 9 percent. One hundred degrees with low humidity and a breeze isn't bad if out of the sun. Later in the afternoon I worked a while longer until I decided I had enough sun on my legs.

Julie is caring for a neighbor's chickens and cats. Her first visit was on Friday and the chickens were out of water. She got a bowl of water while I found, cleaned and filled a watering can.

I think the last time I had chickens was in 1978. We moved to a small rural community and my son who was 8 or 9 years old asked for chickens and pigs. I told him he might get chickens but don't count on pigs. Within a few months we had chickens, nine pigs, rabbits, and dogs.

Hopefully next year we'll be prepared for chickens. Watching and listening to them is soothing and relaxing.

106.7 degrees outside; 83.5 degrees inside.

Thirsty chickens drinking from a bowl while waiting for a watering can to be cleaned and filled.

Watering can.

Collecting eggs.

Friday, June 04, 2010


For the last 20 years my daughter has worked at a small regional hospital in Kentucky. She's had various positions in insurance, billing, collections and computer systems analysis. This morning I received this email from her.

Well I just found out that a dear friend of mine passed away at 1:05 this morning. I didnt know him until 2 years ago. He had cancer and came in my office to see about help on his bills. He and his wife were the cutest couple. You could tell how much they loved each other. He would hold her hand the whole time they were in my office.

He told me once that the best thing that came out of his cancer was the people he met. His daughter in law works with me. She would stop in once in a while just to pass a message to me. He would tell her to tell me he thought the world of me. His wife would tell Sheila I was the sweetest person. He said he never had to worry about his bills because he knew I would take care of it.

He would stop by my office just to say hello after a treatment.

I just found out yesterday they only gave him 2 to 3 weeks to live but he passed this morning. I was going to make a trip to his house in Casey Co. this weekend to see him. He was a good man. Very giving. He loved to farm. He raised all kinds of vegetables. I think he gave away more than he sold. That was his one wish that he could have worked in his garden this year. He still had one put in but he would sit in a chair and watch as his family worked.

I got very attached to him. I dont know how Chemo nurses do it. I will miss his visits.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dirt, Dust, Happiness and Smarts

We live in a dusty world. Traffic creates a trail of dust on the dirt road. Wind brings us smoke and dust from west Arizona and California. A layer of fine dirt covers everything. Dust it off and a few minutes later it's back.

But, there's good news. It appears bacteria found in dirt may improve our mood. (However, I suspect some people may be immune to this benefit. When a layer of dust covers things Julie's mood doesn't improve. I attribute this immunity to her puritanical upbringing.)

But, there's more good news. This same bacteria appears to enhance our brain power.

But wait, there's more good news. The benefit of this dirty bacteria is only temporary. To get continuous benefit it's necessary to dig in the dirt frequently. A good way to accomplish this is by gardening. Wow!

I find this amazing

Spilled Water.
Spilled Water.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Paul, have you established a reliable composting system? I lust after one of those large rotating barrels....but they are so expensive. The trick seems to be providing all the ingrediants they call for in the right amounts....never seem to have enough of one or way to much of the other.

Compost tools.
Compost tools. (Larger version)

I heard or read that composting is more of an art than a science. I'm poor at art but continue to try composting.

Composting depends on the right mix of materials containing carbon, materials containing nitrogen, oxygen and water. The ideal quantity of materials is one cubic yard or larger to provide enough mass for heat retention. Given the right mix of materials a compost pile can reach 130 degrees and produce compost in a few weeks.

I have two composting bins. One was a gift from a friend who retired and moved to North Carolina. The second was a freebie found on Craigslist from a family moving to another house. The bins do not rotate to provide aeration so I lift the bottomless bin from the pile, place it beside the pile and shovel the pile into the bin to mix and aerate it.

A garden hose reaches the compost bins which makes it easy to rinse out the compost pail after emptying it into the bin and wet the pile if it appears too dry. The rule of thumb is that it should feel like a sponge that has been rung out. Recently I had a pile at 120 degrees that dropped in temperature and appeared to be too dry. In an effort to push the temperature higher I added more materials, aerated the pile and added some water, a little too much water. The temperature plummeted.

The photo above shows a long stemmed thermometer lying on an off-white compost pail. I sometimes use the thermometer but most of the time I shove a hand into the middle of the pile to determine the temperature and moisture content.

We never, but never, toss anything in the trash that can add nitrogen to the compost bin. Since we try to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables each day we have two pails of material per week. I take a banana and container of fruit (apples, oranges, strawberries, pears, etc) to work each day. I've begun putting the banana peel in the empty container to bring it home to compost.

There have been times, generally in the winter, when I've buried materials from the compost pail in the garden. Two months later I have trouble finding the material. It has become indistinguishable from the soil in which it was buried.

I've considered vermiculture -- worm composting. Julie is interested also which is important. We could place a larger container with red wiggler worms in the utility room and place some of our fruit and vegetable materials in the container rather than the compost bin. Some day I'll try this.

The question was "have you established a reliable composting system?" Remove the adjective "reliable" and the answer is yes. I'm still working on the art and trying to produce compost more quickly.