Today was all about dirt.
Our foundation is finished, and it looks like it will be around long after we humans abandon the arid southwest. It is STURDY. Now we turn our attention to the oven.
Our sand form (which creates the void where the baking takes place) will be a dome, 16 inches high and 27 inches in diameter. For that, we need six 5-gallon pails of sand. Odel and I took the truck, buckets, and tools to the sand pit for our final run... we now have our sand stockpile on site.
Over this large dome of sand, we need a four inch thick layer of mud. According to our "bible", that requires TWELVE 5-gallon pails of clay, so our next trip was to the back "pasture" (I am not sure you can call hard-packed clay soil with prickly flora "pasture"; that's where "Semi-True Tales" come in) for collecting.
After I used a hoe to scrape the top layer of stones, weedy bits, and dry, dry, dirt away, Odel used a pickaxe to break up the clay. We loaded it into buckets, which we dumped into the back of the pickup truck until we guesstimated that we had a sufficient quantity.
In this picture, Rosanna demonstrates our method of cleaning clay: we sit beside the wheelbarrow and, wearing thick leather gloves, find and toss away rocks, break small clods into fine powder, and toss large, dry clods into a neaby bucket of water. It is rather relaxing work, handling soil, chatting and daydreaming, very rewarding as each barrow load is completed.
This is a part of our completed pile, which had grown to near-epic proportions at the end of the day. This pile is almost stone-free, has no big clods, and is ready to be mixed into mud.
We called it a day at 4 pm, when we finished handling the last of the pickup load of clay. Tomorrow we plan to make the clay into mud, which we will wrap in a tarp to "condition" overnight so all the little clay granules can slake their thirst and plump up. Weather permitting, the oven building will begin on Sunday!
Friday, February 29, 2008
Today was all about dirt.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Can you see the bubble in the level in this picture. Right on the money! Needless to say, we were pretty happy when we put the level on our top layer (protected from the mud by a board) and found we had built a level foundation.
With any building project, progress slows as the level of detail increases. Day One and Day Two were about mass, using lots of concrete block and gravel. We even buried an old tire in the bottom of the foundation - excellent stability and mass for the foundation, and one less thing to haul to the dump for Rosanna.
Today, however, progress was less obvious. We needed to cover our wine bottles with a strong insulating layer to keep the oven's heat from dissipating into the foundation. Less bulk, more density - so a lot less space was filled.
We started the day with another trip to our secret sand quarry, while we were feeling strong. On the way home, we stopped at Marvin's to pick up lovely, clean, light sawdust that he had conveniently packed in bags.
Next we made "slip", clay soil mixed with a lot of water to the texture of heavy cream. To me, this is true MUD, the kind that splashes up on your glasses if you mix too enthusiastically, the kind that hardens on everything as it dries. The slip and the sawdust were combined, by hand, into a wet dough for our insulating layer.
The sawdust dough went onto and between the wine bottles. We were somewhat shocked when our first batch, about half a wheelbarrow full, didn't quite cover the wine bottles. We mixed up and added another layer... still FAR short of the top of the cinderblocks.
We mixed up one last layer (it requires 45 minutes to get the "slip" to the right texture, then a lot of mixing to incorporate the sawdust) and were relieved to see that we were just an inch or so shy of the top of our cinderblocks. That leaves just the right space for the final layer, the sand that will make a base for the firebricks that are the floor of the oven.
Three days of hard work is enough for now. We are taking tomorrow off, which will give the mud and sawdust layer time to dry before we proceed, and will give Odel time to play golf. Rosanna and I can (try to) laze around. Ummmmm... sounds delightful.
at 5:05 PM
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
This is how our project looked when we started work this morning (left)...
And this is how it looked when we knocked off this afternoon - three layers of cinder blocks filled with what felt like tons of hand dug and hand carried sand, gravel, and mud. I can say this with total confidence: this foundation is not going anywhere!
We use this building technique:
1. Consult the book, perhaps reading the pertinent points aloud.
2. Discuss what we read and make a plan, tempering what we SHOULD be doing with what we are CAPABLE of doing and have the materials and energy to do.
3. Do it. Then, back to the book for consultation.
Here Odel and I are admiring the perimeter of our foundation. The cinderblocks we discovered yesterday are great for this purpose - heavy and solid. Searching the yard, we found enough cinderblocks to build three layers, which will raise the oven to a comfortable working height.
Our building materials - gravel, sand, and clay - all come from the immediate area. When we need more gravel or sand, we load kitty litter and animal feed buckets into the back of the pickup, along with gloves and shovels, and drive a mile down Cottonwood Road, Rosanna's street, to a spot where the road crosses a wash.
On one side there are piles of gravel; on the other side there is a low spot where high quality sand has collected.
The mud comes right out of the ground on Rosanna's ranch. This is really, really, lucky, because it is HEAVY and we need a LOT!
In between the heavy work of hauling materials, we take occasional breaks to experiment with materials. The proper "mud" for the oven itself is judged like this:
After making a mix of clay (one part), sand (two to four parts) and water (enough to make a firm dough; this is trial and error), pack a firm, hard ball of dough. Drop it from shoulder height.
A hard packed ball shouldn't shatter when dropped from shoulder height. If it shatters, it needs more water or more mixing. If it flattens into a smooth pancake, it is too wet. If it neither flattens nor shatters, it is perfect.
Check out our perfect clay domes, top and bottom. The one in the middle is a little flat disk with a bit of clay "slip" applied to the surface. We are so happy with our "mud" - now we just need to prepare TWELVE five gallon buckets of the stuff.
Tomorrow we will work in a totally different medium: sawdust (gleaned from neighbor Marvin) mixed with clay slip (a clay/water mixture that is the texture of heavy cream). The wine bottles you saw up top? Those provide insulation between the oven floor and the cold ground; the sawdust and clay slip mixture will provide an insulating "dough" that will surround the wine bottles and hold them in place.
It's all coming together, amazingly.
at 3:55 PM
Monday, February 25, 2008
Here's a happy morning wave, when Odel was fresh and energetic. We are starting in on the oven, foundation first. This is new ground for us. Odel and I have watched Richard Dopp build two ovens, but had not seen him build a foundation. Rosanna has only seen the pictures.
Because we hope this oven will last a good, long time, we want to build a solid foundation - and would like it to be high enough off the ground that baking won't involve crawling on the hard, prickly, rocky soil of Arizona.
It is common to see columns of rock-filled wire used as fence posts around here, instead of wood (rocks being more readily available than wood in this neighborhood). Our plan was to make two circles of chicken wire, one inside the other, and fill the gap with rock. This rock ring would be filled with gravel and sand; that would be our foundation. Good idea, huh?
Rosanna has a convenient source of rocks, the "memorial ditch" that is the final resting place of the beloved and quite senior animals who live out their lives at Paws and Hooves Ranch. Odel fired up the tractor, hooked up the trailer, and off we went to gather rocks for our project.
Here are Odel and Rosanna gathering rocks under the watchful eye of Pal, the watchdog that adopted Rosanna's ranch a couple of years ago. He is a GREAT dog, and has kept an interested eye on our project all day.
Plan A was a bust. Chicken wire isn't sufficiently sturdy to hold a 2- or 3-foot tall wall of rocks. Fortunately, we are evaluating as we go and hadn't gotten too far before it became apparent that something was amiss.
After a short break and discussion, we had Plan B: Rosanna had a pile of cinderblocks stashed in the Back 40. Out with the rocks, toss that chickenwire away, make way for cinderblocks!
We spent a bit more time leveling our construction site, then drove the pickup truck to a nearby wash for a load of sand. We made a base of sand, then tamped our first layer of cinderblocks into position with the aid of a level (engineers have nothing on us!).
By then it was almost 4 pm, and time for retired folk to knock off for the day. We sprayed our sand and cinderblocks with water to make sure they were well settled, then retired to Scoopy for a tea break while we made our plans for Day 2. Looks pretty good, for amateurs!
A NOTE TO MY MOTHER: Mommy, I hope I have adequately expressed my appreciation for the many, many meals you made for us when Daddy and I built the Lulu. Rosanna, Odel and I had a great dinner tonight, but not without effort and energy. I thought with longing of the countless nights we came home tired and hungry to a dinner that required no effort on our parts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
NOTE TO SELF: Quit work by 3 pm from now on, and take a break!
at 8:50 PM
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Have I mentioned that we are planning to build an earth oven? We got inspired watching Richard Dopp build his (two), and my cousin Rosanna was a willing participant - with property, our missing ingredient.
We've arrived at Rosanna's in early afternoon with our load of earth oven materials: firebricks and empty wine bottles. (Of course, we have plenty of full wine bottles, too.)
Rosanna pointed out the site for the oven, and we unloaded the supplies nearby, then went off to see what other building materials we could scrounge. We found rocks and chicken wire that we will use to build a foundation, and hope to find the sand we need in a wash not too far from here.
Our friends Jeanie and Ray have a ranch nearby with just the right sort of clay soil to use for the oven itself, the kind that clumps to your feet in twenty pound bricks when you walk through mud (like the Pinal County fairgrounds where we rallied in Casa Grande), so we'll go pick up a truckload of that one day this week. Rosanna's neighbor Marvin made a wooden door to her specifications, so it looks like we are ready to begin work tomorrow.
Right now, Odel is reading the earth oven bible, Build Your Own Earth Oven: A Low-Cost, Wood-Fired Mud Oven so we can calculate the diameter of our foundation and the volume of gravel, sand, and clay we need to scavenge. Hmmmm... six 5-gallon pails of sand, twelve 5-gallon pails of clay... and that is just for the oven. Looks like we are in for a workout!
If you are interested in learning more about this oven-building process, here is a link to an article in Mother Earth News that summarizes the information in the book. They make it seem like ANYONE can do it... we'll see.
at 3:18 PM
Saturday, February 23, 2008
When an RV'er has stayed too long in one place and wants to move on, they've got "hitch-itch", the urge to hitch up and roll. That's me, now.
Tomorrow we hit the road for Rosanna's house in Cochise County. If that location sounds vague, well... do you know where Sunazona is? Sunsites? The Mustang Mall? Pearce? Elfrida??? All the nearest towns have populations under 1,000. The nearest supermarket is an hour away so, in preparation, we've hit all our favorite stores - Costco, Trader Joe's, Wild Oats and Safeway. Scoopy is a rolling gourmet pantry, with goodies tucked into every nook and cranny.
I've spent this lovely, sunny Saturday just as I would have when I was a working person: went to Home Depot, Target and Safeway, than came home to clean. However, I never needed to dust the inside of the oven when I lived in our house; it is scary where you find dust in an RV!
Another chore: backing up computer files to our new portable external drive, including photos from the years we have been traveling. Since I have no photos from today's cleaning frenzy or our other fascinating chores, here are a few from years past:
Our first February on the road, 2004: we spent three or four days in San Antonio, including a visit to the Alamo. I was surprised that it is in downtown San Antonio, and very small!
In 2005, we joined the Escapees' Mexican Connection group for our first trip into Mexico with Scoopy. You can see Scoopy here second from the left, in the front row facing the Gulf of Mexico. It was a good learning experience, both the first and last time we traveled with a caravan!
We visited Mexico again in 2006, traveling down the west coast - but had returned to the U.S. by this time and were on our way to the Palm Springs area. I took this photo on a hike to a palm oasis near there.
This time last year, we were in Mexico again - a great place to enjoy winter warmth. These are Amapa trees, in full bloom on the road through the mountains to Alamos. one of our favorite towns (so far).
Looking at these photos gives me the ITCH!
at 12:46 PM
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Except for the fact that it is winter, today was a perfect summer day. The sky was cloudless, a light breeze blew, and the temperature topped out in the low 70's. After a long walk in the desert, I plunked myself down in my outdoor lounge chair, head and shoulders in the shade, legs in the sun. (Donna, you should be here.) A small plane buzzed in the distance, birds chirped... and soon I was feeling very, very drowsy. Then something happened that woke me up: my tea order arrived!
Last November, in Sacramento, a doctor suggested I give up coffee. This was an unappealing proposition for me - my mornings didn't start without two cups of strong french roast. While I was mulling over his advice, wondered what could replace the morning brew, I happened upon an amazing tea store - in the mall, of all places.
Teavana was a timely surprise: the staff was friendly and full of information, and the teas... ohmygosh. They looked beautiful and smelled incredible, blends of white, green, and black teas, young or aged, and all sorts of tea-like herbal brews. I was fascinated and came away with a tea reputed to have the same stimulating qualities as a cup of coffee: Mate Vana, a mate blend. It smelled nothing like coffee, but equally as good.
The bad news for me: no Teavana stores in Arizona! The good news: they have a great website with easy online ordering, and they deliver quickly.
In the few months since I discovered Teavana, I've settled on a few favorties to keep on hand: Mate Vana, my new breakfast beverage; Pu-Ehr, an aged black tea with a rich, earthy taste; spicy Masala Chai; herbal Honeybush Vanilla; and Azteca Fire, an herbal blend with a bit of both chocolate and crushed chili pods (yummy blended with the Honeybush Vanilla).
Among the many health claims made for teas: they aid in reducing cholesterol. My doctor will love that. They can assist in regulating blood sugar levels, fortify the immune system, fight "free radicals" (those always sound fun to me, but have a bad reputation) with antioxidants. All the better, though I am in it for the taste, the enjoyment of the brewing ritual, and the way that "a cup of tea" seems to translate to "let's relax".
I unpacked the order and fixed a big glass of iced Masala Chai (sweetened and with soy milk) - and decided to share my pleasure with all of you. YUM!
at 3:38 PM
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sunshine and calm winds? Check.
Full hookups with unlimited hot water? Check.
A huge site and great view? Check.
Refrigerator cleaned and refilled? Check.
Sunday newspaper? Check.
What else could a person want??? It was a day without plans, most of our chores completed on Saturday. The weather had dried and calmed and the temperature was on the upswing.
I took my breakfast - hot, homemade, multigrain biscuits with apricot jam and a "Cutie" clementine - outside, along with my phone. Sunday is a "free" day for cellphone use, so I made phone calls to friends and family after I finished breakfast.
We are back at Justin's Diamond J RV Park on the west side of Tucson, AZ. We totally enjoyed our two-week stay here in January, so signed up for another week when we arrived wet and muddy from Casa Grande on Friday.
We chose "Golf View Site 7", on the "golf course loop" at the back of the park, as far from the road as we can get. These sites cost a few dollars more per day than the "standard" sites. They are HUGE by typical commercial park standards, and just one row deep: no one immediately behind or across from us. Our friends Jan and Barry Kessler are next to us on one side; blog readers Grant and Kathy are beside us in site 6.
I think the complete name of this new RV park includes the words "and Golf Resort". Odel and I enjoyed watching the "golf course" develop when we were last here.
I can't imagine who came up with this idea - it couldn't have been a golfer. The "course" is the size (width and length) of ONE hole on a standard course, which means that the RV's parked across the road down each side of the course are within easy reach of any errant shot that leaves the ground. Yet it can't be considered a putting course, since the surface is dirt and pebbles, so.... ???
Now that the holes are complete, the landscaping is underway: a water hazard surrounded by cactus, and small groupings and rows of saguaros, barrel cactus, and chollas along the fringes of the course. From our standpoint, the great thing about the course is the open space, and the landscaping will be very appealing as it matures. It's a great conversation piece!
Sunday was what I consider a perfect"normal" day in our life. After a yummy breakfast, we read the Sunday paper. I put dinner in the crockpot. Friends Jim and Ellie and JoAnn and Doug were leaving for their highly-anticipated trip to Mexico, so we walked over to their sites to wish them well.
Then we headed off into the desert with Jan and Barry, walking a familiar 4 mile loop to Ironwood picnic area in Tucson Mountain Park, a county park adjacent to Justin's RV Park. This part of the Sonoran desert is PACKED with flora, and bits of green grass have sprouted courtesy of the recent warm, wet weather.
We had a late lunch when we got home, then cut each other's hair. That left just enough time for showers before we gathered for happy hour in the late afternooon sunshine behind Scoopy: Mick, Anne, Jan, Odel, Barry and me.
The sun sank down, the cold crept back, and we adjourned. A fine, fine day!
at 7:03 AM
Friday, February 15, 2008
Last night's weather report indicated a 60% chance of rain, so Odel stowed the items we had deployed outdoors: mats, chairs, and Luna's security hut. As we snuggled in bed in the early morning hours listening to the rain, we felt warm, dry, and prepared.
We weren't at all prepared for the sight outside our windshield when we got up! What had been hardpacked clay with a covering of dust when we went to bed had turned to a sticky, sucking, mud swamp.
Though we had planned to relax, eat breakfast, take a walk, and say goodbye to friends, a speedy departure ahead of any more rain became our number one objective.
Preparing for departure usually involves several trips in-and-out for both of us, but these conditions required special planning. We agreed that I would stay inside until Scoopy reached the safety of asphalt, and discussed the safest route through the mire. Odel put dry shoes and socks next to the door, put on his sandals, and stepped outside to begin the outdoor departure routine.
What a mess! Not only did he sink an inch into the mud, but the sticky stuff built up on the bottom of his sandals with every step - except for those where his feet tried to slip out from under him. While I brought up the jacks and brought in the slides, he unhooked and stowed the heavy 50 amp electrical cord, then waded across the road to the Jeep.
My mission was to pilot Scoopy through the mud and the puddles WITHOUT STOPPING. We had already seen a pickup truck spin it's wheels as it tried to pull a big 5th wheel trailer towards the gate - we didn't want to risk getting stuck if I had to stop and restart in the mud. With Odel and Jules out in front, we proceeded at a slow and stately pace. No problems at all, but I held my breath until I rolled Scoopy up onto the pavement.
Now we are back in Tucson as Justin's Diamond J RV Park, staying for at least a week. The roads in the park are paved and the sites graveled, so mud is at a minimum. Local news is reporting a winter storm warning until tomorrow, with the possibility of snow as low at 2,600 ft! We're happy to be in place here with full hookups and a fabulous view of the mountains out our front window.
at 11:57 AM
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Yes, we are packed in tighter than sardines here at the Pinal County Fairgrounds in Casa Grande. I feel LUCKY with our space, though! The row in front of us is shorter than ours, so Scoopy has a long view across the dusty fairgrounds lot. I know, I know... it doesn't sound appealing, but it IS a help when your neighbor is so close you can knock on their door without leaving your rig.
More importantly, though, we face north. When the temperatures rose into the 70's the first couple of days, we were grateful that our big front windshield didn't face the sun, as there is no way to run air conditioning on the 15 amps of electricity we are alloted here.
So why would anyone pay money to park like this?
In spite of the close quarters, we are having a great time. Seminars start daily at 9 am and end at 5 pm. My favorite so far has been "How to Write Travel & Life Stories" but I've learned at least one useful fact/tip from each seminar I've attended. I now understand the difference between "volume" and "pressure" when it comes to our water system. I understand the approximately 87 different acronyms (C2C, TTN, TTN/LTR, NACO, RPI, WHR, etc.) used to describe the multitude of campground memberships offered to RV'ers, and how to evaluate whether they are smart financial moves for us.
Then there are the vendors. We bought books about state park and Corps of Engineers campgrounds and renewed a club membership for close to half price. Best of all - Odel found a $45 product to brighten Scoopy's exterior stripes and return her shine, so we can defer an expensive re-striping job for a year (or longer).
This photo says it all about the range of RV'ers who attended the rally. The big, new, quad slide, Class A motorhome in the background belongs to a solo woman who I met at a seminar titled "RV Tech Tips for Women". She has been in her RV less than a year; after the class, I offered to help her figure out a thing or two about her electrical system, and got to see the inside of her impressive rig. Technology galore.
As I left, I noticed her tiny neighbor. I've seen popup trailers of this kind pulled by motorcycles - truely the other end of the RV'ing spectrum.
at 11:04 AM
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I found a great new cookbook at Costco recently, The New Whole Grains Cookbook. I want to incorporate more whole grains in our daily diet, so picked it up for inspiration.
It passed the first test of any new cookbook: the first recipe I made, for a wholegrain biscuit mix that you store in the refrigerator, is a real winner! I've added this link to Homemade Multigrain Biscuit Mix and 15-Minute Biscuits to my recipe list (left side of the blog).
I had to go searching for several of the ingredients - spelt flour and quinoa flakes were not in my pantry. I went to a health-oriented grocery store (Henry's) in Temecula, where I was able to buy many of the dry ingredients from the bulk bins (cornmeal, non-fat dry milk) and to find the more unusual items.
I hope you won't let the ingredient list dissuade you from trying the recipe - it goes together quickly after you do your shopping. The dry mix makes around 6 cups and stores well in the refrigerator. Once you have the mix on hand, you can have fresh, hot biscuits ready to eat 15 minutes after your think about 'em.
I have been baking the biscuits for us for breakfast - we have the delicous, slightly crunchy (thanks to the cornmeal), slightly sweet biscuits with jam, and the hot oven drives away the morning chill. Perfect!
at 8:11 AM
Saturday, February 9, 2008
At 600,000+ acres, Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. So how do you account for the fact that, while out hiking on Saturday, we ran into a couple of friends of ours??
Odel and I got a late start heading to the Palm Canyon trail. As we walked from the Visitor Center to the trailhead, Odel asked if I recognized the guy staring in our direction from the cab of his truck... and about that time, the truck started honking. The road they traveled bisected our trail and we soon recognized Diane and Jim, Boomer friends.
They, too, were in Borrego Springs for the first time, and were planning to hike to Palm Canyon. What a great surprise!
We all took off on the busy trail together. We retired folk usually plan our activities for weekdays, but our time in Borrego Springs was limited and we didn't want to miss this hike. We are experiencing our first "shorts weather" of the winter, and the sun was plenty warm - but we weren't complaining.
There was water in the canyon this time of year, and the palm oasis was cool and green. We didn't linger long, as we had special plans for sunset...
...and look what we saw on the way back!
We had been told that bighorn sheep were frequently sighted in the canyon this time of year, but I imagined they would be high on the hillsides. WRONG. About a quarter mile from the parking lot, we saw a large herd of bighorn sheep on a hillside, and soon realized they were crossing the trail ahead of us.
They posed patiently for several minutes, listening to the click of cameras and observing us with interest. They seemed totally unafraid.
As I stood below the posing platform, three of the bighorn decided to cross the wash where I was standing. In this picture, you can see the horns of one of the sheep directly behind the other. I snapped this just before I froze in place, as these two sheep passed to the left and another passed to my right. I am sure I was way more tense than they were.
Soon we were back at the parking area and, once we explained to Diane and Jim how to find our boondocking spot, we took off for home and showers - and then it was time for our sunset trip.
Just outsite of the town of Borrego Springs (which is surrounded by the state park) is a large, desolate, beautiful badlands area. Font's Point, accessible by driving 4 miles up a sandy wash, overlooks the badlands, and is "The Place" to view the sunset. Definitely not to be missed.
So, all of us piled into the 4WD vehicles: Jim and Lynn, Richard and Marlene, Jim and Diane, and Odel and I. Those of you who know Odel will be surprised to learn that we took OUR car - a long, fun drive up a sandy wash to a small parking area.
We grabbed a few stools, a blanket, several bottles of wine and the snacks we had brought and walked to a flat spot on the point, perfect for a happy hour spread while we watched the light and shadow play on the badlands as the sun sank behind the mountains. Yeah, look at that - SHORTS! SHORT SLEEVES!
The sun sank down, we headed back to the cars, and off to a delicious Italian dinner in the company of friends. It couldn't have been a better day.
We took off this morning, and I'm writing this from a full hookup park Gila Bend. Once again, it is the post-boondocking routine: dump the holding tanks, recharge the batteries, refill the fresh water tank, toss all the trash, clean out the refrigerator, do the laundry. Tomorrow we leave for a rally in Casa Grande - seminars and socializing.
at 8:37 PM
Friday, February 8, 2008
Back into the boondocks again! This looks like a rather bleak spot, doesn't it? Look at those arid mountains! It might turn out to be one of my favorite boondoocking spots, though.
We are a couple of miles from Borrego Springs, a little middle-of-nowhere southern California desert town. One of Odel's co-workers from the "old days" of gainful employment has recently moved here from the Palm Springs area (too crowded), and another from the same work group is building a straw bale house here.
We have thought about visiting for the past couple of years, but Borrego Springs isn't "on the way" to anywhere - in fact, it is quite out of the way for big RV's, surrounded on three sides by arid mountains. What finally attracted us was that our RV'ing friends, the Dopps and the Howes, are here boondocking. A free space (the RV park in town costs $40/night, outside our comfort zone) with great friends nearby proved to be the irrestible key.
When we arrived yesterday afternoon, we found Richard hard at work on his second clay oven. He had brought the oven door from the one he built at Quartzsite, and they had acquired enough fire bricks to begin an oven here. A bonus: there was already a rock structure on site that Richard modified to be used as a base for the oven.
We were immediately drawn into the oven building effort, happy to get experience since we are hoping to help build a clay oven at Rosanna's house when we visit in March. The "clay" is essentially mud - dirt that Richard gathered here in the desert and mixed with water.
Although there is dirt aplenty here, water is at a premium when boondocking, since all we have is what we bring. Finally, the perfect use for gray water (the dish water, shower water, and hand sink water that we capture in a holding tank)!
Since we had just arrived, our gray water tank was empty, but the Dopps' and Howes' tanks had just enough to make the "clay". The technique requires a tarp, a hoe, water, dirt and rubber boots; here I am stomping mud, holding on to Odel's hand for balance in the thick, sucking ooze.
As we drove through town in Scoopy yesterday, Borrego Springs seemed unimpressive... but we quickly learned otherwise from our camping companions. This morning, when Richard and Odel went off to play golf, Marlene and I headed into Borrego Springs to the weekly farmer's market. It is a small affair, maybe a dozen vendors, a mix of produce, citrus, eggs, flowers, plants, and crafts.
As you can see, we had a beautiful morning for strolling, and I stocked up on fresh vegies. I was happy that Marlene needed to make a stop at the bank, as I got a chance to see a bit more of Borrego Springs: the Mall. Now, usually a mall is not of interest to me, but since I hadn't seen anything remotely mall-like as we drove through yesterday, I was curious.
"The Mall" is a single story, southwestern style plaza occupied by small, independent businesses: a bank, a realtor, a dry cleaners, an outdoor store, and a clothing/gift/book store... mostly interesting, so we browsed there for a bit - and left our garbage, brought from home, in their dumpster (thank you).
This afternoon we will see another side of Borrego Springs, when we visit Odel's co-workers and go out to dinner. So far, I'm liking it.
at 11:54 AM
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Life moves so quickly, and the internet moves so slowly! Here at Jojoba Hills SKP RV Park, where our Verizon aircard works very slooooowly, I haven't been able to keep the blog up-to-date with activities.
Today, we are moving on for a few days of boondocking near Borrego Springs, California. I'm afraid we might have NO Verizon service there, so thought I'd better see what I can get up on the blog before we go!
We found many of our friends here at Jojoba Hills when we arrived, and a busy social schedule seemed to organize itself. One afternooon we visited nearby wineries with Brooks and Brenda Rimes (left) and Bill and Fran Rayner (right) - they have all since left on a Mexican cruise.
We learned Pickleball, the new favorite game of 50-, 60-, and 70-somethings, played on a court about half the size of a tennis court with paddles twice the size of ping-pong paddles. The light-weight ball doesn't bounce too high/far, but the game moves quickly enough to work up a sweat, pull under-utilitzed muscles out of place, and twist knees into unnatural positions. Next time, we'll lunge a little less enthusiastically.
We visited Temecula several times: the great Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, shopping trips to Costco, Trader Joe's, Henry's Farmer's Market (a health-food oriented grocery store that seems to be owned by Whole Foods), enjoying the wide selection of high-quality food and wine stores one expects in southern California and misses so when traveling...
We celebtated Dick Schneider's birthday with a big party at an Irish pub in Temecula, followed the next night by a dynamite dinner of grilled fresh tuna, grilled fresh asparagus, grilled fresh crimini mushrooms, and quinoa pilaf with the Schneiders and Mary and Elaine. On Super Tuesday, we got together with other liberal Democrats (and one out-numbered Republican couple) to watch the returns come in, eat (too much) delicious food and drink (too much) delicious wine. Yesterday, Odel played golf with some of the guys here while Carol Schneider and I had lunch at a wine country restaurant and did a bit more tasting.
After all that, you can understand when we decided to STAY HOME last night. We had an early dinner and I was IN bed and ASLEEP by 9 pm.
Today we are moving east for three days of boondocking with Marlene and Richard Dopp and their friends, the Howes, who we met at Quartzsite. Last we heard from the Dopps, they were on a hunt for more firebricks so they could build another clay oven at the new boondocking site. Oh, I hope it will be built in time for us to enjoy a slice of wood-fired pizza (yeah, like we need more food).
Here's some good news: Emma, Audrey, and all the rest of Odel's family in Memphis came through the tornados there with no damage. It was a scary night!
If we have internet access in our new spot, I'll post some photos; otherwise, we plan to be in Gila Bend, Arizona on Sunday night and I know I can post from there.
at 7:16 AM
Friday, February 1, 2008
If you read my recent posting about the building of the Earth Oven at Quartzsite, you might want to take a trip over to Richard's blog, The Life We Share, and read the rest of the story. I swiped this photo from his blog... doesn't it look delicious?
Here is the link to "Baking the Bread", and his prior posting about opening the door and drying the oven.
Oh, how I wish we had been able to stay in Boomerville long enough to sample Marlene's wild yeast whole wheat bread! My mouth is watering... time to go fix dinner.
at 5:14 PM