Spring in the Desert

Beavertail Cactus Flower Pink Hedgehog Cactus Flower

For the past couple of days, some of our native cacti have had flowers open up. The one on the left is a flower on one of our beavertail cacti and the one on the right is on a hedgehog cactus. Both species are native and were growing here when we moved in over ten years ago (that long?).

Below are a couple of male House Finches who are engaged in their spring rituals of trying to attract the attention of female Finches with their spring songs and aerial dances. These are so nice to watch in addition to Cardinals, Doves, Thrashers, Woodpeckers and Phainopeplas doing their things as well.

There are many other species of birds and mammals running about this patch of desert in the springtime. It’s like having our own private zoo.

House Finch Singing House Finch on Rosemary Shrub

Click on any of the images to enlarge.

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Easter Sunday 2021

cross.jpgToday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will be conducting an in-home Easter service wherein Communion will be taken in remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross.

Image at right borrowed from the Patriot Post’s “Resurrection Day Meditations” webpage. Click on the image to visit.

Later, we will have a Sunday feast consisting of smoked turkey breast with trimmings similar to, but not exactly like, Thanksgiving Dinner. I will be multi-tasking in the morning between conducting services and attending to the smoker. Damsel will similarly be engaged in preparation of the sides for our glorious feast. We’ve done smoked turkey on several occasions and they always turn out very good.

We wish everyone a very Happy Easter Day and hope that you enjoy the celebration as we shall be doing.

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Another New Camera Lens

SL1 w/New 250mm LensI posted here before about acquiring a 400mm telephoto lens for my little Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and that lens is worth every dime I spent on it. The only drawback is its size and weight when you want to go out into the desert to capture a few photos of critters. It is a bit clunky lugging it around on a walk up the road or for other events where you might want to get photos of subjects that may be dozens of yards away or perhaps more than that.

Image - Camera with the new EF-S 55-250mm Zoom Lens attached. Click on the image to enlarge.

The SL1, when I purchased it in 2014, shipped with the standard 18-55mm lens and an additional 75-300mm telephoto lens, neither of which were of really decent quality. The latter, after a couple of years, developed an autofocus intermittency and had to be scrapped. Plus, in 2019, we replaced the stock lens with a superior quality 18-135mm lens.

So, the bottom line is that I wanted a lightweight intermediate zoom lens for those times that I mentioned above. So far, since I received the new lens last Thursday, I am pleased with its performance. I took the cactus wren photo today at a range of about 35 feet and the lunar photo last Friday during the full February “Snow Moon.” I cropped both images down from the full-frame size to enhance the subjects. Click on either image to enlarge. I am especially pleased with the sharpness of the mountains and craters on the moon which is not bad for an intermediate telephoto lens.

Cactus Wren on Saguaro Snow Moon

I other news, I renewed my expired AZ Driver’s License yesterday. The expiration was covered by an extension due to the pandemic, but that extension ran out at the end of February, so I drove to the MVD and got my renewal. I should get the new license by mail in a week or two.

In other other news, our COVID-19 vaccines have not yet arrived in our area. There are two venues in town through which we can be vaccinated but neither on-line registration is yet available. We’re both eligible for the vaccines by virtue of age.

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Arizona - We’re Still Number One

I received this via email from AZCDL. Despite the tainted results of Arizona’s election in November, we still came out on top for 2020. I and many others are now engaging with our politicians to keep Arizona safe from those who would infringe on our God-given rights to self defense. In the coming year, we will do our best to keep our state at the top of the list.

azcdl

In the February 2021 issue of Guns and Ammo, Arizona is rated the best state for gun owners. This is the EIGHTH consecutive year Guns and Ammo magazine has rated Arizona as the #1 state for gun owners.

Arizona’s #1 rating is primarily because of what AzCDL has accomplished. Prior to AzCDL’s involvement Arizona’s CCW system was onerous and discouraged applications. Permits were only good for 4 years and required training, testing and additional fingerprinting to renew. Court cases narrowed the interpretation of open carry to a point where the only way to safely openly carry your firearm and avoid arrest was by having a CCW permit. In self-defense situations, the burden of proof was on YOU to prove your innocence – after you admitted to the “crime.” Firearms preemption was Balkanized. Castle doctrine and “no duty to retreat” laws were weak.

AzCDL was created by a handful of activists in 2005 who didn’t like the status quo. By 2010 we achieved Constitutional Carry. CCW permits are now optional and the process to obtain a permit is more realistic. Arizona permits are recognized in the majority of states. Arizona is also one of the few states that recognize all permits from all states – again thanks to AzCDL.

Because of AzCDL’s efforts, you are now “innocent until proven guilty” when defending yourself. Firearms preemption has been strengthened. We were even successful in getting the Arizona Constitution changed to protect law-abiding citizens from law suits when they defend themselves. Visit our Accomplishments and Why AzCDL web pages to learn more about what AzCDL has accomplished.

We are proud that AzCDL’s efforts, with the support of our members, have again garnered this high rating for Arizona from such a prestigious publication. However, from our perspective, there is a lot more that needs to be done to make Arizona truly a free state when it comes to honoring your constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. With your continued support we can achieve that goal.

Here’s the link to join or renew with the Arizona Citizens Defense League:

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2020 IRS Returns in Progress

ir.pngBecause the tax program we use was a little tardy in getting all the appropriate updates (and some are still not ready) we are getting a later start than usual on the preparation of our annual tax returns. We know most of the numbers such that we can input them to the tax program to get a fairly close approximation of the actual bottom line for the tax year. According to early results, we seem to be getting a larger chunk of change than originally forecast for a couple of reasons; first, the entirety of the .gov “COVID Stimulus” went to charitable organizations which was above and beyond and in addition to our normal 501(c)(3) contributions. The second reason for the larger rebate is we decided to itemize some deductions that were to occur in 2021 by paying them in 2020. That got us to where our itemized deductions exceeded the generous standard deduction introduced by the Trump administration by a couple of thousand dollars which resulted in several more hundred dollars coming back to us.

Meanwhile, we’re waiting on the various income source institutions to provide the 1099’s that show the actual numbers which ought to be pretty close to those we already have put into the tax program since I have a spreadsheet for the purpose of tracking and estimation of the final numbers. So, we’re waiting patiently for the paperwork from the IRA, the pensions, the SSA and our financial intuitions to show up. I expect to be e-filed before the end of January for both State and Federal Returns which should result in our refund within a couple of weeks afterwards (if the irs.gov has their feces together, that is).

And, yes - I have already throttled back the Fed withholding for 2021 in hopes that we might break even next time or owe them a little bit. I hate lending the .gov interest-free money.

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One Decade in Our Desert Home

January 2011 January 2021

Images: January 2011 and January 2021 - click on either image to enlarge.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of moving into our little Desert House. We were sleeping on a box springs and mattress with no bed frame, sitting on folding chairs and eating/computing on a 24×48″ folding table - virtually camping in the new abode, but we were “moved in” a decade ago.

Just after moving in, we had a short list of fixtures to be acquired and installed, plus some other improvements to be made. This is the list from ten years ago:

  1. gate2.jpgCourtyard - We spoke to our contractor last week and gave him specifications for a wall and gateway to enclose part of the house to form a courtyard in front and a dog run on the side of the house. We will have an estimate to build the wall this week and will ask that the work be scheduled right away.
  2. red-bird.jpgLandscaping - After the wall is up and the gate has been installed, we are going to start landscaping the yard. This will take some time to accomplish but we are planning to put gravel down on the RV drive through and in the courtyard. Later, we will bring some of Damsel’s cactus from California.
  3. shutters.jpgShutters - Today, we ordered shutters for several of the windows. We contacted a vendor in the Phoenix area that offers a southwestern shutter style that will match our Santa Fe style and will look very nice inside and outside of the house. The wood and stain will match the wood of the cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  4. sw-furn.jpgFurniture - We promised ourselves that most, if not all of the furniture in the new house, would be new. This week, our first priority will be to get a dining room set. Gradually, we will be acquiring furnishings and decorations that are appropriate to the old west and Santa Fe style that we love.
  5. door.jpgSecurity Door - We probably don’t need this door for security as much as we want the southwestern style and the ability to open the front door and let the air in and keep the bugs out. I contacted a vendor that is willing to travel to Wickenburg to meet with us and to measure the door. He will also install the door when it is complete. The style we select will match the color and style of Damsel’s sconces.
  6. screenmobile.jpgScreens - While driving through the neighborhood, I noticed a screenmobile parked about two blocks away. I took down the number and called our neighbor who installs custom screens. He came out to our property and immediately furnished a quote for screens for all the windows.

Some things turned out to be different from the list, but we got a lot done and are still making minor improvements. Very soon now, we will be getting all new furniture for the great room and new kitchen appliances now that the original stuff is a decade old.

Even after a decade, we thank God that we are here and out of the former residence. It feels good to be here and we remain very happy in our little desert home.

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Emmanuel - God Is With Us

nativity.jpg

The first chapter of Matthew, in the New Testament, describes the lineage from Abraham, down through King David and eventually through forty-two generations in all from Abraham to Joseph, the Husband of Mary, Mother of Jesus. Thus, because of a decree from the Roman Emperor to the citizens of Judea, Mary and Joseph were destined to go to the City of David, in Bethlehem, where the Christ Child was born.

Later, also in the first chapter of Matthew, comes the annunciation of the Angel of the Lord as delivered to Joseph in a Dream:

. . . behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

The prophetic scripture referred to in the last sentences is from Isiah 7:14 in the Old Testament.

In these days of muted activity during these unusual times and circumstances, we remind you that the Spirit of God is still as strong as ever and through that Spirit, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope for joy in the new year of 2021. We pray for you to stay well, to be strong and to be prepared for whatever eventualities that may be in store for us in these bizarre and interesting times to come. May God Bless Us All.

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