At Home in the Southwest

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A summer harvest

A spring harvest

The Cascabel Community Garden never ceases to amaze me with its prolific production of fresh produce, even as the summer temperatures set new high records. Our local community members apply their experience, skills, and labor year-round, with roughly three growing seasons and associated harvests. Today, following my morning run, I stopped by the garden to select onions, garlic, tomatoes, and the last pickings of leafy greens. The tallest of the tomatoes were started in my house in January, way ahead of the official season. When I moved to the Biosphere 2 to work on SAM the weekly watering was not ample to keep them from wilting on my window sill. Transported to the community garden greenhouse, they were well cared for and now stand over six feet tall, with juicy, sweet tomatoes on every vine.

If I could never again eat a store-bought tomato, I’d be a very satisfied person.

By |2021-07-21T17:07:37-04:00July 12th, 2021|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on A summer harvest

Snowfall in Cascabel, a photo essay

Woodpeckers in snow, by Kai Staats

There is something magical about snow in the desert. It’s unexpected, often rare. Last night we went to sleep to the sound of rain on the steel roof. Sometimes soft, like sleet. Sometimes hard as the water hardened to hail. This morning the sound was clearly unique, that of a dusting across the windows and corrugated metal sheets, the sound that only snow can make.

We set out by foot, to the end of my land, down into the San Pedro basin, and up the far west side. The goal was to overlook the entire valley from that higher vantage point, but the snow didn’t let up and the visibility remained low. We walked back down into the San Pedro, past the three ranches on the far side, and then south up Page Canyon. Three miles in the flakes grew larger, wet, and sticky. Every few minutes we were shaking off the build-up on our hats, gloves, jackets and eyebrows.

I’ll never outgrow the desire to romp in the snow as puppies do in their first winter. The smell, the sound, the crisp taste of the air. And today, that rare desert phenomenon came to Cascabel. Thank you Colleen for sharing the magic with me.

Woodpeckers in snow, by Kai Staats Snow in the San Pedro, by Kai Staats

Snow in the San Pedro, by Kai Staats Snow in the San Pedro, by Kai Staats

Saguaro in Snow, by Kai Staats The Abominable Snowwoman Colleen by Kai Staats

By |2021-02-02T12:35:35-04:00January 26th, 2021|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Snowfall in Cascabel, a photo essay

Nothing quite like a wood burning stove

Wood burning stove

David Omick installing a wood burning stove, photo by Kai Staats A year ago today my neighbor and good friend David and I completed installation of a wood burning stove in my Arizona wilderness home. My electric bill dropped by more than 50% overnight, and my deep satisfaction with a fully renewable energy source remains unquantified by percentage or monetary value.

With 17 acres of mesquite forest, a maul, and a weekly workout, the main floor of my house is heated with the radiant heat of a single stove. As expressed in The axe and the fire, the manual preparation of wood for heating a home is gratifying in ways difficult to describe. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it takes time. And it is intentional, meditative, and a good workout that makes one truly appreciate warmth felt.

David Omick installing a wood burning stove, photo by Kai Staats David Omick installing a wood burning stove, photo by Kai Staats

By |2021-07-26T19:58:35-04:00January 18th, 2021|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Nothing quite like a wood burning stove

Working with wood

Living on the road for eight years granted me a global perspective. I saw what was once my home from an outside point of view. I found comfort in moving from place to place and solace at each point of entry.

My outlet for creativity was almost entirely digital. On my laptop I could edit photos, produce a film, and write essays, letters, and post blog entries. But no matter how I shape, carve, cut or polish in the realm of electrons, the smell of sawdust and stain cannot emanate from ray traced wood grain. I craved expression in three dimensions, with excess glue beneath my fingernails and cuts to my skin to remind me of challenge of forming something beautiful.

I thought I sought a house to enable me to open old boxes with so many forgotten stories, a place to do laundry without coins and to prepare food without an order. But truly, it is working with wood that gives me a sense of purpose, pleasure, and home.

By |2021-08-13T14:38:10-04:00December 12th, 2020|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Working with wood

Apples and Cheese

Mostly, I place the slide of cheese on top of the apple slice.

The soft cheese presses against the roof of my mouth while my tongue enjoys the cool, sweet flavor below.

Sometimes, I flip it over and the savory flavor is met first, the sweet crunch a moment later.

Just one slice of cheese and one slice of apple, but a completely different experience.

Then there is peanut butter, hummus, and melted baker’s chocolate, but that is another post for another time.

By |2020-10-31T17:24:55-04:00October 31st, 2020|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Apples and Cheese

Walking in the ripples of the rain, a photo essay

San Pedro running, Galiuros standing, by Kai Staats

In the desert, the rain seldom arrives in a subtle manner, quietly or over the course of hours. Rather, it obliterates the sun within minutes, a bold, dark mass that hides something sinister. At the leading edge of the billowing clouds is a swirling mass of cool, moisture ladened air. A simultaneous sense of excitement and dread is carried by a deceptive, playful greeting. Soon, that same wind is breaking branches and tossing loose sheets of metal into neighboring pastures. Bold strokes of light rise from points unseen, echoed by melodramatic rumbles that awake toads for a twelve hours mating ritual.

Just before sunset, blue skies chase black past the horizon and the rivers run as though they were never without water, only a memory of dry sand a few hours earlier.

Walking in muddy waters, by Kai Staats Hand in hand with the San Pedro, by Kai Staats

The mighty, muddy San Pedro at Cascabel, by Kai Staats Ripples of the San Pedro, by Kai Staats

Deer at the confluence of the San Pedro and Paige rivers, by Kai Staats Paige, San Pedro confluence, by Kai Staats

By |2020-07-28T02:07:14-04:00July 28th, 2020|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Walking in the ripples of the rain, a photo essay

Ash Creek, a photo essay

Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats

There are places yet remaining that feel to the visitor untouched by time. We call this wilderness, and we protect it from recreational vehicle, developers, and politicians whose pockets are too easily filled with bills too large. These areas must remain wild, free of human impact other than photograph and footprint if we are to maintain some semblance of balance in the world at large. Something must offset the impact of cities and urban sprawl. Some places must give us reason to pause, to remember what it was like to be just another humble animal on a planet we did not always dominate. On trails too narrow for vehicles, on paths too jagged for wheels, that is where we recall who we really are, the human animal.

Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats

Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats

Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats

Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats

Ash Creek, Galiuro Wilderness, by Kai Staats Kai Staats and Colleen Cooley

By |2020-04-28T03:27:08-04:00April 18th, 2020|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Ash Creek, a photo essay

Hot Springs Canyon, a photo essay

Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats

Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats

Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats

Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats

Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats

Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats

Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats

Hot Springs Canyon, by Kai Staats We walked to this place from my back door and spent the afternoon listening. Everything we heard was clear. A hawk call, a leaf fall, and the sound of a water were undeniable and real.

I am more a part of this place than I ever will be of the constructed world. We all are. Yet the thing we are all hiding from, the nearly invisible string of DNA neither living or dead knows there is no separation between us and them, between the wealthy and the poor; black, white, and brown; uneducated and well read. Biological systems eventually transcend all social and geographic borders. There is no beginning or end, only the creativity of evolution and the tenacious, constant change. We are part of this process, not a destination. This is a time to celebrate simple things again.

By |2020-04-17T11:29:49-04:00April 12th, 2020|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on Hot Springs Canyon, a photo essay

A mist over the San Pedro

This nights have been warmer here, in the San Pedro river valley. A temporary trend with much colder nights on the horizon, long-time residents assure me. This morning found my house surrounded by a cool, dense mist. Erie and exciting at the same time. I ventured outside and onto the concrete patio with bare feet and a light hood pulled over top. A half dozen inch worms had found their way inside my house, dozens more outside. They moved ever so slowly toward my front door, zombies in very, very slow motion … contract … expand and move forward … contract … expand. The apocalypse was thwarted by the action of a stiff bristled broom, for now.

The mist grew thicker as the sun grew warmer, moisture drawn out of the grass, London rocket, and the nearby Hot Springs river bottom. A hundred meters was the best visibility for a while, until the same warmth drove it off entirely. Yoga was accompanied by the Mannheim Steamrollers’ Fresh Aire II and then a short run on a trail that crosses half the forty acres to the west.

Some song birds are returning already, or at least making themselves more known. Healthy white tail deer bounded just behind my well house, and fresh javelina tracks remind me that I am never alone.

By |2020-01-17T15:34:03-04:00January 17th, 2020|At Home in the Southwest|Comments Off on A mist over the San Pedro