It’s a good day to be solar

Written by karen on August 12th, 2017

(written on 8/10/17)

This morning I woke up and as usual, I checked my tablet for notifications. I found no Internet access. I checked the wireless, which seemed fine, and so went over to the office to check my desktop computer. No Internet access there either.

I spent a half hour or so resetting the router and trying all the things we do when we have Internet problems, but to no avail. Finally, I realized that we had no phone service either. That explained the Internet outage.

That isn’t completely unusual, but with no cell access here, I’d have to drive somewhere to call our local phone co-op to put in a service request.

In the spirit of mindfulness, I decided to do my morning yoga first. (Fortunately, I have a few yoga sessions saved offline for just this kind of times.)

After yoga, I hopped in the truck and drove off to Rodeo. I can usually get a cell signal there, but not today. I saw a few people congregated in front of the local café and so asked them if they had phone service. (Often phone outages here are very localized to a small area.)

“No phone. No power. Not here or in Portal or in Animas.”

Oh, that’s not good.

I had a couple work calls scheduled for this morning, so I decided to drive towards Animas until I could get a signal to at least text people to reschedule.

Once I got a signal and sent the texts, I called a friend of mine here to see how she was doing and to tell her what I knew about the scope of the problem.

“Forty-eight hours is what we hear.”

Oh, that’s worse.

On the way home, I stopped by the local post office, which is a hub of our community. Several people were there exchanging news, and I was able to confirm that 48 hours was the expected outage and that it was widespread. There had been a big storm north of us (ironically, we got no rain at all at our house), and 25 poles had been knocked out.

I let our postmaster know that if anyone had a “power emergency,” she could send them our way since we have solar. Yes, with solar, we have power, even though the rest of area is out. (This has saved us several fridge/freezers full of food as well as other inconveniences.)

Listening to everyone talk, it seemed like it could have been a hundred years ago. People gathering at a central spot to share news, tell stories, offer help, and laugh together.

One thing I learned is that even cell service would be ending soon, since the towers use power and apparently only have a limited power backup. (Imaging end times is a popular pastime here so this got my mind going.)

With big storms supposed to be rolling in this weekend (though I now have no access to a weather forecast), I wonder if it might be longer than 48 hours.

There isn’t a lot of work I can get done with no email or Internet, so today will be spent doing some offline projects and baking for the market tomorrow. (I already had the dough ready before this happened, so I might as well bake.) I’m also going to do some writing, send some postcards, edit some video, and of course, work in the garden. With no baseball or movies tonight, I’ll curl up with a good book, which I have several in a stack waiting for me.

This makes me reflect on how dependent we are on the Internet and more broadly on other infrastructure that we have little control over. It is simultaneously a little worrying and kind of quaint. For the next few days, I will hunker down here and live like everyone did not so long ago, glad for my solar power, for offline pleasures, and for my large stores of food and comfortable house.

(written the evening of 8/11/17…the end of day 2)

I had a lovely day yesterday, enjoying a relaxing and guiltless day of non-work. I finished two books I had been mid-way with and then read another whole book that was very enjoyable. (If the Internet doesn’t come back soon, I may catch up on my Goodreads goal.) I also baked for market, edited a video I’d been putting off, and organized some things.

I often imagine a dream life (“When I win the lottery…”) of no email and no phone, and this day of that lived up to my expectation.

I didn’t realize though how many times a day I consult the Internet for other things, especially living where we do. Checking the weather, reading the news, listening to music, looking up a new word or idea, chatting with friends. And I did miss all of that.

This morning, I got up and checked the phone, which was still out. I got ready for the market as I normally do on Fridays and drove into town. Going through Rodeo, I noticed lights were on, meaning power was back there. When I got to Portal, there were sporadic reports of phone service returning. By the time I left at 1:00, the library had Internet again.

When I returned home, phone service had returned but still no Internet. I reset the router again and tried to be patient. Finally, after a few hours, I called our local phone co-op and Internet provider. They said there were no known issues and passed me on to technical support hell. That began a cycle of troubleshooting questions and “escalations” that has as of yet not resulted in Internet service being restored.

What was quaint and enjoyable yesterday has now grown old.

Eventually, I imagine that our tall cowboy service guy will come out to the house and fix things. He seems to be the only competent person at our phone co-op, and we are fortunate that he is the one we interact with face-to-face when it comes to that.

Stay tuned….

(written afternoon of 8/12/17… day 3)

Frustration set in today.

No word from our co-op and no success after resetting the router every hour or so…until about 2pm when the Internet mysteriously came back on. There was no visit for our service guy, so the problem was something out of our area, as I suspected.

It’s good to be online again.

Now to catch up on the long list of things that has accumulated.


Rim to rim

Written by karen on June 17th, 2017

Our Grand Canyon trip was a great success. Most notable, our training paid off — we never felt hugely taxed, and after it was all over, we weren’t sore (unlike last time).

You might remember that we decided to do the trip in four days this time instead of two. That worked out well. However, leaving camp at first light to avoid the heat sometimes brought us into the next camp before 8am! That let us do a couple day hikes though, including Ribbon Falls and Plateau Point, which were both spectacular. It’s always nice to hike without the heavy packs once you’re used to them.

Ribbon Falls — cool on a hot day

Me on the plateau

We hadn’t been on the north rim before this, and it was very beautiful. Also the trail down from there had fewer hikers which was nice.

It’s always striking the range of people you see on this trail. We saw people who could barely hike (just doing a short day hike from the rim) to people who were running it rim-to-rim. We also met folks doing rim-to-rim-to-rim.

The weather was good. It was a bit windy but not as hot as the last time we did it. At the rim, nighttime temperatures were cool (40s), and we even saw a couple patches of snow. At the bottom, the high in the shade was 106.


31.5 total miles (including side trips)

starting elevation: 8327 feet

elevation at the bottom: 2445 feet

ending elevation: 6851 feet

Our team, getting ready to set off from the North Rim

More pictures here


Earliest edible tomato we’ve ever harvested

Written by karen on May 30th, 2017


Cochise Stronghold

Written by karen on May 15th, 2017

This weekend’s backpacking trip was to Cochise Stronghold, which is on the west side of the Chiricahuas from us and to the south of Texas Canyon (the one with the amazing rocks just off I-10). We hiked from the campground to the pass and then over to the west side. We backcountry camped there overnight and then headed back. We went with our friend Judy who will be going to the Grand Canyon with us.

It was a much more enjoyable hike than our last one. The hike itself was relatively easy and the views were incredible.

Here’s the data. (The difference in distances between the days is because we tacked an extra few miles onto Sat. before camping.)



Garden update

Written by karen on May 8th, 2017

I have about a half dozen little green tomatoes on plants. This is the earliest by far that this had happened. Chalk if up to starting with starts instead of seeds.

And the gourds are progressing along.

It’s been windy here this weekend so I’m hoping everything weathers it ok.


What’s growing?

Written by karen on April 27th, 2017

I love spring here. So many things are blooming, and our garden is getting in full swing. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s growing right now.

  • Asparagus is still producing, but it’s starting to tail off.
  • Lettuce, arugula, chard, and radishes are producing strong. We’ve been selling all of this as well. (Our farmers market got off to a great start last week. In the first week, we had more vendors than we ever did last year. This has been a goal of mine.) I’m trying to keep up with succession planting while it’s still cool enough at nights to germinate.

    Cherry belle radishes

  • Onions, garlic, and shallots all look great. We are looking for garlic scapes now and should see them any minute. This stuff will be harvested around June.
  • I’ve planted new green beans (mostly for market), tomatoes (not for market :), and peppers, and they’re looking good. I’ll be putting in cucumbers and melons soon.
  • We’ve replanted new artichokes since the old ones got eaten down to the roots last year.
  • The pomegranates are blooming nicely so we’re hopeful for fruit this year.
  • We’ve been eating strawberries and mulberries, and the figs and blackberries are greening up.
  • One thing I’m excited about this year is growing some gourds for a friend of mine who hopes to make them into drums. The seeds have germinated, and they look strong. Stay tuned for updates on that.
  • The hedgerow and its flowers continue to be a work in progress. This year with the new fence, I’m more optimistic. I also planted some hearty native perennial flowers near the house this year. (And I said I’d never do “landscaping!”) They’re really beautiful, and I’m surprised how much they brighten things up.

flowers by the house


Backpacking in the canyon

Written by karen on April 13th, 2017

The canyon behind our house is a part of a large area of national forest that goes from north of the national monument to south of Rucker Canyon (about 15 miles north of Douglas). We’ve always wanted to do a backpacking trip in the forest that ended at our house, and this weekend we did.

On Friday night, we camped at the Sunny Flat campground a few miles from Portal. Then early Saturday, we set out toward Horseshoe Canyon.

Here are the overall stats for the hike:

Overall distance: 21.6 miles (8.6 on Saturday, 13 on Sunday)

Starting elevation: 5079 ft

Highest elevation: 7220 ft

Final elevation: 4300 ft

Overall, it was a harder hike than we had anticipated. There was a good amount of elevation change, but the real challenge was the trail or lack thereof. Much of the trail had been washed away by Hurricane Odile and consisted of stream beds with large boulders strewn everywhere and large downed trees. In many cases, we ended up walking twice as far as would normally be required in order to avoid obstacles. Climbing over and around boulders and trees added difficulty as well. I was glad we had a GPS because I’m not sure we could have reliably found the way otherwise.

typical “trail”

This was also a trial run for overnight backpacking and our equipment for the upcoming Grand Canyon trip. On that front, all went well.

It was fun to end up at our house, though by the end of Sunday, we were super tired.

We are planning to do another backpacking trip soon, but probably won’t do this one again. Maybe next time will be from Rucker Canyon to our house.


SpargelFest and the fence

Written by karen on April 1st, 2017

The asparagus is coming in well now, and so tonight we’re having a SpargelFest (something I didn’t even know was a thing until today; thanks, E). When I saw this recipe for asparagus and green garlic soup, I thought it was time to experiment with green garlic, which is really just baby spring garlic. Here’s what I pulled up. They smell so good!

And our fence is up! Yay! Attractiveness was a big consideration, since this is right in front of our living room mountain view, and I think it came out nice. (This picture only shows about half the length of the long side — it’s a big area.)

For the first time ever, my tomato seeds didn’t germinate, so I bought starts. It feels a bit like cheating but I have to say that the starts look healthier than mine from seed ever do. I prepared the bed for them today, though I probably won’t put them out for a couple weeks. I read that marigolds are a good companion plant and can help fight off tomato works and gnarly root nematodes, so I put some seeds in for those. With the fence, I’m feeling confident that the rabbits won’t eat them this year.




Written by karen on March 16th, 2017

With snowstorms hitting much of the country hard this week, we are enjoying sunny weather in the 80s. The first asparagus has appeared, signaling that spring is here.

We’ve also been working in earnest on fencing the garden area. We decided to go with heavy-duty cattle panels (much heavier than barbed or chicken wire — we are confident this will stop large animals like javelina from getting through) and hardware cloth on the bottom couple feet (which should stop rabbits). Rodents will still be able to climb in, but even they should be slowed down…we hope.

We’ve also been doing some new spring planting, including more greens.

And last weekend, we took a hike at Cochise Stronghold. This is national forest land with a campground that is on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains from us.



Written by karen on February 11th, 2017

This is the first year that I’ve successfully had lettuce all winter.

Actually, lettuce does fine here in temperatures down to zero and even in snow (though I cover it with a light row cover). It doesn’t grow a lot once it gets cold though, so the challenge is to plant it when it can germinate and grow, but not so early that it bolts. It’s also necessary to do this in an amount that gives you lettuce all winter. Until this year, I never quite got it right, but this morning, I harvested all this lettuce. There’s still more that’s harvest-ready and now another younger batch that should be ready in a few weeks. Now I just need to keep the new successions coming.