May 27, 2011

Ha ha ha tsyooooooo!

Poor Shawna! Over the last couple of months she had been feeling great, still coming back from her hip replacement almost one year ago. She had spring in her step, was eager to play (at 10 years old), and was altogether a happy pup. But some allergy set in last week, which left her thankfully feeling OK and without fever, but the poor girl had to sneeze about 20 times in a row, about every 30 minutes. Day and night. All stuffed up.

Of course, this meant that there was face scratching face going on - I've gotta get that stuff out of my nose - so now we are looking at a swollen face and a nice infection. The Elizabethan collar had to be dusted off, the darn thing, but it is keeping her face whole. This does mean that her face gets lovingly wiped off every time she sneezes. The vet prescribed antibiotics and cortisone to get the swelling down, and it appears that we may have a handle on this one. And I even have a suspicion as to what may have set this off: nuts in the granola that the dogs mop up at the end of our breakfast.

The chicks are doing well and are starting to show some pin feathers. The older hens may see some competition in their future and suddenly are laying a nice amount again. Then again, it's probably the ebb and flow of nature. It's warming up and getting into the low 90's. Happy Memorial Day weekend!

May 23, 2011

Edible flowers

Cactus flowers have many uses in the desert. We enjoy looking at them, bees roll around in the pollen and sometimes go to sleep there, birds drink from them, and finally they are eaten by the ground squirrels. They must be delicious to brave the prickly pear thorns, though this young one had no problem getting up there.

May 21, 2011

New digs

Shop/shed being an uninsulated metal building, it is not a great place for chicks when the weather heats up, safe though it is. So this morning we decided to bring them to more permanent housing: the coop. But chickens are not kind to any animal smaller than they are (they are really sharks in feathers), so we had to divide the space, at least until the chicks are chicken-sized. Buff Orpingtons are big chickens, which is one reason I picked that breed, so I have hopes that the older girls will not take it out on the younger birds once the flock is united.

The coop is big enough for 24 grown birds, so although roosting space may be a bit tight for the older birds now that the screen is up, everybody should be able to coexist without major issues.

The chicks were not that thrilled with the new arrangement, having to listen to Gracie squawk protests and watching the excited hens pick through the new oat straw for delicacies. But little birds are resilient and they are already exploring the new environment. They are not yet going outside because it is too dangerous, that may take  another month or so, but they appear content right now. Poor things, it has been a traumatic week for them.

May 19, 2011

Ode to cycling

We have been on our bicycles a lot. I think to the dismay of our dogs, as well as our horses. When you are retired, there are only so many hours in a day ... We will make it up to everybody, but we are having such a splendid time.

We leave right after breakfast, around 7 or so, when it is cool and not windy. There is no trouble finding good routes as the roads here are well maintained and not very heavily travelled. The exception is the 1.5 miles of washboard to get us to those paved roads. So far we have been toughing it out, helmets abouncing and fat rolls ajiggling, but I think we are close to putting the bikes on the bike rack and driving to the pavement.

It is great to feel the wind in your face, hear the cheering of the cardinal on the power line, seeing a deer leap a fence and run along side, or see a hawk scratch his chin as you ride by. So far my only worry has been whether I will hit a cottontail that dashes across the road in front of me. We have not yet begun our training for the planned rides this fall, so we are doing LSDs (long slow distances). Nonetheless, I am having a difficult time staying in my "endurance zone", and not getting too carried away with going fast. I think it is just my natural pace biking; at least that is my story. We adore our bikes: they are yare.

May 18, 2011

And then there were nine ...

This afternoon I took a friend to the tackroom to show off the new chicks and we were met with pandemonium. Chicks squashed between wire and the tub, chicks totally out of the enclosure, chicks on the wire, and a very large bull snake with a very big belly where the chicks should have been.

The tackroom is not hermetically sealed, neither is the coop of course, and he must have crawled over the wire to get to the chicks. Good thing some animals know when they are full ... We moved the entire chick operation to shop/shed because it is more difficult for animals to get into, but then, just as we were leaving, here was another bull snake headed for the coop! Two snake relocations in 30 minutes.

Order has been restored, and they are back to eating and sleeping, the nine of them.

New birds

The cactus wrens across from the kitchen sink have fledged. For about a week we watched as the parents flew off and on with insect delicacies to deposit them into two open mouths. Those chicks got to be huge, as big as the parents, and eventually they just outgrew the nest. Unfortunately we did not witness their big leap, but they return to the nest in hopes to be fed by mom or dad. And they are. These are some excellent parents!

And there is Roadie news. Her nest is very protected and it's hard to get a look to see what's happening. It seems that one of the pair has been sitting for at least a month. But we have seen roadrunners with hapless lizards in their beaks headed for the nest location for the last week or so, so we decided to chance it and take a peek. There are 3 young birds in the nest, and they are getting quite large too. Meanwhile the Say's phoebe has decided that the spot right under Roadie's nest is still best for her brood, so she is sitting on eggs less than a foot from the Roadrunners, with just some metal in between.

On my way back from the grocery shopping in Tucson yesterday, I stopped for chicken feed and they had a bunch of 6 week old chicks that were in bad need of a home. I had already decided to add to our current flock because through one thing and another, we are down to 14 birds and we are not keeping up with our egg demand. So I came home with 10 young Buff Orpingtons. Dan had already set up the nursery in the tack room, and the birds are doing fine and eating like there's no tomorrow. They can stay in their tub for a couple more days until we divide the coop so everybody can live and grow in peace.

May 15, 2011

It's dry, dry, dry

It's May, and it's warming up. Temperatures are in the 80's during the day, and it cools off nicely at night. The garden is all planted now, and some things are taking off (tomatoes, cantaloupes) while others are still eking along (peppers). The winds blew down the pea trellis last week and it took the birds no time at all to pick at those juicy young shoots that were exposed. My hope is that they will still recover.

Out and about, the desert has greened up as all the mesquites have leafed out, but even if the landscape looks green, it's not because we have had rain. There is a big forest fire across the valley in the Chiricahuas, and it's being valiantly fought because it is close to habitation, but from here it seems endless as we see smoke billowing every day. My dear grandmother didn't do me any favors in taking me to see Bambi when I was 7: it made a huge impression on me (and I had to be carried out of the movie theatre because I made all the other kids cry too). I fear fire more than anything else.

In spite of the dry, plants that belong here are doing fine: cacti are blooming, as are the ocotillos. No leaves, just blooms, to the hummingbirds' delight. It is also time for the agaves to send up their bloom stalk, which grows inches per day until its flowers are ready. In the picture with Dan you can see the smoke from the fire in the background over the mountains.

May 9, 2011

Round Park hike

It was my neighbor Barbara's birthday today and, being an avid hiker, she opted for a little trek into the Chiricahua wilderness along the Crest Trail to Round Park. This hike started and stayed way up, at more than 8,000 feet, all of which was negotiated by car before we got to the trailhead.

The Crest Trail is just that: it follows the top of the mountains and switches from east to west side and back again, with spectacular views across our valley (west) and into New Mexico (east). The Chiricahuas have endured many a forest fire and today our view was hampered by a good-sized fire on the east side. The wind was thankfully from the west, so there was no danger, but it is upsetting to see so much wilderness burning. Nonetheless, it is a natural phenomenon, although very often human-caused, but nature does repair itself.

The wind was fierce today, even at home where the patio furniture had disappeared into the yard and bird feeders had been blown off their hooks. At the end of our hike we had lunch at the picnic ground, but needed all hands to hang on to our food.

May 7, 2011

Ever present danger

With all this young life in the desert right now, problems always occur. We have been seeing new quail families this week, the babies about 1-inch tall but fully functional. They eat by themselves, run like the dickens, and even fly. Yet, if the parents are not vigilant, and not all of them are, the families are steadily diminished. Today there are 10 chicks, perhaps tomorrow 8. There is much danger out there, even in just getting separated from the family.

When stopping by Dave and Barbara's this morning, we saw a young curvebilled thrasher trying to fledge the nest on their porch, but it got hung up in the baling twine used as nest building material. Poor thing was dangling by a leg, and thankfully we were around to get it disentangled. After freeing it we set it on the ground, but the leg appeared too compromised, so Dave set it back in the nest. Hopefully the leg will heal and allow it to still go out in the world in good health.

May 5, 2011

Another anniversary

It's that time of year again, Cinco de Mayo, and our wedding anniversary. Thirty third. Man, we are getting old! Dan suggested that we spend the morning at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, one of our favorite Tucson hangouts. It turned out to be a warm day, in the low 90's, but it was lightly overcast and thus very pleasant.

There is always something different to see at the Museum. Right now the saguaro cacti are starting to bloom, and a number of birds are nesting or feeding young. Plants are blooming and there are insects and lizards everywhere. I love the way they help Mom Nature along by subtly enhancing her work without being fussy.

Dan made some great photos, and here are just a couple of my favorites. For more, please see his web site in a couple of days .

May 3, 2011

Here is what's blooming at the WD

Not a lot of growing expertise needed for this Santa Rita cactus. It is thrilled to be here, and does all this growing and blooming all on its own. Not so the garden.

We are still dealing with a lot of wind, but I finally did get the tomatoes and cantaloupes planted. Also sowed additional seed for lettuce, carrots, and beets and such. I still have the peppers in the cold frame as I think the soil is still a bit cool for them. Also the beans seeds are still waiting, but I expect to finish it all up sometime next week. It always looks as if I am growing cages, rather than plants, but I have to take a picture now so I can enjoy all the greenery later in the season.

And for those of you who thought I had totally killed the pear trees that I lopped off early in the season: life force is strong. Both stumps have sprouted, and although there will be no pears this year, I hope to be able to reach them in the next couple.