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.


In training

Written by karen on February 7th, 2017

So this year’s plan for a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon trip has been permitted (it’s quite a lengthy process that relies on some degree of luck), and so we are in training.

This weekend, we climbed Silver Peak (about 20 minutes from our house, near Portal). It’s just under 10 miles round trip, and the elevation gain to the top is 3000 feet. (To compare, the elevation change to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is 5850, and it’s 4860).

On the first part of the trail, we were surprised to find several horses that had apparently been turned loose there. They were very friendly, and we shared an apple with them.

Toward the top of the climb, there was quite a lot of snow. This made the going a lot slower.

Here’s the view from the top.


My fav pictures from 2016

Written by karen on January 5th, 2017


The year in books

Written by karen on January 3rd, 2017

Here is the list of books I read this year (in the order I read them with the particularly great ones in bold, also shown in the banner above):

  1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  2. Summer of My Amazing Luck by Miriam Toews
  3. The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
  4. Irma Voth by Miriam Toews
  5. A Boy of Good Breeding  by Miriam Toews
  6. The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
  7. Born for This by Chris Guillebeau
  8. En Recuerdo de: The Dying Art of Mexican Cemeteries in the Southwest by Bruce F. Jordan
  9. As Aways, Julia by Julia Child and Avis Devoto
  10. Journey through an Arid Land by G. Davies Jandrey
  11. Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos
  12. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  13. Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
  14. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  15. A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  16. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  17. The Rabbit Back Literature Society  by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
  18. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
  19. The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux
  20. Deep South by Paul Theroux
  21. Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
  22. The Empty Mirror by Janwillem van de Wetering
  23. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  24. 10:04 by Ben Lerner
  25. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  26. The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
  27. Arizona Kicks on Route 66 by Roger Naylor
  28. The Land of Open Graves by Jason De León
  29. My Life in France by Julia Child
  30. Alaska by James Michener
  31. The Litigators by John Grisham
  32. At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
  33. The Racketeer by John Grisham
  34. Drop Shot by Harlan Coben
  35. Nathan Coulter by Wendell Berry
  36. The Oath by Jeffrey Toobin
  37. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
  38. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
  39. American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin
  40. Outside 25: Classic Tales and New Voices from the Frontiers of Adventure edited by Hal Espen
  41. The Best American Travel Writing 2006 by Tim Cahill (Editor)
  42. The Backbone of the World by Frank Clifford
  43. Where the Waters Divide by Karen Berger and Daniel R. Smith
  44. Going Back to Bisbee by Richard Shelton
  45. Dear Data by by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec
  46. Crossing the Yard by Richard Shelton
  47. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
  48. That Distant Land by Wendell Berry
  49. Andy Catlett by Wendell Berry
  50. Whitefoot by Wendell Berry
  51. A Place in Time by Wendell Berry
  52. The Whistler by John Grisham
  53. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

As usual, there were several authors I read several books by — Miriam Toews, Julia Child, Paul Theroux, Wendell Berry. The Berry books were particularly special, and I finished the last of his fiction that I hadn’t read earlier. (I’d been saving them up, and it was a nice way to finish the year.)