Painted Desert Dayhike

We’d both been talking about going hiking for a while. I decided today was as good as any, and when I came in after my morning routine (3 mile bike ride with Timber plus a 30 minute workout), I told Jonathan I was going hiking today. He thought it sounded like a good idea too and decided to come along. I’m always thrilled when he’s ready to come along on my adventures!

The Painted Desert Trail looked like an interesting hike that wasn’t too far away. This allowed time to enjoy our usual morning, and then pack a lunch before heading out. We drove through a cloud of pouring rain on the drive up, but it hadn’t rained at our destination. We ate lunch on some rocks by the trailhead before starting our hike.

It’s always fascinating to me how quickly the landscape changes when you drive through Arizona. This hike is only about 45 minutes from where we are living in the bare desert.

This was Timber’s first time out on a real hike! We recently started letting him roam off leash when we take him out in the desert. So far he is behaving very well, and obviously has no desire to run away. So that’s progress for sure and makes exercising him much more enjoyable. Here’s a little video from the first time I let him off leash on our morning bike ride.

The dramatic clouds in the sky made for some very enjoyable scenery. Timber enjoyed his time off leash, but I think his paws got pretty sore from scrambling over so many jagged rocks. I’ll have to get him some hiking boots and his own day pack for future hikes!

Jonathan and I enjoyed being out in nature. There was a lot of color on display, even without the help of plants or flowers. We saw a few neat rock formations and found pieces of jasper and quartz rock.

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Welcoming Timber, the German Shepherd Dog

I’ve been waiting over 10 years to get a dog. I always thought I would wait until we could buy land out in the country before I got a dog. But as time went on, and the years kept going by, I wanted my dog more and more! Dogs have always been country living animals in my mind, so it was hard for me to wrap my mind around the concept of owning a dog in the city. As I thought it through very carefully, I concluded that I still wanted a dog and knew I had time to give the dog a happy life in town. And so the shopping began.

I was sure I wanted to raise my new dog as a very young puppy. I was hunting for a puppy less than 12 weeks old. But I was very, and I mean VERY, particular! It had to be cute, I thought I wanted a male, and I thought I wanted a mix rather than purebred. The more I shopped, the reality of raising a little itty bitty puppy set in. NIGHTMARE. Way too much time commitment. Crying all night. I don’t have to explain! Everyone knows the challenges of raising a puppy right from the start. I started to consider skipping several months of that headache by buying a teenage puppy instead. Young enough to train, but old enough to be mature sooner rather than later. Of course this comes with new challenges…possibilities of bad habits from the previous owner, etc. But after weighing out my options, I decided this was best for my situation.

First morning walk in the desert with my new dog

We had talked many times about getting a German Shepherd Dog. I also considered a Red Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) or a mix of the two breeds. The German Shepherd is everything I want in a dog: loyal, very smart, easy to train, protective, and a great hiking buddy. I read and read article after article about the breed, the challenges that come with these dogs, and things to know before bringing one home. I was still convinced the German Shepherd was what I wanted in a dog.

I finally found a 10 month old German Shepherd that was looking for a new home. Jonathan and I went to meet the dog that evening. I asked my friends who owned dogs what kinds of questions I should ask and what I should be looking for. This black and red male German Shepherd was gorgeous, very calm, and you could see the intelligence in his face. After asking all the questions I could think of, looking over his pedigree, and falling in love with his fuzzy teddy bear ears, I told the owner I needed to think about it over night and I would let him know my answer in the morning.

Bringing home my German Shepherd

Long story short, I decided to bring my German Shepherd home the next morning. After a few very stressful days, and sleepless nights, we got through the transition of bringing a new pet home and I began a serious training routine for my new pal.

I don’t like to name my animals too fast. I like to get to know their personality before I pick out a name. I felt a little rushed naming my dog because training is very difficult without a name. After about a week with my German Shepherd, I decided to name him Timber. He’s been living with us for nearly two months now. We celebrated his birthday by making the decision that his trail period is over and it’s time to officially welcome him into our lifestyle! He’s already come a long ways with his training, changed a lot of things about our lifestyle, and shown us there will be many more challenges to stretch and shape each of us in the days ahead. We are welcoming all of it and will do our best to give Timber a very happy life filled with good dog manners and lots of adventures!

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Time for Jeans and Sweatshirts

The weather is finally changing and I was able to pull out my jeans and sweatshirt this morning. Fall has arrived in southern Arizona. Soon, we will be able to enjoy sitting outside again! A couple Saturdays ago I braved the stores and did some long overdue clothes shopping. I found these two pillows, just the right size for our outdoor chairs, on clearance at Kohl’s. Add member discounts etc. on top of that and I got these for $6 each!

The garden is growing faster than I’ve ever seen. Gardening looks different when the temperatures are near 100 degrees from the start. I am being challenged with new bugs and plant diseases. Pretty sure I’m fighting white flies, caterpillars, and maybe leaf miners. Never have I seen a peppermint plant get eaten to shreds! I think it’s the caterpillars and I’m glad they’re eating the peppermint over my veggie plants.

I’ve been baking most of our bread products again. English muffins, sourdough bread, and of course the usual muffins or deserts. We had our first pumpkin pie of the season last week, and of course I didn’t get any pictures. I used the remaining pumpkin to bake chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. I always cut sugar back when I bake, and usually the oil too. I use applesauce to replace some of the oil. These turned out great, I should write down what edits I made before I forget!

Desert Garden Prep for Fall Growing Season

Gorgeous sky this morning! Cooler temps are definitely on their way and I’m ready.

I’ve already planted some beans, pumpkins, winter squash, and cucumbers. The sweet potato beds are just about ready to harvest and then I can clear out those beds to make room for more fall growing season crops.

Kitty Macchiato is glad to see us spending more time outside again. She likes to watch the busy work, and sometimes get her paws 🐾 right in there. She’s also a bit tired of waiting out the heat of the day on the couch…

Coffee, one of my favorite gardening books, and seeds. That’s how I started my Monday. Now to keep these seeds moist through the heat of these last days of summer.

Camping Trip with the Cat

I grew up with lots of camping and outdoor experiences and I loved it all! But I could never understand why anyone enjoyed car camping!! We did extended backpacking trips, overnight fishing trips, hunting, bike trips, and more. But the few times we did go car camping, I found it totally boring and frustratingly MESSY! When you’re used to backpacking, you take as little as possible with you because you have to carry it all on your back. But car camping!! Well, let’s load up the games, the fluffy pillows, the grill, and hey, we might as well take the kitchen sink!! Because we can! If it fits in the car, it can go. 🤦‍♀️ Okay, maybe everyone doesn’t car camp like that, but that was my vision of car camping. I thought it was stupid.

Okay, fast forward about 15 years, put me in the middle of a dessert for 7 months with no trees or grass, and then give me a weather forecast of 120 degrees. Let’s go camping in the mountains!!! Suddenly just sitting in the silence of the woods (no AC unit humming constantly), having nothing to do but enjoy nature around you sounded like the best thing in the world. Funny how different circumstances in life change your perspective on something you used to think was silly.

When we made the decision to head to the mountains to camp for the weekend, we knew the cat was going with us. She was just as tired of the heat as we were and it just wouldn’t feel right to leave her behind. Besides that, we worried about the chance of the AC failing while we were gone. If she was home alone with no AC, that could be a big problem.

Okay, so kitty Macchiato is going with us. Great! We already knew she handles traveling with the camper just fine. We open the door at an overnight site and she starts circling the camper and expanding her circles as she investigates the area. If anything spooks her, she runs back to the camper because she knows that’s home. But how would she do without the camper? Would she treat the car in the same way or would she feel lost without her house?

I took her leash and harness with us just in case, but I already knew she hated the cat carrier and the leash and just demanded that we trust her. I knew she was very loyal and wants to stay with us so I just turned my worry mind off knowing that I want my cat to live the independent and free life of an outdoor cat. When we got to our secluded camp site, we simply let the cat out just as we would if we were traveling in the camper. She did great! She began her circling and treated the car as her safety net just as we had hoped. What a smart cat!

We had planned to camp in the Tonto National Forest just outside of Payson, AZ. When we got there, every road was blocked with yellow caution tape, stop signs, and warning signs stating that the entire forest was closed due to a recent forest fire. I’ve never seen anything like in all my years going to the woods. We were very disappointed and thinking we might have to just turn around and drive home! I’m not sure why the closure announcements weren’t on the forest service websites we were browsing as we planned our trip. Anyway, after looking at the map, we noticed the Coconino National Forest wasn’t too much farther up the road so we headed there to see if we could camp there. Yes! The forest was open and simply had no “campfire” signs which is typical for the summer anywhere.

We found ourselves a really nice spot, tucked off the main roads and away from other people. We didn’t want a fellow campers dog to chase our cat. And I tend to like to get as far away from people as possible when I go camping. 😂

Kitty played and played, hunting chipmunks 🐿, getting scolded by crows, and climbing trees 🌲. She has missed spending time outside with us. We’re usually outside working on projects and gardening at home but it has just been too hot for any of that. So she was really happy to have her people hanging out with her outside again. Jonathan and I were just enjoying the quiet and the fresh air! I don’t think anyone should live where trees don’t live.

I suppose it was a lot of trouble to pack up all our gear for one night in the woods, but it was totally worth it to me. I had to chuckle as I took pictures of pine cones and trees, things I used to take for granted. It’s interesting to note what you take pictures of when you haven’t seen them in forever.

I wasn’t sure how Macchiato would do at night. She’s used to sleeping with us, but I wondered if the night life of the woods would have her too excited to sleep. We were a little worried about her trying to scratch her way through the netting of the tent. But, she went right to sleep as usual. I did have to put her in the car for the early morning hours. I usually let her outside at about 3 or 4 in the morning, and she wanted to stick to that routine in the woods. I didn’t want her running around free in the woods while it was dark, so I put her in the car so I could finish sleeping.

After enjoying our morning at the camp site, we decided to go on a nice long car ride, exploring the Arizona and New Mexico border. There is a lot of beautiful and untouched country over there! The route we chose was very scenic and the temps were pretty close to 75 degrees all day, but it ended up taking much longer than we anticipated! It was a 12 hour drive by the time we got home. Kitty was, once again, quite the trooper, napping the whole way like a road tripping pro. 😹

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Shaded Porch Garden with Potting Bench

I’m pretty sure my Jonathan is trying to make our home here so beautiful and cozy that I’ll never want to leave. 😍💕 He says he’s just trying to make it easier for me with good tools and a nice workspace. Well, he scored on this one, that’s for sure!!

It all started when he decided to update our privacy panels surrounding the camper and add a 30 ft shade structure in the back to protect the hot tub, cool the south wall of the camper, and provide a shaded gardening area for my potted plants.

As I’ve started transplanting my garden starts, they’ve been slowly taking over the walkway out front. I’m so glad they’re doing well but it was becoming challenging to give them the morning and evening watering they needed without being in direct sunlight. We had our awning extended over them, but the hours of morning and evening sun reaching these plants were getting longer and longer.

After the shade screen went up, I thought it was time to move my plants in. But wait, what’s happening in the back of that picture!? 🧐😯 Is that a work bench? Well, kind of. But it’s much better than that…it’s a gardeners dream! A potting bench!!😁💚👍🌱

I really surprised myself when I went to paint this. My plan was to stick with greys and greens. As I was painting the framework, Jonathan brought out his teal stain along with the white stain leftover from my desk and I immediately knew exactly what I would do. And so came all the beach vibes! The color provides a pop of cheer and really brightens up the shelves.

Oh and guess what! Most of this wood is recycled from this cedar fence panel that used to be the backdrop for my violin studio, and before that was one of the privacy panels back when we lived in our fifth wheel!!

It took me most of the morning two days to paint this. I was thankful the temperatures dropped below 100° for me to paint! Once all the painting was done and Jonathan finished assembling, I couldn’t wait to move in!

Container Gardening in Arizona May Update

These flowers finally got a new home! I’ve had these for well over a year and they’ve been in the same pot this entire time. Well, Jonathan picked out this pot for me the other day when he went shopping without me. It’s perfect! The colors compliment each other nicely. And he knows how much I like purple! I was shocked how root bound these poor plants were, and yet they continued to bloom and grow. Except for those blue ones on the left, they were having a hard time. I bet they’ll be happy again with room for their feet.

My garden starts are growing like crazy! I have to water 3 and even 4 times a day but so far I’ve only fried ☀️ a handful of starts. 🌱 We are still working away at building our raised garden bed along with shade solutions. My starts are getting impatient though so I ordered some 6 inch pots and have been transplanting a few each evening after sundown.

I have all of these sitting under the awning of our camper to protect them from the mid day sunshine. They get sun in the morning and again right around dinner time. The sun around here has surprising intensity even at those times but so far, the plants are handling it fine. I make sure to do all of my transplanting in the evening so that they can acclimate to their new home overnight before dealing with another hot day.

I went around and took some updated photos of several of my plants so I’ll share those here too. I’m slowly learning how much sun and shade and water each plant likes and adjusting accordingly. These plants seem a bit fussy to me and require lots of mothering! 🧐👩‍🌾🌱

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New Pots to Make New Homes for Growing Plants

My Oregano desperately needed a new pot. It kept wilting down in the ever increasing heat so I trimmed it way back

Now I could really see that it also needed a bigger pot so I decided to grab one when we went to visit the Yuma Nursery, something I’d been looking forward to for over a week. Jonathan went there without me one day and told me all about it so I wanted to go too. We were just waiting for a day that worked for both of us.

I like it when Jonathan goes to the store with me because I have a really hard time making the decision to purchase something. I may know I like it/want it/need it, but I have a hard time swallowing those price tags! When he’s there to say it’s okay, I feel better about my purchases.

Anyway, the day came and we went to the nursery supply store. It was so fun! Plants, trees, shrubs, tropicals…everything you could dream of. They had every plant I’ve seen in neighbors yards that I took note I’d like to have in my yard. If I bought them all, it would cost a fortune. 😂 It’s okay, we can build up to it slowly, one plant at a time.

On this trip, I was on a mission to buy pots. I’ve found lots of wonderful terra cotta pots at the 99 Cent Only store, but I wanted simple nursery style pots for transplanting all my starts. Here is some of the cuteness I brought home from the 99 cent store.

While the nursery had all the plants one could dream of, they were only selling decorative pots. Glazed or plain terra cotta. I knew I could use these too, but like I said, I have a really hard time with those price tags. Jonathan reminded me of the cost of materials it took for him to build me these planters (pictured below) and then I felt better about it.

And so we went back and forth between the teal glaze, the dark green, the white….the round, the square, the bowl…and three different sizes. One BIG pot or two smaller pots. 🤔🤷‍♀️🤔. Again, I was glad he was there to give his input. 💕

We came home with this gorgeous teal marble glazed terra cotta pot for my Oregano and he still thinks he needs a bigger home. I think I’ll just plant him in the ground once we finish building the raised bed.

And we came home with this cool orange glazed terra cotta pot which is going to match a trellis Jonathan is building for the patio so this will look super fun! I hmm and haa over what to plant in this guy and Jonathan insisted he bought the pot for my beautiful and thriving Basil plant. What can I say, it LOVES the heat! Who knew!? Not this Pacific Northwest garden girl, that’s for sure!!

I didn’t think my basil needed transplanting so I hesitated. I went to investigate, checked the bottom of my white pot which currently house my Basil to check for roots sticking out the bottom and there they were! So Jonathan won. Basil into the orange pot it was. And he looks great in there!!

And then lastly, how cute are these succulent containers? 🤩 I moved my succulent babies that my neighbor friend gave me in February over to these little containers. And that completes my garden fun report!

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Transplanting a Meyer Lemon Tree to a Bigger Home

While we were in Oregon this year, I adopted one of the Meyer Lemon Trees that my mother in law started from seed. She’s always had more of a green thumb than me, especially with potted plants and house plants. I figured I should be able to grow this lemon tree successfully, especially since we were headed back to Arizona, you know, a citrus trees natural habitat!

About a month into caring for my little tree, the challenges began. I read some articles to try and understand a healthy amount of watering and fertilization. Of course being in a dry climate, my tree needs to be cared for slightly differently than what my mother in law is doing for her trees.

Once the bottom leaves started to turn a pale yellow, we came to a mutual agreement that it was time for a bigger pot for my Meyer Lemon Tree. And so transplanting day came! I used a Miracle Grow potting mix and watered it well. Now to see if the leaves will improve soon! I also moved the Meyer Lemon Tree to a spot with more shade and less direct sunlight. It will only see the morning sun now, up until about noon, but still has plenty of daylight.

It’s been inspected by Kitty Macchiato so I’m hoping for the best!

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Growing Sunflowers in a Sunny Desert Climate

This past fall, my friend Jill gave me some sunflower seeds she saved from her garden. As she filled the little bags with seeds I stopped her and said, “That’s more then I could even dream of planting.” At this point I had no idea when or where I would be able to plant them.

Once we were back in Yuma, Arizona, I realized there would be time to grow my sunflowers before we would be relocating again. I decided to plant them right out our door in front of a brick wall I’ve always thought was rather ugly. Having a wall of sunflowers there will be beautiful!

To prepare the soil, I raked over the area to pick up the dead palm tree branches and other debris. For the past 3 years, I’ve been dumping my old potting soil in this back corner so it was somewhat like a compost pile I guess. I raked this over the area I intended to plant as well. Then I grabbed what was left of my bag of Amend, probably about 3/4 of the bag, and poured that over the area as well. Next I gently dug over the area to loosen everything up and mix the potting soil and amend into the sand. Not much, but better than nothing I figure! All I know is that water drains right through the sand, so I’m hoping the added soil and amend will help to retain moisture between waterings.

9 day later I was feeling a bit anxious about my little seeds. Did I plant them too deep? Did I let them dry out too much? Did the birds get to them after all? I imagine my neighbors thought I was crazy as I knelt over my little square of dirt examining and searching desperately for sprouts.

FINALLY, on day 11 they started to emerge from the soil. Being a teaching day for me, I gave them a good dose of water and then spent the rest of the day in my studio teaching until after dark. After dinner, I grabbed a flashlight and went outside to count my sprouts. LOL! Now I know the neighbors think I must be a crazy women. There were 13 sprouts the first night, 21 the next morning. Then it was 31, 42, 51, and at most recent count there were 60. I’m content now and will wait until I’m sure all have sprouted before I count again! HAHA.

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