A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Arizona - Business and Pleasure

August 16, 2012

The drive from Phoenix to Tucson isn't terribly long, but it is scenic. I stopped at a rest area to get my camera out.   While there, I noted the way they had constructed concrete walk paths in the area of the rest stop that highlighted local vegetation for visitors. I was tempted to wander and walk a bit, but worried a bit about doing so while traveling alone, and was rather anxious to get checked into my hotel in Tucson.

I thought there might be some places I would want to get pictures of along the way.  This was true, but there was rarely a good place to stop. I made it a point to just really enjoy the drive instead. I noted groves of trees, but struggled to identify them.  A sign gave me a clue at the edge of one grove "Pecan Wood for Sale."  Aha! How cool! I didn't even know pecans grew in Arizona. There were irrigated fields of lush green growth that looked a lot like potatoes, but that didn't make sense to me. As it turns out, Arizona does produce a fair amount of potatoes, but these fields were more likely cotton. Once again, I did not know that this was one of their crops. As a matter of fact, it's one of their top three crops (1. Lettuce 2. Cotton 3. Hay)?! I guess I always thought Arizona to be too arid for agriculture. Boy was I wrong!
I was concerned about getting checked into my hotel because there had been quite an issue with getting it booked. I used Priceline, as I have many times before. I was thrilled to land a Sheraton for such a reasonable price and counted myself lucky.  Then I started reading reviews (at the prompting of my Dad).  Then I spoke with someone who had actually stayed there. All accounts were saying this was a very bad choice for me to be travelling alone and that I would not be pleased with the condition of the hotel.  I was faced with an expensive decision.  I could either wait and see how bad it really was, or book another hotel and eat the cost of the first.  Since I named my own price, neither Priceline nor Sheraton was willing to work with me about the condition of the hotel, claiming it had earned its star rating and it was my loss.  I chose to err on the side of safety and comfort, booking a room at the Doubletree Reid Park.  I am SO glad.  It was absolutely outstanding.  The accommodations were great, the place was beautiful and the staff was over the top great.  Even though the ordeal cost me a small fortune, I think I chose wisely.  More importantly, I learned a very valuable lesson.  Just book something decent and pay the price.  As long as I book with the hotel directly, I have some recourse if it does not meet my expectations (not the case with Priceline).

I arrived, checked in, settled my things into my room and gave my Dad a call.  We had talked about potentially having dinner together, and I had arrived in town a little sooner than I had originally expected.  He indicated that he had just started preparing dinner and I should just come on over then.  I was taken back a little and a touch nervous.  It had been 12 years or more since we last saw one another, so I don't think that was out of line. I was still dressed from the day in the office, but I just headed out to begin our visit.

When I arrived, he was waiting for me outside the gate of his apartment complex with another fellow. The other man held a camera and captured our first moments seeing one another (that was pretty cool). I learned that the man with the camera was my Dad's nutty neighbor Rebel.

We went inside and I finally got the chance to meet the lady in my Dad's life, Miss Barbara.  She was so excited to see me, she hugged me right away.  It was like we'd known each other for years. I sat next to her on the couch and after a few minutes of conversation it hit me, she's blind!  She stood and walked so well to greet me that it didn't dawn on me until she was sharing with me about learning to cook again and about all the ways my Dad has been helping her. Boy did I feel silly!  She's a marvelous lady, with a lot of love in her heart for my Dad (and me, even though we'd never met before that evening).

I had sent a package ahead of my visit so that they could sample some of the canned goodies that I have been putting up. I asked if it had arrived yet. We walked to his post box and there it was. It was fun to open it and go through the contents with Dad and Barbara. We had a great meal together and visited for several hours. I finally decided to call it a day sometime after 10. It had been a very long day, beginning with time in the office, a long drive and then culminating in a big visit.

I had plans for some relaxation and sightseeing for my time in Tucson, beginning the next day, so a good night's rest was important!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Arizona - Business Trip #2

August 14-16, 2012

My second launch trip for work took me to Mesa, Arizona.  When I learned of it, I asked Boss Lady for permission to stay on after the business portion of the trip for a little personal time.  My Dad lives in Arizona and it seemed like a great chance to have a long overdue visit to catch up with him.  She was, of course, in favor of it.  As it turned out, the rental car was cheaper for the week anyway, instead of just the three days we were there for the launch.

Having lived in Arizona, I remember what a beautiful state it is and how spectacular the sunsets can be. We were not disappointed. Here is the sunset we enjoyed on the way to our hotel after arriving.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Road Trip to Virginia Days 3 and 4 - Barbeque and Luray Caverns

August 3 and 4, 2012

Having arrived late at night, we decided on a low key morning at home. I had some sewing to do for a gift basket order that needed to be sent, so my sewing machine made the trip with us and I spent a relaxed morning working with it.

Some of our favorite clients (not that we should have favorites, but hey!) offered to have a little gathering for us so we could finally meet some more of them in person. We brought sweetcorn and cantaloupe from Michigan and a big gift basket of canned goods for our hosts.  They provided an awesome spread of food, grilling chicken along with our corn and other treats.  We had an absolutely wonderful time visiting with everyone and getting to know them.  We ate and then as the evening cooled a bit, we retired to sit poolside to chat some more.  As we sat, we heard a pack of coyotes yip and howl which generated a bit of excitement.  Their home is set in a "subdivision" of sorts, backing up to some rather wild landscape just into West Virginia from Virginia.  If it hadn't been for the lengthy drive back to Virginia to Shane's mom's, we would have continued to stay and chat deeper into the night.  We sure hated to leave when we were having such a good time, but so it goes. It was some time after midnight when we arrived "home" and fell into bed.

The next morning (Day 4), I finished the basket and readied it for shipment (special thanks to my spectacular Mom-In-Law-to-be who took care of the final baking I needed, the night before while we partied the night away). We had settled on spending the day with family, but weren't sure what we were going to do until the notion struck us to visit Luray Caverns. It was a pricey stop, but OH SO worth it!  Gracious, was that an awesome experience. Mom-In-Law-to-be was not feeling well from the ride, so she stayed above ground while we explored below.  Our good camera took sub-par pictures, but my silly little iPhone shined in the strange and difficult lighting of the cave.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Road Trip to Virginia Day 2 - Skyline Drive (Big Meadows - It's really about the deer!)

We had been on the road most of the day, but there was at least one stop we wanted to make on Skyline Drive and we heard it was worth the effort to get there.  After leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway, we jetted west to another highway and made our way north with more speed than we could attain on the byways.  We made the jog back in to the mountains about a third of the way into the path and headed north to our scenic stop of choice and recommendation - Big Meadows.  Our dear friends, the Ackers, shared with us what a cool place it was, telling us that there were tons and tons of deer in the field all the time and what a great stop it would be to take the family.  We had to check it out!

Just after paying our park entry fee and getting on with our drive, we encountered our second bear for the day.  It was lumbering slowly across the road when a motorcyclist got impatient, passed a car on the shoulder and startled the bear.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Scenic Drive From the Perspective of an Inquisitive Six Year Old

We gave Lexi a digital camera of her own to record our journey for the day.  We thought it would be great to see what she saw and might also keep her entertained on a painfully long drive for a six year old girl with an active mind.  It was outstanding!  She loved it!

We set a few expectations before letting her go with the camera though:
1.  Don't turn it on and off a lot, nor leave it on all the time, as there was no spare battery.  It has to plug in to charge, so when the battery went dead, that would be the end of her photo journey.
2.  Keep the wrist strap tight on her wrist for safety.
3.  Have fun and take pictures that would make her happy and help her remember her trip.

Here is a sampling of her photographs from the day (I have asked her to caption the ones she has something to say about.  The photos are hers, so shall the captions be. There were quite a few blurry shots and totally pointless shots of sky and haze, etc., and what fun would there be in posting those, so I have edited them out (mostly).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Road Trip to Virginia Day 2 - The Blue Ridge Parkway

August 2, 2012

We let ourselves sleep in just a bit, since we were on vacation, but got ourselves moving at a reasonable hour so as not to miss out on any of the sights we were planning on seeing.  We packed up most of our things, grabbed some complimentary breakfast and went back to our room to finish up and load the car.  (Let's face it, we all needed to go potty before a long car ride anyway!) As we "gathered our things" (ahem) we discovered that we had no running water.  A call to the front desk found that they were doing some repairs and the water would be off for a couple of hours.  I asked where my 6 year old was supposed to go potty and the desk clerk said, "I guess you'll have to find a restroom somewhere else."  Nice.  We meandered around the area and finally found a spot for us all to take care of business, but not without a lot of grumbling and whining. :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Road trip to Virginia, Day 1

August 1, 2012

Shane was fortunate to have Monday and Tuesday off so he could pack for himself and Lexi, but I had to work and was unable to get much done until Tuesday after work and some errands...So he headed to bed early and I stayed up to finish readying myself and the animals for our departure.  He intended to drive and I would just sleep the first leg through Ohio anyway.  Our plan was to leave at 4:00am, but we overslept a smidge and left the house about 5:00 instead.  We stopped for breakfast around 8:30 in Groveport, Ohio and got back on the road.  Our first scheduled destination was in Charleston, WV for lunch with a client of Shane's.  We arrived at his office a little earlier than he had planned for us, at 11:30 instead of 12:00.  He was in the middle of a client meeting, so we relaxed and hung out until he was ready to grab a bite to eat.  Mr. E and his awesome staffer Miss J took us to a great spot to show us some of the local color the city had to offer, a restaurant called Tricky Fish.  It had a really eclectic mix of menu items and was delicious!