Monday, April 30, 2012

Bad News (stick it IRS) Good News (agented -please!) #23

Hard to believe it's been well over a week since my last installment. Getting ready for the writers' conference in Scottsdale and filing taxes ate up the time.

On that - first the good news. The conference had its highs and lows. The highs outweighed the lows. I have two requests from agents for my latest manuscript. I really want an agent. And one of them is my dream agent. I'll polish the first three chapters yet again and rewrite my synopsis before emailing it off...and then wait...and wait some more. Usually takes weeks to hear back.

Now the bad news - we owe taxes. This isn't a big surprise. We'd set aside some money because Minnesota taxes social security but we hadn't held out. Frank started taking his social security months before we moved. But wow! I mean wow! I hadn't expected it to hit us quite this hard with the deductions we had. According to Frank's calcs, the Feds gave us back $850. Minnesota wanted over $1700! Now let's heap on the bad news a bit more. We got our refund back within days and guess what? We only got $350. I'm crying here - well, not really but gasping a bit. Waiting for their letter so I can yell and scream. Not that it will do much good. IRS really isn't very flexible.
Blackberries - before

Blackberries now
Argh! Tuck that away and look out to the garden. I was gone four days (that's a story for next time) and in those four days, so much greened up and sprouted. Before I left, we were getting asparagus. We didn't plant it so this was a big surprise. It takes about three years from planting to harvest for asparagus. We didn't know they were there, which makes it very lucky that they weren't damaged when we cleaned up that part of the garden. They harvest daily so we have both purple and green asparagus about every other night for dinner. What a treat.

Green house success
Lance's lovely rows
There are all kinds of little green leaves popping up in the green house. To name a few: broccoli, cabbage, many kinds of tomatoes, dozens of herbs, artichoke, brussel sprouts, various beans, and lots of kinds of peppers. And there are more. Lance has planted several out in the fields too, (things like carrots and onions) but so far only radishes are popping up. We live on the windy side of Paulden - no, did not know that until AFTER we moved in - so seeding is a challenge. Those little bitty things blow around with the slightest gust of wind.

I'm excited that twelve of the twenty suckers I dug off of other trees are definitely alive. It will be years before they bear fruit, but I'll totally enjoy watching them grow - and keeping them alive. Many years ahead of worrying about frost and pests.
Fruit tree 3 months ago

A special thanks to the people who approached me at the conference in Scottsdale this weekend to tell me they enjoy this blog. I was surprised - what a great compliment! And to Kelly - gopher wars continue and thanks for your help.

Pear tree now!
PS - those of you who do follow my blog - would love it if you would click on "Join This Site". It's fun for me to see  how many are visiting on a regular basis.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Verde Discovery - #22

The lake that isn't
Just east of Paulden, really within a stones
throw, are the headwaters of the Verde River. Technically, the Verde starts at Sullivan Lake. Trouble with Sullivan Lake, typical of the water in Arizona, it's not there very often. On a recent motorcycle ride, Frank and I discovered, by accident, the lake that isn't where the Verde River is purported to start. There are no markings or signs. When we got home we looked it up on the map. The Verde must go underground and pop up farther east. The headwaters aren't visible from the road and you can't easily get to them. The steep rugged cliffs would require cliff climbing which we don't do. But the Verde is alive and well a mile or so up the canyon.

If you go far enough east, it's quite large and deep. As a kid, we would head out of Phoenix and go tubing on the Verde. What I remember is a well used, green river with rocky muddy banks. It was beautiful but, well, peopled.

The trek down begins

View along the trek down

Our neck of the woods finds the Verde small with crystal clear waters and quiet beauty. Lance and Christie discovered a beautiful area just east of the headwaters. 

The first glimpse of water
What's great about this park area is that it's not marked either. You can find it on a map, but if you're driving by the road that goes into the park, you'd never know it's there. We're only a few miles from nearly pristine waters. Once you leave the paved road, the fairly rugged dirt road winds through flat land that is high prairie but dotted with small cactus. After about five miles, the road is blocked. The last mile and a half is done on foot. The first half mile is rather steep - great going down - not so great coming back! On our way out we met the couple that checks on the area every few days. They told us that the road used to be open all the way down but the park was abused so they closed it. I'm glad. The long trek keeps most people out. We were the only ones on this stretch of river all afternoon.

Heading upstream to fish
The Verde River
This isn't the prettiest time of year. The trees are only beginning to leaf, and there are very few wild flowers blooming. I know we'll utilize the Verde often and see it through each season. I'm really looking forward to full-blown springtime. But even now, the beauty is inspiring.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - #21

There are neighbors...and there are neighbors.

These pictures are only a few examples of the variety of homes in Paulden.

We have new neighbors to our west. I haven't nailed down exactly who lives there, but I've seen a woman, probably middle aged, a young man of maybe teen years and a younger woman. But I've seen some men come and go. Relatives? Let me say something about Paulden first. This is the kind of area where people come to live the way they want to live. And I don't have anything against that UNLESS their lifestyle infringes on my lifestyle. I think you can tell from my previous posts, I'm a visual person. I'm not crazy about these new neighbors. Their open-sided storage shed faces our property, and it's jammed with - oh I don't know - junk? The contents spill out next to the shed (I use that term loosely). On their front porch is stuff. I can't make out what exactly. And guess what! Next to the porch is a couch. I get to stare at textbook hicksville out my window as I write. They are the backdrop to my orchard. Once the trees are leafed out, most of the view will be obscured. But really!

The first trees we can afford to plant on our property line will be to the west.

That's how it is out here. There are some beautiful homes, common homes like ours and some really tacky ones - all within sight of each other. Thank goodness there are no plots smaller than two and half acres.

Dave and Eunice, that loaned their tiller, live a few acres away. I visited them a couple of days ago. My purpose was to give Eunice two of my books. She likes romance. They've been so nice, and we don't  have much to give in return yet. Last week we (well, not me) baked them cookies. Small payment for all their kindness. I liked their place. They have cows, goats, chickens and three little yipping dogs. Their property is well maintained. I stepped into her home and she apologized for the dust. That's funny. Dust comes with every home here. So I gave her Honey On White Bread and Sleeping with the Lights On , and I came home with four dozen eggs and four sacks of okra. Unreal. Talk about good neighbors.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tortuga Flats Farm - #20

I had set aside some money for work shoes - trudge around the farm work shoes. Frank and I were true to form in our choices. He went cheap with knee high rubber, Walmart specials. I had to have a little class and bought much more expensive Justins. But I did get them on sale! Both our choices are standing up well and doing the job. I just look better. LOL

We inherited a few things when we bought this place. Of course there were the fruit trees, tulips and lots of dirt, dust and weeds. But out in the soon-to-be vegetable garden was a lovely plaque with a great sentiment. It now resides by the gate between the veggie garden and the blackberries. I rescued a frog they left behind. He's metal and sitting on a double sided park bench. His partner was beyond rescuing - missing a limb and part of his nose. I gave the little survivor a spray paint job and brightened his umbrella. I think he adds to our soon-to-be yard.

Xena is our digger. Not sure how we can break her once the yard is in - any ideas? She also finds things to eat that she shouldn't. Last week she kept throwing up. The frequency increased until one night she did it four times. Lance and Christie didn't get much sleep. They broke down and took her to the vet. Dang those vet bills. But a strict diet and some meds brought her back to well. She had some sort of stomach bacterial thing going on. I love dogs. I better with three in and out of the house, but potential vet bills are a hazard. Rusty will be nine in October. Here's hoping he stays well.

Have I mentioned the one good thing about Frank passing sixty-five? Discounts! We shop at a market called New Frontiers in Prescott for all our organic and natural foods. He gets a 10% discount because of his mature age. Really helps a bunch. And movies are $5. One drawback on the movies here; there is only one theater in all of Prescott and Prescott Valley. Not much to choose from. In fact, we haven't been to a movie in two months. Thank goodness for the Red Box. Frank also gets a discount at Home Depot because of his veteran status. That 10% has saved us mucho Denaro.  He's learned to ask no matter where we are shopping or eating. You'd be surprised at the discounts and freebies available.

We've come to the conclusion that Pauldenites and Chino Valley residents aren't much on night time activities. And if they do, most must go into Prescott. Last Saturday night we went out to the Cattle Company and had the place to ourselves. Lucky for us, Lucky Luke took the stage. He starts playing in the restaurant at 6:00 and when that thins out around 7:30, he moves to the bar (which closes at 9:00! Yes, really). Luke is German. In the restaurant he played country western, but when he moved into the bar we were treated to rock songs with a German accent. Luke is a slim, good looking man with gray hair that falls below his shoulders. He wore a cowboy hat, red western shirt and boots. His belt buckle was pretty big. He has a good time, and we had fun with him. And how can you beat $2 beer and margaritas?

And the big announcement - we've named our place. I think Lance pretty much came up with it. Tortuga Flats Farm It sort of says we hope our lifestyle is slow and lasts a long time plus the whole pirate reference suits each of us for a different reason. Pirates are romanticized, and we like that. Frank and I are Parrotheads so the Caribbean reference is good too. Tortuga Flats Farm!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Yoga to Rock - Saving Money #19

Working in the garden out front
I planted twenty trees with the help of Frank. He helped me dig some holes, and he dug out a couple of the stubborn suckers. The apple, peach and apricot trees all had suckers. I managed to get twenty of them out and planted. They have a 50/50 chance of survival but if only ten survive, I've saved hundreds of dollars.

Many of the trees are budding out. Last night we (well not we - the guys) covered several of the trees. The temp dropped below freezing again. This climate is a challenge. The wind has been hellacious so the flowers could get blown off too. Lots of challenges. All part of the fun this first year. We'll see how we feel about these challenges next year.

Lance tilling the garden
A neighbor walked by one day, Eunice, and offered to help in anyway she and Dave could. Turns out they're from Buckeye, Arizona and knew the Gillums. The Gillums, now deceased, were good friends of my parents and have the statue of Hobo Joe on their property. The Hobo was made by my dad and there's a plaque on it dedicated to him. I love when these connections happen. That's another subject I should elaborate on one of these days. So Lance has been using their tiller in the garden. We were going to rent one for $70 a day. We had no idea how long it would take and now that we know - wow! have they saved us some money. In fact, I don't know if we could have done it. Lance has been at it for four days now and still not done. People are great out here. Bob and Jeannette, more neighbors, have brought us two truckloads of horse manure for the garden.

We did pay to have the area on the other side of the blackberries cleared where we will plant potatoes and corn. Doug brought his tractor out and had it done in three hours. It was worth the $145. Hand clearing would've taken a couple of weeks more than likely.

We pick and choose our expenditures. We had the flagstone debate. I really wanted flagstone for our needed walkways around the property. First off, Frank and Lance pointed out - who the hell is going to load and unload and carry slabs of flagstone around the property???!!! Okay, guys, I see the point. So we've (no they) came up with an alternative plan. In certain areas we will use stepping stones like are already here in a couple of areas. We have to have an area for the dogs to inhabit while the grass is seeding and growing. Frank has sectioned off and is fencing a spot behind the garage. So they are going to put a walkway of gravel-stone from the house to the dog run. We can get ten tons of gravel for $260. We have no idea how much that is but it sounds like a lot! We need it out front anyway. There is an area between our fence and the dirt road that is pretty much mud for weeks after rain or snow. Can't wait to see our mountain of gravel when it arrives.

Christie keeping it simple for me
I have a built-in yoga teacher. Christie has been practicing yoga for a few years now and can put her body in positions that would make a yogi proud. She'd like to teach some day, so I suggested she practice on me. Yes, I'm saving money! And she's more than willing. So we have 'class' on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:30. On those days, I write until class and, after, go outside to work in the gardens. Yoga class in the middle of the living room has its drawbacks - the dogs sometimes want to join in and the males in the house don't always respect our time. It's hard answering questions when you're in downward facing dog position.