June 30, 2011

First rain

It came around 8 last night in already darkening skies. There was a small chance of rain in the forecast, but that means little here. Thunder rolling, lightening flashing, dogs ahiding. It was wonderful to smell the rain and we stood on the porch, as did our neighbors, to welcome the shower. All in all we got 0.25", which is a nice start to the monsoon season. Possibly more heading our way tonight and tomorrow.

The moist air made for a great bike ride this morning: the desert smelled spicy and there were still some lingering clouds. Lots of bird song along our route, and lots of bugs bouncing off our helmets and teeth. Definitely more humid now. We are headed for a great time of year. Even the bees seem happy, rolling around in the cactus pollen.

June 27, 2011

Summer time

So it officially summer. Has been for a couple of days according to the calendar, and we are seeing a sign of what I call summer coming our way: humidity is on the rise. May and June are "fore summer" here: hot and dry, but in July monsoons arrive, which are really just afternoon thunderstorms. Currently, humidity is highest in early morning, about 20%. We need about a week of 50% to draw sufficient moisture to make rain clouds. But we are seeing some clouds forming in the afternoon, nice to cut the heat a little but nothing to shout about rainwise.

The garden is doing well, and happy with the extra attention because we are "grounded" by forest closures, besides it is too hot for any real activity after 9 am. Tomatoes are ripening, as are the cantaloupes; peppers, beets, carrots, cucumbers, beans, lettuce doing great. I still have to be vigilant to keep the wildlife at bay, be it rodentia or birds, but we share a bit and everybody comes out ahead.

The canyon towhee is using the grape vines as her nesting site again, and I am honored that she tolerates me being around while I try to keep the grape leaf skeletonizers at bay. She just flies off to a branch nearby and returns to the nest as soon as I am just a few feet away.

June 24, 2011

Old Pearce

We would be up the creek this month, or perhaps I should say, we would be fat and unhappy, if it was not for our cycling. With the National Forest still closed, and so without riding or hiking, and the temps in the low 100's, it is great we are getting out at 6:30 am every other day and do a ride. We are making progress too: right now we are able to bike 30 miles at 15 mph or so, and are still able to function the remainder of the day.

We are so fortunate to be able to bike on good roads with very little traffic, and encounter courteous drivers when we do get passed. One of our current favorite rides is to Old Pearce, a not-quite ghost town 10 miles away. The ride takes us down country roads except for a 2 mile section of AZ191, and is just the right distance for a regular jaunt.

This is the general store, and the jail.

June 19, 2011


It is the only sensible thing to do during a hot, windy, dry June day: find a cool spot and kick back.

June 17, 2011


It's what everybody needs, working in their garden: the smell of chocolate. It is wafted about by Berlandiera lyrata, a native whose apt common name is Chocolate Flower. It is also called Greeneyes because of its green seed head. I bought a plant years ago and am delighted that it has self seeded in a number of spots, this one in the protection of a garden corner. It is happy with a relative moist environment nearby.

There is Verbena cilita growing just on the other side of the fence, which would make a nice contrast with the Chocolate Flower, and they do appear together several place along our gravel paths. If you want something to sprout in the desert, put gravel lightly over your seeds.

With the Forest being closed because of fire danger, we are a bit "idle": no hiking (poor Emma) other than the morning walk, no riding (poor Bueno and Cody, Buggs could not care less having a lot of mileage on him). So it's cycling every other day and futzing in the garden and around the house. The garden is benefiting from the extra attention.

June 11, 2011

Horse porch

In Oregon we were always building decks, here we are building porches. Pretty funny.

Anyway, the horse porch was finished this morning, and it looks good. I think it will be a hit with the boys, and even if they think ho-hum, they do have the option of getting out of the sun. It was nice that we were able to divert them to the round pens this week while we worked, because they couldn't wait to see what we were doing to their play pen.

Not bad for a week's work of mornings; it's back on the bikes tomorrow. Can't wait.

June 10, 2011

Nasty time

I don't like June much in the desert. In years past it is a time of heat, very bright light, and stillness. It is as if nature is holding its breath, waiting for the monsoons to arrive in July. This year it's hot and bright, but the spring winds continue to blow in the afternoon. And we have not seen a drop of rain for months.

All this translates to high fire danger of course, and the Chiricahua Wilderness, across the valley from us, has been burning for more than a month. More than 100,000 acres have gone up in flames, in spite of the fact that more than 1000 people and numerous Hot Shot crews are fighting the fire. But the wind is not helping, and every time I look out my kitchen window, I see a new area going up in smoke. At night we see the fires burning, and that is from 60 miles away! All that because some idiot was not careful. Never mind the more than 23 million dollars that this has cost: what about the environment, what about the animals and the birds? It makes me want to cry.

Thankfully, they have finally closed the Coronado National Forest behind our house ($5,000 fine) and hopefully we will keep the Dragoons and the Cochise Stronghold from going up in flames.

June 8, 2011

But I'm a big girl now

I have had one heck of a time keeping the young hens separated from the old flock. I read that hens are not nice to newcomers and would peck and terrorize them. But from day one several of the young 'uns are slipping through the wire to be with their older sisters. It's not that their side of the yard is not nice: it has shade and plenty of room to roam, but perhaps the flocking instinct - if there is such a thing - is too strong.

Tonight I found one of the new birds roosting with the big girls, and as I have found so far, the big girls do not seem to mind, or care. If we get the horse patio done this weekend I may just let the young ones have the run of the whole place. They are getting too big to worm through most of the holes anyway.

June 5, 2011

I hope this works

I do enjoy gardening because there is always something new to try: new varieties, new techniques. This year I am experimenting with mulch. I think that some of my tomato blight problems may be soil-caused in spite of faithful crop rotation, because I have grown tomatoes successfully on black plastic mulch.

My local garden guru, George Brookbank, advocates mulching with alfalfa hay so I got some bales with our new load of bermuda grass for the horses. I mulched the tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and cantaloupes as those are the crops in the soil the longest. The mulch can be tilled into the soil after the season and add nitrogen to the soil as an extra benefit.

As I was distributing the flakes, I had one late, nasty, thought as I do give the chickens a bale in the fall to give them some extra protein over the winter. If the chickens like the alfalfa so well, what about the quail that frequent the garden? Are they going to be picking the mulch as well as the new plants? So far, all's well.

When I went out to take this picture, Roadie joined me on the fence and left with a hapless garden lizard. I guess, we all have to eat...

Another project

Our horse housing has been an evolving project. It was well planned initially, but having boarded our horses in Oregon rather having them on the premises, we did not foresee a number of details though I do think our horses have been happy with their "rooms". One thing we really wanted to provide for them this year is shade. It does get hot here (100 degrees today), and I am sure they would be happy with an opportunity to get out of the sun.

Phase 2 (phase 1 being planning and buying materials) started today. (Once a project manager, always a project manager). It involved moving in some extra panels to give the horses egress to both our round pens while we were working in their playpen/arena. Nothing worse than having a horse pestering you wanting to know what you are doing and destroying your building efforts when you turned around. We had no idea this change would be such great fun for them. Especially Buggsy, but also Cody and Bueno, ran around in the "new" space like loonies, kicking up dust that could be seem for miles. Kicking, bucking, snorting, head shaking fun.

Tomorrow we will dig footings and pour them.

And for Webb, and any other bloggers that I follow, I am reading you, but Google does not seem to be able to get the comment problem fixed. I will keep trying, and I am here.

June 2, 2011

Free, free at last

Sort of. At least the new chicks have been released into one side of the chicken yard, well away from the big hens, as in the coop. This is a precocious lot, and adventurous enough to find themselves in with the Big Crowd last night at roosting time. Thankfully, either the hens were too tired from a day of bug hunting and egg laying, or they really do not mind having all that small fry around.

I thought it time though that the chicks be given a little more room and a chance for a nice dust bath and some sitting in sun or shade under one of the mesquites. The yard is neither snake proof (neither is the coop) or hawk proof, but we are crossing our fingers that these small birds are now large enough to not come to that type of harm.