Monday, February 18, 2008

Off Roading, Hawk Watching and Dining

Yesterday we took a drive up Rock House Road. After six miles of gravel, it turned to this kind of driving. I used 4 wheel drive low range and had no trouble. We were headed up Rock House Canyon to see where the road ended and to figure out how far we would have to hike to see the ruins of some rock houses built be early Indians.
We didn't get to the ruins, but we did get to see some nice desert flowers.
Most of the mornings last week and this, I have joined the local "hawk watch" group. Every morning at 8:30 we gather here at this 15 foot high mound of sand to watch the migrating Swainson Hawks along with some Turkey Vultures as they rise from their overnight roosts and stream out to look for thermals where they gain altitude. Once they find a thermal they circle (kettle) and strike out to the north west over the mountains heading for Oregon, Washington, and Canada.The hawks and vultures are counted and records are kept of the numbers to help track the migration. This is one of only two counting stations in California.

Yesterday, we spotted 46 Swainson Hawks and 10 vultures. Today, it was almost the reverse. Ten hawks and 41 vultures.

After a hard day of off roading and hawk watching we rewarded ourselves with dinner out at the French restaurant that just opened up in Borrego Springs.

We had a nice bottle of French Chardonay along with crepes and desert.

A pleasant end to a busy day.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A New Batch of Bread

Yesterday, I fired up the oven by starting a fire about 1:30 in the afternoon. I kept it very hot and by 4:30 the temperature on the outside was 209 degrees. I raked out the coals and cleaned the floor. Marlene inserted the first of three loaves of her wild yeast bread. We sat back to wait for the results. This time I lined the wood door with aluminum foil to keep it from scorching the wood. By the way, with the fire removed, the outside wall temperature kept rising and reached 220 degrees.
Remember, this is all an experiment. When we pulled out the first loaf, the outside crust was a very uniform BLACK!! Oh well, in goes the second loaf.
The second loaf turned out very well. Nice heavy crust and done to perfection on the inside. You can see the comparison. Obviously, the oven was too hot the first time and was cooling down slowly for the second loaf. The outside wall temperature reamained above 210.
By the time the third loaf came out, the temperature was obviously just right. So, we learned a few things. Next time, after raking out the coals We will wait about a half an hour so the heat can soak through the whole mass of the oven before we insert the bread for baking.

After we finished with the bread, we put four potatoes in the oven for baking. An hour later we had nice baked potatoes with a medium crispy skin. When I took the final temperature reading at 9:00 PM the outside shell of the oven had dropped to 190 degrees and the floor of the oven measured 330 degrees. In order to take temperatures I have purchased an infrared thermometer from Radio Shack for $29. All I have to do is aim at a spot and push a button and it registers the temperature of the surface at which I'm pointed. This is really helpful with a basic oven like this.

Some Shots from the Desert

The other night, the wind was really blowing strong from out of the West. I had to secure the awning to prevent damage. Just at sunset this cloud formed in front of our motorhome.

When I looked back the other direction the sunset was creating these beautiful pink clouds.
The next morning was valentines day and sure enough, cupid found us in the desert and left these flowers and a nice card. However, he brought the rain with him. It rained all day, so we did a little shopping down town and spent the day reading a newspaper and our books.
The next morning the sun came up bright and clear and reveiled a dusting of snow on the mountains around us.

The humming birds were feeding early and it was a wonderful day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A New Oven

Once we were established at our new site south of town, we collected silty clay from the parking area near the dry lake bed.

We collected about 5, five gallon buckets full and hauled it back to our camp site.

I decided the old fire pit would make a good base for a new oven, so I leveled the sand and laid in some recycled wine bottles for insulation.

The bottles were covered with sand which I leveled before placing the fire brick.

In the mean time, Marlene was checking her bread dough by making pita in a pan on the gas stove.

The bread dough is good and the pita turned out tasty.

The next morning I dug up sand from the desert outside our door, moisted it, and built the inner sand mold.

I had help mixing the mud. Odel added the water and I did the dance. Later, Laurie took over the dance duties.

Pretty soon, Earl showed up and after showing them the basics of placing clay around the sand form, they took over the project.

They did an excellant job of building the oven shell. Then Lynn took over and added the artistic touch.

After all these people came to help (it's amazing how many people have never read "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", I was able to take a break and watch the action.

The oven turned out to be a work of art thanks to all the help. The good news is that from fire brick base to finished oven took only one afternoon.

After we left Quartzsite

We moved from Quartzsite to Borrego Springs and spent a couple of days in the State Park campground. It's a time when we do our laundry, empty our waste tanks, and fill our fresh water tank before going out in the desert.

From the campground it is a short walk through the desert the park visitor center. Along the walkway are several species of cactus.

One morning we woke to a rainbow over the mountains. It turned out to be a portend or a wind storm later in the day where the winds reached 60 mph and dust penetrated every opening in the motorhome.

Another morning, Marlene participated in a guided morning hike up a typical slot canyon.

When our stay in the campground was over, we moved 8 miles east of town to a spot in the open desert where we live using our solar panels, stored water, and waste water held in tanks. This is what it looked like before we brought our motor home out and set up our camp.

The new spot provided another opportunity to build an earth oven so we drove to Hemet, Ca., and purchased some more fire brick to build a base.

These are some shots we took on our day trip to Hemet.

Looking down on the villiage of Borrego Springs.

The sailplane port at Warner Springs.

Sun set casting shadows over the desert to the Salton Sea.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Perfect Pizza on the Last Day

On the last day we made one more try with the oven. I started the fire about 2:15. The temperature of the clay when I started was 90 degrees so obviously the sun had already done some warming. By 4:15 the clay near the surface was up to 290 degrees and the inside of the oven was well over 500. Marlene had the pizza ready to go. She used her regular dough and rolled it thin. Then she added tomato sauce, mushrooms, onions, feta cheese, olives, and a little bit of parmesean sprinkled on top.

She slid the pizza off the peel and we sat back to wait about 20 minutes.

When we opened the door it was to a beautifully baking pizza, but it was not quite done.

Another 10 minutes and I removed what appeared to be the perfect pizza. All that was left was the taste test.

Look at this. You can almost taste the flavors that exploded in our mouths.
Everone who had some could not stop raving about the taste and the crispy yet soft crust.


And so ended our last day at Quartzsite in Boomerville.