March 30, 2009

That daggum wind!

I love spring: new growth, birds returning from winter vacations, blooming cacti, baby bunnies, longer days ... But why does it have to blow? It is a spring time phenomenon in the desert and one I really dislike. Just about everybody agrees with me, and I even wonder if the wind rearranges everyone's molecules so we are all edgy, including the dogs.

There are whitecaps on the birdbath, and the birds are having a hard time getting a drink without sliding in or being blown off. The raptors sit on their perches like cyclists leaning over the handlebars, and I have no idea how the hummingbird drinks any nectar from the feeder. It is painful to watch his approach against the wind and trying to gain enough speed to catch a beakful. I don't know why he doesn't throw out an anchor and latch on with his feet, but he remains suspended. The gold finches are hanging onto their sock feeder for dear life as it is being blown straight out from the tree.

We put new flymasks on the horses to keep some of the dust from getting into their eyes, and I think they appreciate it as even Buggsy nuzzles up to get his put on. (It is Bueno in the picture). There is not an insect in sight of course. All our flies were on their way to New Mexico or Texas this morning, but we will probably get a whole slew of California ones.

Our day was put to good use however, without having to venture outside much. We got a truckfull of hay and other animal feed this morning, and half the pavers for the shop/shed porch at lunch time. This meant driving for 3 hours, but at least there was no chance of us getting blown away.

I put a bale of alfalfa in the chicken yard. The garden is empty now, and there are no fresh greens that can be fed to the hens until I plant new stuff. They do need some greenery here in the desert, not being able to scratch in grass, and I hope this keeps them happy for a couple of weeks. It drew their immediate attention.

March 29, 2009

Shop/shed roof

I suppose we could have raised the flag, but putting the metal on the shop/shed porch was not a major event this morning. Good thing we started early because the Spring winds have arrived. They generally pick up at 11 am sharp, but we were already done by then.

The porch makes this great building even better. I can't remember that we have ever done a project that has come out as well. We still have to finish the "floor" by putting sand and pavers down. Then it just needs a great big pot with colorful plants and a hummingbird feeder.

I have decided to name the intrepid baby bunny 007. I don't know how many lives he thinks he has, but I had to rescue him again this morning. Emma was trying to play with him and got him good and wet. He appeared otherwise unharmed, so back to the tack room he went.

March 25, 2009

Muleshoe Ranch

It was a year to the date that we were here last. This is a favorite ride of mine although it takes some fortitude to get there. Muleshoe Ranch is an area managed by the Nature Conservancy, the BLM and the Forest Service in the Galiuro mountains, 90 minutes northwest of us. A full hour of that trip is on a dirt road, and although scenic, it jars the teeth and probably turns the horses' knees to jelly.

But it is so worth it! Muleshoe has spectacular scenery as well as a varied terrain. It is almost like riding in a park as there are so many varieties of plants on display. I try to time this ride to see the wildflowers, and although we saw some, our timing may have been off. Then again, perhaps this was not the year for the flowers. So much of their abundance in the desert depends on rain at the right time of year.

We ride the Vista Trail that takes you through wooded areas (where currently luscious green grass is growing), through washes, across hill sides, over ridges, across cinder fields, and along a stream that actually had water in it today. Bueno has no problem crossing water, after he drinks and splashes in it, but Buggsy, the desert native, looks at it very askance before deciding ... to jump, or not to jump? Today he did not.

We were the only riders there today, and we may have been the only guests as we did not see a soul the entire time there. We had brought a sandwich as it is a 2 1/2 hour ride, and we ate it while the horses grazed on green grass. That is, after I shared my sandwich with Buggs who apparently loves a ham-and-cheese. Undoubtedly leftover behavior from his days when he used to take kids on rides that were only to eager to share their lunch with him.

On our way home we saw 6 antelope cross the road ahead of us. What a thrill!

As a side note, we think we saw the tiny bunny in the last post again today. As we were getting the horses ready for the trailer, he hopped from the tack room to Buggsy's stall to eat some chaff while the big guy was away. What an intrepid little bun!

March 22, 2009

Where is your mother?

Another sign of spring: young buns. We rescued this tiny bunny from our inquisitive dogs who had it cornered under a bush. Dan safely carried him to the hole under the tack room where his home, and his mother, most likely are.

March 21, 2009

First day of Spring

This certainly is a sign of spring! The turkey vultures have arrived, and this one was warming itself in the sun this morning. We also had a visit from the very red cardinal at the bird feeding station and his less-flashy relative, the pyrrhuloxia. The only bird still lacking to make spring's arrival complete is the oriole. But one has been sighted in the neighborhood recently so I will hang out my new oriole feeder today.

We celebrated the arrival of Spring with a short, leisurely hike with our friends, David and Barbara. They have been busy during their Spring Break with the construction of the foundation for their new strawbale house next "door". This was their re-energizer to make it through the rest of the school year.

And talking about Spring, we found some Indian Paintbrush already in bloom.

March 20, 2009

Leafing out

It's back to "work" after our vacation with Shannon: Dan worked on the shop/shed porch roof this morning, while I waged war on the invasive spurge that I unknowingly imported with a potted plant a couple of years ago.

Going around the yard with my sprayer, it was nice to catch up with the plants now that spring is officially about to start. Some of the non-native trees, such as the fruit trees, have been leafed out since February, but today I noticed leaves on the Velvet Ash. Even some of the mesquites are leafing out. Local lore has it that when the mesquites leaf out, winter is over and there will be no more frost. Soon the desert will be mostly green again, rather than the grey black of winter. By the way, is this a sorry excuse for a bud or what?

The Schott's yucca is about to unfurl one of its blooms and one of the penstemons is blooming as well. Insects were standing in the wings to take advantage of the nectar, as was the hummingbird.

The seedlings are doing well. They spend the day in the cold frame and the night in the garage still, as they seem too fragile to deal with 40 degree nights. I will have to thin them soon.

March 19, 2009

Shannon's visit, the finale

She is back in Oklahoma by now, but I did want to record the last two days of Shannon's visit anyway. The weather remained gorgeous and we took advantage by taking another ride one day, and hike to one of my favorite back-country spots on the last day of the visit.

Bueno would benefit from having Shannon close by. In spite of his grumpiness, he does enjoy the work, and he would be getting lots of workouts. I thought I heard him sigh this morning: so, where is the kid?

The hike was lovely and we picked up fancy rocks on our way back. Your visit was enjoyed by man, woman and beasts, so come back, Shannon. And I miss my sous-chef.

March 16, 2009

Shannon's visit

It's spring break and we are having a house guest for a couple of days: Shannon, our niece. She is in the final year of her studies at Tulsa University and was in need of some decompression time.

The weather has been gorgeous since she arrived and we are spending the mornings in some activity and chill out, in a matter of speaking, on the porch in the afternoons. Yesterday we went riding "out back" with Shannon on Bueno, as she was his original owner.

For a change, today we hiked the Cochise Stronghold.

March 10, 2009

Lots-of-hair day

The weather has cleared and the horses are back to their mellow self. It is such fun to watch them when the arena is muddy and the weather is cool. Like yesterday when I let them out: they put on the biggest rodeo display you ever saw. There's bucking and rearing, and running the Derby, all at the same time, all three at once. Then when the edge is off, there is the rolling in the mud. From tail to eye lashes.

This morning I decided I had better do something about the mud, and all the hair that they are shedding or it would take me an hour of grooming before I would be able to go for a ride. I think the brushing is appreciated in spite of them loving mud. Perhaps it is a way to get some special attention and a bit of a spa day. Here is Cody, the off side is clean, and the hair I got off of Buggsy as well. Bueno does not shed as much. He packs on fat during the winter, rather than hair.

Dan is making good progress on the shop/shed porch, and I think it looks great.

March 9, 2009

Spring rain

It happens when you least expect it. Last week there was talk of a 40% chance of rain, and that's all that's needed to start the "rain twitter". But, we just got heavy winds and the rain passed us by. The forecast for today was sunny, so I had every intention of going riding. Then clouds descended yesterday afternoon and it rained most of the night. We got almost 0.5"! How lovely for the plants! There is new growth on many of them, some trees and shrubs have already leafed out, and the hills are getting that green cast from new grass sprouting. I am glad I persisted yesterday and finished pruning for this year in a 5-hour finale.

Not so fun is the combination of dogs and mud. When it has just rained the ground is soft and sticks to the soles of your shoes, and it packs between the dogs paw pads. Other than with a hose, it is hard to get that off with a towel so after the early morning ablutions Shawna and Emma will be inside for awhile. It reminded me of the rain, mud, dogs and doggie laundry in Oregon. Not missing that.

I plan to spend the morning planting more seeds. Some of the tomatoes, peppers and melons have sprouted and will be transferred to the cold frame soon. More room on the heating pads. Then I will do some extra knitting on my second sock. Could be wearing them this morning ...

March 5, 2009

Getting ready for Spring

And not a moment too soon! Perennials are coming up, trees are leafing out, and I feel that I am so behind. How can that have happened? I live for gardening and it is not that I have a job that sucks up all of my time. But believe me, I am busy!

This week we did pour the foundation for the shop/shed porch, so construction is next which means that Dan will spend some time in the shop getting wooden fillers ready that fill in the gaps between the metal siding of the shop/shed and the header. Timing of that is perfect as I will have time to continue pruning.

The hardest part is dealing with the mesquites. I planted a couple of Chilean mesquites, and their thorns are fierce. Thankfully it has been a bit cloudy and windy so I have been glad wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but inspite of that I look as if I have been in a cat fight. I still have another day or so to go. The trees do shape up nicely, and it gives the yard less of a "wild" look as opposed to the mesquites growing all around us.

I also planted the majority of the tomato, pepper and melon seeds. Dan made some fabulous flats for them to sit in during the first weeks of their life. Unfortunately I ran out of potting soil, so will have to wait to plant the flower and herb seeds. I wonder what all I am going to do with about a hundred new little plants. They will all have to find homes.

Meanwhile I noticed flowerbuds on the hedgehog cactus, and the yucca will be sending up its spectacular flower again this year. As a matter of fact, there will be two of them.

March 1, 2009

The first asparagus

Here it is the first of March, and we spotted the first asparagus coming up in the garden. There were three stalks really, but two of them were accidentally broken off while planting some onion sets. We had to dig up the now-blooming row of cabbage and the never-producing row of spinach to make room, but their time was up and the chickens feasted. This is my friend Barbara doing the planting.

These were some of our first garden activities, other than pruning the grapevines last weekend. We are still eating last year's lettuce, but if this warm weather keeps up the 2009 garden will be planted soon. Seeds for tomatoes and peppers will be started this week. Wonder if the new moon will help in them sprouting...