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

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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.

Rocky PathPicacho Path 2IMG_8173Rocky Path

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.

Saguaro 1Saguaro 2Picacho Rocky CliffSaguaro 3SaguaroIMG_8191Palo VerdeRockIMG_8176SaguaroIMG_8174IMG_8172IMG_8171IMG_8168IMG_8167IMG_8086RockIMG_8081IMG_8080Palo VerdeIMG_8073IMG_8069IMG_8066IMG_8061IMG_8064

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.

Distance ViewIMG_8185IMG_8184IMG_8183IMG_8182IMG_8181IMG_8180IMG_8179Distance View

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

Wildflowers in the Desert: Borrego Springs, California – March 8, 2019

We have posted about the wildflowers in the desert before, but since this is possibly our last trip to see them for a while, we wanted to write about them again. It’s interesting to see the differences from year to year.

You can read about our previous trips in Borrego Springs, California: Wildflowers 2017 and Borrego Springs, California – Wildflowers.

Most of our trips to the desert include side trips. This year’s side trips were to Packard’s Coffee Shop in Ramona, CA, Dudley’s Famous Bakery in Santa Ysabel, CA, and Culp Valley Cultural Preserve right outside Borrego Springs.

We love Packard’s but we live so far away that we only make it there about once a year. The big blue box in the front is the reason we first visited because Josh and I are Doctor Who fans. We have never tried their crepes or baked goods, but we always buy some of their coffee. They are really great about updating their Facebook page with the baked goods they are offering for the day or week.

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Packard’s TARDIS is a Little Free Library. I think this is such a great idea!
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The front porch at Packard’s.

 

Dudley’s Famous Bakery was our next stop where we picked up five loaves of bread. With the size of our family though, five loaves of bread doesn’t last very long!

 

That is a LOT of bread. We bought four loaves and got one free. We were hoping the strudels were included in that but sadly, they were not. I had to tell my oldest son to go put the raspberry strudel back. I regretted that later, because I don’t think strudel is something I will ever attempt to make.

Our next stop was Culp Valley Cultural Preserve. We didn’t actually hike anywhere here but it was an interesting place to stop. It was neat to watch the shadows of the clouds move across the landscape. It was very windy here!

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We like to stop at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association Desert Nature Center near Christmas Circle to pick up a wildflower map before we head out to the fields.  The staff there are very knowledgeable and very helpful. They also have a nice gift shop. My rock hound son has picked up a few books about rocks, gems, and minerals there. For this trip, we purchased a wildflower guide and a guide to the sky art metal sculptures around town. The wildflower maps are always free and are invaluable to figuring out where is best to go.

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Usually, we head out to Henderson Canyon Road to find wildflowers but this year our main stop was Coyote Canyon. I think we were early enough in the day that it wasn’t too difficult to park close to the dirt road that would take us to the fields. For this trip, we walked east from Di Giorgio Road. The most prevalent wildflowers were desert sunflowers, sand verbena, and dune evening primrose. The colors were amazing.

We also stopped at a few fields east of Borrego Springs. Josh took pictures out there since I stayed in the van with our baby. I also was a bit of a wimp and didn’t feel like dealing with the wind.

 

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I think this might be my favorite picture that I took of the wildflowers.
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Desert Lilies
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Desert Chicory over Popcorn flowers
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Popcorn flowers have fuzzy stems. We saw a few of these plants here and there that had not bloomed yet.
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Chuparosa. This was taken by Josh with his iPhone. 
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Brown-eyed evening Primrose
dune evening primrose
Dune Evening Primrose
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I think this is probably Dune evening primrose also. It’s just light pink instead of white.
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Sand verbena. There is so much of this blooming that you can see them from very far away.
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I think this is another brown-eyed evening primrose.

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Another type of blue heliotrope or phacelia. I love blue and purple flowers!
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A type of blue heliotrope or phacelia. I thought it might be canterbury bells at first but the way the flowers are clustered doesn’t look right.

While walking around by Coyote Canyon, we found a dry wash. Three of my boys were fascinated by the way the mud had dried in layers and broken with some of the edges curling up.  One of them even told me, “Mommy, this is much more fun that the flowers!” Doesn’t that just sound like a boy? I’m glad that they found something out on our walk that was interesting to them. They even wanted to take some of the layers home with us. Sorry, boys, you can’t bring any dirt home with you.

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weatherstation

We hiked out to this weather station and then headed back to the van. There were also some cryptic signs in this area with the words “Viking Block” and then a number. Josh looked them up and found out that they were in relation to a program for environmental protection.

scorpion

Of course, we had to visit our old friends, the scorpion and the grasshopper. We also drove by the serpent. The kids love seeing the metal sculptures. Hopefully, it will not be the last time we get to visit Borrego Springs.

Family History: Jill Sheard

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by history. I like to read the stories of what people have done in the past. Even better, I like to visit historic sites and imagine what life would have been like for the people who lived there.

That interest in history has lead to an interest in genealogy. It is fascinating to place family members in their historic context. What did they do? How did they live? What part may they have played in the big events of the past?

I fully realize that most people do not have big parts to play in history. Most just live, work, and raise families. I am going to start writing some posts about some of those people in my family. I want to get what I know out there for other people who are interested in genealogy, and to preserve the past.

I am blessed to have people who have passed their genealogy work on to me. Most of it is on paper and needs to be digitized before it disappears. I also have a decent amount of older pictures that I would like online since they are fragile.

I don’t know if anyone else will be interested in this work, but having it on my blog gives me easier access to it later.


My first story is about my great, great grandmother. She was the mother of my mom’s, dad’s, dad.

Family history said that she was part Indian, and died when my great-grandfather ( William Earl Smith) was very young. William Earl was then abandoned by his father William Joseph Smith soon after her death. William Earl ended up being raised by some of his Smith relatives. He didn’t know much about his mother, so little was passed on.

Recently, my mom did a DNA test to see what it showed of her heritage. We know little of the Smith side of the family so we expected some surprises. The one thing we knew though is that some Native American heritage would be there.

We received quite the surprise when my mom received her results. There was 0% Native American, so how did family stories end up labeling my my great-great grandmother as an “Indian”? There also a couple of unexpected additions, namely a tiny amount African and a larger amount Eastern European.

Yesterday, I started out to clean my garage in preparation to move. In my garage, I found a box with pictures and family trees my mom had given me. For some reason I didn’t know it was there. One of the pictures was of my great-grandfather with his parents.

On the back is written the family story.

It says:

Great grandpa “Dude” William Joseph Smith

Wife – Jill (part Indian)

Grandpa William Earl Smith

Grandpa Smith was born in West Virginia and his mother died when he was very young and his father came to Tonawanda where grandpa was shuffled around and raised by his Grandmother Smith and Aunts and Uncles.

So the wording on the picture just confirms the family tradition. I did learn a little new information. My great-grandfather was born in West Virginia, and his mother was named Jill.

For some reason I decided to do a search on West Virginia genealogy and I got an auto fill of vital statistics added to that. The first link was to the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. That state has uploaded birth, death and marriage records to the internet.

I searched for William Smith and got 302 results. Smith is much to common a last name. I scrolled through the results, looking at a few promising names, then I found William Earl Smith.

Interestedly, my great-grandfather applies for a delayed certificate of birth 57 years after his birth. His birth certificate gave me a maiden name for his mother, Jill Sheard. Further searches on the West Virginia site showed no birth or death certificate for a Jill Sheard.

It is great to know more then I did, but now I have new questions.

  1. Did my great-grandfather get his mother’s name right? It was decades after her death and he was young.
  2. Was she born in West Virginia or did he just put that because he didn’t know?
  3. If she wasn’t Native American then what was she? Was that used because there was something else that was considered worse then that?

I am afraid that I will never fully learn about Jill Sheard. There really isn’t much information about her that I know. Hopefully, I will find more as I work on my family’s genealogy.

-Joshua