Monday, August 31, 2020

Third Times A Charm

If at first you don't succeed, try try again.  That's my motto because I rarely succeed the first time!  Having pretty much failed with the first chicken in the new smoker, I tried it again.  I watched a dozen videos which didn't help at all!!

To be honest, it didn't go much better than the first time.  Ha!!!  There's a lot of trial and error involved in smoking with a new machine.

 At least this time it was edible, but I still wasn't happy with the process.  There MUST be a secret.  It consumed my day ... thinking about how to make it work the way my Bradley does.

Here's one of the best tips I found.  See that aluminum pan in the above picture?  It catches all the grease so you don't have to clean up the entire bottom.  That's the best thing I've ever discovered.  You cannot imagine how much time and energy goes into CLEANING, and you KNOW that word is not in my DNA.

I finally decided to try a rack of ribs.  Here's the secret.  Start the heat with nothing inside.  Once it's up to temperature, add water to the pan and meat to the grill.  THEN you add soaked wood chips to the pan.  It smoked for an hour before I had to add more damp chips.

Two hours smoking, wrap in foil, two more hours with no smoke and a final one hour with your favorite BBQ sauce.  Here's the results!!  Now that's MY kind of ribs!!!  They were delicious!!  The third time was definitely the charm on this one!!

The third time didn't work out as well with the critter cam.  It does show there are more critters around than the really cool ones like coyotes and javelinas.  On the very left side you will see the rabbit that comes every morning around 4:30 for a big drink.  He's brave considering the coyotes show up about the same time.  Here he's sharing with a dove at the water station.

This beauty showed up at midnight.  He leaves, spooked by something, then returns for a long drink.  This camera is the best one I've ever purchased.   What a kick!

 To end the day, I decided to do something constructive.  I mowed the lawn.  That's when I had an epiphany.  If I turn the water down, I won't have to mow so often.  Mowing is akin to scrubbing floors.  I don't get paid enough for that kind for work.  Besides, I'd rather be sewing!!  

Awesome news at midnight woke me up.  It was raining.  Maybe, possibly, hopefully the monsoon season is here so it will finally cool off.



Sunday, August 30, 2020

Arizona Fires

 It seems there are fires everywhere.  Most of California is blazing away due to heavy underbrush that hasn't been cleaned out in years.  To make it even worse, old logging and fire roads that act as fire breaks have been allowed to erode away and become overgrown.  Obviously, that's a recipe for disaster.

In Arizona ... yup, believe it or not there ARE forests in Arizona ... they have the same problem, except the hills are so steep and rocky around here that fire roads don't even exist.  Generally they try to save houses and just let it burn, praying the wind doesn't come up and turn a nice burn into a conflagration.

The biggest around here was the Bighorn Fire.  It started from a lightning strike in the mountains and headed southeast towards the towns of Oracle and Tucson.  At night, we could see the flames, but we were very far away.  This is not my picture.

It burned a little under 120,000 acres, threatening the little town of Summerhaven at the top of Mount Lemmon.  Something like 20+ years ago a fire blew through Summerhaven, burning up most of the town.

We decided to take a ride up the Catalina Mountains and see what damage this fire had done.  We were surprised to see almost every single turnout closed.  Several little campgrounds with restrooms were also closed, along with every trailhead.  We have no idea why.

So .... I crossed the line, literally, and ducked under the Do Not Enter tape and took this picture of Tucson.

 It was a very smoggy hazy day from fires still burning elsewhere in Arizona.  We certainly could use a good rain to clear it out.  The mostly green spot in the middle of this picture is Bear Canyon.


To be honest, the main reason we drove up there was to get cool.  It's always 20 degrees cooler at the top, although on this day that meant mid 80's, so still very warm.


 This is the sight from the biggest view point before heading back into the forest.  That's the road you can see on the left.  I just can't imagine how they built roads on these rocky cliffs.  Lucky for me, Patty let me sit up front.  The roads are SO twisty turny that I get VERY car sick.


This is HOODOO country.  This looks like me after having been locked up for five months and hitting the fridge every other hour.

 Finally, we came into the fire area.  Rather than the total destruction we expected to see, there were only fingers of fire burning down the hills and basically beneath the trees.  The ground cover and pine needles weren't even fully burned. 


On the other side of the mountain there was more destruction where the fire came up the hill, helped along by the wind from hot air rising.  The mountain is so steep and rocky in this area that no buildings exist.  Still, there wasn't total destruction.  You can see only small sections that burned completely. 

 Looking over the other side into San Pedro Valley, we couldn't see much burned area either.  The entire focus of the Fire Department was to save the little town of Summerhaven with it's dozens and dozens of cabins perched on the mountain side, many which were rebuilt after the last fire.  

 Lucky for them, the Fire Department did a great job.  Even though the fire got pretty close in some areas, none of the houses burned down, at this location anyway.

 All that wondering and driving made us extremely hungry.  This is basically the only sit-down restaurant in town.  There is one more up the hill at the ski resort, and a pizza/cookie place (Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin) but it was closed.  If you are ever in Tucson, definitely drive up for the cookies.  They are the size of a dinner plate!!  This is Sawmill Run.

 It is a great place to stop for a burger. They only had outside service, but that suited us just fine.  I almost forgot to take a picture of our bacon cheeseburger that Patty shared with me.  Half was more than enough to fill me up.  Much as I love sweet potato fries, they only had tots.  Don't waste your money on those.

 Just because we could, we stopped in at a little gift shop.  You never know what you might find.  They advertised FUDGE!  That certainly got my attention.  I headed straight to the counter.  I watched the gal cut off a half pound chunk and put it on the scale.  $16.99 popped up on the side.  WHAT?  That makes this fudge almost $32.00 a pound!!  Patty ... we need to go into the fudge-making business!!

Needless to say, I came home with NO fudge.  Ice cream is better anyway.  

Back to reality and hot air, I wasn't disappointed when I checked the game camera yesterday.  More critters came to visit.




Saturday, August 29, 2020

Ghosties In The Night

 Probably the second best thing to exploring old west ghost towns is trying to find the ghosties that go along with them.  As much as I've called them over the years, seldom do they answer.  I have to admit that one time they hollered and I heard them loud and clear.  

I worked in Yosemite National Park for a few years.  When the option of a dorm room came up right next to the office, I jumped at it.  People told me it was haunted, but I didn't believe them.  One night I woke up with a start when my bedside lamp turned on by itself.  

It was a fluke ... it will never happen again.  Well it happened night after night, several times a night.  I finally gave the light to a ranger, asking to please see if that happened at their house.  Nope ... the light never came on.  

 When the trash can lid began flipping back and forth when no one was there but me, I moved out.  No use tempting fate.   I should have called the Ghost Hunters!  More ghosties in a minute.

 On my early morning foray out to pick up the camera, I noticed Mom dove was missing.  I stuck my phone up to take a picture, and wasn't I surprised to find these two guys!  You already know this is the SECOND round of babies.  Prolific guys these dove!!

 I've been trying to capture some of the hummingbirds for you to see.  Many are plain Jane, but several are very colorful, including the Roufous which I haven't been able to photograph yet.  As much as they love the feeders, they don't like me clicking away.

 Every morning when I go out for the game camera, I'm on pins and needles.  I sit on the edge of my seat as it downloads to see just what I might capture.  Sometimes it's absolutely nothing.  On THIS morning, there were TWENTY THREE videos.  Just WOW!!

The camera runs for 30 seconds, then shuts off.  If it sees movement again, it turns on for another 30 seconds.  The coyotes were thirsty!!  One stood there and drank for over two minutes.  A total of three different ones came around.


And then there was THIS!!  A UFO ... A GHOSTIE!!!  Just like the Ghost Hunters, I've captured an entity!  Maybe a cowboy killed by Wyatt Earp or some early Indians!!  Surely you've seen this on TV!

 Okay, thanks for letting me have some fun.  This probably is EXACTLY what the Ghost Hunters find in their investigations.  A moth (or insect) flying around in the infrared light makes for a great ghostie!

Next up were six videos of javelinas coming for a drink.  There were two loners and this group of three.  I know nothing about the family habits of these guys.  Maybe they are like deer and the men group up until they get their own "herd".

 At any rate, it's always an adventure to check the camera and see what ghostie appeared in the night.  

 In the daytime, since you can only see ghosts at night according to the Ghost Hunters, the Chance family and I cruised up into the Catalina Mountains to see what damage had occured from the Bighorn fire.  It was an interesting trip ... I'll post it tomorrow.



Friday, August 28, 2020

The Joys Of The Desert

As much as I LOVE the desert critters, it's not all apple pie with a big scoop of ice cream.   I think you had to be really tough in the old days to survive not only little water but the critters that accompany desert living.  I can tell you right up front that I am NOT that tough.    Just how many times do you think that cowboy woke up to something crawling in his bedroll?

Lucky me, it wasn't in my bedroll, but this is the THIRD scorpion I have found in the house.  One was squished flat on the carpet where I was sitting with Cooper.  I'm thinking maybe I was just lucky enough to step on it when I had shoes on, which is rare for me.  Now I never take my shoes off!!

This guy was wandering around on the laundry room floor.  I swear I jumped two feet in the air.  If nothing else, they certainly do give your heart a jump start!  He is now flat as a pancake!!


Here's one of the true joys of the desert that I love to see.  He's been hanging out on my screen door for the last three days.  He's a baby, maybe four inches long, and a very smart one.  He's been picking off the bugs that hang out near the bug-free patio light.  Eat up my friend!!



Their teeny tiny claws on their tiny feet just fascinate me.  I hope he comes back again soon!!  If spiders are not your thing, you might stop here.  Yup .... even MORE creepy crawlies have been visiting in spite of my GO AWAY signs.


One day a couple of weeks ago, or maybe three ... how quickly I forget ... the Chance family and I visited Tay's BBQ.  The owner spoke very eloquently for re-opening businesses, meaning we needed to support her and the small business she is trying to keep open in Corona de Tucson.

Interestingly enough, there was a Republican candidate having a meeting there.  It was so nice to see so much red, white and blue and flags everywhere.  Yes it was hot, as seating was only available outside.  The good news is they had misters and a nice breeze was blowing.  The friendly smiles and great service made up for it!!


I ordered a chopped brisket sandwich, which turned out to be three times what I could eat.  It was delicious and well worth the $13.  They have a very nice outside bar also.  Next time I'm bringing that stud finder Dan showed me.  Maybe I'll find a stud!!


 For my side, you KNOW I couldn't resist the cowboy mac 'n cheese.  This might have had a little more sauce added for extra flavor, but it went perfectly with the brisket.  If you are in the area, be sure and take the short drive up the hill and check them out.


Here's the last "joy" I encountered.  I know, I hate pictures of spiders almost as much as pictures of snakes!!  I bashed my hand on the door jamb as I jumped back when I saw this guy trying to sneak into my garage.  

I quickly reached for the shovel ... but my brain kept saying "your on-line desert friends say not to kill them.  They eat scorpions."  I switched the shovel for the broom.  Maybe I can sweep him back OUT the door.  

This is a male tarantula.  How do I know?  I looked under his skirt!!  Ha!!!!   The males are much darker in color and smaller.  This guy was about three inches across, so I hope I never run into the bigger female.


These used to cover the roads in California in the foothills.  When we hauled cattle up to the high pastures, they would crawl up underneath the truck.  When we got back to the ranch, we could sit and watch them fall off to the ground.  CREEPY!!!  I HATED IT!  

At any rate, here he is outside after three big sweeps of the broom.  I didn't kill him, so he better eat a gazillion scorpions!!

I haven't had any videos of critters on the camera for three days now.  I discovered a huge number of bees covering the rocks in the trough, which seemed to be keeping everyone away.  The rocks are stacked up to give baby quail an out when they fall in.  Baby quail aren't the brightest crayons in the box.

I pulled out the top few rocks and the bees took off, thankfully without stinging me first.  It may take a few days to get the word out that it's safe to drink there again, because this water station is the biggest JOY of the desert!!!




Thursday, August 27, 2020

Some Time With The Critters

It's actually cooling off a tad bit in Arizona.   It's been overcast and weird with little spits of rain here and there.  My heart goes out to all those in the Houston and Baton Rouge area getting hit by the biggest hurricane of the century.  The forecasts have been devastating.  Prayers to everyone.  I hope most people evacuated.

There is one good thing to say about Arizona in the summer.  There are no hurricanes, tornados or earthquakes.  Since it's cooling off to the high 70's at night, there are dozens and dozens of hummers showing up for breakfast.  So many that they empty one feeder per day.  I've gone through 12 pounds of sugar keeping them happy.  Better they eat it than me!


This guy is Mr. Piggy.  He refuses to allow anyone else to eat, sitting atop the biggest feeder and chasing everyone else off.  I fooled him though, I switched feeders, leaving him the smaller one with no place to stand on top.  Now everyone gets to eat.  Yesterday I counted over twenty at one time.


These guys seem to be out in force also.  I'm guessing this is a wolf spider.  Pretty smart guy really.  He's been parked on my front porch for the last week, gathering up dinner all night long right under the yellow bugless light.  I have to admit, yellow light is better than white which attracts every insect within 20 miles!!


I haven't switched out the halogen light yet, so it's attracting these huge 3" long guys.  They literally cover my garage door.  The spiders and lizards should be over here!!  It's like a gourmet buffet!!


I haven't seen my big guys for some time now.  In fact, it was so hot, I was sure they all went back up in the mountains.  One day about noon, here he came, sauntering by for a drink.  Sadly, he looks a little worse for wear.


After emptying the water station, he slowly walked off down the hill.  Such magnificent creatures.

 And here's my favorite ... the critters of the night.  Mom and three babies showed up to cool their feet.  They come around about every three days.  It seems all the critters have a different schedule.


Patty and I went on a short jaunt yesterday to find some fabric for her and some ink cartridges for me.  My timing was perfect when the ones I needed had just come in and were sitting in a basket at the counter.  I also learned something new.  Printers are cheap ... $80 in some cases.  Ink is expensive ... $50 on this trip.  That's just crazy because if you don't use them even in my 80 degree house, they dry out and require replacement.

My last two cartridges didn't even print out 100 pieces of paper.  The guy at the counter said when not using the printer, put the cartridges in the fridge ... it helps.  I don't know, sounds weird to me, but maybe worth a try.  

Joining the critters in dinner, Patty whipped up a tasty delight.  Thin sliced beef with loads of veggies and a package of Ramen.  Who knew??  I'm definitely trying this one.  I think the secret is lots of garlic!!


I'm off to gather up my game camera this morning and see what I can see.  It's always exciting in the mornings, although sometimes a letdown when I find nothing but my fingers on the video as I open the door and turn it off before extracting it from the post.  

I have a new resident critter, spending his days and night on my screen door.  Pictures tomorrow.



Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Ingenuity ... Not My Forte

Some people just have the knack.  They can figure stuff out ... make things work ... and make do with practically nothing.  I'm not one of them, or at least I sincerely have a hard time with it.  Better to HIRE it done by a pro!  

 Before we go there however, I have an interesting picture of the infamous Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone.  It's kind of funny that back in the old West of shoot'em up cowboys, they would even be the least bit interested in variety shows including comedy, dancing, singing and Shakespeare.  I suppose it was a nice diversion from the depth of the mines swinging a pick ax all day.

I have walked the hallowed halls many times, imagining what it was like.  I can tell you, it's small!  So much smaller than you would expect.  There used to be thousands of items of interest inside, hung on the walls from top to bottom.  Almost all of it is now gone.  I don't know if the owners have sold it off or if it was stolen, but this time I opted NOT to spend the $20 to wander it's stage.

I DID however, take another good look in the front doors when I came across this.  It's a much older image than I have ever seen before.  The catwalk across to the box seats (or cribs as the case may be) on the other side is a new one on me.  

Its really interesting also to see the benches.  There are no chairs as have been portrayed in the past and surprisingly, no piano.  The 24 hour a day poker game continued in the basement, along with maybe four rooms for the "girls".   In case you've never seen it, ingenuity was here.  On the opposite wall to the stairs was a dumbwaiter that hauled food and drink to the "birdcages" up top.

This is the original bar, although I've never found any old pictures of it.  This is where they collect your money before letting you in.  It's really much smaller than I ever imagined.

 When I got back home in that 106 degree weather, this little piece of ingeniousness came in handy.  I've seen them before, even bought one, but never used it.  This piece of fabric has those gel beads in it ... the ones you usually put in your flower pot to soak up water and release it slowly.  Someone got the brilliant idea to encase it in fabric, get it wet, thereby soaking up lots of water, then wrapping it around your neck to keep you cool.

I'm here to tell you it works.  I've probably used it every day this last month trying to cool off from little things like walking outside.  Who thinks up this stuff?

Here's another one.  On the way back from Tombstone, my brain repeated over and over ... ice cream ... ice cream.  Knowing there was a small shop in Benson, I stopped in.  Their latest and greatest addition to the menu was flavored lemonades.  Wow ... that sounded good!

So here you go .... the latest ingenious drink ... lemonade with flavors, whatever floats your boat.  This one is a raspberry lemonade slushy and I'm here to tell you it is FABULOUS!!  I think it was $3 ... I would have paid $5, it's that good.  So if you're ever driving through Benson, stop in at the Old Benson Ice Cream Shop.


Then comes MY ingenuity.  I have a lovely horse trough, but can't come up with anything to do with it.  I still have scorpions in the house and can't come up with a way to rid myself of them.  Here's another good example.  I decided the way to use up the rest of that smoked chicken was to make enchiladas.

That requires sauce, which I did not have.  I can figure it out I said ... Patty Chance comes up with stuff all the time ... she can make a tasty dinner out of three ingredients.  I found a can of Rotel tomatoes with chilis.  

My plan was for them to break down into sauce.  I don't know what kind of tomatoes they used, but they didn't break down not one tiny bit.  With no food processor in sight, I added them to the rue.  That turned into a big gloppy mess!!  

Good grief!!  I filled the tortillas, plopped them in the pan and poured the gloppy over the top.  Maybe it will dissolve when baked.  Cheese .... just put LOTS of cheese on it.  So much for ingenuity as the gloppy stayed intact.  In the end, they didn't taste all that bad ... it's pretty hard to mess up smoked chicken.


Lastly today I have some sad news.  Some of you may remember the Swanton Ranch our Golden Spike Group visited in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  It was the dream of Albert Smith, President of Orchard Supply Hardware to take the little train and cars from the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 and run them again on this property he purchased.  

When he passed away, he gave the land and the four engines to Cal Poly to use in their sustainable farming program.  Sadly, the recent fires devastated the property.  It appears the machine shop survived, but everything else is gone, including some of the original cars from the expo.  Fire cannot damage the boilers however and hopefully the little trains will run again one day.


The good news is I have even MORE critter videos.  These guys just fascinate me.  I'm thinking I may get some security cameras just to see what REALLY happens when I'm gone!!



Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Off The Beaten Path

Sometimes you just have to get out of the house and off the beaten path.   Generally that means you are in for a  drive, but as long as my air conditioning is working, I'm down for a jaunt.  At least this time I had a half decent road to travel.

While checking out a map of the local area, I spotted a road between Tombstone and Sierra Vista.  Looking at satellite images, I saw two interesting locations.  Monument Road and Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch.  Hmmm ... must be SOMETHING out there!!

After my hot and sweaty visit to Tombstone, a nice drive with my AC blasting away sounded like a good thing.  That's how I accidentally found the current Tombstone Cemetery.  Past that, this was my view.

 There's nothing more inviting than a long dirt road to nowhere.  Curiously, a lot of these dirt roads just dead end.  I imagine they were wagon trails to someone's dream home, or possibly that million dollar mine.  Be careful here ... DO NOT ENTER WHEN FLOODED.

That's when I spotted THIS!  The Tombstone Monument Ranch.  Well this is weird, out in the middle of nowhere is a Dude Ranch.  It's a beauty from the looks of corrals full of cattle and horses.  I'll have to investigate that more.  I quickly checked ... they are having a special on rooms right now ... $92.00 a night.  I'm thinking that includes food, lodging and maybe a horseback ride.

That will be an investigation for another day.  Just up the road and off to the right, I found a little jewel in the desert.  Remember Ed Schieffelin who discovered silver here?  They told him as he wandered the desert in this direction, that all he would find was his tombstone.  Here's his iconic photo.

Well they were right in a way.  He started out at 17 years of age in Oregon, wandered through Idaho, Nevada, Death Valley, Colorado and New Mexico.  Eventually his wandering landed him in Camp Huachuca at the age of 30. 
Geronimo, Victorio and Cochise were his neighbors, having killed 22 men near the cabin he was working out of.   After finding a few pieces of silver ore in a wash, and with only 30 cents in his pocket, he persuaded a friend to file the mine claim paperwork for him.  He then proceeded to locate his brother who had the funds to start mining.  The rest is history.  He became a VERY rich man!!

One thing Ed did like was pictures.  He had LOTS of picture taken of himself ... can't hardly blame him.

After having accumulated over a million dollars from mine buying, working and selling, his REAL passion was the hunt.  He spent the rest of his life chasing the gold rush to every boom town in the West, including Alaska.  He finally married in 1883, building a mansion across the San Francisco Bay in Alameda.  

In 1897 he purchased a ranch in Rogue River Oregon where he prospected until his death.  He had a heart attack and died on the floor of his cabin.  He was buried nearby.  Later his family found out he wanted to be buried in his prospector garb with pick and canteen about three miles outside of Tombstone in the rocks he loved so much.

 He requested a tombstone that resembled what miners would build to mark their claims.  Sure enough, the family complied and here lies Ed Schieffellin.  Who knew? 

 There's lots more to the story, he died incredibly rich for that time, but never could give up the hunt.  His wife sold everything he left her (about half) and moved to New York.  


 It was rather interesting that I spotted something flitting about the monument.  Hey Ed ..... is that YOU?  I've no doubt it was.  This little cactus wren never left the side of the monument, but walked around the entire thing, following me with every step I took.  Watch out for snakes here ... it's very rocky, their favorite haunt.

Ed has a very nice view as I looked back towards Tombstone.  There's a picnic table here, the perfect spot to stop and smell the roses, or maybe the cactus.  


 That was a fun find, but it was getting late and time to hit the road for home.  You can't help but wonder about the early people who came here looking for riches.  I mean really, just walk around and kick a few rocks with one small canteen of water and little food to get a feel for Ed.  

Nope ... not going to happen.  I like exploring, but it's just too hot out.  Nowadays all the land is owned by someone anyway, and you're liable to get shot!!  Just don't go too far off the beaten path.