Pass It Forward!

Not your typical “Pass It Forward”…….a little hammer!!

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But that’s what somebody gave our family, and it’s size is perfect for traveling with when Space is Prime Real Estate.

The story I heard last night from the kids was that they were wrangling with the new bike rack when they inadvertently broke something on it.

A stranger stopped to see if he could help, then a few minutes later her came out of the store with a brand new hammer he had purchased for us!  How sweet!!

Always be on the lookout for ways to Pass It Forward.  Big or small they delight a soul and may get them out of a pickle or just make their day a little easier.

THANKS to Mr. Stranger.  We’re Passing It Forward, too.

 

Wind Blown

Morning came too quickly, I awoke and a split-second thought was Everette had the bedroom light on reading.  But no, it was the already blazing sun (at 7:15am) quickly raising the temperature in the tent.  We started to strip off the layers, and got to packing before the temps rose too much.

Our friend Shelly says that pioneers from bygone years stopped to wait for the winds to die down….and thus was the start of Kingman.

We blow into Cooper’s house just like the winds.  Amidst a houseful of moving boxes yet to be unpacked the Cooper’s open their hearts and our bellies all jiggle with laughter.  Although Laars says he doesn’t remember Coopers from last summer, Karl says he distinctly remembers Laars.  Anders and Shelly start calling each other ‘creepy’.  The three youngest start climbing on Quincy. I announce that there is not going to be midnight games of Murder this time around.  We are all short on sleep; Coopers from moving households, Johnsons from moving countries.

But we wouldn’t want to swing thru the NW corner of Arizona without stopping in for some belly laughs.  Some people are just too fun to pass by.

Thanks Coopers.

PS….too busy laughing I forgot to take any pictures!!!

Biosphere 2

First question: If there’s a Biosphere 2, where is the first one?

Answer: Our gorgeous blue Earth is the first biosphere.

Everybody in our family that went to Biosphere 2 loved it, but can we explain it?  Nope.  Not efficiently, anyways.

We entered through an airlock door to visit the interior of the main Biosphere 2 structure.  Then we got to “experience first-hand the wilderness environments and hear about the Uof A Science research made possible by this engineering marvel.” (flyer)

Upon approach

Upon approach

Facts from their flyer:

-glass-enclosed facility is 3.14 acres!

-7.2 million ft cubed enclosed under 6,500 windows

=91 ft tall at highest point and sealed from earth below by a 500-ton welded stainless steel liner

-thousands of miles of wiring, pipes and ductwork

-hundreds of scientific publications and countless new discoveries

-40 acre campus include 300,000 square feet of administrative offices, classrooms, laboratories, conference facilities,and residential and student housing.

structure

The land on which the Biosphere 2 is built has had various uses in the past.  Of course, for generations it was home for Native Americans.  Then ranchers and miners took up residence in the 1800’s.  A portion of a stagecoach route is still visible nearby.

 

A wealthy Countess of Suffolk built her Casa del Oro estate on a nearby hilltop in the 1950’s.  Motorola and the U of A have had conference centres located here in the 1960’s & 70’s.  In 1984 thos current facility was begun to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology under Space Biospheres Ventures.  Changing more hands it’s been owned and/or controlled by various groups, but in 2011 it was gifted to the U of A.

 

Claudio, tour guide.  I have been amazed to see the self-confidence of Gaelyn increase.  She is now often at the front of the crowd, answering questions, volunteering, etc.  Huge change.

Claudio, tour guide. I have been amazed to see the self-confidence of Gaelyn increase. She is now often at the front of the crowd, answering questions, volunteering, etc. Huge change.

Although our tour guide, Claudio, was thorough and knowledgeable much of the info I think went over our heads.  But we still marvelled at a closed system where people would have lived for over 2 years (Mission 1) studying the inter-relationship of environs and organisms and the recycling of water and air.

mission 1 enters B2


rainforest MCMaret peering into the rainforest

 

Kitchen where Mission participants were scheduled to cook for everybody else every 8 days during the entire mission.

Kitchen where Mission participants were scheduled to cook for everybody else every 8 days during the entire mission.

 

Would be a perfect table for our large family.

Would be a perfect table for our large family.

 

 

 

 

 

Rainforests provide many medicinal plants along with huge amounts of oxygen.  We need to take care of them, and learn from the natives how to use the plants for our well being and that of the earth.

Rainforests have levels to them.  There is the ground floor, then the understory, the canopy and then the emergent layer about 200 feet above the ground.

Gaelyn and the other kids used the microscopes to compare different grains of sand from various locations on the globe.  They also saw worms that live in the ice!

Gaelyn and the other kids used the microscopes to compare different grains of sand from various locations on the globe. They also saw worms that live in the ice!

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Mission Log books

Mission Log books

Savannas are found between deserts and tropical rain forests, most of them in Africa, South America and India.  Not enough rain falls on a savanna to support forest, which is why they are mostly grass.  It is a rolling grassland scattered with shrubs and isolated trees.  Biosphere 2’s savanna was created primarily with edible species.

This used to be a tropical ocean but they are transitioning to be coral reef.  The Sea of Cortez.

This used to be a tropical ocean but they are transitioning to be coral reef. The Sea of Cortez.

Water i.e. hydrology, is a huge part of what Biosphere 2 is now about.  Where does the water all go?  How much is transpired by the plant?  What ends up in surface water, aquifers, evaporation?  How long do different plants hold water and where exactly?  How can we best manage the water that we have in our closed-system on earth?  What happens with different slopes and different plants?

Hands on activity for the kids to build Water Cycles

Hands on activity for the kids to build Water Cycles

Toveli does a puzzle of the Water Cycle

Toveli does a puzzle of the Water Cycle

Laars is comparing how fast molecules of water would move through soil that is loosely packed or more tightly packed.

Laars is comparing how fast molecules of water would move through soil that is loosely packed or more tightly packed.

There was WAY more that we did, hands on, read, had explained to us.  But we were full to overflowing with information we couldn’t even process.  So much more to learn, but for now, that’s enough.

 

Kartchner Caverns: Mom’s Perspective

Back in the ’80’s I went into the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, and it’s been something I’ve never forgotten.  And so being back down in the areas of these magnificent caves I wanted the kids to be able to see some of the wonders underground.

Gaelyn already shared about the bats of Kartchner, and Maret discussed an overview of her own perspective.  I wanted to share a few of the things that stood out to me.

Too much to blog about, here’s just a couple.

This is referred to as a "Fried Egg".  We were able to watch one receive drops from the stalactites above, splattering water from the 1" deep water in the center of the egg.

This is referred to as a “Fried Egg”. We were able to watch one receive drops from the stalactites above, splattering water from the 1″ deep water in the center of the egg.

Kartchner Caverns are a fairly new discovery in the world of caving, and they have an interesting story.  Not below ground really, they are hidden in a hillside where the temperature stays constant in the high 70F’s with 99% humidity.

Passing as if thru chambers we receive a light mist to help stray hairs and fibres stick to us or fall to the ground rather than float through the hair, disturbing the microscopic flora already growing here.

Found by 2 cavers it was kept mostly a secret until the land could be protected as a park to avoid vandalism and exploitation.  After 14 years it was secured, and careful scientific discoveries, investigations and excavations started to keep this precious environment as near natural as possible while allowing the public to venture in during specific times of the year.

Kartchner Caverns most exciting new secret was the discovery of fossil remains which had originally believed to have belonged to a bison.  But in 1995 a team of Northern Arizona University scientists studied the site and discovered that it was the remains of a Shasta Ground Sloth (Nothrotheriops shastensis), a 2 meter (6-7 ft) long creature previously thought to have inhabited more northerly regions.  Scientific testing proved the fossils to be 80,000 years old!Shasta Ground Sloth

For this sloth to have lived in the Kartchner area would mean that the environment must have been completely different than what we find around theTucson-area today.  The climate would have been milder with less temperature extremes.  The plant-eating sloth would have fed on fibrous vegetarian in wooded upland areas and savannahs.  It may have been grassland valleys and oak woodlands.

Another interesting question about this sloth and where it was located is…how did it get into the cave and why did it die here?  There must have been other cave entrances that are now obscured or collapsed, and the sloth surely couldn’t have made its way that far back into the cave through the present natural entrance which is the size of a grapefruit!

 

VIEW FROM OUR KITCHEN:

@ Snyder Hill, BLM land west of Tucson, AZ

Gorgeous Sunset

Gorgeous Sunset

Bats of Kartchner Caverns

Guest post by Gaelyn Johnson

Bats are mammals, and they start giving birth when they are 1 year old.

Bats only give birth once a year, usually in June.  The mother is hanging from her feet from the ceiling of the cave in the highest spots where it is warm.  This is the nursery.

The pup is born feet first with its wings crossed over its chest.  The mother has a flap of skin that catches the newborn and then she brings it up to nurse it, and I guess she then hangs it up from the nursery ceiling.

Mother bats nurse their young until they can fly which is usually around August.

The pups get one chance to fly.  If they fall they are likely dead.

Bats use their finger bones in their wings to control their wings so they can hover, dive or turn sharply.  They are the only flying mammals.bat in flightThe mother leaves to find food and may be eaten and then no other bat will adopt her pup so he/she will die.  She also mates at this time.

They leave behind grease or an oily stuff on the rocks where they hung, and nothing will ever grow in that spot.  It looks like black stuff on the ceiling.

Where the bats hangout there are huge piles of guano below.  Guano is bat poo.  Bats have been pooing in this same place in Kartchner Caverns for 45,000 to 50,000 years.  Cave spiders, mites, camel beetles and bacteria along with something like 90 other organisms digest the guano.  Scientists have found at least 20 new species on the guano at Kartchner Caverns.

Bats use a really high sound that humans can’t hear to judge how far away, or how big or small an object is, so they can dodge it.  Or if there is an opening in the wall they can find it and go through it.

The natural opening into Kartchner Caverns is about the size of a grapefruit and that’s how the bats get into the caves.

Every bat eats half it’s weight everyday.  If I weighed 60 lbs and I were a bat I’d be eating 30 lbs of bugs every single day.  If I was a bat I’d like that!

The Kartchner bats eat about 1,000 lbs of bugs every summer, which is good for the park because some of those insects are actually pests to the farmers.

Scientists have tried to tag these bats but so far those ones have been eaten so they aren’t sure yet where these bats migrate to.  They thought they went to Mexico but now they aren’t so sure.

The Big Room where we went is in red.

The Big Room where we went is in red.

The Big Room tours are closed when the bats are there because the Park Rangers don’t want to intrude on them.  When we went on our tour we saw the bat guano and the grease left on the ceiling of the cave but no bats.  They left in September.

Bats are really cool!