September 28, 2010

Tuesday walk

As we drove to the Stronghold this morning to go on our weekly conditioning hike, it was evident that last week's weather system dumped a good deal of water there too. Water was running across the road, and deer were calmly grazing in the lush grass.

As many times as we have done this climb, there are always different things to see and detract us from our panting and sweating. Different flowers, different insects. Did this worm come from the oak galls?

Running water also meant that Halfmoon Tank was full again, much to Emma's delight, who plunges in without hesitation these days. And with all that fresh water added, she came out smelling sweeter than in previous weeks.

On our way home we saw another couple of does along the road, with 2 fawns who still had spots. Unfortunately they all bounded off before we could get a good picture. I am finding that unless I sharpen my skills, the blog will be featuring more Daniel photography than mine. I am no match for a DSLR and Photoshop.

September 27, 2010

John Stevens

One of our friends passed away today. He had been ill for a long time, but his spirit always remained positive.  But a few months ago it got too hard to do what he loved: riding his horse, Cheerio, in this lovely country. John was a cowboy at heart though he grew up on the water in Upstate New York and moved here in retirement. He loved the history of this place, and delighted in playing cowboy.

John showed us the horse trails around here, and went with us on many rides. He would deliver cookies at Christmas in his red union suit and cowboy hat, with Cheerio all decked out in bells and ribbons.

John and Lucy were some of the first people to move into this neighborhood, and it was John who welcomed everyone. He would ride up on his horse, introduce himself and offer any help. John and Lucy would throw parties with the whole neighborhood invited, and would enjoy talking with everybody. We will all miss him.

September 23, 2010

TD Georgette

We drove to Las Cruces, NM, yesterday to visit with our friends Phil and Marsha, and to indulge in some good Mexican food at La Posta. The weather forecast said we would have 70% chance of precipitation, but we were not holding our breath as showers here are very localized. But this was not monsoon related: it was Tropical Depression Georgette.

We drove through squalls most of the way on I-10, but the day was very pleasant with cloudy skies, and plenty of sun and warmth. On our way home however, we ran into major rain storms from the AZ border all the way to the WD. The sun was just setting, the rain was letting up, but we had animals to feed so no time was taken to photograph a beautiful sunset. Another 0.7 inches was added to our rain total.

This morning was different, time-wise, and both Dan and I went out with our respective cameras. I took my best shot on the walk, Dan took his from the backyard. Clouds are so dramatic, and my photo reminds me of Jacob van Ruysdael, a Dutch painter who was best at rendering cloudy skies. I took the picture of the turkey vulture warming its wings on my way to Apple Annie's to pick more peaches. It's almost October!

September 21, 2010

Fall already

I think I am getting lax on posting. It's not that we are not busy, or not enjoying ourselves; perhaps it is because I feel that I am repeating too much. There is always something to do in the morning around the WD, and if there isn't, we're riding or hiking, or making the odd trip to Tucson. Nothing exciting is happening, but just to keep track of time, here's a post.

The garden is in its late summer stage, and the winter greens are doing great. The grapes are recovering after having been denuded by the grapeleaf skeletonizers, and we are Eating Peppers. Italians have a word for this philosophy of eating large amounts of whatever is in season: scorpacciata (thanks to Mario Batali). So it's chicken and sweet pepper salad, stuffed orange peppers, chicken fajitas, spetzofai, and so on. I love that way of eating until you have had your fill and your ingredient runs out, and it's on to the next ingredient. Much preferable to trying to preserve food.

It's still in the high 80's during the day, but some birds have already left us (not the hummers), and we are seeing a lot of grasshoppers and butterflies. The antelope ground squirrels had another litter (must be that good living under the bird feeder), and I still saw some toddler-aged Gambel quail yesterday. It's been a good year for plants and animals.

This morning we went on a hike, and with Dan spending more time on photography, I am trying to sharpen my seeing skills with the Powershot.

September 17, 2010

A treat

We don't have a compost pile because we have chickens. Very little goes to waste here: what we don't eat goes to the dogs, and the chickens are the last stop. We eat pretty well here, with just about everything homemade, like bread, yogurt, desserts, and then there is the stuff from the garden. That's one plus (or not, depending on your inclination for cooking) of living at least 30 miles from some kind of grocery store.

Today, among spinach stems, old bread, cantaloupe rinds, peach skins, there was some old sour cream. The dogs would have fallen into that (although a Lab falls into anything, edible or not), but they don't need fattening up so I gave the leftovers in the container to the hens.

It was a hit, and a lot of hens had a go at it. Beautiful Goldie, the Auracana, first, and then some of the Barred Rocks. "What have you got there on your head, honey, it looks like a doily".

September 16, 2010

Up close and personal

The hummingbird migration continues. The heaviest traffic is in the early morning when there are a couple dozen birds feeding or circling. The other morning one of the birds, a Rufous no less, a feisty species, was apparently so tired he sat motionless on the feeder for minutes between sips.

I put a short ladder by one of the feeders so I could get a better picture with the sun reflecting off the feathers, and to see if I could identify the birds better. I think that the majority of the hummers coming through right now are females and juveniles. I was able to get a shot of this young "Rufio", amid lots of bird yips and buzz bys.

September 13, 2010

Orchard, phase 1.5

We planted another 4 fruit trees this morning, and I must say that planting them into previously dug and prepared soil is the way to go. It was a matter of taping up the trunks, digging a hole big enough for a 5 gallon pot, adding a chickenwire cage to keep the rabbits from chewing the bark, and providing support for our spring time winds. Voila, done!

It is amazing to see how much the trees that we planted last year have grown, next to these newly planted sprigs.

There are still 2 basins empty, for pear trees that I ordered over the Internet. They are varieties that I love (Comice and Sugar pear), but that were not locally available. The trees will come from Georgia, dormant and bareroot, hopefully in November when the soil is still somewhat warm.

Once these trees are in, the orchard is complete with 3 apple trees, 3 pears, 3 peaches, a fig, an apricot and an Italian prune. There are 2 nut trees out by the horse barn: a pecan and an Arizona walnut.

We are seeing some big insects right now. This is a horse lubber whose chirp I mistook for a rattlesnake.

September 12, 2010

What, exactly, is going on here?

It is about the end of the monsoon, and we cannot complain about a lack of rainfall this year. The mesquites even put on a late bloom, which has produced late pods on the trees. I know that these pods are high in protein and provide food for a lot of our desert animals, from tiny insects to coyotes. You can even buy mesquite flour off the Internet, and I have been told that it is quite tasty.

This afternoon all kinds of insects were hanging off the pods and seemingly feeding on some of them. I could see where pods had been "damaged" (who did the damage?), and animals were competing for and eating at these spots. There were mesquite bugs, June bugs (do they not know it is September?), wasps, lady bugs, butterflies all in very close proximity. So is this a feeding frenzy?

Back in action

It was a momentous day: After years of staying home and watching us leave to go for a hike, Shawna went with us. Since her hip replacement in the middle of June, we have been working on rehab at a slow but steady pace since the beginning of August. For several weeks now Shawna has rejoined us on our daily 2 mile walk at sunrise, just as before the hip replacement. But then that was it for her, and any subsequent hikes were just too much on her hip and she would start to limp or be in obvious discomfort. Dr Boulay cautioned us to increase exercise slowly but steadily, and I thought that a hike around Blacktail Hill would be a doable challenge. It was a bit overcast today, which was an added nicety.

It turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought, for us at least. It is always a bit of bushwacking and climbing out of steep washes, but whatever trail there was was totally overgrown. So we trudged over rocks and through bushes, with grass that has grown almost waist-high. But we made it, saw 2 deer, and in all Shawna did not appear stressed or tuckered. She was a bit stiff after lunch, but then we all were.

All photography by Dan, who took the old Powershot because the Nikon is being cleaned in Tucson. 

September 3, 2010


It was a beauty this morning, and now being "photo oriented", we both took a shot. Not difficult to discern who took which one, but I am happy with my result. I have decided that I will remain the Queen of Point and Shoot as I take a lot of pleasure of being able to take a quick picture with the camera in my pocket.

September 2, 2010

Is this seat taken?

Like everything else this year, the hummingbird migration is late. In previous years we see the Rufous hummingbird here at the end of July, and in August I usually go through 10 lbs of sugar a week for our three feeders. This year the migration started last week, and no Rufios in sight. Right now it is mainly females (difficult to identify) and some young Black-chinned males. Being on the patio is dangerous as even we are seen as "feeder competitors". Stand back, please!

September 1, 2010

An old love

Dan took some beautiful photographs on our Alaska trip, and since then he has been bitten by the old bug. I love him going back to an old passion because he has a great eye, and enjoys taking photos. One of the drawbacks has been that with digital photography he did not have the advantage of being able to make adjustments in the dark room, but Adobe Photoshop to the rescue. Lots of time is being spent learning and trying, and book and toy buying. How fun!

We went on our Stronghold hike this morning, after spending a number of days trying to get the weeds in the yard under control. The campground is now open, and we rejoiced as it cut about 3 (rather uninteresting) miles off our hike. The trail is still very rocky from the flash flood, and there is still a trickle of water running. Several flowers blooming, Indian Paintbrush among them. It's starting to get that late-summer feel ...