September 28th, 2014 by Mike Hug
Cochise County Birding- Best in the West but I’m Prejudiced
Goldfinches flock to the feeders at Down By The River B and B.
In Cochise County birding is a major tourist attraction. The county and in particular, the San Pedro River Riparian area is one of the 5 main flyways that is used by birds during their migration from north to south and visa versa. While there are birds that spend all the time in this area, there are many that spend the winters here. In previous blogs I have written about the San Hill Cranes that spend the winter at the Willcox Playa and also at White Water Draw.
The Cochise County birding migration takes place during the months of September and October for the birds that are heading south. The birds return in March and April as they head north to find mates. Last year the migration was finished by early October. This year we had the Rufous Hummingbirds here at the end of August. There have been many birds that are here in mid and late September. It could be that the birds are heading south in greater numbers because they know that winter is coming early. Time will tell.
Cochise County birding migration always has the Rufous Hummingbird showing up and taking over the feeders for a couple of weeks.
With up to 400 different species that can be found on Cochise County birding lists, it is a small wonder why there are so many bird watchers that frequent the area at all time of the year. Migration times do provide the best times to sight birds, but summer and winter also provide many opportunities to ply your skills at finding and identifying that elusive bird. In fact summer time can be the perfect time for Cochise County birding because that is the time when the birds are on the nest. We have been informed that this part of the San Pedro River is a nesting area for the Black Throated Hummingbirds, Gray Hawks and also some Mississippi Kites.
Lady Luck allowed me to spot this Gray Hawk and take a photograph of him before he took flight.
There are sites that will give you some forecasts of the birds that will be migrating. Here is a link to one. But don’t take my word for it. We had one guest here in April spot 53 birds from the property and while walking in the river bed to the east of the house. Here viewing effort started our list of birds that were seen here at the B and B. Make plans to head to The San Pedro River Valley and spend time at Down By The River B and B to experience Cochise County Birding at its best.
September 22nd, 2014 by Mike Hug
Cochise County October Events
Cochise County October events provide something for the entire family in all parts of the county. Events are held in Willcox,Tombstone and Benson. The Tombstone and Benson events here in Southeastern Arizona during October have been detailed in my last two blogs. Willcox offers more events that help to fill up the October calendar. There are two events that take place in Willcox. One is Rex Allen Days and the other is the Willcox Wine Country Festival.
Rex Allen Days – Great Family Fun
The Rex Allen Museum also houses the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
This year Willcox will celebrate the 63 rd Annual Rex Allen Days from October 2 through October 5. This Cochise County October event starts off with the Cowboy Hall of Fame Awards on October 2. This Hall of Fame is directed toward the real cattlemen and women that spent their lives working the ranches and raising cattle herds in Cochise County. The Museum tells the story of these men and women, their accomplishments and hard work in the cattle industry.
The Rex Allen Days Rodeo is a fun filled action packed 2 day event.
On the October 3rd, the celebration starts off with a parade. There are many activities including two days of rodeo events, a carnival, a tractor pull and in the evening there is entertainment for everyone to enjoy. The Rodeo is the weekend before the rodeo in Benson so if you do both you may see some of the same riders. The Rex Allen museum is open during this time and a visit there will give you a background history of who Rex Allen was. You can find more information on the Rex Allen Museum from a previous blog.
The Willcox Wine Country Festival – a Cochise County October Event Tradition
Last year we had a blog about the Willcox Wine Country Festival and how we went there to find some wines that we would have in our Wine Challenge at the River. The Challenge was fun and an Arizona Wine actually won the competition. This year The wine festival in Willcox is being held on October 18 and 19. This is the same weekend as Helldorado Days in Tombstone so it is a chance for people to do two Cochise County October events on the same weekend.
The festival is held at Railroad Park in downtown Willcox across the street from the Rex Allen Museum. For a fee of $15, you get a commemorative glass and 6 tickets to use for wine tasting. Angie and I usually will share a tasting so that we can have 12 different wines using our tickets. Additional tickets are available and generally wine club members of a winery at the event get the tastings free. This year there will be an offering of over 70 different wines from several Arizona wineries that grow their grapes in the Willcox area. At this festival there is a special Movie Screening and introduction by Sam Pillsbury at Willcox Historic Theater across from the park.
For more information on the wine festival, click on this link. When you look for lodging for these events check us out at Down By The River to see how we are centrally located to all the Cochise County October Events. Hope to see you soon.
September 16th, 2014 by Mike Hug
Southeastern Arizona October Events Are For The Whole Family
Southeastern Arizona October Events are many and varied. I wrote about some in my last blog. That blog had to do with events in Tombstone but that isn’t all that is the only events in Cochise County during October. There are other Southeastern Arizona October events going on in Benson with Butterfield Stage Days and the Butterfield Rodeo and in Willcox with Rex Allen Days and the Willcox Fall Wine Festival
Benson Butterfield Stage Days
There are many talented people that participate in Southeastern Arizona October Events.
Benson’s Butterfield Stage Days commemorates the Butterfield Stage route that came through the Benson area in the late 1850s. It has been 155 years since the Stage Route was started. This is some great family fun to be had during the weekend.
The Butterfield Stage Days parade is open to anyone that wishes to participate.
On October 10 and 11, 2014 the festivities start off with a parade through the streets of Benson. This year’s theme is “San Pedro Valley Education – 100+ years and counting.” Last year the Benson School District was rated the best in the State of Arizona. There are vendor booths set up around the Benson Museum and if like previous years there are members of the Buffalo Soldiers Renactors Group that have a display.
There is also a Pony Express group that takes commemorative envelopes that are sold to visitors and delivers the mail to the Dragoon Post Office. Although the Pony Express never came through Benson it was determined that this activity would lend some Old West spirit to the festival.
The Pony Express Riders are volunteers and carry commemorative mail to the Post Office in Dragoon.
After the end of the Rodeo completion on Saturday, There are fireworks in Lions Park. This is always a great time to sit back and enjoy the fireworks. This has been a tradition for many years.
On Sunday, the Butterfield Stage Days ends but not before the judging of the car show is done. This show has not be held for 2 years but in the past it has drawn a number of old beauties and is worth the time to see the entries.
The Rodeo is a two day event that is held and the Arena Bar in Benson. The Arena has been the host of the Rodeo for many years. The facilities are nice and there is a lot of parking available. Besides the adult rodeo there is also rodeo events for children. This can be a lot of fun to watch with youngsters are out there trying their skills. For more information click on the City of Benson Link.
Visit our website at Down By The River B and B if you are planning to take in any of these Southeastern Arizona October Events.
September 10th, 2014 by Mike Hug
Tombstone October Events Are A Must See And Do At Least Once.
Tombstone has a cast and crew of cowboys walking the streets during operating hours. Special weekends have gun fights and other special events.
Tombstone October Events are just right for that person that would like to see an Old West spectacular celebration. Dodge City and Deadwood have celebrations but in my opinion the best time to get the most out of your “Old West” experience is to head for Tombstone. The Tombstone October events week starts off with the Wyatt Earp Vendetta Ride and culminates with the second event, Helldorado Days.
The Vendetta Ride is a historic five day ride on horseback to many sites where Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and his posse rode as they chased down and had shootouts with the “Cowboys”. The Cowboys were associates of the Clantons, known rustlers and killers. The horseback ride is mainly in Cochise County and you will visit sites where Curly Bill Brocius, Johnny Barnes and Johnny Ringo were killed. The rides start at a different place each day and you will be transported to the starting point for that days ride. Three meals a day are provided. To get more information, click on the link to Great American Ventures for this part of the Tombstone October Events. This year the event is held from October 12 to the 17, 2014.
Smile when you say that!
The second of the Tombstone October events starts just after the Vendetta Ride concludes. The 85 th annual Helldorado Days is held on October 17 to 19, 2014. This is the premiere festival held in Tombstone. Where does the word Helldorado come from? Well according to some Tombstone aficionados it comes from an old miner who complained about his experience. He wrote into the Tombstone Nugget Newspaper that most of the miners that came to find their El Dorado ended up doing menial jobs like washing dishes and only found Helldorado.
Tombstones Helldorado days takes its name from this miner’s grievance. Helldorado Days is the longest running event in Tombstone. It started in 1929, the year Wyatt Earp died. I don’t know if that was a coincidence or not. Each year this Tombstone October Event is held on the third weekend in October and is sponsored by Helldorado Inc. If you can’t make the festivities this year keep that third weekend in mind for another time.
This year the Helldorado Days event will include a raffle for an 1851 Sheriff Brass 44 cal Black Power Revolver. The drawing will be held on Sunday the 19 th at 4 PM. Other event activities include a parade, entertainment by various cowboy re enactors during the festivities, a beard and mustache contest and of course, the famous Walk Down to the OK Corral. There will be many people that show up in the period dress who are not part of the entertainment. It is always a fund time and you will be able to get some great photographs during these Tombstone October events.
The gunfight at the OK Corral is staged every day in Tombstone
Lodging for visitors usually fills up fast. It is not unheard of hotels, motels and b and b having no occupancy 3 or 4 weeks out prior to the Helldorado Days festival. We have had many people stay at our B and B and head to Tombstone dressed to the nines for their day of fun. Down By The River B and B is located outside of Tombstone in St. David. We are a 20 minute drive to the “Town Too Tough To Die”. Check us out and see what we have to offer as an upscale location near Tombstone.
September 4th, 2014 by Mike Hug
Apple Pancakes With Apple Syrup – A Special Taste Treat
One of our staple dishes is the egg cup and we serve it with many different sides. This is with apple pancakes.
Apple pancakes with apple syrup is a special taste treat at Down By The River B and B. When we serve our egg cups or breakfast bake we have a side dish to go with the main dish. Sometimes it is peach pancakes or one of our French toast creations. With the apples ripening at Apple Annie’s Orchard, we make our Apple pancakes with apple syrup so that our guests get some fresh apple taste in the morning.
While you could use just Bisquick or other box mix for your pancakes we add a little more to ours. We use a pancake mix but add wheat germ and flax seed along with an egg to add a little more flavor and heartiness to the pancakes. We also have a griddle that will cook 8 – 6 inch pancakes at a time. So here is the recipe for the apple pancakes with apple syrup.
Cooking apple pancakes on our large skillet is helpful when we have a full table for breakfast.
- 2 cups pancake mix
- ¼ cup flax seed
- ¼ cup wheat germ
- 1 large egg
- ¼ Tsp nutmeg
- 1 Tsp cinnamon
- 2 cups water (approximately judge for yourself on the thickness you desire.)
- Half apple cored and chopped.
Mix all the ingredients together and have no lumps. Use a ¼ cup of batter to make each pancake.
Makes about 8 pancakes
Apple Syrup Ingredients:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tsp cinnamon
- ¼ Tsp nutmeg
- ½ stick butter
- 2 cups apple juice
- ½ Tbsp lemon juice
- Mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg in pan.
- Stir in apple juice and lemon juice till smooth
- Heat to boiling stir constantly
- Boil 1 minute
- Blend in butter
- Serve warm with pancakes.
If there aren’t two people working this then you can do the syrup and set aside. Pour into a serving dish and prior to serving the pancakes put the serving dish in boiling water in a pan and heat it up to a warmer temp. The extra can be preserved in a canning jar.
Pouring the apple syrup on the apple pancakes is the start of the taste sensation during breakfast at Down By The River B and B.
August 29th, 2014 by Mike Hug
Peach Smoothie Recipe is a hit a Down By The River B and B
Gather all the ingredients that you will use for the peach smoothie.
Our peach smoothie recipe is a blast of flavor that we serve our guests at Down By The River B and B. We have a secret ingredient and which is fresh peaches. We always pick the peaches that we use in our peach smoothies. We don’t purchase store bought peaches because they never have been picked ripe. Most store bought peaches are picked green and shipped in cold storage. Even when you let them ripen on the counter they never achieve the wonderful flavor which you find with fresh peaches. As Angie would say “There flavor is a party in your mouth”. Many of our guests have never picked a peach off a tree and they don’t know how intense the flavor can be.
Pouring the peach smoothie into a glass for the guests
In a previous blog I told about how we plan our day when we go peach picking and then the process that we go through to prepare the peaches for future use in smoothies and in our peach pancakes. It is a long day but at the end we will have enough peaches processed to get us through the winter season. Ah but I am starting to go astray. So here is our recipe for peach smoothies. A word of warning, we us a heavy duty bar blender when making our smoothies because we work with frozen ingredients. If you have a light blender make sure your ingredients are defrosted.
Down By The River B and B
Peach Smoothie Recipe
- 8 ounces Frozen Peaches cut into chunks or slices
- 1 – 6 ounce Peach yogurt
- 16 ounces Peach juice
- In a blender place yogurt, peaches, and peach juice
- Blend the mixture until smooth
- Pour into glasses
Peach smoothie recipe complete and ready to serve to the guests.
As an alternate to this recipe to give it a twist, added 3 ounces of fresh raspberries to the mixture to add a little tartness and reddish color to the smoothie.
Serves 2 to 3
August 23rd, 2014 by Mike Hug
Picking fruit in Willcox is an all day process at Down By The River B and B.
Sign at the entrance to Apple Annie’s
Picking fruit in Willcox is one of the fun things we do, that could be considered work, for our guests to enjoy when come to Down By The River B and B. When we have the slower time of the year, picking fruit in Willcox just fits right into the routine. Picking apples for our apple pancakes is not a high priority with us because we can get good apples at the store. What is the priority is the peaches. We have dishes that we serve with peaches that require us to get peaches that are fresh and ripe. Peaches you find in the store usually don’t have the flavor of tree ripened peaches. Our guests love the real peach taste and many have not had a tree ripened peach.
Picking fruit in Willcox offers a wide range of types to choose. Apples, pears and peaches are growing in the orchards.
When we are picking fruit in Willcox, we have never been disappointed with stopping at Apple Annie’s Orchard. We usually leave by 7 so that we can get the fruit picked and be on our way back home before it gets too hot and steamy. Luckily for us there was fog in Willcox and so we were kept out of the sun most of the time. This year the fruit has ripened a couple of weeks earlier than normal. Mainly because of the warm winter and early spring, the trees blossomed earlier. We missed getting to harvest the Hale Peaches that we so enjoy. Instead we settled for the O’Henry Peaches which stays harder even though it is ripe.
46 pounds later we had our peaches picked. After the peaches we found the Asian Pears and picked 15 pounds of them. The fruit was perfect for us and was easily picked without the need of ladders or fruit picker devices. When picking fruit in Willcox, we have found it best to go during the week and not on the weekend. You don’t have to fight the crowds and you can pick a choose fruit better. Apple Annie’s also provides a picking calendar on their website to let you know the times to pick fruit. After paying for our fruit we decided to skip the fudge shop and also not to stop for apple pie that was coming fresh out of the oven. Yes there is more at Apple Annie’s than just going and picking fruit in Willcox.
Two buckets of peaches and a half bucket of Asian Pears picked in 30 minutes.
After we got back home the work begins. We wash the fruit and then start sorting by size. The larger peaches get cut into rings for our peach pancakes that we serve. A link to our recipe is here. The smaller peaches and remnants of the rings are cut up into chunks for use in our Peach Smoothies. Of course once in a while some small piece needs to be sampled to make sure it is sweet enough to be used for our breakfasts at Down By The River B and B. It is all part of the “Quality Control”. Book a room with us and find out what breakfast is all about here in St. David.
August 17th, 2014 by Mike Hug
The Common Raven Pulls A Prank At Down By The River B And B
The Common Raven have a distinctive call and when close it is unnerving.
The Common Raven and the Chihuahuan Ravens are large black birds with distinctive calls and if you are concentrating on one thing, such as finding a snake, that call can startle you if it is close. Both of these birds can be seen at Down By The River B and B. The Common Raven is a little larger than the Chihuahuan Raven and the bill is longer and more curved. I haven’t been able to photograph either raven while here at the b and b.
The Coachwhip Snake, sometimes known as a Red Racer, hunts for small rodents, lizards and other reptiles.
I had to water the plants and trees because the monsoon rains were not cooperating and failed to fall at the b and b. That morning, I was almost finished and was finally watering around the patio. Just the day before I had walked by a Coachwhip Snake and didn’t see him until he quickly moved away. The snake’s camouflage is good. It is similar in color to the flagstone deck we have in the back patio. It shocked me that a snake could be that close to me and I hadn’t seen it. I went in and got the camera. He had disappeared by the time I returned but I later spotted the snake as he reemerged. I was able to take some photos and then watched as he went into a planter on the patio.
The Common Ravens usually are found in pairs. They will eat anything that they find.
I was watering one planter and was looking into the rosemary to see if the snake was still in hiding. Having a heightened sense of alertness, I heard this loud call just as I was looking at one area and jumped. “Snakes don’t make that sound fool” I said to myself. I figured that a raven had flown overhead and went back to watering. Then I heard the loud call again. I looked up but there wasn’t a bird in the sky. As I turned around, the Common Raven was sitting on the patio roof not 5 feet from where I stood. No wonder it was so loud. Since I had the hose in hand I squirted the raven. The bird just spread its wings and enjoyed it.
The Common Raven starting to fly off to greener pastures.
Well I haven’t ever had a chance to photograph any raven this close so I put down the hose and went in for the camera. I figured the bird would be gone by the time I got back. But no this raven was not moving and now there was another raven on the roof with the first. I took pictures of them on the roof and had a nice photo shoot. Then they both flew over to the fountain and landed there. So I thought I will just walk over and see how close I can get before they fly off. Amazingly, I was close enough that I could have reached out and touched them. Not a good idea with those bills. I settled for some good close up shots.
Our birding friend Randy always joked that you could tell a Crow from a Common Raven by the length of the nose hairs. Well with the close up, I could see that this bird looks like it does have nose hairs. The birds were really just curious and flew around the back patio looking at things and nosed around (pardon the pun). We do see the ravens around here but usually they are flying or scavenging on the road. These two must have been models because they didn’t mind posing for the photo shoot. After about 10 minutes they flew off and I haven’t seen them back. To quote Poe maybe they told me “Nevermore”.
A close up photo taken from about 3 feet definitely show what could be called nose hairs.
August 11th, 2014 by Mike Hug
Willcox Winery Tour From Down By The River B and B
A Willcox Winery Tour requires some planning. Using Arizona Wine Lifestyle Maps can show you the locations of the wineries you want to visit.
We love to take the Willcox Winery Tour and spend the day doing some wine tasting and meeting friends. During the summer season, the traffic at Down By The River B and B slows down and allows us to venture out to look at the many sites in Cochise County. Angie and I decided to take a day and do a Willcox wine tour visiting some wineries that are on the Willcox Bench. We hadn’t been to Willcox since the October Willcox Wine Festival. Our purpose then was to find an Arizona wine to have at our “Challenge on the River”, a blind wine taste test that we held in November, 2013. This time our intent was to find out about a new tasting room that was opened.
Coronado was first on our Willcox Winery Tour and they offer a wide range of wines.
We started off the Willcox winery tour visiting Terry at Coronado Vineyards on the east side of Willcox. Our first visit to Coronado was during the second week that they opened the tasting room. This time we met some travelers who were there to taste and had a fun time discussing wine and our b and b. The wines range from dry to semi sweet and they do have some desert wines and a sparking wine. Every year we host a New Years Eve Party with our guests and friends. This year will not be an exception. At midnight we pour Coronado’s sparkling wine Dolce Veritas. The tasting room is open daily check their website for the hours.
Bodega Pierce has just opened their tasting room. We wanted to stop and see what they had to offer and also to introduce ourselves.
After taking our leave of Coronado, we headed south to the center of the Willcox Bench growing region. We stopped at Bodega Pierce. They have just opened their tasting room on Robbs Road in Kansas Settlement located just north of the Pillsbury winery. We had tasted their wines in October but under the name of Saeculum Cellars. Barbara and Dan are the perfect hosts and will take time to explain their wines to you. We actually got there as the rain started and it was pleasant to sip wine and watch the rain. It had been over a week since there was a good rain. We did enjoy their wines which are medium to dry and fruity. They do have a delightful Malvasia Bianca. That grape is usually blended with other wines and I haven’t tasted it much as a varietal. Their hours are Thursday to Sunday 11 to 5.
Pillsbury Wine Company is building a new wine building to improve their facilities.
Next stop on our Willcox wine tour was Pillsbury Wine Company. Located a little further south and then east on Bennet Place. We came to see Bonnie, Sam Pillsbury’s wonderful tasting room hostess and to view the new construction. Pillsbury is having a new winery building constructed for the expanding vineyard and the building is progressing nicely. We were the only ones there for a while and got to catch up on what was going on. The wines are medium to dry. Just before we left we met another vintner who is just starting out with his winery. He told us it would be a couple of years before he gets to the point of having a tasting room. The Pillsbury tasting room is open Thursday to Sunday 11 to 5.
Zarpara Tasting Room is in the middle of the vineyard
We end our Willcox winery tour with a stop at Zarpara Winery and we were greeted by Rhona and Mark. We stopped at Zarpara on the first week that they opened. They have a nice variety of wine from medium to dry. Rhona had just got back from Scotland and so we got to catch up on gossip with her. Her dog came into the tasting room with us but was summarily marched back out. Seems the dog had a run in with a skunk and after a while the scent would make its presents known. Zarpara had the honor of winning our “Challenge on the River” blind taste test with their wine Origen. The tasting room is open Friday to Sunday 11 to 5.
Texas Canyon’s scattered trees offers some shade while you enjoy the views while you return from a Willcox Winery tour.
Our return home was through the town of Dragoon and into Texas Canyon. The area is picturesque and is even more so when the monsoon clouds and rain are in the mix. The loop trip on our Willcox wine tour lasted about 7 hours and was a less than 100 miles in length. We got home while it was still light so we could enjoy the sunset and relax. We have found that wine people are very friendly and everyone is helpful with directions to the neighboring wineries. So plan your next Willcox wine tour and stay at Down By The River after your loop trip. The next day you can head to Sonoita for more wine tasting loop trip or maybe just make your way home.
August 5th, 2014 by Mike Hug
Willcox Bench Wineries Produce Award Winning Wines
The Willcox Bench Wineries have a perfect climate and soil for growing grapes.
The Willcox Bench wineries are plentiful and varied. The elevation is from 4300 feet to 4500 feet and the temperature range is 30 to 40 degrees. With the Arizona sunshine, this is a perfect grape growing region. A majority of the fruit grown for use the in Arizona wineries are from vines on the Willcox Bench. The wineries in the Verde Valley towns of Cottonwood and Page Springs grow some of their grapes in that area but the rest comes from Willcox. Even some of the Sonoita Wineries grow their grapes on the Willcox Bench.
The Willcox Bench wineries are located in a valley that is an old lake bed. The Willcox Playa is the remains of a dry lake that in the winter is the nesting area for the Sand Hill Cranes that migrate to the south from the northern latitudes. Bird watching on the bench, along with wine tasting, are two of the pastimes that the traveling public find enjoyable. The old lake bed provides the water needed to irrigate the vines. The summer monsoon rains also help to give the vines water during the July and August months.
The Willcox Playa is a dry lake in the Sulphur Springs Valley and is where the Sand Hill Cranes spend the winter.
Originally when we started Down By the River B and B, the wine tasting rooms were in Sonoita and at Bowie. Over the years there have been many tasting rooms spring up on the Willcox Bench. In 2014, a couple of new tasting rooms have opened for business. Reports are that the Willcox Bench Wineries are growing fast as more vineyards come on line and when new ones open up we try to stop by to introduce ourselves and also take time see our friends at other wineries.
Syrah is one of the varietals that you can find at the Willcox Bench Wineries.
Many of the wineries here in Arizona grow their grapes on the Willcox Bench. Wines of Willcox has a list of 12 tasting rooms and there is another list of vintners that are associated with the Willcox wine growing region.You can also get a map of the wineries from AZ Wine Lifestyle Naturally we can’t visit them all in one day so that makes if fun to go back to Willcox another time and stop at the other wineries. Some of the tasting rooms are available by appointment only while other have set hours. Aridus has recently added to the value to the bench with a modern crush facility for the vintners in the area. The local wineries now have access to a state of the art facility located on the Willcox Bench.
We have sampled wine at nearly all the Willcox Bench wineries over the years and we have found something we like at each one of the wineries. Probably one of the best ways to sample wines from the other wineries that you haven’t heard about is to go to the Willcox Wine Festival coming up in October or the one held next spring in May. Many vintners are there and the tastings are available in a wonderful festive atmosphere with food available and music playing in the background. In late July Angie and I decided to check out a new tasting room that was opening and also to visit some old friends that we know at some other wineries. Read our next blog Willcox Winery Tour for that information.
Some wineries us netting to protect the grapes from the birds and tall fencing to keep the deer out.