Nice Weather for a Hike

Winter in the USA desert southwest is the best time for hiking.  The temperatures are nice (40F-70F/4C-20C) and there are usually winter rains that bring the desert life out into the open.

Today my wife and I went on a 6 hour (10  mile) walk in a desert wash in the nearby mountains.

If you’re not familiar with the term “desert wash”, “arroyo” and “wadi” are equally good words to describe this.   Imagine a sandy bottomed dry stream bed that has water only during (and shortly after) a rain.  Since we were in the mountains, put the dry stream bed in a small canyon, add gravel, rocks and house sized boulders, and you have an idea of what we were hiking through.


For a sense of scale, the rock in the picture is about 15 feet wide and most likely got moved here by the rushing water….so this is not a hike for a rainy day.

This also shows how the rushing water can erode the rock to form low spots where water can be trapped.


Just above this clean pool of water was another, much smaller pool.  This one was covered in algae.

While we were standing there, enjoying the complete absence of man made noise, we watched the bees land on the algae, collect water and fly off.  At any one time, there were probably 50-60 bees sitting atop the algae.  I tried, several times, to get a decent picture of the whole bee covered pool, but they didn’t show up in the image.  So, I went the other way and got a nice (for a cellphone camera) closeup of a bee.

For what it’s worth, if you have never experienced a “no made made noise” place, you should seek one out as it is a most amazing experience.


The sides of the wash that are shaded for most of the day are still damp and the desert plants are making the most of the opportunity.



Sourdough Pizza Crust–Next time try…..

A few weeks ago I noticed a pizza stone on the “75% off” clearance table at the grocery store.  The stone is about an inch thick, 13 inches in diameter and is very heavy.  There were no chips or cracks in it, so I bought it.  I think I paid $5 for it.

Today was the scheduled day to feed my sourdough starter and while doing that, I got the idea to try making a sourdough pizza crust.

The recipe I tried was simple.    Instead of dumping the sourdough starter to be discarded into the sink, I poured it into a bowl and then fed the starter.  I didn’t want the starter to be left “going hungry”, so first things first.

Back to the bowl.  To the starter, I added a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil (someone at a deli suggested the olive oil) and started adding flour while kneading it…..add flour, knead a minute, add flour, knead a minute, etc….. until the dough was *VERY* stiff and almost dry.  I had about 1 1/2 cups of starter and used slightly more than 1 1/2 cups of flour.

I then let the dough sit in the bowl while I went to the store to get the pizza toppings.  This was such an unplanned thing that I had not prepared the toppings ahead of time.

I don’t have a pizza peel, so I dusted the “bottom” of an upside down metal pizza pan with corn meal* and stretched the dough out it until it was approximately round and then slid the dough on the hot stone.  Since the stone had been heating for half an hour at as high a temperature as the oven could manage, the dough instantly started cooking even before I hurriedly added the toppings.

The dough got a bit misshapen during the transfer to the stone, but that’s OK.  I’m not going to be entering the pizza in a contest, nor am I going to sell it.  🙂

I then let the pizza cook until the dough started to get very brown on the edges.  This took about 10 minutes, but I expect this will likely vary quite a bit.

The crust was amazing.  There was definitely a sourdough taste in the crust and since I had so much dough, this was a very thick crust pizza.  But, even though it was thick, the crust was “light and airy”.

Next time, I’ll see if I can find a pizza peel and make up the pizza before sliding it onto the stone.   I will also add quite a bit more “stuff” on the pizza.

When I was in college, recipes would be tried and notes would be put in the margins of the recipe….If I were still in college, the note would be “Next time use more sauce & more cheese.  Crust good as is.”


*When I bake round sourdough loaves, the corn starch keeps the dough from sticking and that’s why I used it here.

Pie Crust


The two “leftover from Thanksgiving” small pie pumpkins were starting to get slightly soft,  so I decided to make a pumpkin pie while I still could.

I didn’t get a chance to get started early enough to get it all done in one day, so tonight, I baked the two pumpkins and made a pie crust.    The crust recipe I followed is here.

After adding the cold coconut oil “flakes” to the flour and mixing it, the flour still looked too “powdery”.  So, I added another teaspoon of the coconut oil flakes, mixed it, found it still not quite right and then added yet another teaspoon of the coconut oil flakes.  I stopped when the mixed flour looked like grains of sand.

The need for the additional oil doesn’t surprise me.  I had to scrape the block of solid coconut oil into flakes and when I was measuring it, even though I packed it tightly into the measuring cup, there was likely a lot of air spaces between the coconut oil flakes.

I also had to add a few extra tablespoons of water to get the dough to pass the “will it make a ball” test.  I live where the relative humidity is very low and I have to add extra water to my bread dough, so needing extra water for the pie crust was expected.

I rolled the dough out between two pieces of wax paper, pulled one piece of wax paper off of the dough, flipped the dough into the pie dish and then carefully removed the remaining piece of wax paper.  As I removed the second piece of wax paper, the crust settled into place and I had to do only a slight amount of “massaging” to get it perfect.

Normally I have a difficult time getting the crust into the dish without it tearing.  This crust was easy to work.  However, “the proof of the pudding…err..pie crust..” will be how it turns out after I take the pie out of the oven.

Cutting the Cable

Last month’s cable TV bill for our basic TV service included a note that the rates would be going up…again…bringing the monthly bill to $145.27 per month.

I have been wanting to get rid of the cable TV service for quite awhile, but my wife wasn’t sure how much she would miss it.  Now that our lifestyle has adjusted to our both being retired, she discovered how little she watches TV and she gave the go ahead to switch to over the air TV.

Today I bought an outside TV antenna and everything else needed to correctly (and safely) install the outside TV antenna… cost $71.

After getting everything except the coax installed, I went into the attic and crawled to the far corner of the house (somewhere I haven’t bothered to go to before) to pull the coax cable across the attic….and I discovered an already installed TV antenna….sigh….

It took me about 30 minutes to find the cable from the hidden antenna and when I hooked it up to the TV, I discovered we have a choice of 91 over the air channels (one HDTV signal can have multiple sub-channels).

Bye-bye cable TV and its associated expense.