News for January 2009

The Desert Ironwood

The Desert Ironwood, or Arizona Ironwood, only grows in the valleys and washes of the Sonoran Desert.  Found mostly in sandy washes where there is water available, this slow growing tree is drought deciduous, and loses all its leaves during dry spells. 

Ironwoods are very important to the desert community, since it is a nurse plant to many others in the area, including the Saguaro, Organ Pipe, and Barrel Cactus, as well as other plants that require shelter when they’re young.  It belongs to the same family as the pea, and the flowers and leaves are similar to the sweet pea.  Native peoples have long used these pretty little flowers as medicine, treating poor digestion and other stomach ailments.

The beans of the Ironwood are eaten by many of the animals that live here and when they’re toasted, they are said to taste like roasted peanuts.

The ironwood tree is the largest tree in the Sonoran desert, sometimes growing up to 30 feet tall.   It has been known to live to be 1500 years old, and since it is very slow growing, it’s often seen with plants that started out beneath it growing up through its branches.

This tree is famous the world over for its dark, dense wood, one of the hardest and heaviest known.  The wood is so valuable that a large quantity is cut illegally every year from public lands.  Legend says that carvings made from the beautiful wood bring good fortune and luck to the owners, but it seems that it’s not good luck for the Ironwood, since the quantity of trees remaining is getting smaller every year.  They make a great landscape plant, so be sure and add them to your yard!


Edited: January 30th, 2009

The Peralta Massacre

It is said that the powerful Peralta family had been operating several successful gold mines in the area of the Goldfield and Superstition Mountains during the mid 1800’s, and that they were making frequent trips home to Mexico to deliver their gold. 

In 1848, while the United States was in the process of taking possession of the lands to the north of the present-day Mexican border, the Peraltas brought in a large group of miners and made a last minute push to recover all the gold they could before they lost their mines.  Legend has it that while these men were returning to Mexico with their mules loaded with gold, they were set upon and massacred by marauding apaches.  The raiding party supposedly took the mules, and the saddle bags, but they left the piles of useless gold rocks behind. 

There were reports in 1912 or 1913 that a couple of prospectors found a substantial amount of gold ore at the site of this massacre, $18,000, a considerable amount of money in those days!  To this day there are people who insist that this area is still haunted by the spirits of the miners, and the Massacre Grounds are a popular hiking destination on the western end of the Superstition Wilderness.

Of course, as with almost all the stories about the Superstitions, there are experts who dispute the origins of this story, or whether it happened at all.  There are no records of the Peraltas mining in this area, but they did mine in California, and they fraudulently sold huge areas of the land around here after their mines failed. But in spite of these “facts” true believers will tell you that these experts just want to keep others from delving any deeper into the mountain’s history.

In the 1950’s , sandstone maps supposedly leading to some of these mines were found in the area, and now have become part of the legends of the Superstitions.  Copies of the maps are now on display at the Superstition Mountain Museum.

Legend has it that a few of the Peraltas survived the massacre, and that one of them showed Jacob Walz, the infamous Lost Dutchman, where the mine was…but that’s another story!




Edited: January 27th, 2009

Gambel Quail

This post, I decided to profile of one of our most common neighbors out here in the Superstition Mountains, the Gambel’s Quail. 

These little guys swarm all over the foothills, running in gangs called coveys.

Quail are mostly monogamous, and the male will raise the brood if the female is killed.  The flocks usually consist of up to 20 birds, mostly sisters and children of the original pair.

They have a regular cycle in their reproduction, and some years (mostly wetter years) have much higher populations than others. 

The Gambel’s quail is food for just about every predator out in these deserts, so a good year for the quail is a good year for all the other wildlife.  Coyotes, bobcats, hawks and owls, and even Roadrunners have been seen preying on these little guys.

They seem to prefer running on the ground to flying, but they can fly explosively fast and as high as they need to when they are startled.

Many people put out food for the birds here, but it pays to remember that a birdfeeder is a snake-feeder as well.  If you have a lot of quail, you have a lot of predators.





Edited: January 20th, 2009

Three Steps to Safety – When you go away

A little prep before your vacation can help make it easier to relax while you’re away.  These three things will help to keep your home from looking vacant and help ensure you find things as you left them.

  1. Ask a neighbor to collect your mail and newspaper, and offer to return the favor.
  2. Put an automatic timer on at least two lights and a radio (an oscillating fan can also give the appearance of movement in the home). Consider photoelectric sensors to turn outside lights on and off automatically.
  3. Tell a trusted neighbor when you’re leaving and when you’ll return. Include an itinerary and phone numbers where you can be reached in an emergency.




Edited: January 17th, 2009

Choosing Low-water Plants - Xeriscape

In most parts of Arizona water is a precious commodity, making xeriscaping or xerigardening an essential part of successful gardening in Arizona.  Here are a few ideas that can get you started on that low-water garden.

Indigenous or native plants will likely need less supplemental moisture most years than non-native species. The native species have evolved under the local conditions and usually have well developed mechanisms for surviving extremes in the weather.  In addition to being well adapted, native plants can be some of the most beautiful highlights of your garden.

This doesn’t mean you’re limited to native plants or your typical low-water plants such as cacti, succulents or narrow leafed evergreens.  There are plants found growing in coastal or mountainous regions that have developed mechanisms for dealing with extremely sandy, excessively well-drained soils, or rocky cold soils in which moisture is limited for months at a time. 

There are also many herbs that adapt well to our arid conditions and are beautiful as accents or centerpieces of your garden.

Some plants adapted to sunny, dry conditions are: Yucca gloriosa, Broom, Yarrow, Nasturtium, California Poppy, Blanket flower, Sedum, Gold Dust (Alyssum), Moss Rose (Portulaca), Juniper, Artemisia, Lavender, Sage, Iris, Thyme, Crocus, and Evening Primrose.



Edited: January 13th, 2009

Superstition Mountain Lore

As long as people have been living in and around the Superstitions, they have been telling stories about the mountains.  It seems that no matter who has lived here, the mountains have added the elements of mystery, magic and wonder to their lives as well as to the stories they tell.

The Hopi believe that there was an earth-cleansing flood in the early days of the world, and that the “Ark” of the faithful came to rest on top of these mountains after that flood.

The Apache refer to these mountains as being the “home of the Thunder God”, and believe that they are sacred to this day.

The Pima, who believe that their entire race, with the exception of one hunting party, was destroyed as punishment for their pride, see the mountain as the place that the spirits of the dead are kept, and as a wall between them and the riches that were left for them by the creators of their world.

The Spaniards, who were some of the first new world explorers of this area, are believed to have mined in these mountains in search of Gold.

That same gold is said to have been the source of the mountain’s most famous legend. 

The “Lost Dutchman” mine of Jacob Waltz has been the source of at least a hundred books, and still attracts miners, historians and mystery fans to the area.

Modern people come here in search of a wide variety of things as well.  Some come for the unbelievable hiking and views, some for the sense of history in the area, or for the great food and recreation that is available nearby, and some still search for the lost gold that is said to lie “up there” somewhere.

So whether you’re here to visit, still looking for a great destination, or if you’re already here to stay, I’m sure the mountain will leave you with a story or two to tell!

If you have a favorite legend, or if you have a story to pass on, (or if you know where the mine is!) drop us a line at
and we’ll get right on it! 

Edited: January 10th, 2009

Important Questions to Ask an Agent

When you’re looking for someone to represent you in a real estate transaction, you need to find someone you can trust. You need to find someone that’s on your side, and someone that has your best interest at heart. To help with this process we’ve listed a few questions to consider when choosing an Agent to represent you.

  • Do you have an active real estate license in good standing?
  • How long have you been licensed as an agent?
  • Why do you think I should list or buy with you?
  • What professional designations do you hold? Are you a REALTOR?
  • What party will you represent — the buyer or the seller?
  • What services do you offer?
  • Do you belong to an online homebuyer’s search service?
  • Have you listed or sold in my neighborhood lately?
  • How will you price or comp my home?
  • How will you market or find my home?
  • How will you keep in contact with me during the selling/buying process, and how often?
  • What is your fee?
  • Will you work with cooperating brokers?
  • How will I know what is expected of me and when?

Important questions to ask yourself about the Realtor:

  • Is the agent a good listener?
  • Is the agent accessible?
  • Is the agent part-time or full-time?
  • Is the agent cooperative and enthusiastic, or rude and arrogant?
  • Do you think you can have a good working relationship with the agent?

In the end it’s your choice, you should feel comfortable with the person representing you.  The right real estate professional can make the difference between a successful and positive real estate transaction.

Jim and Kathy are REALTORS specializing in foreclosures and REOs in Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, and Queen Creek. To find out more about Arizona Real Estate contact Jim and Kathy at


Edited: January 1st, 2009



Arizona Trivia

How long do Tarantulas live? Males typically live 2 - 3 years and females have been known to live as long as 30 – 40 years.




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