Thursday, March 25, 2021

Happy Spring Y'all! Although ... no hyacinths over here, here it looks more like this:


Same beautiful! These enormous flowers are from the Argentine Giant Cactus (I think ..), and they emerged from these ginormous buds:


The Beaver-tails are starting. That pink is so beautifully bright!

The bees have found them too!

And how about these gorgeous Prickly Pears ..

Also, the Agave I've been keeping my eye on here in the neighborhood has reached it's final height and is starting to flower too!


For some different excitement, we had a pleasant surprise today when the Shotcrete-people showed up unexpectedly, one week ahead of schedule!
(Well, in fact they're two months late, but who's counting).

At first it looked like they had a different size of pool in mind ...

Just kiddin ..!!


They came with a crew of four, and four hours later we had a (rough) pool! Wow!

It's a beautiful thing!
On one of my walks this week I 'cut through' some side yards, and ended up on a different side of the pond at the 17th hole than normal:

You can just see our house there on the left, that white triangle is the backside of it, and the green of the 17th hole on the right.
Its where I happened to come upon a little group of fairly rare ducks (for here) enjoying the calm waters :

They are Cinnamon Teals, small 'dabbling' ducks, who overwinter here in the south-west.
Look at that gorgeous color!
They had company from this little Pie-billed Grebe, a diving bird who spends almost more time under water than above:

They are one of the smallest species of ducks, making them fast flyers
They are one of the smallest species of ducks, making them fast flyers

For our 'fun' this week we golfed at Palm creek Golf and RV resort in Casa Grande.

We'd golfed here before a couple of weeks ago and I really liked the place. It's a 'full 18-holes' par 3 course (some are more a par 4) and very doable for me, being a somewhat 'shorter' hitter.

It is beautifully landscaped, lots of palms and lots of water of course (Palm Creek), which makes for very lush surroundings here in the middle of the desert!

Huh, what, that's just a coffee break ... oh, yeah, of course we had pie!! I used the last of the blackberries I picked last summer in Idaho and added some blueberries and raspberries for a mixed-berry pie!
Fresh out of the oven, it looked like this:

By the way, I almost forgot, but as usual we had Corned beef for St. Patty's day ..

                  You can't ever say Hess-es don't eat well!
Well, that was all. Five more days to go and we'll be on the road again!
This coming Monday we'll pick up the RV from the storage place, and will park it in the driveway for 2 days for a thorough cleaning after which we'll be moving all our 'stuff' back in. Since most of the work is done by now, James has the truck already mostly loaded.

On Wednesday we'll head out, and our first destination will be Lake Havasu, about 240 miles from us.

I'm beyond excited!

Save the Date… July 16th! | Snoopy happy dance, Snoopy dance, Happy dance  meme

Thursday, March 18, 2021


Since we only have about 2 weeks left before we leave, we thought it was time to 'sight-see' the things we want to see.
We'd hoped that by now things would start to open up a bit (regarding covid-closures) but it appears that's not going to happen anytime soon, so we better get to it!
Also, it's getting warmer by the day at the moment and soon the day-time temperatures will be too high to be comfortable for hiking or any other activity.


So, we decided to drive the 30 miles up into the hills to the east of us, for a visit to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
We forgot completely that it was Spring-break this week, so it was a little busier than normal at the entrance (within limits due to corona-restricions off course), but once inside everybody dispersed and we barely saw other people on the trail.

They're a little higher in elevation than we are down here on the valley-floor, and unfortunately that meant that the cacti weren't in bloom yet. We've been told it will be quite spectacular in about a month from now. Oh well ..


The 1 1/2 mile main trail leads you through most of the park, with little side trails that show  separate areas like cactus gardens or several specific desert-plant displays.


Like I said, there wasn't much blooming yet, but we found a few ..

The surrounding Superstitious Mountains lend a beautiful backdrop for the gardens.
This little lake is fed by underground springs and gives a much needed reprieve from the heat and drought of the (high) desert.

And a welcome waterhole for waterfowl coming through the area like this (female) Ruddy Duck:

And as everywhere around here, the Saguaros are plentiful, as well as the Prickly Pears and Creosote bushes.

These weird stiff upright plants in the picture below, we'd never seen before though:

They're Boojum Trees and are related to the Ocotillo. They have their own little 'grove' here in the park.

The whole place is a haven for all kind of birds, we saw a lot of Cardinals ..

It's hard not to see that bright red of the males!

Hummingbirds were buzzing around many of the plants, but were also steeling sips from the many feeders that were hanging all through the park.
Somewhere along the way we sat down in a shady spot near a small waterfall for coffee we had brought with us, and the last two pieces of apricot cobbler. (Note to self, 'time to bake again!')
All in all, we spent a couple of very nice hours here and we're glad we went, it was very much worth the visit (and the rather steep entrance fee of $15).

Afterwards we continued our drive into the mountains, because we had one more item on our 'to-see' list that day. A visit to the Tonto National Monument.
After a traffic delay of 30 minutes (overturned hay-truck) during which we ate the sandwiches we had brought with us (Boy, were we prepared or not? We even brought water, something we always forget), we scaled the summit and drove down into what is called the Tonto Basin, part of the Sonora Desert.

After about 20 miles you come to the town of Roosevelt on the shores of Roosevelt Lake, and after following the lake's west shore to the north for about 6 miles you'll reach the entrance to the monument.

In the steep bluffs surrounding the basin, native people called the Salado build two prehistoric cliff dwellings (a 'lower' and a 'higher' one) around the 1300s, and lived there for about 200 years.
Because the (adobe) buildings were build under the cliff's overhang they survived hundreds of years, most of what is now lost was caused by looters and tourism ...


Because of Covid, only a couple of people were allowed to walk up the 1/2 mile trail to the lower dwelling each 10 minutes or so, so we had a little wait, but eventually we made it up, and were pretty much the only ones there for a little while.

The second, higher dwelling, by the way, which is a 3 hr hike, is only accessible with a guide and the small group fills up quickly. Most of the time it is booked months in advance and this last year it didn't take place at all, compliments of 'the virus'.
We were very impressed with this one though, and seeing the short video at the visitor center afterwards we were amazed to learn how well these people lived in harmony with the rather harsh environment they had to deal with.

I mean, even as a cactus life is not easy here, so if there's a rock in your way, you just have to make your way around it!

Back on the road, we drove north for a couple of miles, passing the marina a mobile home park, an RV park and a restaurant/grocery store..


... until we reached the Roosevelt Lake Bridge, which is the longest two-lane, single-span, steel-arch bridge in North America. It spans 1,080 feet!

Here we took a left, passed the Roosevelt Dam, and intended to take the I-88, a small winding mountain road that would circle us back west to Apache junction and the 60 south.
Unfortunately, the road was closed! No clue why? Rock-slide? Road washed away?
Oh well, we just drove the same road back, no sweat. It always look different coming from the other side anyway!

So. Been there, done that. Checked the box.

Other than that there's not much to tell. Doug and Brenda left once again. This time we won't see them over here anymore until we're all back in Oregon.
I managed to take one picture of their visit this time (yahoo!), when we cooked dinner together one evening:

Oven-baked salmon, with asparagus, a salad and wild rice. Accompanied by some excellent red wine of course! Success!


And let's not forget desert, Apricot Cobbler with almonds, from the apricots I picked from our lonesome tree in Idaho last year! Man, it was good!!

Friday, March 12, 2021

A little bit of rain and a few very warm days (82F/26F) have coaxed the first Cacti into flowering!
I know the red ones are Scarlet Hedgehogs but for the life of me I can not find the name of the tiny yellow-ish ones. Of course I'll continue the search!

To stay with succulents, the orange flowers on the left are from 'Blue Elf' Aloes. Almost everybody has one in their yard around here:


The huge flower stalk in the picture to the right is of an Agave.
The stalk grows incredible fast, up to a foot a day and can reach 40 feet in total!

It's not flowering yet, but if it does, which is only once towards the end of their live (5-15 years), they die afterwards .. 

Also, the air in the neighborhood smells a little like grape bubble gum at the moment (or so some people say), due to these very pretty, wisteria-like flowers ..

They're Texas Mountain Laurels and although officially a shrub, most people prune them into small trees.

OK, that's it for the flowers of this week, I can't wait to move onto the birds!
Look what I found in one of the Mesquite trees:


It's a little Anna's Hummingbird sitting on her Itsy-Bitsy-Teenie-Weenie nest! How cute is that!
Let's hope this Red-tail Hawk I saw flying over the wash won't get a whiff of the babies later, when they emerge from the eggs ..


Although, I think he's more interested in these nice fat Rock (Ground) Squirrels ..

They're a lot bigger (nearly a foot in length) than the Round-tailed ground squirrels I showed 2 weeks ago.  
Besides being prey for hawks they're also a favorite of rattlesnakes. Females may try to fool snakes by chewing up shed snakeskin and licking it onto themselves and their pups to obscure their own scent. A research study shows this does seem to fool the rattlers!


In the meantime, at Casa Hess, 2 more Hess-es have arrived. Doug and Brenda managed to drive all the way down here from Newberg in 2 days!
They'd rented a small van and brought a bunch of house-decorations, art-work, small office 'stuff' and off course .. more wine!

Just before they arrived, the door for the cellar had arrived, so all 712 bottles (!!!) were moved onto the racks:


And most of the art-work has found a place on the walls ..

And the office got a standing desk and chair (just in case you get tired of standing) (or if you want to take a nap).

In my quest to get rid of some of the fruit I have in the freezer before we leave, I made a Crisp of some of the Wild Plum I picked in Idaho:


Crisps are so easy to make, and soooooo good! I mean .. brown sugar, butter, oatmeal and fruit .. what's not to like?
Next up .. Apricot Pie!

The week started out being extraordinary warm, but we're having a cool spell at the moment and this morning it even rained! As I said before, we can use it here and if we want to see a good display of spring wildflowers before we leave, we better get some more!

Look, an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny rainbow!