Saturday, January 30, 2010

Great Timing

I am off this weekend, the first in ages it seems. Our house and yard are a mess and I have huge plans to completely spring clean the house, and tidy up the backyard, as well as possibly planting a new tree. (I saw a desert Willow tree for a very good price a couple of days ago and I am very tempted!)

However, it seems the sickness that I have been incubating all week has chosen this weekend to reveal itself fully. I have a hacking cough, cold, and low grade fever, and I feel pretty miserable actually. Great timing!

However, I simply can't imagine malingering the weekend away in bed, it is too much of a waste, so I am going to dose myself up and get started, perhaps then I will start to feel better? Let's hope so.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

When I started seeing regular grocery, and big box stores selling their own reusable shopping bags I was quite excited. After all, what could be better than everyone using bags that create way less carbon emissions than the production of plastic grocery bags, and cause a lot less waste? I was, (and still am), hoping that the question "plastic or paper?" will become a question from a bygone era.

Now though I am not so sure that this is all such a good thing after all. I currently have dozens of these bags that have been "gifted" to me in various ways, way more than I can, or ever will need to use in this lifetime.

It seems that it is the new thing to place "gifts" in these bags in the belief that one is utilizing a more environmentally friendly gift wrapping option. I certainly don't mean to sound ungrateful, for this is a lovely gesture that speaks to me personally as someone who has the utmost respect for our planet. However, I suspect that like me, everyone else out there has dozens of these bags, and that they are trying to off load them in the most responsible way that they can think of.

There are various cunning ways to do this it seems. One can deliver items to Goodwill in as many bags as one can gather together in one go. There is also the gift presentation option, or the means of delivering a potluck dinner in two or three bags designed to "insulate" the dish efficiently. This multiple off load is particularly clever I think!

You might ask how I know about all these methods? Well of course they are methods I have myself used on occasion I have to confess although I am trying hard to refrain from doing so of late. As a result I have an ever increasing amount of reusable grocery bags in the trunk of my car, and in closets around the house.

I suspect before very long that people will begin to try to dispose of these bags in less environmentally conscious ways. I fear that we will then see many of the reusable grocery bags being disposed of in the same way as the original grocery bags were, in the trash which completely defeats the object.

So please, although I really like the fact that you are environmentally conscious, and I am very grateful for your kindness and generosity, please don't gift me anymore reusable grocery bags. I have enough, really I do, and I suspect that you do too. So let's all just keep the ones that we have, use them responsibly, and enjoy the feeling that we have enough reusable grocery bags to last a lifetime. I promise that I will do the same!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Catching Up

These pictures were taken the day after we had another major storm last week just after I got back from Vancouver. I was surprised at how much damage our backyard sustained because the winds didn't seem as bad as last time, but there you go, there is no rhyme or reason to these things. We actually had a tornado warning at one point though thankfully no actual tornado!

The first picture is a really good example of why there are sometimes problems with growing desert trees in small suburban backyards. Despite the fact that we never watered this mesquite, it was still getting plenty of water from other plants in the yard that are more regularly watered. As a result it never needed to develop a deep root system. You can see how shallow the roots are and so a well timed, and probably quite strong gust of wind was all it took to take it over. All my trees were in dire need of thinning too which I usually do before the summer storms. I really didn't expect such violent winter storms this year.

I am sad, I always am when I lose trees and plants, but it could have been much worse, and amazingly enough the back wall was completely undamaged. I finally got out today to finish the clean up and to try to put things back in order. I am toying with getting another tree and I am thinking another Desert Willow might be a better idea. They generally grow in slightly less arid areas, and need a bit more water than the average desert tree. As a result I feel that they are more stable in the long run. It is sad seeing the empty space where my lovely mesquite tree was.

I finally planted my tomato and pepper seeds into seed trays today. I am really late this year so I don't know if I will be too late to get a really good crop of both before the heat starts. My poor garden has been so neglected the past few months I am afraid. I don't know what has been happening to me lately, I just can't seem to get caught up. I have a ton of swiss chard that needs harvesting too, and carrots.

** I don't at all mean to imply that desert trees aren't always the best choice environmentally for landscaping here in the desert. However, there are issues when there is so much available water around for them to "steal". We have problems with our neighbours over watering their plants to the point that their water pours through our back wall so even if one waters little oneself, there is always plenty more to share around.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taking Root

I have been watching the growth of a couple of potatoes that I tossed into the compost bin a few weeks ago with much interest.

They obviously have enough moisture and nutrients to grow in there, and have now managed to sprout their way through the tiniest nooks and crannies to reach the light. Amazing really.

What healthy looking potato plants. I wonder if I will get actual potatoes or not? I will just have to wait and see.

I leave for Vancouver tomorrow. See you all in a week or so. Keep warm all of you who live in places where there is a real winter!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Impulse Buy

I am not one to buy anything on impulse usually. In fact I did so last Saturday when out with friends and I took the item back an hour or so later. Today however I found some really cute little red onions at my local nursery and I just couldn't resist. The onions I planted from seed did not germinate well so I planted these instead.

I am excited to see how they do.

Today I also seeded beets, more carrots, and lettuces. I am waiting for my soil block maker to arrive before I plant eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers which I will keep sheltered until all danger of frost has passed.

I also picked these first young carrots.

I needed carrots for the chicken casserole I threw together in my crock pot for dinner. They turned out great although they probably deserved better treatment as such young, sweet specimens.

After that I volunteered, walked to school to get Kendra, practised drumming for forty minutes or so, and tidied up my wreck of a house.

I leave for Canada next week. I will be visiting my cousin in Vancouver, the one who is so ill. I am excited to go and see my family there, and I am also nervous, but I know that I want to be there with them. Perhaps I can make things a little bit better, I hope so anyway. I need to start thinking about packing but that can probably wait until tomorrow. Right now I am thinking about my new library book and how much I am looking forward to starting it this evening.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I am about two hours away from going to the first drumming lesson I have taken in about eleven years and I am quite simply......... terrified! I am not even sure why.

Things like this are supposed to be fun right? For me though as my own worst critic, the thought of sitting down in front of someone who I have never met before and showing him what I can, (or can't), do around a drum kit does not seem like fun right now.

I have done this before, many times, and I keep telling myself this, but I still feel awful. I emailed my favorite teacher from the U.K to tell him and this was his response:

"That is great news, just enjoy it. You are paying him to teach you, so HE should be nervous about doing a good job and he won't be judging you, just seeing where he can help out. Let me know how you get on and just enjoy it."

O.K. Brian, I know you are right, and I will try!

This is something I have wanted to be doing FOR YEARS. It is a lifetime dream of mine to play drums in a rock and roll band but despite practising by myself, I can't do this alone. I need help to make this dream come true. Oh why do I feel so awful?

Deep breaths, deep breaths.....................

Update- So two hours later I am home. Of course it was great despite my fears! I am so my own worst enemy. I love my new teacher and loved playing again at a full kit. Great time. Can't wait for my next lesson, and I am really glad I didn't cancel it which is what I felt like doing at various points this week. Silly girl. :)

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Day Hike

Happy New Year everyone!

We spent our afternoon exploring a trail within the Mcdowell Sonoran Preserve which we are very fortunate to have within a ten minute drive from where we live.

The preserve encompasses 14,000 acres of pristine Sonoran desert, and features a new trail head at which there is an amenities building designed and built to have "minimal impact on the fragile desert environment". It is a lovely looking building.

"Green building elements incorporated in the facility include solar power generation, rainwater harvesting, solar water heating, rammed earth walls constructed of native soil from on-site excavation, structural steel made of high recycled content, highly efficient mechanical equipment, native landscaping, and parking lot and path surfaces made of stabilized decomposed granite." Right up my alley!

We wandered around the guided nature trail reading about desert plants and animals.

We learned that pack rats nests are called "middens" and are made of the stuff collected by the rats. The rats then urinate on it all and the urine crystallizes to form cement to hold it all together. This is what one looks like.

I saw loads of desert mistletoe which for some reason fascinates me. Unlike the regular kind of mistletoe, desert mistletoe does not harm it's host tree apparently. Good to know!

After that we wandered around a trail. It was quite busy which wasn't surprising because it was a beautiful day. I still felt like I got a good dose of nature with which to start the new year off perfectly though.

The girls did well. We walked about three miles in total and Emily walked the whole way. I definitely plan to go back again often as I had not realized what an amazing place we have so close to where we live.