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!