January, 2009

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Weather report

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I know that many of our friends and family are enduring some bitter cold right now. (I’ve been traveling a lot this month and have been some very cold places myself.)

That being the case, I thought it might be a good time for a weather report from Portal/Rodeo. This week, it’s been cold at nights….as low as the 20s, but always seems to warm up to the 60s or 70s during the day. Earlier in the month, it was generally warmer at night (40s) and nice, warm, and sunny during the day. There was one day of rain, but I missed it. (I was on the road.)

It’s interesting to be experiencing variable weather again. I’m kind of looking forward to things like the monsoon season, summer, and big thunderstorms.


Thursday, January 29th, 2009

For any of you who have eaten or heard about my yummy dishes made with fake chicken, sausage, etc., the brand is LightLife. It’s found in the refrigerated food section, often near tofu, and I highly recommend it.

Canyon hike

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

On Sunday, after our normal run (the first one in AZ), we went on a hike in Horseshoe Canyon (while tivo’ing football). This is the canyon that is directly behind our property at the end of Sunrise Road. At the end of the road, which is about two or three miles from our property, there is a gate (currently closed to keep the cows on the mountain side for the winter) that you can drive through. About a hundred feet or so past that gate is a sign marking the entrance to Coronado National Forest.

We drove for a while until we found a place where we could pull off and park, which was the first of several campsites we saw. We parked and started our hike.

The pictures here pretty much tell the story of the amazing beauty of this area. We saw many different types of environment on our 5 mile or so hike, ranging from grassland prairie to dense oak forest to very rocky mountains.

Among the interesting things we saw on this hike were several large drinking water pools for the cows. (The cows, however, were all at the front gate. We didn’t see any further back in the canyon. And despite all my efforts to be friendly, the cows seem pretty terrified of me, or anyone I guess, on foot. Weird since they are unfazed by cars.) One was a smaller trough fed by an enormous metal container the size of a swimming pool. Brad fished a dead bat out of it though so I wouldn’t recommend swimming in it.

We didn’t see another person or vehicle the whole time we were there.

We mostly hiked on a dirt road that seemed to go on and on with several branches we’ve yet to explore. There are a lot of interesting places to go next time, not to mention the many other canyons in this area. We’re also anxious to do some camping. It’s amazing to think that this is just a few miles from our new home, and that we are finally actually living here!

Where does the time go?

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

It’s amazing how fast the day goes by…especially when you don’t get up until 11.

OK — I have an excuse. Yesterday, I got back from my first trip out of Tucson and didn’t get home until about 3am. The trip went well. The drive from the house to the airport (which began at about 3am but at the beginning of the day instead of the end) was a little stressful, just because I hadn’t done it before. I was also working in a trip to Fed Ex. Everything worked out fine though. The Tucson airport is very very easy. I even managed to get a haircut in NC (from a totally random place I found off the highway — another thing I’m trying to be less fussy about; it worked out fine). For the trip home, I’d planned on staying at a hotel in Tucson since the flight was so late, but I thought that if I slept on the plane and felt good, I might drive right home. I did sleep on the plane and felt really great when we landed, so I drove home. It was really easy and quite a nice drive.

One funny part of the trip was when the airline attendant was doing the whole preflight safety thing. She talked about the life vests and added “just in case we decide to land in the Hudson.” Funny, huh?

Today, after breakfast, Brad and I cleaned the house. No more cleaning people; it’s a part of our simplifying-our-lives thing. It’s been awhile since I’ve cleaned a house. It wasn’t that bad though.

Then Brad went off to tar the roof of the container on our property, while I caught up on work and did laundry. Tomorrow, rest, footbal, and maybe our first hike into Horseshoe Canyon.

Detective work

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

It’s been awhile since I’ve felt like writing. The move was a real ordeal. When I feel overwhelmed, I simplify what I’m doing. I’ve been focusing on what needed doing for awhile now and I’m ready to move on…

What better than a little detective work to shake things up.

I have asked a lot of people about this barrel at the base of the water tower ever since we first looked at the property. No one had the foggiest idea… despite very leading questions from me… I was convinced it was some strange kind of water filter and would have liked someone identify it as such–dumb. What really frightened me was that the lid on the barrel was warped and did not seal. Despite the lovely report on our well water, I had no intention of drinking the water after seeing this… and an old piece of rotting carpet visible through the cracks in the lid.

Karen and I had a few minutes free the other day and I ripped off the lid to the water barrel. What a surprise! Peanuts!

It’s just insulation. It does get below freezing and everyone wraps their pipes here. This is the oddest insulation I’ve ever seen, but I imagine it works. However, it’s disgusting and I’m tearing it out when I have time and I’ll switch to more standard setup. The whole area is going to be contained in a pump house eventually. We’ll be adding a pressure pump and all the required plumbing as well.

After giving Bill (of Chris and Bill) a hand replacing the kitchen faucet in the place we’re renting, I got a few new ideas on how the pressure pump plumbing should be configured. For one thing, I want one shutoff valve that will stop water to the house without requiring the pressure pump be drained. Also, I want to be able to supply water to the house via gravity feed for testing or if the pressure pump ever fails.

On the nice side, I was very relieved to find a main shut off valve. I was really mystified that there wasn’t one and unhappy at the thought of draining the water tank just to add one. One more problem down.

I’ll have to tear apart the barrel in order to run down one remaining question.

What is this pipe for? Given how large it is, I suspect it’s for draining the tank, but we will see.

Another bit of detective work required I cut off a lock. There we’re no keys from the previous owner. There’s a pad lock on our front gate that needs removing and there’s one to the electrical box for the solar powered pump.

Would you like a look inside? Of course…

So what do we have here? Well, on the bottom there’s a nice screwdriver, some electrical tape and a pair of reading glasses very much like ones I wear. On the top, there’s an excellent manual on the entire solar system.

The box on the bottom is the controller and it seems fancy to me. It tells the story of the entire system. From left to right, there’s an indicator for incoming power. (if any) It’s either solar, wind power, or AC if you have a generator. Below this, there’s a funky little icon indicating that repairs are needed. There’s something to indicate the water tank is full and one to let you know if there’s enough power being generated to run the well pump.

The box on top is for hooking up the solar panels and possibly a generator. It also lets you turn power off to the lower box.

There was also an estimate for the entire installation from Elbrock–a local well and septic company. Very interesting stuff.


Friday, January 9th, 2009

Brad and I have always loved to walk. In CA, we walked around Seal Beach, through Surfside into Sunset Beach, and near our office in Belmont Shores hundreds of times.

Now walking is a whole new adventure with many new and different places to explore. Here are pictures from a walk from our house this week.

Tough decisions

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

As we’re unpacking, we have realized that we have less space at the rental house and more space at the storage facility than we had originally thought. Coupled with the fact that I seemed to think that I needed to have *everything* we own within immediate reach, I’m now making decisions about what to move back to storage.

So far, I’ve decided we won’t have waffles (we’ll make do with pancakes) or cheesecake (I’ll make tarts instead) until we move again. Two martini mixers?…one can go into storage. There’s an enormous two-personal bath tub here that we’ll never use; I suppose it would be weird to store files in it though.

How many of the literally hundreds of power strips and cables we have can be put into storage? We seem to have enough phones, access points, and network cables to wire up the whole valley. There are more boxes labeled “computer stuff” than I can count. And there there’s the office equipment and supplies — I’m thinking of opening the first Kinko’s this side of Tucson. Sigh…

The happiest DMV on earth

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

We went to the DMV in Douglas yesterday to get our new driver’s licenses and license plates. There was a line there (like at any DMV in America, I suppose), but everyone was so nice. When we got to the person who would be processing our paperwork, she started by welcoming us to Arizona. Wow, that was different. Everyone was so nice that the experience was actually pleasant.

We also did some shopping in Douglas (the nearest “big” town…about 45 miles away, population of about 14,000). We started out at one of the four dollar stores in town. Wow — these places are great! I should have started shopping here years ago. If you haven’t gone, do. Then, we went to Safeway to stock up on food. As we usually do food shopping on the way home from work on a “per-meal” basis, the idea of laying in stores and actually planning ahead is novel to us. Fortunately, the Safeway in Douglas has everything you could ever need (including tofu; I haven’t seen my favorite veggie chicken, but I didn’t look very hard). For those items that are harder to find, there is also a WalMart in town, though I try to avoid it for reasons that are numerous to list. One funny thing is that we ran into one of our new neighbors (one of only about 10 or so people we know here) at Safeway. Yeah, it’s a small town.

Overall impressions of shopping in Douglas: 1) You can get anything you need. 2) The prices are dramatically lower than CA. 3) Everyone’s very friendly. 4) It’s more fun to be “in town” when you don’t live there.

Since Brad no longer can stop at Polly’s on the way to work, I have started baking muffins for him for breakfast. And, of course, our espresso machine is one of the first things I set up in the kitchen. Other than that, we haven’t been hurting too much for food. So far this week, we’ve had homemade mac and cheese (one of my favorites), a delicious veggie curry, and enchiladas.

The experiment with switching the living room and office is going great. (Stay tuned for before and after pictures when we clear out more boxes.) I *love* my new office. Thanks to Brad for getting the network up and running super quick even though he’s been sick.


Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Brad just called me from my unpacking work to see a roadrunner in the shrub just about a foot from our window. We’ve seen tons of these birds running down the road, but I’ve never seen one close up. They are really huge and beautifully marked. (Ours was a little browner and a bit fatter than the one in the linked picture.)

We’ve had a productive weekend. On Friday, we arrived at our new home at Mountain Shadows, which is about a mile or so from our property. We were hoping that our moving truck would arrive on Sat., but when I called the office they said that everyone had gone home and that the truck was not expected to arrive Sat. We spent Fri. getting mail, getting some supplies, and doing some preliminary unpacking.

At about noon on Sat., Charles our mover called. He was in Phoenix! He said they’d probably unload the stuff for storage (the bigger part of the shipment) that night and the house (an hour and a half away from the storage facility) the next morning. At about 4:00, we met at the storage unit to unload. As before, the movers were really great and very happy to accommodate my arrangement ideas so that we could have easy access to stuff we might need. We work with a lot of people that we don’t think much of, but these movers were really the best. By about 6:30, it was dark and getting very cold, and they were done.

Charles said, “So we’ll follow you, ok?” Huh? I thought we were doing the house in the morning. I was worried about how long they’d been driving and that it might be difficult to navigate the back roads and unload in the dark. But after talking it through, we decided to proceed. By 9:00, everything was unloaded. It was really pretty easy. We offered the guest room to the movers for the night, but they declined, electing instead to press on back to Phoenix. We were glad we didn’t have to do the same. Exhausted, we had dinner (creamy pesto tortellini and salad) and went to bed.

By morning, the cold Brad has been getting kicked into high gear, so we took it easy Sunday. I spent most of the day unpacking boxes, washing dishes, and doing laundry. (We did take a quick trip to the property to move a few things and to “de-horn” the property. The previous owner had put deer antlers up on various fence posts, very disgusting. We also saw our resident great horned owl in our front tree, and I drove the new truck on the back roads for the first time. It was very easy.)

We are considering a bit of out-of-the-box rearranging of the house we are staying in. (It is furnished, and we are hoping to make it work as both house and office for a year or so until we’re done building.) There is a large front room that has large floor-to-ceiling windows and gets wonderful light. It has a couch, two humongous easy chairs, a TV, and a few tables. Adjacent to that is a smaller room, open to both the front room and the kitchen. We were planning to use that smaller room as the office. After thinking about it, though, we’re considering making the front room the office and the smaller room the living room. We spend most of our day time in the office anyway and need more space for office-related things. The smaller room would be much cozier for evenings, and we aren’t really easy chair kind of folks. Tomorrow, we’ll move stuff around and see how it goes. Stay tuned.

The move

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

We are in Portal — this time to stay.

Our move went well. The movers were great. Curiously, our mover Charles has actually been to the Portal area before. Prior to this, we’d never even talked to anyone who had heard of Portal. As Charles told us, he’s been a lot of places.

And departing LA was quite easy. I was a little surprised not to be tearful at leaving either our home or office (where we’ve been for about 8 years). It really seemed time to go, and we were excited about the change.

After leaving LA, we spent a couple nights with Brad’s mom. After a very long day of moving on Mon., a home cooked dinner she made was much appreciated.

On Wed., we set off early at about 5:30am to try to get to Portal before dark. We drove a different way, this time on the 8 through Yuma, joining back up with the 10 before Tucson. The drive was beautiful. The only thing that could have made it better would have been driving together in the same car.

We had some hopes of getting to the San Simon post office to collect our mail before it closed on Wed., but the combination of the time change and the fact that the post office closed at 4 made that impossible. We got some groceries before heading down to Portal. By the time we got to the 80, it was dark, but we were very excited to be heading into the valley that will be home.

When we got to the Quailway Cottage (the guest house we stayed at before and which we’ll stay at for two days before moving into Mountain Shadows on Fri.), it was about 7:30. To celebrate New Years Eve, we cracked open a bottle of champagne and ate appetizers. For the first time in 30 years or so, I did not stay awake until midnight.

Waking up to the new year in our new home was laden with symbolism and good cheer. We made breakfast and alternated watching the Rose Parade and the amazing array of birds out our door before heading over to the property. It was a stunning day, sunny and in the 60s. We drove out toward Horseshoe Canyon (down Sunrise past our property) to explore. On the way, we saw a large javelina. Surprisingly, he seemed to be alone.

On the property, we unloaded our various ladders and tools and checked out the new fence. It looks really great.

The land right now is how I like it best with huge expanses of golden grass. We hiked around for a while and took some pictures before going to mail the check for the fence. I also took my first ride in the truck standing in the bed holding on to the rack. Great way to get a big view. I can’t wait to take some movies this way.

Driving down 80, we saw two large coyotes crossing the road. They looked very healthy with thick, bushy coats. Later in the night, returning to Quailway in the dark, we heard what sounded like 50 or more coyotes yipping and howling. It was an amazing sound. The perfect new song for the new year in our new home.

(Picture of our land taken from the water tower platform)