Backyard Vegetable Garden: Round Two

Before the full heat of the Arizona summer hit, Blue Eyes and I did a lot of work in our backyard: he built me some vegetable garden boxes, and we poured a patio, and planted trees and tomatoes and peppers and squash, and Blue Eyes filled in the last patch of gravely dirt with delicious grass. Honestly, it’s been so hot for so long that we haven’t used the backyard much, but now that we are finally (crossing fingers) past the days of triple-digit temperatures, it’s time to truly enjoy the backyard that we have built.

And, it’s also time to plant Round Two of our vegetable garden. The hellacious heat of the summer withers most vegetation by July, but you can replant in late August and early September for a November bumper crop, and that is exactly what I did. Several weeks ago I carefully tucked a fresh batch of seeds and plants into the soil and within a few days they started popping up with sprouts and new leaves. (I also planted a few flowers among the veggies because, well, because I can. And I like flowers. Basically.)

Arizona Backyard Garden_Fall planting_feistyharriet_Oct 2016 (1)

My plants have been in the ground for almost 3 weeks now and they are growing like crazy! Meanwhile, I’m still harvesting butternut squash and eggplant that I planted back in March. My backyard is like my own little farmer’s market right now, and I love it more than I can truly say. I planted zucchini and yellow squash and cucumbers and cozelle, a stripey squash native to the Southwest.

Arizona Backyard Garden_Fall planting_feistyharriet_Oct 2016 (2)

Another box is full of kale and cauliflower and carrots and green beans (the green onions didn’t make it…sad face). I think that little rebel plant on the right is a sunflower that never germinated in the spring…I hope that is the case!

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I filled up an entire box with a new batch of herbs, and the few that survived the heat have been putting out new leaves like crazy. I’m glad I didn’t pull up the basil sticks, they are lush and green again with new little starts filling in some of the dirt patches.

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I just planted a whole box of spinach and beets and peas and lemon cucumbers, and I can’t wait to see them poke their little green heads out of the ground.

Arizona Backyard Garden_fall planting_feistyharriet_Oct 2016 (6)

People keep telling me that “Arizona actually has really cold winters…” but I just do not believe it. I was here last year, and I ran my air conditioner every. single. day. But, if I can eat fresh-from-the-garden spinach and snap peas thru January I will, perhaps, not complain quite so much about the weather.

I’m already making plans for the spring, I want way more tomatoes, several tomatillos, some jicama, and another forest of peppers. This vegetable garden may just keep me sane thru my years here in Arizona.


Arizona Meteor Crater

If you are the kind of nerd that I am (and I like to think that you are; Hello, Nerd Friend), you will remember the week in elementary school that you learned about the Barringer Meteorite Crater in Arizona. You know, the giant ball of iron that zoomed in from space, made a fantastic hole, and probably killed off the dinosaurs? Ok, that last part isn’t true, it wasn’t THE meteor (which was, by all accounts, one of many significantly larger ones), but the Arizona meteor was a pretty big one, and because the plains around it are still completely desolate, it’s easy to imagine mass extinction. A few weeks ago Mr. Blue Eyes and I decided to go on an adventure close-ish to home, and the crater was near the top of my list.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (3)The crater is massive, over a mile across, 2.5 miles in circumference, and 550 feet deep. You can see a bit of white in that photo up there, those are outbuildings from the mining operation that used to be at the base of this pit.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (7)This is a piece of the meteor that made the impact. Most of the 150 foot rock dissolved upon fiery impact, but from time to time the ranchers in the wide open spaces around this crater find pieces of this heavy nickle-iron space-debris on their land. The largest piece found so far is about the size of an infant car seat and weighs something like 1,400 pounds.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (4)Blue Eyes and I wandered around the museum, took the tour out to the edge of the crater, were curtailed on said tour due to a nasty-looking storm brewing to the north, but did check out several fixed telescopes to get a better look at the geology of the crater, some old leftover mining operations that were hauled down there by mule, and the debris from a small airplane that crashed in the crater, not taking into account the wind in there it was unable to get out and smashed into the rocky sides of the pit.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (2)The museum was small, but had a lot of interesting information on meteors, meteorites, and history of the area. Blue Eyes is a mining geek, and a dirt & rock geek, and I love space stuff…so we frankly had a blast at the museum. Man, science is awesome.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (1)As we were leaving the storm we’d been watching turned into a pretty intense summer thundercloud with speedy winds whipping it across the plateaus. Glad we weren’t on the rim of the crater for that, but am also kind of bummed we didn’t get to go exploring a little more.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (5)Uh, this is not at the crater, this was a wrong exit that I insisted was correct, only to be met with some weird tribal-alien ruins of what once was a money maker on historic Route 66.

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At home with Harriet: the backyard before & after

When Blue Eyes and I moved into this house the yard was kind of a disaster. Whoever lived here prior to us moving in was, well, generally pretty disgusting. The house had been empty for over a year, and whoever flipped it didn’t do a super thorough job of getting rid of the grossness. In the yard, they decided to just put gravel in most places, with one very VERY sad palm tree in the front yard, and a couple of new palmy-frondy plants in the back. The real estate listing photos mostly showed a newly cleaned and possibly resurfaced pool, the rest was literally just crushed rock. We have a lot of property, but with this kind of, um, “xeriscaping” it was completely unusable.

Arizona Backyard Before 2_feistyharriet

Prior to tackling the backyard (the front yard will be next year…or the year after) I did a lot of research on different types of trees and plants that do well in the blistering desert heat, and how to keep flowers and vegetables alive through the endless summer. I also decided to look at Google Earth and see if there was any evidence of what the previous family had as far as landscaping.

Um….that was a mistake. Our yard was, without question, the grossest one in the neighborhood. The gravel that I really dislike is a step up from the scruffy dirt and weeds and the drained, yellow-puddle-left-in-the-bottom swimming pool.

Arizona Backyard Before 1_feistyharriet

Yep. The worst in the neighborhood. There are a couple of enormous shade trees in this image that have all been cut down for reasons I cannot imagine. WHY!? STOP GETTING RID OF SHADE TREES! THIS IS THE VALLEY OF THE SURFACE OF THE SUN! SHADE = NECESSARY!!!

Blue Eyes and I definitely had our work cut out for us. We went back and forth on the backyard. He wanted low maintenance, I desperately wanted a patch of grass. Without it, I knew I would never go outside. We compromised with a small patch of grass, several raised boxes for vegetables and what-not, a new patio, and a handful of trees.

Arizona Backyard After 7_feistyharriet_May 2016

The trees went in first, a Willow Acacia on the west side to eventually shade my office window, a lime tree, pomegranate tree, and grapefruit tree. I am ridiculously excited to see tiny baby limes and grapefruits on those citrus trees! We will have a very, very small harvest this winter, like, maybe three or four grapefruits and about a dozen limes, but I am thrilled about their future! Ditto the pomegranate, which had gorgeous flowers but lost it’s fruit due to moving-stress.

Arizona Backyard Gardener_Grapefruit_feistyharriet_May 2016Baby grapefruits

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Tiny baby limes!

Blue Eyes spent several weekends building me a solid set of four raised garden boxes. I filled them up with seeds and veggie starts and am anxiously awaiting the day the green tomatoes are ripe and the peppers and zucchini are ready to be picked. The squash and watermelons won’t be ready until later in the summer (that is, if they don’t roast to death first). I have been picking basil, rosemary, and oregano leaves every few days to add to my kitchen experiments. Those tiny little veggies bring me a ridiculous level of happiness. We planted mid-March, but next year I think I’ll start them as seeds inside about Christmas time, there isn’t really a frost here, so I could probably plant in February and be juuuust fine. (Garden tomatoes in early May? YES PLEASE!)

Arizona Backyard After 3_feistyharriet_May 2016The tomato patch!

Arizona Backyard After 4_feistyharriet_May 2016See all those bell peppers!

A few weeks ago we had a break in the already blistering summer heat, and with weekend temps in the 70’s and low 80’s we decided to pour the patio. Now, Blue Eyes is a civil engineer and things like “pour a concrete patio” don’t scare him. I was super nervous. It was just going to be the two of us, and the patio is….not small. As he was doing the math and adding up the number of bags of cement mix we’d need…I started to genuinely question if we shouldn’t just hire it out. Blue Eyes made a few calls, our large gate to the backyard was just a few feet too narrow to get the smallest cement mixer truck through. So, we were back to the DIY route.

Arizona Backyard Patio 1_feistyharriet_May 2016

We rented the largest cement mixer Home Depot has (you need a pick-up truck to pull it) and ordered four pallets of cement mix: 60 pound bags, 56 bags per pallet =  THIRTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS OF DRY CEMENT MIX! And then some. Hoooooo boy. We dug up the gravel, and the weird brick stripe in the center of the back yard, and pulled the weeds and leveled the ground as much as we could. Blue Eyes built the frame we’d use to keep the wet cement contained, and we set our alarms for ridiculously early the next morning.

Arizona Backyard Patio 2_feistyharriet_May 2016

To make a batch of cement you dump two 5-gallon buckets of water into the mixer, and 13 bags of cement mix. A few minutes later it’s ready to go, you dump that mix into the wheelbarrow and trundle it over to the soon-to-be-patio. Dump, spread, smooth, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Each batch made about three heavy wheelbarrow’s full of cement, and we made batches all damn day. ALL damn day.

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Dump, spread, smooth, repeat.

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We finished up about 3:00 in the afternoon, both soaked with sweat and concrete water, flecks of cement in our hair and embedded in our skin. Truly, Blue Eyes took the brunt of the damage, I can lift a 60 pound bag, but I can’t lift it to my shoulder and dump it into a spinning cement mixer. I tried, bless me, I tried, but I nearly fell in to the mixer, or got my arms caught in the paddles, and it just…no. I hoisted and opened and filled and mixed, but Blue Eyes is the one who, literally, did most of the heavy lifting.

Our patio is not perfect, we are not professional patio pourers, but it is the exact shape I wanted, it will be lovely with big pots of flowers and some pool chairs and maybe a black and white stripey umbrella for a little more shade. I have plans for twinkly bistro lights and, after the heat of the summer, maybe one of those little fire pits and a couple of chairs.

That same week a load of sod was delivered for the rest of the backyard. Blue Eyes finished up the sprinklers and laid all the grass himself. We rigged up some shade cloth to shield the south-west facing garden beds from the Arizona sun, and my little vegetables are still going strong. (We still need to finish off those boxes, they’ll get a layer of mortar on the front so you don’t see the cinderblock seams, and finished off with flat wood planks along the top.)

Arizona Backyard After 2_feistyharriet_May 2016

We have a real backyard! One that we can use for at least most of the year. Heavy on using the pool side during the summer/daylight hours, and the rest during the not-as-sweltering part of the year (so, November-January). I will be slowly adding more plants and pots and things, but for now? I’m going to kick back with a very cold drink and enjoy it.

Arizona Backyard After 1_feistyharriet_May 2016

Mr. Blue Eyes deserves a standing ovation and a pony ride for all his hard work. I tend to dream up mostly doable things, and he usually figures out how to make it happen. That man is a dream boat, I tell you.

Arizona Backyard After 5_feistyharriet_May 2016

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Airport Hell: a story of freaking out no less than 78 times in 90 minutes

In general I have had pretty decent airport/travel experiences, which, considering the amount I travel (a bit) is quite remarkable. Sure there have been delayed flights and delayed bags, but overall, I don’t mind the airport or flying, and all the security and hubbub that surrounds those places/activities. In fact, in some ways I love it. I love getting to the airport early, sipping my favorite soda, curled up in a quiet-ish chair reading a book until it’s time to board (and then, to be honest, continue to read my book until it’s time to get off the plane again). Last week’s trip was, well, considerably less delightful

This was a week+ business trip and I didn’t want to leave my car at the airport that long. So, Uber to the rescue, right? Um, no. I apparently live in the type of suburban location where mid-day Uber drivers are nonexistent. This was the first of my problems, which can truly only be recounted rapid-fire fashion, with noted anxieties.

There were zero Uber drivers within 30 minutes of my house, I waited a little while longer, submitted another request. That drive was 25 minutes away and I needed to be on the way to the airport before that. But, I figured it’d probably be okay though, right? Wrong. So very, very wrong.

When my driver was about 15 minutes away I checked the type of vehicle he had and it was…well, it sounded pretty small. I texted the driver to double-check that my big checked suitcase, plus my carry on, plus a laptop bag, plus me would all fit in his car. The next few minutes were completely convoluted talk-to-text Autocucumber-bumbled responses of him saying “no, they won’t fit” and “are you seriously going to the airport?” and “no, I can’t take you to the airport, Uber rules…and your bags won’t fit anyway.” Uber cancelled.


At this point my flight left in 75 minutes and I still had to drive to the airport (25 mins), find parking, take the train thing to the terminal, check my large bag (10 days, hiking plans, plus two laptops = no, I cannot survive on just a carry on), get through security, and make my way to the gate.

Whelp, I’m screwed.

I threw my bags in my car and sped off, thankful it was the middle of a weekday and not rush hour traffic. I figured Blue Eyes could sort out a way to rescue my car from $18/day parking prison.

I knew I was cutting it close, but as I got off the freeway the cars slowed way down and then stopped.

What!? NO!!! And WHY!?

Oh. There is a TOW TRUCK! ON FIRE. And the car on top of the tow truck was ALSO ON FIRE! WHY IS THE TOW TRUCK ON FIRE?!?!


I managed to crawl past the rubbernecking cars-on-fire situation and zipped over to the only parking lot I am familiar with at Sky Harbor International.

Only to find that giant parking lot was full. FULL!?! Yes, full. I drove around for a few minutes, praying for an empty spot, nothing.


At the far end of this enormously long parking lot is a structure for more expensive covered parking. I turned up the ramp desperately hoping for an empty space.

The first five levels were full. My heartrate was climbing, rapidly, but I finally found a spot near the top, dashed to the elevator dragging my heavy bags, knowing I’d be lucky to make my flight.

I saw an “early bird bag check” spot and decided to try it, missing the next train but knowing it would save me time in the long run.

Oh, except they don’t check Southwest bags at that location.


I ran back to the train, got off at the terminal and hoped for a short line to check my bags. And then I was met with absolute chaos.


APPARENTLY the TSA system that the airport uses to screen bags that are being checked was down completely. So, no bags were being loaded onto the conveyor belt to take them to airplanes, no bags were being checked, they were being left in holding areas and trucked BACK OUT TO THE PARKING LOT to wait for the TSA system to get back online.

The line to check a bag was about a mile and a half long. For every. single. airline. No flights were delayed, but no bags were getting through.

FREAKOUTS #27 & 28

Frazzled airline reps were telling us to squish everything into our carry on luggage and take larger suitcases back to the car.


Um, no. I cannot do that.



I FINALLY got up to the agent, decided to chance it with my checked bag knowing I had at least a change of clothes and most of my toiletries in my carry on, and then I ran like HELL to the security check.

At this point my flight was scheduled to depart in 15 minutes.




I sprinted to security, thanked ALL THE DIETIES that there were only a half-dozen people in line ahead of me (HOW? HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!), I hopped from one foot to the other trying to calm my jitters and, somehow, magically, make the line go faster.

As soon as everything came through their scanner thing I grabbed it all and ran, barefoot (FREAKOUTS #44-49, EWW! GROSS!), to the gate, arriving as the flight attendant was all “final call for Harriet…final call, be here in 30 seconds or you’ll miss your flight” and closing the door.


Ya’ll, I was a sweaty, red-faced mess at that point, I’d lost my belt, my shoes were in my laptop bag, computers under my arm, bag of liquids in my teeth, but I was THRILLED to be on that plane. A plane that sat on the tarmac without air conditioning for another 20 minutes (#72-75) before finally taking off. I’m telling you, this was a ROUGH couple of hours.

It wasn’t until I landed (without my larger “checked” suitcase, #78) that I understood the enormity of the TSA clustercuss situation. Thousands and thousands of bags were still sitting in the parking lots of the Phoenix airport, no way for them to be scanned for explosives and firearms and questionable fashion choices and then sent along to their destination. Some were being checked by hand and inspected by bomb sniffing dogs, but most just sat there for 12 or 15 hours. Hell, if I’d known that I would have stopped at that parking lot FIRST and dropped my suitcase there before I tried to find parking! I’d have eliminated, like, 38 different freak out moments from one afternoon!

At some point in the middle of the night someone made the decision to load all those suitcases onto semi trucks and ship them to Tucson, San Diego, and Las Vegas to be scanned and then packed onto planes to their final destination.

Airport. Disaster. Uuugh.

Oh. The best part? Blue Eyes managed to take an Uber to the airport later that night to pick up my car. There is no “Arizona rule” about Uber cars/drivers and the airport.

I quit. I’m never flying again.

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Summer Bucket List: 2016

I don’t know about you, but where I live summer is in full force. We’ve got summer vegetables available at farm stands, summer activities on weekends, kids in and out of the pool, and (COMPLETELY INSANE) summer temperatures. It was 103 last Wednesday and I still haven’t quite gotten over it. And this isn’t even the worst heat of the summer. It’s gonna be 118 before I know it. Summer in Arizona is going to be very different from my summer’s in the relatively mild Salt Lake City. I can’t just hop in my car and escape to the mountains for some mid-70’s temperatures and plenty of leafy shade. I mean, saguaro cactus give just enough shade for a really skinny person to stand in. My Summer Bucket List for this year (and all subsequent years) will look very different than previous lists, heading outside is more of an Arizona “winter” activity, not something that is at all enjoyable from May – October.

I have been firming up some work scheduling things and personal vacation-y things, the calendar was looking kind of…full. So I did the math: for a six-week long stretch I will only be at home in my own bed for six nights. Total. On average, one night per week for six weeks. Now, that sounds ridiculously overwhelming, but the good news is that every single one of the places I will be visiting (for work and for fun) are cooler than the Valley of the Surface of the Sun. So, despite knowing that kind of travel will be exhausting, I am looking forward to a little respite from the face-melting heat.

Summer Bucket List: 2016

      1. No sunburns, no tan lines, and religious sunscreen application!
      2. Finish up the landscaping in the backyard (the hardest part is already done, just some concrete work, finishing off some planter boxes, and laying the sod).
      3. Schedule a personal day off from work: go to a spa, get a massage, a pedicure, take myself out to a nice lunch, and maybe a movie, just because I can. (This should happen immediately after the 6 weeks of travel hell.)
      4. Go camping! Preferably somewhere higher in elevation, cooler, and leafier.
      5. Keep my backyard garden boxes alive! I need to rig up some shade to protect the baby veggies from 10 hours of the blasting Arizona sun.
      6. Eat at least one full meal harvested entirely from the backyard garden.
      7. Make homemade ice cream happen.
      8. Visit four new National Parks.
      9. Go to a rodeo!
      10. Tackle and manage a joint budget with Mr. Blue Eyes.
      11. Continue my current health and exercise regimen. (The good news is that the gym is heavily air conditioned, so while outdoor hiking may be a November and January activity, treadmill and exercises classes will be perfect when the temperatures soar.)
      12. Read a LOT of books. Inside. With the AC blowing directly on me.
      13. Finish the last bit of painting inside our house: 2 rooms and a closet.

I have had medium-levels of success with posting and then sticking to a summer bucket list in previous years, we’ll see how I do this year. Minus the “keep the backyard vegetables from burning up!” goal, these seem fairly manageable, even with six weeks away. Wish me luck!

What’s on your summer bucket list?

Summer Bucket Lists from previous years: 2015, 2014

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