Outside the Empire Ranch

We took a walk through the iron gateHeritage gate b:w

This is the Hired Man’s House.


This two room house was in existence by 1920, most likely constructed by the Vails to house the families working on the Empire Ranch.

In 1924 it was the Estrada family that lived there.  In 1927 Mariano Ferra, his wife and granddaughter Eva, moved into the house.  Mariano first worked as a cowboy for the Vail’s, and later worked at ranch headquarters cutting and hauling wood.hired hands door

When the Boice’s purchased the Empire in 1929 the Ferra’s were allowed to remain in the house.  Eva began to help Mary Boice with her children, Bob and Pancho.  Eva later married Empire Ranch cowboy, Dick Jimenez, who worked for Frank Boice from 1933-1945.

Further down the trail we came to a frog pond, enclosed, where they raise threatened Chiricahua leopard frogs.  We didn’t get to see any since they just transported over 2,150 frogs & tadpoles to new locations in October.

frog encampment

They may seem little, but these guys play an important role in the delicate web of life in the areas wetlands, contributing to the overall health of the entire ecosystem.  By restoring the leopard frog populations, they provide an important food source  for many of southern Arizona’s most threatened and unique predators.



Chiricahua leopard frogs were historically abundant in SE Arizona, but with the decline of surface water, suitable habitat, and the increases of non-native predators (esp bullfrogs) and diseases have all contributed to the frogs’ decline.

These frogs grow to about 5 inches.  The breed from February through September, eggs hatching into tadpoles which take 3-9 months to metamorphose.  Some obviously morph over winter.

Adult males make a snore-like call that lasts up to 1-2 seconds long.

DSCN6687Further down the trail we headed to a grove of trees that lined where water flows some times but not currently.  The trees here are mostly cottonwoods, Populus fremontii.  We were fascinated to find out that they are self-pruning, dropping limbs sometimes weighing more than 1,000 lbs.  That makes them especially dangerous to be near or under on windy days.

That’s why we’re camped here:

van a far off


Buenos Aires, Big Bugs & Bullets

Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge once was a sprawling ranch stretching from the Mexican border about 25-30 miles northward, and now it supposedly has helped with the recovery of pronghorn antelope, and is a great place for birdwatching.  We wouldn’t know….  we’ve seen very little of the birdlife, and nothing more than some indiscernible hoof prints that might have belonged to antelope that checked out our neighbourhood during the night.  More likely they were the noisy coyotes chattering the night away.

But what we have seen have been:

-a lot of military flying over head to entertain us each afternoon.  Ok, I realize they aren’t doing it for our entertainment, but nonetheless we are enjoying it!!

-huge grasshoppers that crawl through camp and if you aren’t watching crawl across your feet.  Their armour is colourful with greens and greys, yellows and oranges.  Quite beautiful, really.  But they remind me of the locusts that destroyed Pa’s crops from Little House on the Prairie.grasshopper color

-big beetles with elevated behinds

-other big creatures the boys pick up and stick in Maret’s face to hear her scream with fright.

-a kazillion spent bullet shells that Laars stands up for military formation with generals and sergeants and all the privates ready to fall down at his command.Laars

-absolutely filthy hands and feet (& everything else) from this dry, fine red dusty earth.  I mean, what can I expect when Laars lays his head down in this stuff!

-prickly grass stuck in every piece of exposed flesh, and every piece of fabric so that the unexposed flesh might also get pierced.  Nasty stuff.

Sunrising on the mtns to the west of us long before its warming rays defrost us

Sunrising on the mtns to the west of us long before its warming rays defrost us

-beautiful sunrise on the hills to the west while we sip our morning tea to warm us up as the air around us is about 3-6 C, and we anxiously anticipate the sun rising high enough over the mountains to the east that it will spread its warmth across us, too.

Danaka writing.  What else would she be doing?

Danaka writing. What else would she be doing?

-stargazing at night is wonderful.  Southern Arizona has little light pollution, and explains why there are about 5 or 6 observatories around the Tucson area.  Stargazing is one of the best things about not living in a house!  We tend to see the night sky, stop and pause to drink it in.  Maybe its just on our way to the loo, or its while sitting in the dark unwinding from the day.

While we’ve spent a few days here at Buenos Aires we’ve had some down time for reading, writing, journaling, and bookwork.  The kids have played a lot of frisbee to keep themselves warm in the early morning.  And the rest of the day they search for shade and reprieve from the heat we are no longer used to.  It’s about 29-33C.

It’s nice not to have to pack up in the morning and cram everything back in the van.  We can spread out, breath a little.  Stretch our legs.  Not bother driving anywhere.  Not argue over which is the best way to get to where we think we might want to be but might turn out to be just another dry hole in the ground.

None of us are anxious to go there anytime soon.

Staying put has been nice.


GPS Waypoint Boondocking Free Camping

Buenos Aires Wildlife Reserve  N 31.63779  W 111.42036

Five Leaf Clovers & Happy Canada Day!

Not the garden in our own backyard but near out campsite the children were delighted to not only find lots of 4-Leaf clovers, but Gaelyn found one with FIVE.

Bouquet of Four Leaf Clovers

Bouquet of Four Leaf Clovers

5 Leaf Clover

5 Leaf Clover

Laars' find

Laars’ find

This is our first Canada Day away from our home country, missing the parade in Parksville we traditionally tried to attend with the O’s.  But we are enjoying our stay here in Colorado immensely and will likely do something on the 4th for Independence Day.  What, I’m not sure but I suppose it should have something to do with BBQ, apple pie and fireworks!  That’s American, isn’t it?

Mitchell's Canadian boat in the making.  Post & more pics coming next week.

Mitchell’s Canadian boat in the making. Post & more pics coming next week.

Everette snuck the Cdn flag up on our American friends (shell of a) house

Everette snuck the Cdn flag up on our American friends (shell of a) house

Red & White dessert....cheesecake, of course.

Red & White dessert….cheesecake, of course.

Base-camp for Summer 2013

We’ve arrived at our base for the summer of 2013 and couldn’t have imagined anything better. After driving hours through Painted Desert and Apache/Navajo country where it’s all shades of dirt with little whirlwinds swirling by and huge pillars of rock randomly jutting up from the earth, we arrived in clean Cortez with shades of green.

Juts out of nowhere

Juts out of nowhere

Red Rock Country

Red Rock Country

And when we arrived at our friends acreage, oh my, were we in for a treat.

We had niggling suspicion of what their place might be like when on our drive we passed fields of farming, started counting horses, spotted bison (domesticated) and deer.  We pulled thru their gate to discover their 10 acres sloped to overlook fields, small farms, neighbouring miniature horses, and in the distance are the mountains of Mesa Verda National Park.  How pristine.  This is high desert and yet their property has underground  water (neighbours possibly over-watering?) that keeps their land green and the cottonwoods towering, providing much needed shade.  Glorious.

A bit to the left

A bit to the left

View to our right

View to our right

The tent-trailer now houses the four girls plus Laars. Mitchell and Anders are in our pup tent.  And Everette and I are in a big ground tent big enough for our bed plus a bunch of stuff we don’t want put down the hill in the tin shed for the mice, nor want filling the van.

Tent Trailer

Tent Trailer

DSCN3097We think we are living like kings and queens!!

The property is on municipal water which we have access to via hoses for drinking and washing dishes.  We have use of a washing machine (warm water if you do laundry later in the day and the black hose has heated up the water in the sun) and clothes line. You can imagine how nice this is for a large family, such a boon vs lugging piles of laundry to the laundromat.  We don’t do laundry even once a day, but it’s so much easier then how we have been doing it.

The Cabin, behind our camp

The Cabin, behind our camp

There is electricity at The Cabin so we can run our blender, one of our most cherished kitchen items.  We used to make smoothies at least once a day (packed with nutrition especially when we made green smoothies), but since hitting the road in October we only got to make smoothies at Squaw Lake in November, and recently for 4 days at our friends place in Cottonwood, Arizona.  Now everyday somebody is asking for them, and its nice to be able to provide them, cool and refreshing on a hot day.

Which leads to another gloriously wonderful provision here.  Our friends plugged in their extra fridge/freezer just for us.  Now we can keep frozen fruits and ice cubes for keeping us cool, and more greens and veggies, etc.  Those simple things in life…..oh I appreciate them.  Our cooler just doesn’t carry much food for our clan when we have to commit space to a chunk of ice.  A fridge is King!

No place for showering.  We thought about rigging something up, but our friends bought the family a 6 months pass at the rec centre so we just go there for a swim and a shower.  It works just fine.

Well, that’s an intro to where we are based for the summer (2013).

Roll out the Bedding

We never imagined that Tim and Ann would be lending us their tent-trailer to get the kids off the roof-tops so we could be more mobile this summer.  But it was waiting to be set up when we rolled in the first night, bedding like a real bed even!!

Such simple things in life are a real treat.

With power run to the trailer the kids are in their glory with bedside lamps for bedtime reading, journaling and drawing.  Each of them have their ‘therapy’, their bedtime ritual to close off the day.