Friday, September 30, 2011

Time to Visit and Talk

Earlier this month Julie's son and daughter-in-law, Neal and Beth, where in Las Vegas for a long weekend. The trip is a little less than five hours so we drove over one Friday afternoon to spend the night and visit with them. Rather than stay in the city we planned a trip to Gold Strike Canyon which is in Nevada about two miles from Hoover Dam.

Julie and I visited Gold Strike Hot Springs in 2003 and 2008 so this trip enjoyable but not spectacular for us. The best part was having time to talk.

Neal, Julie and Beth.
Neal, Julie and Beth.

Julie descends past choke stones.
Julie descends past choke stones.

Neal in a hot pool.
Neal in a hot pool.

Large pool in 2003.
This photo was taken in 2003. Julie is swimming in a large hot pool. This pool no longer exists. It has been filled in by floods.

Beth climbing.
Beth climbed the choke stone above the hot pool.

Julie, Beth and Neal.
Neal watches as Julie and Beth climb out of the canyon.

Neal climbing around a tight spot.

Beth and Paul.
Beth and I taking a break.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Solar Oven

Summer cooking is always a bit of a challenge. When the temperature outside is 100 degrees we don't want to use the kitchen range since we don't have air conditioning. We had a second gas range on the deck the last two summers so we could avoid adding heat to the house. Last spring we disposed of the extra range.

Early this summer Julie purchased a solar oven. After doing research she settled on the Sport model from Solar Oven Society.

The oven weighs only 10 pounds which makes it easy to set up and store after use. It came with two pots and a thermometer.

Among the things Julie has cooked in the oven are baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, stew, pinto beans, chicken breast, turkey tenderloin and rice. Every thing has been excellent. In fact, I think sweet potatoes cooked in the solar over are much better than those cooked in a traditional oven.

If we're home for the day Julie faces the oven toward the sun and periodically turns it as the sun moves. The meal cooks more quickly by following the sun. If we're going to work she faces it due south and the meal is ready when we get home.

Julie purchased reflectors to be used when the sky is partially cloudy. She used the reflectors only once and the temperature in the oven was about 250 degrees even though the sky was overcast.

We'll use the solar oven year round. Not only does it keep the house cooler in the summer but it doesn't use propane which translates into saved money.

It was a win-win-win-win purchase: keeps the house cool, saves money, easy to clean and cooks excellent food.

Solar Oven and Pots.
Solar Oven and Pots.

Solar Oven with Reflectors.
Solar Oven with Reflectors.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good Design, Poor Execution

Early last spring I was at the local recycling center dumping cans into a large dumpster that was labeled 'Cans Only'. In the dumpster was a metal head board from a double bed. As soon as I saw it I decided to swap my recycling for this marvelous opportunity.

Before I planted pole beans in the garden I split an eight feet long two by six into two uprights. I was concerned about the wind so I planned holes two feet deep to insure the uprights and head board wouldn't lean.

To install the head board I drilled three holes half way through each upright, inserted the ends of the metal into the holes and then drilled one hole through the upright and the metal head board. I inserted a sixteen common nail through the hole and bent it on the back side to insure it remained in place.

It seemed like a good design at the time.

I installed the pole bean support, cut two pieces of scrap pipe and stapled them to the ground. Next, I tied cord from the horizontal pipes up to the head board. This gave the beans a secure cord to climb.

Young Pole Beans.
Young Pole Beans.

During early summer I watched the beans grow and climb upward. One day they were a foot below the bottom of the head board and the next they were above it looking for something to twine around.

Mature Pole Beans.
Mature Pole Beans.

In mid summer I came home from work one evening and saw two bare uprights. The head board and vines were on the ground. As I inspected the damage I discovered one of the uprights had split. Straight grained Douglas Fir wasn't strong enough. The uprights were in the ground solid so all the force of the wind was transfered to the lumber that was weakened by my design. One end split and the other end pulled loose.

With Julie's help I raised the head board and beans into position inserted the ends of the metal into the sockets and used wire to secure the broken end to the upright. Solid! I was confident it couldn't break again as it had.

This morning I went to the garden and found the beans on the ground. The opposite end had split. Yes, it was dumb of me to secure one end and not do the same to the other end. Repair this time wasn't as easy. The vines are heavy with numerous large bean pods encasing large beans.

Using some wire I hoisted one end half way into position then did the same to the opposite end. I repeated this process again and have the head board back in position. But, I'm not as confident about my repair this time.

I have another plan for next year involving a decorative support for pole beans. I'll use the head board again in the garden but I plan on planting beans near the house so I can enjoy the brilliant red blossoms. Rather than write about that plan now I think I'll dream about it over the winter and let it evolve. I'll have photos next July.

Pole Bean Blossom.
Pole Bean Blossom.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thirty Days

A Ted Talk that I heard recently advocated the benefits of committing to something for thirty days. The focus was on something new. I liked the idea and immediately thought of several possibilities one of which was writing one blog entry every day. This doesn't classify as new but it's been years since I've written daily. I continue to enjoy my blog and writing about things I find enjoyable. This is an opportunity to record a few more experiences and memories.

This is the fourth of twenty-some consecutive entries. I would commit to 30 but three weeks from yesterday I'll be in the Grand Canyon several miles from an Internet connection so 30 consecutive posts isn't possible.

I have several subjects among which are a recent trip to Las Vegas, an on-going saga centered on a cell signal repeater, a psychological test and an inner tube in a tubeless tire (yes, they are connected), descriptions with photos of our two-week vacation to New York and Ontario and this summer's garden experiences. I don't have twenty subjects but, in my opinion, this is a good thing. I'll be forced to think of things I find interesting and, perhaps, do a few things so I can write about them. It will help keep me alert to events around me, positive events I experience since I have a ban on negativity.

Ah, that make me think of last Friday's conference on verbal first aid. I have another subject! And there's the recent sale of a motorcycle. Another one.

This should be easy, enjoyable, constructive and rewarding in a small way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Twenty-four Hours

Two weeks ago I began working 24 hours per week. I've enjoyed the extra 8 hours of free time.

I keep a daily record of my work in order to report the number of hours I work on specific projects. However, there's another significant and more personal reason to keep a journal. I'm paid a salary, do not punch a time clock and have relaxed scheduling. It's not a problem if I have nothing on my calendar and get to work 30 minutes late or leave early or take an extended break in the middle of the day. Some days I work extra, some days I work less. By keeping track of my hours I insure I earn my full salary. I like this system of personal supervision and integrity.

My original plan was to work 9:00 until noon and 1:00 until 4:00 PM, Monday through Thursday. This schedule gives me the opportunity to walk from Julie's office to my office before work (about 1.4 miles), walk to some destination during midday break and then walk back to Julie's office at the end of the day. This gives me a minimum of five miles of walking each day.

Two weeks ago I worked 28 and 1/4 hours. Last week I worked about 27 hours. At present I'm carrying about 36 extra hours that I've worked over the last year or so. The net varies. Sometimes it drops to about 24 hours extra and sometime it exceeds 40 hours.

Some days I plan on taking an extended lunch but I get interested in a problem and don't want to quit until I solve it. Then Julie calls and I realize it's about 4:00.

I can see a bad habit starting so this coming week I'm determined to work only 24 hours.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cool Weather

It's almost fall backpacking season. I use to endure the heat but I've gotten to the age that I prefer to wait for cooler temperatures. Three weeks from yesterday my son arrives. We have planned a Grand Canyon trip of five nights and six days. The weekend following this trip Julie and I have a permit for two nights in the Canyon. The average high temperature on the South Rim in October is 65 and the low is 36. The inner canyon temperatures are 84 and 58. The following weekend, the first weekend in November, I have a Painted Desert trip planned with Todd and Dave. November's average temperatures for the Desert are 59 high and 39 low. Four consecutive weekends of cool fun to anticipate.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Maggie, one of our cats, was sitting in the yard batting at something. I started toward her to identify her victim. If it was a mouse it was fair game; if it was a horned lizard then I would rescue it. As I crossed the yard I noticed Maggie jump back in a defensive move. What was she tormenting? A young rattlesnake! Dumb cat!

Young snake.
The young snake I rescued from Maggie.

Maggie wasn't in near the danger that confronted the snake. It was so young that I doubt it's fangs were long enough to penetrate the depth of her hair and break her skin. I took Maggie to the house, got a cardboard box and placed the snake it in to move it to a safe location. As soon as Maggie was freed from the house she went back to the original location of the snake to resume her game.

A few weeks ago Maggie, our second cat, disappeared for a day. When she came home she was lethargic and wouldn't eat. As we checked her for injuries or wounds she reacted with pain when we touched her left rear leg. The only sign of an injury was one small puncture. We don't know what injured her but I suspected a snake.

Some days I think cats are more trouble and expense than they are worth. Then the evening comes and they climb in our laps and purr and beg forgiveness for the day's transgressions and we get all warm and fuzzy. Dumb humans!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Third Weekend in September

Friday was a town day. We spent all day in town which never meets my definition of fun. Julie took a temp job to help an academic office prepare for a conference. Friday morning I accompanied her to town as she insured preparations were finalized and helped attendees with directions and parking permits. Once the conference started she was done with her responsibilities.

While Julie worked I hung bird feeders outside my office window, bought oil in preparation for servicing the Jetta, scheduled a front end alignment, checked a co-workers irrigation system (which had been turned off unintentionally), checked on renting a backpack and 10 degrees down bag for my son in anticipation of a Grand Canyon trip next month and purchased fifteen dehydrated meals (almost half of what we'll need). Julie and I met for coffee then drove to the mall for some shopping. While she bought new outfits I read. (More about the book in a few minutes.)

Friday evening Julie met two friends to celebrate their birthdays which are in September. I accompanied her to town so she would not have to drive after dark (which is hazardous due to less-than-perfect vision and scar tissue from radial keratotomy surgery before lasers.) While the ladies enjoyed dinner I stopped by the cafe at a local bookstore to write my last blog entry and listen to a local musician.

Saturday was a work day. I awoke to a long to-do list. First on my list was the kitchen range. It appears one of the cats caught a mouse, brought it in and turned it loose in the house. It's not the first time it's happened. Unfortunately, this mouse escaped and found refuge in the insulation of the kitchen range. An unpleasant odor brought this to our attention. I disconnected the range and took it to the deck and began disassembly to see if I could remove the insulation, clean the range and install new insulation. I quickly concluded this was more work than I wanted to invest in an aging kitchen range. We took a trailer to town and began shopping unsuccessfully for a new range. No store had one in stock that met our specifications. We've decided to make do with our range until we can find the right replacement, preferably a model with a spark ignition for the oven. Most new ranges use a glow plug that requires 300 to 400 watts of electricity. Rather than a brief trip we spent so much time that nothing else on my to-do list was touched.

Today, Sunday, was an ideal day. I accomplished several things, enjoyed mild sunny weather of 80 degrees with a gentle breeze and took a few breaks to read. I'm reading a biography, actually an autobiography, the first that I've read in years. (I think the last biography was Mahatma Ghandi and that was many years ago.) In keeping with my plan to read more widely I went to a used bookstore last week and walked through the non-fiction area. The first book that caught my attention was Naturalist by Edward O. Wilson. I didn't realize I was in the biography area until I opened the book. Fascinating! Yes, I know I've said that about too many books lately but I'm on a roll of good reads.

Back in the 1980s a biology professor at the school at which I worked at that time gave me a book, Sociobiology, and said, "Here. This will mess with your mind." He was wrong, I found Wilson's views in line with my own beliefs about evolution and related subjects. It's good to read Wilson's autobiography. I'm looking forward to the section where he discusses the uproar over his beliefs on sociobiology.

While in town yesterday I stopped by the local library and searched for books by Wilson. I found Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge. This is the book I read while waiting on Julie as she shopped. My opinion thus far? Fascinating!

In a few minutes friends are arriving with supper, a vegetarian meal. The weekend will end with good food, good friends, good memories.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pipe Spring

The second day of our labor day weekend trip was more fascinating to me than the first. I've been in other slot cayons so Antelope Canyon was enjoyable but not unique. We had planned on breakfast in Page, Arizona, mid-morning coffee in Kanab, Utah, and a late lunch on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before returning north to spend the night in Jacob Lake. After leaving Kanab we rode south through Fredonia, Arizona. As we left town we saw the sign to Pipe Spring National Monument, a site that we researched for this trip and have wanted to visit for a few years. After a discussion of 30 seconds we changed our plans, made a U-turn and set our next destination as Pipe Spring.
Winsor Castle.
Winsor Castle, the fort named after the first resident. The fort was built because the previous owner of the property and the ranch foreman were killed by Native Americans. Sadly a group of Paiutes were hanged for the killing though they were innocent.

Pipe Spring was a Mormon tithing ranch constructed in the late eighteen hundreds. Mormons living on the frontier has little cash so they paid their tithes with cattle and goods. The ranch was established to collect the cattle and care for them until they could be taken to St George, Utah. This history was fascinating and the lady who led the tour was knowledgeable, entertaining, pleasant, experienced and well suited for her task. She communicated enthusiasm. We stayed about three hours during which time we took a tour of the fort, toured the garden, petted the horse and long horned cattle, watched an excellent video and strolled around the museum and grounds. I highly recommend a visit to Pipe Spring to learn the intertwined history of Mormons, Paiutes and the American Government.

Inside the fort.
The fort is two buildings facing one another connected by gates on each end.

Gun ports.
Note the gun ports high on the walls in this bedroom. The fort was never attacked. The women who lived at the fort stuffed rags in the gun ports during winter to keep out cold winds.

Telegraph station.
The first telegraph station in Arizona was installed in one of the upper bedrooms at the fort. A fifteen year old girl was the first operator.

The spring.
The fort was built over the spring and the water was piped into a lower room where it flowed through a wooden trough before exiting the opposite wall. The temperature outside was near 100 degrees but the water and the room were cool and comfortable.

Food rack.
Near the wooden trough a post and cross pieces provided a location for cheese and other foods to be kept cool.

Spring fed ponds or tanks.
After exiting the bulding the water flowed into two large ponds or tanks.

Looking down on Pipe Spring.
I walked to the top of the bluff behind Pipe Spring to see the oasis created by the water. The rest of was last was barren of trees. Before cattle were introduced the area was a prairie with grasses that "tickled the bellies of horses".

Paiute Exhibition.
Pipe Spring is on the Kaibab Paiute Reservation. There are about 240 Kaibab Paiute. I asked one of the interpretive rangers about the population in the previous century. At that time there were around 5,000. The loss of the spring marked a point in their decline. A young woman was working at this interpretive center but, unfortunately, left for lunch before we could talk with her.

Jacob Lake Cabin.
Home for the night. Julie made reservations for one of the historic cabins at Jacob Lake. We had one-half of the cabin which had another entrance and room with bath on the opposite side. Small and comfortable with character.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Antelope Canyon

We took a motorcycle trip over Labor Day weekend. Our original plans, as illustrated in the map below, entailed three days. As the time approached the weather forecast for St. George was over 100 degrees. We modified our plans and first day reservations. In the end we spent the first night in Page, AZ, and visited Antelope Canyon rather than kayaking.

Map: Labor Day Weekend.
Labor Day weekend trip. We modified our plans and did not got to St. George.
(Larger version)

Antelope Canyon, from what I've read, is the most photographed slot canyon in the world. Julie and I have been in other slot canyons but thought a tour of Antelope was needed. Upper Antelope Canyon is wider and most visited but we chose the lower canyon.

Antelope Canyon 1.
Looking up stream while standing near the entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon 2.
The entrance to the slot is sudden and unexpected, a small split in a level sandy wash. Julie follows a young man into the entrance.

Antelope Canyon 3.
The descent is facilitated by steel steps. The slot is over 100 feet deep.

Antelope Canyon 4.
Lower Antelope Canyon is longer and more narrow that Upper Antelope Canyon. The twists, turns and changing colors from filtered light was intriguing.

Antelope Canyon 5.
Julie smiling with enjoyment.

Antelope Canyon 6.
In much of the canyon the sky is hidden and the light is reflected and filtered. In this location sun light colored the sandstone.

Antelope Canyon 7.
Lower Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon 8.
Lower Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon 9.
The top of the canyon is about 133 feet above.

Antelope Canyon 10.
Climbing the steel steps out of the canyon.

Antelope Canyon 11.
Looking down canyon after exiting. The slot ended as suddenly and dramatically as it began.

Antelope Canyon 12.
Looking up canyon from the exit at the top of the slot.