Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Planting Time at Richcrest

Lest I be accused of always harvesting and never planting, I can report that I had a fine time at the Richcrest Farms Garlic Planting Party last weekend. I didn't end up taking the moto - alas, a good friend talked me into a carpool. It was a tough choice, but having some quality catch-up time with a girlfriend, even in a car, is a good thing. I lie - it wasn't a tough choice at all. Having another good friend, just now, out of the blue, diagnosed with stage 4 cancer is a not a very gentle reminder that relationship upkeep should be pretty high on anyone's priority list. I figure I can post about my day here anyway, since it was supposed to be a moto trip.

Now if I do my math correctly, our little group of 15 or so field hands planted, oh, some 30,000 cloves of garlic. Wait, can that be right? Sixty-three rows of about 190 feet each, two to three cloves or so per foot, depending on the variety (white, purple and elephant, which, incidentally, is really a type of leek)... yup, that's 30,000, give or take. Whoa. Even though we can expect a germination failure rate of 25-30% (I don't know why) that'll be quite a few heads of garlic to harvest in May. Sounds backbreaking, doesn't it? Actually not at all -we were done well before lunch, really. Of course, the field was already plowed and furrowed, and most (not all) the garlic was already separated into cloves, and Farmer Jim has yet to run the tractor over the field to cover up the furrows (which will take a good half day), but still I was impressed with this motley field hand crew of all sorts.

With deadly speed and accuracy we dropped in our cloves. Funny - each person had their own "technique." Some were squatters. Others stood upright and dropped the cloves in, their aim improving with each row. One gentleman used a walking stick both to lean on and to scoot errant cloves into their proper place in the lineup. I was a fan of leaning over, resting my weight on my elbow, which in turn, rested on my knee sort of yoga style.

After plantin' was done, we sat down under the fall foliage of the fruit trees (sadly not demonstrated in this photo) to a hearty lunch, provided by Etta, the good wife of Farmer Jim.

To borrow a phrase, I am truly blessed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I went riding!

Big deal, right? Actually, yes. The very fact that I not only went riding, but am sitting here writing about it is huge. Did you happen to notice that seven month gap in my blog from Sept 2007 to April 2008? Last year I had one full time job, two part time jobs, the odd gig and student and a summer job. That doesn't count all the practicing that happens when you're "off duty." Plus I took a number of auditions (aka job interviews, the preparation for which totally consumes you and your life for weeks or even months at a time.) On a good day, I found time to brush both my teeth AND hair. On bad days.... In this case correlation DID equal causation. Riding (or anything else "optional," although I think of riding as mandatory) wasn't really in the picture. Well, a few things have changed, at least for this year, and I can not exaggerate how pleased I am to not be working every waking minute! Funny, I FORGOT all the things I used to like to do. A few weeks ago, it dawned on me: "Hey, I used to do yoga. I could DO that again!" Or, upon contemplating a ride, my instantaneous response to myself was "no time." (See, not even enough time to form a complete sentence.) But wait, I DO have time! So ride I did, down to Madera Canyon one afternoon earlier this month. I didn't really eat anything remarkable as I recall (I think I had a sunflower seed roll with Alouette cheese, plus the half eaten gasoline scented granola bar tucked away in my tank bag), but the very fact that I got out is blog-worthy, in my opinion. Just a little ride, with a walk along a short trail, but wow! It took me a good two weeks between riding and blogging, but still, what a quality of life improvement! I hope I can manage the same for next year...

Madera Canyon is at the base of the Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson. It's one of our "sky islands." We've got a number of these small mountainous regions poking up from our desert floor, and they really are remarkable. The climate, flora and fauna atop these islands couldn't be more different than the Sonoran Desert. There are things like pine trees and snow up there! Each sky island is unique, since they are isolated from each other by the desert surrounding them. This was clearly demonstrated to me by the deer I saw that day. I have never seen a deer in the Catalina Mountains, north of town (including Mt. Lemmon.) I saw at least half a dozen on the 1 mile stretch of road in Madera Canyon.

Here are a few more pictures from my day.

The Santa Ritas

One of the cute little B&B's

There were fuzzy caterpillars everywhere!

Edit: I woke up this morning to this article in the paper about Madera Canyon.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Delightful Contraband!

I can NOT believe my good fortune! I am planting some trees today, and a really special tree just came into my world here in Armory Park, Tucson. I have been tossing around the idea of putting some sort of deciduous tree in my back yard. Something to let the sun in during winter, give me shade in the summer. Such a tree will likely have to be watered, and I'm not known to be very reliable in this regard. I'm hoping to have laundry facilities soon, and the only way I can deal with the waste water will be to use it as grey water, rather than tapping into my sewer (not possible with my current, 1916-old house set up.) But it's the perfect solution for watering a tree. And, I figured, if I am actually going to WATER something, it should return the favor in the form of food. Maybe an almond, maybe a fig...

Well today I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I acquired a little Black Mission fig tree. This is not just ANY fig tree. It's a "Kino" fig tree from the Kino Heritage Fruit Tree Project. Coincidentally, I had read about the project just a few days ago. The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, The Desert Survivors Nursery and an organization called Native Seeds/SEARCH have joined together to identify, preserve and propagate direct descendants of fruit trees brought to this area by Spanish Missionaries centuries ago. The name Kino refers to Father Eusebio Kino (1645-1711), a Jesuit missionary and explorer who made about 40 expeditions to AZ. These trees will be used to replant ancient orchards at The Tucson Origins Heritage Park, and the Tumacacori National Historic Park. The trees (fig, apricot, pear, quince, pecan, walnut, pomegranate...) are not, at this time, available to the general public. Unless you're lucky enough to be me! (I've been sworn to secrecy regarding my source.) As tiny as the tree is now, I'm told it might even have a few figs this summer. My glee is uncontainable! What is it that makes this living link to the past so special? I hope I can manage to be a good custodian to this wonderful tree!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I know you're all just dying to know what I'm eating at any given moment. Wait no longer! By checking out the "twitter badge" I've added here (top right of the page) you can satisfy your curiosity about my every bite. For past repasts, use the little arrows at the bottom of the blue box to go back in time. (Reload the blog page for the latest breaking news.)