Last spring I started growing things in metal stock tanks in the middle of the shipping container compound (above)… this spring the garden is going full force. Three tanks are filled with greens (two are mine, and one is Emmett’s) and we will soon add a fourth for a summer crop of tomatoes and cucumbers. The prepper in me sometimes wishes for more room, but the high metal sides do a really good job of keeping the critters out. And I’ve been wanting to read up on vertical gardening and square foot gardening to see if there is a way to maximize the space that we already have.
One great thing about the garden is green smoothies every morning. Our friend Kartz (one of my big-time heroes) battled brain cancer with kale juice, and got me interested in the alkaline diet last time she came for a visit – I’ve been thinking that I need to write about diets soon, and all of the different ones that people I know prescribe to. (there are a lot!)
One of the long awaited amenties at AZ West has been our own movie screen – a plan that finally came to fruition this month! A while back when visiting USC to give a lecture, I met A.L.Steiner and mentioned that I would love an opportunity to see “Community Action Center” – her new film that she made in collaboration with A.K. Burns. This conversation ultimately ended up with her agreeing to screen the film at AZ West in connection with HDTS. And the heat was finally on to get a screen made. Chris Engman, artist and current USC MFA student stepped up to help engineer this endeavor, along with the help of Lucas Wrench – our totally unflappable and every helpful summer intern.
The screen itself is a pretty awesome piece of sculpture – set back in the private wash area behind our new encampment. In addition to CAC we also got to watch C.L.U.E. – a collaborative work that Steiner made with robbinschilds (I became completely obsessed with this film when I first saw it at the New Museum…) One other bit of cool trivia is that part of C.L.U.E. was filmed in Joshua Tree – bringing the work in full circle.
I started gardening this year in metal livestock troughs (24 inches high to keep the animals out). Growing food in the desert has been both fun and challenging, with a steep learning curve that I’ll write more about later. But all that hard work made me realize how smart it is to take advantage of native food sources that are both free and readily available. One of my favorites is Palo Verde beans. You pick the pods when they are still fresh and green, blanche or boil like edamame and then eat the seeds. Or they are just as good fresh off the tree. I’ve also read that you can dry and store the beans and sprout them at other times in the year… Other really good edibles that we have discovered at AZ West are Mormon Tea, Mesquite and Chia.
For the last year we have been slowly replacing all of the customized Wagon Stations with new “stock” Wagon Stations that are available for people involved in activities at AZ West to stay in. And while expanding the Wagon Station encampment it also became time to address the never ceasing issue with wind. Even though four strong people can barely lift one of these units, our desert windstorms have managed to flip and smash them on an ongoing basis.
About two months ago TK engineered a new footing and a tie down system – along with fasteners on the hatch and back entry door. So far they have weathered at least two fairly fierce windstorms and nothing has flipped yet… fingers crossed!
I got a really nice note from Katherine Ball today – Katherine was last year’s resident on Indy Island, and she came to visit AZ West a few months ago, just in time to help put the finishing touches on the Encampment (more about that soon!) and to help demo Yucca Crater. (A brutal hot sweaty undertaking which she took on cheerfully and uncomplainingly)
Katherine likes to go on epic runs – and while out in the desert pioneered a new route around the rocky mountain next to AZ West. Today she sent a map and detailed description of her journey, which I’m about to try out this evening as I walk the dogs… (my disclaimer is that I’m walking not running, like Katherine was, and one of my dogs is a geriatric 16 year old, so we will see how far we make it on our first pass.)
Katherine’s instructions: HERE IS THE LOOP I RAN:
Go down your driveway like you are heading to the highway, into Joshua Tree.
1. Make a Left on the first dirt road that follows the powerlines and runs parallel to the highway.
2. Travel along it, bearing a slight Left when it forks (don’t go left at the cross).
3. Follow it to a car turnaround and head Left through a canyon (one of the first rocks has a bunch of Playboys behind it).
4. The canyon path will peak by a dirt road/wash by a house.
5. Go Right and snake your way through the rocks (10 – 20 minutes?)
6. There will be an opening with a lot of washes.
7. Go Left around the big rock with the science device/tower, follow the wash.
8. You will come to a dead end (less than 5 mi)
9. Climb up the boulders on the Left side.
10. Walk through wash with the rocks carved by boulders.
11. Go Left at the end/road (?) and cross by abandoned look out.
12. From the lookout, find a trail that is near it (forward) and runs parallel to a road. This trail will intersect the road on your Right and then the trail will branch off to the left and bring you to the backside of the canyon that connects to your wash. You will make a Left into your canyon and follow it to the Wagon Stations.
****It will be challenging to complete the loop on your first go. I suggest trying to make it to the lookout or dead end coming from both counterclockwise and clockwise, then connect them.
1. Head through your canyon.
2. It will veer left as it dissipates.
3. Find the trail that is on your Right and goes perpendicular.
4. The trail will take you to a road (within 1/5 mile).
5. Make a Right on the road and look for the abandoned lookout. There is a trail that goes there, or you can just aim for it.
6. The wash that connects to the dead end is approximately 1/3 mile. You will make a Right into the wash. I think there is a trail or road but I am not sure.
More soon… Promise.
Tortoise hibernation is a controversial subject and there are lots of differing opinions about the best way to do (or to not) do it – especially with winter temperatures on the rise. While Rosemary Desert Willow, our tortoise from the local rescue, sleeps in her deep burrow in our back yard, just like she did in the wild, her babies spent last winter in a huge terrarium that took up most of my desk in the office. Finally this year I finally decided to take the leap, and after weiging the pros and cons it seemed like the refrigerator method was the way to go – If the babies stayed outside all winter in their shallow burrow they could freeze to death. Same thing goes if I put them in a shipping container (plus there are rats in the containers who seem to find their way into almost everything) and there aren’t really any other out structures that at AZ West that could maintain consistent temps.
After two months at 41-42 degrees Fahrenheit in their refrigerator bedroom the babies were finally ready to wake up. Ravenous, but in good spirits, they are now back to living on my desk until it gets warm enough outside to put them back in their outdoor run.