Monday, October 31, 2011

Hoseshoe Mesa

Last weekend Julie and I did a backpacking trip to Horseshoe Mesa. We had an enjoyable time.

The mesa was mined for copper in the late 1800's so the trail and area is full of history. It's a short hike of only three and one-half miles with an elevation loss of 2,500 feet. There were other groups camped on the mesa and we passed several day hikers so it was a social trip. We talked with university students as well as people from England, Ohio, Colorado and California.

Horseshoe Mesa.

Our destination on Horseshoe Mesa is marked by the red arrow. The elevation loss is about 2,500 feet.

Radiation Hazard Sign.

Radiation hazard. Recently congress has been debating allowing more uranium mining near Grand Canyon.



Remains of a cabin.

Remains of a cabin.


Toilet with a view. Note the shadow of the second toilet.

Riprap Trail

Historical riprap trail.

Hidden Trail.

The last mile of the trail climbs 1,200 feet. The red arrow points to a backpacker.

Cribbing on the trail.

Sections of the trail are supported by wooden cribbing.

Near the top.

Julie nears the top.





Monday, October 24, 2011

Short Trip

I parked at the trail head where I would exit the canyon and started cross country to the point where I would enter the canyon. It was about eleven o'clock and I had about two and one-half miles to go to get to the rim. My plan was to get to the rim, take a break, eat lunch and then begin the descent. I was walking fast using a compass to navigate and wading through brush when I hooked my rear foot on something. I couldn't catch my balance in time and fell.

I extended my arms to catch myself and came down on my hands and knees. My stomach was above some broken branches and I had the thought "I'm glad I didn't impale myself on them". (Now I find that thought amusing.) As I pushed myself up I realized something was holding my left forearm. I had caught a pointed dead limb at the right angle to force it about three inches into my arm.

I bandaged my arm and debated what to do. In the end I thought I would go back to the car, wash my arm using some extra water that I had left in the car, unwrap my arm to see if the bleeding had stopped and then decide whether to continue my trip or drive to the clinic at Grand Canyon Village.

When I unwrapped my arm about an hour later it started bleeding again and I began considering the risk of infection. I created plan two: drive to the clinic (which would take a little over an hour), get the wound treated (hopefully within an hour), drive back to the trail head (another hour plus) and enter the canyon at that point rather than my original entry point.

I was in the clinic almost three hours. Paperwork up front, make a couple attempts to call to get my insurance number because I had intentionally left the card at home since I wouldn't need it, get the wound washed and irrigated, wait on a doctor, get xrays of the arm, get a steri-strip and bandage. I expected a couple stitches but the decision was to leave the wound open in case of an abscess.

By the time I got out I was starving and thirsty since I had missed lunch. I chose not to continue the trip because I couldn't eat and get back to the trail head before dark. I considered starting the next morning but I would been one day behind and wasn't sure I could make up for a lost day.

In the end I chose to head home and work on the greenhouse I'm building. I was able to phone Julie in Amarillo each morning, afternoon and evening. I made good progress on the construction and I read a book during the week then started a second book. I had a good week.

Todd, my hiking partner, and I have discussed doing the same trip next spring using a third entry point into the canyon. I'm determined to do this trip.







Monday, October 17, 2011

A New Anticipation

It's Sunday evening, my pack is ready, my clothes are laid out and I'm planning on leaving at 6 AM for the canyon.

I did a final check of the weather forecast. The predicted low on the rim for the week is 29 degrees and the high at the river is 92 degrees. This is much warmer than I prefer but it does mean I can take a lighter (i.e. less weighty) jacket. On the down side I'll need more water. I've packed eight liters (19.4 pounds) for the first two days.

The satellite phone I rented felt heavy. The scales stopped at 12.9 ounces, much less than I guessed. My pack passed sixty pounds so I began reevaluating contents. I took out a small video camera (8.9 ounces) and tripod (5.8 ounces). My camera goes but extra lenses (3.2 ounces) get left behind. I generally take too much snack food (nuts, dried fruit, etc) so I left almost half of what I originally packed. In the end I trimmed down to 57.2 pounds.

Over the last few weeks when it's early in the day and the sun is shining I've look forward to this trip. Tonight less so. Julie and I have not been separated for seven days since before we married, possibly as long as 15 years.

I've anticipated this trip. Now I'm anticipating her return from Amarillo next Sunday.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

An End

I consciously and intentionally put a positive upbeat veneer on my blog. I do this for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I am tempted to address issues that ruminate behind the veneer and I've chosen to entertain a temptation on this occasion.

A few months ago I noticed the counter on the right side of my blog that tallied US deaths in Iraq was no longer incrementing even though hostile and non-hostile deaths continued. A the end of September the graphic disappeared. I tried to navigate to the website but the domain no longer exists. The person, persons or organization that created the domain and the counter have brought it to an end. As a result, I'm removing it from my blog template.

US Deaths.

US deaths continue but not at the rate that occurred in the not too distant past.

Deaths in Iraq by Month.

I had and have both a rational and emotional reaction to valuing one group over another group. People are people and differ only in insignificant superficial ways such as dress, hair styles and religion. I didn't feel good about counting US deaths while ignoring Iraqi deaths so I searched for a counter to see both sides. The domain that provided the counter continues to exist but I am removing it also.

Iraqi Deaths.

I don't experience epiphanies. Generally a feeling slowly builds over a period of time and I come to a conscious realization of some belief that has evolved and has been adopted. It's not always a new belief. Sometimes it's a realization that a belief should be tossed on the refuse heap. I tend to approach life cerebrally or I deceive myself that my beliefs and reactions are rational rather than emotional. The older I get the more I realize I'm probably more self deceptive, less rational and more emotional than I once imagined possible.

The Reagan years pushed me toward cynicism. This last ten years have entrenched that cynicism. I've come to realize that democracy is an intellectually attractive concept that does not exist. Both political parties are equally reprehensible. I know of no person in the political light that I respect.

One of my realizations is that it was naive of me to give credence to concepts such as truth, honor, honesty, integrity when spoken by men and women in office or running for office. My bad, not theirs.

Without regard to nationality, I feel for families who grieve for those who died.

Tomorrow I'll put the veneer back in place and return to positive events in my life and continue to watch the world without comment.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Last night was game night at a neighbor's house. She lives less than two miles from us straight line but a hill is between us. By road it is probably four miles to her house.

Our neighbor lives in a rammed earth house that she designed and built. The house is semi-circular and has ample south facing glazing to provide passive solar heat. The circular portion is built into a slope to provide insulation so a backup heating system is unnecessary. A solar array provides electricity, harvested rain water is piped into a cistern and hot water is provided by a solar collector. The only need for carbon based fuel is the small amount of propane required by the kitchen range. The house has a small second story with windows that provide passive ventilation on summer nights.

Bird on sandstone.

Bird on sandstone.

The house was designed with an earthy look that I like. Stone flooring and earthen plastered walls create a warm feeling. The windows sills are a mosaic of tile, earthen plaster and painted pottery shards that were collected on the property. Embedded in the plastered walls are random irregular pieces of sandstone that contain paintings of birds. Some are resting and some are in flight.



One of the things I like about the area in which we live is the variety. Each family or each person gives body to a dream using stone, logs, earth, straw bale or more traditional materials. Some houses cost a small fortune and some cost less than many new cars. There's something relaxing about this variety. There's not a look or style that has to be matched. Each of us has the opportunity to be ourselves and create our small paradise. In my opinion, this is as it should be.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekend Plans

Both Julie and I had to work late today but we are now off for the next ten days. On Monday morning I'll head for the canyon and she is going to Amarillo to celebrate her father's and sister's birthdays, 85 and 60.

I have a full weekend planned prior to our trips on Monday.
  • Mix and pour 36 linear feet of concrete footer.
  • Adjust the tilt on the solar panels.
  • Harvest a few items in the garden and work the compost bins.
  • Make a trip to town to fill a propane cylinder and pick up the satellite phone.
  • I'll run some errands in town while Julie has supper with a friend.
  • Join some neighbors for supper and game night.
  • Stop by the library for audio books.
  • Dehydrate apples.
  • Maybe participate in the road pick up on Saturday morning.
  • Write three more blog posts.
  • Update the reading list on my blog.
  • Make a template change to my blog.
  • Check both cars.
  • Final packing for our trips.

Those are the plans but I doubt the list will be completed. When I was younger I would get up early and start work before breakfast and try to complete every item I put on my to-do list. Now, I get up, have breakfast with Julie and think about what I want to do, have another cup of coffee, talk a little more and finally get to work. The important things will get done and the others can wait. I like this new approach.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Happy Ending

Julie and I have two cell phones. A good one and an old one that barely gets signal even in town. To get cell service at home we must have an antenna plugged into the old phone and it works fine. The new phone does not get signal at home.

The problem is that the old phone must be replaced and new cell phones do not have an antenna port. The only viable solution is to purchase a wireless extender or repeater that has external and internal antennas. The cell signal is picked up by the external antenna on the roof of the house, is transmitted to the repeater via coax cable and is broadcast inside the house via the internal antenna. This solution gives us the ability to use both phones at home and for guests to receive phone calls. The downside to this solution is that wireless extenders are not inexpensive and they require a constant source of electricity.

In June we purchased a unit after doing research and reading product reviews. The price was excellent. After receiving it I waited until the weekend to test it. We ran the coax out the door and I moved the antenna around the roof to make sure it worked adequately. The following weekend I bought the materials to mount the antenna on the roof and installed the system. It worked for four days and the power supply failed. I phoned the manufacturer and they agreed to send another power supply at no cost to me. By the time it arrived it was more that 30 days since we purchased the unit. We could no longer return it for a full refund.

The new power supply worked less than a week. I bought a replacement at a local business. I intentionally bought one with a slightly higher output. Two and one-half amps rather than two amps. It worked less than a week.

I phoned the manufacturer and arranged to return the unit for exchange. The new unit with a new power supply arrived and worked less than a week.

I emailed the manufacturer to put the sequence of events in detail and asked for options. I received a reply that I was being shipped three new power supplies. While waiting for their arrival I purchased a UPS specifically for the unit in an effort to insure the unit would work. The new power supply worked for seven days, the longest of any power supply and I was hopeful. Then it failed. I plugged in a second power supply and it failed within twenty-four hours.

I emailed the manufacturer and requested they buy the unit from me for the original purchase price since I couldn't return it to the merchant. In all of my conversations and emails I tried to be factual, courteous, straight forward but not demanding or angry. A few days ago I received a reply, a portion of which follows.

I spoke to our head engineer about this issue and he suspects the problem may be caused by an abundance of RF energy at your location. This could be overdriving the unit and burning out the power supplies. Since it doesn’t seem like the product will be able to work at your location, we will do what we can to fix this. We will be sending you a return label to have our product returned to us, at our expense. If you will provide your proof of purchase along with a mailing address, a refund check will be issued to you. We apologize for the inconvenience you have endured and regret that our product could not help you in your situation.

I really didn't expect to get my money back. In the end I have no complaints.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Last night I sat on the edge of my seat, held the camera above me with my arm extended and snapped a photo. I didn't get the result I wanted so I snapped a second photo from a different angle. The second photo was a little better but still not what I wanted. I'll practice a couple times more later this week.

Next week on Tuesday afternoon or early Wednesday morning I'll come to a rappel as part of my solo backpacking trip. The solo part is the problem. I won't have a partner to photograph to give perspective. I'm going to try taking a photo of myself as I do the rappel.

I've rappelled only once and that was about twenty years ago. I was hiking in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky and climbed to the top of Courthouse Rock via a crevice on one side. The other sides were sheer drops. On top of the rock were two small struggling stunted trees anchored in cracks. Two guys were rappelling down a 160 feet face, climbing back up, drinking another beer and rappelling again. As I talking with them one asked "do you want to give it a try?". Before I answered I compared their weight to mine, glanced at the way the rope was tied to both trees and counted the number of empty beer cans. "Sure!" I replied. I put on the harness, fastened the carabiner, listened to their instructions, stepped to the edge, turned around and leaned back. No problem. Actually enjoyable.

Next week I plan on getting a bad photo or two of myself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


As part of our summer vacation we took a trip to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. I first visited Algonquin in July of 1973 and last visited the park in 1983. I have good memories of those times and wanted to experience the beauty again.

I don't remember how I first learned of Algonquin, how I selected a canoe route, how or if I got a back country permit or if permits were required at that time. I bought a canoe, packed for a trip and took my wife and children, aged 3 and 4, with me. We canoed up a lake whose name I no longer remember, portaged to another lake, canoed to what looked like a promising area, turned left into a cove and found a campsite.

Some special moments get fixed in our memories and are embellished as the years pass. My daughter was a little chatter box. We had eaten supper and the sunset was fading when a loon called from across the lake. Her chattering stopped instantly. She didn't wait for me to pick her up. She climbed my leg with huge wide eyes. I assured her there was nothing to fear and tried to point out the beauty of a loon's call.

When my wife and I divorced I did one dishonest thing. Without telling her I slipped a box of 35 millimeter slides and photos out of the house. They were photos I had taken over the years and among the slides were images of the Algonquin trip. At the portage the kids found a paper cup and played with it by the edge of the water. I have a photo of them playing intently. I kept my son between my knees while paddling. He got restless but I refused to let him move about. Finally he dosed off. My wife took a photo of him sleeping while wearing a PFD and leaning against my leg. Good memories. Recently I went in search of the slides of this trip and couldn't find them! Perhaps the loss was repayment for my dishonesty.

While in Algonquin this summer I bought a map of the park. The map identifies canoe routes, access points, permit requirements, distances, portages, water levels and campsites. The park is about 2,955 square miles in size, larger than the state of Delaware, and has over 2,400 lakes. Among the wildlife are loons, beavers, bears, deer, otters, wolves and moose.

I've spent several enjoyable hours with the map planning potential routes, looking for options in the back country, calculating distances and the lengths of portages, trying to find an ideal five day trip. My next step is to find someone interested in going along.

Leon, Gale and Julie.
Leon, Gale and Julie sit on a log by a lake.

Algonquin Lake.
One of over 2,400 Algonquin lakes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Fix-It Story

Yesterdays post about repairing a tire and my comment about living in a disposable culture brought back the memory below from the time when my son and daughter were teenagers,

My son bought a small car that was within his financial means. It was economical, clean, ran well and looked good. One weekend my daughter was driving it when another young person hit her on the passenger side front bumper. The bumper was driven to the left several inches and the right front fender was dented. Nothing serious.

I took the car to a repair shop and was quoted $1,200 for repair to replace the bumper and fender. I asked why the bumper couldn't be reused since on the bumper was undamaged, the brackets were bent and why the fender couldn't be straightened, filled and painted. The response was "We don't do that. We replace parts."

I decided my son and I would repair the car. We lined up the bumper with an electric pole, turned the wheels at the correct angle. did a couple slow tests without hitting the pole and prepared to force the bumper back in place. When we were confident we had the right angle I hit the pole hard and the bumper moved. We repeated this a couple times until we had the undamaged bumper close to it's original position. We had to do this in order to get a wrench on the bolts that fastened the bumper brackets to the frame. We removed the bumper then removed the bent brackets and straightened them. I took the brackets to a local shop and had them welded in the spots where the metal had torn.

We hammered the fender back in shape and completed the repair using an epoxy body filler. The last step was to get the car painted. We ordered the painted and I took the car and paint to a friend who painted vehicles.

In the end the car looked as good or better than before the accident. The total cost of repair was $200. My son and I paid for this in cash rather than getting the insurance company involved and raising premiums.

I have only good memories of this experience, laughing with my son as we prepared to ram the electric pole and working together to fix the damaged fender.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Inner Tube

Several months ago I picked up a nail in the right rear tire on my tandem axle trailer. The nail entered through the tread and made two exit holes in the sidewall. I needed the trailer to haul water so plugged the holes knowing the sidewall plugs weren't good permanent fixes. Each time I went for water I had to put air in the tire.

The tire has good tread and it seems wasteful to replace it rather than repair it. The problem is that we live in a culture that no longer makes repairs. I checked with a local tire shop about putting a tube in the tire. They refused as I expected. It appears bias ply tubeless tires with tubes installed generate heat which leads to tire failure.

I use the trailer on average once per week to haul water. The round trip distance is 4 miles -- 1 mile of dirt road, 1 mile of blacktop, wait will the tank fills, 1 mile of blacktop, 1 mile of dirt road, wait while the tank drains. I doubt the tire can generate much heat under these circumstances. The trailer has tandem axles. If the tire fails then the other tire on that side is capable of handling the weight.

I decided to put a tube in the tire. I checked at a auto parts store in town to buy an inner tube but the clerk told me they can't get them. No problem. I bought a tube on the web and installed it myself. I used the weight of the trailer to break the bead, got the value stem out without damaging it, found the right tools to get one side of he tire off the wheel and installed the tube. It was an enjoyable task, really enjoyable.

Not only was the task enjoyable but I got satisfaction out of repairing something rather than buying a new one.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Growing Season Ends

The official growing season ended yesterday morning. We received a light frost as the temperature dropped to 32 degrees. According to my records the growing season was 126 days. The last spring frost was on June 3 and the first fall frost was on October 7.

I began covering the garden earlier in the week so there was no visible damage. The forecast predicted another drop to 32 before warmer nights for the next week.

Since April 17, when I began keeping records, we received 4.79 inches of rain. I measured 4.59 inches and estimated .20 inch during the two weeks we were on vacation. A neighbor said he received about one-quarter inch during that time. I extrapolated a value based on the two weeks prior and following the time we were gone.
    Rain by Month
  • April 0.00
  • May 0.21
  • June 0.00
  • July 1.09
  • August 0.75
  • September 1.63
  • October 0.91

The average rain per month was .96 inch
The average rain for 31 days of rain was .19 inch.
The median rain for 31 days of rain was .09 inch.

It's interesting to exclude the rain in October since the growing season is basically over and the temperatures have dropped. Prior to the end of September we had 27 days with rain totaling 3.88 inches with an average of .14 inch per rain and a median of .09 inch.

I was pleased with this year's garden but not as pleased as last year. I'm already planning for next year which, hopefully, will be a better garden

Friday, October 07, 2011


We have two cats, Maggie and Macy. We got Maggie when she was a few weeks old and she's a normal cat. We can pick her up, turn her upside down, check her for injuries, in fact, do about anything and she is trusting and quiet. Macy, by contract, is semi-normal and a bit of a miracle.

She was trapped on the University campus when she was several months old. She was pregnant and wasn't neutered until after the kittens were weaned. She came to our house after she healed and was totally wild. We couldn't touch her for fear of losing skin and blood.

After a period of a few months of attempting to acclimate her to us, the house and the sounds and scents of the area we turned her loose. The plan was to have an outside cat to help control the mice population. We saw her maybe once every two weeks but continued to insure food and water were available. Before turning her loose we trained her to use a cat door so she could come into the utility room for food and safety.

When he weather turned cold in November she unexpectedly came into the utility room through the open door and into the living room where we could see her and meowed. That was a first. She had never voluntarily let us see her in the open. I slowly moved to get some food, put in on the floor where she could see it and backed away. She ate quickly and left the house. Two nights later she came in, meowed for food, ate and never left. It was an uneasy transition. She hid from us, jumped at the slightest movement, was always tense.

After a few weeks of feeding her we could get close to her. One night I put mayonaise on two fingers and held out my hand to both cats. Maggie began licking the mayonaise immediately but Macy was more cautious. This became a nightly ritual. She became addicted to mayonaise and would beg for it. One night as she licked it form my finger I touched her with my other hand and she ran. Two nights later I attempted to touch her again. She flinched but didn't run. This became a regular practice. After a few weeks she relaxed some but always flinched.

It's been two years now. She's still addicted to mayonaise but I give it to her only occasionally, generally when she keeps begging and becomes annoying. She gets in my lap each evening. She loves to be petted. I can ruffle her hair aggressively and she purrs loudly, rolls on her back so I can rub her belly. She's a glutton for food and affection. I never expected this two years ago.

I can pick her up but she stiffens, squirms and appears on the verge of panic. It took several months to work with her to get her to this point and I doubt she'll ever be comfortable being held above the floor or carried.

Occasionally I look at her and marvel at the change in her. It's been a miraculous transition. At one time I hoped just to be able to touch her. I never expected her to become so affectionate and needy. I've become attached to her and hope she's with us for many years more.

Macy hiding under a chair.
Macy hiding under a chair. During the heat of the summer she appeared too lazy to crawl further and got in the habit of sleeping with only part of her body under the chair.

Macy sleeping on a chair and foot stool.
Macy sleeping on a chair and foot stool with one leg swinging in the gap.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Unsettling Experience

I had two motorcycles but sold one recently. I serviced it, checked everything, washed and waxed it, replaced the battery and replaced the front tire. The tire had plenty of tread but it's age made me suspect its reliability. I wanted to sell it with confidence that the buyer had a safe, reliable motorcycle.

I listed it on Craigslist with my phone number and received a few bogus emails. Then a young man phoned and asked to see the motorcycle. I agreed to load it on trailer designed to haul a motorcycle and meet him at a convenient location rather than give him directions to my house. This saved time and avoided the dust of the dirt road leading to the house.

When I met him he had a girlfriend with him. As I unloaded the motorcycle he sat in the car for a minute talking with her. His first question concerned me. "It's a five speed right? First gear is down and the others are up?" I answer in the affirmative and then asked him a question, "Do you have a license to operate a motorcycle?" He didn't and I knew I wasn't going to let him take it for a test ride.

We talked for a few minutes and I told him the good and the bad about the motorcycle. After a little discussion he said he had cash with him and would buy it. I agreed with a promise that he would get some safety training.

My next question was "how are you going to get it home?" His girlfriend quickly replied "We'll give you $20 to deliver it." I wasn't interested in the $20 but agreed to follow them to their apartment. As I loaded the motorcycle I heard his girlfriend say "When you ride it down to the DMV to get it licensed don't tell them you rode it there. Tell them a friend did it for you."

When we arrived at their apartment I unloaded the motorcycle, took the license off and put the keys in my pocket. I suggested a time to meet the following day and committed to having the title with my signature and the required notary stamp. I told him I would give him the keys at that time when we exchanged title and cash.

As I drove home I felt unsettled. He appeared to be in his early thirties, an adult, educated, healthy, but I felt somewhat responsible for him. It was an understandable parental reaction but I didn't enjoy it.

The next day we met and he brought up the subject of safety training and reaffirmed his promise to go for training.

In a way it's ironic that I'm concerned for his safety. When I was 19 I bought my first motorcycle. Prior to that time I can remember riding one maybe twice for a very short distance. For some forgotten reason I decided to buy a motorcycle, had a friend take me about 40 miles to another town bought one, got on and rode home. I don't remember being afraid or concerned but I do remember a feeling of exhilaration. My only other memory is my father's anger when he learned what I had done. I wasn't afraid but he was afraid for me.

I survived and, hopefully, learned to ride safely. I hope the young man who bought the motorcycle learns and becomes a safe rider.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Summer Vacation

This past August Julie and I flew to Buffalo, NY, to visit my youngest sister. As we planned the trip we discussed some options and made a few plans. I tend to have a need for more solitude than many people so I warned my sister that Julie and I may take a couple days to ourselves and take a short two day trip on our own. It never happened.

When we arrived my brother-in-law, Leon, had a calendar. Only two days out of fourteen were free days and in the end these weren't free. As my sister would say, "We had a blast!"

What did we do?
  • After getting unlost on country roads accidentally found the farm and picked blue berries until it rained
  • Walked up the stream in Zoar Valley
  • Rode a Maid of the Mist to the base of Niagara Falls
  • Crossed into Canada to have ice cream in Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Toured gardens in an historic part of Buffalo during the annual garden tour
  • Visited cousins and an aunt who recently celebrated her 88th birthday
  • Stayed two nights in a bed and breakfast outside Algonquin Provincial Park
  • Enjoyed the lakes and history of Algonquin Provincial Park
  • Stopped in Toronto to experience the city under the city
  • Camped in Watkins Glen
  • Saw waterfalls in the gorges of Ithaca
  • Visited a children's garden during their annual festival
  • Canoed a section of the river in Buffalo
  • Swam in Lake Erie
  • Bicycled along the Niagara River
  • Laughed and talked and ate too much and enjoyed the rain, lots of rain
After Julie and I got home I phone my sister and she said something to the effect that she and Leon experienced a quiet empty house after we left. I know what she meant. We missed their company also.

Julie and Gale.
Julie and Gale as we rode along the Niagara River.

Julie colling off.
Julie cooling off before we stopped for more ice cream.

Hopefully, over the next week I'll write about a few of our experiences and include some photos.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Change of Plans

My son cannot make the Grand Canyon trip so I'm left without a partner. I called Todd without much hope. He has to work as I expected. I asked a co-worker who was interested but he has responsibilities also.

I knew this may be a possibility so I researched PLBs (personal locator beacons) a few weeks ago. PLBs are reliable but do not give the ability to explain an emergency. The device will send a distress signal to a satellite containing the latitude and longitude of the emergency so a search and rescue team or plane can respond. The rescue party has no clue as to the details of the emergency until they arrive on the scene. A better option in some ways is a satellite phone.

Saturday I phoned a local business to check on renting a phone. Fortunately, a phone is available at a rate of $8 per day which is the going rate. I asked about the per minute rate and was surprised to learn it's only $1 per minute. Most advertisements I've seen recently have listed $1.69 or $2 per minute. I reserved a phone. Originally I planned on taking the phone only for emergencies but now I'm rethinking my plan. I could and will phone Julie simply to check on her and assure her I'm OK.

I have my pack ready with the exception of a tooth brush and water. I've calculated my starting weight and it will be 58 to 60 pounds. This is more than I want but everything is necessary including an MP3 player, a paperback book, a small book weighing only 3 ounces, and spare batteries for a headlamp. The bulk of the weight is food for six days and water for the first two days. By the morning of the second day the weight will be down to about 50 pounds. The fourth day will be the longest and will be another heavy day since two days of water will be needed. I should climb out of the canyon with about 32 pounds.

I had planned a short day on the sixth and final day so we would be home in the evening with ample time to rest before my son's departure the next day. Now I think I may spend the last night at the river. I'll get home late but Julie will be in Amarillo so there's no reason to rush.

At first I was really disappointed my son couldn't make the trip but I've readjusted my expectations and I'm looking forward to a solo trip.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Attached Greenhouse

This weekend I began digging the foundation for an attached greenhouse. This will be a true greenhouse designed for plants. The original plan a few years ago turned into additional living space. We're raised flowers, tomatoes and peppers in this addition but it's not an ideal environment.

Last spring I discovered twin walled polycarbonate sheets listed on Craigslist. I purchased the panels and stored them with intentions of having the addition almost finished by the beginning of October. I'm behind schedule but I'll pour concrete next weekend and work to finish it by early December.

There are multiple benefits to this addition.
  • create an environment to start and raise vegetables and flowers
  • provide additional heat for the east end of the house
  • eliminate the need for an electrical heat tape short sections of existing water pipes
  • include solar hot water collectors
  • protect the solar oven from winter winds
  • reduce propane consumption
  • give the cats a safe environment not in the main part of the house
  • be an enjoyable environment on cold windy winter days

I've been looking forward to having a functioning greenhouse for a long time. Soon it will become a reality.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Canning Peaches

Tonight Julie and I made a rhubarb cobbler. It was excellent, even better than the last rhubarb cobbler. Before long cold weather will freeze the rhubarb but we're prepared. We'll have peach cobbler.

A few weeks ago a co-worker asked if I was interested in purchasing a box of peaches. She knows an elderly lady who buys them from a grower in Utah and resells them. I was interested but deferred answering until I checked with Julie. Our freezer is small and is usually full. A box of peaches could be preserved only if canned.

Canned Peaches.
Canned Peaches.

It's been years since I last bought a box of peaches, probably somewhere around 1985. I have fond memories of winter pies.

When the peaches arrived I wanted to work in the garden, feel the breeze, enjoy the sun, listen to the birds and do it all guilt free. Impossible! It was just plain wrong to say "Here's a box of peaches. Spend all morning in the kitchen canning them. When the weather turns cold make a peach pie. Oh, and a pot of coffee."

Instead of going to the garden I put peaches in boiling water, took them out and removed the skins, sliced them, tossed them with fruit fresh, packed jars and had a great time doing it. We both did. We canned several quarts and froze two quarts.

In about two months when the weather is cold and a wind is blowing I'll build a fire in the stove, I'll start a pot of coffee and I'll suggest making a peach pie. We had fun canning the peaches together and we'll have fun making the pie together.

Today is October 2. Were he still living, my father would celebrate his 99th birthday. Interesting how, after all these years, I still remember this date and anticipate it.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Verbal First Aid

Last Friday Julie and I attended a presentation on verbal first aid by author Judith Prager. The main message of the presentation was that words can kill and words can heal. We received training in using healing words.

Dr. Prager talked briefly of research and gave examples of rapid dramatic physical improvement experienced by accident victims who heard healing words like "we're going to get you to the hospital right away and they have everything ready and waiting there to help you". Contrast this to "don't die on me" which puts thoughts of death in the victim's mind, elevates blood pressure and initiates a chain of harmful physical reactions.

I enjoyed the presentation and learned much. On the way home that afternoon we stopped at a local grocery. While there emergency medical persons arrived in response to a young woman who fainted. Both Julie and I listen closely as they spoke with the woman to see if they were employing verbal first aid.

Over the last few days I've been pondering a broader subject. If words can kill or heal then what's the effect of the media on our health? News is almost always negative. Horror movies elicit a fight or flight response. Some television programs portray brutality as entertainment. Years ago I chose to be selective in what I consume be it news, music or videos. I think that choice contributes to my health. (I haven't missed a day of work due to illness since 1986. On that occasion I worked on a sewer line and scratched a hand which led to bad consequences.)

Verbal first aid is good but I want to expand the underlying concept to daily living and my choice of words as I interact with people.

We've ordered a copy of The Worst is Over: What to Say When Every Moment Counts. We'll read the book together as we ride to and from work, discuss it and learn to speak more healing words.