Written by karen on October 31st, 2014

The leaves are starting to turn in Cave Creek.


“How did it all work out?”

Written by karen on October 28th, 2014

We had a great group of international visitors here last week. They asked all the predictable questions about why we came here, how we found it, etc. After hearing about this, someone said “So how did it all work out? Was it what you expected?”

I’d been meaning to write a follow up post to our original “Why we’re doing this” post, so here it is.

My first answer was that it both was and was not what we expected. There really is no way to know what doing something like this will be like, and we knew that coming in. I just always figured we could always go back if we didn’t like it.

There were a million things we didn’t expect and couldn’t have known. All the day-to-day logistics of living here, anything about solar, the realities of living so far from anything.

Fortunately, none of these things were terrible, and the experience of learning so many new things has been enriching.

It’s interesting to look back on why we thought we were coming here and how all that worked out.

On the work front, I wanted to work less hours and to work on projects that were really meaningful to me (instead of just ones that were lucrative). I also wanted to travel less. A lot less. All of that has worked out in spades. (The travel part took almost 5 years to achieve though. This year I have had 3, yes, 3, work-related trips. Glorious.) My work life has changed dramatically for the better. And being somewhere with a much lower cost of living has facilitated this.

We also wanted to get closer to the land and to be more environmentally responsible. I’m not sure I really knew exactly what that meant six years ago, and though we have done that, it certainly wasn’t in ways I expected.

When we left Los Angeles, I was looking for space (well, we certainly got that!) and a life that was more “authentic.” Again, I’m not sure I knew what that meant or how I might go about it.

The biggest unexpected development along those lines was how involved we’ve gotten in local food systems and producing our own food. We are growing so much now, something I’d never done before nor had a particular interest in. We’ve worked on and visited farms. We can; we bake bread; we make cheese. Then there’s the whole seed library. (New web site for this by the way.) It’s really been an amazing transformation in our lives.

To me, being authentic means being true to who you really are. I am much closer to that now than I have been before. And I am also a different, hopefully better, person. Spending your time on what really matters is a part of being authentic as well.

Most days now, I spend some time doing yoga, writing, gardening, being outdoors, and spending quality time with Brad. There are lots of activities that I used to spend time on that I don’t any more; in hindsight, they weren’t really contributing to what I wanted to be.

Life here is not perfect, but I’m very happy with this life. And I’m grateful to everyone who has helped along the way.


We have a winner!

Written by karen on October 25th, 2014

After the javelina trampled through out sweet potato bed and ate all the greens several times now, I’ve been wondering if we’d have any potatoes at all this year. Normally, we wait until the first frost to harvest, but I couldn’t wait any longer, so this morning we dug up one corner of the bed.

We have a wonderful crop. Yay! We harvested a little under a third of the bed and got more than 50 pounds. Some are quite huge.

There’s almost nothing more fun that harvesting sweet potatoes. You just never know what they’ll be like.

swt pot2


Getting ready for winter

Written by karen on October 18th, 2014

This week we did a lot of things that anticipate the changing of the seasons. While it’s still in the mid-80s during the day, the nights are dipping into the 40s, and a frost could be around the corner.

First, we finished the repairs on the driveway after the post-Odile floods. This ended up entailing bringing in a whole truckload of gravel. In addition to fixing the damage, we filled the depression near the gate that always fills with water when it rains.

In the garden, we cleaned out some beds and got our garlic planted. (Separate post coming on that.) I planted a few leeks and some winter lettuce; am hoping to get fava beans in this week. We’re also disconnecting the drip irrigation and going to hand watering for winter. (Connected hoses can freeze and break pipes.)

We finished processing apples. Yay! We’re both a bit sick of them. We have found some new delights to make with apples though, including an apple french onion dip that was amazing.

On the houses, I worked on resealing the door frames on both houses. The combination of hot sun, gusty winds, and blowing dust is quite hard on things here.

We had more rain a week ago and are supposed to get yet more this week. It almost seems as though we’ve finally gotten enough rain, but I’m not complaining.


Fig tree

Written by karen on October 11th, 2014

We’ve been wanting to get a fig tree. They seem to grow well here, and we love figs. It’s a good time of year to plant, and our many recent trips to Tucson afforded us the opportunity to pick up this Black Mission fig. This picture shows the size when we planted it. Hopefully, there will be future pics of a larger tree.



My hedgerow in bloom

Written by karen on October 10th, 2014



Homestead math

Written by karen on October 7th, 2014

25 gallons of apples + this little gadget

+ a bunch of jars and some time (thanks to you all who contributed various things to this!) =

(I wish this one were more shippable so I could share with all of you!)





And no, we are not eating this all ourselves! :)


A lesson in resilience

Written by karen on October 6th, 2014

I’m learning a thing or two from my tomatoes this week.

About 10 days or so ago, the javelina came back and decided, having eaten all of his preferred sweet potato greens and watermelons, he’d give the tomatoes a try. He gave two beds a good stomping through and ate as he went, destroying some expensive insect netting as well.

I mindfully reflected on all the many tomatoes we’d eaten, given away, and canned. It was our best tomato year ever. So I declared it the end of the season and tried not to be unhappy.

Going out to start clearing the beds today, I found though that the tomatoes are having a mini-resurgence. Huh.



Flood update

Written by karen on September 22nd, 2014

We are both back home now and are seeing the consequences of the flood here. My email box is full with updates, pictures, and videos. It’s big excitement here.

Cave Creek flooded, and Portal is cut off. There is no power in the canyon for a week or so. Horseshoe Canyon (the one behind us) is washed out and impassable even by four-wheel drive.

Fortunately, we had no damage here. The driveway is a bit washed out (passable with the truck but not the car), so we’ll be working on that today. :) Otherwise, all is well here.

Here’s a video from Portal (you might start watching at about 3:00 or so; sorry for the poor quality; this isn’t my video); those of you who have been here will recognize “downtown” Portal with the library and post office.


Rain – Odile remnants

Written by brad on September 19th, 2014

Karen and I were both gone when the remnants of Odile rolled through the Portal/Rodeo area. Karen got a few warning emails and later a bunch about the severity and miscellaneous damage. I was a little concerned on my way home, however; other than the driveway there’s no signs of damage.

Before I get into the goings on, this is what I woke up to. The most interesting thing in this picture is that the tall grass is all laying down. We’ve never seen this before.


I checked the rain gauge this morning. I don’t think it’s ever been over two inches. It was full. So, five inches plus.


Not a rain gauge, but you get the idea

Not a rain gauge, but you get the idea

There was no water in either house. The ground is very wet and we will not need to water for awhile, but nothing exciting.

The worst spot is the front gate and it’s not too bad. It’s going to need work though. The truck went through without any issue but there’s no way the mini cooper is going anywhere soon.



A lot of our neighbors are trapped on their property. This is primarily due to the runoff coming from Horseshoe Canyon. There’s a rumor that the dam way back in Horseshoe Canyon broke. (Karen and I visited it here) Long after the rain had stopped, there was a roar that could heard far off and the water rose and may have jumped its bank. It’s assumed that was the damn breaking. There was a second rush a few hours later and the speculation is that the damn broke partially and later completely. The last time Karen and I hiked up there it was nearly impassable- on foot. I can’t imagine what it’s like now or if Horseshoe Canyon is even accessible at all.

Highway 80 was closed for a while yesterday from the water leaving Cave Creek. It’s was still about a foot high when I drove through about 1:00 am. I hit significant water on 80 about 4 times.

It sounds like most everywhere there is a bridge the roads have been closed. This would be a good day to have a helicopter.

One last picture of the grass laying down.