Walter and Sara on the road to who knows where


November was an interesting rollercoaster ride for everyone I’m sure. The good news is that we survived it in one piece and we’re safe and well.

On November 1st, we loaded the last of our stuff (including everything from the refrigerator) into the truck and then went about draining the water heater of our park model in Show Low. Once that was done, we blew compressed air through all the pipes and faucets and then poured RV antifreeze (it’s potable) into all the drains and p-traps. We unplugged everything in the house and set the thermostat for 45 (as low as it will go), locked up and headed out of Dodge for 6 months. Not to worry, we have someone who checks the house inside and out every week or so and our next door neighbors are year-round residents and they keep an eye on things.

Our drive south was smooth and uneventful and we arrived safely at our home in Sahuarita in midafternoon. It was in the 90’s so after we unloaded a few things, I closed the front door to preserve the cooler air inside. And low and behold, I found termite trails all over the wall behind the door!

termite trails

Each one of those funny lines on the wall is what is called a termite tube. Oh joy. Oh ick.

We went outside and sure enough all along the foundation on the outside you could see tubes where they had gotten behind the stucco, into the sill plate and up into the wall.

Termite tube

We had an inspection later in the week and signed a contract to deal with them. The termites in Arizona don’t live in your house like the dry-wood termites that move permanently into houses in California. Instead, they live in the ground and come into the house to find wood to eat. So we didn’t have to be fumigated. In fact, they just removed all those tubes on the inside, put spackle over them and said it was all good inside. However outside, they had to dig a trench all along the foundation and put termiticide in it to create a barrier to keep them out. In addition we had a bait system installed (not cheap but highly effective and as a result requiring many fewer chemicals in the long run) that will kill of the colony underground. In any case, the whole thing was handled in a little over a week, which is more than you can say for the results of the election (with the drama still going on a month later).

We got settled in again over that week and even though it was still hot, it felt good to be back in Sahuarita. One morning, Walter spied a Clark’s Spiny Lizard out on our backyard retaining wall.

Clark’s Spiny Lizard

Everything in the clubhouse here at Rancho Resort is pretty much still shut down. You can make a reservation for the pool and the gym and the billiards room but that’s it. The tennis and pickleball and volleyball courts are open though. I got together with the head of the Sewing Club (who lives across the street) and we decided we should submit a proposal to the folks in charge on how to handle opening the Crafts Room back up safely. This was in the first week of November when cases were just starting to rise in Arizona. I wrote the proposal and submitted it and we were told that they wouldn’t make any decisions until the New Year. Our proposal was well received so when the time comes I’m sure they will accommodate us but I don’t expect to be any time soon. At this point, I’m grateful for the delay because cases have risen so much that I don’t think it would be wise to spend 3 hours in the same room with 3 other people even if they were more than 6 feet away and had masks on! Once again it’s time to stay way far away from people!

On November 12th we were settled in enough to take an outing. We drove south towards Nogales and then west on Hwy 289 to Pena Blanca Lake. It was a lovely day in the 70’s. Here’s a view of the terrain on the drive out.

Hwy 289

We drove to the end of the lake road and I hiked down to the boat ramp to have a look. There were some fishermen in a boat and even a bit of fall color.

Pena Blanca Lake

Off to the south there was one of several fishing docks that dot the shoreline.

Pena Blanca Lake

This is a catch and release lake because there is naturally occurring cyanide in the water. They drained the lake a number of years ago and dredged the bottom thinking it was from old mine tailings. But within a few years it was back to the same level. So they think it may be coming in via the spring at the bottom of the lake. The lake in Arivaca which is just north of here has the same problem.

There was no wind so the water was really still and you know what a sucker I am for reflection photos.

Pena Blanca Lake

We drove back to a little picnic area and took the trail down to the shoreline to see what we could see. There were American coots paddling around leaving trails behind them.

American Coot

And there was more fall color.

Pena Blanca Lake

We set out for a stroll that took us around an inlet in the lake. And along the way there were more nice views.

Pena Blanca Lake

We passed yet another fishing dock.

Pena Blanca Lake

Here and there I found a few Velvety Goldenrod (Solidago velutina) still in bloom.

Velvety Goldenrod (Solidago velutina)

A Black Phoebe entertained us while we enjoyed the view from a bench for a while.

Black Phoebe

There were more coots diving and preening.

American Coot

Walter found another nice bench and I went around the bend to see how far the trail actually went. There were some fishermen set up with all their gear where it changed from a formal trail to a muddy little path and they thought it continued on quite a ways. Rather than disturb them and their gear I took a photo of the little inlet and turned back.

Pena Blanca Lake

Here's Walter on his bench.

Walter Cooke

We sat and watched the birds for a while and noticed this one diving duck who was bigger than the coots and just dove and dove and dove. I took a telephoto shot of him and he turned out to be a real cutie.

juvenile pied-billed grebe

He’s a juvenile pied-billed grebe. He looks like a little fluffy guy but he was actually pretty big.

It was time for lunch so we turned back and I stopped at one more fishing dock to take another shot of the lake before we headed back UP the trail to the picnic area and our lunch.

Pena Blanca Lake

November 13th was a perfect gardening day so I spent it cleaning out and refilling the pond for the season.

All the shrubs I planted a 2 years ago have really grown. The Sticks of Fire (the ones with the red) have gotten HUGE.

Backyard shrubs 2020

Here’s what it all looked like last year. As you can see, everything, front and back is way bigger.

Backyard shrubs 2019

One of the Texas Sage "Lynn's Everlasting" was really blooming up a storm. A few days later we had a little rain and they all put out some flowers before things warmed up again and they stopped.

Texas Sage "Lynn's Everlasting"

The pond wasn’t real dirty this year (we had hardly any monsoon rain this year to create muck in it) so it didn’t take that long to clean it up.

Filled pond

However there appears to be a problem. The water level dropped a lot overnight. So I reset the ball-valve that controls the outlet where you drain it thinking it was leaking like it did last year. And then I refilled the pond while I pruned the Sticks of Fire the next day. No go, it dropped nearly an inch in just a few hours. I went out into the wash to check where the water outlet is, and there wasn’t a drop of water there. The water wasn’t leaking out there. Oh goodie.

That’s when I took a careful look at the pond and discovered there were two big new cracks in the concrete. Life rule: Concrete ponds are either cracked or about to crack—or why using a rubber liner is a much better idea. Sigh.

I did a lot of research (and sighed and moaned a lot) and learned how I might (emphasis on the might) be able to plug the leaks. I got to learn about hydraulic cement (it sets in 5 minutes so you have work fast) and mason chisels (who knew there were that many different kinds of chisels?) and with some trepidation set to work. I used the chisel to widen all the cracks big and small (don’t make them into the V; they need to be wide and flat or undercut as the cement expands). That took a few days and interesting gymnastics.

Here's one of the big cracks all chiseled out.

Pond crack

And a closeup. Where it was already pretty wide the concrete was pretty fragile and came off in chunks. Not a good sign in my mind.

Pond crack

Then I had to make a trip to Lowe’s because no one in Sahuarita or Green Valley carried hydraulic cement. After Thanksgiving I applied the cement and let it dry overnight. Here’s the bulk of the cracks (big and small) after I’d applied the goo.

Repaired pond cracks

And there’s one more that starts along the bricks.

Repaired pond crack

I filled it up on November 28th and the bad news is that it still leaks. It doesn’t leak as fast as before but it still leaks. Big heavy sigh. As I write this, the leaking has nearly stopped well short of where it stopped before, so I’ve managed to at least sort of plug some of the leaking. I’ll report next month what we decide to do about it all. The pond has lots of other issues so we’re leaning towards decommissioning it. But time will tell.

Thursday November 19th (in a break from the fun and games with the pond), we took an outing up to Madera Canyon just to the southeast of us. It was in the low 80’s at home (after having been over 90 way later than it had ever been here in the Tucson area earlier in the week) and was a very pleasant low 70’s as we headed up into the canyon.   

Madera Canyon AZ

I just had to stop to capture the little puffy clouds over the mountains.

Madera Canyon AZ

There were parking spots at the gift shop so we stopped to watch the birds.

There were 11 wild turkeys out.

Wild turkeys

People stay quiet and the closing of car doors and the beeps from folks locking their doors doesn’t seem to bother these big guys.

Wild turkeys

They didn’t seem to be bothered at all that Thanksgiving was just a week away either.

Wild turkey

There were a number of Mexican Jays over near a birdbath in the rocks.

Mexican Jay

And one even took a bath for me.

Mexican Jay

There was a hummingbird who landed on the feeder right over my head so I didn’t dare move but I did get him silhouetted against the trees.


There are always acorn woodpeckers about. And this guy posed for me.  

acorn woodpecker

I love that little round yellow eye with its black pupil.

acorn woodpecker

The big feeders were full of pine siskins and a few lesser goldfinches.

Pine siskins and lesser goldfinches

It got warm in the sun so we carried on up the canyon to the parking area at the top.

Top of Madera Canyon rd

After enjoying the view, we drove back down the canyon to the picnic area near the campground where the sycamores were showing a bit of color.

Fall color

We found a table in the shade to have our lunch with a great view of the big trees.

Sycamore falll color

I love the bright white bark and the gold leaves of the sycamores.

Sycamore falll color

Down the canyon a ways there was a poplar in among the junipers and the sycamores.

Fall color

It was peaceful and quiet and just about a perfect day.

The view up into the mountains from the parking area when we went to leave was pretty swell too.  

Madera Canyon view

We had a lovely nearly 360 degree sunset on November 23rd. Pink to the southeast.


Peach to the north.


And gold to the west.


It took nearly 3 weeks but we finally got permission to at least fire Rancho’s kiln just before Thanksgiving, so I could fire the things that I had made back in March that had been stored in our garage all summer.

I had 2 short luminaria that had been bisqued and now were ready for glaze firing.  

short luminaria short carved luminaria
There were two short luminaria that needed to be bisque fired (and have now been glazed and I hope to get fired sometime in December).

short luminaria short luminaria
And my pride and joy, the big “Tree of Life” tall luminaria got bisque fired too.

Tall carved luminaria

It was so nice to see it safely out of the kiln in one piece! Victory!

We had a nice quiet Thanksgiving safe at home. And we’ll do the same for Christmas. No traveling for us this year.

On November 29th we had a full 360 degree sunset with peachy pink to the southeast.  


Pink to the northeast.


Pink to the north.


An arch of pink to the west.


I couldn’t resist the Sticks of Fire and the sunset together.

Sticks of fire at sunset

As I went to go back in, I noticed the nearly full moon rising across the street.

Full mooon rising

Full moon rising

Covid-19 cases here in Arizona are on the rise. They have nearly tripled in the last 3 weeks. The city of Tucson (which has had a mandatory mask ordinance for a long time) has put a 10 pm to 5 am curfew in place. But the governor will not let them much of anything else. The metrics indicate that very soon the northern counties (like Navajo where Show Low is) should be closing bars and restaurants again (or at least reducing capacity) but the governor is suggesting that they could avoid that (which is of course against the science). The good news is that here in the Tucson area everyone is wearing masks at least. We are avoiding any sort of gathering and I only go to the grocery and hardware stores. All other shopping happens on line—thank you Amazon.