Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oracle AZ City Park

In our exploring today we discovered a whimsical little city park in the town of Oracle that was quite interesting.  It is located in the center of town near the community center.  It features a giant lizard and a beautiful butterfly garden with picnic benches.  If you are ever in the area it is worth a visit.



A view of the park from the parking lot


A giant mosaic lizard made with ceramic tiles greets all visitors



Two large mosaic arrowhead are also made from ceramic tile



A rich sounding gong



A nice bench for a quick rest



Another beautiful ceramic mosaic



The park also contains two Letterboxes.  This shows the container, log book, and stamp from one of them

Friday, December 30, 2011

Loving the Arizona Sun!

After a couple weeks of cold and rainy weather the sun has finally returned.  We are always glad when it rains but it is sure nice to have the 75 degree days back with the pure blue skies. 

This week we are off to the Catalina State park near Tucson for a little hiking, biking, geocaching, and relaxing.  The park is full as usual this time of the year with all the winter visitors but with the new reservation system you can usually get a site with a few days of planning.  Yesterday our oldest grandson spent the day with us and enjoyed a full day of hiking and biking.  Bet he slept good last night…we did!  Today we decided to try out “Letterboxing” ( for the first time.  It is a lot like geocaching but instead of providing the GPS location the letterbox description provides directions for specific landmarks.  For example, 180 steps southwest of a specific sign.  Our first try was on the Birding Trail here in the park but after finding the location there was no letterbox.  Second try was more successful and we found the letterbox right were the description indicated it would be found.  We stamped our log book with the letterbox stamp and stamped the letterbox log with our stamp.  Tomorrow we plan to make it a full day of geocaching about 20 mile north of the park near Oracle. 


On one of our many hikes with the grandson



The snow is almost gone from the mountains



Found this big guy on the birding trail.  From the number of holes he is providing a home to a lot of birds



The birding trail is very well maintained.  In general, fairly flat ground with two sets of stairs like this.



As a special treat the Southerland Wash was running with the recent snow melt.  Yes we had to get our feet wet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cutting Hay

We always make an effort to be as self sufficient as possible by gardening/canning, raising chickens, and growing hay for our goat.  Today it was time to cut the hay … so here is the process.  We have a relatively small plot for alfalfa but it produces very well.  Here is the plot ready to cut.


This time of the year it grows fairly slow and only requires cutting every 6-8 weeks but in the heat of the summer we typically cut every 3-4 weeks. 

To cut it we use a special sickle cutter which slices off the alfalfa close to the ground.


Here is a view of the business end of the cutter…got to keep the fingers and toes away from this thing!


After cutting we let the hay lay in place to dry.  In the summer it only takes a few hours to dry (remember we are in the desert and 115 deg days are not unusual) but in the winter it may take a day or so.


Once the initial drying is complete we rake it into rows for more drying.  The rows need to be rotated a couple times to complete the drying process.  The desire is to dry it enough so it doesn't rot (or spontaneously catch fire) when stored but not so dry that the leaves fall off.


When it’s dry enough it’s ready for storage.  Notice the difference in color in the fresh hay on the left and the purchased hay on the right!


Of course this is the part the Buster likes the best….Umm, umm, good!


Friday, November 25, 2011


Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.  We had a nice day with family.  Our daughter and her family along with Valerie’s mother were here for the day.  Our second daughter joined us via Skype (got to love the technology).  The meal is all finished, dishes washed, and fridge full of leftovers so life is good! 

One of Valerie’s friends made these little guys for table decorations.  Suspect that they might have been a real pain to make but they sure are cute!


Our youngest grandson had fun helping his grandpa pick things in the garden.  He found some tomatoes, peppers, turnips, and lemons.


Valerie’s addition…

Our 2011 Thanksgiving family photo.  We were Skype-ing with our youngest daughter who lives out of state and told her we were getting ready to do our yearly family photo.  As I was looking at my iPad while talking to her, it hit me - hold up the iPad in the photo and include her!  I am so glad I thought of this, and I wanted to share with all of you that might not have ever had the idea.  It's silly, but my daughter and I will do anything that feels a little off center - especially if we can get Dean to roll his eyes and shake his head.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Today the rain clouds moved out and it was an absolutely gorgeous day.  What better to do on such a nice day than take the Jeep out and explore.  We headed out to the Superstition Mountains and quickly found some nice Jeep trails.  While we were out we decided to do a little geocaching and ended up having a very good caching day.  Actually we broke our old record of most caches found in one day with 23 finds.  As usual the caches ranged in size from ammo cans down to miniatures.  This is a photo of the miniature one we found and it has to be the smallest one we have ever encountered.  The container was about a half inch in diameter and was magnetized and stuck to a metal power line pole.  If you look closely you can see the log sheet rolled up in the center.  We were really luck to find this one!


The Superstitions Mountains always provide some fantastic views…



This poor guy has about had it!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

It’s Irrigation Day

When you live in the desert as we do irrigation day is an important day that comes around every 2 weeks.  We are fortunate to live on property that receives flood irrigation as it is much lower cost than using city water to irrigate and provides a much deeper watering.  The Phoenix valley has an extensive system of irrigation canals that bring water from the storage lakes in the mountains north of the valley.  Many of these canals follow the same routes originally chosen by the Hohokam Indians between the 7th and 14th centuries. 

Our irrigation water starts with snow melt captured by Roosevelt lake…


From there it follows a series of large canals such as this..


Finally it ends up in this smaller canal on the rear of our property…


The water then flows from the canal onto our property…


After about 30 minutes the property is covered with about 6”-8” of water..



Of course Buster keeps a watchful eye on the the whole process …


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back Home!

Made it back home from the Catalina’s safe and sound.  We have already reserved our spot for the next Catalina trip which will be from Dec. 28 to Jan. 3.  It was very overcast today so no good photos to share.  Therefore, decided to give a virtual tour our RV.  As mentioned before we have a 27’ Trailmanor trailer which we love.  For those who are not familiar with this brand they are a hard sided fold-down travel trailer.  On the road is a 20’ low profile trailer but once on site it opens to a full sized 27’ travel trailer.  It weighs in a little over 3000 lbs so can be easily towed with an F150 pickup.  We towed it for several years with Chev Blazer but that was very marginal and the F150 (V8) works much better.

This shows the Trailmanor ready for travel.  The top of the air conditioner is about 6’ high.


Once on site both ends lift up and side out to for the following.



This is a photo looking from the living area (at front) back toward the kitchen and bed.  The bathroom with shower is on the right immediately behind the kitchen sink.


This view is looking toward the living area.  The couch makes down into an extra bed if needed. 


We have had our Trailmanor for 8 years and it has worked very well for us.  Definitely not an RV for full timing but great for trips up to a few weeks long.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A little mountain biking

Today being another absolutely beautiful day and the last day here at Catalina State Park it was decided that a little mountain biking was in order.  The park has several nice trails but especially like the one that leaves from the equestrian center.  The trail goes for many miles but a good turn around point is at the park boundary about 2 mile from the trail head.  The trail is very steep all the way which makes for some slow going (and good exercise) but is sure fun coming back down hill.  Like most desert mountain bike trails it is fairly rigged and can be quite challenging to navigate around all the rocks.  It was especially bad right now as the recent rains have caused several washouts.  There is no room for error as the trail is lined with a lot of vegetation all of which has thorns!  On the down hill side you can easily reach speeds of 15+ mph so one wrong move can send you flying…

Here are a few photos along the trail.




Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A little more caching

It was an absolutely beautiful day with pleasant temperatures and a perfect blue sky.  A little more research turned up another cache about a mile up a small trail going out of the park.  The hike was great but the trail was obviously seldom used as it was a bit thin in places. 


The sky was so blue today


Got to watch out for these guys!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Little Geocaching

Today the weather cleared and the temps warmed up nicely so it was off for a little GeoCaching.  Over the years we have found most of the caches in the area but two new ones popped up on the radar.  One was on the Birding Trail and the other was about a half mile from the Nature Trail.  Being a Tuesday the trails were deserted so it was a very pleasant hike.


At the trail head



Never get tired of looking at these views


Monday, November 7, 2011

Catalina State Park

Today we are off on a solo trip to Catalina State Park for a relaxing week.  This park is great as it is close to home and not generally busy this time of the year.  The park is a popular snow bird destination so it gets very crowded later in the winter.  One nice thing is they have started taking reservations so for a $5 fee you can select your site up to a year in advance.  You can still pick a site without a reservation but beware that they are on a night by night basis so for long term visits reservations are best.  This park has some of the most awesome views and some really great hiking trails.  It is very convenient to town with a major shopping center right across from the entrance.  There is even an In-N-Out there so life is good!  It was a cold and rainy day but it was neat to see snow on the mountains.


The view from the campsite

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making plans

Discussed our travel plans for next summer.  During the month of May we will make a big swing through the Midwest.  Main objective is to spend a couple weeks doing genealogy research in Indiana, visiting our daughter in Michigan, and attending a Memorial Day celebration in central Kansas.  During the months of July and Aug  we are tentatively planning to drive to Alaska.  Depending on how things shake out between now and then the Alaska trip could be delayed for a year in which case an extended trip to Idaho and/or the Northwest is a possibility.  Good news is we discussed the possibly boarding Buster (our goat) with a local farmer and that is a go so one major problem solved.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Let the adventure begin!

Today was the last day of work and I'm now officially retired.  Hard to believe that 30 years ago a fresh green engineer from a very small town on the plains of Kansas loaded the car and headed west.  It has been an outstanding career and I've been able to see and experience more things then could have ever been imagined.  Knowing that every GPS spacecraft flying today has equipment that I designed is very satisfying.  Now it is time to move on to the next phase of life.