March 28, 2011

Mouse house

We sighted the first oriole, a Scott's, at breakfast this morning. And a female Magnificent hummingbird! She was certainly the biggest hummer that I have ever seen. The hummingbird feeder hangs here all year round, but the holes are too small for those oriole beaks, so I hurried up and made some nectar for the oriole feeder.

I keep the unused feeders in a box on the potting bench, which is not hermetically sealed and often houses some rodent or other, sometimes a cotton tail, sometimes a towhee. But I was not prepared for this ingenious mouse nest, though I was happy that no one was home and that I did not have to evict anybody.

The little pots on the heating pads are starting to sport little sprouts that are now transported daily to the cold frame for a bit of sunshine, but still spend the nights in the garage. I agree that they need to put on some "meat", but that will not be long.

March 25, 2011

El Challenge

Shannon, our niece, has discovered cycling, and has fallen in love with it. So much so that she is bike-commuting to her job and has even started a blog about it.

I have always enjoyed cycling: I think it's in my blood, like growing things. But unlike my love for gardening, I knew about cycling at an early age, hailing from that country that is so renowned for it. This snippet is a bit representative of my childhood. My parents never owned a car, and public transportation was how we went places if we did not walk or bike. Unless on vacation, then we flew, my father working for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

So I have been encouraging Shannon in her new pursuit, asked if she was interested doing El Tour de Tucson, a renowned bicycle event in November. Well, she is. Our tentative plan is to train for the 66 mile distance. And because this ride takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving, she and Jon will be having Thanksgiving with us. And this girl likes to cook!

March 24, 2011

Garden beginnings, and Dan's website update

We had so many experiences and saw so much on our vacation that it felt as if we had been gone for a month, rather than a week. Consequently, I had the feeling that I was way behind with the garden. Nonsense, of course, but there you have it. Thankfully almost all the beds had been manured and fertilized, so this morning it was just a matter of levelling and popping in the seeds.

I planted snap peas, beets, carrots, lettuce, a variety of bunching onions, and some arugula and radishes for instant gratification. All are protected by the wonderful cages that my friend Phil gave to me last year.

The tomatoes, peppers and cantaloupes are standing in little pots on hot pads in the laundry room. I can't wait to see some greenery.

Meanwhile, Dan has updated his website with his best Baja photos. Go and take a look.

March 21, 2011

Happy whales to you!

We were on vacation last week. Another Lindblad/National Geographic expedition, this time to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico to go whale watching. This is not an advertisement for Lindblad, but to me they provide the best vacation. I love going on a small ship (yet be able to keep your own space), see tons of wildlife, be surrounded by naturalists that teach me all along the way, have the opportunity to go swimming or snorkeling, go on daily outings in a zodiac, go on nature walks, and eat great food.

This expedition, which started in San Carlos near Bahia Magdalena and ended in Las Paz, was called Among Great Whales, and so it was. We saw grey whales, blue whales, humpback whales, pilot whales. We swam with sea lions, had dolphins swim over to escort the ship and ride the bow a number of times, and saw tons of birds. The highlight was being able to touch a grey whale baby: an incredible experience. Some grey whale mothers and their calves hung out around our zodiacs for hours, and everyone got to touch them. The animals actually sought us out to be stroked. Totally amazing.

As in Alaska, we lucked out with the weather and even in the Pacific it was calm sailing. In the Sea of Cortez the water was like glass which allowed us to see the blue whales. One of the Lindblad advantages is the flexible itinerary, so when someone spots something of interest, the captain will take the ship there and allow everyone a good look. And the expedition leader will choose an outing depending on weather and tide conditions to optimize your experience. Their staff is the best.

This was a "photo expedition", and we certainly took advantage of the opportunity and returned with about 1200 photos that have already be whittled down to about 500. I have just posted a few of my favorites here (ones I took). Dan will be posting his on his web site soon, so take a look there. He's got some great ones.

March 11, 2011

Must be spring

As I was walking to the barn to give the horses their "snickers" (vitamins and oats), I saw Roadie with a log in her beak looking up at her roosting place! Will we have a nest in the barn when we come back from vacation? How cool would that be?

Also saw the first rufous hummingbird today. The smallest hummer with the longest migration distance: he might be on his way to Alaska to breed, all the way from his vacation grounds in South America.

We are off to Baja today for a week's worth of whale watching.

March 9, 2011

Warming up

Spring is slow showing itself in the desert this year. Some signs are there, as in this blooming manzanita. I have seen these shrubs bloom at the end of January in previous years, so our super cold temperatures this winter have been felt everywhere. And thanks to our little bit of snow a week or so ago, the grass on the hills is greening up. That will make for happy horses.

Days are definitely lengthening now, and I see jack rabbits and cottontails chasing each other. The quail are still in their coveys and have not yet paired off, but Roadie, our resident female roadrunner, is not sleeping in the barn any longer. She is still around the house during the day, but has she built a nest somewhere?

March 6, 2011

Up the back of Blacktail

When Dan returned from a solo trip out back in the National Forest last week, he told me about a new way to go up the hill closest to us, Blacktail Hill. We have climbed this a number of times from the east side, the side that we see from the house, but apparently the west side was worth doing.

This morning we decided to circumnavigate it, a regular 1-hour walk, as well as scale it from the west side. It is a shorter climb, but steeper which is not so much an issue for me going up as going down. It is a lot easier on Emma however, because there are fewer rock faces to climb.

It is always a worthwhile little hike that gets the blood flowing and makes an afternoon on the couch with a book a non-guilty pleasure. Here is a view of Mt Glenn from the top of Blacktail.

March 2, 2011

Has spring sprung?

On Sunday we had snow storms, today it is in the 70's and a glorious, sunny day. We went for our conditioning hike this morning and I regretted wearing long pants. Could have done with a bandana too.

I am glad I pruned the fruit trees when I did as there will be no stopping them now. I put them back on a regular watering schedule. Here is the very first peach blossom, and apple blossom.

I even did see a swallowtail butterfly this afternoon (oh dear!), and was buzzed by a bee on the hike. I had better go and investigate the shorts situation and get some sun on those white legs.