Week nine @ BTA

Sunday January 16th, 2022

Sunday, afternoon shortly after two in the afternoon, and I just finished pushing the publish button on last weeks blog. it is a bright sunny afternoon and I’m sitting in my anti-gravity chair with the sunshine making it almost impossible to see the screen, I had to retract the awning because of a few wind gusts but the warmth of the Arizona sun feels good on this old body. I just cracked my first Sunday afternoon beer, a craft beer from a local brewer in Tempe Arizona, it is a wheat beer, which is style that I enjoy, on a warm day and this one has mandarin orange flavour added which saves the mess of cutting an orange slice that is commonly served in a lot of wheat beers. It has a good taste and I was able to purchase it at a bargain price of a buck a can, for a craft beer from the Costco in Mesa 12 wheat beer and twelve Blonde style, I will report later on the Scottsdale Blonde.

We met our new volunteer hosts today Johnny & Mila, they are from the Chicago area, and this is their first work camping position, we have not had a chance to grill them for details yet, having just met them so all I really know is that he is a retired teacher and they are still pretty green into the whole process. So as I sitting here thinking that wheat beer tasted so good that its very unfair not to test the Scottsdale Blonde beer as well, and right about now you are probably wondering who it is unfair to, well me of course, beer and blondes are a couple of my favorite things and combined, well I just couldn’t wait any longer. So snap, and we are into testing mode, and I must say after the first couple of sips, that I’m pleasantly surprised and very pleased, to find two very drinkable craft beers in one inexpensive case of twenty-four cans is very pleasing, and after seeing the octane level of some of the cocktails been mixed around here lately, this could be a very welcome safe place for me … jus’saying.

Miss Laurie is cooking up something special for dinner, and I have been catching a whiff every now and then, and I’m thinking if it tastes half as good as it smells, I’m in for a really great treat tonight. Well I’m pleased to report dinner wtasted just as good as it smelt, grilled vegetables, over chicken with hatch chilies in a curry cream sauce served over a bed of rice, delicious, seems a little weak for the description.

Hatch chillies are a southwestern delight, grown in New Mexico, near the town of Hatch, the chilies have a short growing season and are long and green in colour, they are not as hot as jalapeño peppers but hotter than California or Anaheim peppers and are most commonly roasted because of their thick skin and meaty body, where they develop a rich smokey flavour profile that makes they a hit, to compliment almost any dish. We have had roasted hatch chilies in our omelets for breakfast, appetizer dips, as well as multiple other dishes, and was one of the first purchases we made when reaching the area. We have purchases them fresh roasted, canned, bottled, and even dehydrated as flakes, the flavour profile never disappoints.

Before settling in for the night we caught up on some of our YouTube peeps, and then watched episode four of “1883”, which is about the adventures that preceded the Yellowstone series that is so popular right now, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill play leading parts in the storyline and I have been pleasantly surprised on the quality of their acting, sometimes crossing from singing to acting just doesn’t work well but so far it works.

Monday, Today is a shopping adventure day with the Savino’s, we are going to apparently a better “Trader Joes”, then to “AJ’s Fine Foods”, an “Aldi” and I’m not really sure where else, but it doesn’t really matter. I think I remember San Tan being mentioned which is one of the smaller outlying areas around Mesa. Oh “Total Wine” was the other shopping stop and it was excellent choice, I found a box of red wine that sounds like it should be excellent, and they had a number of craft beers that has peaked my interest, and for Miss Laurie who doesn’t like beer and struggles to find coolers that that are not brewed, she has picked up a number of single cans to explore some new choices, and while they carried limited liquor choices, there were some favourites on the shelves.

Just to add to an already busy day we stopped for a late lunch / early dinner at “Joes Farm Grill”. Their claim to fame is that everything they produce is from their farm or from the immediate area. And while set up like a fast food location, you counter order, and your meal is delivered to your table. This was one of the choices in the “Diners, Drive ins, or Dives”, and one of the feature items was the garlic fries, and they were as good as declared, Miss Laurie and I shared the barbecue sampler tray, ribs, pulled pork, pork chop, cold slaw, with corn bread. It was excellent and we left full, as with most places in the desert we ate on picnic tables outside under the shade sails just to complete the fast food feel.

As we headed back to Gold Canyon, we sat with Ray & Karen to enjoy a cocktail, and talk about the days experience, and our plans for the balance of the week. before returning to the arboretum.

Tuesday, and it’s a seven o’clock start to another sunny day in Arizona, it was another windy night, but my tape repair on our air conditioner cover seems to be holding. And the weather people here are talking about the chance for rain on Saturday with the same excitement that they talk about a snow storm back in Ontario, my weather app still shows the possibility of rain here at only fifty percent, and the local weather people thinks it will not come to fruition.

Todays plan is not really much of a plan, a trip to retrieve some Amazon packages from the visitor centre, then I was off for a morning walk through the arboretum, this morning I stayed on the main trail, and was amazed at how some of the trees are back in leaf after the rain a couple of weeks ago.

The Boojum trees were back in full leaf, they are native to Baja Mexico, so the climate here is cooler in the winter and they had lost their leaves by mid December.

The bottle tree which is native to Australia, was wearing a fresh leafy green display as well.

And a little further up the trail I found this one of last tree that was still in fall colour, a cottonwood tree I suspect.

And I sat near the palm grove to enjoy some sunshine and watching the wildlife, we have squirrels here but not like back home, these are called rock squirrels, because they live on the ground but on the side of the ridges, not to be confused with the ground squirrels that burrows under ground or the chipmunks that are grey instead of brown. The arboretum is so different that the normal desert foliage found in most natural desert, where trees are only 15 to 20 feet tall (5 to 8 meters) and usually covered with thorns so tree squirrels are few and far between. And of course we have the dreaded pack rats that are nocturnal and never seen during the day they also live underground.

A little lunch and we settled into an afternoon of sunshine on our little patio, the new volunteer Johnny came over to visit and we learnt a lot more back ground on Johnny & Mila, and this is their first work-camping positions. A retired teacher from Chicago, second marriage, and so on … and while great that he wanted to share it was maybe just TMI for this early.

Just finished the evening with with grilled broccoli and steak, along with a bottle of Josh cabernet, after catching up on the evening news and some YouTube videos, we filled the evening with the amazing race and Guy’s new show trying for find an operator for his new chicken franchise before turning in.

Wednesday, and almost a repeat of yesterday, another sunny Arizona morning, watch the news, great breakfast, and a trip to the visitor center to pickup some packages, I have been struggling to get some needed supplies, so they are landing in dribs and drabs, but by noon l think most items are here now, but with the possibility of rain in the forecast and going back to work tomorrow, this is looking like a next week job now. So that having been decided I’m going to open that box of red wine, kickback in the anti-gravity chair and work on the blog, I’ve got a bunch of photos from yesterday so lots to do …

… well some times the best laid plans, just go to hell in a hand basket, and this was going to be one of those days. So some of the details seem a little fuzzy but I do remember enough to know that the afternoon was filled with, lots of laughs, some stories, and multiple beverages, and a as the afternoon rolled along Tom & Kathleen, John & Karen, Johnny & Mila, as well as Lincoln joined the group. Miss Laurie was again mixing whiskey sours for everyone, I decided to just stick with red wine, but that plan fell by the wayside when Lincoln rolled out his prickly pear hooch, and that could have been an error on my part, but it seemed like the correct decision at the time. And of course as soon as the sun moves behind the coach we rolled out the fire pit to help warm the cool January afternoon.

As the group dispersed, we retired to the warmth of the coach, and I’m quite sure that Miss Laurie was feeling the effects of the afternoons beverages, and while I’m almost positive we had dinner that night, I have to admit details are a little foggy. So lets just say that I slept well and woke the next morning feeling better than I deserved.

Thursday, and back to work, and amazingly the world had changed during our time off … now masks are required for all staff and volunteers when inside of any building, or crowed areas anyplace in the arboretum. This is a decision of the management team here at the arboretum, as the Arizona Governor is a opponent to any restrictions that might help prevent the transmission of Covid, you need to understand that here in the United States that a lot of politicians that are more qualified in issues of viruses and their transmission, and their negative health issues than medical doctors, and while that may sound pro prosperous you see it everywhere through the states. These same amazing individuals usually end up calling in the National Guard to try to help the health care system cope with all the cases. It is thought that the 23,000 daily reported cases that is actually closer to 40,000 because of all the unreported self tests, in a population of less than half of Ontario, and on most days only a hundred or less citizens die each day. And when you think about the 800,000+ cases reported each day in the US, I guess it makes sense to a politician, especially ones that knows more than medically trained doctors.

So when offered the chance to work moving plants from the greenhouse today I said yes … but after a day of moving hundreds of one gallon plant pots, I’m thinking that it’s been a few months since I did much manual labour. As I was hurting by the time we made it back to the coach, and our short work day that had seemed too long today. An Aleve and a couple of hours later, I was almost feeling almost normal, Miss Laurie thought it was somewhat funny that I was hurting. Miss Laurie made pizza in the Ninja, as we keep exploring the new options, the pizza was excellent, the pizza dough is still a bit of a challenge but the toppings are as good as any pizza and way better than anything frozen. A little television and an early evening wrapped up day.

Friday, and our seven hour day, I woke this morning feeling better than I expected, and not knowing what today would bring, I decided to pre-medicate before going to work, Fridays are busy days in admissions, but they wanted to transplant some more plants so Miss Laurie decided to take on this project. And I was ok with that, and while the admission booth can be hectic at times, my sore back was still ok with working the booth. Wearing the mask for seven hours, while not pleasant is certainly doable, and if it keeps us safe from the special people it’s all good.

So let’s just say that Miss Laurie was moving about the same speed this afternoon as I was yesterday. Part of the issue is that the transplanting process is not ergonomic in any form or manner, so by the end of a shift we were feeling pretty much done for the day. So let’s just stop and think for a moment, two months in and we have had two physical days, now they were very recent so looming large, but overall not a big issue. Dinner of chicken quesadillas, and some television, just regular programming tonight, as it will be another early evening.

Saturday, our Friday, not a bright sunny day as normal, we got the forecast breeze that was warned about, but the rain never materialized, and as the wind subsided the sun made an appearance for part of the day. Saturdays are always busy at the arboretum, and today was no different, Miss Laurie manned the admission booth and I had a project of assembling a table for the admission booth to make it all flow a little better. The admission booth is not located where it was designed for, and when it was put in place the inside counter that was to be the working counter ended up on the wrong wall, so while we are making it work, it’s just not the best design, so now they are trying to find solutions to make the best of it, again not how I would have tried to fix it … but it wasn’t mine to fix, enough said on that topic.

It was a very busy day and our admission count for the day was quite high, I don’t think either Laurie or myself was sorry not to have any greenhouse duties today, as the aching back was still a vivid memory. They have a new website for the volunteers to record their hours, which seems to make much more sense than the old paper method, and I think our work schedules will become part of the site in the near future, there is an event in the arboretum in February and we were able to go in and pick the tasks that we wanted to do, Laurie picked an admission shift and I picked a bartending shift, both sounded better than set up or tear down of chairs and tables.

So Saturdays always seem long because it is our eight hour day, but I think we were both pleased that we didn’t pull for a greenhouse shift, and by four o’clock I was ready for a glass of wine, the boxed wine has been good, and I have been enjoying it, not sure Miss Laurie has even tried it yet, but it is a nice dry full bodied wine from Chile, and one I would most likely buy again. Tonight was our burger night and again it is just hard to beat a burger fresh off of the barbeque, although Miss Laurie had found a purple onion that was strong on attitude. So a little television time watching the Bills beat the Patriots, add a little golf from Hawaii, then the evening news before we settled into watch “Skyfall” the latest James Bond movie before calling it an evening.

Now you may have noticed that there was no mention of working on the blog for the last few days … and that’s because there was no work done on the blog, after that (wine induced) foggy Wednesday, so as usual I’m playing catch up, its now almost an hour after my scheduled publication time and I’m sitting in the sunshine re-living this past week, the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.

Sunday, at 5:30am and I have just picked up the iPad to catch up on this weeks blog, its not bad for temperature this morning and although still dark outside, the sky looks clear, dawn is an hour and a half away and the sun will peak over the summit at around eight o’clock. As I look back it has been a reasonably quiet week, as I have been gathering items for a number of projects, we have enjoyed some companionship from the other hosts, and another couple has just got here, and while we have been introduced to Peter & Trish, they are camping up closer to the Picket Post House, as all the spots are full down here, they are here for a couple of months only, and while we just spoke for a few moments I have learnt that they have never done this type of work before and I’m thinking their anticipation and the job reality have not met yet. Volunteer work can take many different appearances, but the reality that shines through them all is that volunteers are used for simple menial tasks that are hard to fill, and here in the arboretum many of these volunteers that think they are going to be working with one of the horticulturist, and don’t yet understand, that is just a grunt position of weeding and carrying needed supplies, like we experienced this week, so I’m ok with doing my grunt work in a heated / air conditioned ticket booth with a chair.

So as the weeks roll by it should be interesting to watch as the newbies learn the ropes, and the realities of how this whole volunteering thing works, so as I try to finish this off, it has been a week of watching storms on the east side of the country, and while I watch storm after storm roll through I’m reminded why we go south to enjoy the winter in sunny Arizona.

Be strong, stay safe, and do your part to help control this pandemic!

Day 1566

Blog 400

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