A new project

Written by karen on January 23rd, 2015

I’m attempting to grow microgreens. (This idea came after a very lovely bed of lettuce outside got munched down. I’ve replanted, but can’t do without greens for 6 weeks. The weather here is well below freezing at night, and things outside grow slowly in the cold.) Microgreens are supposed to grow as fast as two weeks.) We visited a farm that grew large amounts of this, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind ever since.

We adapted an old piece of roofing to make a tray to grow these in. I’m starting with varieties that are supposed to be easy and fast-growing like arugula, cress, and broccoli. The seeds sprouted within two days.

Stay tuned for more on how this goes.




Written by karen on January 3rd, 2015

This week I finally finished shelling all the dry beans from the garden this year.


The two bags on the right are white cannelini beans, my favorites. The others are Bisbee black cow peas. As you can see, a few beds of these seem to be going back to regular light brown cow peas. (All of these beans were seed saved and are on their 2nd or 3rd year.)

These are big gallon ziploc bags. I’m not sure we can eat this much beans in one year, but one of their attributes is that they last.


The sky is falling!

Written by karen on January 2nd, 2015

Two days ago a big storm system swept through the southwest. We were supposed to get a couple inches of snow. We got a little rain and barely a dusting of snow. Not very exciting.

Yesterday, there was no precipitation forecast. Then I woke up to this.

Currently, we have about 4 inches of snow. This is the most we’ve had in the 6 years we’ve lived here. And it’s still snowing! (The weather forecasters seem to have no clue. The forecast is getting updated every hour or so for the snow we’ve received so far. This doesn’t exactly seem like a “forecast.”)

One of the interesting things is all the wildlife I saw while I was walking around in the snow this morning. In particular, there were tons of rabbits. We often see a couple, but nothing like this. I’m not sure if they were drawn closer to shelter or if it was just easier to see them against the snow. All the tracks were pretty fascinating too.

It has been very cold this week so I don’t expect this to melt soon. It would be nice to see the sun again though.

More pictures here.


We were here

Written by karen on December 25th, 2014

yesterday at Antelope Pass…

we were here



Written by karen on December 3rd, 2014

Many of you who have visited have enjoyed a drive back into Horseshoe Canyon directly west of our house. It is national forest service land and has many hiking trails and camping spots off the dirt road.

Since Odile though, the road has been closed at the mouth of the canyon (at the old corrals for those who’ve seen it).

Last weekend, we decided to take a hike back to see what the damage was like. In a word, it was unbelievable.

Much of the valley floor has been washed away. There are stretches where you can see that the raging water must have been more than a hundred feet wide, and there is nothing left but rock.

lots of rocks where there used to be dirt

lots of rocks where there used to be dirt

The road is completely gone in many places, and in some there are holes that go ten feet below what used to be the road level. While navigable by foot or on horseback, it would be impossible now for any motorized vehicle to get through.

where I'm standing used to be the road

where I’m standing used to be the road

It is hard to imagine what would need to be done to repair or more likely build a new road. And with all the other more used canyons here, like Rucker, Price, and Cave Creek, this would be at the end of a long list.

So for the foreseeable future, if you want to see the interior of Horseshoe Canyon, bring your hiking boots.



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.