Thursday, March 27, 2014

Good Golly....Gourds!

A visit to Wuertz Farm

As we traveled around the area near Casa Grande, AZ, we passed by a gourd farm several times. 

Really?!

One day we finally decided to pull in. Wow! This place is unreal! The proprietor, Waylon Wuertz, is a wonderful, personable guy who answered all of our questions. When he was in college he began growing gourds on his Dad's farm... 
which was also his Grandpa's farm... 
which was also his Great Grandpa's farm.... 
He wanted to make a few extra bucks to help with student loans, so he planted a few rows of gourds in the fields next to the cotton, or hay, or whatever was growing in that field that particular year.  The next year he grew a few more rows. The demand kept growing. Currently, Waylon harvests over two dozen different sorts of gourds on almost 30 acres!

Photo from Wuertz Farm Web Site

Gourd shopping is easy. Grab a wagon with a tub on it and head to any of the large wire bins filled with gourds of different shapes and sizes. There are apple-shaped gourds here, "Dipper" gourds over there,
banana gourds,
cannon ball gourds,
warty gourds,
smooth gourds,
crown of thorns gourds,
bottle gourds,
egg gourds,
goose gourds,
long gourds,
tiny bottle gourds...

there are too many gourds to keep track of!

While the process of shopping is easy, finding the perfect gourd isn't! This one has a bit of a bulge on one side. The other has a small blemish. This one is too fat. That one is too small. Some people go to great lengths to find the perfect gourd....

Photo from my iPhone!

Once you have selected all of the gourds you want you head back to the 'office', picking up another gourd from this bin, and one from over there, and oh, look! More nifty gourds here. Finally, enough is enough! Waylon meets you at his pricing board. Gourds are sold by the inch, either of the diameter or the length. Within minutes, Waylon calculates the cost of your cache and you are on your way.

Now, we Dreamers have to figure out what to do with the gourds we bought! Although, between examples at Waylon's farm and those online, we have plenty of ideas. Here are a few examples I found online:





This is a small part of a desert diorama at the Wuertz farm
where all of the animals and many plants are made with gourds.

And, what if we just happen to run out of gourds before we get back to the farm near Casa Grande? No problem... the Wuertz Gourd Farm has Internet ordering! How nice!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Planting Time

It is spring in southern Arizona. 
That means it is time to plant.


First, prepare the soil.


Put in the plant.


Arrange the roots.


back fill with dirt. 


Planted!

The resort we stayed at has "planted" at least 35 
of these homes in the past year...
including 10 while we were visiting! 

It was amazing to watch the progress.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Finding Family

Mr. Dreamy has been digging up his family roots, and mine, for more than a few years. He has used numerous resources to put together the pieces of the family puzzle.  


We even had the opportunity to visit the Family History Library at Salt Lake City a few years back. 



While we have been on the road we’ve also had the opportunity to visit some family members here and there, in person! It is such fun to connect!

In July we met Craig, who is an "Internet Cousin".  Mr. Dreamy and Craig share an ancestor 5 generations back, and have been sharing notes on the Internet for years. Here, they finally get to meet face to face.



We had lunch with Mr. Dreamy’s cousin, Carol, and her hubby, John, while we were in San Antonio.



And, most recently we had a visit with Shirley, a second cousin... or a first cousin, once removed, or something like that. Shirley's mother was Mr. Dreamy's dad's niece. Got it?



Trying to figure out the connections hurts my head!  
I'm so glad that Shirley brought us some hand painted wine glasses....



Thanks, Shirley, we wined last night!


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Old Ones

This weekend we took part in a rally of the Rocky Mountain Allegros, a group of people who own the same brand of motorhome as we do, and also live in Colorado. We try to get together monthly, from March to October, meeting at a campground and visiting local areas of interest and enjoying a few meals together. Looking at this picture, you might think that we are 'the old ones'!


However, we are not. The 'old ones' is a loose translation for the word, "huhugam", which means "the people who have disappeared", referring to ancient tribes. As a group we visited the Huhugam Heritage Center just south of Phoenix, AZ. 


The architecture and the symbolism of the facility is very interesting. Local tribesmen were invited to planning sessions for their input in the design the building. The outer, circular structure was designed to represent the shape of pottery. 


The interior walls were terraced to represent the terracing of the land, centuries ago, for more efficient farming and water usage. 



The woven ramada represents the ancient structures used for shade, as well as the weaving of baskets.


The tall, central structure, is similar to ancient Indian adobe structures, like the ancient ruins called "Casa Grande". (Look for a post in the future about the ancient ruins.)


The top of the structure is open, with windows facing each of the compass directions. Posters explain the historic importance of the directions, and the land forms visible from that vantage point.  

The Heritage Center has a number of exhibits and historic artifacts of local tribes. There is a library for tribal research and a retrospective of the role Indians played in supporting American conflicts, including Ira Hayes, one of the men memorialized in raising the flag at Iwo Jima. 

Ira Hayes points to his image on Iwo Jima

Ira was memorialized in Johnny Cash's ballad that described Ira's heroism and his return to the hard-scrabble, unfulfilled life trying to farm in the dry Arizona valley. 


There is much information about the role of water from the Gila River. For hundreds of years the valley was a rich farming area and the Huhugam created an elaborate series of canals for irrigation. As more land was settled, more and more water was diverted and little water was left for farming in the areas below Phoenix. The Gila basically ran dry until recently when more water was allowed to flow downstream.

In looking online the Huhugam Heritage Center has not always received favorable reviews. Apparently we were lucky to have an arranged visit and tour guides to explain the significance of each exhibit and answer our questions. If you happen to be in the area, I would recommend giving the center a call before heading that way.






Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gypsy Jabbers: Stench from Another Wench

Have you ever noticed something about humans? They totally don't get it. Actually, I don't get it... I don't understand how they can walk by something, and not smell that another dog has been there, let alone that it was the Havanese that lives in the trailer across the street, or that the German Shepherd from down the block was there an hour earlier. They don't smell the little crumb of hamburger that dropped in the gravel three weeks ago. They don't even know that two dogs are walking down the street right this very minute, just because they are out of sight. Humans seem to have very limited abilities, don't you think? I guess you could say they are home, but the blinds are down!

Dreaming is a nice lady, but....


She takes me to the little dog park down the street. Yuck! That place stinks! She stands around talking with other humans. She doesn't even notice that she is standing on pee and pooh germs from hundreds of other dogs. I hate walking on that grass! I usually just walk on the little 'road' next to the grass. At least that gets washed off a bit when they water the grass and only the guy dogs ever sprinkle a little tinkle on it. I'll only go on the grass, placing my feet very carefully, mind you, if I really, really, really gotta go. Oh, gross! Yuck! P.U.! Get me outta here!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Oasis


I wasn’t sure what to expect on our recent visit to the St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure that I cared to visit the monastery. Well? How exciting could this be?! I take it all back! The monastery is well worth a trip to the desert near Florence, AZ. 


The monastery was begun by 6 monks from the Philotheou Monastery on Mt. Athos in Greece in 1995. The monastery has expanded from the original church, living quarters and a dining hall they constructed to include 5 more chapels, guest quarters and additional homes, fountains, gazebos and beautiful gardens, citrus and olive orchards and a vineyard. There are over 50 monks in residence, as well as other guests and pilgrims.


Visitors are welcomed, but must follow basic rules of decorum in their manner and dress. Women must cover their hair and wear long skirts and long sleeves. Men must wear long pants and long sleeves. Luckily, since Dreaming doesn’t have a long skirt, the monastery has a number of ‘one-size-fits-almost-all’ skirts. 


A monk met us at the entrance and gave us a brief history of the monastery. He took us into St. Anthony’s Church, a traditional Byzantine-style, domed basilica church. He provided a lot of information about Greek Orthodox practices and life in the monastery. 


All of the churches and chapels have an open central area. Some have elaborate candelabra hanging above, and all use beeswax candles for lights, except for two lamps hanging over special daises used for readings and for leading chants. Limited candles are used for daily services, reserving them for special holy days when the church is filled with light. There are no pews or chairs in the central area. Instead, church goers stand in tall ‘seats’ that form the perimeter of the space. These tall ‘seats’, called stasidia, allow the monks to stand during the church service. If they should tire, or if they are old and weak, or injured, there is a hinged seat they can pull down to sit on for a rest. 


The layout of each chapel and church is standard. The right side of the building is dedicated to images of Jesus, and paintings of the Virgin Mary are found on the left. There are small metal plates under most of the icons that people have placed as a prayer request for health. The altar is in the front, behind curtained openings. Visitors may attend a service, but if they are not familiar with the Greek Orthodox service they are asked to stand in the narthex and observe the service through windows or through the door. 


Each of the chapels is of a different style of architecture, reminiscent of one area or another in the old world. Most of the carvings and furnishings were imported from Greece.


After walking the beautiful pathways through gardens, around fountains, over foot bridges leading to gazebos, I was beginning to think a monk’s life was idyllic. The lands of the monastery are imbued with beauty and peace. Why, if I wasn’t a woman... I was beginning to think.... but no, life in the monastery isn’t that easy I found out! The monks follow a daily schedule of prayer and work. Their day begins an hour or two before midnight with personal prayer time and spiritual reading. They attend a church service comprised of morning prayers and the Divine Liturgy from 1:00 AM - 4:00 AM. Yes, you read those times correctly! The monks have a light breakfast and rest period before beginning their daily tasks which might include gardening, baking, construction, woodworking or providing hospitality to guests. The day ends with Vespers from 3:30 - 4:30 PM followed by dinner and Compline at 5:00 PM, a series of evening prayers.

I am in awe of the monk's dedication, of their devotion to this life style. I am amazed at the beauty found on the grounds, all constructed within the last 20 years. These dedicated men have created a true oasis in the desert, and a sanctuary for the spirit.








Almost Home

When we left California it seemed that our trek across country would never end. Now, as we approach our final destination in southern Florid...