Monday, February 27, 2017

Arizona Trail Thru Hike Prep

Who knew that planning our Arizona Trail thru hike would be so much work? We are ready now though and so excited and wanted to share a bit of what went into our preparation. We've neglected this blog so here's a nice long post to last you till we get back.

The Arizona Trail winds 800 miles through some spectacular country from the Mexico border to the Utah border. Here's us in the Grand Canyon in 2005 and we get to do it again during the latter half of our hike - yes!

We started training with our packs last fall and racked up many, many miles at Mohican State Park. We like this park for training because it's beautiful, there's good topography and when you combine hiking trails with mountain bike trails, you can get significant miles without backtracking.

We hiked in all seasons and carried about 25 lbs of gear each with Steve trending towards a bit more and me a bit less. Our longest day hike with gear was 15 miles due to the short day length, hunting concerns and our travel time. We seem to, on average, hike 2-3 mph.

Besides training physically, we trained mentally with lots of math thanks to necessary food determinations described below.

Here's a big pile of food ready for dividing up into shipping boxes...

Minnie Pearl supervised all of this, of course.

Flora also supervised by sitting on all the things we needed. The cats are mighy curious what is happening around here and won't be too pleased when their treat, heat and love givers disappear for two months. (We are so, so, so grateful for all the folks taking care of our animals enabling us to do this trip.)

Ok, back to the food... The Arizona Trail goes through a number of towns where we will pick up boxes of food we (and Jennifer's super awesome Mom) ship to various post offices and trail stewards and where we can also buy food. Some towns are much better than others as far as food availability and quality so by mailing, we get to continue to eat food that we've grown or picked locally, that maintains our vegetarian diets and that we like. Here's dried apples we picked last fall and our favorite tomato glut sauce leather. YUM.

We made lots of fruit leather from locally picked blueberries, homegrown strawberries and blackberries, etc., which turned out so well and is all organic.

It's all about calories on the trail since we plan to hike on average 20 mile days and need to consume about 3000 calories/person/day, which equals about 2-3 lbs of food/person/day. Since food weighs so much, we worked to select food that contains greater than 100 calories/ounce. See, thru hiking is a great exercise in math!

For meals, we plan to eat lots of pasta and dehydrated refried beans on the trail with various flavorings: homemade tomato leather, homegrown dried horseradish, nutritional yeast, curry powder, homegrown dried tomatoes, homegrown dried butternut squash, etc. and then also add olive oil for additional calories plus tortillas and tortilla chips.

( Yes, we've been quite busy processing our garden produce for this trip.)

Steve scored on some of our favorite tortilla chips on closeout at Kroger so he bought them all, which had everyone spying his cart. I think he only bought about 4 bags over what we need so that tells you something about how many calories we will consume. To get these to fit in our boxes and packs, he crunched all the chips into tiny pieces, which we know will add some much desired crunch to our beans.

Snacks include crackers and peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, dark chocolate, black licorice, organic poptarts (these are a high calorie food, as you would imagine, and will satisfy our love of baked items - we hope), sunflower seeds, etc.

Breakfast consists of lots of stuff thrown into Bob's Red Mill muesli, which is also high calorie and means we don't have to use stove fuel to heat it like oatmeal. We mixed in dried soymilk in some and dried coconut milk in others so all we have to do is add water, eat and go.

Getting the boxes figured out - where to send them, how many days worth of food to include - is a big deal and definitely led to some frustrating moments here.

However, once we doled all the food out and started applying mailing addresses to the boxes, BIG smiles appeared.

Gear preparation is the other big consideration for a trip this size and we stuck mostly with gear we had since we know it and it's in great shape. There are some super lightweight options out now, but the great condition of our current gear, wastefulness considerations and the pocketbook dictated we use up what we have. We did make some changes with our water filter, stove, headlamps and switched out boots for trail runners and may highlight some of these later on. For now, it's packing up time...

(why yes, there is no bedding on this bed because in our chaos we spilled water and coffee on it - of course)

and visiting time with our five chickens who are really warming up to us and loving their new life. Steve even held Sassafras today. 💖

Fern says, "What, you are leaving for two months? We are just starting to love you!"


Alvin says, "I'm ok right now, but what about the woodstove heat and don't you remember, I'm afraid of EVERYONE except you two?!"

Bounder turned her back when I told her...sigh. Leaving pets and loved ones is one of the hardships of travel, but when you desire to get out and see wild places and experience adventure - you just have to go otherwise the thinking about it drives you nuts and makes other great parts of your life feel hollow. Going refills your spirit, makes you happy, content and home life so much sweeter.

Amidst all this planning, we got a crazy, beautiful snow...

and crazy, beautiful warmth. Western Chorus frogs, Spring Peepers, Woodfrogs and American Woodcock already sang for us this February and filled our hearts with the magic of spring in Ohio.

We also spent some time in our barn planting all our collected seeds so Mother Nature can stratify them while we are away and we can grow them for all our native plant loving customers when we return.

We will not blog while we are on the trail; however, we will occasionally post to Facebook (friend us: Jennifer Kleinrichert and Steve Ross) and our You Tube Channel. Follow us one of those places if you are interested. We will post to our blog again once we return.

Happy spring dear readers!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tree Love Plus Native Plant Bed Maintenance

Amongst all the AZ Trail trip planning which we will share soon, we venture outdoors and bask in the sun any day it shines through the clouds. We especially love our outings when we discover bigger and older trees than we normally do. Here's a beautiful Swamp White Oak (Querqus bicolor) that captivated us for quite some time.

If you've not yet read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, please do. It's fascinating and enlightening. We really have something special in our trees and it's so beyond time that we celebrate them - truly, hugely celebrate and respect their very long lives.

Here's a sign of another favorite tree:

Know it yet? The very stout branches look dead in the winter season, which is often indicative of these trees:

I bet you already know it, but if not - here is the pod of the magical....

Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica)!

Here's another fun tree to guess that's in the Ebenaceae Family: super furrowed, blocky bark, often very darkly colored...

with incredibly tart, delicious fruits that people and wildlife love:

Did you guess Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)? Excellent. Every single time we find any of these trees, we get so filled with gratitude to live amongst these incredible beings.

Thanks to our friends that get out and explore these wild and magical natural spaces with us; you continue to open our experiences to new ideas and ways of seeing, thinking and expressing.


Finally, if you are midwinter and wondering what to do with your native plant beds, we made a little video to show you what we do here that works fantastically well. Thanks for asking!


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Front Porch Yellow Jacket Nest - Let's Pretend it's Summer!

Because it's gray and cold and January here in Ohio, we are dreaming a bit of summer (while also working to remain present in the moment!) and want to share a cool home that was made on our front porch this summer.

If you take a look at this felt bird house, you see the entrance looks a bit odd...

In fact, it's covered in paper made by a Yellow Jacket colony. They lived here all summer long and enchanted us with their paper making and social life. Since we never bothered them, they never bothered us. Win, win!

I made a quick video on this warm fall day in October. How I love seeing that warmth....I can almost feel it. (For better quality, check out the You Tube video here.)