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Hike National Trail on South Mountain

Every long trail hike needs good food, right? Right. So I’m going to start this post off with the BEST, easiest homemade granola bar ever!

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 mashed banana
1/4 cup homemade peanut butter (or all natural peanut butter, no sugar, no additives)

Plop those all in a bowl, mash it all together and voila! You have the base to your homemade granola bar. It will actually make two smaller ones. Then, you can add whatever else you want, the one pictured below has some dried cherries, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds. Just roll it and shape it with wax paper and wrap it up in that same paper. We put ours in the fridge overnight and then carried a small cooler bag in Mr. Zucchini Runner’s backpack to keep it solid and not a mess. They were divine on the trail!


Now that food is out of the way, the main point of this post! We got a 6 a.m. start since the high was forecast for 78 degrees. I wanted to walk backwards to see the sun coming up… but that’s not very safe… ;-)


A view of the valley from afar… IMG_1391 This was the first time I’ve been on National Trail, this far in… which isn’t very far… I’ve just always turned or done loops. There are so many trails at South Mountain Preserve. We were about 2 miles in here. That’s our friend Heather, who invited us on this hike in the first place – thanks for the invite and great idea Heather!! :) IMG_1396 Then we got to Hidden Valley, it was fun and felt like we were suddenly transported to a different state… or at the very least Northern AZ! If we would have stayed on National Trail, and not gone down into Hidden Valley we never would have seen all these cool rocks!

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At this point, it might be helpful to show you the aerial view of what we hiked. We started at the green, and finished at the red. It was a total of ~15 miles. Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 6.19.56 PM


Here’s the elevation profile, it was a pretty easy hike. I would say moderate if you are not used to hiking this distance or hiking in general! It took us about 5 hours.

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 6.26.57 PM

After seeing some beautiful views, and hiking along merrily for a good clip, we were starting to get hungry. :)

IMG_1417 IMG_1418 We made it to about the half way point, before we stopped to eat. Heather’s right hand is where we started, left is where we currently were, and Mr. Zucchini Runner’s hand is where we were going to end. IMG_1420

Mmmmmm homemade trail bars. :) Thank you Tony Horton for the amazing idea. Never mind what it looks like, it tastes great! :D IMG_1421

Especially with the extra toppings on the outside. IMG_1424



A view of Ahwatukee…



A geology sample in the rocks along the way…


Enjoy the photos from our hike down the other side!IMG_1438 IMG_1436


Thanks to Facebook we found out later that day, this little guy is called a Blister Beetle. Ew.IMG_1442

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Out of the frame, is Heather getting some rocks out of her shoe! It is a rocky trail!! Down in that valley is San Juan Road, which is awesome for road running!IMG_1444IMG_1451

Down at the base of the mountain — all flat!IMG_1447



All done! Heather’s boyfriend picked us up at the end. NOTE: If you ever do this hike, be sure to go when San Juan Road is open to cars, which is currently only the first weekend of every monthIMG_1452Once home, I couldn’t WAIT to shower! Trekking for 6 hours through the dusty desert makes you feel pretty grimy!



Adventures in Gardening – Part I

WARNING: This post contains a LOT of (really cool) photos showing the progress of our garden and examples of other gardens too!! ;-) Lots of pics means less words though! Enjoy!

About 7 years ago I watched the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car. I distinctly remember being incredibly anxious afterwards and had visions of planting a victory garden in my large Arizona backyard – I had the space, so why not?! The documentary’s message shook me for days and I just couldn’t get past the feeling of being completely dependent on the current food industry for all of my nutrition. I asked myself over and over again, “What WOULD happen if that industry crumbled?”

I eventually talked to a baby boom generation co-worker who talked me down and assured me there was really nothing to worry about. He explained that the industries who control the oil will ride out the oil thing for AS LONG AS its profitable. He then added THEY are the ones who will be profiting when electric cars DO become the norm. But I’m getting somewhat off point here – the point is that I finally planted my garden! It may be 7 years later, but I’ve done it and it wasn’t purely from fear of a global shutdown due to the sudden drying up of oil wells! Sure, that planted the seed — pardon the pun — but it wasn’t until everyone I knew seemed to have a garden that I finally got off my butt! (Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but really… look at this slideshow!)

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So, after thinking, “Boy… we really need to start a garden…” I went to my Holistic Nutrition class that night and guess what we talked about? Local gardens, local seeds, buying local and organic and how much Monsanto sucks. It was like a blinking neon sign saying, “YES! Do it! What are you waiting for?!”

In true Zucchini Runner fashion, I threw any other tasks I had out the window for that weekend and said to Mr. Zucchini Runner, “We are planting a garden this weekend. Let’s call Adam and Melissa and see if they can help.” (Psssst… their garden is EXACTLY what we’ve always wanted!!)

BOOM. Take action. Have awesome friends. Get. It. Done.

After an evening at their house, picking their brains and taking notes we were feeling pretty good about our weekend ahead. Adam also agreed to help with the physical labor, offered up the use of his truck and most importantly almost his entire Saturday! Like I said, awesome friends. Can’t wait to return the favor some day! And by the way, look at THEIR garden from last season! How could we NOT be inspired?!?

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Day 1

First stop? Home Depot for the cinder blocks, we were REALLY maxing out the trucks!


We already had a plan drawn up, so putting the bricks in place was pretty easy, besides the heavy lifting of course.


Our nice open patio – like a blank canvas!


Taking a breather…


Waiting for the inspector to approve us for the dirt!


The guys took both trucks to get us 3 tons of an organic garden soil mixture, which was 33% manure, 33% sand and 33% mulch. Kinda crazy. I wonder what the last 1% is…


Then we… errrr… they… had to transport the dirt from the trucks to the garden.


Here’s Adam! Thanks again for alllll your help!


He brought a little helper with him too!


She was really good at inspecting, just like Rocco…


It all happened so fast!


Adam’s little helper and I worked so hard on the garden, we needed to rest and relax after it was all done! ;-) But really, she was so much fun to hang out with for the day! We had a great time – too bad Melissa had to work!


All done for the night!


Day 2

The very next day Mr. Zucchini Runner and I were at Home Depot again, buying a few more things for the garden – one of them being a compost bin!


We also bought a gutter (yes, you read that correctly – AZ homes don’t come with gutters, because it RARELY rains!) But we didn’t want the runoff from the roof to damage the plants below, because when it DOES rain, it’s usually in the summer during monsoon season and it rolls off the roof in sheets! Not to mention, Adam reminded us the rain water will contain chemicals from the roof materials… not exactly good for our organic garden!

While I assembled the compost bin, Mr. Zucchini Runner finished up the drip line. This made it REAL! We have water in the garden!! Yay!!

IMG_0319 2

Rocco played his part too… at looking super cool.


All done! Yes, that was the sunset that night. It was incredible. I even took two pics and photoshopped them together so you guys could all see what I saw that night. Compost bin done. Drip line in. Another productive day!


Day 3

Mr. Zucchini Runner added the sprinkler heads on his lunch break!

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Day 4

I ordered seeds online the weekend the garden was built… and I maaaaaay have gone a little overboard… maybe? I wanted to stock up!! I was SO happy when this arrived in the mail.


Day 5

Two weeks after the garden was built, it was planting time in AZ! The first half of March is one of our planting seasons – we have two here – and they are very short seasons! This was another reason it was PERFECT timing for me to drop everything and make this happen!

We drove all over town and finally found the perfect nursery! We needed to ensure our soil had all the right components and that included some sort of organic fertilizer that would provide the soil with enough nitrates.


So we bought a soil testing kit, some organic fertilizer and some potting soil for the wheatgrass and micro greens I wanted to plant. We also bought a little gardening guide that was specific to AZ and the March planting season. Gardening in Arizona is unlike the rest of the US and all that you have learned previously, needs to go out the window!


We needed to add the fertilizer that night and work it into the soil. I got a nice blister on my thumb using the Garden Tiller to break up the soil… but I’ll spare you that pic. ;-)


Each step was getting us so close to planting the seeds and getting life into the garden! It was so exciting.


Day 6

The next day (March 9th) we felt like scientists testing the soil, it was kinda fun! We were very low on nitrogen, but the pH was perfect and so was the potash and phosphorus. So, we just went for it and hoped for the best at this point!


The most difficult part of the planning for this, was knowing which seeds/plants were best suited for this time of year, what to put next to each other and what not to and how far apart to space them! In the end, after consulting with Melissa via text and reading books, seed packages and the garden guide I bought… I decided to plant more than I thought could fit to account for loss. Birds, bugs, etc.


We mapped out the specific locations and beds for each plant. The smaller bed has, sage, thyme, dill, parsley, danver carrots, little finger carrots, roma tomato and purple cherokee heirloom tomato. (The tomatoes from seed are a little risky right now, but I went for it!) Do you see the little tomato plant in the upper right corner?


Here’s a closer look… this little guy was saved from under the tortoise burrow way back in the corner of our yard. We feed them organic tomatoes and apparently, they pooped out the seeds and it sprouted!! There was no room for it to grow upward, so I pulled it out and stuck it in the garden, before we even tested the soil or anything! I’ve been nursing it back to life slowly. :)


This is how it looks today! Coming along :) Anyway… back to seed planting day…


At this point, we were starting to feel like real life gardeners. This garden is for all the big boys… ZUCCHINI (of course), yellow straightneck squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, watermelon, hubbard squash and cucumber.


We planted our seeds and labeled them all so we knew what we planted!


I had a little fun with the watermelon stick. ;-)


March 17th

We went out of town the following weekend and came back on March 17th, to a whole slew of little sprouts!! We were elated! The wheatgrass and micro greens (on the right) were already slightly starting to sprout before we left, but had exploded by the time we were home! IMG_0742

March 20th

Our Danver Carrots are starting to show!!


Hubbard Squash has two sprouts in one mound!


Roma tomatoes started showing up yesterday!


And so did the dill!


This experience has been beyond exciting and rewarding already, I can only imagine how things will progress! Although I hope I don’t have any more birds plucking seeds from my garden!!! Today I went out at breakfast and the cucumbers were finally starting to sprout, by the afternoon some birds had come and eaten them – they were GONE! Along with the other hubbard squash mound! GRRRRRR Since I had SO many other sprouts (multiple per mound) I very carefully transplanted one of the spaghetti squash to the cucumber mound.


And relabeled it…


I’ve put this post together, and will continue to track the progress, in case you have been on the fence about planting a garden yourself. As you can see, there are many ways to do it from the very elaborate to a simple garden box. Pick a garden that works for YOU! I hope you have enjoyed the progress so far. More to come in a month or so!

Also, a special thanks to all our friends and family for supplying us with their garden photos! Happy planting everyone :)

Do you have a garden? Have you always wanted to start one but didn’t know where to start? Share your stories, tips and struggles below! We can all learn from each other. :D