July 30, 2014

What I found one morning

It is a snake skin shed by a diamondback rattlesnake. I guess it was time for him or her to grow. It just laid there by the garbage cans …, something to make you go uhmmm …

The thing to remember is that a snake will not strike unless threatened as we are not on the menu (too big to swallow). If he does strike it means no meal for awhile as it takes time to manufacture more venom, so he will be choosy. Living here you watch where you step and don't put your hand in obscure spots. Still, we do not encourage rattlers around the house and they get transported into the desert if they take up residence here.

So this morning I confess to letting out a bloodcurdling scream as I inadvertently pushed a beautiful, brand-new looking rattler off the front door mat with the door on my way outside. I bet it is the same guy or girl that left me the skin.

July 28, 2014

Sky island

To change things up a bit, and to cool off because warm, dry weather appears to have returned, we drove to the Pinalenos yesterday. It is amazing that in a couple of hours you can drive from the valley desert floor at 4000 feet and 95 degrees to tall pine trees, running water, and alpine meadows at 9000 feet and 53 degrees.

On the way we saw this tiny fawn taking a look out over the road. I told him I heard his mother calling, and thankfully he did turn around.

I had promised Emma a swim in Riggs Lake but the water was down and unappetizing, so I will have to make good at Patagonia Lake soon. Still, seeing the profusion of flowers and the total change of scenery were worth the trip.

July 19, 2014

In praise of rain sage

All it takes is a bit of rain and this shrub (Leucophyllum sp) explodes into bloom. The entire thing has so many blooms you cannot see the foliage. It is a favorite of bees and butterflies and early in the morning it sounds like the bush is about to be carried off.

I planted only one rain sage years ago, but it has self seeded throughout the yard. I don't mind as it is evergreen, has a decent shape but does need some selective pruning every couple of years, and smells divine when it blooms, lilac-like.

July 18, 2014

Lovely days

We have not had any rain during the last couple of days. Other people have but we are in a bit of a rain shadow, thanks to Mt Glenn. Temperatures are in the 80's and there are some clouds every day. What a great time of year!

The countryside is greening up and, to maximize enjoyment, Dan and I went on different paths this morning. He took Emma for a walk to work on some conditioning for both of them: Em is getting a bit pudgy (the Lab curse). I took the horses for some grazing near the Forest, before all that lush grass dries up.

My trips (I took one horse at a time) were wonderful. So peaceful to sit on a horse that is grazing with gorgeous views no matter which direction you looked. No wildlife other than the occasional butterfly. Dan saw this lizard on his hike.

He found out at http://www.reptilesofaz.org/Lizards-Subpages/h-g-wislizenii.html that it is not only a long-nosed leopard lizard (how fun to say that), but it is a female and she is pregnant to boot. This because of the orange stripes on her sides. Always something new in the desert.

July 8, 2014

Little job

This is not the first time, but again Dan and I agreed that we would be in a world of hurt without John (Deere), our little tractor. Due to all the rain the stalk of the what I call the Victoria agave but is not, got top heavy and fell, taking the dead plant with it. We tried to lift the whole assembly but there was no way we could budge it. John to the rescue and it was a piece of cake to take the plant and stalk back to the desert.

In the way of agaves, it had left a pup at the base that we were able to save and plant in the hole. Here it is, drip irrigated and heavily fortified against marauding javelinas. There was a tiny sprout too that I planted and took inside to the kitchen window. I hope it takes.

July 7, 2014

The real thing

The monsoons are off to a good start this year: almost 1 inch of rain over two days and yesterday we got an old fashioned gullywasher dumping 2.3 inches! I have it on good authority that this used to be a "normal" amount of rain for one shower before we came to live here. Kids would float down the roads of the nearby village on intertubes. We have been in a drought for 10 years or so.

This morning finds the desert refreshed and smelling great. Where did all that water go? I am surprised we could not hear all the plants making a huge sucking sound. Some of the runoff was dumped into our "pond", aka "the velodrome", and no sooner did the rain start pounding the ground there or the spade foot toads were croaking "tonight's the night". It was deafening.

New grass is already sprouting and leaves are popping on the ocotillos. Soon it will look like Ireland around here. And, more rain in the forecast.