Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Autumn in Tucson: Let the Festivities Begin! (Updated for 2017)

I am smitten with Fall in Tucson. After the long, hot summer, it’s such a delight to open the windows and let in the evening chill. A feeling of nostalgia washes over me with the crisp autumn breezes. Sunlight warms my cheeks like butterfly kisses. Autumn bliss. (Or not...)

When I list my favorite things about Tucson, Tucson Meet Yourself and the Homescape Harvest Tour are right up there with the Tucson Festival of Books and my home away from home, the Loft Cinema. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy this lovely season than to get outside for Tucson’s captivating fall festivals and tours. Here are some of our favorite Fall festivities.

Homescape Harvest Tour

Saturday, October 28, 2017 - 10:00am to 3:00pm

I can’t begin to articulate how going on the Homescape Harvest Tour filled me with wonder, ignited my curiosity and kindled a shared vision. If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you may have noticed that Dan and I are big fans of Watershed Management Group and their efforts to get the rivers flowing again with rainwater harvesting. We were so excited about their vision that Dan volunteered with their coop and then became a docent. Now Dan is their coop manager and is currently organizing this event. (So proud of him!) It all started when Dan attended the Homescape Harvest Bike Tour. The next year he brought me along on the walking tour. I’m so grateful that he did. 

I’ve been telling everyone I can about this fascinating excursion. Inspiring home landscapes throughout Tucson will be open to explore at your own pace. The good people at Watershed Management Group have lined up some of the most well-designed, beautifully functional, affordable and sometimes whimsical examples of how to harvest water, energy, and food. You can get ideas for your dream yard – like we did.

As you explore home landscapes, you’ll have the opportunity to learn firsthand from the homeowners. Experience enchanting rain gardens, cisterns, passive & active solar systems, greywater systems, composting toilets, shady desert oases, lush food gardens, and wildlife habitats.

Also, included is the rainwater garden of Rita Smith that is also a part of the Fall Garden Tour. Her front yard was a past WMG co-op project

Click here to purchase tickets: https://watershedmg.org/event/7th-annual-watershed-management-group-homescape-harvest-tour

Tucson Meet Yourself

October 13-15

Tucson Meet Yourself, that has been lovingly dubbed “Tucson Eat Yourself,” can occasionally even lure my apathetic teens out of the house for some Danish pancake balls with lingonberry jam. That’s just one of the many delectable tastes offered from Tucson’s diverse cultural heritage. I have happy memories of my kids making Mexican cascarones (confetti eggs). It’s become a family tradition to make Mexican cutout flags from colorful tissue paper. You can catch anything from Irish clogging to belly dancing to Native American flute music to Polish pierogi cooking demos on the festival stages. 

Envision Tucson Sustainable Festival

YWCA, 525 N. Bonita
November 12th at 11 AM - 4 PM

Check out the wave of the future – sustainability! Don't miss the Envision Tucson Sustainable Festival. 

Envision Tucson Sustainable Festival provides a popular annual event that brings together key individuals, organizations, and companies in our community who are working to help us not just envision, but also create a resilient future for Tucson and Southern Arizona.

Enjoy activities for all ages, with exhibitors, vendors, and demonstrators showing techniques for building local and neighborhood resilience. Check out electric vehicles and solar ovens, get “up close and personal” with a solar panel, find new ways to protect our desert ecosystems, try out recycling/upcycling crafts, make your own seed “bombs,” and try some tasty local fruit. You’ll find out about living in harmony with urban wildlife and building resilience against heat emergencies. And don’t miss the opportunity to see models of paper adobe, learn about composting and desert gardening, and much, much more.

New this year is the Resilience Center, an area where you can see demonstrations of techniques and technologies we all can use for making our homes and neighborhoods more sustainable. You can explore ways to make Tucson more water-efficient with water harvesting and dry wells, see 3D printing in action and see how an aquaponics system works. Be sure to learn about the importance of edible urban trees, and localizing our regional economy, as well as ways to reduce energy and water use in commercial as well as residential buildings.

Share your own vision of Tucson’s sustainable future at the Story and Art Gathering Center, and add your message on the Climate Ribbon Tree. Enjoy some delicious local food and unique local music. Admission is free, with plenty of free parking and a bike “valet” if you choose that environmentally friendly way to come.

Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood Tour

(No updated information at this time)

See how this once barren neighborhood was transformed into an oasis in the desert by using curb cuts to direct the rainwater to irrigate mesquite trees along the street and a native food forest in the medians – a great example of green infrastructure. Before Brad Lancaster pioneered these successful rainwater harvesting techniques, curb cuts were illegal in Tucson. The enjoyment is heightened with a community mural and metal sculptures.

Brad uses only rainwater for his household and gardening needs, harvesting 100,000 gallons of rainwater annually. His property is an example of how passive and active solar power work together with passive and active water harvesting in a beautifully integrated design. 


October 29th, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
South 12th Ave from West 39th Street to Mission Manor Park.

What better way to feel the autumn breeze on your face than to hop on your trusty metal steed to join thousands of bicyclists as they take over the streets. Cyclovia is Tucson’s semi-annual celebration of living streets. For five hours on a Sunday, the streets along the Cyclovia path are closed to automobile traffic and opened to the community: bicyclists, pedestrians, community organizations, and people wanting to meet their neighbors. There’s a new route every time, so different neighborhoods get to celebrate. Revel in the small town feeling that makes Tucson so great while getting a glimpse at what our streets could be if we weren’t so car-obsessed!

This year 3.75-mile long route is home to dozens of locally owned small businesses featuring some of Tucson’s best Mexican food, plus scores of schools, community centers, places of worship, parks and neighborhoods. Dozens of free activities will line the route, concentrated around 5 activity hubs, and local restaurants will welcome guests with expanded outdoor seating for the day.

Community members, business owners, and representatives from South 12th Avenue’s many schools and organizations have been hard at work for months planning an event that will showcase the unique aspects of the area. A youth Mariachi showcase will take place outside Pueblo High School, there are all-class reunions for Sunnyside High School and Pueblo High alumni taking place at different locations along the route, live music byJimmy Carr and The Awkward Moments , Santa Pachita and Escuelita Musical will be featured outside of El Guero Canelo Restaurante Mexicano, and BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogswill host the high-flying zip line and rock climbing wall. The South 12th Avenue route will more than ever have something to offer everyone.

Tucson Celtic Festival & Scottish Highland Games

Nov 5 at 9 AM to Nov 5 at 5 PM
Rillito Downs Park. 4502 N 1st Ave

As a member of the MacGregor clan (from Dan's mom’s side), Fall means it’s time for him to pull on his kilt, strap on hissporran, stash a dirk in his stocking, and head up to Rillito Park to eat haggis, drink dark beer, and watch grown men throwing telephone poles around. That’s right - it’s time for the annual Tucson Celtic Festival. Food, music, dance, and games. It’s a time when everyone’s inner Celt comes out - even if you aren’t Scottish or Irish!

All Souls Procession

Sunday, November 5 at 4 PM - 10 PM
New route
806 N Grande Ave,

Is there any event more representative of Tucson than the All Souls Procession? (OK, maybe Tucson Meet Yourself edges it out.) The All Souls Procession started out as a small group of Tucsonans who decided to celebrate a Mexican holiday to honor their departed loved ones. Before long, the little sidewalk procession was filling the street with people of all ages in fanciful skeleton make-up carrying paper lanterns, gigantic puppets, and creative floats. Now it is one of Tucson’s most beloved celebrations, bringing thousands Downtown to remember, protest, cry, laugh, sing, play music, create, dance, and - most of all - celebrate living in this unique place we call home.

New theme this year. Join the Sky Island Alliance, the Northern Jaguar Project and the Center for Biological Diversity to remember our borderlands jaguars this year at the All Souls Procession.

We'll have a large jaguar puppet, two jaguar statues, and a limited number of jaguar masks and signs to share. Come dressed ready to process in memory of borderlands jaguars we've lost and for the future of jaguars yet to come.

I can't wait to check out...

Tucson Village Farm Harvest Festival

Saturday, November 4th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

This FREE family-friendly event will feature a variety of all-ages activities, gourmet food samples, farm stand, live music with R & P Music Factory, petting zoo, hayrides, popcorn harvest, food trucks and more!

Now that the summer heat has ended and the temperate fall weather has arrived, it's time to venture out of the AC, plant our fall veggie gardens and go enjoy all the things Tucson has to offer us. See you at the fests!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

3 Sisters: Sowing Strength in Solidarity

This summer Dan and I conducted a little experiment. We wanted to find out if hardy desert crops could survive the long, hot Tucson summer on just monsoon rains. Dan tried the traditional Iroquois method of building mounds for the 3 SISTERS: Tohono O'odham 60 day corn, brown tepary beans, and Ha:al squash. These complimentary crops become stronger by working together. The beans provide nitrogen to the soil. The corn provides stalks for the beans to climb and shade for the squash. And the squash, in turn, provides ground cover to keep out weeds. (Of course, the Hohokam had a system of channels that drew from the Santa Cruz River that flowed year around back then and the Tohono O'odham did flood plain irrigation.) 

After a couple of light showers, we watched as the seeds began to sprout. (Though some mysterious varmint was eating the leaves off of the tops of the beans and only a couple of squash leaves unfurled.) A volunteer squash in our compost pit was doing better. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a monsoon this summer, so we watched disheartened as our garden withered away. On one of the mounds, a single bean plant survived, and there were two wilted corn stalks still clinging to life on another. So I dug three holes next to the bean plant, put some compost at the bottom, and replanted the corn and the volunteer squash. Storm clouds came and went as we waited... and waited... and waited for rain.

As I watched the effect of the drought on our garden, I became more conscious of how much water we use in our home. We started saving dishwater for our thirsty Mexican Honeysuckle. We bought what we thought was environmentally friendly dish soap. But it turned out to contain more salt than we would have liked, so we have to alternate between the soapy dishwater and the clear rinse water to help flush the salt build-up out of the soil.

The downspout we installed was useless without rain. So we began to use the water from rinsing off our produce to water a little kitchen garden where I had planted some potatoes that sprouted. We also watered the remaining 3 Sisters mound. (You don't want to use water with meat particles in food gardens because it could transmit pathogens.) The bean plant is still hanging in there, and the potato plants are growing nicely all from water that would have gone down the drain. I know, I know, it would be so easy to just turn on the hose. But this is just a drop in the dish bucket compared to how many Hopi and Navajo have to conserve water.

While we are "experimenting" with saving water, members of 280 Native American tribes have gathered together at Standing Rock, South Dakota to fight for water! They have put their bodies on the front line to stop the construction of the crude oil pipeline that will go under the Missouri River - the main source of water for the tribe and 17 million other Americans. A federal judge recently rejected the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's petition to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. But later that day, the US Army, Justice, and Interior departments jointly announced they would temporarily stop the pipeline work until the environmental impact is investigated. The pipeline continues to be built in other areas.

Dan and I celebrated that victory with a symbolic dinner of the 3 Sisters. To me it represented the strength these courageous protectors have shown by working in unity.

Corn, beans, zucchini. tomato, and onions topped with queso fresco on a masa patty.
The tribes understand that this is just the beginning. Many have set up camp for the Winter. The Sioux have been joined by other tribes who have also been exploited for their land and water, including: the Navajo, the Hopi, the San Carlos Apache, and our local Tohono O'odham. It is inspiring to see these tribes uniting for a shared cause and working together to meet the needs of the camp - educating the children, keeping up morale, providing firewood, medical care, spiritual support, and traditional meals.

Water is Life!
We may not be on the front lines fighting for water, but we can march in solidarity here in Tucson, sign the petition to stop the pipeline, contact our representatives, and try to conserve water. (Here are some other ways we can help.) Like the 3 Sisters, we are stronger when we work together.

Sign the petition to stop police in riot gear from arresting the brave journalists covering this historic fight.

Contact the banks funding the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Donate to the Legal Defense Fund

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"There goes Jana again..."

A while back I rushed out of the house to attend a panel on food security in the desert.  Struggling to catch my breath after my mad dash (more like a hobble) to catch the bus, I settled back into my seat with my feet hanging out into the aisle. Next thing I know there’s some guy stopped in his tracks, staring down at my feet. “Oh, sorry…” I muttered as I pulled them out of the way.  Only later did it register that he had been smirking at my mismatched sandals!

Sorry if it seems like I'm always in a tizzy. That’s just me doing what little I can do to protect our planet.  To be honest, I have been struggling with that lately.  I began questioning what difference I could make - taking into account all my weaknesses.  Recently, I spoke up at a public hearing at the Arizona Corporation Commission. (TEP was petitioning to double everyone’s basic rate, while lowering the credit to rooftop solar users to discourage people from installing solar.)  I was scared to death because the last time I spoke I got nervous and lost my train of thought. I decided it was important to work at overcoming my fears, so I prepared a statement to read.  My hand shook as I held the paper at arm’s length to see it.  Next time I’ll do even better – I’ll bring my glasses.

But there was something that one of the commissioners (Doug Little) said that motivated me to carry on. He said that the commission was currently in the process of investigating the value of solar. The problem is that they aren’t doing it fast enough! That reminded me of TEP’s unambitious plan to transition to using solar for 1/3 of its power by 2050.  Scientists have warned us that if we keep going the way we are, the tipping point (or point of no return) could happen within the next five years.  So you can see why I feel this great sense of urgency - so much so that I'm willing to make a fool of myself to get people's attention.

And I'm not the only one. The commissioner on the left got a good picture of this guy....

I admit that sometimes I come across as sorta ditzy, or too intense.  I talk (or chat text) too fast so my words get away from me, and on a rare occasion even post a facebook meme without checking the sources.  I'm sure some people are thinking, "There goes Jana again!" There are days I totally relate to the absent-minded professor as I “blubber” away. " There is so much vital information taking up space that I don’t have room for practical, mundane thoughts – like how to articulate a discernible sentence. I am grateful for my ability to write it down in my blog and for my fact and spell checkers Dan and Josh.

There are so many urgent developments happening in the world today that lots of people aren’t aware of - so many important events that our corporate owned media doesn’t profit from sharing with us. For instance, many Tucsonans don’t know that we are currently in a 17 year drought.  We just turn on our tap and water comes out.  Most Tucsonans don’t know how we get our CAP water – that our CAP water is pumped 360 miles UPHILL, using up the water in the Navajo and Hopi’s confined aquifer to run the coal burning generating station that powers those pumps. Those tribes get none of that water or electricity. Many people on the reservation don’t even have running water and electricity in their homes. Most Tucsonans don’t know that we get enough rainfall every year to meet all of our water needs – if we allow that water to sink into the ground to restore our aquifers. Most people have never heard of Watershed Management Group or how they are trying to get our rivers flowing again with rain water harvesting.  Every day I see people do things like put in new drip systems that use more of that CAP water when they could irrigate with rain water. So, yes, I feel a real sense of urgency to let people know.

So, please, excuse me if I make a fool of myself by babbling on.  Forgive me if more and more of my facebook posts are on environmental disasters or if I make you uncomfortable with a request to share a video on fracking.  I’m doing what little I can to get the word out.  One thing is clear - I can't do it by myself. So if you could help out by occasionally taking a moment to “like," share a post, tell a friend, or sign a petition, I would greatly appreciate it.