Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award

This just made my night.  Thank you Casa Mariposa for this award.  I hope I live up to the fun and excitement that I try to bring everyday to this blog.  February is going to be an exciting time and I look forward to sharing some incredible finds and discoveries around Arizona and my great love...Tucson!  This blog is also very "garden-esque" but you wouldn't know it lately with all the birds and travels going on around the state.  Simply put.  It's kind of the downtime right now in the garden as plants are dormant, but I'll be back in March with more on the El Presidio Gardens.   But for now, as is fashion for this award, here are 7 random facts about myself:)
The painting that hangs on our wall at home over the fireplace and reflects my personality.

1.  Huge Star Trek fan....in fact all things Star Trek guide my life and decisions.

2. Guilty of loving one plant too much....the Jacaranda.  Should I have it here in Tucson?  Well I'm in midtown so the answer is....kinda:)  But it's my sacred tree that I will protect as long as I'm alive and it's the only one I pamper at El Presidio.  I'm hoping this year that it will develop beautiful lavender blooms again this summer. Last year, it was almost killed after a severe freeze. But it snapped back and looks great right now.

3.  I love to read.  Currently on my kindle, I'm reading the Hunger Games and I'm on the 3rd book.  I've just read the Game of Thrones series and met George RR Martin this summer.  It was pretty awesome:)

4.  Big language geek.  Teach Spanish and have been doing this stint for about 16 years.

5. I have seasonal depression and need sunlight to survive in this world.  At a young age, I knew that I couldn't live in Wisconsin forever.  I got my degree and headed out to Arizona in 1996 where I began my journey.

6.  I love Egyptian stuff. We're planning adventures for this magnificent country next year summer in 2013.  If it becomes unstable, we'll be heading to Jordan.  Huge fan of pyramids and all things related to travel.

7.  I own 5 cats and have a wonderful spouse of 8 years. We are cat hoarders.  We all drive each other nuts as we live this crazy life.  Sometimes Pat gets irritated by my constant roadtripping and gardening but secretly enjoys the torture:)

This has been a lot of fun and thank you TS at Casa Mariposa:) for such a fun award.  This blog centers around Tucson and El Presidio Gardens as they are the heart of my writes, but I enjoy travel and nature.....and you'll see those as well:) My posts usually run around 2 AM Arizona time for my overseas friends who are just starting their days off and will be ready for my US blogger friends reading posts with their tea and coffee in the morning.  And like I always sign off, "More tomorrow...":)

With An Eagle Eye....

Cardinal in Sabino Canyon
 These pics were taken in the wild.  Not a zoo or refuge.  These are the beginnings of my journeys as an amateur birder. I went with a mission today.  Listen.  Observe. Locate. Absolute quiet is necessary.
So I followed my instructions and on my hike, I quietly walked listening for the Cardinal's sounds.  
And in the tree, I spotted both male and female.  Now one would think that these birds are easy to spot.  Quite the contrary.  It's not.  As I do this more, I become more in tune with my surroundings and I find balance from within.  And there is joy in this.
First I spotted the female(below) and then I turned around and found the male staring at me. We were both curious.   There was absolute perfection until a little kid popped out of nowhere and almost ran both Cardinals off!!  I put my finger to my mouth and the kid kept quiet until his mother screamed out his name.  Then they both flew away.  Personal rant.  I hate this view on men.  I know why we're seen as the enemy....especially strangers, but not all guys are bad people.  I educate...that's what I do, and the kid was greatful.  But I heard the mother say, "What were you doing over there with that man?"And he said, "We were looking at some Cardinals!" The world today is not a trusting one.  I can't say that I would be any different than that mother.  I'd have been protective of my own kid as well, but it still hurts me that men are seen in a darker light.  The same attitude applies in the education field...especially at the Elementary schools.  Why would a guy want to teach Elementary school?!  Well I don't thankfully(high school and college are my areas), but there are guys who make great role models for these younger kids because they love what they do.  I don't ask for the kids or dogs to follow me on my hikes...in fact, I wish they weren't there at all.  But that's not how life works.  Not all people are bad. Some actually try to do some good. End of rant:)
But most importantly, I succeeded in my objective.  Listen. Observe. Locate.(LOL:)  And I was really excited that on this photo shoot, I achieved my mission.  Find the Cardinals. But I would find so much more.  Tomorrow, I'll speak of the plant vs. bird tactic. While mostly all of my photos are taken in the wild, a few aren't.... like this Bald Eagle. I took this shot at the Bird Refuge in Green Bay. I hope to see a real one in the wild someday:)  But I can tell you, that my "Eagle Eye" is getting better:)  And what's a post without our National Symbol:) More tomorrow....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Soaking It Up

Not an atrractive picture, but one that needs mentioning this time of year.  Tucson gardeners, newbies to the desert, you may have found my blog by accident or are just darned curious about bareroot roses.  Roses are not only red in the Old Pueblo, but yellow, blue, orange.......well I could go on and on.  Remember, before planting any bareroot rose to let it sit in a bucket for at least 24 hours which will allow the roots to soak up some water before hitting the dirt:)  In fact, this is my project for today.  Yesterday, I bought my roses and put them in the bucket.  Today they go into the ground with some soil and love.  You can grow roses here...and so many of them.  We have two blooming seasons...late spring around May and around mid October.  So if you doubt planting a rose bush, rethink it.  They aren't difficult to grow here.  They do require some pruning and a little more TLC than our native plants, but I think you'll like the results.  If you are new and looking for roses, here are some links that might help you out.  There's a post on Hybrid Tea Roses in my own gardens.  There's a post on Descanso Roses.  Want to see an actual Rose Garden in Tucson?  A little magic from a potted rose near my window?  Or how about some tips to get your started on your February Garden that includes some rose information?  Have some fun this next month.  Now's the time to get bareroot roses and fruit trees into the ground.  More tomorrow.....

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Today I end my series from Wisconsin.  We'll be back again in summer for some island fun on Lake Michigan as we explore some of the Upper Pennisula's little gems that require a boat to cross the great waters of Michigan.   During the winter, I love how the trees will dot the landscape with their bare branches against the cloudy skies.  One of the reasons I moved from Wisconsin to Arizona was, in part, due to the abundance of clouds during this time of year.  However, when I visit, I love it all because I know I'll be going home within days to sunny skies.  The winters in Wisconsin are long and hard sometimes, but that's not what bothers me.  I don't mind the cold, but I did need the sun.  A person can go weeks without a ray of light. For me it caused severe depression and I knew that I had to leave at an early age for my own sanity, but I had to get through college first.  That was the agreement I made with myself. My degree would also be my gift and "okay" to start a new chapter in Arizona. Everyday since has been like early retirement:)  I love Wisconsin...I really do.  But on our last days, I smiled at the thought of 70 degree temps, my garden, my birds, our cats and my shorts! 
And at the same time, it's bittersweet because I'm saying goodbye to family and friends who I love dearly.  So as I depart from this cold and cloudy winter series, I leave you with this last shot. I think it captures the love/hate people have for this brutal weather. Beautiful landscape with whipping cold temps! But as Dorothy stated a long time ago, "There's no place like home." It's good to be back home in Tucson:)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Great Lakes Dilemna

One of the last things that I wanted to do before exiting this Wisconsin series was bring to light an issue that has been spoken about for years.  It is a controversial one and one that I thought I'd share.  Growing up, I remember a discussion about creating a pipeline between the Great Lakes and states that had limited fresh water resources. It was a similiar discussion to that of the Colorado River servicing states like Arizona, Utah, and California.
The shocking part was the discovery that a pipeline actually does exist in Mantowoc.  At first, I had thought, "Did they do the unthinkable?" The answer was yes and no.  The pipeline directs water from the Manitowoc lakeshore to the bay of Green Bay.  Technically the water isn't going anywhere as it all stays in the same lake.  But I have to wonder, is this just the tip of the iceberg?  I'd hate to think what this would do ecologically to the Great Lakes region if they decided to go this route en masse.
While not a Tucson sunset, this is just as beautiful as it sets over the port of Manitowoc.   Water from the Great Lakes is considered "safer" than that of country water which has been contaminated with copper or mercury.  The following writing is from a really nice guy back at home.  I used to babysit his kids!  But here are the facts by Doug Day....
            "Six suburbs of Green Bay, Wis., are looking forward to another Midwest winter, because that’s when they expect to have a new, cleaner, and more reliable source of drinking water. By the end of 2006, a $106 million pipeline will transport water from Lake Michigan and the lakeshore city of Manitowoc along state and county highways, under picturesque rivers, through solid rock deposits, and up and down the scenic hills of the northeastern Wisconsin countryside to Brown County. When completed, the pipeline and associated distribution system will deliver 8 mgd from Manitowoc’s microfiltration water plant southeast of Green Bay. It will take about 65 miles of pipeline to cover the 30 miles and deliver the water to six communities, say members of the Central Brown County Water Authority. The communities lie along the north, south, and western borders of Green Bay. By 2030, it’s expected that about 12 million gallons a day will be pumped to customers in the fast-growing suburbs — one city, three villages and two towns. The authority may also build a 10-million-gallon storage reservoir sometime in the future to supplement individual communities’ storage capacity." End of article.  Source here.

Lighthouses dot the shores of the Lakeshore.
So what will that do to the city of Manitowoc?  What will it do to the lakeshore?  What are the consequences?  Are there any? So many questions.  I would imagine a study was done by the Wisconsn DNR.  I just hope that there aren't any negative repercussions to it all.
Growing up on Lake Michigan, I remember that some years the lake would rise and fall during others.  In fact, in the late 19th century, my old high school was built on dunes....no water at all!  The lake slowly covered the dunes and today maintains those levels.
My question to you, "Should people be messing with Mother Nature?"  I can tell you the folks back home are mostly for this plan.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does a great job keeping things in order(well minus the loads of paperwork that prevents Park Rangers from leaving their desks:)  What do you think?

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Connection to the Past

Greetings all,

I am fascinated by how this blogging has evolved for me over a two year time period.  At times it focuses on travel, mostly gardening, birds, animals, etc, but its heart is always Tucson.  And that's what I love about it.  But this Wisconsin series has also turned out to be somewhat of a historical piece for me and I guess that makes sense since I grew up there. However, I didn't know that I had a connection to the Door County region of my state.  It was on a road trip with my mom and dad that I discovered that my ancestors began the orchards of my state.  In fact while digging for the info on the bee house, my mother pulled out all the files from a dusty box and handed me the documents.  Had I grown up over a hundred years ago, I may have run an orchard full of cherry trees, apples, pears. But the bigger question is, "Is it in our blood to do these things from birth?"  Here are some fun pics taken in the Door County region north of my tiny little town of Two Rivers.....only an hour north of the city along the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan.
Cheese curds....warm and squeeky cheese.  Hey, don't knock it until you try it.  It's a little piece of heaven from my homestate that will make you wish you had them in your own state:)

But our story begins with Joseph Zettel.  My parents stopped in front of the sign which read, "In 1858 Joseph Zettel, a native of Switzerland, acquired the farm directly south of this station and established the first commercial orchard on the Door Peninsula. The high yields and quality of his fruit aroused the interest of Emmett S. Goff of the University of Wisconsin and Arthur L. Hatch, orchardist, and led to the discov­ery that the Peninsula is remarkably suited for fruit growing. In 1892 Goff and Hatch planted a small acreage to cherries, apples and plums. Commercial produc­tion of red cherries began in 1896. The University of Wisconsin established this research station in 1922 to help advance the fruit industry. Progressive growers, community leaders, and thousands of pickers form distant places have shared in bringing Door County national recognition as a fruit producing area."
I'll return again this summer visiting several Cherry Orchards.  For now, I'll leave you with some shots of my mother sampling the cherry wines around this highly treasured area of Wisconsin. 
 My mother will probably kill me for posting these:) But it was fun watching her do something she enjoys which is getting some time off and spending it together with Dad and a few of us.  I had mentioned to her that I just wanted a Mom and Dad day together and that's what we did.  It turns out that it was the most relaxing day for them from the chaos of Christmas.  And I'm really glad we did it.
 If you visit Door County, the best time is in summer and especially mid July when the Cherry Orchards are open for picking.   Try the Cheese Curds, sausage, eat at some the fine establishments, drink the cherry wine(I'm not crazy about it) but I do love fresh cherries!  This last pic is my favorite.  My Mom's face carries the family look.  My Grandpa made that same look as does my Uncle and Aunt...and I will as well.  I probably do already, but I don't know since I only look at myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth.  Okay, now I'm rambling and that means it's time to go.....two more posts to go.  One more on an environmental issue that is becoming larger every year for the Great Lakes Region and another on reflection.  More tomorrow....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Snowman for the Garden

A gift from my mom, this feeder holds Black Oil Sunflower Seeds for larger birds.
This is for my dear blogger friends who love to garden, plants and enjoy landscaping.  I will have a lot to report on the El Presidio Gardens soon but because it's winter, I'm working on small projects around the property.  In March, I begin putting in the new transplants, pruning and fertilizing around our place.  I know my blog has done a lot on the wildlife so far this year along with the travel, but I wanted to let you know that I'll be back in the garden again soon.  We always hope that the plants will grow and succeed.....and when they do, they create a lush environment safe for all creatures great and small. I think what many of you are witnessing with me is that transformation of our garden space here. Many of the plants are maturing nicely and with it comes the new visitors.
So I'm going to pull this set of 3 pics further back and describe to you what it is that I'm doing. This holiday, my mother gave me a large seed birdfeeder.  Although I already have a regular bird seed feeder which feeds the smaller finches, thrashers, morning doves and sparrows, it doesn't cover the larger birds like the desert cardinal. We have desert cardinals here in the neighborhood and they rarely stop by our garden.  However, I'd like to make this place a permanent stop on their daily routine.  In the photo, from left to right, you'll notice the Desert Fern, San Pedro Cactus, Oleander, and the tiny leaves of the Jacaranda to the far right corner.  The Desert Willow during this time of year is dormant, therefore I hang the birders on it so we can see the birds clearly.  While the Snowman may seem out of place it adds a bit of oddity to the garden.  You'll see me doing this over the course of the year around the grounds.  I'll be adding strange tiny little art forms here and there to make the spaces POP and yet serve as functional pieces for wildlife.  I am now towards the end of Phase 3(establishing plants) and will begin Phase 4 this year.  Color and art.  Phase 1 was fixing up old systems, pruning and assessing the grounds.  Phase 2 was the removal of all plants inappropriately placed around the buildings.  Phase 3 was the creation of the gardens(this is the longest phase).  But the fun comes this year with the addition of our new fountain and colorful pots, etc.
The fern garden at El Presidio so called for the ferny like foliage on the trees.  Very few fern species can grow here in the desert...the Aspargus Fern is fun but it doesn't look like a fern to me:) For my desert garden friends, notice how I use a tree that is deciduous and give it a makeover for the winter. This Desert Willow serves as the central spot in front of our window while providing beautiful flowers in spring and providing food for our hummingbird populations. Just a side note.  When I first began this blog, everything was so innocent and cute.  I look back at those pics with fond regard. So much has changed since then.  My older Desert Willow post reminds me of a better tomorrow that holds promise.  It was during a time that I had doubts about what it was I was doing, but today, I see it all happening before my very eyes...and it makes me proud.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Bee House

A long time ago, an older structure stood the test of time and waited for someone to notice.  It was an old rickety thing that housed mice, racoons, and squirrels.  Sometimes a wasp's nest would form.  An old gnarly Black Walnut tree grew next to it. 

The old gnarly black walnut tree that still stands on the property reminding me of my childhood.
This small building would pass onto generations of people. But it stood quiet....dark....eery.  As a child, I always had goosebumps walking around the place.  I'd run down the dyke to drop something off in the cellar with Grandpa who would inevitably run into some snarling rodent making a home around the parameter of the building for warmth during the winter months.  But before it became a storage unit, it was a place for something much more important......honey.  And it made lots of it.
In the 1920's, the Sladky Bee House became a 28 by 12 foot, 1 ½ story, building that was erected by Frank and Julia Sladky to house their beehives and honey collecting equipment.
The beehives were kept in the vaulted cellar during the winter.
Insulation between the cellar ceiling and the first floor was sawdust
gathered from the Holly Mill in Shoto. The honey was rendered on the first
floor and the attic was used for storage. The Sladky Honey was sold for
many years to people from Shoto, Manitowoc, Two Rivers and all the
surrounding areas. The Sladky Bee House, as it became known as, was
donated to the Pinecreast Historical Village by Dorothy and the late Bill
W, and was moved in 1988 to Pinecrest Village. It was opened to the
public in July 1990. Frank and Julia Sladky was Dorothy Krause's
great-aunt and uncle. And they were remembered by my mother.
Pic found on this website and not my own
What resurrected the bee house? Sadly, my Grandpa died in the late 80's at the young age of 57.  My grandmother no longer could care for the two large properties (which included the dyke) by herself.  She didn't want to get rid of the bee house but she didn't want to live in the same place that held all of the family memories of the past.  Instead, the Pinecrest Historical Society came and did an investigation on the property which included research on the authenticity of the building. After the work was done, the aged building would have to be carefully taken apart and brought back to the Pinecrest grounds where it would undergo the restoration process.
This is one awesome lady! I present to you(drum rolls) my Grandma:) She taught me a lot about vegetable gardening and the art of eating a GOOD kohlrabi, radish, or cherry tomato. Today she is remarried with 3 dogs and a husband.  They still live on the land where the bee house once stood with that black walnet tree next to their driveway. Grandma still makes that great rye bread with caraway seeds along with her infamous eggs and bacon. And during this visit....her chex mix!!!:)
Several months would pass and it would be added to their collection of historical buildings at their museum/village.  We were there watching my proud Grandmother cut that red ribbon.  Today, when she speaks about that old bee house, her eyes light up as she recalls all the memories that went with it.  And in a way the bee house will preserve her own memory after she's gone for future generations of people.
For more information on Pinecrest, you can click here.

People live. They breathe. And they die. Nothing signifies the passage of time like an old building passed from one generation to the next in a family.  The older I get; the more appreciation I have for the past.  Today others can walk through these old buildings and relive life as it was over a century ago.
 A special "thank you" goes out to Pinecrest.  These pics are courtesy of the Manitowoc County Historical Society and Mike Maher for sharing these recent pictures of the old Sladky bee house.  It truly is a remarkable building and I'm glad it's there today for people to enjoy.  They've done a great job fixing it up and seeing these shots make me smile.  It is a little house with a big personality.
This summer, we'll be heading back to Pinecrest and several historical places to discover Wisconsin and some of her old world charm.  Pinecrest is also located on some wonderfully restored and beautiful prairie land.  We'll be exploring traditional gardens and the places that surround them.  It's a series that I look forward to sharing with you all, but we'll have to wait until summer as it will be a bit warmer...and greener:)  More tomorrow....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Dyke

I know. I know.  This title to the blog sounds wrong, but it's actually the right word to use.  This was an old stomping ground for me as a child and it has all of the magic that I think a garden should have! The above pic shows the entrance to the dyke.  There is a wishing well, curvy trees, a frozen river, and a wetlands area right next to it.  In the States, apparently "dike" is used, but I learned this European spelling in school which today is still used..."dyke".  In fact, Wisconsin has a town called "Dyckesville." Oh, the fun people have with this town's name:) But what is a "dyke"? It's a ditch or a water filled drainage trench.  It can also be a levee natural, artificial slope or wall that regulates water levels.  Today I take you to my Grandma's place that is both artificial and not.
This space is truly amazing.  As children, we would run up and down this path.  One side was a wooded river shore and the other was a swampy area that filled up during rains or times of excess water on the river.  There are times when the "swamp" is full and in times of drought, there may be just a trickle or stream of water entering the area. Either way, this area is off limits for construction as the city protects these important environmental spaces.  The East and West Twin rivers have been known to overflow and flood large tracts of lands.
This series of shoots today and tomorrow will speak about the history and magic here.  My Grandma still lives here with her husband and they built a house overlooking this large tract of land. The wildlife here is incredible!!!  You'll find turtles, waterfowl, turkeys, deer, rodents, hawks(mostly Cooper Hawks).  In fact during that day, we spotted one in the sky.  What I loved most about this space as a child growing up was how close everything was to nature.  We ice skated on the river, chased fireflys in summer, fished off the river banks, gardened near the woods, and watched all kinds of critters cross our paths.
My nephew runs through the trees.  There are a lot of older structures here that still remain intact after years of harsh weather.  There are things my Grandfather built 20 years ago that remind me of his presence like the bird house below.  Birds today continue to use these little shelters to protect themselves from the extreme cold.
And when it's time for lunch, they come out in the numbers and feast on the birdseed and berries offered....but always clinging to the branches and brush nearby as they aware of the hawks and other critters nearby.  The shot below was one of the most difficult of this series to get.
The dyke stretches between two properties.  If you are quiet, a deer may pass your way....or a rabbit....or maybe a skunk.  But don't confuse the smells of the wild skunk cabbage that grows nearby the river with that of the real deal:)
The temps on this day were moderate and not freezing so birds were out feeding freely. If it drops below the 20's, the birds will at times disappear....especially if the wind is wicked cold!  Today it was "warmer" with snow flurries.
All you have to do is look closely and you'll see......
....that this walk is full of wonder and history. 
I remember running the fields as a kid, picking the apples and pears off the trees, watching snapping turtles surface up and down the river bank......sometimes coming up on the lawn to lay eggs!!!  Some of these turtles were HUGE!
So while this land is protected and maintained by both my Grandmother and her husband, I wonder who will take over this space when they can't do it anymore.  I worry about its future.  I worry about the Black Walnut Tree that has provided generations of walnuts for many people.  It's old and gnarly.  Will someone cut it down?  My mom's first dog Dixie was buried here.
Look closely at the well again and you'll notice a little visitor.  Three deer currently reside in the marsh near the dyke and call it home.
The river flows along the dyke until it reaches the dam near one of the highways.  This area has become a special place for salmon and crawfish as well as a sanctuary for birds to hang out.
I don't know how long I'll have to appreciate this area, but I visit it every year when I get the chance.  No matter the season, it's always lovely to return and get lost in the memory.  Tomorrow I'll extend this discussion with an addition to this property that will give you a little background on my mom's side of the family.  The dyke was just one of the many special things to inhabit the property.  We'll explore the "Beehouse" that once existed on this land.  Do any of you have a special place from childhood?  A secret garden perhaps?

An old wood burner for brush and garbage.

The old Black Walnut tree

The thicket of woods in the marsh

In the dead winter, skating is possible, but as you can see there are still open pockets of water on the river.

While a breezy green in summer, this patch of woods looks quite lovely this time of year.