September 29, 2008
September 26, 2008
Meanwhile I have been working on the planting bed so that the building will not just "sit there", but will blend in more with some plants in front. Some work still to be done there, like putting plants in, but irrigation has been laid in so the plants will have some chance for survival.Below, Emma contemplating life from the shop door.
September 25, 2008
- add horse manure to leftover fill material
Before the house was built it was deemed necessary that the ground be leveled and compacted to ensure a good foundation. The contractors in charge took their job seriously and wetted and compacted soil with heavy equipment for weeks on end. The result was a local version of concrete. When we moved in I had serious doubts that any plant would ever be able to set root here, leave alone flourish. That first year I spent a lot of time with a pick and shovel, and sweated a lot. Surprisingly, a lot of plants have done well and I am pleased with the results to date. With a few exceptions I have opted for planting native plants, or at least ones that do not require a lot of water.
September 22, 2008
September 19, 2008
Having been raised on European food, spicy-hot is not one of my got-to-have tastes, but I use some jalapeno and poblano chiles in Mexican cooking. I planted one variety of chile though that beat all the other plants, and its chiles are fiery hot. Well beyond my tolerance for heat. Rather than waste all that beauty and abundance I decided to make a ristra, a chile braid, which is commonly seen around here at this time, and hung it by our front walk. It is supposed to bring good luck (as if we need any).
September 18, 2008
After the shop/shed construction, we had some leftover siding and downspouts that we stacked on the backside of the building before disposal. A number of animals, including bunnies, have immediately taken up residence. It turns out that a cottontail had taken refuge in one of the unused downspouts laying on the ground. A local coyote had noticed this and dragged the downspout (with bunny inside) away from the pile and into the driveway. The coyote couldn't get to him, but sat at the opening, barking and trying to drive the bunny out. The amazing part was that the coyote had a partner who was silently sitting a few feet away from the other end just waiting for the bunny to make a run for freedom. Very devious, but a great strategy.
Fortunately for the bunny, when I showed up, the 'yotes ran off. As I was examining the teeth marks on the downspout, I noticed the bunny was still inside. I lifted the tube and the bunny slowly slid out, and then ran for safety under the tack room where an entire community of bunnies reside. So everything ended well, except for the coyotes who went hungry.
After this excitement, Emma started having nightmares, presumably about coyotes, which she dislikes. In any case, she kept everyone awake. We are all a little bleary and cranky this morning.
September 16, 2008
The hummers on the other feeders seem unperturbed. They just lean back a bit to let him go by and then go back to loading up.
September 14, 2008
I thought that I would miss the chickens wandering around the house, but I now realize that the quail who cruise by here on regular schedules have returned. So there are some birds scratching around close by.
September 12, 2008
I put the chickens to roost and went over to the neighbors and on my way back I saw a Great Horned Owl perched on the anomometer of the shop/shed. The moon is waxing and the sky was blue and still had some light in it, and there he sat: one foot on the windvane, one on the meter support... I tried to ignore him while walked back to the house, and was able to get Dan to see him before he quietly flew off.
We know that a Great Horned has been hanging around for awhile: we hear his "hoot hoot hoooot" from time to time, and have even heard a young owls screech. Wow, this was so cooool!
This morning the weather was perfect for a ride, so we took Bueno and Cody out on our favorite ride: the Windmill. I still marvel at our good fortune to just be able to saddle up, ride out from our ranch across some Arizona State land and be at the border with the Coronado National Forest in a matter of 10 minutes. The ride to the Windmill is across some scrubby grass land and across some good-sized washes to a corral and water tank that in the past were used for cattle. It affords the horses some good grazing opportunity this time of year, which is much appreciated.
After the Windmill we ride through a large wash, up the hill and through some mixed oak forest, back to the base of Blacktail Hill and home again. It is about a 2 hour loop, with great views and great variety. That's why it's a favorite ride.
September 9, 2008
September 8, 2008
September 7, 2008
Here is a Horse Lubber that has been eating the grapevine leaves, or at least he did until I disturbed him to take his picture (he was very reluctant). He is indeed male, as I read, because he flew off, exhibiting beautiful red patches on his wings. Only the males can fly (so what's up with that?). By the way, the Horse Lubber grasshopper gets to be about 2 1/2" long.
The hens loved hunting for grasshoppers in the yard, but after the coyote incident they have all been kept in the chicken yard until we get more fencing to expand their scratching quarters. Now Emma goes after them, and being a Labrador, probably eats them too...
September 5, 2008
Being elevated like that does have its high points (I know, bad pun). You get a different perspective on the immediate surroundings: the yard, the garden, the horses interacting with each other. I got also checked out by a number of interesting looking insects, and was even buzzed by a hummingbird. I was wearing a red bandanna to keep the sweat out of my eyes.
But in surveying the garden, I noticed Towhees, I presume the parents who had been tending young in the grapevines but whose nest was abandoned after the rainstorm a few days ago, still with insects in their beaks as if to feed chicks.... They ignored the nest site, but jumped off the fence and scurried under the asparagus fronds. Could it be that the babies were able to hop there for shelter, and that they are still alive? I will be very careful in the garden now to not scare them away as they were nervous parents before: they flew off the minute I entered the garden. I think the chicks will be safe there as the fronds are "mondo", as they say here, and the garden is well-fenced from predators. I am hopeful. It would be so cool if the chicks had survived after all.
September 4, 2008
Then when I checked on the towhee chicks in the garden, they were gone. The one remaining egg was still there, but no sign of the birds and nothing underneath the nest. Were they flushed away? The parent(s) are still hanging around.
Just a few minutes ago, as I was here at the desk, a coyote came and snatched one of the hens (Rhode Island Red)! I went after him but he was too fast of course, and then his buddy came cruising by for his dinner. The other hens stood in stunned silence at their yard and went in willingly. Yikes! Now, what a dilemma! The hens love being out, it is good for them to be real, scratching, bug-hunting chickens, but if they all get picked off by the coyotes..... Dan says to keep them locked up. I haven't made up my mind yet. Sad day.
September 3, 2008
Then the wind picked up and I ran to the shop/shed to rescue some of the materials that we had been using in roofing this morning as they were about to be blown away. Lightning struck and thunder rolled and the rain poured in. The building is 40' long and the rain blew from one end to the other. I was trapped, watching the water just pour through our 3/4 completed roof. After about 10 minutes Dan ran in who had driven out in the car to rescue me!
It rained in all about 20 minutes and the weather station reported almost 0.5" of rain. I just went out to check on the hens (all cozy on the roost), but there is still water running in the backyard, and the "pond" is filling up. That will make Emma happy, her swimming hole has been restored!
September 2, 2008
Before the Sulphur Springs valley was grazed by cattle, grasses predominated the landscape. Now there is a lot of scrubby mesquite (prosopis velutina). Here are Emma and Shawna running through the grass.
September 1, 2008
In spite of the fact that we built them a Chicken Taj Mahal and have been keeping them safe from coyotes and raptors in a good-sized yard, they are apparently bored and are cannibalizing each other. (Chickens are sharks in feathers, I was told). So now, in the afternoons, after the laying business should have been concluded, I let them out in the yard.
The hens are loving this, and it is fun to see them go cruising by the window in search of some yummy bug.