Thursday, November 06, 2014

Hebe in Flagstaff

Say hello to Hebe!  She live in a very comfortable home in Flagstaff, Arizona.  We have the fun of staying with her for a week while her Mom goes on holiday.  We plan to use this time to see more of the area around here, including a day trip to the Grand Canyon!
Hebe taking her morning nap.  You can tell how excited she is we are here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Perfect Job

While we stay at home in Tucson, I've been working with a company doing dog walking and pet sitting.  I get paid to spoil some wonderful animals; best job in the world for me!
Mishka, a beautiful little girl, with a raspy voice.  She loves to talk and be talked to.

Lucky, the ultimate spoiled puppy;  I love him to bits!
These two, Lucky and Mishka, I spend several days each month with.  Their mom works long hours, so I come in the middle of her shift to walk Lucky and generally spend quality time with the two of them.  Sometimes, I even get to stay overnight when Mom goes out of town.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Warren House Inn


The most scenic route from Launceston to Buckland Abbey is across Dartmoor.  Driving across the moors brings to mind  "Hound of the Baskervilles" or "Wurthering Heights".  The moors are wild and very isolated feeling.  Almost right in the middle, when you feel it will go on forever, sits Warren House Inn.  It is a welcome respite for weary hikers, bikers, and car drivers, like ourselves.
Warren House Inn

The Inn has provided food, drink and lodging, at a reasonable cost since at least 1786, when the first landlord on record was William Tapper.  I'm not sure it still has lodging, but the food and drink are excellent.

The name comes from the rabbit warren which allows the Inn to serve it's rabbit-pie with scrumpy.  Bill had this for lunch.  It came with a warning to be aware of small bones and buck shot.  The selection of beers on tap were good, too.
Mary with a pint of Otter.
We always try to drink the local brews.
Bill with his Otter.

The fire in the hearth, so they say, has never been allowed to go out.  We can understand why, since it provided a most welcomed warmth while visiting Dartmoor.

Monday, June 23, 2014

St Piran's Cross

Saint Piran is the patron saint of Cornwall.  He was from Ireland, where they really didn't like him, to him to the ocean, threw him in with a millstone tied around his neck.  Since he was a holy man, he simple stood up on the stone and surfed to Cornwall, where he landed between Newquay and Perranporth, on what is now Perran Beach.  He is now the patron saint of surfers, too.

We had heard of St Piran's cross, but like so many other ancient monuments, is wasn't that easy to find.  We made it close then followed out GPS coordinates across the Penhale Dunes, where there were signs warning us of poisonous dune vipers.  Well, we weren't worried, we had Molly to protect us by barking at those silly vipers.  Fortunately, we never saw any of them, as apparently they are shy.

Mollie the Collie with Mary at St Piran's Cross in 2009

The cross was first mentioned in a charter of King Edgar in 960, when it was already an old landmark.  There are the remains of an old church nearby, which is thought to have been built by the Saint. Recently, work has been undertaken to reclaim the church from the sand that engulfed it over the years.

The cross in 1890, shows it hasn't changed all that much, just a bit more lichen on the face.
Saint Piran is also the patron saint of tin miners.  He was the one who rediscovered tin after his arrival in Cornwall.  (The Romans found it first, but they left.)  The story goes that St Piran built a fireplace out of a large chunk of black rock.  As the flames in his fireplace grew hotter, he was amazed to find a trickle of white metal coming out of the stone.  Sharing this information with the locals, the famous Cornish tin trade was born.  One of way he is honored to this day is the white cross of Saint Piran against a black backdrop which is the Cornish Flag

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cow Crossing in Cornwall

The light isn't flashing, but if it were, look out for the cows.
This is what happens when a farm has a 4 lane divided highway built that divides it in two.  The house and barn are on one side and the cow's grazing field is inbetween the two sections of highway.  When the farmer needs to move his cows to the field in the mornings, he stops all traffic and the cows saunter across the highway.  In the evenings, they sauter back to their barn.  Easy Peasy!  I can not imagine anywhere else, but Cornwall, where the cows would have their own flashing light road crossing.  Somehow, it just seems the way things should be.
Cows Crossing on the main highway to Truro.  A very busy throroughfare indeed.

Friday, June 06, 2014

D- Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the landing of the Allies in Normandy.  The first time I visited this area, I was traveling with 12 highschool musicians.  We took a tour of the battle fields and the American cemetery near Bayeau.  Our guide expressed how the people in France still remember and give thanks for the Allies.

St. James American Cemetery in France

I have visited several of the American cemeteries;  each as moving as the first.  All those rows of crosses and stars.  Each a young man who left behind family and friends to die fighting for freedom in a foreign country.  Each time, I say a "Thank You" to them.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Gila Monsters!

This has been a busy spring for our neighbors here in Tucson.  We have had five rattlesnakes, who have all been relocated to non-residential areas. A King Snake, who is still around somewhere, hopefully eating our packrats, was spotted in the back yard.   Then there is a Coachwhip snake, who loves to hang out on the porch by the east office, where he's been seen twice.  He eats rattlers, so we hope he stays around to scare them off.

My favorite neighbors are the Gila Monsters.  They are really not monsters, just one of the jeweled lizards.  They are venomous, but not aggressive, but they growl/hiss.  Andre the Great Dane avoids them; wise fellow.  For more information visit

Sandstorm?  I don't worry about a sandstorm!  It does make the colors odd on the pictures though.  This fellow was exploring the back yard.  We try to keep them out, because of the dog.  Looks like we have some work to do.

Looked out my office window as he was walking by, so I followed him to the end of the house, where he tried to hide behind the hose pot.

The smallest one we have seen this year, he was walking up the front sidewalk.  When he saw me, he moved to the large agave and nestled in the leaves.  His coloring was very vibrant.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Perfect Walking Partner

While looking at housesits that are available, I saw that the couple in Alderholt are looking for someone for this year.  I really wish we could go back.  Their dog; Trevor, an English Bull Terrier, is my perfect speed walking partner.  His pace and my pace are the same;  plus he is very good looking!  So, here's to Trevor, his cat friend Friday and their wonderful owners; hope you find a great housesitter.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Maybe Next Year

We belong to two housesitting sites;  Housecarers and Mindmyhouse.  Both have sent us on interesting stays.  The way is works is simple.  We have an ad, with pictures and information.  The homeowners post ads with when and who they are need to housesit.  We answer the ads and sometime, Viola!, we have a housesit.

Then there is the other way around.  A homeowner contacts us, directly, with an offer.  Sometimes it works, as with two sits last summer.  More often than not, it doesn't.  Not because we don't want to go, but usually because it doesn't fit our schedule or budget.

We have had to turn down two sits so far this summer.  One on Cape Cod, which came about from a recommendation of friends in Nice, because of a schedule conflict.  The other was just this week; a month in The Netherlands.  We checked flights. We checked our budget.  We checked our airmiles.  We considered hitchhiking.  Ok, just kidding about that last one. The bottom line; we just could not swing it.  So, a note back to the homeowners, thanking them for the offer, perhaps a different time.

It always leaves us a little down when this happens.  All the missed possibilites; new animals, new places, new friends.  Ah, well, maybe next year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Eden Project

The homeowners in Cornwall, Martin and Dy, left us loads of information on things to do and see.  The Eden  Project was a particular favorite of theirs.  Upon visiting, it became a favorite of ours, too.  After rain the evening before, we awoke to another glorious day, so off to St Austill, home of Eden.
This greenhouse was so humid, our camera lens fogged.  Bill took the picture anyway.

From the brochure:

A Recipe For Change

Take a steep-sided clay pit
Carve into a flat-bottomed bowl
    *83,000 tonnes of soil made from recycled waste
    *The plants we use everday (but don't often see)
    *Superb architecture
    *People from all walks of life
Sprinkle with positive attitude
Mix well
Open and serve to the public  (first course served  Spring 2001)
Looking down on the cafe with a large mobile hanging.

These giant dome greenhouses are home to plants from around the world.  Each is it's own ecosystem, the wet ones were dripping with moisture which sustained the plants from ceiling to floor, while the dry ones felt like out former home in Northern California, even growing the same Mediterrean plants from that climate.
Inside one of the greenhouse domes.
This giant bumble bee is a wonderful example of the art in the park.
The weather held for the entire day, so we were able to visit not only the domes, but walk through their beautiful gardens as well.  There are large pieces of art scattered through out; all appropriate to the project.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Buckland Abbey

A panorama of Buckland Abbey

A visit to Buckland Abbey was high on our list of  "Places to See in Devon", since Bill admires the exploits of Sir Francis Drake.  It was originally built in 1273, as a Cistercian Abbey by Amicia, the Dowager Countess of Devon after the death of her husband and the murder of her only son.  Her daughter Isabella, the new countess, provided the land.  Amicia is probably buried near the high altar.  There is a carved head of a lady above one of the abbey doors, that is traditionally said to represent her.

Map board showing the layout of the Abbey, gardens and great Barn.

In 1539, Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries and the abbey and its lands were sold to the Grenvilles, who over the course of 50 years, turned it into a family home.  Many of the monastic buildings were demolished in the process.
The front entrance to Buckland Abbey.

Sir Francis Drake moved to Buckland in 1582.  He was already a wealthy man at age 39, as well as a favorite of Queen Elizabeth.  On his death in 1596, having no children, Buckland passed to his brother Thomas.  It remained in the Drake family, passing to a nephew who modernized it in 1794.  The last Drake descendent to live here was Captian Richard Meyrick, a distant relative, who sold it to a local land owner, after a fire badly damaged the abbey in 1938.

Walking up to the Abbey, every thing was lush green.

The last owner was Captian Rodd, who donated the abbey and great barn to The National Trust.  Working with the City of Plymouth, they turned it into The Drake, Naval and West Country Folk Museum we visited today.
Inside of the great Barn, originally built by the Cistertian order.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pendennis Castle in Cornwall

The Barrack Block from 1901, now the gift shop and cafe.

The south coast of England has been heavily fortified since the time of Henry VIII, who had the original castle built to hold off potential invasions by the French and Spanish.  During WWII, the army took it over again to keep the bay safe from the Germans.  The only time it was ever used in a military battle, was during the Civil War, when both the royalist and the rebels wanted it.

An information board explaining the layout as well as the seige during the Civil War.

The Keep built by Henry VIII.

The place is quite massive, with a combination modern walls and the round keep from the 16th century.  It is fun to explore.  Inside the keep they have added a sound and action diorama on the gun deck, complete with gunfire and smoke from the canons.

A stairwell in the Keep.  Imagine running up and down these fully armed.

After hiking the entire castle, as well as up and down all the stairwells, we stopped for lunch in the tearoom, which is inside the Barrack Block from 1901.  The food was delicious.  I had wonderful bean soup with a crusty roll, while Bill enjoyed a sausage sandwich.  Both were washed down with a local cider.
The view toward Falmouth.

World War II gun emplacements looking out over the channel.

It was a beautiful day to be out and about in Cornwall; warm, sunny and not too many tourists.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lime Kiln Hike in Saguaro National Park East

A Saguaro with multiply arms, growing up out of a mesquite.
The weather has been unseasonably warm, even by Arizona standards, so we decided to make the most of it an go hiking.  Saguaro National Park East is just a short drive from the house.  Bill has his Golden Age pass, which is available to those over 65 and last for their life time.  One of the pluses for growing older.
We walked down a creek bed.  The smooth rocks are caused by water runoff during  monsoon season.

A grouping of three, younger cactus.  They don't grow arms until 30 to 50 years old.
The hike out to Lime Kiln is not very far, but has some beautiful examples of Saguaros.  We are constantly on the lookout for the baby Saguaros.  They are difficult to spot, as they grow under the mesquites and other underbrush.  It protects them from predators and our intense sunshine, until they are much bigger.   We didn't find any on this hike, but we will keep looking!

Bill doing what he loves; taking pictures.

Hillside of Saguaros.

Our path up the creek bed.  The sky was a beautiful blue.

It was warm enough that we found shade when ever possible.

A lime kiln.

Notice the warning about bees!  There weren't any about this morning.

View from the front.  

Two large specimens growing close together.   The holes have been caused by  humans, insects and animals.
In all, we hiked just over three miles.  It was time to return home to the cool of the house.  We each carry  water, at least a litre, for the short hikes.  For longer ones, more is needed.  We wear hats and slather on the sunscreen, even in the winter!
We hiked past the Lime Kilns toward the Cactus Forest Trailhead, but not all the way.

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was rebuilt by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, a man who was the power behind the throne as Regent for James I of Scotland,...