July, 2010

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KB acornseed

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

We are lucky to have several large oak trees on our property here. They are native emory oaks. We have tried to care for these oaks, especially a few of the smaller ones.

Despite the fact that we have read that they produce acorns every year, we have been told by locals that the ones here only produce every 4 or 5 years. Folks were hoping this would be the year, and indeed it is.

Last week, we collected a bunch of acorns with the hopes of planting some new trees. We’ve read up on how to do this and are optimistic.


Today we planted some. We planted two areas in a ravine where water collects when it rains and where our other oaks are growing. We’ve marked the planting areas with circles of rocks so we can watch how they go.

We also planted a few in washed out 5-gallon buckets. Once they sprout and are doing well, we’ll transplant.

Most of what I read seems to indicate that red oaks (which is the family the emories belong to) do not germinate until the following spring. Other things I’ve read say that the germination is tied to the rainy season, which we are definitely in. We’ll see.

House #1 is done

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Not that there aren’t a thousand things still to do, but with the final stucco on, I’m calling it done.

We finished the final coat on the house today.

We also got the battery house done. Now my beautiful door has a proper backdrop!

While we were working on this, I noticed that some of the varnish on the frame is peeling a bit. Probably a result of being taped several times and the hot sun. (It’s been almost 8 months.) I’ll need to put another coat on.

This was my first real encounter with the dreaded “maintenance” issue of home ownership. I mentioned this to Brad, and he told me that the Golden Gate Bridge is continually being painted. It takes about 2 years to paint it, and by the time they finish, it’s time to start again. Hmmm.

We’re out!

Monday, July 26th, 2010

We have apparently beaten the odds and become one of the few in America to actually vacate temporary storage. (The statistics on this are incredible. Once you put stuff in a temporary storage facility, it’s likely to stay there forever. I’m trying to put my hands on the article I read on this but haven’t found it yet.) We’re out of our Willcox storage. Yay!

Looking like a real house now

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

So we have two and a half walls done now and one and a half more to go.

The final coat of stucco is going on *much* easier than the first coat. (Good thing too, since it’s hotter than hell right now. We’ve been getting up early to start around 6 and be done for the day by noon to try to beat the heat. I’m sure appreciating our lovely onsite shower this week.)

We’re using an acrylic stucco (El Rey Perma-flex) that is supposed to flex and not crack as much in the extreme heat. It is very smooth to put on and the seems don’t really show at all (unlike the first coat). The only bad part is that the stuff really sticks to everything. Our hands and arms are coated in it, and I have scrubbed my skin with a brush until I feel like I have no skin left.

One thing that is very nice about this product is that it comes premixed. No adding sand; no cement mixer; no shoveling or hauling loads of it. (I especially appreciate this since this was my job on the basecoat.) Our division of labor on this coat is that Brad trowels it on and I do the finish.

Putting the tile on has been interesting. I had this idea to put tile accents on the outside and found some beautiful dark blue Japanese tile to use. I wanted to put some small 1″ tiles inside our arched doorway and  a row of larger tiles along the top edge. I thought the arch would be really hard but the top edge would be easy. It was actually the opposite. The problem with the tile at the top is that it is relatively heavy and wants to pull off until it dries a bit. (After it dries, I don’t think it’s ever coming off.) We have had several strips fall off, whereupon they fall 12 feet and break, ruining the tile. We have extra though, and we’re getting better at it.

The results look really great, I think.

Low power bug zapper

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

We’ve been really getting a lot of rain.  Last night, it poured buckets for several hours with dramatic thunder and lightning all around.

With the rain, of course, comes bugs. And after dark, thousands of them gather around our windows and doors, seeking the light. It’s kind of gross.

But now we’ve gotten a new way to combat this. They seem to arrive every evening to sit on our stoop and enjoy the buffet.


A surreal adventure

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Before starting on our final stucco coat on Sunday, we had planned to take a rare day off and go explore a place we’ve been wanting to go. Rucker Canyon is about 10 miles south of us, and like most of the canyons that run to the west, it ends up in the Chiricahua Mountains, transitioning through many botanical zones along the way.

We left the house a little before 9. It was sunny, but cool and breezy after rain yesterday. (We are getting nearly nightly rain now during the monsoons. It’s wonderful.)

After driving a ways into the canyon, we stopped at Camp Rucker (later known as Fort Rucker, an outpost for fighting the Indians), an old Army supply camp from the late 1800s. It has several old adobe structures and corrals. As we walked to one end of the encampment, we found a huge wide open pasture. It was sunny with big white puffy clouds, and we decided to hike to the other end.

About half way back, it started to rain. Quickly, the pleasant light rain turned to big wet drops. We rapidly got soaked to the skin and sought shelter under one of the big oak trees. Lightning and loud claps of thunder ensued. (Brad mentioned that being under a tree is not the recommended course of action in this situation.) We stood there for a while, and when the rain let up a bit, we headed back to the truck.

The rain let up, and we explored an old ranch house. Then on the way back to the truck, the sky opened up again.

By the time, we got to the truck, we were really soaked through, but rain here is always a joyous event, so we were happy.

We drove down the canyon for a while, and the rain got heavier. It rained and rained and rained. Rivers were forming on the sides and sometimes across the gravel road. I was a little worried, but Brad always tells me our truck is good in this kind of driving.

This is from the truck, crossing a stream flowing through the road.

This is from the truck, crossing a stream flowing through the road.

Then it started to hail. Really, I swear, 3/8″ diameter hailstones in 80 plus degree weather. So bizarre.

We drove for a while and around noon had our picnic lunch (in the truck). Eventually, it cleared off so we could enjoy the spectacular mountain views.

It really was a magnificent day. We look forward to more exploration and camping and hiking in this area.

Back to basics

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

After baking pies the last week, I had the inevitable burnt-on pie drips on the bottom of my new oven. I put oven cleaner on the shopping list, but then thought about pouring that nasty caustic stuff down the drain and into our land. So I looked up tips for natural homemade oven cleaners.

I tried one that had baking soda, vinegar, and a few drops of dish soap. I was surprised to find that it worked just as well as the more expensive spray-on kinds you buy and with none of the nasty smell or chemicals. Next time you clean your oven, you might want to try it.


Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

The monsoons seem to be bringing out the animals. Yesterday, Brad saw mule deer, the bobcat, and a coyote. Then this morning I saw this beautiful coyote. They are very shy and normally not to be seen, though we sure do hear them yipping at night! It’s lovely.


The good life

Monday, July 12th, 2010

The monsoons have arrived here, and we had cool rainy weather all weekend. There were a couple big evening thunderstorms, and thankfully, some long sustained rains. The breezes were cool and delicious.

We have been eating well and enjoying lots of yummy summer veggies this week. After Friday harvest, we had a Mediterranean feast (flat bread, hummus, baba ganoush and olives), followed up by a peach pie I made with the peaches we got in Willcox.

Sunday morning we went for a nice walk and saw a bunch of new bugs that the wet weather has brought out. These little ones are especially interesting.

[Note: I couldn’t figure out what this bug was, so I contacted a bug specialist at the University of Arizona. A very nice woman (on leave, no less) wrote back with this: “You’re so lucky!  This is not actually a bug (insect), but a velvet mite (related to spiders).  Most of the year they live hidden away, but just at the start of the monsoon season they emerge briefly in great numbers to reproduce.  They are not harmful to humans, and I think they look charming, like tiny sofa cushions.”]

Other wildlife sightings this week have included mule deer (in our front someday patio area — we watched them from bed this morning) and the cutest little baby quail, all parading around in a row.

On the house front, we’ve ordered the final stucco coat and hope to start on that next week. We’ve also moved into the big bedroom and just love it!

What July should be

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Locally-grown peaches, sweet corn, green beans, eggplant, and tomatoes

You might remember that last year we discovered a whole network of farm stands and u-pick vegetable growers in Willcox…except that we couldn’t seem to find one that had anything when we were there (and they are a good drive off the main road). Well today that was all remedied when we went to Apple Annie’s produce stand and fruit orchard.

I am anxious to make some baba ganoush from the lovely eggplants, which we picked ourselves. (After seeing how big their plants are though, I’m less confident about my own.:) I am also going to make a peach pie this week with 10 lbs. of organic peaches we got.

They also had zucchini that were the size of watermelons, but we are well stocked on those from our own farm. They said that they will have all this stuff and more through October. We’re looking forward to going back. During apple season, I may bake some pies to sell at the farm stand.

We also got the rest of our furniture out of storage in Willcox and into the guest room. (We got the final cove put down this morning.) It is quite a bit of fun to have our own stuff back and to see things that we haven’t seen in a year and a half. I am most missing all my books and am excited to get them back on shelves.

When we unloaded the bed back at the house, you could see that there had been some kind of water leakage somewhere in the process. It was packed in a big corrugated box, but we were worried what we’d find when we unpacked it. Upon opening it though, we found that the whole mattress and box springs had been shrinkwrapped tightly before going in the box. Again, we thanked Charles our mover for his amazing professionalism.

After we got everything unloaded, we ended the day with a fire, chips and guacamole, and watermelon margaritas. The stars were amazing.