Walter and Sara on the road to who knows where


Another month has roared by. Where does the time go? Doing pottery, making music, playing in the yard, having company, doing outings? You guessed it!

February 5th we fired the Rancho Resort kiln one more time. I had three luminarias come out of this load. One that had just had its first firing.

Ceramic luminaria

The first two luminaria that I had made this winter, had been glazed and came out all shiny and pretty.

Ceramic Luminaria Ceramic Luminaria

The folks in our Clay Club are producing a lot of pretty things.

Unloaded kiln load of pottery  

One of our members is a painter and this is the first of a series of plates and bowls that she’s done with a desert theme.

Painted plate by Barbara Simcoe

February 6th, we did an outing down into Green Valley so I could see the pottery show put on by the Green Valley Recreation Pottery Studio. Wow, do they have a bunch of super accomplished folks (they have 400 members after all).

I think that my favorite was a piece of Raku pottery with iridescent colors.

Raku pot GVR Pottery Show

From there we took a drive down to the Historical Canoa Ranch to get a nice view of Canoa Lake.
Canoa Lake

When we got home I got out the string of Christmas lights I’d bought for my luminarias and set them out and waiting patiently for it to get dark. And I’m happy to announce that they work!

Here’s Luminaria #1 from this past summer.

Lit ceramic luminaria

And Luminaria #2 (the first I made this winter)

Lit crreamic luminaria

And Luminaria #3.

Lit ceramic luminaria

And here they all are out on our back retaining wall.

3 lit luminaria

Since the clay isn’t translucent (like porcelain would be) I have to rely on the light getting out of the holes. When I used mini-lights they didn’t provide enough light. But these big standard LED lights work great. Whew.

February 10th we had another lovely sunset. This is off to the northeast.


And this is off to the west.


I took one last photo as the color was deepening.


That weekend, I’d set out to test an idea on how I could cut holes in my luminaria BEFORE assembling them. I did this by making a half height one just to make it easier to put it together. And it worked marvelously. I cut all those holes with cookie cutter style cutters when the pieces were flat. And then the next day, I put the luminaria together.

Small clay luminaria

Meanwhile, I made another full-sized luminaria with just round holes (which are super easy to cut even when the piece is put together already).

Clay luminaria Clay luminaria
February 13th, we unloaded the kiln once again. Here’s the complete load. Our group now numbers 13, and we produce a full load every 2 weeks with no problem. The first Monday in February I taught a class in sgraffito and this load had the first firing of all those pieces in it.

Freshly fired full kiln load

Plus it had one more of my finished luminaria.

Ceramic luminaria

Our daughter, Tracy, came to visit for the Presidents’ Day long weekend, arriving in the evening on February 14th. I hope that you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day, we did.

Saturday February 15th, we took Tracy to see one of the 40 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show sites. This year we went to the Kino Gem Show. It takes no time at all to get overwhelmed with the quantity of minerals and fossils available.

Here there are tables full of HUGE amethyst geodes—sold by the pound.

Amethyst geodes Tucson Gem Show

This gorgeous quartz and amethyst geode was just sitting on a pedestal in amongst everything else.

Quartz and amethst geode

People haggle over prices—especially since this was the last weekend of the show. Need a fossil or two?

Fossils at Tucson Gem Show

How about these? I guess these are some sort of sea worm. Aren’t they gorgeous? These are NOT small pieces. This was maybe 3 ½ feet tall.  


But wait, how about these?


You can get sinks lined with fossils too. Frankly, the quantity simply overwhelms me.

Down another aisle there was a big utility trailer where you walked in to find back-lit mosaics.

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

These were over 6 feet tall.

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

And outside there were these metal sculptures with stones set in them—also huge.

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

Beads, jewelry, bottles, balls, sinks, vases and statues. Oh look, Persian rugs! In little over an hour we were all full—stoned as it were. So we found our way to a local Mexican restaurant that Walter had researched and had Indian Tacos. This is Indian fry bread filled with your choice of taco meat. Yum yum yum.

Sunday February 16th, we took the drive up to Madera Canyon. The road up was full of bicyclist and there were lots of cars but we still got a parking spot at the Gift Shop where you can watch the birds. There were 12 wild turkeys out—the females were in the shade but the males were out strutting their stuff.

Madera Canyon wild turkeys

These males are old enough to have developed a ‘beard’—the straight cluster of feathers that hangs down from their throats.

Wild turkey with beard

We waited long enough for the goldfinches and the house finches to fill up the feeders.

goldfinches on feeder

Then we drove on up to the top and sat on the bench at the trailhead to enjoy the view and watch the hikers set off up the trail. There was plenty of snow up on the higher reaches so I suspect they weren’t taking the upper trails. When we get cold we drove on down and found an open picnic table and had our lunch.

That evening Walter set to work making Tortilla Soup in his new Instant Pot. It came out so pretty I insisted on taking a picture of it.
Instant Pot Tortilla Soup

It tasted very good too.

Monday February 17th, we took the drive down to Tubac and went shopping. Tubac is a lovely little artist community with tons of lovely shops and Tracy had a good time shopping. In addition, I found one more Tubac Javelina outside the Tumacookery, the kitchen/cooking store in town.

Tubac Javelina Tubac Javelina
Don’t you just love the butterfly on her nose?

On February 20th, we unloaded the Rancho Resort kiln, one more time. This time, all the lovely sgraffito pieces had been glazed and there were two more pretty desert scene plates that were added to the collection. Sgraffito is a process where you put color over the white clay and then scratch off the color to make a design. So all the blue, green, and brown flat objects with white designs are sgraffito.

Full load of pottery out of kiln

At this point, I’ve begun training my backup kiln monitor so that she can load and fire the kiln over the summer months while I’m gone in Show Low. So this was her first successful loading and unloading. Ta da.

On February 22nd, Walter spotted a hummingbird sitting on a piece of yard art in the garden. The little guy was very kind and stayed still long enough for me to take a number of photos of him through our back sliding glass door. He turns out to be a Costa’s Hummingbird.

Costa's Hummingbird

The purple ‘bib’ that hangs in both directions off his throat is very distinctive of the male of the species.

Costa's Hummingbird

Saturday February 22nd, Mother Nature put on a nice show that began with pretty little peach clouds.

Early sunset

And then moved on to gold off to the west.

Golden sunset

And finally lovely pink to the west.  

Pink sunset

Thursday February 27th, we drove north into Tucson and then west just a bit to Sweetwater Preserve. We hiked here 2 years ago and we decided to go back since we had enjoyed it so much.

It is very popular with mountain bikers so you have to keep your wits about you and watch for hurtling bicycles but it’s still a peaceful and lovely place to hike.

Sweetwater Preserve

The spring flowers are just beginning here in the Tucson area. We had a very hard freeze (22 degrees) the first week of February which slowed things down just a wee bit. But there were lots of Gordon's Bladderpod (Physaria gordonii) in bloom. It’s probably a weed since I’ve seen it in parking lots along with out in the desert but it’s still pretty.

Gordon's Bladderpod (Physaria gordonii)

The Southwest False Vervain (Glandularia gooddingii ) which bloomed all summer up in Show Low had begun to bloom here.

Southwest False Vervain (Glandularia gooddingii)

The jojoba bushes (Simmondsia chinensis) were in bloom too.

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)

The preserve is in a wonderful saguaro forest with views of the mountains to the west.

Sweetwater Preserve

There were a few Fairy Dusters (Calliandra eriophylla) in bloom here and there.

 Fairy Dusters (Calliandra eriophylla)

One of the attractions of the Saguaro Vista Trail that we took is this big old saguaro with a cresta on the top.

Saguaro cresta

Here’s a close up shot of the cresta. It’s developed wings which makes it even more unusual.

Saguaro cresta

The Brittlebush (Encelia farinose) were just starting to come into bloom too.

Brittlebush (Encelia farinose)

When we reached the turn around point in our mile and half walk I took this shot of Walter with the trail map sign.

Walter Cooke Sweetwater Preserve

The views of all these wonderful saguaros never cease to please me.

Sweetwater Preserve

Along the way, I saw this barrel cactus that had had an interesting life. Usually their ribs run in straight vertical lines up the sides. But this guy had his dancing in waves up his sides.

Unusual barrel cactus

A pair of saguaros framing a view of the mountains to the east caught my eye and I just couldn’t pass it up.

Sweetwater Preserve   

After taking the week off from making luminaria while Tracy was visiting, I got back in the saddle and made another pair that were dry just before the end of the month. These two mark a very important point in my learning process. I FINALLY figured out how to cut patterns and then put the darned things together without having any problems. It was all a matter of letting the clay dry a little bit longer before assembly and then poof, it was SO EASY. I only had to make 7 big ones (one of which broke before it got fired) and 2 little ones before I figured it out. Hey, some things just take time.

Clay luminaria Clay luminaria
These two are in the kiln as I write and will be ready to glaze next week.

I have one more smaller luminaria that I made this past weekend that is in the drying phase. I have a goal to make 7 big ones (just one more to go) and 7 little ones (4 more to go) before we leave on May 1st. Now that I’ve really unlocked the secrets to the process that shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Wish me luck!