August 31, 2009

The trees are in

There has not been a lot to blog about lately: no snake rescues, (although I had to relocate a woodrat that had designs on sharing the potting bench with me), no recent trips, other than to Tucson (ho-hum). But one of those Tucson trips was to get the trees for the orchard.

We took the truck and the horse trailer to protect the trees. Putting them in the truck bed and driving I-10 at 75 mph is just not conducive to keeping the leaves. It was a bit overkill, but the trees arrived in good shape. I got 2 apple trees (Anna, and Dorsett Golden), 2 peach trees (Mid-Pride and Red Baron), an apricot (Blenheim) and a fig (Black Jack). The trees are all self-fruitful and require a minimum of chilling time (hours below 40 degrees). Chilling time is necessary for a number of stone fruits. Tucson is warmer than we are, and these trees were developed with Southern California and Arizona in mind. All the trees should be able to stand our minimum winter temperatures; even the fig is ok to 0 degrees.

We planted them yesterday in that well-prepared soil and I made big basins around each to contain water. Initially some of them flagged, but I must have added enough water because at sunset, and also this morning, they all looked great. I think the level of our aquifer may be going down as a result of all this watering.

Provided the trees are happy, we can expect some fruit in the next couple of years. As a matter of fact, I bought the fig tree with some figs on it already.

August 19, 2009

Orchard beginnings

Dave had the Tonka Toy (aka backhoe) fixed, and because September is the best month to plant fruit trees (or really any kind of tree), I asked Dan to start digging holes. Our local gardening expert, who has yet to steer me wrong, requires a 5'x5'x5' hole for a fruit tree, so it is easy to see why I waited until Tonka was available. We added 3 tractor buckets of old horse manure to each hole to get the trees off to a good start.

We are putting the first trees on the north side of the garden, between it and shop/shed. It should provide some shade for shop/shed as well as making it pleasant to sit on its porch, without shading the garden.

I am planning on 6 trees this year, yet to be bought in Tucson. It will depend on availability what will be planted, but I am eyeing some peaches, apples, prune, and perhaps a fig tree. The latter may be a bit tender, but it is a sheltered spot so I am giving it a try. There is nothing like fresh figs.

August 18, 2009

Boating with Emma

We went back to Patagonia Lake today: Dan, Emma and I. It was half-off-boat-rent day, and I really wanted to take Emma boating. She loves the water, and she loves going places with us. Not only is she a good hiker, she turned out to be a good boater too. And, she stayed in the boat when she was told too.

It was a lovely day, and I much enjoyed being out on the water. It was only my second time in a canoe, but if I lived a little closer I think I would buy one and spend more time there. Fun exercise!

We circumnavigated about three-fourths of the lake, hugging the shore line most of the time. I love to see what all is going on there, wildlife-wise. We disturbed a number of blue herons and coots, and it is great that you can get so close, just gliding by.

The lake has a number of inlets and small islands and we had our lunch in a secluded spot, tied up to an overhanging tree. It is amazing to look up on shore and see cacti and ocotillos: water and the desert together. We went ashore a number of places, giving Em the opportunity to get wet. What a great day!

August 16, 2009

Late summer garden

The squash borer got to the zucchini so it was time to pull up the plants this morning. Nothing more sad than looking at a row of plants that are totally wilted. I did take the hint of one of our local gardening experts though, and planted another couple of seeds after adding yet another load of horse manure. Our summers are long enough to still get some producing plants before it gets too cold.

I also pulled up the green bean plants: we are tired of green beans and it will give me some impetus to get going on the winter garden; perhaps sow some kale this week.

I am glad I worked in the manure with the spading fork because I managed to dig up Mr Toad. Thankfully no harm was done and I was able to catch him in a bucket and bring him to the still very healthy cucumber bed. I should remember that he will probably decide to overwinter there and not make the same mistake.

Thanks to Dan's tomato towers, the plants are over my head now. Otherwise they would be all over the aisles and I would be hacking my way to pick some tomatoes (aka tomato-diving). Here are some that I harvested off one tomato plant today; I put all 10 pounds in the freezer. Great for tomato soup this fall and winter.

August 13, 2009

Snake catch box

Dan put the rainy morning to great use: making a custom snake catch box. After dealing with our last, and biggest, snake, Dan decided that the lidded orange bucket we have been using for confining and transportation of the snakes should be replaced by something more robust, safer for us, and easier on the snake.

Behold the solution. It has a hinged lid that can be closed with a hasp, an easy release door that can be opened remotely with the snake hook, and carrying handles. This box will not be tipping over during the ride in the truck.

Now, will we see any more snakes this year?

I love rainy days...

Although I am technically not an Oregonian, I think that having lived there for more than 30 years entitles me to call myself one. So it is with a smile that I say that, now living in Arizona, I do love rainy days. I am about to head out onto the porch (ducking battling hummingbirds) to sit in a chair with a hot cup of tea to watch the rain.

We have not had much of a monsoon this year (here they call that a "nonsoon"), and this rain is more reminiscent of a winter storm than a monsoon rain which is crack-bang-whoosh. This is a gentle-all-over-the-countryside rain. It will green up the hills...

Neither we nor the wildlife are used to the liquid sunshine (an Oregon term, trying to look on the bright side of things): the dogs can't wait to come in and get their feet dried after a short trip outside, and the birds are huddled on the porch or as in the case of these Gambel quail, under a bush.

August 10, 2009

Yipes! Our biggest one yet

I was just about to refill the hummer feeders when I looked outside and saw some strange bird behavior. The cactus wrens and the curve bill thrashers were threatening something, but very tentatively, and rightly so. They had a huge Diamondback in their sights.

I have made some observations now that we had dealt with a number of rattlesnakes. They don't seem to come to the house unless they have recently eaten. They come here looking for a nice, quiet place on the porch to digest in peace. They just want to curl up and hide.

It is amazing to me that the birds know about the snakes, but after all, snakes do eat their eggs and young, and those with beaks that can do damage would like to get their licks in. This spring two curvebill thrashers chased a bullsnake off the porch and out of the yard, hacking at any part of his anatomy.

This snake was big, and I did not have time/guts to take a picture during his capture. It took several tries with the tongs and he was so heavy (Dan thinks about 10 pounds) that it took some time to get him into the bucket, head first. We are now in the market for a real snake hook and a better transportation device than a lidded bucket.

No rattling during transportation, and the snake was not even that anxious to get out. Thanks to the tongs, he sustained no damage and will set up housekeeping elsewhere.

It's hummer time

You take your life in your hands stepping on the back porch today, and if this is like other years, this condition will last for a couple of weeks. The hummingbird migration has started and the place is abuzz and atwitter from dawn to dusk. If you are not careful, you may be speared by a beak, or several, as the battles for feeding ports is fierce.

I have 3 small feeders up this year, and I fill them twice a day. I could go to larger feeders for convenience, but the finches like the nectar too and they can perch on the bigger ones and sip nectar as the feeder swings back and forth.

We are on the hummer migration route and we always have a lot of birds loading up for the big journey south this time of year. There are several varieties: I can tell by the size differences but the feeders are hung in a place where the birds are always backlit so it is difficult to see their colors, unfortunately.

It is a good thing that hummers are the size they are: with their fighting spirit, things might get ugly.

The entire feeding frenzy is freaking out the female Hooded Oriole, whose nest is on the same porch though 20 feet away. One of her young fledged today, and this is a dangerous time for the baby. The other young one was still in the nest this morning.

August 9, 2009


Or rather, a Certificate of Recognition! David and Barbara presented it to us at dinner last night. It reads:

Certificate of Recognition

Reptile Wrangler, First Class

Whereas, Dan "Tongman" Moore, without whose snake tongs and dexterity there would be no story and Anneke "Shutterbug" Moore, without whose camera no one would believe the story, have combined their talents to save the lives of rambunctious, rambling reptiles and preserve the peace of mind of invasive humans.

Therefore, it is the pleasure of the powers that be in the Blacktail Bajada Ecological Enhancement, Critter Conservation, and Reptile Relocation Association (BBEECCRRA) to recognize these accomplishments and award Anneke "Shutterbug" Moore, and Dan "Tongman" Moore the title of Reptile Wrangler, First Class.

Presented this day, August 8, 2009 at the Whoadammit Ranch by

signed Barbara T. Larson and R. David Larson

Grateful members, BBEECCRRA

All this in fancy font and framed. How cool is that?

August 7, 2009

Mesquite beans

It is still hot in the afternoons, but somehow I do get the feeling of late summer. There are lots of tunas (fruits) on the prickly pears, but I noticed during our ride this morning that a lot of the mesquite beans have already disappeared. They are harvested, and eaten, by a lot of animals because of their protein content, and they are sweet to boot. Emma even snatches them from the lower branches. But then is there anything remotely edible that she passes up?

Buggsy loves mesquite beans. He probably learnt to eat them during a previous lifetime. Perhaps the kids at the Baptist Camp fed them to him (in addition to ham sandwiches and heaven knows whatever else), or guests at Grapevine offered them to him (when he was in his corral). I did that kind of thing too when I was a guest there.

There were just a couple of bushes with beans left this morning, and I did let Buggs get a couple. I told Linda about his affinity and of course she indulged him too. Here he is nibbling beans out of her pocket after one of her rides last month.

August 5, 2009

Another relocation

We are still seeing some snakes the last couple of weeks. Most of them seem to be around Dave and Barbara's new place, probably because it is new and people have not been around there much to disturb the wildlife. I see them on the morning walk too: Emma and Shawna backed away from a Mojave rattler when Linda was still here, and yesterday we came upon a big Diamondback. Thankfully the dogs have left the snakes alone because, even while having been vaccinated, getting bit would not be a good thing.

This last, small, snake was on Dave and Barbara's new porch, protesting when Barbara was stuffing more straw in an opening between 2 bales, and got her adrenaline going.

Our snake tongs are still the buy of the season: it is so easy to pick up a snake without hurting him, or us, so we can put him in a bucket to be transported to human-uninhibited environs. So far: 6 rattlers, 3 bull snakes.

A "new" table

As I have mentioned before, I love to collect stuff that I find in nature. Some of it gets pitched outside again after awhile, but some items are special enough to hang around the living room. I thought it would be nice to have a better way to display some of these: a shed rattlesnake skin, some skulls and bones, some beautiful rocks, and a couple of arrow heads. All of it I collected while we have been living here.

We talked about making a new coffee table and using it as a display case, but our current coffee table is really just made for it because it is a box with a lid. I explained my design to the resident woodworker (Dan), and the plan was beautifully executed.

We are both happy with the result and it is fun to see my special stuff so close up and dust free.

August 4, 2009


During monsoon season we get some beautiful sunsets. Usually there are storms around, causing the setting sun to light up different parts of the valley. It is like a lightshow, highlighting various features that otherwise you might not have paid attention to. Tonight the western sky was just ablaze.

We are fortunate to take in some of these views because we take off the horses' flymasks when the sun is down and the flies have decided to go to bed too.

When we were in the barn, one of the nesting boxes caught my eye. I thought that a bird had finally decided to build a nest there. Dan made these nesting shelves this winter to help the birds as the barn nests are prone to being blown down. But we hung them too low and although there is a nest 3 feet away, these shelves have remained empty. Guess who was roosting there?

A roadrunner!

August 2, 2009

Rescue attempt

I was putzing out in the yard this morning when I heard a horse whinny far off, and when I looked up I saw some white horses close to the National Forest fence. Viewed with binoculars no riders appeared present, so Dan set off on foot with a halter. I gathered up more halters, some water, and went after him on my mountain bike.

I caught up at the Forest Boundary and stayed well behind while Dan tried to get close to one of them. There were four horses in all: all of them Paints. It looked like 2 adults, a two or three year old, and a yearling or colt. Gorgeous horses. Dan had no problem getting the gelding haltered while I disconnected the fence. The other adult, the mare, was haltered too, but the 2 younger horses stayed away and did not follow the older ones when I tried to lead them away.

So, sadly, we had to let them all go again, but not after closing one of the gates that would keep them confined on about 1000 acres, and accessible for whomever lost them. I reported all this to the sheriff and hope that the owner will retrieve them soon: there is no water in the Forest anywhere. Never a dull moment here.

On a happier note, here is a picture of the young Hooded Orioles. They were born on July 27 and they are growing fast.