Friday, April 30, 2010


WOW.  The Grand Opening of the Idaho Falls Harbor Freight is tomorrow.  We both could hardly believe our luck in showing up the day before.  Having a Harbor Freight here in Idaho Falls is HUGE in a HUGE degree.  When I walk through the Pearly Gates, I want Heaven to look EXACTLY like a Harbor Freight store.  No kidding, that's how much I love their stores.  They have over 300 of them Nationwide.  Before today, our closest store was in Pocatello.  It was a dowdy old store, way too funky.  In Arizona, our closest store is in the Phoenix metroplex.  We normally go to the one in Mesa nearest to Susun's relatives.  Get this, the new Harbor Freight store is within easy walking distance of our house!!!!  We could walk there in less than 15 minutes!!!
Heck, I bet I could bicycle there in maybe 6-7 minutes!!!  And, get this, the new store is the FINEST Harbor Freight I've ever seen.  It's HUGE and includes all their inventory on display.  No more guessing about what something looks like.  Man, we are both so jazzed about this.  Most of our LBR's have no idea how HUGE this is to us.  Trust us, it's HUGE!  YEEEE--HAAAA, Saddle 'em up, Bucky, we're going to Harbor Freight!

(Note added @ 7 am May 1: We had an overnight comment asking "what is this store all about?" It's about tools--every kind of tool you can imagine. I never met a tool I didn't like so that means I like everything inside Harbor Freight. OK, meanwhile, the store's prices are insanely low, typically far less than half of what competitors would charge for a comparable tool. Some critics say Harbor Freight tools "don't last." This is true. They don't. However, if you are going to use a specialty tool only once or twice as a homeowner, then they are awesome tools. They certainly wouldn't hold up for contractors and commercial users. Those users buy their tools elsewhere. However, for normal homeowners, Harbor Freight is Heaven Sent. It allows people like me to fix stuff without breaking the bank on tool costs. It allows me to undertake a special project without having to take out a loan to buy the tools. Even Susun loves Harbor Freight. In fact, she bought a $10 box yesterday to help organize her beads. She was ecstatic to find it so cheap. In a bead shop the danged box would probably have been $24.95. I spent $5 there yesterday, buying a valve to make a new Farrah bucket. The same valve at Home Depot is $10. Hey, those kind of savings add up real fast! It's exciting since it means there's practically nothing I can't tackle in terms of homeowner maintenance. That's pretty much what the store is all about. Thanks for asking for clarification. I forgot some readers wouldn't understand our excitement about this store.)

Idaho Falls Idaho Temple - LDS

We have a great new LBR--Kelli--and she posed a question recently about a story she heard one day at The 2nd Chance Ranch.  With all due respect, we thought this would be a good opportunity to retell the story for posterity.

OK, here is how the story goes. As some of you know, I was director of a volunteer program here in Eastern Idaho for 2.5 years. My Assistant Manager was Debby. Debby has a fabulous resume. She and her late husband managed a major West Bank motel for more than 10 years. This motel had major food service, too.

OK, so one day Debby receives this letter of complaint from an irate customer. Here is how the letter went: "We were seated at a window table in your restaurant along the Snake River. Our male food server came over and we asked him a question. We said, "What is that building on the other side of the river?" He calmly replied, "That is the World's Largest Bowling Trophy."

Well, as you can imagine, this caused quite a stir. Debby had to go confront the employee. It turns out the young man was an LDS Elder who had just returned from a two year mission. The young man's Dad was (at that time) the Bishop of his Ward.

No matter what the circumstances, the young man's reply deeply offended the couple who was dining in that riverfront restaurant.

Meanwhile, however, those of us who have heard this story now look upon the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple with an entirely new perspective.

With all due respect to the LDS Faith and this Temple, we include here two links to help you learn more about the icon.

Click here for the official LDS website about the Temple.

Click here for another description of the Temple.

You can also Google "Idaho Falls Temple" and get a boatload of stuff. Anyway, Thanks, Kelli, for posing the question. We're sorry if this blog post offends some of our LDS Blog readers. The point here is not to be offensive. We're merely repeating a story that happened. Make of it what you will and keep a good attitude.

Cheers, jp

(NOTE:  Susun and I toured the Snowflake, Arizona, Temple, and I personally toured the Rexburg Temple prior to their formal dedication.  We have the utmost respect for the LDS Temples and do not in any way intend this post to demean their importance.)

Home Sweet Home

We're very glad and happy to be home safe. Seems like every time we plan to go to or come from Arizona, the weather turns wild and wacky. We got a little of almost everything on this trip. We put up these three blog posts this morning so that they will be in the proper order. I will be adding more narrative to them later today. It's about 9 am here and time to go for a walk. Yes, our streak got broken on this trip! No way were we going to even think about walking anywhere Wednesday or Thursday! Oh, well, no streak is forever. We'll just start another one today and see how far it goes. More later. Thanks for the great comments and emails from our Dear Friends and LBR's!

OK--we're adding some more narrative now.  It was great to drive up to our little house on 12th Street.  Todd's Lawn Service had de-thatched and mowed the yard a couple of days before our arrival.  Thanks, Jeff, for turning us onto Todd!  The daffodils where out in full color.  The trees are just beginning to bud.  The lilacs haven't even thought about blooming yet.  Our neighborhood has a lot of tulips and various other spring flowers in full bloom.  It's great to enjoy this much green grass.  The temps were in the mid-40's yesterday and that's where they are again today.  It's feels great.  It got down into the 30's overnight.  No wind, thank goodness.

Happy Hour was a real celebration last night.  Everything went so smoothly in terms of getting the house up and running again.  There wasn't a single glitch or problem or anything.  It went like clockwork.  We haven't even thought about attempting to unpack the big truck yet.  It's mid-day Friday and it's still sitting there in the back yard like a pregnant elephant.  Neither of us has the energy to even think about it right now.  We did go for a nice walk on the Greenbelt this morning.  Susun took off to get her hair done and she's just now coming in.  I can't wait to see her now "do."  I just took her photo talking with Daughter Stasea--her's her new "do."  I've been doing some volunteer stuff today and met with Todd to get a plan for him to do yard and snow stuff.  He's cool.  We're real happy to be here.  Cheers!  jp

Some Road Trip notes

It was quite the road trip this time. WHEW! I am wiped out here on Friday morning. The cumulative affects of the trip hit home today. I will be writing a longer account of the road trip here later today.

OK, time to write about the trip.  We left the straw house unhitched so we could climb out of the valley OK.  The wind started picking up in Munds Park as we hitched up.  By Flagstaff, it was really howling.  Out north of town in the old beanfields, huge sheets of dust were whipping across the road.  When we topped the hill we looked out into the Little Colorado River valley and shuddered.  Giant dust clouds appeared everywhere.  Motorcyclists in the other lane were leaning 20-30 degrees into the wind to keep from being blown over.

We made a pit stop at Cameron and the truck door almost blew backwards when Susun opened it. Her prescription sunglasses were blown off her head and they took off across the parking lot. Luckily, she chased them down before they were broken. When she came out of the gas station, she couldn't close her door. I had to get out and close it and it was a struggle. Then I really had to fight to close my own door. I felt like I had just been sandblasted.

The wind was really buffeting our rig hard all the way to Page. Then it became a headwind as we turned west toward Kanab. It was all the truck could do to manage 50 mph into that headwind. Climbing the Kaibab Monocline, our speed dropped to 30 mph! We were so glad to get to Kanab and unhitch again.

We drove separate up through Long Valley and Panguitch. The Utah 20 hill was a piece of cake. We decided to rehitch in Beaver. Good thing. The dust clouds at the intersection of UT 20 and I-15 were amazing. It was quite windy in Beaver but the downtown area damped down the wind somewhat. I was wearing a lightweight short sleeve shirt and did not feel cold. I remember seeing a time & temperature sign that said 64 degrees. My, my, my, how quickly things changed.

Not far north of Beaver, we could both feel a noticeable chill in the truck cab. It started to rain and then the rainfall rate really increased. When the big trucks would pass, our windshield wipers couldn't clear the water. We often had zero visibility when the trucks passed. That's not good. As we approached Fillmore, we began to debate whether we should stop. As if by an omen, the rain instantly turned into snow right at the Fillmore offramp. I said, "To heck with this, we're outta here!" and dodged off the interstate.

It was snowing so heavily as we checked in we had to brush off the snow from our jackets before entering the room. The snowfall rate was easily 2 inches an hour.
We drove to the town's only grocery store and bought some finger food and found a cool pink snake for a buck and a quarter. The trucks were covered with snow again when we came out of the grocery. We almost spun out driving back to the motel.

We woke up to big gobs of snow on the vehicles. UGH! It took nearly an hour to clear them off. We could see that the snow didn't stick to Fillmore's streets so we thought we'd be OK heading north again. Also, I had a hunch that the worst of it was in the Fillmore-Cove Fort-Beaver hills. Turns out that was a correct hunch. As soon as we dropped off the Scipio hill, the snow was basically nothing. Soon the roads were dry and it was smooth sailing to Payson, South Gateway to the Belly of The Beast.

It was with a deep sense of fear and loathing that we again entered onto I-15 and headed north. I sent a two word text message to the Twitter account, "Cowboy up."
I felt like I was on a bronco that had just come out of the chute. Ahead loomed deep dark clouds and we knew we were driving into a lake affect snow storm.

Almost immediately north of Payson, the rain came and then turned off and on to snow practically all the way to Willard Bay--the North Gateway to the Belly of The Beast. At times, visibility dropped below a quarter mile. At times, sheets of rain, sleet and slushy snow obscured our vision. At times, the wipers couldn't clear the water fast enough. Of course, NO ONE slows down in Salt Lake City. Yesterday, I could barely glance into the rearview mirror--what I saw behind me scared the daylights out of me--a mass of congestion and speeding vehicles changing lanes like Shriner go-carts in a summer parade. I even got a tad dizzy and nauseous looking in the rear view mirror so I simply stopped looking and hoped for the best. Oddly, the insane drivers were rocketing around us so fast they left a nice gap in front of us. So, at least I felt comfortable with having enough space to stop if the need arose. It was almost 2 full hours to survive Salt Lake. Susun tells people it is four hours to drive that stretch. That's what it always feels like--four hours.

We were so relieved to get to Willard Bay. From there north, it's a piece of cake. The only other incident was just south of Pocatello when the wind blew over a stock trailer. Some old cowboy had two giant bulls in the old trailer. Somehow, the bulls survived and they were roaming the shoulder of the interstate. The cops hadn't got there yet and some other old cowboy was standing smack in the middle of the interstate trying to get traffic to slow down. It's a miracle all the speeding semis and speed-obsessed drivers didn't wind up in a mass pileup there. That ain't no bull.

It started spitting snow north of Pocatello but felt like nothing compared to what we had already survived. Consequently, the remainder of the drive home was downright relaxing.

Everything went like clockwork in terms of opening up the house and getting everything restarted. The city guy showed up within minutes and we had two walkie-talkies ready. He turned on the water while I stood in the basement to check for leaks. All A-OK. We bled the plumbing and filled the water heater, enjoyed hot showers and a great Happy Hour and dinner. Whew!

Last night I had a couple of nightmares about the sea of speeding vehicles in my rear view mirror. Gads, that was ugly! This morning I felt like the full toll of that trip. It's a good thing we won't be traveling that route again until November. It's going to take us that long to even think it might be a fun thing to do. Right now, we're just danged glad to be here at home safe and happy. Bone tired--but safe!

Cheers, jp

Road Trip Slideshow

Here are some photos from the road trip. I have some captions on them.  I will probably edit and add to those captions later today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time to go

It's 5:15 am as I begin to write this post. The moon will be full in about an hour and we'll be on the road in less than two hours. Time sometimes feels like a swift river to me. I've been on a bunch of swift rivers in various kayaks, canoes and rafts. Heck, I've swam (not on purpose) in some swift rivers, too. There's a peculiar feeling about being carried along by the current. Sometimes that's what time feels like--a river current. It's so powerful, so relentless. As a river marches toward the sea, the sea of time marches forward to the future.

Stasea sent this photo overnight of Susun and Grandson Van over in San Diego during her March trip. Thanks, Stasea.

Yea, I got my first Social Security check in the overnight electronic bank-to-bank mail! Happy Day.

Looks like we're driving into a storm yet again. Lake affect snow is expected in Salt Lake tomorrow and it's gonna be COLD! Gee, I can hardly wait to drive through SLC tomorrow. Oh, well, we have to expect weird weather when we are traveling.

Gotta git goin'. Coffee's almost done. A few more snippets before we pack up the laptop--then we're switching again to Twitter. I moved it back to the top, as you can see at left. No Tweets for 40 days and 40 nights.

Cheers, jp

(Added @ 6:30 am--gotta power this thing down now.  Keep an eye on the Twitter box at left.  Will send updates from time to time.  We're easily on track to pull outta here on time @ 7 am.  Whew, I could almost feel the moon going full a few minutes ago.  Probably my imagination.  Nice to know it's past now!  Happy Trails & Cheers!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Snake to the Snake

Well, we're heading back to Snake River Country tomorrow.  What could be more appropriate than having a Snake on our property?  We don't see snakes here.  We've NEVER seen a rattler.  Never! Our snake sightings are so few and far between you'd think we live on a different planet than Arizona.  Arizona is DEFINED by snakes.  We NEVER see snakes.  I think the last snake we saw was a California King Snake back in the mid-1990's.

So, when Susun came and tugged my sleeve and said, "There's a pink snake over there," I was really intrigued.  WOW, a Snake!  What a novel idea, especially since we are heading back to Snake Country.

I went over and, sure enough, there it was, a real snake, basking in its snake glory.  I told Susun within no more than 5 seconds of seeing the snake that it was a Red Racer and easily the largest Red Racer I'd ever seen in my life.  The snake had to be 4-5 feet long.  It was huge and FAT!

Well, by and by, I got some time to research this snake online tonight and, indeed, it's locally known as a Red Racer.  It's formal name is a "Coachwhip."  It's Latin Name is, well, fuggetaboutit.  (Click here for a snake link.)

I went out and talked to the snake.  I believe in talking to snakes.  I've done it quite often in my life, even talking to rattle snakes face to face.  Snakes really like bi-peds who talk to them.  Honest, they do.  Frankly, I think snakes are really cool.  I actually love snakes.  My first pet was a snake in Florida.  When it died, I insisted my parents allow me the decency of a proper burial for my snake.  We took it out on the causeway and buried it under a palm tree.  But I digress.

The photos of this snake are here.  How good does it get when you haven't seen a snake on the property in FIFTEEN freaking years and you see a snake the DAY BEFORE you are heading back to Snake Country?  Trust me, folks, that's an Omen of The First Order!

As you might expect, we worked our anatomy off today.  It's been a 14 hour work day (so far).  I am taking a break and indulging myself in the luxury of a blog post.  Such sweet fun!

OK, time to get back into "The MODE!"  (The Mode is: WORK-WORK-WORK!)

Speaking of Full Moon Crazy People

Well, as you know, a couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about the full moon and how Tuesday would be the day when the crazy people are on the road. Little did I know!

So, we're coming back from the Blue Grade on The Well Road--it's maybe a few minutes after 8 am. We know there's potential high speed Bubba Traffic so we follow the Forest Service Backroad Rule--"Drive at a speed where you can stop in half the distance you can see." This rule is especially important on blind curves. There are a lot of blind curves on The Well Road.

So, we're coming around one of the particularly troublesome curves and there is this HUGE cloud of dust in front of us. At first, I can't make anything out and then I see a car inside the cloud and it has just flown off the road into the south bar ditch. It's a small car and it's high centered on some really knarly rocks. We are the first on the scene and we are also very lucky the unguided missile didn't run smack into us!

So, I pull up and over and give the cell phone to Susun and say, "If I yell HELP, dial 911." So far, no one has stepped out of the vehicle. It's a late model Dodge Neon, one of those small things. I start to approach the car very cautiously. The driver's door opens and a 40-something Native American kind of unsteadiily gets out of the car. It was real easy to see he was impaired. I kept my distance.

I asked if everyone was OK. He said "yes" and talked about how the curve surprised him. "That curve came up out of nowhere," he said. Uh, huh. On that stretch of the northbound section of The Well Road, the curve is visible for a half mile. Coming southbound it's a blind curve but that's not the case going northbound. You can see that curve better than any other curve on the whole road.

I made a note of their license number and said they would need a tow truck and good luck. Meanwhile The Road Roach passed by and never even slowed down. Smart Man!
I backed gingerly away and got in the car and immediately started trying to call the Sheriff's Office. I gave Dispatch a full description.

This incident was a little too close for comfort. I looked at the tire tracks before the slide off. If we would have been slightly faster on our return from Blue Grade, I think there's a strong chance we would have been in a head on collision with a couple of Full Moon drunks. At the rate they were traveling and in their impaired mode, if they would have actually made that curve, then things would have got a lot worse. We just barely dodged another bullet on that one!

As I said in the previous Full Moon blog post W-H-E-W!

Cheers, jp

Streak turns 3 weeks old

Yesterday, our hiking streak reached 21 days--or three weeks. Today will be day 22. It's definitely alive and well. Switching from the Long Canyon Hill to the Blue Grade definitely helped keep the streak alive. Today will be our last day hike in Arizona--once again on the Blue Grade. Tomorrow we will take a short hike in Page. There's two possibilities. You can see them by clicking here. It's great to know we're off to a solid start on our streak. We plan to keep it alive in Idaho Falls along the Greenbelt.

So much to do today I almost shudder to think of the task list and workload. One thing's for certain--what doesn't get done today ain't gonna git dun. Nope, it falls off the list until fall.

Susun's pretty well packed but I haven't even started yet. Guess it will be one of typical "throw everything in a box" at the last minute things.

In spite of our best efforts and intentions, we haven't been able to see all of our friends. We're especially sad that we never got to connect with Jennifer, Tom, Bill, Jim, Bob and Kristen. You'd think almost two months would be a long time. It's not.

We've done a lot of really good things to our property here on this trip. The Big Deal is, of course, Winning The Weed Wars. Although we won't know how well the pre-emergent works until we return in November, we kicked Weed Anatomy this spring. The place looks really nice. There is no fire hazard and it truly looks like someone cares about the place. We can rest easy for the next few months knowing we gave it our best shot this spring.

Well, it's time once again to cowboy up and hit the ground running. One of our Dear Friends asked recently, "I wonder where you get all your energy?" We never quite thought of it that way. If there's stuff to do, you just giddy up and git goin'. Sittin' 'round ain't no option here at 2nd Chance Ranch. Ain't that right, buckaroos?

Have a great day and Cheers, jp

Monday, April 26, 2010

We lucked out

WOW, I can breathe a HUGE sigh of relief! Why?

Because of the full moon. Some of you know we loathe traveling in the days leading up to a full moon or (Heaven forbid!) on the actual DAY of the full moon. Frankly, I wanted to leave on the 29th because the full moon is April 28th this month. Also, frankly, I haven't been any too happy about traveling on the day of the full moon.

Well, we lucked out. We ain't gonna be traveling on a full moon day. But we are still leaving on the 28th. So, how the heck did that happen?

I got curious right now and decided to look up the actual precise time that the moon is actually, truly FULL. Well, get this, it's full at 6:18 AM Arizona Time and we leave at 7 am, 42 minutes later. (Click here to see a data table about it.)


That's huge for me and it really makes my day. That means Wednesday is gonna be a laid back, casual, nice ol' traveling day. It ain't gonna be no crazy day like it would have been on the actual day of the full moon. All the crazy people will be out and about Tuesday and Tuesday night--I'd sure hate to be on the highway when the bars close Tuesday night. Whoa!

Anyway, this piece of arcane trivia undoubtedly means nothing to most of my readers. However, it means everything to me. And, guess what--it's time for Happy Hour!! How good is that?

Cheers, jp

Moving Right Along on Monday

Gee, it's 4:30 pm and we haven't yet done a blog post today. We'll talk about yesterday later. Went to bed at 10:30 last night (a real rarity) and got up at 5:30 am. We drove off to the Blue Grade at 7 am so you can see this post's title is appropriate--moving right along on Monday. we went halfway up the hill and got back to the straw house at 8:05 am. Called Fire Dispatch and we were burning a few minutes later. We burned until we ran out of propane. (We're leaving all our propane tanks empty in our absence this time around.) Then we hustled to get ready to spray the pre-emergent chemical.

It takes about an hour to get everything set up to spray. We started spraying at 10 am and sprayed continuously until 2 pm. I'd guess I sprayed over 50 gallons and still didn't cover everything. At least I got the important areas. Frankly, I can't stand more than 4 hours of spraying. Two would be about right. Four is over the top. So, I quit spraying at 2 pm and then spent an hour cleaning up and putting stuff away.

I called the Fire Chief here and asked Chief Mike to come and look at our place. I bragged that we have "The Best Defensible Space in Rimrock!" He came right over and he was real pleased. We had a fine visit--he's a great guy in our opinion.
We volunteered in 2005 to help him build a website for the local fire dept. He needs help again and so we will pick up where we left off next November.

After Mike left, I hot-footed it to Camp Verde to return some narratives to Ken Reynolds at the Basha's grocery store. Bought some chicken to cook on the fire and washed the white truck--Snappy, as Susun calls her. Since I was wearing my swimming suit (nobody cares about fashion in Camp Verde), I jumped in the back of the truck camper and used the high pressure wand to give it a good tornado-like cleaning. It was filthy. I wound up soaking wet as you can imagine.

Then we hot-footed it back here to the straw house, arriving at 4:30 pm. And now we're writing this blog post. Yeah, you can see why the post is titled, "moving right along!"

Sunday was a real whirlwind from start to finish, too. We got off on a hike around our neighboring National Park property and returned in time to check in with Nancy at 10 am. We made a plan and took off for Flagstaff, arriving there around 11. We had a wonderful visit with Nancy. There was no way we were not going to see Nancy on this trip. We cut it pretty close, though. Nancy's doing great but really lamented the recent winter weather. We've heard from numerous people that it was really a hard winter, physically and psychologically. We looking forward to having Nancy bring her RV down to the straw house next fall and (hopefully) next winter, too. Nancy will be working on the Verde River guide that we are kinda, sorta, maybe progged to be doing then.

After we left Nancy's, we drove over to Maggie's place and checked out her amazing quilts. You wouldn't believe her quilts--amazing is a tame word for them. If you are accustomed to thinking a quilt looks like something your GrandMa made, then you would be pleasantly shocked to see Maggie's art quilts. WOW! I'd never been to Maggie's house either and that was a real nice treat to see. Husband Steve was off fishing Lake Powell. It was real nice to see Maggie two days in a row.

We sure hope we can spend more time with our friends during our 5-6 months here next winter. Our friends are GREAT and we miss them a lot.

After we left Maggie's place we headed over to Home Depot and (surprisingly) had an easy time getting out picnic table delivered and loaded. It fit perfectly in the small truck. Then we headed over to Target and bought a lamp that Susun's been looking for. (Thanks for the tip, Maggie.)

After that, we headed down Oak Creek Canyon and slogged through the Sunday tourist traffic. We went out in West Sedona to Bob's place and got 3 tents and two air mattresses out of storage in his garage. Bob was playing his drums when we arrived. He's got potential to be a pretty good drummer.

Then we headed over to Safeway, bought 13 ears of white corn and hot-footed it home, arriving right about 5 pm. Whew. The Winged Ruby was sitting out on the fence to greet us upon our return. We had a nice Happy Hour and campfire and Gary and Robin came to visit the fire and we ate roasted corn and stayed up late, finally calling it a night at 10:30 pm.

Been real high speed lately. And it looks like it's gonna continue for awhile, too. That's generally what happens in the days leading up to the full moon which will be on the day of our departure!

Cheers, jp

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Color

We just returned home from a great one day road trip to Flagstaff. Lots to tell but no time at present. When we arrived home, we noted one of the above Vermillion Flycatchers on the National Park fence. They are such beautiful birds and a true harbinger of spring. When the vermillion flycatchers arrive, it's a beautiful time of year. We'll be writing our typical long blog post tomorrow morning. In the meantime, we wanted to share this image of the bird. It's still sitting out there as I write this. The sun is making it look like a winged ruby on a fenceline. Cheers, jp


We had a long overdue reunion yesterday.  Maggie, Kelli and Steve came to visit for lunch.  It was wonderful to see them in person and get reacquainted after all the long years we've been on distant life paths.  Each of our Dear Friends looked positively radiant and happy.  We spent about 3 hours together, most of it sitting out on the ramada telling stories and sharing thoughts of old times and new.  Kelli drove all the way up from Phoenix to visit.  She remembered when we once had our double bed under the ramada.  (Awesome recollection, Kelli!) We wish her instant success in her desire to move to California's North Coast.  Maggie is as delightful as ever--full of smiles and sparkles and a tale or two.  Steve, of course, is a Master Storyteller of "All Things Fire."  We'd sure like to get him wired up for oral history.  Thanks for a great afternoon, Maggie, Kelli and Steve!

Earlier yesterday we hiked the Blue Grade yet again.  A pack of 5 hound dogs passed us twice.  Their owner was taking them for a six mile run while sitting behind the comfort of his steering wheel.  His 2 or 3 year old son peered quizzically from the passenger window.  The dogs were polite and barely even barked at us.

After our Friends drove off, we called into Fire Dispatch and they gave us the go ahead to burn until 5 pm--the end of the so-called "regulatory period."  We fired up the torch and blackened most of the remaining area on our property.  Whew, that was a piece of work!

Naturally, we also ignited another stack of aromatic juniper wood and watched the sun slowly dim The Rim.  For grins, we roasted six ears of California white corn.  This time of year corn is wildly expensive--we've seen it as high as $1.29 an ear and most stores are charging a "buckaneer."  Safeway has it three for a buck.  How can you go wrong at that price.  We didn't soak them or wrap them in foil--just plopped the naked ears down on the grate and listened to them sizzle.  They turned out really good and never even made it to the dinner table--We chomped down on them right beside the flickering fire.  Ah, roasting ears, one of the joys of summertime.

Looks like we have reached a good interim status quo for the art bench project.  We created a really cool "invitation only" blog to showcase the 20 artist applications.  Meanwhile, we've rearranged the public blog and it looks much better.  You can click here to see it.

There's a busy, busy day ahead today.  We won't go into the details now because too much of today's plans are still in the normal stage of flux and flex.

Meanwhile, I'd like to close this blog post with a comment about today's Sunday Dilbert shown below.  Dilbert ebbs and flows.  Sometimes it's an irrelevant piece of senseless babble.  Sometimes, one or two strips will really knock the ball out of the park.  Today's resonated with me because of my lack of acronyms and my attitude toward work in the months leading up to my recent retirement.  The vignette depicted below could have easily taken place sometime last fall or perhaps in January or February this year.  When Dilbert's "on," Dilbert ROX! (Dilbert, of course, is Copyright 2010. We believe the occasional use of the strip meets with the "fair use" standard of US Copyright laws.  Click here for the main Dilbert website.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Last Friday in Arizona

We're in our countdown mode again--we call it the glide path. We're taking off Wednesday morning so our remaining time is rapidly shrinking. As NASA would say, it's "T minus 96 hours and counting." Click here for an honest-to-gosh countdown clock that's wired to count down to 7 am next Wednesday.

After breakfast yesterday with Gary and Robin we enjoyed a leisurely Blue Grade stroll--no wind and we weren't walking for time. It was fun and relaxing.

We left a little before 1 pm to go to Bob's place in Sedona. He's done an amazing job in remodeling Betty's old house (built by Bob's Dad). Truly outstanding piece of work!

We did some shopping at two groceries in Sedona and enjoyed a light rain while coming back through the thick traffic.

I finally decided to get serious about grilling by doing up six pork chops on the Patio Caddie. Then we did an experiment with four bone-in chicken breasts and successfully cooked them on the open fire in a legless dutch over on a grate atop the campfire chimney. They turned out great.

Susun finally got her wish to sleep under the stars by setting up the hammock with a sleeping bag. She retreated into the house soon after the temps dropped below the bag's rating.

Today's going to be a nice big day. Maggie, Kelli and Steve are coming to visit at noon. We haven't seen them in forever and we're going to have a fine time together.

The jury's out on whether and when we might be able to burn and spray again. You look at that countdown clock and there's not a lot of wiggle room left in our tenure here.

I suppose you've noticed that Arizona's in the national spotlight. Since it's about politics, we're not going to discuss it on this blog. However, it's hard not to read about it and it's impossible to avoid the ramifications of it. Suffice to say that it's a sad day in Arizona history.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Casa Grande

Thanks, Maria Elena y Tim for a great evening and awesome dinner! We went last night to visit the new home of two Dear Friends who wound up being our neighbors. They recently have almost finished a new home on a nearby hillside with a commanding view of the Verde Valley. Tim began planning this superb green home 8.5 years ago. He spent 5 years in the research phase, 1.5 in the design phase and the past two years putting it all together. What a great piece of Life Work the couple produced. It's about as green as green can be with far too many features to mention. Naturally, it has twin solar systems, one for electricity and one for hot water. What a great job! Maria Elena put together a great South American feast. It was great to get reconnected with them and we look forward to many new adventures in the future.

Gary and Robin are coming for breakfast this morning. It's not quite 6:20 AM and we're already scrambling. Heavy, heavy frost last night--ice encrusted windshields, etc. I will be cooking bacon this morning on the campstove outdoors--BRRR, chilly duty ahead!

We'll be going over to Sedona this afternoon to visit with Bob and see his new addition to Betty's former home.

Susun had a grand day Thursday visiting with friends in the VIllage of Oak Creek. She even got to visit with two of her favorite girls, Haley and Lilly. She finally fessed up that she had played The Tooth Fairy to them years ago. The girls believed in the tooth fairy and Susun agreed to help the girls' Mom, Nicole. Susun came home and asked me to collaborate. We got an email address called "Arizona Tooth Fairy" and we named our Fairy Sophie. Sophie began communicating with the girls and it was a hoot. They fell for it hook line and sinker. Finally, the girls began asking far too technical questions and Susun had to bow out. We concocted a story that Sophie has been called out of state to train Tooth Fairies elsewhere. It worked. Anyway, the threesome laughed heartily yesterday when the truth (or is that tooth?) was told.

Well,gee, looks like I have to leave the warm, comfy confines of my keyboard and head out into the spring chill morning to fire up my Sinner Stove and rustle up some grub. Yeah, we'll take some pictures. Who else is crazy enough to be standing around in 20 degree weather cooking bacon on a Friday morning?
Note the heavy frost on the roof of the straw house. In the second photo, the dew point is such that the steam rising from the bacon makes an appetizing vista in the pre-sunrise aura of a Fine Friday morning!

Cheers, jp

Thursday, April 22, 2010

200th Post

Hey, light some candles or something.  Let's have a party.  This is the 200th blog post since January 1.  That's a LOAD!  At this rate I will probably go over 500 posts in a calendar year.  Depending on your point of view, that's either awesome or ridiculous.  Take your pick. 

Yesterday was another humdinger day. All sorts of strange stuff happened. Susun wonders how I will be able to write up Earth Day 2010. Where to start?

I received an email from Wayne. He forwarded an email from a woman I've known since high school--Meg L. We haven't seen or talked to each other for perhaps 20-23 years. She Googled me and up came a post from Wayne's blog that mentioned my name so she took a chance and emailed Wayne. Anyway, thanks to Wayne, Meg and I got back in contact with each other. We swapped some emails and then talked a long time on the phone. She's going to come to Idaho this summer sometime so the three of us can go on a camping adventure. Meg's an amazing person. Thanks, Meg, for your persistence in finding us. AWESOME!

Then I got a call from RJ who's someplace out in the Nevada deserts right now. He's the guy in who got the contract for the Sawtooth NVUM project. He finally decided he wants to hire us to do at least one interview. We're booked for May 16th at the Casino Creek Campground in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area downstream from Stanley on the Salmon River. We will have to meet RJ May 15 to get situated and then do the interview stuff Sunday. The $200 we will earn will get us up into Salmon Country early this year. What a hoot. Maybe it will lead to more work for RJ and maybe not. He has to like us and we have to like him.

Debby D. got her continuation grant turned in on time. Whew--that was cutting it real close. Sue K. emailed yesterday, too. We're trying to sign on as a volunteer with her in Michigan (along the shore of Lake Huron). It would be a Virtual Volunteer gig. Jeff C. emailed and is getting somewhat more interested in having us volunteer to do the Salmon River Guide. Carrie finally made it home from the wilds of Montana. Marti is trying to learn how to blog and we've been swapping the usual array of hilarious emails. Betty and Bob came for lunch and stayed almost two hours. It sure was fun having them here. Tim L. stopped by and we're booked for dinner at his new home nearby.

I went into Camp Verde for some stuff for dinner. The wind laid down and we got lucky--we were able to do a great campfire and the light on the Mogollon Rim was spectacular. All those storm clouds really did strange things to the evening sunlight.

This morning I woke up totally convinced that it was April 23. Why is that meaningful? Well, I realized that the Clayton Idaho website domain name had expired on April 22. I went into a dither, hyperventilating and so forth. I got the domain renewed and only then realized it was April 22 and the domain wouldn't have expired until midnight. That's still a little too close for comfort.

This morning, we drove away from the house at 7:30 am sharp. Gary and his dog were in the back of the truck. Susun dropped us off up near the Beaver Creek Ranger Station. We hiked over 5 miles back downstream in 2.5 hours. Luckily, Gary wasn't interested in hiking at his top pace and neither was I. We were both satisfied with a 2 mph pace. He learned a new way to "connect the dots" as he calls it. I really enjoyed the hike.

Well, okie dokie, now how's that for a 200th post? Lots of groovy stuff!

Have a great day and Cheers! jp

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blown away

Man, the wind is howlin' a whole lot higher than even the NWS people said it would.  WOW, what a blow!
We went up to the Blue Grade and the wind must have had an affect on us.  Susun finished the uphill climb in 29:30 and I was an even 30 minutes, our best times ever.  Coming back down it was the stiffest wind we've ever hiked in.  The road grit was hitting our faces like a sandblaster and, at time, it was impossible to see because of the grits and the wind-spawned watery eyes.  We both had to lean hard into the wind to make any forward progress.  We both put the rush on to get back to the car and finished the round trip in new record time as well--55 minutes!  Right now it's blowing big sheets of dust everywhere.  The low pressure that's coming in must be REALLY low to create these kind of winds.  I'll betcha semi-trailers are blowing over on I-40!  They weren't kidding--this is a BIG storm.  Cheers, jp

Interesting day yesterday

Tuesday turned out rather interesting. I finished up the slideshow of the art bench finalists. That took a couple of hours. Then, we delayed our morning hike until after 8 am.  We wanted to wait to see if we could burn.  You can't burn before 8 am here.  If you do, you get a ticket.  Yep, it's true.

We called right at 8 and learned it was a no burn day. Shuckie darn! Then I had a great conversation with Carrie about the slideshow. She was calling from a Super 8 motel in the middle of nowhere Montana. It was fun to think I was sitting on a tailgate of a Nissan in rural Arizona while she was up in Montana and we we were both working on a project for Idaho Falls. Ah, modern technology.

We went back to the Blue Grade. It's so beautiful there right now. My legs protested mightily at the 500+ elevation gain but I made it in 35 minutes on the uphill and 1:05 for the 3+ mile round truip. I'd give yesterday's effort a B-. Susun, however, actually gets an A-. She was farther ahead of me on an uphill than ever before in the past 9 years! WOW--three minutes ahead!

After we returned home, we both expected the day to be a lazy slacker sort of day. Susun was writing notes and I decided my only productivity would be to hang out on hold while waiting for Cable One Customer Service to help me unravel the mysteries of reconnecting internet in Idaho Falls.

Something happen about 1:30 pm. Somehow, we both became totally motivated and engaged in a whirlwind of activity that didn't stop until 6 pm. Here's everything we accomplished: 1) Recoated watershed roof with tar, 2) Repaired 3 shingles on Straw House roof, 3) Checked and spot cleaned the gutters, 4) Sanded all the window sills, 5) Oiled and stained all the window sills, 6) vacuumed and mopped the inside brick floor, 7) repaired the loose door on the old generator shed (it now houses flammable materials), 8) sanded and prepped both front gate posts, 9) Painted both front gate posts, 10) Sized and cut 2 x 10 lumber to make ramps to change oil, 11)dug out about 100 weeds that sprouted since we sprayed, 12) changed oil and filter in the big trtuck and 13) changed oil and filter in the Nissan.

I list changing oil as two tasks because the Nissan was a bear. The morons who did it last at Commercial Tire in Idaho Falls used the wrong filter. Idiots! I really don't know how I was able to get this oversized filter off the engine block. It took almost three times more than normal time to change the oil on the Nissan.

We both showered up and enjoyed a nice campfire until well after dark.

This morning I sure feel the affects of all that work yesterday. It's going to be a tough hike up Blue Grade again today.

There won't be a campfire tonight. The winds will be howling higher than our old roof tin wind screen can handle. Winds could be gusting up over 50 mph by tonight. Nah, we don't do campfires in those kind of winds. We'll stay inside and listen to Lawrence Welk. (HA!)

Betty and Bob are coming to lunch today. It will be Betty's first trip to the Straw House since the 1990's. Betty is 87 now. She's great! Bob will be bringing her from the facility where she lives in Sedona.

Today's Big Blow is bringing back some reminders of winter. The high country is progged to get as much as 8 inches of snow! We will be getting maybe as much as a half inch of rain down here. That's one reason we decided to hustle yesterday--it was the last chance on this trip to do all that stuff. Next Monday will be our last day to spray again--and hopefully do the final burn. We pack up Tuesday and leave Wednesday morning, hopefully no later than 7 am.

We have all sorts of little nit picky stuff we can do on the telephone--like sit on hold waiting for Cable One Customer Service. I sometimes wonder if Saint Peter keeps a log book on how long everyone has been on hold in their lifetime. Such an arcane statistic could serve as a great barometer of one's patience. You'd get to the Pearly Gates and Saint Peter's check-in assistants would yell out, "Hey Pete, check out this Dude--he spent 15 years on hold with Cable One alone!" Wow, you'd get the real red carpet treatment after everyone learned that factiod!

Have a great day and Cheers! jp

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Art Bench Finalists

Here is a slideshow of the 20 art bench finalists plus 3 alternate designs.  I'm putting it here on my personal blog so that Carrie can take a look at it and make sure it's OK to place on the Greenbelt Art Benches blog.  We haven't done an exact count but it looks like about half of our personal picks made the final cut. 

Coffee @ 5

Got up at 4:30 this morning so the coffee was done at 5 am sharp! Our newspaper delivery person is really good--the news was lying in front of the house at 4:30, too. Mostly, the Arizona Republic isn't much worth reading. Too many depressing stories about local politics and so forth. But it's something to stare at while waiting for the caffeine to kick in.

Dear Friend & LBR Gary W. sent along a link with some great photos of the Iceland volcano. Click here to see about 30 great pictures. As some of you know, I have a certain fondness for volcanoes. We've spent hours talking about them on our weather blogs. Oddly, I haven't even written a single post on this particular volcano. This lack of verbiage has even me perplexed. Normally, I'd be chattering like a crazed squirrel about this volcano. I wonder why this one does nothing to get me amped up? Actually, I think I know. Even though the volcano has been wrecking havoc with the airlines, I honestly don't think it's ash plume has gone high enough into the atmosphere to affect weather.
That's really all I care about as far as volcanoes are concerned. Are they going to affect the weather? With this one, I doubt it. Therefore, I haven't written anything about it, until now anyway. The photos are excellent and I am sure you will enjoy looking at them. Thanks, Gary!

We enjoyed a nice hike up Blue Grade yesterday morning. We were 4-5 minutes slower on the uphill portion than the previous day but still finished the 3+ mile round trip in 1:04. A 3 mph pace for people our age rates at least a B+.

We had a nice talk with Debby up in Idaho Falls. We will be helping her today as a an important deadline looms tomorrow. We put in a couple of hours on Carrie's Art Bench project, too. (She and her husband are currently marooned in COlumbus, Montana. Long story.) We sent off a long note to Mike about the Chile Cookoff in July. We met with Rex from the NPS and said we will volunteer for them on our next trip down. Not enough time left this trip.

Meanwhile, we prepared to burn yesterday but Fire Dispatch said we couldn't do so.
We went to Cottonwood instead. Cottonwood did its usual hypnosis number on both of us and we fell into a deep slumber upon our return. Poof, the day was pretty much gone. Upon awakening, it was already campfire time again.

Last night we finally got around to doing some limited cooking atop the chimney-style fire shield. The skillet held two pork chops that were mostly frozen when they entered the cast iron and came out mostly cooked. The big pot held six frozen sausages that were perfectly thawed after their prolonged exposure. On our next trip down here, I really want to get feng shui with cooking on our evening fire. Might as well be doing something productive.

This morning my top priority is to get my portion of Carrie's project up and running. I need to get the slideshow done of the finalist designs. I also need to build a secure site to house their resumes and applications. There's so much personal information on those documents, we simply can't allow them to be accessible to the general public. I am learning how to use one of Google's little known blog features wherein you can build a "by invitation only" blog. So far, it seems to be working quite well--much better than I ever expected.

This blogging platform is so awesome. Even though I know a LOT about the various "tips & tricks" of Google's blogger platform, I sometimes feel like I am only touching the tip of the iceberg with this thing. There is such incredible functionality in it. Getting involved in the "invitation only" thing has really helped open my eyes to a whole new aspect of blogger.

Gee, it's danged near 5:30 now. Funny how that happens. Have a great day & Cheers, jp

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Our Arizona Universe

View Our Arizona World in a larger map
Here's a Google Map of the heart of our Arizona World. Due to map scaling issues, we can't show Flagstaff and Mesa, Arizona, on this map. That would be way too out of control. This map pretty much depicts the Verde Valley. We live kind of on the east side of it. We have to go to the west side a lot to shop and sometimes down to the south end of it. Sedona's more or less on the north side of the valley, at least the way this map shows it. Everything is real spread out. We have to drive almost a 60 miles round trip to shop in Cottonwood and nearly a 40 mile round trip. to get our mail! Over here on our side of the valley, we are minutes from what most people would call "the back country." We like that aspect of this location a lot. Our home is located at the tent symbol down below the red triangle with the exclamation point in it.


OK, Class, it's time for Sunday School.  Today, we're going to talk Potassium.  It's one of the primary electrolyte minerals that keeps us humans from getting dehydrated.  Sodium is, too, of course, but potassium is harder to find than sodium.  Sodium is in everything--it's everywhere.  Potassium? Not so much.

OK, now I know you have all heard how Gatorade and the whole genre of so-called "sports drinks" are supposed to provide you with the potassium you need to keep from getting dehydrated.  That's bunko, bucko! The good Ol' USDA says you are supposed to have a whopping 4.7 grams of potassium every day!  That's 4700 milligrams. An 8 ounce bottle of Gatorade has less than 100 milligrams of potassium--barely two percent of your recommended daily intake.

I've personally found I am susceptible to a potassium deficit in hot weather. In other words, if I don't watch my potassium intake, I get dehydrated. That means I get a whopping headache or feel real tired or even nauseous. I hate being dehydrated! It's been getting hot here in Arizona--upper 80's. I've been sweating a lot and, therefore, I've become very worried about getting dehydrated. So, that's why I am focused on potassium right now. It's the silver bullet--at least for me. Get plenty of potassium and stay hydrated. Simple.

Well, maybe NOT so simple. Just where the heck does one find potassium? It's not exactly lying around on the street corners. Here's a tip for ya'll--if you need potassium, drink tomato juice or eat canned tomatoes. POOF--you got potassium--in SPADES! Get this, a single can of stewed tomatoes has 1150 milligrams of potassium, more than 11 times the amount that's in a single Gatorade! Chow down on some canned tomatoes or slurp some tomato juice and you're good to go.

According to the USDA, tomatoes rank #1 of all foods for potassium content. Click here for a 26-page ranking of the potassium content of all foods.

It's pretty annoying when we hear people talking about how you need to intake some sports drinks to get your potassium. All you are getting is a huge dose of high fructose corn syrup and some piddling, token potassium. Those drinks are worthless in my opinion. Stick with good ol' primal tomatoes and you're going to be way ahead of the curve.

As our annual warm/hot season approaches, you can bet tomatoes are going to always be close at hand. Today, we were in the hot sun for a couple of hours up at that V Bar V Heritage Days thing. I could feel myself getting on the verge of being dehydrated--so I wolfed down a whole can of Stewed tomatoes when we got home and I feel much better now. Three cheers for potassium!

And three cheers for you, Loyal Blog Readers! jp

Blue Grade

I did a screen shot from a Google Map to show were we are hiking these days.  We park in that little drainage near the lower "X" and then hike up to Blue Grade Tank at the upper "X".  It's somewhat over a 500 foot elevation gain.  We're not sure about the distance--probably a mile and a half or less.  Our time two days ago was 32 minutes up and today it was 31 minutes.  We're trying to break 30 minutes.  Round trip hike time is 1:04 to 1:02. Round trip Door-to-door total time is about 90 minutes, maybe a little more.  Here's a Google map of the Blue Grade hike in proximity to our home.  No one we know calls it "Beaver Creek Road."  How it got its name of Blue Grade is a story lost in the dustbin of history.  Susun's Grand Pa actually worked on this road back in the 1950's.  Prior to the construction of I-17 in the 1960's, it was one of the few ways to get out of the Verde Valley heading north onto the Coconino Plateau and Flagstaff.  The other route was Highway 89 up through Oak Creek Canyon.  Back in those days, Highway 260 didn't exist and you had to take the Fossil Creek Road to get to Strawberry and Payson.  So, the Blue Grade was one of the major routes.  Today, it's very lightly traveled.  If you see two vehicles, that's crowded.
View Blue Grade in a larger map

Wither the weather?

Happy Sunday!  Today is my late Father's birthday.  He would have been 88.  He passed on in 1998.  Happy Birthday, Dad!

Susun had quite the busy day yesterday--she actually LEFT the straw house at 5:30 AM! You read that right. She showed up at the Cottonwood City Park at 6:05 am to help her friend Lin Mickelsen stage the 2nd annual memorial run for the late Brian Mickelsen. About 250 runners and walkers participated. Susun really enjoyed herself and somehow managed to squeeze in time to visit a few thrift stores, too.

Meanwhile, I worked on our budding Salmon River Guide Project. Right now that involves doing a blog. Hopefully, we will sign on as BLM/USFS volunteers this summer to produce a paddlers' guide from Stanley to Corn Creek.

I left at 10:15 am with the idea of finding a route across the National Monument to the nearby mesa. One thing led to another and I then decided to see how to get around the Soda Spring Ranch road closures. The excursion turned into a 2.5 hour jaunt.

In the afternoon, we tackled a rock rip rap project and made the place look a lot better. We also rebuilt the campfire ring and it looks real professional now. Naturally, we had to test it out with a fire and it was another fine evening here at 2nd Chance Ranch.

Today, it's 7 am and we're hoping to get out the door no later than 7:30 am and hike while it's still cool. it was in the upper 80's here yesterday and felt HOT.
We want to get up to the V BAR V petroglyph site by 9:30. They are having their annual hoop-dee-doo today and we hear it's real crowded. If we get there early enough, we might not have to stand in line.

Then? Hum...who knows? Maybe a road trip someplace. Neither of us want to do any work around here today. It's Sunday and isn't Sunday supposed to be a day of Rest? Who said that?

OK, the blog post today is "Wither the weather." It's time once again to begin to look into the crystal ball and try to determine our travel weather and our Eastern Idaho weather patterns. The two graphics are from today's Climate Prediction Center forecasts. One shows clearly that the midweek storm is going to be a humdinger for areas to our north. The other shows that the 8-14 temperature forecast calls for COLD weather upon our return to Tater Nation. Much below normal temps for Eastern Idaho this time of year translates into 30-40 degrees during the daytime and freezing at night. After getting acclimated to the desert and 80+ degree days, that's going to be a real culture shock for us. Hopefully, we will not be driving through an intense spring storm system when we head north.

Have a great day and Cheers! jp

Friday, April 16, 2010


We're both zombied out this morning.  We spent the afternoon burning.  We put in a real full 8 hour day.  We're paying the price for it this morning.  Moving low and slow.  Somehow we keep thinking we are younger than are real age.  Why is that?  We always get a hint of our real age the morning after a high speed work day. 

We do have a real nice fire break on our vulnerable east side.  In fact, it truly is The Best Defensible Space we've EVER had since we've owned this property dating back into the mid-1980's.  Hopefully, we will take a panorama photo later to show the fruits of our labor.

We planned to burn more this morning but we're running on empty right now.  Hiking a steep hill seems like a lot more fun than doing more burning.  Maybe a hike will help restore some of our energy. 

Penny, Sue and Tim are coming for lunch today.  It's going to be great to visit with them.  They all have quite the story as a family--that's for sure.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Weed Wars update

We spent 4 hours today doing The Spray Thing.  It took the better part of an hour to get set up and probably more than 30 minutes to de-rig and clear everything.  I guess I was spraying about 2 hours, plus or minus.

Susun fixed a real nice lunch and now it's time to get back in action once again.  This afternoon we're going to do more burning of all the dead weeds that were killed during the first spray thing March 24.  After we finish this afternoon, we should have the best defensible space possible around this house.  There's nothing better than black!  Black don't burn!

We will do at least two more sprays before we leave.  There's a wicked plant we call a "tomato plant" that is covered with stickers.  We despise the thing.  Well, it's germinating right now and I think it's kind of falling between the cracks of our spray schedule.  It looks like we will have to spray just for that particular plant.  Then we will do a final spray of the pre-emergent.  That's the one we are really pinning our hopes on.  We hope that it works well enough to kill the weed seeds and prevent their sprouting when the summer monsoon rains arrive.  If the pre-emergent does it's job then we should be able to show up here next November or December and not stare a huge amount of weed work in the face.  That's the goal--a weed free arrival next fall.  It's Weed Wars, there's no doubt about it.

About the photos:  We thought we'd photo document our setup for Year 2010.  It will be interesting to look back on it in the future and see if and how it might have changed.  The top row is the chemical and spray set up.  The bottom two photos show our PPE--Personal Protective Equipment.  We used the camp stove to heat water to dissolve the AMS (ammonium sulfate) so we could make a big jug of it.  The role of AMS is to help neutralize the hard water here.  The Induce is a non-ionic surfactant.  We're using glyphosate and 2-4-D.  The big jugs are in real concentrated form (41% for the glyphostate and 48 % for the 2-4-D!)

We really got our mixing gig wired up this time around--it was a lot more efficient and safer, too.  You can see all the stuff we wear in the bottom photos.  The Tyvek suit is hanging on the post in the background.  We use the neoprene gloves when we are spraying and the vinyl gloves at all other times.  This time we got our handwash setup much better and we were able to take a break about 45 minutes into the spraying to drink some water.  That helped a LOT.  It's a hassle.  It's expensive.  It's a lot of work.  But it's WAAAAY easier than weed eating!

Brief update

Let's see, I think Tuesday morning was the last blog post.  The past couple of days are pretty blurry.  After getting our art bench picks turned in at the last minute, we hiked the Bell Rock Courthouse loop.  Logged 1:50 as were lollygagging.  After climbing the Long Canyon Hill four days in a row, Bell Rock felt like a health spa.

Spent some time burning a fire break in the afternoon.  Dear Friend Marsha came to visit about 4 and stayed until about 7.  Had a nice campfire and mini-Mex dinner outside by the fire.  Thanks, Marsha, for all your great ideas and positive energy!

Yesterday we decided to walk up the Blue Grade--it's a nice gentle hill that's actually a road.  Susun's GrandPa actually worked on the road way back when.  We love the Blue Grade because you don't have to look where you are putting your feet.  You can enjoy the view and walk safely side-by-side.  We've decided to swap the Blue Grade for the Long Canyon Hill--we've had enough of that one--the downhill on Long Canyon will eventually make one of us fall and hurt ourselves--it's not a matter of "if," just when.  Blue Grade won't hurt us so we're going to do our hillclimbs there.

Susun had a "Girls' Lunch" yesterday so I skee-daddled out of Dodge about noon and returned about 4 pm.  Spent the time over in Cottonwood shopping.  Also had to go to Camp Verde to pick up more herbicides.  Dale left them at Kevin's barn once again.  It's an odd way to do business but  it works for me.

Much to our surprise, the National Park was running water in their new ditch last night.  It was a real hoot and we celebrated with a Giant White Man Fire.  Gary & Robin came over to join the festivities and a good time was had by all.  It was so fun toi see that water flying by along our south fenceline.  Only the Good Ol' NPS could possibly run water than fast through an irrigation ditch.  Gary and I speculated it would probably downcut the ditch a few inches in one single night--it was moving that fast.  Hilarious but a great sight to see.

UP at 5 am this morning and feeling like I am already running late.  Don't you hate that feeling?  It's only 7 am but the morning already feels like it's half over.  Dang.  Looks like today's going to be a spray day.  I'm having trouble getting psyched for putting on all the protective stuff and gearing up to spray.  I sure like to enjoy the rewards of spraying but I sure don't like having to actually DO the spraying.  Oh, sure beats carrying a heavy weed eater all day.

We have officially lined up our first "for sure" volunteer assignment in Idaho Falls.  We will be grinding, scraping and painting a ugly railing that overlooks The Falls of Idaho Falls.  The Parks Director gave the "go" to the idea yesterday and they are lining up tools and paint for me.  I told him I would tackle it in the first week of May and be done by Memorial Day.  I can hardly wait to get started on it.

Perhaps half of our bench choices made the final cut.  I will be producing a show of the finalists here in the next few days.

Well, guess I better get cracking on the spray stuff.  Ugh.  Cheers!  jp

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Art Bench Picks

We finally got our bench picks done in the nick of time.  Took almost 3 hours. WHEW!  Click here for a direct link to the photos.

Does one week make a streak?

Yesterday we completed our first seven consecutive days of day hiking.  The first week of a streak is always the toughest.  Since it's not really an official streak yet, it would be easy to be a slacker and say, "Ah, hey, I don't feel like hiking today."  You know how that goes.  Actually, neither of us feels a week makes a streak.  It takes at least two weeks to jump start a streak.  Once you get past the 14 day mark, you can almost figure you have a new habit formed.

We've been real busy each of the past few days--too busy for my liking.  Aren't we supposed to be retired?  That's why we've hiked the Long Canyon Hill five out of the last 7 days.  It's one heck of a workout and it's a short turnaround from door-to-door here at the straw house.  We can almost leave home, do the hike and return within 90 minutes.  We are figuring 2 hours by the time you get your hiking clothes on, load up the packs, sticks, water and a snack.  However, that's 60-90 minutes LESS than the equivalent time it takes to go hike the Bell Rock-Courthouse Loop.

The Long Canyon Hill is a classic "workout trail."  We both slacked off on the pace a few days ago but I remained under 30 minutes while Susun's time grew to 34 minutes.  The last couple of days, I have tried to break 25 minutes only to fall short at 26 minutes each time.  Hopefully, I will crack the 25 mark soon.  I don't anticipate getting much under 25.  Maybe next winter.  Forget about getting under 20.  Not in this lifetime!

Actually, if I can stay solidly under 30 on that hill, I will be a Happy Hiker.  Neighbor Gary says the hill is 700 vertical feet.  We think it's more like 500.  It would be nice to know the real number.  It's rootin', tootin' rough and tough hill, that's for sure.  The trail tread is all SOB rubble.  (SOB="Same Old Basalt").  Some switchbacks on that hill seem steeper than the classic "angle of repose."  Some portions of the trail tread have these little basalt spheres that are like ball bearings.  It's slicker than snot on those sections.  You can fall in a heartbeat.  Susun has already fallen once and I've come close quite a few times.  Thank gawd for hiking sticks with shock absorbers!

Actually, the downhill hike is harder than the uphill hike.  It's not as strenuous, by any means, but it is a lot more hazardous.  This is a good thing.  Hiking "reps" on the Long Canyon Hill will definitely get us in better shape a lot faster than any other trail we know.  That said, it's time to take a break.  Today we're going back to the BRCT over in Sedona.  Hiking a leisurely few miles will be a hoot compared to working out on the LCT.  Last time we did the BRCT, we both came in under 90 minutes.   This time, we're going to hope to stay under 2 hours.  I might even bring the little backpack stove and cook a hot brunch out by Alien Rock.
It's a blustery cool/cold day today.

Well, I'm procrastinating.  I'm actually supposed to be making art bench selections right now.  Guess I better shift gears and go do my duty.  Anyway, we're happy to have logged seven consecutive hiking days and hope we can keep this streak alive and well as long as possible.  It will be interesting to see how it gets perpetuated when we are traveling north at the end of the month.  Cheers!  jp

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wayne Ranney & The Verde Formation

Dear Friend & LBR Wayne Ranney was the Main Attraction at Montezuma Castle National Monument this morning.  We had to really hustle to get there for his presentation.  Even with our hustle, we were still late, arriving well into his fascinating lecture.  Anyway, those of you who know Wayne know he has really perfected his story telling skills, as well as his ability to "play the crowd."  Obviously, as you can tell from the photos, it was the proverbial packed house and Wayne was at his best.  We've put up this slide show because we noticed how adept Wayne was at using his hands during his performance.  We have to say, Wayne, yer hands ROCK!

Anyway, Wayne "wowed" the audience.  It was an awesome sight to see. This year will be the 30th anniversary of meeting Wayne at 711 North San Francisco Street in Flagstaff.  We've followed Wayne's career from the "git go" and it was awesome to see him in his finest form.  He and his Wonderful Wife, Helen, are quite the Duo together.  We are very proud of them and so happy to have had to opportunity to see them together at this event.
Click here to read a local newspaper article about Wayne's thoughts on the Verde Formation.
Wayne's blog is what we call a Public Blog--everyone and anyone is welcome to take a look.
Click here to go to Wayne's blog.

The Three Wheelers have 12 kids.

Our Dear Friends Kate, Brad and Josh have quite the little agricultural operation in a small, rural quasi village in the Verde Valley.  Sometimes they call it El Rancho Chivitos (Goat Ranch).  Brad started getting into chickens when Joshua was a mere 4 years old.  Josh had an egg route by the time he was six.  Josh started in 4-H as soon as he was age-eligible.  Since his very early youth, he's shown the chicken and then sheep.  He's quite the accomplished showman.

About four years ago, Brad decided to get into goats.  Since then, Brad, Kate and Josh have become honest-to-gosh goat experts.  Brad could (and should) write a book on goats.  I keep urging him to do so.  Meanwhile, Joshua is adding to his 4-H awards by showing goats.  I think he told us he has about 14 trophies now.  It's really amazing to watch him at the Verde Valley Fair.  He sure knows how to show off a goat or a chicken. 

Well, The Three Wheelers decided to get a buck.  You may have read the story Josh wrote that we printed here a few days ago.  Meanwhile, four of their does became pregnant.  And wouldn't you know it, all four decided to kid within a two day period.  We went over yesterday to see the first four kids delivered Saturday.  Brad and Kate expected four more from the two remaining pregnant does--twins are normal from this breed of goat.  About a half hour after we left, the next goat delivered triplets!  Then we received an email from Brad this morning.  The last goat had FIVE kids!  This means The Three Wheelers DOUBLED the size of their goat herd in TWO DAYS!  They now have 24 goats.  Early Saturday they had only 12 goats.  Brad wrote quite a nice story about the arrival of the five goats.  It wouldn't be appropriate to print it here in the blog but if you want to read it, email me and I will forward it along for you.

Congratulations to The Three Wheelers--you are awesome and we offer you our heartfelt Cheers and wish you Many, many more Mighty Cheers!  Carry on!  J&S

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cost of camping

Sunday greetings!  One of Sunday's greatest highlights is the Sunday paper.  It's always huge and filled with cool stuff.  Today, for example, I found a coupon for 2 for 1 admission to Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory.  The coupon is good until the end of the year.  I will alert everyone I know who gets the paper to save the coupon.

After reading our local Arizona Sunday paper, I often turn to online Sunday editions, too. It extends my newspaper reading fun. My first choice is The Salt Lake Tribune. They always have neat stuff in that newspaper. Today was no exception. They have this cool article on family camping. It's a typical "feel good" Happy Days article. They are talking about all the cool stuff a family needs to be competent campers these days. Finally, I get to the end of the article and see the price tag for all this cool stuff. My jaw drops. WOW--the Cost of Camping has leaped into the stratosphere! Check it out:

Springbar Traveler 5 » $569.95
Springbar Tent Doormat » $15
Springbar Oversize Covered Foam Pad » $59.95
Cook Partner 6-Burner Propane Stove » $474.99
Cook Partner 6-Burner Propane Stand » $99
Cook Partner Heavy Duty Griddle 16"x26" » $94.99
Yeti Tundra 105 quart Cooler » $399.95
Rolla Roaster » $14.95
Clear View 20lb Propane Fuel Tank » $127.99
Black Diamond Apollo Lantern » $49.95
Eton Emergency Crank Radio FR300 » $32.99
Camp Chef Fire Ring Portable Campfire » $84.95
Alps Dining Table-XL » $99.95
Alps Titan Cot-Lg » $99.99
Alps Lake Side Chair » $49.99
Reliance 7gallon Aqua-Lux H2O container » $23.95
Kelty Soft Top Table-Sm » $24.95
Kelty Mistral 200 » $69.95
GSI Pioneer Camp Set » $99.95
Century Matchless Double Lantern » $39.99

A four hundred dollar cooler? A nearly $500 camp stove? A six hundred dollar tent?
WHOA! Wot hoppened to the cost of camping? Maybe there should be a news article--beware of camping scams! Those camping store sales people must be licking their chops when a Utah family walks through the door, a wad of $2600 in hand.

Click here for the full article.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm a sinner

Yeah, I admit it. I'm a sinner. I love bacon. Yessiree! Sign me up! We don't eat bacon that often cuz we know it's "bad for us." But, once in awhile, I just HAVE to have some bacon. There's nothing else on God's Planet to compare to bacon. As far as we're concerned, it's the best part of the Noble Pig.

We actually do have rules about the cooking of bacon. It MUST be done outside. It can't be cooked inside. There's too much grease splatter and the bacon smell lingers forever inside the house. Nope, it's gotta be cooked outside. Second, it has to be served with eggs, preferably really GOOD eggs like Gary & Robin's fresh eggs. That's really all there is to it. Set up the camp stove and have at it.

The smell of bacon in the morning is genuine aroma therapy. When someone else is cooking it and I am not, it drives me nuts. There's some olfactory thing about bacon that triggers primal urges. Maybe it goes back to our caveman days not all that long ago, say the 1980's. Who knows?

Meanwhile, I took a photo of the new steps. It's kind of like trail work only it benefits us and not some unseen members of the public. I love working with rocks, rebar and junipers!