11–20 of 327 entries in the category: Arizona

Garden Love

May 2nd

Garden love April 2016 www.africankelli.com

I’ve been volunteering at a garden in a swanky north Scottsdale neighborhood. I met a woman through a Junior League event and she asked for some help getting their garden beds started. We planted way, way too much the first time around — but thanks to a great irrigation system, it grew like wildfire.

Garden love April 2016 www.africankelli.com

We pulled the beds clean last week and started over, working coffee grounds into the earth and planting several varieties of sunflowers, which will do great with the impending heat. I love to plant sunflowers for those sweaty July days when I’m desperate to spend time outside. They are low maintenance, good for the birds and good for your soil. They give me something to water without giving me too much to do when it is 100-plus.

Garden love April 2016 www.africankelli.com

Turning over the beds a bit early due to timing of volunteer schedules meant I came home with a bag full of green tomatoes. Also, a bag full of herbs and a bunch of jalapenos. We are going to a Kentucky Derby party this weekend in the neighborhood, so I sent a generous bag of mint down the street for festivities prep. Otherwise, I turned to canning books to figure out what to do and landed on two recipes: pickled peppers, and green tomato chutney.

Garden love April 2016 www.africankelli.com

I goofed up a bit on both, as I’m prone to do the first time with a canning recipe. On the peppers, I did not pack the jar tight enough — as the instructions said. So, there is a lot of brine for little spice, but we’ve been eating them and they are great. Second, the chutney called for brown sugar and I should have known better and automatically cut the amount in half. We don’t eat a lot of sugar and this chutney is delicious and way, way too sweet. It will be good for roasting meat in the crockpot.

Garden love April 2016 www.africankelli.comGarden love April 2016 www.africankelli.com

And oh, the herbs. OH THE HERBS.

Garden love April 2016 www.africankelli.com

I’m using as much of this as possible this week in sauces and freezing the rest. I love to use lavender in sachets — not to cook with. Additionally, I cut some hollyhocks from the garden for the house.

Garden love April 2016 www.africankelli.com

I loved walking with that class of kids through the garden and talking shop. They asked smart questions and their minds were blown when I handed them tiny pieces of mint to eat. “IT TASTES LIKE GUM!” A Willy Wonka moment.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Earth Mama, Happy Hippie
Comments (1)

Onward We March

March 28th

March 2016

During the last year, the department I work for has been reduced by more than 30%. The work we are doing has been transferred to a different state agency. The transition, all the same, has been an odd experience. I am the only person left on one side of a large floor of offices and cubicles. When I come in, I have to wave my arms above my head to get the lights to click on. I can hear when anyone on the other side of the floor exits. The elevator dings on occasion, getting my attention.

It’s zombie movie strange.

I miss the voice of friends and colleagues who filled the sea of gray cubicles. I’ll be joining them soon in a different building, under a different agency, a few miles away. I’m one of the lucky ones.

With this transition has come a need for deep flexibility. As colleagues were let go, others found new positions. Still others took retirement. Their responsibilities in many cases have been divided among those remaining. And so, we juggle.

There is an express bus that leaves not far from my house, depositing me one mile from my new office. For now, that mile is a nice morning walk. Soon, it will be a hot slog and I’ll need to keep wet wipes at my desk — but I am going to try to do this as many days as possible. Commuting by bus is new to me; I was pleasantly surprised by how quick the bus gets you to and from. It is comfortable, and full of other professionals headed downtown. The price is great too because as a state employee, the fair is subsidized. It is of course the green option, and as the summer approaches, I won’t be sitting in traffic on the asphalt in 110 degree heat.

The flip side to taking the bus is I have to plan my entire day within walking distance of my office. I can’t go out to lunch unless someone else drives or we are hoofing it. And, going to the gym means hauling an extra set of clothing downtown and on that mile walk each way. I’m trying to make getting to the gym as easy as possible, and carting even the necessaries back and forth each day will hamper my motivation.

Tomorrow, I get back on the gym workout wagon that I rode for so many years in my 20s: up by 5, at the gym by 5:15, in the showers by 6:30, and on the bus by 7. I can leave my gym bag and car at the bus stop — which is within half a mile of the gym. So, I’m only carting my purse and lunch to my desk.

I like having a plan and a routine. And I know having my workout done before I get to work will start my day off on a happier foot. I have more work than ever to accomplish, so getting up earlier as it gets warmer makes sense.

Onward, we march into this new professional life.

Gulp.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Journal
Comments (2)

March in the Garden

March 11th

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

The citrus are blooming, covered in bees and making the yard smell like perfume.

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

We’ve got two types of basil and some lavender going. I’m hoping they’ll all perk up with the increasing heat.

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

Especially you, lavender. You’re on notice.

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

The geraniums are going strong. These are some of my favorite flowers to have around because they last so long, and they are such a great pop of color.

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

A few succulent cuttings for a friend.

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

These small palm trees are having some sort of weird sexual awakening.

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

The rest of the yard is screaming in color. All I can hear in my head when looking at this is, “FABULOUS! WORK IT, GIRL!”  (Because you know, sometimes the plants talk back.)

March gardening Mesa, Az www.africankelli.com

And the ‘maters are in and doing well. I tried growing from seed again this year, but they are just too small to produce. So, I bit the bullet and bought some heirloom plants at the local mom and pop nursery. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep these going year-round, like I did the last year in Tempe. A new garden bed is being added soon too. The irrigation is already in. Woo!

And that, folks, is how the garden grows.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Domestic Art, Flora and Fauna
Comments (3)

When Life Gives You Citrus and Sunshine

February 25th

acacia bloom

future marmalade

Arizona sun in a jar

Spring is in full bloom in Arizona; our “winter” lasted all of three weeks, or so. As such, the citrus limbs are heavy with golden orbs and the acacia are flowering with the most delicious scent. (It really is my favorite smell.)

When you have a hundred pounds of citrus, or so, what to do? My go-to is marmalade. I use the recipe from the traditional Ball Canning Book. It is essentially a 1-1-1 ratio of citrus, sugar and water. Boil this as hot as you can muster for a good 55 minutes and then let simmer until you see it thicken. The natural pectin in the citrus should be sufficient, but when a batch doesn’t seem to be setting up — I add a package of Sure Jell.

When there is only a bit left after a canning adventure, or I haven’t prepared enough jars, I will stick a half-full jar in the fridge for experiments. This week we used this jar over a pork loin in the Crockpot. Cooked for 8 hours on low, we had orange pork over steamed vegetables and rice for dinner. The kids inhaled it. (My new mark for a winning recipe.) I also used a bit in a yellow cake mix to bake a couple loaves of orange bread. Easy, sweet and using what we have.

In the garden, we have broccoli that went to seed and pepper plants that have been producing. Carrots, onions and flowering bulbs are coming up strong. And the basil and lavender have found a sweet spot in the yard, tucked under a giant ficus. They get enough heat, but not direct sun and plenty of water.

I am so happy this time of year. The windows are open when possible, the geraniums are flowering with colorful abandon, and our backyard is full of love birds, hummingbirds and three noisy dogs.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Domestic Art
Comments (2)

My Tree

February 16th

A thinking tree

When I briefly lived in Cameroon 16 years ago, I was so homesick I could barely breathe. I took solace spending my free lunch time under a huge mango tree in a school yard. I’d sit on the concrete step of a classroom (not in session) and look across the yard at the huge tree. It was probably 50 feet tall and had arms that stretched wide, with thick green leaves. If you stood under it, you could see tangerine mangos high above. The lower limbs had been plucked clean, furry pits strewn about the dirt school yard.

I’d sit on that stoop, or stoep, depending on your African linguistics, and think of my mom and dad. I’d wonder what my brother was doing in high school that day. I’d think of one of my closest friends, who was pregnant with her first child and due any day.

I spent a lot of lunches staring at the limbs of that great tree, watching birds come and go and dreaming of the comfort of home.

The beast

There is a tree not far from my home today where I find similar solace. Mercifully, I’m no longer sick of any sort. Instead, I get to this tree and rest in the lush green grass, letting Nelson off the leash to chase bunnies in the nearby desert brush, and relax. It is just the right size for shade and warmth. It is the perfect thinking tree.

 

~K

Posted in
Arizona
Comments (0)

January Gardening

January 20th

We have broccoli, peppers and onions going strong in the garden. We’re soon adding an addition to the garden bed — a separate bed solely for tomatoes. I’m thrilled. We’ll fill it two-thirds with organic compost and soil, and then work in epsom salts, crushed egg shells and top it with straw. Apparently straw helps prevent moldy growth on tomatoes and will reduce the amount of water needed. The egg shells prevent the soggy bottom disease (a calcium deficiency) I had a few years ago.

Planting, again

Planting, again

The tomato starts are on windowsills and fill the bathtub upstairs. (You’ve got to get your sunlight and humidity where you can, man!)

Planting, again

I also bought a bag of bat guano at Native Seed when visiting Tucson last week. I am trying it with these tomato seeds (from Finny!) and will see what type of production it helps produce. This is one of my favorite parts of gardening: the experimentation.

Come May, I’m hoping for a wild harvest and salsa party. Andale!

~K

 

Posted in
Arizona, Flora and Fauna, Happy Hippie
Comments (2)

January at the Hacienda

January 19th

Orange Marmalade

Orange Marmalade

January in central Arizona is citrus season. You’ll see citrus trees with arms bowing, full of fruit. And there are trees nearly everywhere — medians along major streets, parks, and plenty in backyards. Our trees didn’t do great this year; it’s normal for citrus to have an off season, even though they received ample water and fertilizer.

Thankfully, when we were out running errands this weekend, we noticed a small farm stand with bags of lemons for $1. (Considering we too have to pay about $1 a lemon at the market come July, I grabbed a bunch.)

Marmalade

Orange Marmalade

Orange Marmalade

With a bit of time, the oranges from our navel tree became the season’s first batch of marmalade. I like to add a full jar, with a diced onion and some garlic, to the crockpot when slow cooking pork roast.

Lemon juice homesteading

The lemons were juiced and saved. We use these cubes in ice tea, cooking and baking. It makes the January bounty last well into the year.

Bone broth

(And bone broth. Do you do this? It is so easy, and I swear it’s upped my cooking game. We keep our rotisserie chicken bones and slow cook them with vegetables and spices. After several hours, I strain the liquid into mason jars, which go into the freezer. We use these to cook rice, beans, for the base of sauces, etc.)

An update from the Heirloom Hacienda. Tomorrow: what’s happening in the garden (including the addition of another bed!)

Cheers,

Kelli

Posted in
Arizona, Domestic Art, Happy Hippie, Heirloom Hacienda
Comments (2)

Home.

October 27th

This week I traveled to Colorado, albeit briefly.

Colorado!

Unsurprisingly, most of my photos are of nature. Landing, I was in awe of the golden fields surrounding the airport, and the snow on the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Once I was in town, I couldn’t get over all the color. The autumn. The crisp air.

Colorado!

Colorado!

Colorado!

Colorado!

I was traveling for work, but had a chance to check in with a few folks who I adore. And felt guilty about all of those I didn’t have a chance to see. (Does anyone ever win that game?)

Colorado!

Colorado!

I was a bit apprehensive of this trip; coming off another Arizona summer, I was ravenous for cool weather. Also, I had a romanticized memory of my days in Colorado. This trip reminded me of what I loved and miss, and what I now value of my life in the desert. I really enjoyed my time seeing friends and family, walking around downtown Golden, driving through Denver, and working in Boulder.

I was also thrilled to come home.

With a foot in Arizona and another always in Golden, it is a great place to be.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Colorado
Comments (0)

Desert Color Wheel

October 6th

We took a hike this weekend and I tried capturing some of the local color. It is cooling off and we plan on spending every possible minute outside until next May.

Desert Color

Desert ColorDesert Color

Desert Color

Desert Color

 

~KDesert Color

Posted in
Arizona
Comments (2)

Making This A Home

September 15th

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Art on the walls, dashes of color, chickens, and lots of framed photos of family members. I am loving this home!

 

Posted in
Arizona, Domestic Art, Heirloom Hacienda
Comments (0)