Morning in the backyard

Now that’s it cooler in the mornings, I think the kids and I will go wander around outside before we start school. There are so many things to see.

Our backyard has two areas: what we call the inner yard that is fenced off really well and the outer yard that is still fenced but is mostly wild and not great for playing in (but great for hiking!).

There is so much land here that I haven’t walked it all yet. Josh has.

The inner yard is a great place for an almost two-year-old who loves rocks. And putting rocks in toy dump trucks is even more fun!

A dove is nesting in a cactus right by our front porch. She has two babies. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to mind us too much. We check on her every time we go outside.

We will see what new surprises we find tomorrow morning!

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The New Geek Homestead – Part 2

I mentioned in my last post that we had news to share.  If you follow Josh and The Geek Homestead on Twitter though, you probably already know this.  About a month ago, we moved to the Tucson area of Arizona from California. It took us a while to get here, and there is quite a bit of backstory to our move. Hope you are ready for a bit of a read!

When we moved from Washington, D.C. to San Diego back in 2008, Josh and I stopped in Tucson overnight when we drove cross-country (We only had two kids back then! And they were already with our family in San Diego.) I don’t know what it was about Tucson that appealed to us, but when we left the next day to continue our drive, I remember thinking that we needed to come back someday for a vacation.

We finally did make it back to Tucson for that vacation in November 2016 for Thanksgiving. We found that we liked the area even more and thought about trying to move to Tucson.

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Five of our kids at the Saguaro National Park in 2016. Now we live about 30 minutes from here (and have six kids lol)

In November 2019, we began packing to move out of our house so that we could prepare for selling it. In March 2019, we moved in with my parents while waiting for our house to sell.  Two weeks later, we accepted an offer on the house and then closed escrow the end of April. By this time, Josh had already moved out to Tucson.

In July, we opened escrow on a new house in the Tucson area. At the end of July, we walked from that house because of some appraisal issues. A couple of days after we walked away from that first house, Josh went to an open house for a place that I had noticed on the market in June but it had been out of our price range then. When I first saw it, I mentioned it to Josh because it seemed like the perfect house for us. It dropped in price in July (while we were still in escrow with the first house). After the open house, Josh was sold on the house, we put an offer in, and we closed escrow the end of August. And we have been living here for about a month.

We went from a 1,300 square foot house on about half an acre in San Diego to a 2,700 square foot house on 4 acres in Marana (about 20 miles outside Tucson). God has definitely blessed us because we were not expecting to be able to find a house quite like this one that was in our price range. We were expecting to buy a 2,000 square foot house with maybe a garage. Instead, we found not just a larger house, but a house with a 2-car garage, a workshop for Josh, an observatory shed, a greenhouse, a rainwater harvesting system, beautiful landscaping, 3 porches, and gorgeous sunrises/sunsets and night sky viewing.

Our new home surprises us almost every day with something new. We live in a rural area now that is about 20 minutes from the freeway. Even though it takes a while to get anywhere, we still love it.

We have seen roadrunners, bunnies, woodpeckers, doves, ground squirrels, and vultures, but fortunately no rattlesnakes or scorpions (yet!)  We have so many interesting plants and cacti on the property that I couldn’t possibly name them all.

A few nights ago, I stepped out of our van after church and looked up at the stars… And had a hard time going in the house because the stars seemed to go on forever.

We are loving living in Arizona so far and look forward to sharing our new adventures here on The Geek Homestead.

-Lynn

The following pics are of our new home. Some are from the house listing and the others are ones we took in the past month. Sadly, monsoon season is mostly over so we probably won’t have much rain for a while.

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View from the front porch
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The observatory shed. We’ve only been in here once. I need to pick up our telescope from my parents’ house and bring it out here to try it out!

 

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Flowering barrel cactus
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Mexican bird of paradise
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Flowering Fishhook pincushion cactus. It took me a while to find out what this was! A visit to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum helped me out. But that’s for another post!
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Two of the saguaros in our backyard at sunset.

 

The New Geek Homestead

We have exciting news to share but we still need to work on the post for it. Hopefully, in the next few days!

In the meantime, I’m able to get back into baking, which makes me happy.

Today, I made this Potato Bread Recipe using the dough cycle of my bread maker for the first rise. Then, I followed the rest of the recipe using two loaf pans. I think I might need to buy some bread flour because these loaves are pillowy soft from all-purpose flour, which she mentions in the recipe. I’m still happy with how these turned out though and am very glad they didn’t collapse, which happened to me yesterday with my bread maker!

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

-Lynn

The Santa Cruz River Flows Again (Sort of)

A few days ago, I started to see news stories pop up about the Santa Cruz River here in Tucson. I think Tony Davis of the Arizona Daily Star wrote the best one. I recommend reading his story. He tells quite a bit of history of the river, and there are a number of historical pictures.

In short, the river has been “dead” for quite some time. The region uses a lot of ground water, and that has caused the river to be dry except when there is rain.

Tucson Water has started the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project, and will be releasing reclaimed water into the river. There will not be enough water released to totally revive the river. They estimate there will be about 5000 feet of the river that will have water.

Yesterday, there was a sort of release party for the project. There was a large crowd that came to see the start of the reclaimed river. Various local politicians and dignitaries gave speeches, then people went down to the water.

It isn’t a vast amount of water, but any flowing water in the desert amazes people. People were walking and splashing in the water. Some people even planted native plants along the water edge in hope they will take root there.

This included this Anemopsis californica, common name Yerba Monsa, that I was given to plant.

I took some pictures of what the river looks like now. I hope to take comparison pictures in future days to see just what this project does for plants and wildlife.

Where the river starts

The end of the river as of yesterday

My favorite picture I took was this one of a cowboy riding his horse in the river with downtown Tucson in the background.

I think this is an interesting project and one that will provide much enjoyment for people and life for nature. There are paths on both sides of the river bank that will provide easy access for people to observe and enjoy the life that this water brings for years to come.

-Joshua

Hiking Tucson: Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak State Park is located in Arizona about 40 miles from downtown Tucson.  It is right off the I-10, so it is easily accessible.  It is $7 per vehicle to enter the park.  The park opens at 5am and closes at 10pm, though the hiking trails are open from sunrise to sunset.

I have been to Tucson a number of times over the last few years, whether for vacation or job interviews.  Picacho Peak is a landmark that shows the trip is almost over.  It is very recognizable, and juts out very high over the desert.  There is something in me that wants to stand on peaks when I see them.  I am not any kind of intrepid mountain climber, but I want to see the world from up there.

A couple of weeks ago, I moved to Tucson to start work.  I had the opportunity to go hiking yesterday, and chose Picacho Peak.  There are many other places I want to hike here too, but why not start with the place I have been looking at for a few years.

Safety First

attentionhikers

This trail is rated difficult and it is actually difficult.  I have been on trails that said difficult, but really was just a steep elevation gain.  This one has steep elevation gains, rocky trails, loose rocks, and more.  This is only for people who have some experience hiking and who are in at least decent physical condition.

This sign says to bring 2-3 liters of water. Depending on the time of year, I would say that is a minimum.  Even on a cool day, this is Arizona and it is dry and sunny.  About a month ago a group of Boy Scouts were hiking this trail and one of them died after they ran out of water.  Personally, I bring enough for myself plus enough to share with someone who might have ran out.

The park website recommends bringing gloves.  I tossed a pair of leather work gloves in my bag just in case, and I am glad I did.  There are places on this trail where you will be pulling yourself up the trail using steel cables.  Then on the way down you will need to use the cables to keep yourself from going too fast.  The gloves are useful to keep your hands from getting friction burns.

There are currently bees on the trail due to the blooming Palo Verde trees.  I heard many more than I saw. I only had one disturb me, and it just wanted to check out my backpack when I set it down. However, if you are allergic to bees you might want to take precautions.

The Trail

The trail is about 2 miles long.  It starts out at a fairly steep climb.  It goes from about 1500 feet at the desert floor to 2900 feet at the “Saddle” which is about the halfway point.  Then it drops down again from the Saddle at least halfway to the desert floor before climbing to 3374 feet at the Peak.  There is this lovely but rather faded sign at the Saddle that gives that info, plus some history on the trail.  In short, the sign says that Picacho Peak has been a landmark for centuries.  It helped early explorers, and had a light beacon put on it in 1932 for aviation navigation.  The trail was created to help service that beacon before it was removed.

Did you know

There are plenty of “steps” put into the trail.  They are somewhat helpful, but are rather irregular.

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The trail itself isn’t always easy to see. In fact, I ended up taking a few accidental trips off the trail because I followed a rock slide or something that looked more trail-like than the trail.  Some kind person has put arrows and other helpful markers at most of the difficult to see sections though.

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You can also tell that parts of the trail were made by blasting rock that was in the way.  It was never smoothed out by the builders.  It is rough and can be slippery on the downhill parts.  At a few points I had to use my hands to help me up the trail.  A few people I observed had difficulties on these sections. I would recommend decent hiking shoes and not running shoes on this trail for the grip.

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Remember how I mentioned gloves?  There are helpful steel cables on the trail for the really bald rocks and the really steep areas.  Without them the trail wouldn’t work.

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There are a couple of particularly fun sections.  This first one doesn’t really show well in pictures.  You have to pull yourself up using the cables.  There are not many great places to put your feet, but it can be done if you take your time.  I thought it was a lot of fun, but I am also taller than average.  Some of the shorter people I watched had a bit of difficulty.

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Then there is a section where you are walking along the edge of a drop off.  It isn’t a particularly tall drop off, but the steel cable comes in handy.  Also someone put a handy little bridge to make it easier to walk.

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There is certainly plenty to see on the trail.  The plants are particularly beautiful right now.  The Palo Verde trees are blooming, as are some of the Saguaro cactus. There are also many overlook points where you can see for miles.  Many people do not like the desert, but there is a rugged beauty to it that I love.

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Of course the point to this trail is to get to the top of the Peak.  It does not disappoint and thoroughly makes up for all the work to get there.  There is a 360 degree view of the surrounding desert, with views for miles and miles in all directions.  I am still new to the area, so I wasn’t really sure all that I was looking at.  It is still impressive nonetheless.  I don’t think I got images that do justice to what I was seeing.  The IPhone has a good camera, but I don’t know that it does well in this type of distance situation.

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The Negative

This is a great trail in all ways.  However, its close proximity to the Interstate and railroad tracks makes it a noisy trail sometimes.  It isn’t overwhelmingly loud, but it is definitely noticeable especially when trains pass by.  This picture shows the Interstate and just past it is the train going by.

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Conclusion

I will definitely hike this trail again.  I need to get in better shape for the second time because my legs are telling me how much they hate me today.  I am thinking I may try to take my oldest son with me in the fall so he can learn how to hike a trail like this.  It may have been a lot of work, but the beauty made it all worth it.

-Joshua

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homesteading Without a Homestead

More than a month ago, we put our home on the market. It received a lot of interest, we accepted an offer, and we headed into escrow.

On April 10th, Josh’s term job here in California ended and he started a new job in Arizona. The kids and I moved in with my parents. I really don’t think we would have been able to sell our house as quickly without their help.

On April 30th, escrow closed on our house and the kids and I said goodbye to our house and our pets. It was raining, which seemed fitting. The kids seemed to take it a lot easier than I did but that’s the thing about kids; they’re resilient and a lot tougher than we think.

Our home has been good to us and we will miss it as well as the land, the fruit trees, our chickens, our two resident cats (who are great at catching gophers), and Josh’s garden.

We are not sure what the future holds for us now. That uncertainty is why we had to sell our house. But we know that God is in control and that He will work in His own time. In the meantime, the kids and I are living with family in California while Josh is in Arizona working and preparing to find us another home. And we continue to Homestead as much as we can without a homestead.

-Lynn

Munson Family Crest

This framed drawing of a coat of arms was something I always remember seeing at my great-grandparents house. My great-grandfather’s mom was born a Munson. The Manson/Munson name seems to something that was used interchangeably in the family throughout history.

When their house was sold in the mid-1990s, I was able to obtain this drawing since I have an interest in family history. I kept it in my room on display until I joined the Navy. It ended up boxed for a few years until I was able to get my things from my parents. If I had a place for it, I would put it on display. I think to me it is a link back to my great grandfather.

A few years ago, I took apart the back of the frame. I was curious if there was anything on the back of the crest. Instead, I found an envelope with two letters inside. One of the letters is handwritten and quite old. The other letter is typewritten with no date.

The handwritten letter is fairly fragile. It is starting to separate were it has been folded.

The letter says (be prepared for long sentences):

Manson Coat of Arms

See works of John Burke and those of his son Sir John Bernard Burke, heraldic writers and authors of Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, also numerous other published works on heraldry.

In the family of Nathaniel Munson, descendant of Richard Munson of Sudbury, Mass, and son of Capt. James Manson of Boston who unearthed the extremely old coat of arms of the Manson family, that had been handed down from generation to generation.

This coat of arms was apparently hand-painted in colors and framed. Samuel Manson Jr. ( son of Samuel Manson, son of John Manson who settled in Kittery, Me) settled in Georgetown, Me, and lived to the end had numerous descendants. This Samuel Manson according to accounts possessed family papers that would be of much service in the present genealogy of the Manson Family but were unfortunately destroyed by fire.

This copy of Coat of Arms and data was furnished by Alfred S. Manson 1 Allston St Boston, Mass (something) 25th, 1899

A singular thing was that A. S. Manson has a book plate like the above made, unaware of how the original Coat of Arms looked but they were identical.

The typewritten letter is much easier to read, so I will not type that one out.

The explanation of the coat of arms is interesting. The best part of this letter is the list of names. These are my ancestors going back to when this family line settled in the Americas.

The T.V. Munson at the end of the list is my great, great, great grandfather. There is a book written about him called, The Grape Man of Texas. In that book is an illustration of this coat of arms. He is an interesting man in his own right, and will be the subject of a future post.

Toward the end of last year, I removed the coat of arms and letters from their frame. I saw they were becoming more fragile. My grandma gave me some money for Christmas, and I decided to use that to frame these items correctly.

They are now laid flat to keep the creases from breaking. They have acid free matting, and UV protection from the glass.

Someday I hope to do some research into the Burke’s Peerage angle. I want to see what exactly is written about the Manson family. I want to know if it will give further genealogy information. Mostly though, I want to know if the family actually was some sort of nobility.

– Joshua