Not having made the originally planned trip in October due to Kitty's manic episode which has been detailed in several MoreLife Yahoo messages (#295 for example) and in 10/31/03 entry for Kitty Reflects on Morelife, we decided to drive south in early December rather than wait till after New Years.
Upon arrival on December 10, we found that the kitchen sink faucet was leaking worse than before we had left the previous July, despite several repair attempts. (It had not been leak-free for a couple of years, while the house was supposedly being cared for in exchange for no rent.) This time we just purchased a new faucet entirely which Paul can be seen installing with the aid of some additional large wrenches from our neighbor. Unfortunately, it wasn't until several days later, after a special shipment from the manufacturer of a missing washer, that a second replacement faucet finally worked without leaking at the base. What a chore - but at least it finally works right and looks better than the original.
Another task was one Paul set for himself - getting better reception of the high energy dance music station we'd discovered as we drove south from Flagstaff. Despite all his efforts (numerous trips to the roof and even a new antenna), we never did get a hard lock-on to the station which originates out of Payson (NE of Phoenix) and has a transmitter on South Mountain, but aimed towards Phoenix itself. Still our reception in the car is good and a pleasure to listen to when driving in the Phoenix area.
Kitty has always enjoyed the bright lights of the Year End holidays and we decided to put up some of the many she had. It was Paul's idea though to add a string here around the glass doorway to the patio.
Our self-portrait holiday photo in the decoratively lit living room.
A toast to ourselves for the future before our holiday meal.
One of our last main meals of the year 2003 was a delicious fritata, a baked egg dish with vegetables and cheese. It was a great success.
Details can be had on the diet regimen page.
The eggs that went into the fritata we enjoyed so much - and most of our other egg meals while in Arizona - came from the chickens our next door neighbor Bonnie raises. Two of them can be seen here "visiting" our yard as they free range. Bonnie supplements their diet with flax which likely is a main contributor to the rich golden yolks. Interestingly, 2 of the 3 different breeds she has yield green shelled eggs. And yes, we do like green (shelled) eggs and ham ;>)
This is one of several eagles that have made a home in our neighborhood, likely because the kittens and chickens make for fairly easy prey; ground squirrels and rabbits are much faster on the run. Despite their fairly large size, two of Bonnie's chickens have become meals to eagles.
Window washing was jointly decided to be a necessity in the first week of 2004. Paul did the outside and Kitty cleaned the inside of most of the windows in the house. It's not uncommon for birds to fly into the glass in the living room windows - one can easily see through the room to the other side of the house, between the front and the back. While most seem to survive, we found a couple who did not.
On Tuesday afternoon January 12, we took what we thought would be just a couple of hours outing to the Table Top Wilderness area west of Casa Grande Arizona. The drive was a bit rough - though no problem for our all wheel drive Subaru WRX wagon - and therefore the drive took much longer than we expected. Even so, it was quite interesting; a place where Kitty, although a resident of the general area for more than 25 years, had never visited.
Table Top Mountain is the taller one, on the right in the distance. This is very different view - by about 180 degrees - from that which we see from our house.
Another 10 minutes down the dirt road we stopped to investigate a "glen" - an area of heavy mesquite tree growth around a berm. Paul takes a water break before we start out on foot.
A pair of low flying fighter jets from one of the Air Force bases (either Luke or Davis Monthan) disturb the absolute silence of the area.
The berm from all appearances is manmade to hold water runoff in the rainy season and as a result has fostered a fair amount of growth. There was evidence of recent visits by cattle - though we never saw any at all. It could also be seen that campers used the "grove" at least on occasion.
On the way back to the car, Paul looks at the rock colorations - many darkened on the same side.
Another ~20 minutes further and one can see that we're closer to Table Top in the distance at the left.
Table Top on the far left gets closer yet.
Kitty stands at the official trailhead for the Table Top Wilderness Preserve. We had not planned to do any serious hiking on this preliminary scouting trip - maybe on another winter stay. The area appears to have as many saguaro per acre as the better known Saguaro National Monument and sees less traffic due to the long dirt road south from I-8 where there are no announcement signs. A SUV with 3 well-tanned middle aged men arrived soon after us, but the occupants didn't appear to be planning to hike.
On our way back to I-8, this saguaro near the road seemed not to "know" which way was "up". Actually, severe cold is responsible for the downward curves in saguaro arms. "A few saguaros have been observed with as many as 50 arms; many never grow arms. Saguaro arms always grow upwards. The drooping arms seen on many old saguaros is a result of wilting after frost damage. The growing tips will turn upwards in time." (See entire interesting article from the fascinating Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.)
On the more maintained portion of dirt road closer to I-8, Kitty wanted to point out a wash to those unfamiliar with the dry stream beds that can easily fill during a heavy winter or summer rain ("monsoon" in the latter season). This is one of those that a prudent driver would never enter if water were running more than a trickle.
Back home again.
Kitty's piano has been in need of tuning for a few years. Although Paul has tuned pianos before just using a tuning fork and pliers, this time we bought a regular professional tuning hammer along with a fork. While it's time consuming, it's not very difficult. The job didn't get completed this visit - too many other more interesting (or pressing) distractions, so we'll start again next time.
Butterflies were in abundance this mild January day and this one had no fear of Paul's hand.
See if you can find the 3 butterflies among the fairy duster blooms.
The 3 are all around this one bloom in the center but the one at the "7 o'clock" position is more blurred as it is in flight.
The cassia bush in the "oasis" formed by the master bathroom and the wall extending towards the outbuilding was far too large for its location. (If Kitty had known how large it would likely become without constant pruning, she would never have planted it there.) We thought that there was a chance that it might survive a transplanting, so we carefully dug out as much of the root system as we could and moved it to a fairly open spot near the back of the property.
Here's how this area looked in April 2003. The cassia despite pruning continued to lean out from under the large mesquite tree's branches trying to reach sun and was overshadowing the Hummingbird bushes on either side.
We spent several hours over 2 days carefully digging away at the root system of the cassia, which spread near the surface to the Hummingbird plants on either side. Overnight we covered the exposed roots with wet rags to keep them from drying out. There was no way to get all the roots in a plant this size and so they were cut at lengths of ~12 to 30 inches depending on the location.
Loading the large bush onto the wheelbarrow was a difficult task, but we managed.
The cassia's new home, formerly that of a tree that died after several years of limping along. Unfortunately despite all our care and the abundant supply of water, the plant did not take root. We knew this was a definite possibility when we moved it, so we'll just put something else in that location next year - or let the new palo verde we planted later about 8 ft away (closer to the house) have all the space.
Without the dominating presence of the enlarged cassia, the two hummingbird plants can thrive. We've since planted a much smaller purple flowering bush in the cassia's old location. Kitty will need to verify the name with our plant authority neighbor, Dan, who gave it to us.
It was a fairly dry winter in the area around our house compared to many others in the years Kitty has lived in Arizona. In order to get a good crop of wild flowers, the winter rains should be in December and January but those months saw little fall near us. However in mid March and again in the first week in April (our last for this visit) there were some considerable periods of rainfall. On April 2, after a couple of days of recurring rain - the ground was saturated at this point - the washes on our property (and the nearby area) actually "ran", something Paul was looking forward to seeing.
A close-up to show everyone that there's actually water flowing in that usually dry wash. (Kitty thinks she might have caught a ground squirrel in this photo also, to the right of the barrel cactus.) To make sure that the water flowed through the culverts, Paul hurriedly cleaned away brush that was growing and had also been blown there over the past several months.
Everything was operating well when we left April 7 to return to Toronto until we make a short visit in mid-July. Our neighbors - and the alarm service company - keep tabs on our house while we are away. Kitty will take some photos then of the new plants we put in the last couple of weeks before our departure.