Category Archives: Willett News

Updates on the happenings in our life!



The beginning of another year is a wonderful time to pause and reflect back upon the one that just ended. Even though the majority of the year was consumed by aspects of daily living, those are not the things we hold dear. Time spent with loved ones and friends: hiking, rafting, Letterboxing, disc golfing, playing games, sharing mealtimes, birding, bike riding, and attending baseball games, to name a few. Those are the memories that stick with us.

As you may know, we share a healthy dose of curiosity, an urge to explore and understand the world around us. Which explains our love of travel, reading, and spending time outdoors. There are just so many fascinating aspects of life to discover. Ansel Adams summed it up quite well, “In wisdom gathered over time, I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.”

Our lives are enriched in a myriad of ways during our explorations, often tangibly. This past year one of the tangibles was an injured kitten discovered while out hiking—a tiny, dehydrated ball of fur. Six months later spunky Wylie Kitty is a welcome addition to our household. Even curmudgeonly old Bailey likes her.

Our love of and fascination with the Sonoran Desert morphed into an ongoing volunteer project to improve a small corner of it. That in turn led to a part-time job for Erin this past September. The Buffelgrass Outreach Coordinator position is fulfilling and flexible, a perfect fit.

Lance’s job as a Theme Wrangler with Automattic continues to involve a good mix of travel, exciting projects, and new challenges. In other words, never a dull moment. Which is good because neither of us enjoy boring.

And so we look forward to this new year and all that it holds in store. For the new adventures. For the new discoveries. For the shared times.

For the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes. —e.e. cummings

July, Hot and Dry

Our monsoon season officially began in mid-June but the storms took their sweet time getting here. And when they finally did arrive that first week of July they refused to venture this far north and west. We sweltered as we watched the sky darken to the south and east of us. Record rainfalls received by some, 10 inches in 24 hours, while we counted the few fat drops of water that fell at our house.

Front yard colors

Apparently Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor. We recently installed gutters on our house. Their job is to funnel water from our roof into two 5,000 gallon cisterns. That collected water will then be used to irrigate plants and fill our rapidly evaporating pool. All the hard work has been done and the bill has been paid only one thing has yet to happen. It has to rain.

Last summer our side of town received twice the average monsoonal precipitation. This July our rain gauge gave us eight paltry readings, none of which topped a tenth. So, yes, I am convinced that Mother Nature has a truly wicked sense of humor. But I have faith that it will eventually rain over here and when it does, we will be ready.

Luckily we have landscaped our yard accordingly and even in the intense heat and thick humidity our plants are blooming away. Granted, we do water them but I know less hardy species would be reduced to brown sticks by now. The bright flowers seem to mock the severe sun. In the wee hours animals creep out from their shady resting places and feed on our green branches. Though they do much damage I do not get angry with them. Instead I admire their resourcefulness. When the rain finally comes, native grasses will sprout which the wildlife prefers and our plants will regrow. When the rain finally comes…

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Just June

Can we say hot? Every single day in June was over 100 degrees with a few extra special days in the 110s. On top of that the humidity started to rise. Now I know that has to happen before our summer monsoons can start but that knowledge hardly makes it more bearable. Especially since we still rely on an evaporative cooler (aka swamp cooler) to control the temps in our house. Swamps work fantastic in hot and dry conditions but their efficacy declines drastically as the humidity rises.

Biosphere 2

Escaping from the heat was on our minds as we headed north towards Oracle to tour Biosphere 2 (B2). It was a first visit for both of us which is rather silly when you consider that we’ve lived nearby for all these years. B2 was a privately funded experiment designed to replicate Earth systems with an eye toward space colonization. Completed in 1991 the 3.14-acre enclosed structure contained five artificially created biomes (rainforest, desert, grassland, ocean, and wetland), an agricultural area, and crew living quarters.

In late 1991 eight researchers (Biospherians) were sealed inside the airtight, glass-domed enclosure with their tools and a few animals. The experiment was designed to last for two years with the intent of survival in a self-contained system. In theory, the Biospherians would live off the food they grew and would optimize their atmosphere by altering the amount of foliage grown.

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Wylie’s First Month

If we didn’t know better we wouldn’t recognize Wylie Kitty as the injured, dehydrated, malnourished, pathetic little kitten that we found at Sweetwater Wetlands last month.

She has completely recovered from her puncture wound, she’s doubled her weight, and grown in size. She’s proven to be a smart cat and a quick learner, similar to Bailey in that way. She’s integrated well into our household; she started eating and drinking out of Bailey’s bowls on her own initiative within the first week, all cat toys are now hers, and just recently she started using his litter box. Yay—one less box for me to clean!

Considering all that Wylie’s been through she is surprisingly loving, outgoing, and fearless. Her purr is loud and she revs it up often. After her first nerve-wracking introduction to our backyard she now loves to romp out there. We watch as a grey blur zips by; dashing to the top of dirt mounds, hiding in the grass, catching (and eating) crickets, and climbing high in the trees. Bailey occasionally chases her but she easily leaves him in the dust…

Wylie is especially fond of Lance and it is adorable to watch them together—she still fits in his hand (he does have large hands). I get a teensy bit jealous but I recognize that I’m the meanie who took her to the vet twice (both rather unpleasant experiences with shots and such) and I’m the one who had to dose her with meds morning and night for three weeks. She’s really gonna love me next month when I take her in to get fixed…

All in all, we feel pretty lucky to have found her!


Mild May

We very much appreciated May’s mild temperatures, Tucson did not officially reach 100 degrees until the first day of June. We even received a few drops of rain early in the month. Our garden really took off. The watermelon and cucumbers set on fruit and their vines draped over the sides of the raised beds.

We kept up the pace of projects around the yard, knowing that summer’s heat would soon be upon us. We finally applied the finish stucco coat to our BBQ area. It took all day and we were bushed afterward but we’re happy with the results. Now we just need to buy a grill…

It can be rather hard to get any work done around here since the Sonoran Desert critters are so active and we enjoy watching them. Especially as they flit, hop, run, slither, dash, and mosey through our yard. Desert Spiny Lizards and Mourning Doves are mating. Cactus Wrens, Curve-billed Thrashers, and Great Horned Owls are frantically feeding nestlings while Gambel’s Quails herd their broods. Young Round-tailed Ground Squirrels, Harris’ Antelope Ground Squirrels, and Desert Cottontails are out exploring and playing.

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April Activities

The month started off on a bad note, we had to find Keaton a new home. In one of those bizarre and unfortunate occurrences we had adopted a highly allergenic cat. Lance has one known allergy but I’ve never been allergic to an animal. Ever. I’ve been around animals my whole life. I grew up on a small farm where we had cats, dogs, cows, horses, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, fish, tortoises, and even a parrot. Something about Keaton made us both miserable. It was so bad that Lance walked around the house with a tissue stuck up his nose. It was a difficult and sad decision to have to make.

That same week work commenced on our final porch project. We were excited to think that it would be finished by the weekend. After all, the other two porch projects went relatively well and we were using the same crew so what could go wrong? Imagine my consternation when I returned home the afternoon of the pour and found cracks running throughout the freshly poured concrete. I was not amused.

front porch

I called our contractor. He called the concrete crew. The concrete crew called the concrete company. All of them said they’d never seen anything like it and none of them knew what went wrong. And then the finger pointing began. I gritted my teeth and tried to remain calm though inside my head panic alarms were ringing (I’ve heard so many contractor horror stories). We braced ourselves for the worst—being stuck with cracked concrete and out our deposit.

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February, Anything But Boring

After settling back into our normal routine we made a trip to our local Humane Society. We had finally decided to adopt another cat. It took us a while to make that decision after losing Rookie. The three of us—Lance, Bailey, and myself—had settled into a calm, mellow routine in the past three months. Lance and I were on the fence about adopting another cat and until February, we’d been too busy to do much about it. (For the record, Bailey was adamantly against it.)


Ironically, the impetus for the adoption came from Bailey. In the past few months he’d gained three pounds. Quite a difference for a cat that has weighed 12 pounds his entire adult life. Clearly Bailey needed someone to play with; someone to chase around (or to chase him). Our parameters: young male, not a kitten, but not much over a year old.

A scrawny but healthy orange and white tabby fit the bill. Bailey was the opposite of thrilled when we returned with the kitty that night. To his credit the new guy wasn’t much phased by Bailey’s attitude. Kitty is bowlegged in the front and tends to slouch which makes his legs look really short. We thought of calling him our Cowboy Corgi Kitty but that was too much of a mouthful so we named him Keaton.

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Update to A Very Dark Night…

We were surprised when our doorbell rang last Monday (we weren’t expecting anybody and our neighborhood is pretty quiet). A man in a hard hat explained that his crew had been sent over by our electric provider to install bird guards on the power pole in our front yard. What a pleasant surprise!

He asked if we’d recently reported a dead raptor which is why they are usually sent out. I shared our awful electrocuted bobcat story. He said he’d never heard of such a thing. Neither had we, neither had we…

I watched as the men very carefully installed insulative boots to the top of the transformer as well as rubber insulation to the bare wires going to and from the transformer. The crew chief provided a play-by-play analysis of the proceedings and he reassured me that our power pole was now bird and critter safe. What a relief!

I appreciate that our electric provider has been utilizing these protective measures on all newly installed poles since 2002. I just wish they would retrofit the existing poles without waiting for an animal to die first. But I know there are tens of thousands of poles under their service area and the cost would be prohibitive. At the very least we are reassured that our power pole will kill no more!