February 28, 2011

Bloom blog

Jane, at Smallbutcharming, asked us to post another "what's-blooming-at-your-house-today" picture. It is still winter here in the desert, with only the manzanita in bloom on southern slopes, but I do have an indoor beauty.

I am tickled that I convinced this orchid to bloom again, and it is doing it in grand style: two flower spikes and numerous side branches. It has only been unfolding its blooms since last week. I am looking forward to enjoying it for a couple of months. Puts a smile on my face.

Pyjama Sunday

We woke up to arctic conditions: sideways snow, no neighbors, no mountains. It had been in the forecast, but we get a lot of "the sky is falling" predictions here. Nonetheless, we were ready with some wood for the fireplace and were looking forward to a day on the couch with dogs and books. I decided to leave the horses in their stalls, and found that at 9:00 am the roadrunner was still in bed. No use going to look for lizards and insects in the snow - smart girl.

It is nice that even though it snows we always have a patch of bare ground to feed the birds and other wildlife.

Then the power cycled a number of times and finally went off completely, but not to worry as there was plenty of light and the fire was going. When we got hooked up to civilization again, we found that my poor 'puter was in need of open-HD-surgery and it took my sweet, geeky, husband the rest of the day and part of this morning to perform the procedure.  But I am back in operation again, with no data lost, and ready for the "Bloom blog".

February 26, 2011

The stuffin' bird

It's the cactus wren, really. He is a raucous guy, or girl, with a chewing-a-rubberband-cry. Better not leave your car windows down or the garage open because he will be there investigating. And he apparently likes cozy roosts in the winter. Anything with an opening has been stuffed with all kinds of treasures: dog hair, chicken and bird feathers, dry grass, leaves, you name it.

This is currently his favorite night spot. It used to be a beautiful oriole nest that is now 2 years old. When the orioles used it, it was an artfully woven affair that was hung by baling twine from an unused electrical outlet on the porch. Now it's a mess, though apparently just to a cactus wren's liking.

I am going to take it down before the orioles arrive here in the beginning of April because it is just hanging from a thread; a bird can escape should it fall, but eggs would come to a sad end. I will remove it after the storm-in-waiting tomorrow. It's 60 degrees now, but they are forecasting snow tomorrow. Winter be done!

February 21, 2011

Pruning fruit trees

After spending a couple of days in Texas to visit La(Verne) last week, and a couple of days getting there and back, we are back home. It is good to leave the ranch from time to time, spend some time with family, and get out of the routine. It is invigorating, as well as fun because we get to eat out, which we don't get to do out here in the boonies.

We are having a springy day today, and I found the courage to tackle the fruit tree pruning. Last year was the first year in the ground for these trees, so no pruning was required, but they grew a lot over the summer. I also got two pear trees from Georgia that arrived quite tall, with their branches starting at 5 feet or so. In reading, I found out that I could trim these trees back to 12 inches to promote branching lower down, which will make fruit picking a lot easier. It took some courage, but trimmed they both were.

Dan meanwhile was nice enough to start tilling the garden beds that had manure spread on them, and I see pea planting in my future. Next week perhaps. It's great to be back outside in the dirt.

February 11, 2011

Not on my bucket list

I thought of various titles for this blog, like Runaway Horse, or Off, Again, or Mr Buggs’ Wild Ride, but this one best conveys my feelings at this time.

It was last Wednesday, and we were finishing up a nice, uneventful little ride out back on Cody and Buggsy. At our last grazing spot, Buggs, being somewhat sweaty by now, rubbed his head on his foreleg and shook his head forcefully. Thankfully I was watching because the bridle came clean off his head. He shied, and then feeling the bridle and reins around his neck, was off like a shot. I hung onto the saddle for dear life, literally. Off we went over hill and dale, or I should say, around bushes and over washes. Fast, faster, fastest. Any non-Arabian horse would have stopped after awhile.

I pleaded, entreated, threatened, commanded for Buggs to stop, or at least slow down, but to no avail. This went on for awhile; long enough for me to realize that I was in an ugly situation with no control over my horse, who without a bit and bridle ran all out, but also long enough to come up with an exit plan, should I be able to stay on long enough to get off at my convenience.

We missed the turn-off to home, but once he realized it he did turn toward home, still at high speed. Thankfully we were now on a more grassy slope, as opposed to a rocky road, or in cactus country, so I plotted my escape. I had a feeling that with me on his back, Buggs would never slow down or stop, and that I had to get off, given the right opportunity. I lost my nerve once, but when we went for yet another wash, I decided to bail, determined not to fall on any pointy parts (shoulders, wrists, elbows). So I slid down Buggs’ neck, who freaked out some more about that, and watched those legs go by.

I rolled a bit and then decided I was fine other than some scrapes. Dan meanwhile had followed on Cody, but had been reluctant to come up behind in case that would scare Buggsy even more, and cause him to go even faster to outrun Cody. Meanwhile, Buggs, now on his own, finally came to a fence and stood there sheepishly. We walked home, and Dan went back in the afternoon to retrieve my broken bridle. I also lost my sunglasses, but we found them yesterday afternoon where I had gotten off.

But should you be concerned about my physical, if not my mental condition, I am very fine. Sore, more from holding on than the fall I think, and a bit scraped up, but we went for our conditioning hike this morning and finished in our normal time.

Next time I will ride the ever-grumpy, but ever-reliable Bueno, who is opinionated but will not lose his head in an emergency.

February 8, 2011

Tough life

You need to be of a special mettle when you are a plant or animal in the desert. Last week they endured below 0 windchills; today it is 65 degrees, but with wind gusts of 50 miles per hour. They have not seen any moisture since a snow storm in early January. Life is tough!

We are inside today, in spite of brilliant sunshine. This is not the day to be hiking, or sifting manure for the garden. Ptuh! Thankfully the wind is only gusty at these high speeds so the birds can make an occasional approach to the birdfeeders, and the animals can get a drink from the wildlife dish in between the white caps.

From time to time the house is completely engulfed in a dust storm and we see topsoil disappearing down our road. Hopefully the wind will die down tomorrow so I can turn on the landscape irrigation.

February 7, 2011

Monday hike

After a week of cold weather, even by non-desert standards, we are back to normal: light frost at night and low 60's during the day. A perfect day for a little hike out back.

We decided to go down my favorite wash to see whether the bee hive was still there and do so before the bees wake up. The wash is deep, and was carved when the climate was a lot wetter. The walls are made up of sedimentary materials, as in rocks held together by compacted soil, and not all that stable. There is always some scrambling over rocks and fallen trees, especially after our relatively wet summer. There is one small cataract where the rocks are very interesting.

Once the wash got too overgrown and the going got too rough, we went up one of the sides and had a snack on top of one of the surrounding hills. From there we saw our next promontory excursion. Emma says she's in.

February 3, 2011

This is a bit unusual

We woke up to 2.7 degrees this morning. The lowest temperature we had seen here in 6 years, until this year when we saw 11 degrees in January, was 19. We are not used to this! The house weathered it fine: it is so good to have electricity and propane ... It makes you appreciate civilization.

Unfortunately the outbuildings are not as fortunate. We shut off all water to them, but that means we are bringing water to horses and chickens, after removing about 1 inch worth of ice on the troughs. And the water pipe between the pump and the water tanks is frozen in spite of previous precautions. As of right now, the pump is operational, so with an electric heater on the pipe, we should be back in (water) business soon.

Meanwhile, we cater to the animals. I have thrown out pounds of seed for the wild birds and keep a small container of hummingbird nectar ready inside as the one outside freezes quickly. There was still a Costa's hummer out there this morning. I will need to go out hourly to keep the water in the wildlife dish liquid, and keep an eye on the chicken water or there will not be any eggs.

The east wind is now picking up and although the temp is currently 10.6, it feels like single digits. Time to build a little fire in the fire place. Think warm thoughts and drink hot chocolate.