January 31, 2011

Bloomin' Monday

One of my blog friends, Jane at smallbutcharming, suggested last week that her readers post something in bloom in our respective houses today. I had hoped to show a picture of the orchid that I have coaxed into bloom again, but the buds have not yet popped.

So I headed outside and asked Dan to photograph the emu bush, Eremophila, that is blooming in a pot. It is not cold-hardy enough to be planted in the landscape and frankly, I am very surprised that it survived the last cold snap. Better get the blanket ready for tonight, because we are in for some more Weather.

I have to make note of the fact that we took our conditioning hike today (one never knows how the weather will be the rest of the week), and when we left the parking lot, a family of javelina crossed the road right in front of us: 3 adults and 2 babies which were the size of chihuahuas. Too bad I did not have the camera in hand. They are too cute.

January 30, 2011

Bed prep

Like every gardener, I look forward to the best garden season yet. And like every gardener, I can't wait to get started. I am lucky here in Arizona, because in Oregon I would have to wait until the soil dried out and was workable (in May), aside from the abundant sunny days that I can work outside here.

So I decided to concentrate on bed preparation this year, and sift the horse manure that I add to every bed at least once a year. We live in a rocky place, and by adding the manure I invariably add rocks. No more! It is a simple system, but it works like a charm and I add the detritus to the bottom of the garden fence to make it yet more difficult for some animal to dig into "heaven". One tractor bucket per bed.

Meanwhile I am keeping an eye on the budding fruit trees. The buds are getting fatter, but no green yet. I hope they will delay a little longer as we are bound to get more frost. Like this coming week. I do hope my seed order arrives and that I can get some lettuce started and think about planting peas. Or am I too early, Phil?

January 24, 2011

The Library

It's done, complete, finito! We are very happy with the results.

The colors are a bit off; the room is a light mint green, top to bottom.

Sand hill cranes

Our valley is renowned for its variety of birds, and people come from far and wide to watch them and add to their "life list". The corner stone of all this birding activity in the winter is the sand hill crane. They come here to spend the winter; the average number is 10,000, but 24,000 have been counted in some years. The cranes arrive in October from Montana, Alaska and sometimes southeastern Siberia. They spend their nights in several wet areas in the valley, rise at dawn, eat in the nearby agricultural fields, loaf a bit, eat some more, and go back to the wet places.

It is spectacular to watch the cranes leave their roost for the morning feeding. It occurs right before sunrise, and it is worth getting up early for. That's what we did today. The best site is about an hour away, but we were armed with scones and coffee, and dressed in long undies. Temperature in the valley was 21 degrees.

Our sighting began with a flyby from an owl, then it was nothing for awhile except for a rooster crowing far off, and then you start hearing the cranes before you see them, first just a few and then they come in waves. Literally thousands of birds. Spectacular. It's like being in a Nat Geo special.

January 23, 2011

A typical winter Sunday

While Dan was finishing the doors for the display cabinet in the library, I headed for the garden in sunshine. It was cool, but a good time to renovate the herb bed. Whatever possessed me to put perennial herbs in the garden? They should be planted outside along the garden path.

So with some effort I dug up the marjoram and thyme plants, and disposed of the damaged drip lines. Of course with one job comes another: the never-ending repair. In my zeal I lost my balance and stepped on the irrigation faucet. Then I hauled out the manure sieve and the wire had separated from the wood, which takes a beating here in our desert sun. So that adds 2 jobs to the Danny-Do list. Good thing he is such a nice guy about it.

I did a pruning number on the grape vines (the book says to remove 80% of last year's growth) and they are looking "trim". To my dismay I noticed that one of the apple trees is trying to leaf out; I may give it a couple of days to see whether the tree is truly serious about it and if it is, there is nothing for it but to prune, in spite of it probably not making its chilling requirements. I harvested some kale for dinner and checked on the hens. They are doing very well, and seem to be quite happy laying eggs again.

January 20, 2011

Old friends

Jon and Barb stopped by en route from Oregon to Florida. We had not seen them for 5 or so years, and even then it was a very brief visit. This time they stayed for a couple of nights and gave us the opportunity to take them for a little hike. It is good to get out and stretch those legs during a road trip. Barb just finished the Inca Trail in Peru last year, and both of them are still the avid hikers we knew them to be in Oregon.

We had a great day visiting; I find it comforting and wonderful that there are still people that you can connect with as if no time had passed since the last time you saw them. Dan and I had a great time and hope that it will not be another > 5 years before we enjoy their company. After all, I have known Jon and Barb longer than I have known Dan, and that has been more than 30 years.

January 16, 2011

Winter damage

The opuntia ficus indica is marginally hardy in our growing zone, and it is obvious that 11 degrees does a number on it.

However, the roots are still in tact and it will probably regrow. I cleaned up the damaged pads, but left a few that had already been nibbled on by a jack rabbit. It's no wonder the animals like this cactus as the glochids are few (but certainly there), and the flesh succulent. This is the variety that the Mexicans eat as nopalitos. Now might be a good time to try some.

January 14, 2011

If you can't lick 'm ...

... might as well join them (sigh).

January 11, 2011

Will it ever end?

We are in the dog house with Shawna and Emma, and probably in deep doodoo with the horses too. Dan and I are going great guns on our office remodel (soon to be renamed "library"), and are cranking out bookcases by the day. The project is going well, having built numerous wood projects in the past helps, and we are very happy with the results. The long and short of it is that we are on day 8 of building, and we don't want to stop because we are anxious to see the results of the next step.

Meanwhile, especially Emma is getting disgusted. What, no fun hikes? No bike rides? No afternoon couch time? What a mess in the house! And having the listen to that compressor go on and off! She puts herself in any position where you have to step over her, or ask her to move. Shawna is less demanding, probably remembering our working days.

Frankly, I don't understand all the fuss. We are still taking morning walks, and after dinner strolls. Everybody is getting fed, on time. Stalls are cleaned, chickens tended, plants covered for frost, bread is baked. The ones "suffering" are Dan and I: we would be eating out if there was that option, but that not being the case we are eating home cooked leftovers and loving it. And boy, are we sleeping well. 

January 10, 2011

Not done yet

My hens are getting old. This spring they will be 4, and have lived longer than most laying chickens. Not that they show their age: they are more beautiful than ever. Fully feathered, gleaming in the sun. Why don't birds show their age like mammals? No greyer around the beak, not obviously creaky ... Lucky hens.

The reason that I really thought they were over the hill was the fewer eggs we got last summer and fall. I knew that laying eggs is dependent on hours of daylight, but I must not have realized how much. At least in former years we did have enough eggs for ourselves throughout the winter, I just had disappointed customers. But this year the laying stopped altogether, and I was buying eggs that were tasteless. Then I finally found out that I could put a 60 watt bulb on a timer in the coop that came on at 3 am, to make up the required 14 hours of daylight to re initiate the laying. Duh! I did not want to have light on 24/7 as that would drive me nuts, if I were a chicken.

Now they are back in production. We currently have 15 chickens and are averaging 5 great-tasting eggs a day. Thanks to Isabella, Francine, Goldie, Mathilda, Grayce, etc.

January 5, 2011

WD cabinet shop

Work is progressing well on the new bookcases. We got the bit in our teeth, and like Buggsy, now we GO. One bookcase, the trial one, is finished; methods have been developed and kinks worked out. Number 2 still needs more poly on the trim, then it's ready too.

It's off to town tomorrow for more trim wood, the puck lights and more polyurethane. Nice working conditions though: great workspace and nice break room.

January 3, 2011

Thawing out

Sun's out, temperature's in the 50's, and it's a mess outside. One giant mud hole. Our soil is more clay here on the bajada than further down, where it is more sandy, and with the snow melting we sink 2 inches into soft and slippery goo. One forgets about that when it snows and it's freezing. Nevertheless, it is great for the plants to get that lovely moisture, and it will dry out here quick enough. I just have to take my dog walks in early morning when the ground is still frozen, or after sundown as temperatures drop quickly. Shawna knows about getting dried off before you go inside, but Emma (born in the desert) thinks it's totally superfluous and a royal pain.

It is too slippery for riding or hiking, so we are putting our time to good use in the workshop. Dan put the first of 4 bookcases together and it looks great. I will be swinging the paintbrush tomorrow, and probably the next couple of days, while Dan cuts molding and assembles more cases. The display cases will take a bit more time probably, and another trip to Tucson for glass, lights and sundries.

I also wanted to post a photo Dan took 2 days ago of our resident roadrunner (especially for my blog friend Webb, who is partial to those great birds). Beep!

January 1, 2011

Another year, another blog

The year is off to a good, but chilly, start. Our weather station recorded 11.5 degrees this morning at 5 am. The good part is that we have electricity and heat. We are running around taking care of the outside animals, carrying (hot) water and throwing seed. Still, there was a hummingbird on the feeder just after sunrise, and I have had to replace the food already once because it is only 24 degrees at 9:00. Temperatures are forecast to rise to 40's during the day, in the teens again tonight.

So, we are holing up with a fire in the fireplace, leftovers from last night's party, and the college Bowl games.

We wish you and yours a very happy and healthy New Year!