Saturday, July 30, 2011

Never enough time...

The other day I only achieved two things from my "to do" list....I made pesto and put it in the freezer, and went through my old seeds to see what I will need for fall. That is it! There never seems to be enough time to do everything that I want and need to do while still functioning as a Mother to my two lovely girls which of course is my main priority, and managing to keep our house slightly less than filthy.

That is why sadly I probably wont be signing up for this wonderful "Ten Steps to Being an Urban Farmer Boot Camp" that starts in September and is run by the inspiring Greg Peterson. I would so love to do this but now is not the time for me because I simply have too much else going on. Did I mention that I am drumming in a band these days? No? Well, don't get too excited, it is early days but we are having a lot of fun with it and that is the main thing. I'll let you know when we get our first gig and in the meantime it is back to the "to do" list for me this weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

To do.....

To do list for today-

Dig out new vegetable garden and add compost.
Check what seeds I have left ready for my fall planting season which is rapidly approaching.
Buy more seeds if needed.
Sand and paint patio chair.
clean and paint old wheelbarrow ready to use as a planter this fall.
Make Pesto.

O.K so I may not get all that done today but I can at least make a start.

This fall I am planning to plant beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, parsley, spinach, summer squash and swiss chard. I am not sure how it will go though because I have a lot of new desert soil out there and not much compost so things may not grow as well as I hope. We shall see.

The backyard relandscaping project is moving along nicely too. Today the river rock is going into the wash and it looks really nice. I always feel guilty when things like that are done by other people because I feel as though I should be doing them myself, but sometimes one needs some help I guess. Pictures to follow eventually.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nests. (This post is for you Jenn).

Living in the suburbs is hard for me. I grew up surrounded by nature in England and find the sterility of the Phoenix suburbs to be depressing and stifling.

Many people in my neighbourhood don't seem to like things outside that grow, or move, or make a mess, none of which I particularly mind. As a result my goal for our backyard was to plant lots of trees and plants that would require little water, which would in turn encourage nature to live here in our little piece of desert. It seems to have worked! This past spring we had many more nests in our trees and shrubs, and we enjoy a wide array of birds, lizards and gecko's, and snakes..... king snakes I might add which are a welcome addition to our home.

Here are some of our nests,

I nearly didn't see this one hidden and suspended in a creosote bush until I saw the opening!

Here are the remains of a quail nest under a cactus in the front yard after the chicks had hatched out. I wanted to get a picture of the Mother sitting on her eggs but I was worried about disturbing her. This is the second year they have nested in this exact spot and I have a baby quail story for another post later.

The next two nests are I think goldfinch or warbler nests and we have at least five of these around the front and back yards.

And this is my favorite nest of all. I am not sure what was nesting in it although I have a feeling it may have been a mourning dove.

I love the way there is so much stuff woven into it including mesquite bean pods and even a piece of plastic. Very ingenious!

I will never tire of watching the life that exists outside in this suburban desert environment if we will just be willing to give it a home, a place to grow and thrive.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Anyone who knows me at all knows that I love birds but that I am terrible at indentifying them. I simply don't understand and appreciate the subtle differences between each type I am afraid. I want to do a post about the many nests we have had in our yard this past spring and summer but first I need some help in identifying a bird that has been flocking in large groups in our yard the past few months though less so since it got really hot.

These pictures are poor because they were taken through a window but they were the best I could get. This particular day Emily and I counted eighteen of these birds in this bush at one time, and we used to see them all the time especially in my fountain. I think they are probably goldfinches because the male birds have bright yellow bellies with black heads and I think my friend Jenn advised me last year that this was so with what I think are the same birds, but I am not certain.

Jenn, are you there? Can you help me please my resident bird expert?


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Rains

We had a great camping trip up near Flagstaff. Fun times with good friends. Lots of laughter, cool nights, and lots of rain too! The summer rains have been pretty good so far this year and it rained a lot every day while we were up there. There was a downpour the morning we left and we all got completely drenched, and so did all of our stuff. The tent was as muddy as if we had been camping in England. Luckily after washing it out it only took an hour or so to dry on the line back here in the valley. The summer heat is good for some things after all!

Emily learned to ride her bike while we were up there. Another childhood milestone achieved!

When we arrived home this is what my back yard looked like,

Once finished this "river" is to be filled with river rock to make a desert wash but after all the rain it looked like a real river. Everything is very green outside even here with the rain and humidity and I do like it. The moisture gives me a sense of comfort I don't usually feel here in the desert, it makes me feel more secure in some unfathomable way I can't explain.

Now I am home I am overwhelmed with a long list of things that I must achieve. I have to get outside today and clear up all the mesquite beans that have fallen off my trees. (You can see piles in the picture above but there are many more now). I guess I wont be grinding them into flour again this year. At least they make great compost!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Good News

I was very happy to hear a couple of days ago that the Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona was 95% contained! It is interesting to me to see how media coverage of a fire such as this dies down as the weeks pass and communities and homes are no longer threatened, but this doesn't mean that it is over. While most have forgotten about it elsewhere the firefighters are still working, and the people who live there are still very much affected.

It was good news for us to hear that our friends who live up near Alpine have been home for a week or so and that their property was untouched by the fire. We were of course not able to go and stay there this year, (we usually go in June), however, that was a very small price for us to pay compared to what they have all gone through, and we are already looking foward to next year. I fully expect the landscape will be look different to what we are used to but I am ready for that now. Our friend tells us that they are seeing and hearing many animals around their place, and that they are optimistic that the landscape will recover relatively quickly. I am glad.

We are going camping this week up to the cool pines of northern Arizona. It will be a relief to get away from the searing heat and ever increasing humidity that is Phoenix in July.

Happy July 4th everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful and safe day.

P.S We made a little over $400 yesterday at the garage sale for our Walk to Defeat ALS. Very happy with that!! :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reaching Out With Courage

Since her ALS diagnosis In February of 2009 my cousin has inspired many people to raise thousands and thousands of dollars in her honor for the ALS Society of British Columbia. The fact that so much money has been raised in her honor speaks volumes about the kind of person she is, and the way in which she is living with, and fighting this devastating disease.

At the beginning of June "Team Laronde" raised over $6,000 dollars for the BC Walk to Beat ALS. The girls and I will be walking in honor of my lovely cousin on October 22nd in the Arizona Walk to Defeat ALS. Our fundraising goal is $1,000 and we are well on our way to getting there thanks to many generous donors!

This weekend we will be holding a large garage sale to raise funds for our goal. I love garage sales, they appeal to my "reduce, reuse, recycle" mentality, and they are lots of fun too! The girls and I have been busy getting ready for it and we all feel really excited about the fact that my beautiful cousin's courage will be reaching the deserts of Arizona all the way from British Columbia, Canada this weekend. Her courage will never cease to amaze and inspire me.