Archive for November, 2009

Desert coyotes

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

We camped in a desert oasis that is supplied with water at various times by rainwater draining from the Sawtooth Mountains via the Potrero Wash.  While hiking this wash, I saw many wild animal tracks in the sand, including those of the coyote.

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The coyote (click here to see photo), Canis latrans, the “barking dog”, is a member of the Canidae (dog) family, has an average weight range of 15-46 pounds, and is found throughout North and Central America.  The name “coyote” is a loanword from American Spanish and is derived from the Nahuatl word cóyotl, meaning “prairie wolf”.  The coyote, known as “the song dog” by Native American Indians, often appears in Native American Indian tradition and folklore and is often portrayed as the trickster (and survivor) in these Native American Trickster Tales.

The coyote is a very adaptable, wide-ranging predator with an excellent sense of smell, vision and hearing, and hunts alone, in pairs, or in packs.  Each night at sunset, we heard the first calls of the coyotes, high-pitched sounds variously described as howls, yips, yelps and barks, most often heard at dusk and at night.

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We closed the trailer windows against the approaching chilly night air, fed the dogs and got them inside before they could become dinner for the coyotes.  Coyotes have been known to attack pets and livestock.  We also secured trash and food containers with lids and weights (rocks).

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The coyotes usually waited well into the night, when our trailer was silent, before exploring our campsite.  We could tell that they had visited.  Sometimes we could hear their sounds right next to the trailer.  By morning, the dog’s water bowl was empty and marked with coyote urine.  Nearby was a fresh pile of coyote scat, consisting mostly of mesquite beans, which are plentiful at this oasis.

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Coyotes are opportunistic and eat what is available, including the Back-tailed Jackrabbit

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and Gambel’s Quail (named after William Gambel, an American naturalist, who died of typhoid while crossing the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1849).  They inhabit and roost in brushy and thorny vegetation of southwestern deserts.  Listen to Gambel’s Quail here.

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The coyote’s adaptability has helped it to survive the encroachment of “civilization” and has led to its success as a native North American species.  Coyotes are now thriving, even in suburban settings and some urban ones, and causing alarm and unease.  Coyotes are causing flight delays at some airports.  Two recent incidents of coyotes biting people at Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California, prompted the authorization to kill coyotes, resulting in the death of eight coyotes and a public outcry.

Environmentalists believe that coyotes are necessary to maintain the balance of nature (for example, coyotes help control rodents and feral cats).  The coyote is a persecuted predator, according to Project Coyote, founded in 2008 “to create a shift in attitudes toward coyotes and other native carnivores by replacing ignorance and fear with understanding and appreciation”.

Project Wildlife says that humans need to learn to coexist with coyotes.  Griffith Park is now taking a more positive approach by posting ‘Do Not Feed The Wildlife’ signsAdditional information on the coyote and protecting yourself and your pets is found in these Frequently Asked Questions, presented by DesertUSA.com and in this video.

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Coyote sounds enhance our desert experience and I always look forward to hearing them, just as I enjoy listening to Peter and the Wolf at this time of year.

Desert delights

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Fall is one of our favorite seasons and, now that temperatures are within our comfort range, it’s time for us to return to the desert and continue to celebrate the colorful fall harvest season.  For the occasion, Larry made pumpkin cheesecake with a rich, buttery graham cracker walnut crust.  It is seen below in its springform pan, just out of our home oven.  Next to the cheesecake is pumpkin pudding made from pumpkin pie filling and baked in a handmade stoneware pie pan made by Barbara Flynn at Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

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The refrigerated pumpkin cheesecake came with us to this oasis in the southwestern Anza-Borrego desert region, once inhabited by Kumeyaay Native Americans from 1000 A.D to 1906.  We nestled our Safari between Mesquite trees and Creosote bushes.

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The Creosote bush, Larrea tridentata, has waxy resinous leaves and yellow flowers that turn into white fuzzy fruit capsules.  This plant has an aromatic fragrance, especially noticeable after a desert rain.

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The Safari’s windows are seen closed on this chilly morning at sunrise, while Larry was inside icing cinnamon buns in a muffin top pan just out of the oven.  Upon opening the trailer door, I was greeted by the spicy aroma of the buns and freshly brewed coffee.

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By mid-morning it was time to open up all of the windows, and by afternoon turn on the Endless Breeze fan as temperatures outside approached 80 degrees.

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We are very happy with our new lightweight Dim Sum Clock that hangs on a “L” hook screwed in on the end of the galley overhead cabinet.  Dim Sum is one of our favorite foods and this “must have” item for us goes well in the Safari.

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The hour pieces represent varieties of dim sum, are handmade by San Francisco artist, Noriko Kuwabara, and mounted on a bamboo steamer.  Starting at the one o’clock position, the pieces include a potsticker, pearl ball (shrimp ball covered with rice), custard tart, crab claw, bell pepper stuffed with shrimp, spring roll, har gow (shrimp dumpling), fried wonton, siu mai (pork dumpling), fortune cookie (invented in San Francisco), wu gok (fried taro root filled with pork), and cha siu bao (roasted pork bun) in the twelve o’clock position.

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Also seen in our galley is a replica ad poster (on tin) from the 1930′s Shanghai era.

Larry found this piece while browsing our local Goodwill store.

It features a woman in a traditional Chinese dress (cheongsam) sitting on a low Chinese stool and promoting Lactogen for infants and nursing mothers.

We renamed her “Yum cha“, which is a Cantonese term meaning “drinking tea” and now refers to the dim sum dining experience.  Yum cha has its roots in travelers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest.

Our fall harvest celebration includes setting the Thanksgiving table early…

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and enjoying that pumpkin cheesecake (displayed with Pygmy Date Palm seeds)…

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and enjoying sunsets and dreaming of gardens in the desert sand.

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Cool clean water

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Our camping season is just beginning and we are about to return to the desert.  I mentioned in my last article specifics of getting our Safari ready to roll and blithely mentioned that we topped off the fresh water tank.  Rich caught this and quickly reminded me of the importance of sanitizing the water system periodically with a bleach and water solution as recommended by Airstream.  I had wanted to do this last spring but I postponed it when I found that the fresh water petcock drain would not budge with normal hand pressure.

We have no need to winterize the trailer in San Diego and have never completely drained the fresh water tank before, but now I was motivated to do so.  I posed this issue on the Airforums and got a helpful reply suggesting that Dow Corning 316 Silicone Release Spray may help and alerting me to the importance of not turning the petcock too far open or closed (so that a finger won’t fit behind it).  My next challenge was to find this product, which is now called Molykote 316.  After numerous telephone calls and online research, I was able to order it from our local San Diego distributor for Kaman Industrial Technologies.

Two cans arrived via UPS and I was eager to use it but found no “How to use” directions included or on the label.  I finally found the product information along with “How to use” instructions here at wolcott-park.com.  So now I went out to the Safari.

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I sprayed a light film of Molykote 316 on the petcock and let it be overnight.  (Directions say to allow approximately three minutes drying time.)  The next morning I still found the spigot difficult to turn by hand so I used pliers with plastic tubing over the teeth to turn the spigot.  This worked and I sprayed the petcock again and was able to move it now by hand (but due to my big hand and some arthritis, I found I still relied on the pliers).

dsc_0144-molykote-316.jpg Molykote 316 Silicone Release Spray is made by Dow Corning and is a release agent for many food and industrial applications.

The product information says that it helps prevent seizing and jam-ups of conveyor guide rails and reduces sticking of pulleys and valves.

It also says that this product complies with FDA21 CFR 175.300 and FDA 21 CFR 178.3570 regulations for incidental food contact.

This product has a H-1 designation meaning that the lubricated part may have incidental food contact not to exceed 10 parts per million.

Handling precautions indicate that this product contains a flammable solvent, so do not spray in a confined space where the possibility of spark ignition exists.

So now that I was confident that the petcock could open and close, I proceeded with the sanitizing of the Safari’s water systems.

I followed my Airstream Owners Manual for the Safari and computed the required amount of bleach to add to a water solution for my size tank (multiply “gallons of tank capacity” by 0.13 to get ounces needed).  For my 30-gallon tank I used 4 ounces of household bleach (Clorox).  The solution was added and I topped off the tank, and opened all faucets (hot and cold), including the outside shower hose, allowing the water to run until the distinct odor of chlorine is detected (not so easy with my nose).  I then let this sit overnight (the manual says that this standard solution needs to have four hours of contact time to disinfect completely).

The next morning I opened the petcock and the water streamed out (and took two hours to completely drain).  I refilled the tank (with the white fresh water hose with a new TastePure RV Water Filter attached).  Again, I opened all of the faucets and purged the plumbing of all sanitizing solution.

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I once again opened the petcock and drained the fresh water tank and, after another two hours, I closed the petcock and filled the tank for the final time and flushed the faucets once more.  (I then drained the gray tank.)

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We did not want to water our plants with bleach-water so we allowed it to drain down the driveway.

But in this age of needing to conserve our precious water…

There must be a better way…

Perhaps an alternative technique or active agent…

Such as Purogene Fresh Water Treatment.

Or the use of the Drinking Water Freshener?

The second draining of the fresh water tank may not have been entirely needed.

But for now at least the fresh water system has been sanitized and the petcock works…

So we’re ready to hit the trail…

and enjoy cool clear water.

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.