May 31, 2014

Feast for the senses

My friend Jim brought by some artichokes from his garden, some to eat and one to enjoy visually. Isn't this just gorgeous?

Snake time

It is almost June, and suddenly the weather is acting like it. It is hot, 100's, but a dry heat, right? Oh never mind … Gone are the cool nights, and I expect the tomatoes and peppers to be shooting out of the ground like Poseidon missiles.

With warm temperatures come snakes. Are they migrating to cooler environs? Just waking up? Last night we moved a Diamondback which was hanging out in the Cafeteria, aka the bird feeders. We deem that unfair advantage.

This morning Dan saw a large snake track through the arena and decided to keep a sharp eye out while he was cleaning stalls. As it was the snake had already eaten a huge meal, we think one of the teacup-sized bunnies was most likely the victim, and was only interested in a quiet, shady spot for the rest of the day. Too many unsuspecting animals around though, so he was moved with some effort as he was very heavy.

June is an indoor month here, other than cycling in the early morning. We are waiting for monsoons bringing rain and cooler temps in July, one of my favorite times of year. June? No thanks.

May 29, 2014


It was either me or the birds today, I had to pick the apricots. We only have one tree, but even with the birds pecking a lot of the fruit, there was quite a harvest. Why can't these birds just stick with eating one fruit rather than hitting one apricot and then another?

I left whatever was obviously damaged on the tree, ate the slightly damaged ones right on the spot, and picked a number of pounds. Not being one to can stuff, I shared with my neighbors and got artichokes and eggs in return.

The cottontails will clean up whatever falls to the ground.

May 20, 2014

A sighting

It was already windy at 5 am this morning, so we chose to hike the Stronghold rather than bike. We are a bit more protected from the elements there, and it is a good workout. There were no campers at the trailhead so we had the place all to ourselves. We did not see a soul until we came to the tank.

This is a watering hole for cattle, which are grazed there intermittently, and wildlife of course. It has a small concrete dam, but the tank is dry right now. Still, there is a bit of green grass growing in the shadow of the dam and it is probably cool there. So what jumps up from there but a black bear?

We stood looking at each other for awhile from across the dam, and then she (we think, as she left a pee spot earlier on the trail) leisurely sauntered off. Not having seen a bear in our backyard before, this was quite a treat. I am glad she did not have a cub.

May 19, 2014

It is only May

That is what I keep telling myself. For some reason I feel that the garden is "behind". Am I unreasonable to be expecting fresh tomatoes in June? Cantaloupes in July? This time last year the plants were bigger, weren't they? I am probably a week or so behind because of the vacation, but I also have the feeling that the seedlings were pitiful this year. They kind of eked along, rather than growing into robust little plants.

There you have it. Mom rules. But the garden is pretty much planted and seeded. There are some beds vacant: three for the winter crops and one for additional cantaloupes to be planted in June so we can still have cants for breakfast in September.

What is doing well is the orchard. Two trees are loaded with apples. There are pears for the first year ever. There are plenty of peaches. The apricot tree has lots of fruit, and there are some figs. Grapes on the grapevines and pecans and walnuts on the nut trees.

Perhaps it is too early to worry.

May 17, 2014

About to fledge

The young ladder-back woodpecker is getting ready to leave home. Good thing too: the parents have been so diligent feeding him that they are starting to look a bit gaunt. They fly in with insects (and perhaps flower buds?) every ten minutes or so. I know this because the nest, which is in a dead agave stalk, is about 12 feet from the kitchen window. Dan set up the camera on a tripod this morning to capture some of the activity.

Now is there just one chick, or is this guy standing on top of siblings down below?

My next task will be to ensure that the stalk is still securely tied down. The agave bloomed, and died, last year and as a rule the stalk and dead plant blow over in a good wind to reveal a new young agave pup at its base. When the woodpeckers started to make their nest, we tied it down to save ourselves the agony of having the stalk with eggs, or young, blow over. We have had very high winds this spring.

May 15, 2014


Our Floridian friends, Pat and Maureen, asked us to go on vacation with them. We had met on the last Alaska expedition and we had had a lot of fun together. They asked us to propose a location and we chose Zion and Bryce National Parks because they had never been there, and it had been decades for us. How about renting a house together, they asked? So done!

We ended up staying in a lovely villa in Springdale, about a quarter mile from the entry of Zion and within walking distance of all restaurants.

We had a wonderful time. Weather was sunny, though cool, and we were treated to one day of rain which made for fabulous, snowy mountain, scenery to make all three photographers happy. (I am not a photographer in the way the others are).

We hiked, we drove and hiked in other portions of Zion, and spent a day hiking in Bryce. And I ate. One of my vacation indulgences is eating out. It was a great time. These are some token photos, gleaned with much difficulty, from the 200+ that made Dan's cut from the original 1000+. He is planning to post his best on his own website (, I just don't know when.

The photos below were made during our hike of The Narrows to Wall Street,wading through the Virgin River.  We rented dry pants and special shoes and booties for this one. It was unforgettable.

May 14, 2014


I have been delinquent in blogging, I know. It is not that there is anything wrong or nothing happening, I am a bit out of the habit. We have been in vacation (blog pending), and this spring we are enjoying seeing many young animals that are worthy of a blog, from young roadrunners, cactus wrens, ladder-back woodpeckers to teacup-sized cottontails to young jackrabbits the size of cottontails and young ground squirrels that sprawl on the porch and would make cute little furry coasters.

My thoughts are wandering in this "little rug" theme as one of the little sh*ts ate a blossom off my epiphyllum. And some blossom it would have been!

My friend Jack gave me the epiphyllum a few years ago. He was very successful growing these gorgeous blossoms while living in San Diego and knowing my love for flowers, gifted me this plant. I have been hoping for it to bloom, except this year when we were on vacation, and see what happened?

I brought the plant indoors so we can enjoy it for the short duration. The bloom is about 8 inches across, and there is another one in the works. Spectacular.