September 21, 2011

Mom never has an energy crisis

I have been cleaning out the garden some more after the August debacle. It is amazing that in the spring you put this tiny seed into the ground, or a small pot, sprinkle it with water and weeks later you pick leaves or fruit from it, and at the end of the season you have this mound of foliage. Talk about abundance! Talk about boundless energy! All that from that tiny seed. It never ceases to amaze and thrill me.

So I am down to tomato and pepper plants and a lingering cantaloupe that still has ripening fruit. Dan tilled a couple of beds for the winter garden and I have three flats of seedlings in the cold frame (really a box with protection from wildlife). Another week or so and they will go into the ground. I am making plans for next year's garden already. Hint: garden all year around and green manure.

I fished this praying mantis out of Cody's water bucket, and he sat on my arm for awhile drying his wings and antennae. I think they are some of the coolest insects, he looked me right in the eye and was totally at ease.

September 19, 2011

Emma's hike-u

Running water
Flowers nodding in the summer breeze
I smell deer

September 16, 2011

First sighting

Fall must be approaching because we saw the first sedge of cranes flying overhead. It was "Long Ride Day" today, which means that we bicycle in the valley, where there is a lot of agriculture. The cranes spend their winter here, spending the night  in the shallow water of the Willcox Playa and having their meals in the remains of the harvested fields. It was a thrill seeing them already.

We saw a lot of hawks on the ride as well, also a sign that a new season is getting closer. But there are still a lot of hummingbirds at the feeders, and the turkey vultures are still around as well. A time of transition.

The weather was cool enough this morning to require arm warmers, but it was nice to be able to take them off on our way home.

September 15, 2011

All grown up

The Buff Orpington chicks that I bought this spring are growing up. At least some of them are as we were presented with their first egg today: small, gorgeous, and very smooth.

They are beautiful hens; we call them the Gorgeous Blonds. They should all have names starting with M, like Marilyn, if only I could tell them apart. The old flock are still around, in case you wonder. What do you think this is? Chicken Run? Production has fallen off, but those older hens have done great duty and deserve to live out their lives in quiet retirement. I am happy that the new girls have integrated so well with the flock, they seem to be all one big, relatively happy family. After all, they are chickens, those sharks in feathers.

September 12, 2011


In the past I have blasted the Forest Service for closing the Cochise Stronghold campground for 3 months during the summer. But this morning I changed my opinion after doing our standard conditioning hike, the Stronghold Divide trail, which starts at the campground. It is a popular hike, about 3 miles one-way, with a steady elevation gain, and a lot of campers walk the trail during the 9 remaining months of the year.

The closure allows for the trail to get a breather, and that was obvious this morning. Plants get rejuvenated, especially with the good monsoon rains we have had, and the path was almost overgrown in places. All grasses and a lot of vines are blooming, young plants are popping up along the trail, and the entire path looked fresh and healthy. What a nice side benefit, as I am sure that that was not the Forest Service's intent in the campground closure. The latest showers have contributed to the filling of Half Moon tank (Emma approves), and there were a lot of side streams that contributed to a good flow in the creek.

With all the cycling I thought that I would be flying up the trail thanks to an improved physical condition, but that proved not the case. We made it up to the viewpoint in our regular time. Cross-training is a good thing and we should hike the trail once a week again, now that it's more accessible.

September 9, 2011

Making the most of it

When you live in the desert, pasturing your horses on lovely, juicy, succulent, grass is not possible. At least not at our place. But our "pond", which does not hold water beyond a couple of days, has started to sprout a little crop of Bermuda grass (wonder where that came from :)?). We have been taking turns taking the horses down there to do a bit of grazing.

And do they love it! They just dive in, hardly take a step, and do not even look up from the grass. Here is Cody taking his turn while I inspect the place for the dreaded Russian thistle. I think I am winning that battle, this year.

September 8, 2011

Up very close

As I stepped outside to take the dogs for their after-dinner stroll, Dan called me to get the dogs back inside with some urgency. Everybody back in, and looking out into the yard to see reason for the quick re-entry, we saw 2 javelinas exploring the prickly pear cacti. They were after the cactus tunas, the fruits.

We took some pictures from inside and I went back out to see if the coast was clear, and walked within 10 yards of them, while they were munching away! Dan joined me with the camera: these are his pictures.

After living here for 7 years, the javelinas have always been elusive to me. I just see a glimpse or a shadow. Even though these animals look like a pig relative, they are peccaries and very different. Their eyesight is not the greatest, as you can imagine with me coming so close, but they have formidable teeth as you can see.

While I don't mind them at all eating the tunas, I do hope they move on because javelinas can cause a great amount of damage in your landscape, mainly by digging for roots. But seeing them here, and so seemingly at ease was very cool.

My thanks to the Bonita Bean Company

Cycling training has started in earnest. The Cochise County Classic, our 45 miler, is a month away, and El Tour de Tucson, my (and Shannon's) 66 miler, 10 weeks away. Although we have been doing very well, increasing speed as well as distance, I felt some pressure to step it up. We will acquit ourselves well at the CCC I believe, because we ride 46 miles on a regular basis, but El Tour causes some concern. And, I just love riding my bike.

Problem is, we need more than 2 waterbottles each (carried on the bike) to complete these longer distances without bonking. The thought of carrying additional cold water in my back pockets is not that attractive, temperature-wise, although that's what is done at the big races. There the "Domestique" loads up the waterbottles for the entire team from the team car, stuffing them in his pockets and down the back of his jersey to supply his riders. But because we go by the Bonita Bean Company on these long rides I thought I would ask if we could get our bottles refilled there.

People there were so very nice. Not only could I refill, they insisted that I fill up with their cool, filtered water, and were interested in our rides and goals. And I was told that I could come by anytime to fill up. I really appreciate their kindness. It made my 56 miles doable today. I plan to do that distance once a week for the rest of September, then increase to 66 miles in October. Then I will be set for El Tour.

September 7, 2011

Chicken Taj

It was time for the half-yearly coop-and-chicken-yard cleanup today. The cantaloupe, cucumber and zucchini peels were getting a bit deep out there. Frankly, I am surprised that I did not lose a chicken to an ill-aimed projectile this summer. It is my habit to throw any overgrown produce from the garden into the chicken yard, and I admit, I throw like a girl. And I do not always shout "incoming", although I am sure the chickens would appreciate that. They teeter that fine line between being first to the new tidbit, or getting beaned.

All is gorgeous and clean again, and ready for winter. The new hens are almost full grown and beautiful, I think we can expect to see some of their eggs show up any time.

September 6, 2011

No more vacations in August!

I forgot all about the fact that rain makes plants grow. Those lovely monsoon rains are great for the garden and make our mountain sides look like Ireland, but weeds capitalize too. Here in the desert they must have the gene that tells them that time is short, so reproduce asap, like the spadefoot toads. This means that weeds pop out of the ground with flower buds on!

After a week hanging out with my sister-in-law and a 10-day vacation, it has taken me a week to uncover our house from the weeds and slash back a garden that managed to intimidate a grown man (Dan). There were cucumber and melon vines trying to get out of the enclosure, zucchini plants that grew a foot a day, and tomatoes more than 6 feet tall. The tomatoes are still there, but the zucchini and cucumbers are down to one producing arm, and most of the cants are on the compost pile.

I swear that a year after we move out the house will be completely engulfed in spurge, in spite of my valiant efforts to keep it at bay. But somehow it is comforting to know that Mom still rules. I just wish it wasn't in my garden in August.