Sunday, May 23, 2010

Casa del Padre Flora and Fauna May 2010

May 23, 2010

This being our first Spring it has been a treat watching the variety of plant blooms. They seem long lived and attract birds (hummingbirds) and the bees.

The giant saguaro off our back porch is putting out flowers on both limbs and central trunk.

Mexican Palo Verde with bright yellow blooms.

Tip of an Ocotillo. These plants look dead late in the year but bloom dark green leaves directly from their branches (hiding their thorns) and put out a cluster of red trumpet flowers..the hummingbirds love them.
Brucito spotted this critter searching for a way out. Gila Monster....many tell us we were lucky to see this venomous lizard.
Woolly seeds from blooming creosote bush
Cape Honeysuckle came back to life to attract the hummingbirds.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nephews, veggies and a swamp cooler

April 17, 2010

The last two visitors of the season were two of my little sister's children: Sean and Ethan, who came out at separate times. Sean, 19 y/o, was a blast with his college-learned political innocence and highly creative non-fiction story telling. We took him to Colossal Caves, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum and a 2 mile desert hike. For those who know Sean, hiking is something he does not usually request but with the accessibility (out our back door) he was game. The highlight for Sean was taking him to Tucson Studios. Sean is a film buff and seeing where the old westerns were made was a treat. We enjoyed it immensely.

Bruce and Sean awaiting the "Can-Can Girls" at Tucson Studios.

Sean with local Western Actors.

A week later his earthy, philosophical and musical brother Ethan (16 y/o) comes out. Lucky for me Ethan wanted to earn some dough and doesn't mind doing manual labor (I think it's the Mexican in him). He and I laid out a modified "flagstone patio"...we call it a "Patty-io" which turned out better than I imagined. He became familiar with a caliche bar (a 25# iron bar used to break up tightly compacted rock and buried calcium carbonate layers) and helped plant some low-water plants, move rocks, hauled dirt and gravel. He also entertained us with performing a couple of balladeer songs at "open mic night" at the Sky Bar on 4th Ave (every town has one).

Ethan poses with rare Crested Saguaro on McCain Loop.

They both seemed to enjoy the house with it's charm and the uniqueness of Tucson. Bruce and I agreed to make this an annual visit for both of them.

Before and after of back patio.

Meanwhile, the rehab work continues. I've been landscaping the north and east side in addition to my hand at veggie gardening. I've spent hours learning all about xeriscaping: choice of plants, water/rain harvesting needs, sun, soil quality, etc.....and days doing the prep and planting...all fun work.

Veggie garden on east side, beets and carrots should be ready for harvest early May.
North side of house looking east...lots of dirt moving and rock work.

Bruce took on a major project of installing an evaporative cooler in prep for the summer.....he was quoted 2400USDs by a local air conditioning business but could not fathom paying that amount when the unit cost on 800 USDs. While Ethan (someone with muscles) was here he bought the unit and had Ethan help him with put it on the roof. He then requested a quote for the ducting (evaporative cooler to be hooked into the heat pump ducting) and was given a price of 375USDs by a small business minded Mexicans but he felt he could do it cheaper....and yes he could..he's saving 150 bucks.....but after 5 days of work (hard work)..he reluctantly admits.."I should have hired the Mexicans". For me, it would be a no brainer...I would like an 18" deep hole dug (4x8 ft) on the west side (sun-beaten side) in rocky hard and sandy loam.....$50 USDs will get the job done by an expert Mexican and I'd gladly pay! But then again, there is nothing more satisfying than giving yourself a challenge (if you have the time) and accomplishing something you wouldn't normally do. So kudos to you Brucie! Your determination to "do-it-yourself" amazes me.

Bruce bought a 4x8ft thick gauged sheet of galvanized metal, a strip of flashing and ordered these specialized vents online, cut it with a jig saw and modified this connecting duct work for our newly purchased swamp cooler.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring in Tucson

March 9, 2010

We've had several visitors out since the end January: my sister from Boulder, CO; the Gildenhar's from Tacoma, WA, Bruce's Mom and Steppin Daddy from Cedar Hill, TX and a nephew from Cape Coral, Florida. It's been a lot of fun visiting with our friends and family and sharing our desert home. We've gone to all local tourist attractions, sometimes more than once: Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum (being our #1), the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Tohono Chul Park, San Xavier del Bac, and the International Wildlife Museum...the first and last ones being within a 5 miles from our home.

San Xavier del Bac

My sister gave me her expensive old mountain and road bikes so I can enjoy the more physical activities (other than tennis) that Tucson is suited for. She's exposed me to another sport I'm thoroughly enjoying: road cycling. Our first time out was 14 miles, our second was an advanced 30 miler and I have since ridden this path every Friday and shortened the path time. There's something about being on the road that makes your body feel good and your mind clear. Bruce even bought a road bike to join me. Just out our door we have easy access to some of the best road biking on the edge of Tucson.

The desert gardening is still in progress as we've planted a blood and navel orange tree, the pomagranate tree is doing well and we've added a fig and avocado tree as well as started some container gardening. I have not had to water much as the rain seems to come once every 5 -8 days at this time. I'm learning more about xeriscaping, plants, propagation, soil and planting in the desert as I try to spruce up the landscape....keeping in mind to make things low maintenance.....minimal effort, maximum results. The only thing we've been able to harvest is the cilantro for our guacamole....more to come in April..I hope.

Our twiggy pomagranate behind the blood orange and WA navel to the their infant stage.

Janet and Mark from Tacoma WA....oh how we don't miss the chronic rain....

Monday, January 25, 2010

January 2010

January 25, 2010

Now that the house is livable that's exactly what we've been Not working so hard and enjoying the Sonoran Desert and Tucson. We've hiked the trail out our back door that takes us to spectacular views throughout Tucson Mountain Park. We also found that we're 10 minutes from central downtown and 15 minutes from a strip of local restaurants and shops near the university. Plus, one of the best places to buy produce is in a Mexican influenced area minutes away and a small farmers market nearby.

Over the past week some wet and windy weather has moved in and we've been deluged with rain....a treat in the desert. Our rain barrels fill rapidly and we were glad to see that there is no standing water in the atrium. I've spent the last two weeks repaving and improving the atrium and it's beginning to look like a restaurant......I guess I'll add the tiki torches and Bruce can serenade our visitors with his guitar.

We bought a couple of bird feeders and I started an herb garden on the east side. This is in addition to the wine barrel halves we bought to try my hand at vegetable gardening. Next, adding some desert plants to our east and NW side (xeriscaping) to attract more birds....fortunately after they're planted it will be low maintenance.

Chasing the javalina from our yard...these guys are brave and pesky.

Our first visitor of 2010 was my long lost friend Shannon. She came out for 5 days....during the time of the rain. At night the wind howled so strongly it caused the windows to whistle....she slept right through it. The wind force and angle blew rain into our master bedroom window driving rain inside pouring on the floor....this window and the wall under it will be removed to make way for a french door to a balcony facing west to the Mountain Park.
Snow on the Catalina Mountains after the rain clouds moved through.

We've continued to buy our furniture and tools on Craigslist and have had great success as long as we're patient. There are very few things we buy new..including clothing. This town is loaded with consignment and resale stores. The house is now well set and we're both equally content and found its a lot of fun starting over....especially with a project like this.

The last bit of exterior painting.

Preparing to animal proof the ramada in the chicken coop.