July 27, 2012

The Apprentice

We are "resorting" again for our birthdays this year. Much as we love our life and our routines here, it is wonderful to be away for a couple of days of biking, swimming, eating, sleeping, repeat. Denise, Dan's sister, volunteered awhile back for ranch duty, so we asked her to come and have a vacation with us during which we could escape for a couple of days.

Denise is not the outdoors type that we are, though capable of any task. This is a marketing executive who works, and has lived, all over the world doing strategic planning for her company. But this morning she got up, after yesterday's training (note the iPad), and did all the chores while we went on a birthday bike ride. What a great present!

Denise's coworkers apparently laughed at the idea of her being a country girl, and requested proof of her being able to shovel horse poop in the most literal sense of the word. They know she can deal with the office generated stuff very effectively.

We will still have some days together after we return from our weekend away, and I look forward to that as I enjoy her quiet company and good conversation. Besides, she eats what I cook.

July 18, 2012

How great are these days

So we ride our bikes three days a week (currently for a total of 120 miles!) and luxuriate in smoothies, cool showers, and naps afterwards. Prepare a salad, some homemade bread, and a Klondike bar and the day is perfect.

On non-biking days I spend some time in the garden. The idea of planting half the number of beds was a good one as it gives us plenty of veggies and fruit for immediate consumption and does not seem so overwhelming in care taking. I have already added manure to the other, winter, half, and all it needs is tilling and raking before planting seeds in August.

June is over, and I am ever so glad for that (too hot, too dry), and with more moisture in the air the plants have gotten their second wind. Best of all, with the outside greening up the quail will not be as tempted to pick at the vegetation in the garden; yes, in spite of all those fortifications.

Some other non-biking days are spent with our animals and doing small projects around the ranch. Afterwards we sit on the porch with some grapes and a glass of water, and watch the wildlife. I cannot think how life could be better, frankly.

July 15, 2012

This year's kids

Judging by the number of young birds at the feeder, and by some just hanging around trying to figure out how and what to eat, this has been a good year. I don't know where the house finches build their nests, but there are a lot of young ones, all vying for attention from the seemingly ever-patient finch fathers who indulge them by feeding them until they are bigger than they are.

The curve bill thrashers were successful in raising their chicks and even Roadie, precarious though her nest was, saw two young roadrunners fledge. She and her mate were diligent and committed parents, and when I feared we would be disturbing her when the propane tank was filled 2 feet from the nest, she just hunkered down and stayed put.

But the laurels must go to the cactus wrens who managed to raise two separate broods in two nesting boxes, eight feet from the kitchen window. The last set of three fledged a week ago and the parents are back in the first nest box making it ready for a third batch. Also they are attentive parents who do us a great favor by keeping the porch insect free. They bring moths to the nest and take fecal packages away. What birds!

Both gamble and scaled quail have brought their young ones to the feeders, and there have been more than can be counted. Sometimes they are good parents, giving even Roadie a run for her money, but sometimes I wonder if they even know that those tiny little birds that behave just like they do, are indeed their brood.

This morning, after a 62 mile bike ride, we had the excitement of having to relocate a big bull snake that was about to snatch up a couple of baby bunnies in Buggsy's stall. The mother was frantic and the babies petrified, and although we like having the bull snake around because he keeps the rodent population under control in the barn, this was more than we could stand. So, he was carefully caught and relocated to an uninhabited part of the desert.

But how I can make a rabbit understand that raising a family in a horse stall, sweet as Buggs is, is a bad idea? And this is the second year she has tried to do so!

A bit of rain

We have had about one inch of rain last week, over two separate days. And look at the result!

This plant is aptly named Rain Sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum), and blooms after rain. It takes about a day to set the blooms and then it explodes in this profusion of color. It is about to be carried off by a great variety of bees and some butterflies, and it smells heavenly to boot. This is the only plant I put in the ground but it self seeds readily and there are about six of them on the property now. This one is the most spectacular though.

The three agaves that decided to bloom, and give it their all, are in flower now, but not as exuberantly as I had hoped. Still, they are great perches for the birds visiting the yard and the blooms are food for insects. I was surprised to see this cactus put on its display as it usually blooms, for a day, in April.

And, it is raining again!