Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Northwest Heatwave

It was 106 degrees in one of my favorite cities yesterday, one that isn't used to handling temperatures that are more typical of Phoenix this time of year, Portland, Oregon.

The heatwave currently occuring throughout the Pacific Northwest is predicted to continue over the next day or so. Whatever next?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Independence Days Update

Gosh, this seems to come around fast each week, especially when I don't feel like I am getting much done.

1. Plant something: Despite my vow to give the earth, and our desert water supply a rest, I am afraid I did plant a few pumpkin seeds, and some basil. It is a little late for the pumpkins according to my low desert planting calender, and it has turned really hot again so I am not sure how well they will do, but I would really like a couple of pie pumpkins for the Fall. I imagine the basil will do well with the heat. We shall see.

2. Harvest something: The enormous funny looking pumpkin. I was worried about it in the 110 plus heat so I harvested it. Now to try to keep it stored until the Fall without it going soft on me.

3. Preserve something: No.

4. Reduce waste: Usual stuff, trying to reduce energy and water usage, as well as reducing overall waste. I haven't been good at going to the Farmers Market for local veggies recently I am afraid, and I have been buying more at local supermarkets again. I have at least been trying to buy stuff from California mostly which is still a long way from here, but not as far as another continent. I was interested to see that Trader Joe's are packaging much of their organic produce in compostable containers, some of which look exactly like plastic but which aren't apparently. I am not sure what they are actually made of because it doesn't say. I don't usually buy produce from there anymore because of the excess packaging issue, but I might be a tiny bit more inclined to in the future if I can compost it. I also feel as though my participation in Catalog Choice has fully paid off and I am now receiving only the catalogs I want, which are very few. It was a little frustrating at the start because it seemed like the catalogs just kept on coming, and I actually called a few of the more persistent companies to ask to be taken off their mailing list myself. However, now I really see the difference, and I very much appreciate the benefits of reducing the amount of junk mail I am receiving by signing up for this free service.

5. Prep and storage: Chicken book reading, general preparation and yard work for the Fall planting season. I have decided what seeds I am going to plant, and have them poised and ready to go. I am planting according to Greg Peterson's low desert planting guide from The Urban Farm , and I heartfully recommend it to all you low desert veggie growers out there. It has been so useful for me over the past year, and really does take the guess work out of desert veggie growing.

6. Build community food systems: Gave away the last of the cherry tomatoes to a friend. It didn't seem like I was getting that many as I picked a few each day, but they were definitely accumulating in the refrigerator!

7. Eat the food: Made Pumpkin and corn soup with a couple of the little pumpkins I harvested a few weeks ago. Of course the corn was bought, not home grown.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What a funny looking pumpkin!

Today after I finished work I went out and did some garden-ey things. It has cooled down a little recently, and is only about 107 each day now which is (almost), perfect yard work weather, as long as one doesn't mind getting sun screen laced sweat in the eyes as one works.

We had a fantastic thunderstorm a few nights ago which brought our first real summer rain and it has made everything perk up no end. Plants that had been looking sad, dry, and droopy, immediately started looking lush, and green once again. Amazing that even such a little rain, (along with a significant increase in humidity), can do so much for so many.

This is what the garden looks like now, very empty except for the one lonesome, and very odd looking pumpkin that is still out there. (Sorry, I know I have been posting a lot about pumpkins, and lizards recently).

Have you ever seen such a yellow Pumpkin before? I haven't. I am not quite sure why it is such a strange color, and I know it's not pretty, but it will make a good carving pumpkin for Halloween if I can store it for that long. My dear friend Amy is coming back to visit from Texas for Halloween, so it will be extra special if she, and her beautiful girls can help us to carve it before we all go out trick or treating together!

The birds have been really enjoying the sunflowers and are lots of fun to watch. They dangle precariously right at the top of each droopy flower and peck away at the edges underneath. This leaves the middle section of seeds which they don't seem to have figured out a way to get to yet.

I think I will cut off the sunflower heads and put them somewhere where the birds can get to them easily without having to perform any more perilous balancing acts.

I am waiting for more compost to be ready to add to the beds on the west side of the garden because they really need it before I start planting again. Compost gets consumed voraciously by the desert soil here so it is a good thing that I have the two compost boxes now.

Speaking of compost boxes, I saw my lovely Desert Spiny Lizard again today. (Thanks Jenn for the link). I'm sorry, of course I couldn't do an entire post without mentioning her. I think she is female because I have yet to see the blue green markings under the chin, and on the belly that males have although I may not have got close enough to tell. Anyway, I haven't seen her around at all for about a week or so since I cleared out the beds of foliage, and I've been rather worried that the lack of ground cover had scared her away. However, today I saw her coming out from underneath the compost box and scurrying up the wall. I think she may actually be living underneath there which is rather inconvenient because I will need that compost as soon as it is ready. I will most likely leave it though for fear of scaring her away. I imagine in the Fall she will go off and hibernate somewhere else. Lets hope she doesn't decide that the warm compost is her perfect winter hibernation spot!

One of the high points of our searing summers here is to watch the hummingbirds and their amazing antics. We have lots in our yard flitting about constantly, and I have discovered they are exceedingly difficult to take pictures of. I have a small fountain by the patio and they come and drink from it, and bathe regularly, especially in the afternoons. Try as I might I have never managed to get a decent shot. I did get this picture of a little sparrow but it is hardly the same I know.

Makes me feel even more admiration than I do already for Lisa and the amazing shots she captures of the hummingbirds in her garden.

I have so much to learn about taking great photographs. I desperately want to take a class but that will have to wait until I have finished the classes I have to take for my degree.

Update: On reflection after looking through my heirloom seed catalog I realize that my pumpkin isn't really so funny looking after all compared to many others out there! :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Independence Days Update

I forgot to do this last week so this is for the last two weeks.

1. Plant something: No.

2. Harvest something: Still getting a few cherry tomatoes each day, and basil.

3. Preserve something: Pesto, which I of course froze.

4. Reduce waste: Nothing new here, just the usual things. I am feeling much better about not using nearly as much water now that the veggie garden is taking a rest.

5. Prep and storage: Cleared out most of the veggie beds, and added mulch of compost and straw. I have been planning what I will plant, and where in the Fall. I have ordered garlic which will come mid September, and which I haven't tried to grow before. I have decided that we will build a chicken tractor for the chickens which will work best for us and the area we have for them I think. Still haven't completely finished digging out the sand box but it is getting there slowly. Heavy work in this heat!

6. Build community food systems: Nothing new.

7. Eat the food: A few cherry tomatoes each day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Our Camping Trip

Our camping trip was great. I am really glad we went, so glad in fact that we are planning to go again in a week or two.

We camped in Oak Creek Canyon which is one of Arizona's many spectacularly beautiful places. It was quite busy there with many people camping to escape the heat of Phoenix, and Tucson.

We had fun setting up camp,

Playing around with Mollee, (who is exhausted and has slept almost continually since we got back),

Taking leisurly walks in the cool morning air,

Looking at the amazing scenery,

Enjoying the camp fire,

And making new friends.

We arrived home filthy, but happy.

Although it is still unbearably hot here in the valley, it did help to get away. I feel a huge sense of appreciation today for the beautiful state of Arizona, and all it has to offer for those of us who love the outdoors.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


This heat has me beat.

Seriously, I can't remember such an intensely hot, long stretch like this, not one that wasn't broken up by monsoon storms anyway.

Have I complained enough about the heat yet this summer?

I am taking the girls, and a doggie up north for a few days camping in the cool pines because I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

Stay cool my friends.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Phew, it's hot in here!

I recently discovered this blog written by Chris George, a page designer for the Arizona Republic, who has vowed to live in Tempe, (a suburb of Phoenix), without heating, or cooling for a year.

"In the name of the environment, I have resolved not to use the air conditioning (or heating) at my home all year."

I have always been interested in this issue, not just from an environmental perspective, but from a personal one as well. How have people lived here in the low desert and not only survived, but thrived over the years?

If you get a chance check out Chris's blog because it is compelling reading. Can you imagine living in your home while the temperature is 100 degrees plus? We have probably all had a small taste of it when our AC has malfunctioned, but not for any great length of time.

The comments people have left are pretty interesting too. Some show concern for Chris's cats, others for his health, while others express the thought that it is just plain silly. Each to their own right?

Me, well of course I totally admire someone so willing to make such a major commitment towards reducing their carbon footprint. I am sad to say though, that as much as I love this earth, I don't think I could do it, even if it was just me without others to consider such as my husband, children, and dogs. Really makes me think though.

I guess for now I will just be keeping the thermostat up, and carry on saving for solar.

The Air- Conditioning Strike

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garden Update

This is how my poor garden has been looking at the end of each long, hot day here in the desert. Wilted and tired, and I have to say I can relate.

This was my final summer harvest earlier in the week. Everything is pretty much done, although I am still getting a few cherry tomatoes each day.

I have been battling aphids for ages, and although I contained them for a while using dish soap and oil mixed with water, they are now all over pretty much everything. I am still trying to defend the pumpkin plants, but I have given up with almost everything else.

There comes a point where one just has to let nature take its course, and I am there.

My armenian cucumbers are completely infested with aphids so I don't hold out much hope for them, and the okra never did well either. So now I will pull most things, mulch well, and let the soil take a well deserved break until I begin again in September. This is my time of year for browsing through seed catalogs before the major Fall growing season begins.

It isn't all bad though, there are still a few bright spots out there.

Hopefully I can keep the plants alive long enough to nurture these guys to maturity and then I will have a good, (if early), pumpkin harvest!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

At risk of sounding as though I am obsessing about the lizards in my garden.....

Here is a picture of the completely enormous one that I have been trying to get a picture of for weeks, and who had until now eluded me.

See what I mean? ENORMOUS!

He is always lurking around the base of my old compost box, and we have had encounters on many occasions, the first of which caused me to hyperventilate a little I have to confess. Now though I am quite used to seeing him around, and he seems to be more relaxed around me too which is how I got the picture today I think.

To get a sense of scale, think how big those blocks are that make up the walls so many of us have. He is as long as they are wide! Or compare him to these little guys from the other day.

I know that neither of these are the best pictures, but I hope you get the general idea.

I had never seen a lizard as big as this in our yard until this summer, and I for one am really excited. (And a little obsessed!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Independence Days Update

A day late again and things have been slow on all fronts, but I guess that is to be expected at times.

1. Plant something: No and I am not planning on planting anything else now until our fall season starts in August/ September.

2. Harvest something: The last few tomatoes, (one of which was a huge beefsteak weighing in at 1.2 lbs), cucumbers, and zucchinis, as well as a handful of basil which is one thing that loves the heat. Everything else is done, overtaken by the heat, and the aphids.

3. Preserve something: No.

4. Reduce waste: Nothing new. I did donate a load of kids clothes to Goodwill which I suppose counts in this category.

5. Prep and storage: Just reading as usual.

6. Build community food systems: Nothing new.

7. Eat the food: Same as last week. A couple of salads with tomatoes and cucumbers, and some zucchinis in a stir fry. The birds are loving our sunflower seeds which is fun to watch, but doesn't really count.

I feel that the heat is slowing me down on all fronts at the moment. Hopefully I will regain some of my energy and enthusiasm by next week and will have more to report.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Basking Lizards

This is the sight that greets me every morning when I go out to water the vegetable garden.

There are lizards all over our yard, and they especially seem to like the area around the compost bin where there are plenty of insects for them to snack on.

They love basking in the heat of the sun along the walls, and I am always happy to have them here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pasta Sauce

Here is the pasta sauce I made based on Judy's Mom's recipe over at My Freezer is Full. It is great for using up many of the veggies we have a lot of at the moment, including eggplant.

I basically fried onions, and garlic, (not from the garden), in a little olive oil. I then added tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and salt and pepper, and cooked them all in the slow cooker for an hour or so.

Towards the end I added some overgrown zucchinis. I like to add them later because I don't like them mushy.

Here is the finished product which we had over wholewheat pasta, with a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.

It was very good. Thanks Judy!