April 29, 2011

Young stuff

Whenever I walk by I throw up an eye at the roadrunner on the pottingshed roof, and they are still on the nest. It must be getting warm up there, as our temperatures are now in the 80's. The cactus wrens on the porch, across from the kitchen window, must have hatched their eggs because there is a lot of flying back and forth with bugs, moths, and other insects. Both parents are very busy, and the porch is meticulously clean. These birds are thorough, and do not hesitate to even investigate inside the dog towel that is hanging on a porch chair.

The ground squirrels have released their brood on the world, and it is great entertainment to watch the little "debbels", as we call, them explore the environment. They box, they roll, they chase, and everything is tried and investigated. This one is eating young shoots of the pencil cholla. Spines not withstanding.

April 26, 2011

Signs of life

I admit that I had all but given up on the grapes. I cut them back, waaayy back, in January, but until now they remained bare stalks. But I had already decided they could remain in the garden for now, and be trellises for some ornamental beans that I intend to plant. Then, this morning, leaves! Or the beginnings thereof on 4 of the 5 plants. I immediately turned on their irrigation, and we will see. Even if we get no grapes this year, there is always next season.

The honeysuckle I planted to disguise the ugly propane tank is in full bloom, and in full fragrance. It is a delight to walk to the coop or the garden from the house because you are wafted with its wonderful perfume. I have a little vase on my desk too. Breathe...

April 23, 2011

We are besotted

The plan was to go looking for a road bike for me. I had mentioned that it would be good to ride the Cochise County Classic (45 miles) and El Tour de Tucson (66 miles, with Shannon) on a bike made for pavement, rather than on Amelia, my mountain bike. More aerodynamic, a bit lighter.

When we were at the bike shop, and I was being educated by a fellow Dutchman (an ex-racer), Dan test rode a mountain bike he thought he might like. Then he wanted to try out the bike I was riding. And we both fell in love with this gorgeous machine. It is a Specialized TriCross Comp, and would allow us to gracefully navigate our 1.5 miles of washboardy dirt road before we ever hit pavement, and then it would sing.

The long and short of it is that we both bought a bike. The same model. After all, this is the time of our lives, and if it's something that Dan would enjoy too, so much the better. We were fitted for our new bikes yesterday, and put Dan in spandex (Dave .., Shannon...) . He went for a short ride this morning (I was dealing with yet another sore throat - don't seem to be able to take things easy enough), and returned with a big grin and was ready to go again. He promised I would never ride Amelia again: from now on it will just be Racy Tracy. I can't wait.

April 21, 2011

The first one of the year

The cactus wren, whose nest is on the porch, was sounding alarm, and understandably so: snake close by, snake close by.

It was not a rattlesnake, only a harmless (to us) bull snake, but not so harmless when you have eggs to protect. He was gently relocated to a place with a lower nest density.

The backside of Rockfellow Dome

We extended our weekly conditioning hike by exploring the loop around Rockfellow Dome. I had already decided to not complete the loop as this approach route to the Dome is not my cup of tea. Too many unprotected high spots, too bouldery, too steep, not enough foot hold, especially with Emma along. So call me a woos.

Nevertheless we did find the little trail that allowed us to hike up to the Dome from the backside, enjoyed the view into the valley west of us, and called it good. All in all a 3 hour hike: we will be enjoying our dinner and a movie (The King's Speech).

April 19, 2011

Nothing quite as fine ...

... as going to town to buy plants for the summer pots on the porch.

Well, perhaps shopping for a new road bike tops it.

April 18, 2011

Roadie's nest

We finally found the roadrunner nest, and they are sitting! I knew it was somewhere close to the house, but was surprised they picked this spot. It is a popular location, surprisingly, because it is not a quiet or secluded one. It is right next to the garage, on top of the potting shed, but under the house roof. And the garbage can is stored right underneath. It is protected from all but enterprising snakes, but I thought that might not be that important to the roadrunners.

The last couple of years the curve billed thrasher pair have raised a number of families in the same location, as a matter of fact it is their nest that is being used - prickly and sticky as it is. There is also a Say's phoebe that built a nest underneath Roadie's, in the garbage can storage itself. I am afraid she may have had to relocate her nest too. A bit too close for comfort with a predator upstairs.

Unfortunately we do not know how many eggs are being hatched; our mirror-on-a-stick is the wrong angle for this so well hidden nest. We did find an egg on the driveway that was roadrunner sized, but no embryo had formed yet, so perhaps the egg was deemed "not right" by the parents. Stay tuned.

April 16, 2011

Summer do

It's warming up a bit these days. We must have adjusted nicely to the desert climate because what I used to call "hot" (80's), is "lovely" now. Still, for Shawna, our SheppaMute, anything over 50 is a reason to pant.

We got the clippers out today and Dan put her in a ribbed t-shirt, or at least, that's what it looks like. She is a different dog, all white and sleek. The procedure is tolerated, but we think she loves the result. Now it's just a matter of a little fine tuning every month or so until October.

April 7, 2011

In bloom

I am finally getting around to do some spring cleanup in the landscape. Unfortunately, but no surprise, I did lose a number of plants due to a hard freeze this winter. Any plants that were marginal in our Zone 7 died. The palo verde is gone, although I did see a possible seedling nearby, the acacia berlandieri, and all 4 senna plants. The Black Jack fig has died, but appears to be sending up new growth from the roots, and the 4 grapes have also bit the dust.

There is a lesson to be learned from this, and I am learning it. Stay with cold hardy plants, preferably natives. Many plants are doing great and need to be cut back, and after having lived here for 7 years, lots of good looking volunteers are popping up. So I am listening to Mom (Nature), and whatever is tender will go in pots on patio and either be carted back and forth to the garage in the winter, or will just need to be replaced.

Several plants are currently blooming and magnificent. Different penstemons are in flower, as are the chocolate flowers and the ericameria. This yucca rostrata is adding a bloom spike every year now and I love the sheen on the flowers. It's relationship to lilies is obvious here. There is also a hedgehog cactus that stands protected in the driveway, and which never disappoints with its blooms.

April 6, 2011

In velvet

After suffering the cold of the decade, we are getting back into some activities. Apparently being among people on vacation is not conducive to our health. Not that it's going to stop us.

To test our lungs, we went on our little "outback" hike. It takes us by a beautiful ocotillo; I would like to know how old this plant is. In spite of our dry winter it is putting out leaves, which makes it look as if it's in velvet. Red flower spikes, the delight of every hummingbird, will probably be added next month. It takes little moisture, and only 72 hours, for the ocotillo to leaf out, but when it's dry it just shows bare stalks.

We are due for a storm to pass through over the next couple of days, and I hope there will be some moisture in it as our desert is very dry. Nonetheless, plants do thrive here and set leaf or bud, like this prickly pear.

We survived our outing well, and I think I am going to kick it up a notch tomorrow.

April 5, 2011

MY place!

With spring in apparent full swing, many animals, aside from us, are calling the WD home. The orioles have moved in, and there are numerous (nest) building projects going on all around. Coyote pairs come by on their daily route for water, and leave their card ... We relish all this company.

April 3, 2011

It's ... Magic!

It is probably old hat to anyone younger than I, but I have fallen into the magic of the Kindle. I am a cautious adopter of new technology, and a staunch opponent of that "leash" or "snag" called a cell phone. I've got one, and I take it whenever I am away from the house for any length of time in case I get into trouble or forgot to leave some important instruction for dinner. So it rarely gets used. Really, it is no wonder the planet is suffering from global warming with all that hot air being released into the air by people who have to let others know that they have arrived at the grocery store.

When Dan started talking about the Kindle, I yeah-yeahed it for awhile, but did not hesitate to put in my order when the one-click-buying began. Now I love it! I took it with me when volunteering at the local endurance ride last week, where my task was to hold cows and calves at bay at a remote gate, and read in between riders about Younger Next Year; not a page blowing away in the wind and without book mark.

My local geek found lots of great, free books here, and there has been no stopping us since. How can one stand at one's computer and have a book appear into your hands, as if by magic! How cool a device this is! It has been especially welcome because I have been suffering this nasty cold for a week, and finally decided to give in and spend some serious time on the couch, reading, trying to get well. This cold is very ill timed as I recently picked up my professionally tuned-up bicycle, and she is hanging in the garage, her wheels aquiver in wanting to get out for a ride. Sometime next week, I hope.