winter in arizona 3   no comments

Posted at 9:54 am in Arizona

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This is the third of four posts about winter 2014-2015 in Arizona. It’s somewhat difficult to choose photos that are representative of what happened during a space of time. I usually end up picking out a few favourite shots of food, music, art, dogs, nature and clouds. You’ll find some of each in this and the fourth post. Food always seems to get the most attention, so I kicked off this post with a photo of a couple of loaves of bread that was baked in the clay oven that Larry built as a winter project. There will, no doubt, be more experimentation with bread and pizza baking over the coming winter.

I can’t remember whether Larry has put together a blog post about the oven – if not, there will probably be one at some future date. I know he took plenty of photos and can describe in detail, the process of building one of these. I shot quite a few photos as well – for future reference in case I decide to build a clay oven here at Round Hill. It’s very tempting as I have a lot of firewood, especially after the past winter when several large trees were downed by winter storms. I’ll be cutting up logs for the rest of this summer. Anyhow, just a brief description of the oven. The stone base was built using rocks gleaned here and there around the washes. The mortar mix incorporated sand out of the washes – it’s very high quality washed sand that is near perfect for any kind of cement project. The base was built up to a height convenient for baking. The inside of the base was filled with well packed sand. I won’t go into this too much, but the base was topped off with refractory clay embedded with heavy glass bottles (wine or water bottles), and a layer of fire brick. A firebrick arch was made and then a dome of sand was heaped inside. A clay shell was made over this, and then the sand was scooped out through the arched opening. The process is time consuming, in large part because it involved looking around for stones and wheeling in all that sand, but the results were pretty neat.

You don’t fire an oven like this unless you plan to do quite a bit of baking over the space of several hours, so we just did one batch of pita bread, pizza and baked bread. It went well. We’ll do more experimentation this winter. For those who are curious – yes, firewood is available in our area. There is a large pecan orchard just down the road a few miles and they sell wood by the pick-up truck load.

I’ve been playing a lot of music, both here in Nova Scotia, and also where I spend time in winter. In fact, I play music wherever I happen to be during my travels. Last winter was no different. I jammed with friends a couple of times a week, and spent a lot of my spare time learning new tunes. I’m branching out into new things up here in Nova Scotia, but more about that in an upcoming post. The above photo was taken at the Copper Queen saloon where there has been an active celtic music session going for a couple of winters. This winter, we enjoyed the company of Leif, a wonderful musician from Juneau, Alaska (that’s him on the left), with Larry on the right, and a fiddler from Seattle – I believe her name is Ann.

It’s always great fun to get together with musicians from other places. Regional repertoires vary greatly, even within genres of music. When a new musician comes to town, they usually bring along some great new tunes. Last summer, I learned some excellent tunes from a flautist from Vancouver who was working at Fort Saint Anne here in Annapolis Royal. Last winter, Leif brought us a number of tunes that are popular in the Pacific Northwest. In the above photo, Leif is showing Larry how he plays a Shetland reel known as Donald Blue. If you’re curious about the process of ear-learning a tune, click on the photo, or on this link, and it should open an .mp4 video of them playing together. Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of background noise, but it’s still kinda fun to watch. Hope it works for you.

As with the last two posts, I have to say something more about the skies out in the valley. There were so many amazing sunrises, sunsets and skycapes filled with clouds. Above is an absolutely massive lenticular cloud – the kind I call stacked pancake clouds – hanging in the sky over the Mule Mountains. The lenticular clouds tend to hold their shape, sometimes for hours, while other clouds float on by. That particular day, this huge cloud held its position for at least an hour. I had to drive to Sierra Vista and once past the Mule Mountains, I found a number of other similar (but smaller and not so stacked) lenticular clouds suspended over the San Pedro River valley. It was awesome.

The last photo in this post was taken one evening while I was out rambling around with the dogs while taking a break from making dinner. As I set out walking southward, I noticed some kind of cloud action building back over the Swisshelm Mountains, or possibly over the Chiricahua Mountains beyond. I turned and walked to the west for awhile, then headed back north and east to the cabin. In the space of perhaps twenty minutes, the cloud mass that had been hovering over the Swisshelms, coalesced into a breathtaking supercell with a dense curtain of rain hanging below. It reminded me of some wildly psychedelic Portugese Man-o-War jellyfish floating above the mountains. Sublime.

Written by bev wigney on July 12th, 2015