Monday, February 29, 2016

Reading the back of the Old Spice deodorant, or, ... It was a slow day in the RV ...

Dwayne happened to read the back of his Old Spice deodorant container...

It says:

I kid you not...

 I attribute Dwayne's reading of the back of the deodorant container to the fact that we don't have a magazine rack in the library, erh, reading room, erh, toilet room - so he was desperate for something to read...

Have *you* read the back of your deodorant container recently?

Sunday, February 28, 2016


We are really liking the RV "Retreat" where we are staying, and particularly our host, Mark.
See pictures here:

On Friday afternoon, after we had just checked in that morning, he brought us an Appreciation certificate:
"In Appreciation Cactus Blossom Retreat Hereby And Sincerely Express Our Appreciation To: Dwayne and Patti Cartwright For Visiting Our Establishment as Founding Customers. We are Honored by Their Patronage and Inspired by Their Faith in Us. Thank You Patti and Dwayne for Visiting Us!"
It is signed by our host, Mark Millican.  Isn't that just wonderfully nice?!?!? I think it is!!!

Thank you Mark, for making us feel welcome and showing such pride in the place that you have developed!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lettuce Days 2016 - part 3

If you haven't already read them, part 1 is here:
and part 2 is here:

Some of the tractors and equipment on display:

 We had lunch at the "Toss It Up" salad bar, sponsored by Tanimura & Antle. For $2 per person, we got a huge salad (we went through a buffet line to specify exactly which fresh ingredients we wanted in it). We also got a coupon for a free product sample of T&A Artisan Sweet Red Onions and got to pick them up at the end of the meal.

We found a nice place to rest after lunch in the Barkley Ag Kitchen Stage. Throughout the day, various chefs would demonstrate production of a dish. If you were there at the beginning, they gave tickets for 50 people to get a sample of the dish that was made. This guy was making seared scallops and they were very delicious!

Patti walked over to the demonstration gardens while we were waiting for our last ticketed event - this cultivator was in the field.

Patti happened to notice that Kurt Nolte was one of the researchers who was named on this Automated Lettuce Thinner which was on display in the demonstration garden.
 Patti also happened on a Citrus tasting event as she was wandering around - they had all these different types of citrus that we could try - she really liked the Tangor! Unfortunately, they are hard to find for purchase because they have seeds and the American public doesn't seem to like purchasing fruit with seeds.

Our last event of the day was to visit "Westerner Products Yuma's Recipe Box tasting event". We had purchased tickets for the 2pm time period, so we queued up at about 1:45pm. The 1pm folks were finishing their tasting...

Once we got inside the tent, we enjoyed samplings of foods from about a dozen local restaurants, while being entertained by Yuma's String Ambassadors. The food was really great; we found a couple of restaurants that we want to be sure to visit while we are here!

Lettuce Days 2016 - part 2

See part 1 here:
After seeing the research labs inside, we then headed outside to see a few of the research fields nearby.
This is a field producing lettuce seed - seeds that will probably be commercially available sometime around 2019. He said that they hand-cut the lettuce and roll it into windrows to dry. It is then combined to remove the seed. I think he said that the seed from here would go to California to get another production of seed during the summer (when it is too hot here) and then will come back here to Yuma for another round of seed production in the fall.

On the left is a field of spinach on which they are going to be testing a number of organic fertilizers to try to determine which is most effective. These are dry applications and will be applied by hand. I think he said that they are going to be testing 7 types of fertilizers and each will be applied 4 times. You might be able to see pink flags near the irrigation pipe - flags like those will be used to delineate the which plants are treated with which fertilizer.

This romaine lettuce field is just to the right of the spinach in the previous picture. Here they are trying to figure out why the romaine lettuce is yellowing. Kurt said that they are trying 100 different options to treat the plants to address the yellowing. "Stuff you can't google...."

This is a crop of wheat/rye cross (triticale) - Kurt said that a lady named Nancy Elliott (a senior citizen but still very active in plant research) was hand pollinating in this field as part of research that she was particularly interested in. I found a research paper that she and Kurt participated on writing in this area:

There are all different irrigation techniques used here. In the very small area that we visited, there were crops being irrigated by flood irrigation (the picture of the triticale shows the cracked soil of land that was flooded about 2 weeks ago), spray irrigation (the spinach and romaine lettuce) and drip irrigation. He indicated here that with the drip irrigation, they can introduce specific chemicals into the water, possibly controlling even what each row receives.

This was another area where they were helping in seed development - in this case, you might be able to tell that there are 4 rows of cauliflower that are blooming or close to it. The second from the left are "female" plants, and they are somewhat behind the majority of the male plants. What he is looking for are male plants that will be blooming at the same time as the female plants so they can be effective in producing seed with the female plants. This process is called "nicking".

Plants that were previously "nicked" - I think this was actually broccoli - goes into a shade structure like this. There are bees in there to do the pollination, and the shade structure protects from outside influences.

On to part 3 here:

Lettuce Days 2016 - part 1

When we came through Yuma last year on our way to the Tucson Escapade, we were happy to be in town for Lettuce Days. In fact, our experience last year has driven many of our decisions for where we've ended up this year!

Lettuce Days 2016 is this weekend - Saturday and Sunday. We bought our tickets for the event, as well as for a walking tour of the Ag Education area and The Recipe Box, at the Yuma Visitors Center after our Field to Feast tour on Wednesday. We were glad that we had gotten the walking tour and Recipe Box tickets ahead of time as they were sold out at the event.

Last year was an overcast, sprinkly, cool day. Today was bright sunshine and highs in the mid-to-high 80s. It was a bit hot today, but a beautiful day.

Some pictures from the event:
The grounds where Lettuce Days is held are part of the crop fields of the University of Arizona Yuma Agricultural Center. This was planted with annual rye for the event.

Our guide for the walking tour of the Yuma Agricultural Center was Dr. Kurt Nolte.
Their "equipment shed". Kurt said that they probably have more different kinds of equipment than any farm or grower, as they normally are dealing with very small plots and therefore just need small equipment, but at times they are trying to emulate/replicate a big grower's environment, and therefore have the big equipment too.
 Kurt said that the land where we were had heavy clay soil (this was where we had harvested the vegetables for the Field-to-Feast tour, and the root crops were definitely "stuck" in clay!). I think he said that the clay was 60' deep! On the mesa there is more sandy soil, better for deep rooted crops such as citrus, dates, and alfalfa. Our "landlord" at Cactus Blossom had told us that the sand here is 300' deep!
This is a preserved safe environment to keep citrus trees protected from the Asian Citrus Psyllid. These insects carry a disease in their saliva that causes citrus greening. Although the insect exists here in Yuma County, the ones here are not yet carrying the disease, but, it is causing havoc in Florida, Texas, and Mexico, and in some areas of California, so they figure it is just a matter of time before it hits here. Kurt called this "Noah's Ark". They are growing stock so when/if the citrus trees here are hit by the citrus greening, and trees will need to be taken out, they will have stock that will have been protected from the insect. He also said, though, that it could be that the climate conditions here are enough different that it won't come here. 

 The research department here is *not* doing research on plant breeding, though there are growers and other folks in the valley here who are doing research in that area. He said that there are about 80 students in the program here studying agronomy. They support bachelors and masters degree programs here in Yuma.
This was a "sick" plant in one of the research labs. This lab gets sick plants from growers who are looking for a way to keep their whole field from succumbing to whatever is causing a problem. They bring the plant here to the "doctor" and hopefully get a treatment that they can employ to rescue their crop.

These refrigerator-looking devices are actually small-zone agriculture growing units. Many of the diseases/problems that the researchers are attempting to find solutions for may be hard to find naturally occurring in the field. For example, even though this is a "La Nina" year which should have meant more rain in this area of the country, they haven't had rain since the first week of January. They want to have solutions available so if they have a damp year, they know how to address the problems that might occur in the produce being grown.

This happened to be the desk area of one of the research labs - this lab deals primarily with weeds. Not only does he research ways to combat weeds, he is also responsible for keeping seeds of weeds available so they can be grown for experimentation of potential herbicides.

Dwayne in the food safety lab. This is a relatively new area of research - ensuring the safety of our vegetables.

More to come in part 2 ... read it here:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Our new location (at least for a few weeks)

We moved to a private lot in the Foothills area of Yuma today. We think we're going to like it, and it is a good price ($275/month, $75/week). We have a good amount of space between us and other rigs, and the owner seems to be very nice.

We are at the back of something like a "flag" lot.

We have a nice gravel spot for Miss Doozie, with space to park alongside or in front for the Jeep. The storage building is for our use - we have taken stuff out of the "Jee-rage" and put them into there so the Jeep isn't carrying around as much as we travel around town.
There are 6 RV spaces here. He had the one back by us (behind the storage building) with a travel trailer sitting on it that he can rent out as a "furnished" space for folks who come and don't want to stay in a hotel. He just moved it off the space though, so there may be another RV coming in. He has a couple of other lots in this general area - one where he lives in the winter and has a trailer that he is restoring. His primary home is in Washington state.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Considering Dental Tourism

We are considering using dentists in Algodones, Mexico. We have heard from many people that they have found it to be very satisfactory and very inexpensive.

Friends Jane and John offered to give us an introductory tour to Algodones, so we met up with them this morning and headed west in to California, then to the border parking lot. $6 for parking and then we were out of the Jeep to walk across the border.

Crossing into Mexico is no issue; no one checks passports or anything. But we all checked to be sure we had our passports with us to be able to use to get back into the U.S. later in the day.
A view of the border wall from the "other" side (with one of them many dental care places in the picture too). Patti took this picture while she and Jane waited outside the barber shop and John and Dwayne got hair cuts ($3 + $1 tip)
A couple of folks came to entertain us while we ate lunch. The first group had two musicians and sang songs. This guy was a one-man band with a guitar and pan flute. He was very good - he had CDs for sale also.

The proprietor of the restaurant cooked on a grill out at the street. We had fish tacos that were ono-licious! There were folks continually coming through trying to get us to buy their wares.

We stopped in this grocery store - really good prices for produce, and other goods as well.
A group selfie before we headed back across the border. We came back at about 12:30pm and the line was not bad at all.
Jane and John were terrific tour guides! We really appreciated them taking us over!

Field-to-Feast Tour

Yesterday was the first of our 3 scheduled events through the Yuma Visitors Center - the Field-to-Feast tour.

We had scheduled these tours when they first went on sale back in November, and had been scheduling our travel around them.

We showed up at the Yuma Visitors Center at 7:30am and boarded the bus by 8am. The bus was a little delayed in leaving as one couple ignored the directions to be there by 7:30am and didn't arrive until 8:15am, but eventually we were on the road.

Our first stop was the University of Arizona demonstration gardens. Before getting there, we heard from the lady hosting our tour as well as a video about preparations before going into the field to harvest. We had to put our hair up in a hair net, wash our hands for 20 seconds, and then put on plastic gloves. The growers here have implemented these controls as a self-policing activity. After the e coli outbreak with greens a few years ago, they recognized that they had to have practices in place to avoid contaminants being traced to their crops, and particularly to avoid having the government implement practices that they would have to adhere to (they wanted to get ahead of the government feeling that it needed to implement mandates). As a result, they have controls that work and can be effectively and consistently followed.

We were each given a type of produce to harvest for our lunch. Dwayne was given cilantro and I was given spinach. We were given bags and a knife to share for doing the harvest; we found the labeled area and harvested our assigned produce.

We then were allowed to harvest two additional items each to take home for our own use. We harvested Romaine lettuce, kale, onions, and broccoli to bring home.
The Romaine Lettuce that we harvested to bring back home. These tours started in early January and continued on to the one we took (the last one for this season) - so the folks preparing the gardens had to plant so some produce would be ripe and ready to pick for all of that time period.

Some more of the produce area. For the root crops, we had to use a shovel to loosen the soil - they were really in there tight!

Those bins had the produce that we had harvested for lunch. It would be taken to the culinary students at Arizona Western and they would figure out something to make with it for our lunch!

Dwayne sporting his hair net and cap. He asked if he shouldn't also have a beard cover, and they said that if he was a worker in the field, he would have to have a beard cover. In our case, they told him just not to rub his beard on the produce...
Patti has a hair net on under her hat too. And it really was chilly enough that a scarf, jacket, hat, and vest felt good!
After we finished with our "harvesting", a local farmer, Tim Dunn, joined us on the bus to visit some fields and learn some more about the growing of crops here. Tim is a 3rd generation farmer here in Yuma; his family also has farmland in Mississippi. Family members came to Yuma in the 1960s to start farming in this area.

The Yuma County Water District is (I think) the oldest of the documented water rights. In 1904, a siphon was dug under the Colorado River to allow water to be diverted for agriculture. The Yuma County use is the last use before it crosses to Mexico. Since the time that this use was allocated, many other upstream users have been created, putting more and more demands on the limited water. Due to the drought, they are working on ways to use water more efficiently. Examples include: growing 2 crops that require less water (they used to grow a lot of alfalfa, but they don't anymore - now they might grow wheat and lettuce using significantly less water than the alfalfa), using GPS to precisely align fields (flat so the water is used most efficiently - they split 160 acre plots into 20 acre fields and raise the borders so they can precisely water in that area - sometimes the GPS is used to create a pitch on the field), growing greens that require less water (Iceberg lettuce is 90% water). Yuma typically produces produce mid-November through mid-April. The shippers (Dole, T&A) are trying to extend those harvest times out of Yuma due to the extended drought conditions in California. The growers in Yuma are almost all growing to contract - they commit to a particular crop being ready on a particular date. The harvest date is set by the contract - the grower/farmer has to manipulate whatever factors he can to get the crop ready by that date. Making the dates that he has contracted to gives him priority with the shipper (able to get better contracts next year).

After the produce season, Tim typically puts in wheat. The wheat grown here is of particularly high quality and much is shipped to Italy to go into making pasta (Durum wheat). The wheat compliments the schedule for produce because it can be planted as the produce is finishing and will not have irrigation at the end of its growing season so it leaves the fields "dry". It will also then be harvested well in time for produce to be planted in the fall. Again, the growers here grow to contract.

He said that they have to add a lot of nitrogen - I think he said 300 units of Nitrogen per acre.

The Dunn family owns one of 3 grain companies in Yuma. Temperatures in the summer definitely become an issue. He said that up to 105F, that they pretty much just work as normal, but when the temperatures get up around 110F and higher, that they have to take precautions - slow down, take more breaks, etc.

Another crop that is grown in the "non-produce" months is black-eyed peas. They are also processed in his grain company plant. Watermelons are also grown April-June; they want to get them to market early, before other growing areas can produce the melons, so they can get a premium price.

Besides commodity contracts (contract of grower with the shippers), they also have seed contracts. One of the fields that we looked at he was growing seed for a broccoli hybrid. He is growing seed crops for broccoli, onions, chrysanthemums, radishes, alfalfa. When a field is being used for growing seed, it has to guarantee isolation from other fields growing that crop - there has to be at least a 2 mile separation for hybrid development. They are doing natural selection to accomplish the seed characteristics of interest.

For this broccoli field, he is provided with transplants - he first gets the female plants and two weeks later the male plants; they are hand planted. Specific compost and fertilizer to use. 50% of the florets are removed from the female plants by hand. This provides a better germination rate on the seed. They hire a bee company to bring hives to place around the field for pollinating. The male plants are cut down and destroyed (they don't want that seed). Then the female is hand cut into windrows and combined - I think he said that their goal is 99% germination of the seed. I also think he said they use a "105 combine" - he said it was much slower but higher quality - 2 days to combine 15 acres.

He said that land price (I think he said the last land that was sold) was $32K / acre with water rights.

When they want water to irrigate a field, they place an order 3 days ahead for water to be released for their use from the Imperial Dam. There aren't many places to store water so the water master doesn't want to have water come down unless there is a use for it. By treaty, there is a certain amount of water that must be delivered to Mexico each year.

Baby greens only started being commercially grown about 15 years ago; before that, only high end restaurants sold it to their patrons and at premium prices. They had to develop appropriate harvesting and packaging. Fresh Express was the company that figured out the packaging.

The organic fields are hand-harvested and the harvesters get a "piece rate". They make $12-15/hour. The harvesters are folks who come across the border from Mexico each day. It can take them up to 2 hours to get across the border.

As is the case with any farming, there are issues that arise that are totally outside of the farmer's control. One example he gave was when the big snow storms were hitting the northeast US - Yuma was in the midst of producing a great harvest of produce, but (1) shipments could not make it to the northeast and (2) people didn't want to buy produce, they wanted to buy soup. So, in those cases, there are leftovers which may get donated to the local food bank.

He has a special contract to grow wheat for making matzo (or matzoh) for specific Jewish bakers in NYC. There are specific rules for this wheat - at the point where the wheat is preparing for harvest, after their last irrigation on the field, it cannot have rain or any moisture on the field. If it were rained on at this time, it could sprout, and that is not allowed to be used in making the matzo. An individual from a "Kosher Certification Agency" comes in to stay in an RV on the field to be able to certify that no moisture was introduced to the wheat during these critical last weeks. At harvest time, rabbis come from NYC. They certify that the combine is cleaned (he said it had to be cleaned to almost brand new condition, no dust or seed from any other harvest). By Jewish law, they cannot harvest until after noon to ensure that there is no dew (in Yuma in June it is 105F and there is no dew after 7:30am, but the cultural law says harvest must be after noon). The rabbi and the baker operate the combine - each rabbi operates for one "round" of the harvest so they can say to their congregation that they participated in the harvest.
Here is a New York Times article about the matzo wheat being grown in Yuma:

Not content to just farm, Tim is an aspiring BBQer too:
"It's not dinner 'til the BBQ's DUNN"

A field where they were harvesting Butter Lettuce.
 Videos of the lettuce harvesting:

Tim Dunn answering questions from our tour group

Lunch at Arizona Western College, made from the produce that we harvested earlier that morning

Dwayne in line at the buffet with some of the students who created the meal serving it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fortuna De Oro

We are staying at Fortuna De Oro in Yuma for 3 nights. This is a very nice resort! In the big tent at Quartzsite, they were handing out certificates for 3 free nights stay which is what we're taking advantage of with our stay. There are a number of available sites here now, but our nextdoor neighbor said that at the end of January/beginning of February the park was full and many people were using the free 3 night stay certificates.

The name of this resort reminds me of "O Fortuna", or more precisely, the YouTube video of misheard lyrics of the song.

The actual lyrics can be found here:
A YouTube video of misheard lyrics is here:

Monday, February 22, 2016

On our way east

Well, we've at least started on our way east! We've gone as far west as we will go this winter, and we're heading back toward Yuma, AZ now.

The internet was SO SLOW at the campground (our own Verizon service, even with the Wilson Cellular Booster, as well as the campground WiFi) that it just wasn't "fun" posting things... so I have a collection of odd-ball things that I haven't posted and I'll get them done now.
(For sake of reference, we are in the WalMart parking lot in Brawley, CA right now - excellent Verizon signal here!)

This was the configuration that we had for the hummingbird feeders - a pole across the top of the ladder and a feeder on each side. It was nice because it put the hummingbirds up at our window level so we could see them easily from the bus. Downside was that it was hard to use the ladder. By the way - on the hill behind and under the feeder on the left, you can see the road we took on our way to "Arroyo Burro Road" a few days ago.

This is a picture of Tabitha on Patti's side of the bed, looking into the mirror on the side of the bed. Patti calls this Tabitha's "disgustipated" look (from Popeye-the-sailor-man's use of "disgustipated"). We have been trying to get her to be a little more active, so we have her food at the kitchen part of the bus now - it seems to have gotten her a little more interested in being out and about (not hiding all day - in this case, she was still in bed instead of hiding even though we were up).

A bluebird came to check out our hummingbird feeders. He was not pleased that there was no other bird food available!

I didn't get a very good picture of this one - it was more of an orange hummingbird.
I posted a couple of videos of the hummingbirds,
The first one shows how they flash their red color:
The second shows a group at the feeder:

Moonrise on our last evening at Rancho Oso
Dwayne drove most of the day today, including the part on route 154 (the road that the Garmin didn't think we should be on - ). When we stopped to hook up the Jeep at the end of the driveway in to the resort, Patti noticed that the doors to the closet where the washer is located were open; we just figured we hadn't closed them well. A few miles later, we switched drivers so Dwayne would be driving the downhill part, and again the doors to the washer closet were open. Dwayne adjusted the catch so it was tighter and we drove on. Going down the hill (with lots of curves), Patti heard something in the back and looked around to see....
Yep, the washer slides out on a drawer-like platform. It is supposed to be latched at the two sides, but since we didn't know it slid out, we hadn't noticed the latches before either! Patti worked on it a little bit while Dwayne was driving down the hill - getting it latched well enough to stay until we could get to a better place to work on it. It was rather disconcerting seeing the washer sliding in and out madly as we drove down the road!
Pacific Ocean along route 101 heading south toward LA

Rincon Parkway Campground - right along highway 1. The "camping" is parallel parking, $28 for boondocking (no water, electric, or sewer hookups). I think I read that maximum RV length is 35'.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Prairie dogs (or maybe Ground Squirrels?) - this area's ground hogs

>>> Updated on 2/26: One of my friends let me know that the animals that we saw were ground squirrels instead of prairie dogs... so for the rest of this entry, substitute "ground squirrel" everywhere I typed "prairie dog"!  ;-)

There are prairie dogs all over the hills around and through the campground. I think they are prairie dogs - we looked up gophers, prairie dogs, and ground hogs, and they most resemble the description of prairie dogs. They look like kinda fat squirrels who carry their tails very low to the ground and live in burrows in the ground. I am convinced if my Dad was here, he would be swerving the car to take out some of the numerous prairie dogs around the area!

The hillsides are completely pock-marked with the burrows of these guys. I didn't notice their holes in the pastures; if they are also in the pastures, I am sure that would be bad for the horses and cattle.