Drone cowpokes

Written by karen on November 14th, 2023

Every once in a while, we’ve had cows get on our property even though it’s fenced. Sometimes a delivery driver leaves the gate open or something else random lets the cows enter.

Last week I looked up from my bed to see a large black momma cow and her baby grazing on our otherwise unmunched grass and felt dread at having to chase them off. (Cows here are very skittish, and chasing them without benefit or horses or dogs is challenging.)

But last year, Brad came up with a new solution to the challenge that works great — a drone!

This solved the problem in minutes, rather than the hours it used to take. Much safer too.

drone’s eye view


A new phase

Written by karen on July 21st, 2023

We are now finally free of all of our landline phones. When we moved to Arizona, we had three. And for a variety of reasons, both business and personal related, it took a while to get rid of all these, but now it is done.

When I drop email, you’ll know my metamorphosis is complete! :)


Road trip

Written by karen on June 19th, 2023

After all the stuff that went on in the last year, things has finally freed up for some leisure activities.

After a week long camping trip to Oregon Pipe National Monument in May, this month I also took a 3-week long road trip across the country.

I experienced many insights from this trip, but the overwhelming one is what an amazingly beautiful country we live in. Driving back roads and camping along the way gave me the opportunity to see many places that I hadn’t seen before. So much beauty. This trip also marked my visit to the 49th state in our country. Only Alaska remains.

States I drove through on this trip included: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas (a purposefully small section), Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. I visited White Sands National Park and Badlands National Park, as well as the Cache La Poudre wilderness in northern Colorado and Bears Ears National Monument and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and many great state parks. Some pictures are below.

As I drove across the country, mostly on back roads, I saw many billboards and handmade signs. They said a lot about the mood of our nation. (This struck me as a much more prominent display than I’ve seen in the past. Is this new? Or am I more sensitive to it?) Overall, people seem to be arming themselves, getting high, and praying a lot to hope it all works out in the end. Political signs were everywhere, including strong support for the currently indicted ex-president/presidential candidate and opposition to abortion. I saw these sentiments loudly proclaimed nearly everywhere I went, which was alarming. Next year is going to be a hell of a year.

On a more positive note, development in renewable energy was apparent everywhere. Miles and miles of solar panels and windmill farms. Encouraging.

Another thing I noticed on this trip was that many small to mid-size towns that I’d visited in the past seem to have grown considerably. This included places like Tulsa, Cheyenne, and Grand Junction. Lots of big box stores now, more traffic, miles of sprawl. Not encouraging. I wonder how much of this change is a change in my perception having now lived out of the city for so long versus a change in the actual size and layout of these cities. Probably some of both.

Speaking of which, boy am I glad we didn’t move to Moab as we had considered. I’m all for accessibility of public lands, but the development that’s happened in this area made me sick. Helicopter canyon flyovers, sound and light tours, multi-level condo complexes, ATV culture. (Note that I’ve been reading a lot of counter culture conservation work. Hat tip to Jack Loeffler, Doug Peacock, et al.) It’s reminiscent of seeing beautiful wild animals in a zoo.

As our own Chiricahua National Monument is currently being considered for national park status, I have been thinking a lot about the balance of wilderness with public access. Seeing several large national parks on this trip has made me even more fearful of this for our own area. As far as we are from an airport and any real services, we have not been seriously concerned about this in the past, but now my concern is heightened. Even since COVID, we’ve seen changes. Development like this probably won’t come to our area in my lifetime, but I wonder. I applaud the work of conservation groups on these issues, and I’m stepping up my own commitment to this work.

I fear we are killing our planet, but remember the words of longer term thinkers who say that the planet will go on, it is just life on it that will be extinguished.

Cache La Poudre wilderness

This was a lovely remote area with lots of great camping, rafting, kayaking, hiking, and fishing, and not a lot of people.

Badlands National Park

The most stunning thing about these badlands was the green prairies.

Bears Ears National Monument/Goosenecks State Park

Amazing place to camp and hike and some truly epic storms and the wildest wind I’ve ever camped in.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park


Books read in 2022

Written by karen on January 4th, 2023

Here is my book list for 2022. After three years of pandemic and other personal challenges, I finally managed to turn the year into more reading (albeit with a large dose of Michael Connelly, which I found easy to read amidst other chaos). As usual, my favorites are shown in bold. 

Notable for this year….more fiction than usual (though the majority of my favorites seem to have been nonfiction); a good selection of western/environmental reads; and the first time I’ve been able to get into Ursual LeGuin (the Hainish cycle, which I’ll continue in 2023).

  1. Bewilderment by Richard Powers
  2. Operation Wandering Soul by Richard Powers
  3. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  4. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta
  5. Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller
  6. Shelter by Harlan Coben
  7. Blue Nights by Joan Didion
  8. Desert Heat by J.A. Jance
  9. Tombstone Courage by J.A. Jance
  10. Crying in H Mart by Michele Zauner
  11. The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion
  12. Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies
  13. The Book Doctor by Esther Cohen
  14. Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
  15. Off the Road by Jack Hitt
  16. Good Husbandry by Kristin Kimball
  17. Letters to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud
  18. 52 Loaves by William Alexander
  19. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
  20. The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson
  21. Miraculous Abundance by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer
  22. The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn
  23. Angela Davis: An Autobiography by Angela Davis
  24. Lives on the Line by Miriam Davidson
  25. The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
  26. The Desert Year by Joseph Wood Krutch
  27. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen
  28. Bird Cloud by Annie Poulx
  29. Desert Oracle by Ken Layne
  30. Long Lost by Harlan Coben
  31. South and West by Joan Didion
  32. Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin
  33. Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin
  34. Recapitulation by Wallace Stegner
  35. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
  36. Fight Night by Miriam Toews
  37. Existence by David Brin
  38. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  39. Elevation by Stephen King
  40. The Judge’s List by John Grisham
  41. High Sierra: A Love Story by Kim Stanley Robinson
  42. Slow Horses by Mick Herron
  43. The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
  44. The Etiquette of Freedom by Gary Snyder, Jim Harrison, and Paul Ebenkamp
  45. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  46. Dalva by Jim Harrison
  47. Dead Lions by Mick Herron
  48. Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder
  49. The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly
  50. Strip Jack by Ian Rankin
  51. The Reversal by Michael Connelly
  52. Echo Park by Michael Connelly
  53. The Overlook by Michael Connelly
  54. Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
  55. The Drop by Michael Connelly
  56. The Scarecrow  by Michael Connelly
  57. The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly
  58. The Black Box by Michael Connelly
  59. The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly
  60. The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
  61. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
  62. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
  63. French Braid by Anne Tyler
  64. Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler
  65. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
  66. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  67. A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger
  68. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
  69. Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
  70. Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford
  71. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  72. Sanctuary by William Faulkner
  73. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
  74. Rocannon’s World by Ursula LeGuin
  75. Planet of Exile by Ursula LeGuin
  76. City of Illusions by Ursula LeGuin
  77. Wrenched from the Land by ML Lincoln
  78. The Red Caddy by Charles Bowden


Written by karen on January 1st, 2023


Trail cam pics from our front gate

Written by karen on October 31st, 2022



Written by karen on September 4th, 2022

** 10/16/22 update – The rain has continued, and we got about .25 ” this weekend. (Other areas nearby had more, some over 2″.) This is by far the longest the monsoons have gone on in or time here. Recording this for future reference.

10/24/22 update – first freeze this week

Well, it’s been an odd year here for a variety of reasons. As I’m looking at the blog, I realize that several interesting things have happened that haven’t been written about so I’m doing a catch up post with some highlights.

  • After years of waiting, in January, we finally got Starlink internet. It has surpassed our expectations and really changed life here increasing our up and download speeds by about 20-40 times. As a result, we have also cancelled one of our landlines. And we are now in a position to have both electrical power and phone service when the usual service here is down. 
  • Our rain water catchment system is up and operating. We have a 1550 gallon tank behind the house. It feeds a 550 gallon tank that is next to the garden. With the incredible monsoon this year, both tanks are now full.
  • The monsoon has been one of the best since we’ve been here. They started early (June?) and are still going into September. We’ve had over eight inches of rain in that time.
    Everything is green, green, green, and the canyon behind us has a healthy stream flowing.
  • The intensive garden bed we planted did well. We are eating greens, beans, peppers, and tomatoes. There are a few big watermelon and pumpkins yet to be harvested. The zucchini never fruited but have many blooms which I am eating. In the beds we didn’t plant out, Brad put in a bunch of cowpeas which are thriving and will make the soil more fertile. 
  • We put in a motion cam at our front gate which has yielded some fun photos of wildlife.

This year we are thinking more than usual about how much we value the life we have built here. It is a beautiful life in an amazing place.


Wonders of nature

Written by karen on June 2nd, 2022

There are many wonders to living close to the land (and far from other people) as we do. Among them our connections to the seasonality, awareness of the night time sky, and of course, sightings of wildlife.

For the 13 years that we have lived here, we have seen signs of what I was sure was a badger. Very sharp and long scratch marks in the dirt, occasionally clawing at a wooden door. But we never saw a badger.

Finally this morning, laying in bed, I heard something that sounded strange. I got out of bed, and right in front of the house, I saw it — the elusive badger. It was beautiful. Not too large and with a bold stripe running down its back all the way to the tip of its nose. It moved slowly and seemed uninterested in me as it looked right into the glass doors in our bedroom and then slunk over toward the other house and eventually out into the bush. Pretty great way to start the day.

Here’s a quick update on other things here: it is very hot and dry and windy as it often is in the spring. They are talking about a bigger than usual monsoon, which is rumored to start in mid June. We’ll see.

Being unsure what the future holds, we have cut back on the garden. Instead of our normal 10 or so beds, we are focusing on one bed and trying the intensive gardening idea that I have read much about. The idea is to plant a whole bunch of different things all densely in one bed. Since we usually have so many beds going, this hasn’t really made sense in the past, but this year I thought it might be a fun experiment. We’ll see how things go.

It’s so hot and dry, that the birds, especially the quail, are scratching up everything that’s watered. I know it doesn’t make much sense to plant things before monsoons, but it amuses me and keeps me busy so I do it anyway.

In the meantime, garlic is ready to harvest.


Military flyovers

Written by karen on March 16th, 2022

A few weeks ago, we learned of a proposal by the U.S. Air Force to increase military training in our area.

We already experience quite a few low, fast military flyovers, including what seem to be hot shot pilots flying low in the canyons here. I’ve always thought it was just a matter of time before there was a horrific crash. (There have been a few but not in our immediate area.)

The new proposal would include increased F-16 and F-35 fly-overs as low as 100 feet above ground level and sonic booms at altitudes as low as 5,000 feet. In addition, dropping of flares and chaff would be allowed causing a significant fire risk, not to mention damage to the environment and wildlife here. 

Faced with the numerous other risks this proposal presents, the community quickly mobilized and put together this web site and this online petition, which now has over 1000 signatures, to fight this. The worldwide community of wildlife biologists who have done work in this area are particularly upset about this.

The process for this is long and complicated. The first steps are a public announcement and a request for public scoping comments, which are now done. Now there will be a lull in the activity while the Air Force prepares the Draft Environmental Impact Study, which is planned to be released in the fall of 2023. After that there will be a public review and comment period, the Final EIS (summer 2024), and the Record of Decision (fall 2024).

We believe that we can successfully oppose this, but it will take time, money, and concerted efforts. If you can sign the petition, follow this on social media, or otherwise take action, we’d appreciate it.

It’s been sad to learn also that this kind of thing is happening in rural areas nationwide, especially in the west. People just don’t seem to be able to act in their own interests sometimes.



Books read in 2021

Written by karen on January 16th, 2022

Here’s this year’s list with bold for my particular favorites. This was the most books I’ve read in one year in a while. I did join a book club this year, which expanded the things I read. I read several climate change related books, and some mindless crime drama to escape the horror of the world. I also read a fair amount of nonfiction related to local food and farming as a result of a work project I did on the same topic.

  1. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
  2. Lost Light by Michael Connelly
  3. The Narrows by Michael Connelly
  4. The Closers by Michael Connelly
  5. The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
  6. The Dayton Book Guys by J. Bradford Tillson Jr.
  7. The Ministry of the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
  8. The Overstory by Richard Powers
  9. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  10. Horizon by Barry Lopez
  11. Coming Home to Eat by Gary Nabhan [reread]
  12. Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey
  13. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
  14. Nomadland by Jessica Bruder
  15. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
  16. A Peace of My Mind by John Noltner
  17. A Full Life in a Small Place by Janice Emily Bowers
  18. The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt
  19. Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
  20. The Way of Peace by James Allen
  21. Escape From Kathmandu by Kim Stanley Robinson
  22. Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  23. Greyhound by Steffan Piper
  24. Underground by Mark Rudd
  25. Vegetables Unleashed by Jose Andres
  26. Eating Wildly by Ava Chin
  27. Everything I Want to Do is Illegal by Joel Salatin
  28. The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux
  29. Reclaiming Our Food by Tanya Denckla Cobb
  30. Accidentals by Susan Gaines
  31. Win by Harlan Coben
  32. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
  33. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver [reread]
  34. Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert
  35. Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
  36. The Quiet Girl by SF Kosa
  37. Sooley by John Grisham
  38. A Time for Mercy by John Grisham
  39. A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
  40. We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee [reread]
  42. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  43. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  44. A Bittersweet Season by Jane Gross
  45. Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy
  46. Glorious Boy by Aimee Liu
  47. The Turquoise Ledge by Leslie Marmon Silko
  48. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
  49. The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
  50. Kiss the Ground by Josh Tickell
  51. Foundation by Isaac Asimov [reread]
  52. Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov [reread]
  53. Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl
  54. Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov [reread]
  55. Varina by Charles Frazier
  56. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
  57. Later by Stephen King
  58. Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben