Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch has been voted one of the best roadside attractions in America. I have to admit, we had more fun than I thought we’d have! We’ve driven by it so many times on the way to Phoenix but never stopped. Now we will be stopping regularly when we make the long drive up north.

The ranch is a family owned and operated working ostrich ranch located between Phoenix and Tucson at the base of Picacho Peak Mountain. You can interact with ostriches, donkeys, goats, deer, prairie dogs, ducks, lorikeets and a tortoise.

Summer hours are Friday – Monday from  9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The ranch is open daily November – April.

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch

The ranch is the largest privately owned ostrich ranch in the United States. You can read more about the ranch here.

Admission is $7.00 for ages 6 – 106 years old and includes a cup with feed for the donkeys, goats, deer and ostriches and a second cup with peanuts for the prairie dogs, a gold token for self-serve duck food and a small cup of nectar for the lorikeets. Kids under 5 are free and you can purchase feed or nectar refills for $2.00 each or any 3 feed refills for $5.00 if you don’t want to share.

Our first stop was Little Donkeytown, USA to visit with the Miniature Sicilian Donkeys. There are less than 10,000 of them left in the world.

Miniature Sicilian Donkeys

Little Donkeytown, USA

Miniature Sicilian Donkeys

As you can see, the feed cups are quite large. We had plenty of feed.

Next we made our way to the Fallow Deer, a European breed that is easily domesticated and disease resistant. They were a bit overwhelming so J decided to toss the feed instead of letting them eat from her hand.

Fallow Deer

Tossing feed to the deer.

At the Goat Penthouse you can put some feed in a ball and crank it up to the goats. According to the sign the goats are up in the air because they love to be up high. They do have soft flooring, water and of course they get plenty of feed. They also come down every evening to rejoin their buddies on the ground.

The Goat Penthouse

The Goat Penthouse

The next stop was definitely J’s favorite – the Hole in the Wall Gang. These Boer Goats stick their heads out and eat. They are kind of creepy and cute all at the same time.

Boer Goats

Feeding the Hole in the Wall Gang.

When I finally tore J away from The Hole in the Wall Gang, we made our way over to the ostriches. For safety, you can put their food in a chute and watch them eat on the other side of the fence. If you want to get up close and personal there is an area with a platform where you can feed them from your hand.

Ostrich

Using the chute to feed the ostriches.

Ostrich

Look at that face!

The peanuts can be tossed down to the prairie dogs over in Praire Dog Town, USA.

Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dog Town, USA

The Cabbage Patch Kids were a lot of fun. I wanted to take one home.

Baby Goats

Feeding the Cabbage Patch Kids.

You will get wet if you stand too close to the ducks at Quackville, USA. Here you can trade in the gold token for some duck food.

Ducks

Quackville, USA

Be prepared for a friendly bird attack when you enter the aviary. The lorikeets want their nectar. The second you walk in you will be bombarded. If the lid is still on your nectar the lorikeets will tear it off and try to take off with the cup. I suggest walking in with an open nectar container and your arm held out in front of you. Hold on to the cup because they will try to take it from you. If you do lose your cup and lid to the lorikeets don’t feel bad. There were cups and lids all over the place so it must happen to a lot of people. If you mange to hold onto them there are garbage cans as you walk out the door.

Lorikeets

Feeding the lorikeets.

A tortoise also hangs out in the aviary.

Desert Tortoise

Desert Tortoise

Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch also does Monster Truck Tours on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The 40 minute tour takes you through the ostrich ranch and the desert near Picacho Peak.

Before you leave you can purchase a giant, hollow ostrich egg, feather duster or other ostrich related item if you so desire. We haven’t gotten an egg yet but I think we need one for our nature corner.

I’ll leave you with a few fun ostrich facts. You can read more here.

  • Ostriches can live to be 75 years old.
  • The ostrich is the largest living bird in the world.
  • An ostrich egg is the largest of all eggs, however, it is the smallest egg in relation to the size of the bird.
  • The ostrich is native to Africa but thrives all over the world. They are desert animals and can withstand droughts and high temperatures.

 

Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson

Instead of celebrating Cinco de Mayo, we visited Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson to celebrate Children’s Day, a Japanese holiday that is celebrated on May fifth. It is a day set aside to respect children’s personalities and to celebrate their happiness. There were some special things happening as part of the celebration including origami, goldfish netting, making a carp wind sock and wearing an authentic yukata (light summer kimono).

Children's Day

Celebrate!

Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson is located at 2130 North Alvernon Way, just one half block south of the Tucson Botanical Gardens. The gardens cover a peaceful three-quarters of an acre. There are five  traditional Japanese garden styles, each a representation of nature being balanced by the human hand.

Yume means “dream” in Japanese, and as in a dream, the gardens conduct visitors through metaphors that summon the creative force of centuries of Japanese culture. ~Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson

Japanese Garden

A small garden near the entry.

J’s favorite garden was definitely the Strolling Pond Garden. There are some huge koi fish lazily swimming around!

Strolling Pond Garden

Beautiful and serene!

J definitely enjoyed the koi.

Strolling Pond Garden

Feeding the koi.

Strolling Pond Garden

Still watching the koi.

The two Courtyard Gardens are meant to be explored from within machiai (clay walled and shingle roofed shelters). Each machiai has a shady space to sit. Each garden has a stone wash basin carved from granite. The basins each create a different sound to add to the ambiance. A small garden of this type is called a tsubo-niwa and would often be found within the enclosing walls of a residence.

Courtyard Garden

One of the Courtyard Gardens.

The inscription of four kanji characters on the basin in the other Courtyard Garden says, “I just know contentment.”

Courtyard Garden

Within the walls of the machiai.

Machiai

Outside of the machiai.

The Grass Garden is composed of sand and grass in the outlines of a gourd, a circle and a bean. The grass areas of this garden are not meant to be walked on.

Grass Garden

The gourd is a Japanese symbol of good luck and success.

The Zen Contemplative Garden represents a Zen garden that would be used for meditation. It simply consists of gravel surrounded by a border of gray cobbles and granite edging. There is a viewing platform along the open edge where you can sit and relax, meditate or contemplate.

Zen Contemplative Garden

The Zen Contemplative Garden is meant to be explored mentally.

The Modern Garden is rooted in tradition but appears more contemporary.

Modern Garden

A modern design based on traditional principles.

If you are counting you will notice that I’ve only covered four gardens. There is also the Stone and Gravel Garden but I failed to take a photo of it. Oops! You’ll have to go visit to see it!

An area with some mini Zen gardens for the kids to play with was set up in a corner. I don’t know if it’s always there or not.

Mini Zen Gardens

Raking the sand with a fork.

There are a few visitor policies to think about when visiting here with kids:

  • You must stay on the pathways and within the viewing areas. Most of the gardens are cordoned off and you cannot walk on them. There are a lot of rocks here that are very enticing for little ones! I think it is hard for little ones to be around so many rocks and not be able to kick, throw and play around in them.
  • Cell phone use is prohibited unless you are just using it for the camera.
  • You can bring bottled water but no other food or beverage.

There are plenty of viewing platforms and some tables with chairs to sit at. There isn’t much shade though. The only bathroom is a porta-potty near the entrance. The parking lot is small but you can park around the corner on a side street if it is full.

Koinobori

Walking through the koinobori, wind socks shaped like carp, on our way out.

J enjoyed herself but this may not be exciting enough on a regular day for some little kiddos. You could always just make a mini Japanese rock garden at home. In any case, the gardens are a tranquil escape even if you decide to leave the kiddos at home. All that’s missing is a Japanese teahouse!

Mini Japanese Rock Garden

A Japanese rock garden, or Zen garden,  is a “dry landscape” garden – perfect for Tucson! It can also be fun for kids and it’s simple to put together as long as you have a little bit of space outdoors. You could make one indoors but be prepared for a mess!

In Japanese culture there are different principles to follow as well as a lot of symbolism but we didn’t get into that aspect of Zen gardening. Not yet, anyway.

Mini Zen Garden

We used an area that previously had dirt in it. We covered the dirt with a thick layer of gravel.

Japanese rock gardens are usually arranged within a rectangular frame and they use gravel rather than sand because it isn’t disturbed as easily by the elements. It is also easier to rake and keep a pattern in the gravel.

We bought our gravel at Acme Sand & Gravel. Acme calls it Platinum Zen Sand but it is a limestone gravel. It cost us less than $10 to fill this area. You will need to bring your own bags or buckets to Acme or you can purchase bags there for a few bucks a piece. Be prepared though – this gravel gets heavy quickly!

Mini Zen Garden

We filled our Zen garden with limestone gravel.

Traditionally, you would rake patterns representing rippling water or waves.

Mini Zen Garden

Rippling water (or something like it).

We wandered around our yard and found some flat rocks that could be stacked easily for our Japanese rock garden. The most common arrangement is one or more groups of three or more rocks.

Mini Zen Garden

An arrangement of three rocks.

J has a fun time raking the gravel and creating different designs and patterns – definitely not always resembling rippling water or waves!

Mini Zen Garden

Raking the gravel.

She also has a great time stacking the rocks (referred to as setting stones if you want to get technical). She also enjoys knocking them down.

Mini Zen Garden

Stacking the stones.

Our mini Zen garden isn’t always peaceful. Some days J throws or kicks the gravel all over the place. Sometimes she digs and some days she plays with her trucks or other toys in the gravel. This gravel is fun to play in so if a Japanese rock garden isn’t appealing just put a bunch of gravel in a sandbox or plastic tub. It is easy to sweep up, too.

I always poke around in the gravel a little bit before letting J play, just in case anything creepy is lurking under the rocks. So far we’ve only found lizards.

I’ll end with a short Zen Buddhism quote that I like.

You should study not only that you become a mother when your child is born, but also that you become a child.”
Dogen Zenji

Colossal Cave Mountain Park Discovery Tour Game

Colossal Cave Mountain Park has a Discovery Tour game that you can play. You can pick up a Discovery Tour game map at the toll booth, any of the gift shops or at the trail rides office for free. There are 18 icons on the map and 18 matching Discovery Tour stations around the park. At each station you will find a paper punch. All you have to do is punch the icon on the map that matches the location you are at. Once you have punched all 18 icons you will have seen just about all of the park. Then take your map to one of the gift shops for a treasure! You don’t have to tour the cave to complete the Discovery Tour map. We are saving the cave tour for another day!

We started our tour at the La Posta Quemada (Burned Stage Station) Ranch, a working ranch since 1878. There are 5,714 grazing acres that are leased around Colossal Cave Mountain Park. The ranch is currently a cow/calf operation with approximately 65 head of female cows grazing year round. There are two resident cowboys that handle the ranching operation.

Discovery Tour

These are the paper punch stations that you will be looking for throughout the park.

There are quite a few things to see and do at La Posta Quemada and you will punch most of your map’s icons in this area. Our first stop was an analemmatic sundial, which is a horizontal sundial and consists of a central calendar grid and an elipse showing the hours. A gnomon (vertical rod) is used to tell the time. You can also use your body to tell the time instead of the gnomon.

Analemmatic Sundial

It was too cloudy so we didn’t see much of a shadow to tell us the time.

There is a butterfly garden that has been designed to provide for the full life cycle of butterflies. There are larval food plants for caterpillars and nectar providing plants for the adult butterflies. There is also shade and camouflage for protection from predators. For the humans there are benches for relaxing and enjoying the butterflies and flowers. The park has a list of butterflies that you can look for but I didn’t find it very helpful since there aren’t any photos to reference.

Butterfly Garden

Looking for butterflies.

There are two Desert Tortoises but they must have been hiding because we couldn’t find them. They are of the Sonoran sub-species, going back nearly 230 million years…before dinosaurs existed!

Desert Tortoises

Desert Tortoise Exhibit

There is a mining sluice where you can pan for gemstones, fossils or arrowheads.

Sluice

Hey, there’s water in this sluice!

There are a few random exhibits, like this funhouse mirror from the 1934 World’s Fair. J thought her reflection was interesting! You will also find a windmill, caboose, water tower and some other old pieces of history here.

Funhouse Mirror

Looking slightly strange!

There are a few small museums here at the park. The CCC Museum (Civilian Conservation Corps) is in a restored adobe that used to be used as the CCC office for the Colossal Cave Project. The museum is dedicated to the men of camp SP-10-A. The museum is set up like a Camp Commandant’s office of the 1930′s complete with furniture built by the CCC. The CCC began preparing for the Colossal Cave Project in 1934. They developed the tour route, made the entrance larger, built bridges, put down the flagstone pathways and installed lighting and handrails. They created the picnic areas, roads and stone ramadas as well. Many of the buildings were also built by the CCC and are still in use today. You can learn more about the CCC inside the museum. Colossal Cave Mountain Park was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

CCC Museum

The CCC Museum

There is also the La Posta Quemada Ranch Museum which is housed inside the Ranch Headquarters House, built in 1967. The museum focuses on the human and natural history of Colossal Cave Mountain Park and the Cienega Corridor region.

La Posta Quemada Ranch Museum

J was more interested in the cat than anything else in the museum.

The Ranch Headquarters House has a quiet courtyard that J had fun exploring.

Courtyard

Wandering around the courtyard.

Courtyard

There wasn’t any water in the fountain, much to J’s dismay.

The Colossal Cave Research Library is also located at the Ranch Headquarters House. J was happy to find a whole collection of children’s books. We had to take a reading break! The library is a source of information about the natural and cultural pre-history and history of Colossal Cave and the surrounding area for researchers and staff with over 800 books and thousands of historic photographs, journals and newspaper articles. The library is open daily. The library also schedules story times and other children’s activities.

Colossal Cave Research Library

The Children’s Collection had a nice assortment of books for all ages.

We left the Ranch Headquarters House and walked a short distance on the Bundrick Trail to see a few more things in this area.

Bundrick Trail

Finding treasures along the trail.

There is a very small petting zoo with some goats, ducks, chickens and mules. Petting is free and you can feed the animals for $1.00.

Petting Zoo

Mmmm…an apple!

If you have older children you can saddle up and take a leisurely guided trail ride along the National Mail Stagecoach route.

Trail Rides

All saddled up and ready to go, but we just said hello.

After saying hello to the horses we got in the car and drove a minute or two to get to the next stop on our Discovery Tour, a life size sculpture called “The Cowboy” by Buck McCain. The sculpture is a tribute to the working cowboy. It was donated to the park by the Pima County Parklands Foundation.

The Cowboy

The Cowboy

There is a large parking lot in this area. We were looking for the playground so we parked and got out. It turned out that the playground was under construction so we went searching for a geocache along the other end of the Bundrick Trail.

Bundrick Trail

Who needs a playground when there are cats around?

Bundrick Trail

Taking a snack break while searching for the geocache.

I know this might seem like a lot but everything is close together (J walked most of it and only rode in her stroller while she snacked) except The Cowboy and that is even easily walkable but I drove because I didn’t realize it was so close.

However, you will definitely need to take the car up to the Colossal Cave area to finish the Discovery Tour unless you are prepared for a decent hike. It will take a few minutes by car to get there. Once there the view is amazing! We didn’t tour the cave – we will save that for a super hot day as a way to escape the summer heat. Here you will find six of the 18 Discovery Tour stations. There is a bit of a descent as you go from the parking lot to the cave area but you can either use the stairs or take the ramp if you prefer to bring a stroller.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Enjoying the view!

There is a bat garden.

Bat Garden

Bummed that she didn’t see any bats.

Once we collected all of the paper punches that we needed we headed to the Bat Pot Gift Shop to claim our treasure. Our Discovery Tour map got an official stamp and we got to keep it for our scrapbook. J was excited to pick out two gemstones (one for each of us).

Discovery Tour Treasure

Deciding which two gemstones to pick.

Discovery Tour

All done!

You can start in either area and do the whole Discovery Tour in one day or do it over a period of time. You can even camp at one of the park’s campgrounds. Summer hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and there is a daily use fee of $5.00 per auto. Here is the fee list. There is a gift shop at the La Posta Quemada Ranch so you can also claim your treasure at that location. There are plenty of bathrooms along the way, plenty of places to sit and relax or eat and plenty to see and do. There are also places to grab a snack or something to drink.

The Discovery Tour game is definitely a fun way to see almost all of the park!

Garden of Gethsemane Felix Lucero Park

The Garden of Gethsemane Felix Lucero Park is home to what remains of Felix Lucero’s religious sculptures. During World War I Felix Lucero lay injured on a forgotten battlefield. He promised God that if he survived he would dedicate his life to creating religious statues. The small park is located at 602 West Congress Street, next to the Santa Cruz River Park.

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane is now protected by walls and a gate.

Felix Lucero was a homeless artist. He arrived in Tucson in 1938,  after 20 years of fulfilling his promise to God throughout the country. He once lived in a shack beneath the Congress Street Bridge. He began sculpting his religious statues along the bank of the Santa Cruz River from sand, concrete and other debris in 1945. Floods would wash them away and he would start again, higher up on the bank. His work is said to have been admired by most locals, but that he still suffered a great deal of ridicule for his efforts.

There is a local legend that tells of a drunken man on horseback who approached Felix Lucero and taunted him and insulted his sculptures. The man trampled part of Lucero’s work with his horse. As the man rode away a snake spooked the horse and the man was thrown to the ground and died right away from a broken neck. It is said that God had the last laugh.

Felix Lucero passed away in 1951, leaving his garden to stand the test of time. The sculptures were moved in 1971 due to construction on the Congress Street Bridge then again in 1982 when the river was lined with concrete as part of the Santa Cruz River flood control improvements. Not only did the sculptures suffer from time and weather, they repeatedly suffered acts of vandalism. The sculptures were eventually restored and high walls and a gate were put up to protect the work of Felix Lucero.

Felix Lucero

The bust of Felix Lucero, just inside the entrance to the park.

The park has a collection of tableaux depicting Jesus at various watershed moments. The sculptures were in the process of being cleaned and repaired while we were there. J enjoyed wandering along the paths but was hesitant to approach the statues. Most of the time we were there she just collected leaves from the ground.

Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus after his birth.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

Jesus in his Tomb

Jesus in his Tomb

The park also has a small shrine. Milagros, candles, flowers and other tokens are welcome. J left a penny as a marker of our passage.

Garden of Gethsemane

Leaving a penny at the shrine.

The current park is maintained by the City of Tucson, the State of Arizona and the Downtown Development Corporation. The Knights of Columbus assist in the care and maintenance of the park as well. Many people in the neighborhood use this small park to pray, meditate or just escape the hustle and bustle of an average day for a few moments.

The gates are open daily from 6:00 am – 10:30 pm. There is a small parking lot in front of the park. Be aware – there are heavy-duty power lines running directly over the park. I’m personally not fond of standing directly under them for very long! If you do visit, take a few extra moments and walk across the street to see Tucson’s Largest Tree!

Butterfly Magic at the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Butterfly Magic is back at the Tucson Botanical Gardens! The butterflies will be in the tropical greenhouse October through April. All of the butterflies are hatched from eggs and the caterpillars live at butterfly farms in tropical parts of the world. At the pupae stage they are counted, labeled, packed and sent to Tucson. No food is required during the pupae stage so they are able to survive the trip. Once at the gardens, they are housed in a climate controlled environment where they are allowed to emerge naturally from their pupae. Once they emerge they are moved to the tropical greenhouse where they are released to fly free.

Butterfly Magic features butterflies from eleven different countries, including some of the most rare butterflies of the world.

Dryadula phaetusa

Dryadula phaetusa or Banded Longwing

Dryadula phaetusa

Dryadula phaetusa or Banded Longwing

Heliconius clysonymus

Heliconius clysonymus or False Postman

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius hecale or Tiger Longwing

Butterfly

This butterfly has tattered wings, so I couldn’t identify it for sure.

Owl Butterfly

Caligo oileus or Owl Butterfly

Danaus plexippus

Danaus plexippus or Monarch Butterfly

It is hot and humid inside the tropical greenhouse (obviously!) so it might be helpful to wear some layers if you go when the weather cools. J had a great time looking at all the butterflies. A few even landed on her, much to her pleasure. There are identification cards and benches to sit on inside the greenhouse. Make sure you bring a camera for this one!

The Tucson Botanical Gardens

The Tucson Botanical Gardens is another one of our favorite places to go. We had visitors, so J had a partner in crime! The Tucson Botanical Gardens is located centrally at 2150 North Alvernon Way. I bet some people have driven right by it without realizing there is a five and a half acre garden right in the middle of a busy area of town. If you haven’t been there already, this is one of the places in Tucson that you should definitely visit. It is the perfect place to let the little ones explore. There is plenty for them to do and plenty of shade during the summer. There are currently 17 specialty gardens. Once the weather hits 100 degrees, we find a shady spot and hang out just so we can enjoy some time outside. The Tucson Botanical Gardens was designated as “America’s Best Secret Garden” by Reader’s Digest.

There are quite a few fountains, but I think the one in the Porter Patio Garden is J’s favorite. It’s the first thing she runs to when we enter the gardens.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Playing in the fountain in the Porter Patio Garden.

The Herb Garden has a variety of culinary, medicinal and fragrance herbs that can be grown in Tucson.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Conferring over a bed of herbs.

Tucson Botanical Garden

Filling up a watering can in the Herb Garden with rocks. We emptied it out when they were done.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Soft and fuzzy!

There is a statue of Saint Francis in the Herb Garden and  J and J had a lot to say about it.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Lots of pointing going on at Saint Francis.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Hugging Saint Francis.

There is a grove of citrus trees. J loves collecting the fruit that has fallen to the ground. She enlisted J to help her.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Collecting citrus fruit.

The rock trail next to the Zen Garden is loads of fun!

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Making their way along the rock trail.

The Zen Garden is a haven for peaceful contemplation and relaxation.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Contemplating something while her partner in crime meditates while raking the sand.

The Sensory Patios offer different themes, each inviting you to use all of your senses.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Walking along the Sensory Patios.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Enjoying the fountain in one of the Sensory Patios.

Another of J’s favorite things at the Tucson Botanical Gardens is the Garden Railway. She loves to watch the trains go around. The railway started as a partnership with the Tucson Garden Railway Society and this year a volunteer took over constructing the railway with pieces donated by the society. Now it is a complete, miniature train town.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Watching the trains.

There is also a Children’s Discovery Garden. There are sandboxes, a worm bin, small picnic tables, a bamboo grove, benches, a fountain, discovery boxes and a few other things for children to explore.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

The Children’s Discovery Garden

Tucson Botanical Gardens

There are boxes of nature items to explore.

We brought along the wagon just in case J and J got tired. After running around for a long time, they both decided to take us up on a ride. One of the great things about the garden is that it changes throughout the year. You can go back week after week and it never looks quite the same. There are still plenty of beautiful blooms to see right now.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Taking a ride through Aloe Alley.

You will see plenty of birds, butterflies, insects and lizards! Lizard chasing is always fun.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Chasing a lizard.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

There are plenty more garden areas to walk through including:

  • the Cactus and Succulent Garden
  • the Water Harvesting System
  • the Butterfly Garden
  • the Xeriscape Garden
  • the Home Compost Site
  • the Native American Crops Garden
  • the Plants of the Tohono O’Odham Path
  • the Australian Garden
  • the Wildflower Garden
  • the Nuestro Jardin
  • the Backyard Bird Garden
  • the Iris Garden
  • the Prehistoric Garden
  • the Shade Garden
  • the Historical Gardens

There’s also a small cafe but the food choices are not that many, so I’d plan on bringing your own snacks and packing a lunch. There are plenty of tables and other quiet spots where you can sit on a bench in the shade.

Don’t forget to check out the indoor displays. Take a walk through the Porter Hall Gallery if you enjoy looking at art.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Taking a look at what’s inside the Cabinet of Curiosities.

We have a membership and it definitely has been worth it. There are some great summer programs going on. On Tuesdays you can bring your dog to the park to celebrate the Dog Days of Summer – all day this year! You can enjoy Summer Reciprocal Memberships at Tohono Chul Park and the Tucson Museum of Art through September 30, 2012. HOT Fridays! take place on the fourth Friday of each month during the summer. You can visit the park until 8:00 p.m. Member Mornings welcome members an hour early, before the heat and the crowds. On Third Thursdays you can enjoy live entertainment and artwork in the evening. There will also be a family friendly, hands-on activity that is suitable for all ages.

Don’t forget your camera. There are so many great spots for taking photos!

The Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market at Mercado San Agustin

The Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market takes place at Mercado San Agustin on Thursday evenings, located downtown in the newly developed Mercado District of Menlo Park. This particular farmers’ market has been recognized as one of “America’s Top 10 Farmers’ Markets” by Eating Well magazine. The market is managed by the Tucson Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, along with four other market locations.

Mercado San Agustin

Mercado San Agustin

Our friends are visiting from Kentucky so we headed to the market to get some fresh produce for the week. You can find plenty of local vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, honey, coffee, beef, chicken, plants, soaps and other goodies at the market. Most of the produce is organic. Just ask the vendors and they will tell you exactly how everything is grown.

We brought along the wagon, which happened to be the envy of all the children at the market. Seriously. We would turn away for a few seconds and when we turned back around there would be a strange child sitting in it. Others ran up to us and helped push it or pull it.

Santa Cruz River Farmers' Market

People watching from the wagon.

There is a nice grassy area within the mercado where children love to run and play.

Santa Cruz River Farmers' Market

Using teamwork to get the wagon across the grassy area.

There is almost always live music.

Santa Cruz River Farmers' Market

Listening to the music and stomping on the grate in the ground.

People watching is always fun!

People Watching

Watching the people walk by.

There are tables with umbrellas and other places to sit in the shade.

Mercado San Agustin

Angry that I left her sitting alone so I could take a photo.

We ended up with fresh beets, shallots, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and more! I also had to splurge on some great coffee.

Santa Cruz River Farmers' Market

Snagging potatoes from under the table.

Santa Cruz River Farmers' Market

Yes, we paid for those potatoes!

Check out all the other merchants in the mercado while you are there. There are bakeries, restaurants and shops.

Mercado San Agustin

Check out the mercado merchants while you are there.

Head on over to the market next week for some fresh, local produce and other goods! Help support our local economy while you wander and enjoy the mercado. There is a large parking lot for the mercado and it is free, so you don’t have to drive around forever looking for a spot to park which is ideal when you have little ones with you.

Reid Park Rose Garden

And he went back to the fox.
“Good-bye,” he said.
“Good-bye,” said the fox. “Here is my secret. It’s quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
“Anything essential is invisible to the eyes,” the little prince repeated, in order to remember.
“It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It’s the time I spent on my rose…,” the little prince repeated, in order to remember.
“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose…”
“I”m responsible for my rose…,” the little prince repeated in order to remember. ~excerpt from The Little Prince

Reid Park Rose Garden

Off to smell the roses!

The Reid Park Rose Garden is in full bloom! The roses typically bloom in March and April and again in September and October. As you approach the garden, you can smell their sweet perfume.

Reid Park Rose Garden

The Reid Park Rose Garden is in full bloom right now.

The roses grow within a fenced, circular garden area with one entrance. There are 101 species of roses and over 800 individual plants. The rose garden is located just north of the two ponds in the southwest corner of Reid Park. Let your nose guide you to the right place!

Smelling Roses

Take time to smell the roses!

Smelling Roses

It smells heavenly inside the rose garden.

The Rose Society of Tucson helps the city maintain the garden. Their website has information about growing roses in the desert. Roses actually grow extremely well in our climate.

Roses

Roses can be grown in the desert.

This is a very sunny spot, but there is a large ramada where you can relax and sit in the shade.

Shady Spot

The large ramada offers a shady area to sit and relax or run around while making silly noises.

The Reid Park Rose Garden gates are open from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. daily.

Roses

J likes hiding in the roses.

Peek-a-Boo

Peek-a-boo! I found you!

Take some time to stop and smell the roses while they are in full bloom!

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. ~Shakespeare

How would you describe the scent of a rose?

Tucson Village Farm U-Pick

Tucson Village Farm is a working urban farm built by and for the youth of our community. It is a program of the Pima County Cooperative Extension and the University of Arizona. It is a seed-to-table program designed to reconnect young people to a healthy food system, teach them how to grow and prepare fresh food and empower them to make healthy life choices. The Tucson Village Farm offers year-round, instructional, hands-on programs for youth of all ages.  TVF targets urban youth from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, serving as a safe urban location where youth can go to be outdoors and engage in physical activity while contributing to and participating in local food production, preparation and consumption.

Tucson Village Farm

Garden? Compost? Worm bin? Which way should we go?

On Tuesdays, you can go to the Tucson Village Farm from 3:00-5:00 to pick your own vegetables. The selection varies, but the fun and freshness of picking your own veggies doesn’t! Everything is grown organically, although this isn’t a “certified organic” farm. The price is by the pound and the proceeds go to the Farm Camp Scholarship Fund, so bonus points for shopping local and supporting a great cause!

If you are a newbie, one of the interns will provide you with a trowel to dig up certain veggies. I suggest taking your own reusable bag, but if you forget a paper bag will be provided for you. I forgot our bag when we visited. Oops! The intern will lead you in the right direction and help you pick your vegetables correctly. They will answer all your questions (even the city slicker ones) and tell you about the farm.

We were told that there is always one vegetable that children can pick for free. J got to pull up a carrot.

Pulling Carrots

The carrots were running low so they weren’t available by the pound, but the little ones had the opportunity to pick one for free!

We picked beets, kale, chard, multiple types of lettuce and spring onions. There were also hydroponic tomatoes for sale. Tomato plants had recently been planted in the garden but weren’t ready to pick yet.

Pulling Beets

J helped pull up beets, one of her favorite vegetables!

Within hours of picking we steamed the beets, ate a huge salad and sauteed a mixture of beet greens, chard and kale. It was delicious and oh so fresh!

If you go, be sure to take a hat and try to remember your own bag. Finding the entrance can be a little tricky if you’ve never been there. If you’re going south on Campbell from River, it will be the first left after the wash. Look for the Pima County Cooperative Extension sign. If you reach the light at Roger, you’ve gone too far. Payment options are cash or check. Look for the available produce and prices on the whiteboard under the main ramada. Best of all, enjoy your fresh and local produce!