August 29, 2014

Late summer in our desert

It has been a lovely summer.

August 24, 2014

On the porch

The hummingbird migration is in full swing. Most of the birds are young adults and females of the black-chinned and rufous variety. We have 4 feeders out to minimize the territorial fights, and I make a lot of hummer juice every day. At night I take 3 of the feeders inside but leave one for the bats. The lesser long-nosed bats fly against the feeder and sip the nectar that spills out. This morning this guy was taking a rest above the back door.

The other day we saw this giant moth, also on the porch. He was 6 inches wingtip to wingtip and obviously worse for wear. We have tons of moths here, but I had never seen one this large. It is a Black Witch Moth. There is a lot of folklore about this moth, which is also known as the Mariposa de la Muerta. Thankfully, neither one of us is sick. And, if we had found him above the front door, we would have won the lottery. Well, darn.

It is hard to believe, but as I am writing this a new family of scaled quail walked by with a dozen golfball-sized chicks. It has been a great monsoon season.

August 17, 2014

Here is looking at you

Every month has its own insects here, and late summer is time for the praying mantis. I think they are such cool animals: they seem to be aware of you and yet are unafraid. Sometimes when there is one in a plant I am watering they come out to where I can see them, waving their arms as if to say: "hey you idiot, I am getting wet down here".

Dan rescued this mantis from the ceiling of the garage. No idea how it got there but it was happy to be transported to a butterfly bush where it blended in perfectly.

August 14, 2014

Summer storm

Last night when we came outside to put the chickens to bed and take fly masks off the horses, the sun had already set and everything was bathed in golden light. A huge rainbow was overhead and we were surrounded by thunderstorms. Dan took some stills and also this short video.

Towards the end you will see a ladderback woodpecker appear who pops into the hole in the agave stalk where he was hatched. So cool!

If you have a device that does not support Flash (shame on Apple), you can also see the video here What a gorgeous time of year.

August 13, 2014

Hummers on the move

August is the month for the hummingbird migration, and it is when we see the largest number of hummers in the year. There are always some around, with only one or two during the winter, but I am filling feeders every day now. Most abundant are the black-chinned, but during migration we also have the rufous hummingbird. They are small birds, but what they lack in size they make up for in feistiness. We call them "Rufio" (as in the movie Hook - how I will miss Robin Williams).

The rufous travel the furthest of all hummers: they breed in Alaska and spend the winter in South America. Such an amazing little bird. No wonder he monopolizes the feeder: he needs the calories.

August 11, 2014

A doggone good time (by Emma)

This morning we met our friend Mary, who lives with my half sisters, at the Cochise Stronghold for a short walk and a dip.

Who is coming? Is it Mary with Emily and Claire? Oh, yes!

We ran up and down the trail.

Took a dip in the creek. We got nice and wet.

We all ate grass, and some of us threw up.

I really like going out with them. We all had a wonderful time.

August 5, 2014

Summer fruit

It was a lovely crop of peaches this year, but sadly it is almost at an end. I am not much for canning, but most of the fruit was quartered and put into freezer bags to provide us with peach smoothies and pancake topping the rest of the year. Our little freezer is full, and spite of eating peaches all during the day, I have not had my fill yet.

I can say with confidence that none of the fruit was wasted. The birds had their share, as had the insects, the bunnies and jack rabbits cleaned up whatever fell off the trees, and there still was plenty for us.

Strangely, the coyotes do not seem to have a taste for peaches. This spring they completely cleaned out the apple trees, and even climbed them to get to the fruit. I sure wish I could have gotten a picture of that. All the evidence was there though, with broken branches, half-eaten apples and coyotes slinking off when we surprised them.

I am looking forward to our pears next. It is the first year one of the three trees has fruit on it and it looks gorgeous. Just in case the coyotes have an appetite for them, I asked Dan to put field fencing around the tree far enough away that there will be no climbing and stealing those lovelies. I hope they will taste good; the apples are ho-hum anyway.

A horsey good morning

There is this small triangle between the horse stalls, the arena, and both the round pens where I planted a pecan tree a couple of years ago to provide a bit of shade (eventually). It gets watered regularly and with the bermuda grass that we feed the horses, a nice crop of grass has taken hold. Right now it is luscious and very green, and it must drive the boys to distraction to have all this deliciousness just out of reach. I have come to the conclusion that horses are long-suffering animals, being so totally dependent on their owner. Nothing more sad that see a horse standing in overgrazed desert with good green grass just outside its fence.

This morning we removed one of the round pen panels to give the guys access to this little patch. They could hardly wait for me to open more gates so they could have at it. Strangely, Cody, who we consider not to be the brightest crayon in the box, found the grass first. Bueno explored the green edges and Buggsy had to first roll in sand and have a good run.

I stood guard as horses in tight spaces do not always make sound decisions, but they were all totally engrossed in the food and even left the pecan tree alone. I gave them about 30 minutes of fun as I don't relish the idea of colicky horses, and I think they enjoyed their time grazing.

August 4, 2014

Happy barrel

We have had some more rain, and it has been lovely. The hillsides are green, mesquite trees are blooming again and there are weeds everywhere. I am taking a big breath on the latter because with the 20 acres we have there is no fighting that battle. After all, this is a ranch and not a golf course. So I just keep weeds in the garden in some measure of control.

This barrel cactus is a first time bloomer in our backyard. It was gifted to me by my friend Phil who found it rolling around in a wash after heavy rain. I am always one to add more natives to the backyard so I was happy to give it a spot. Last fall the poor thing had to fight off a javelina attack, but after being put back in its place it seemed happy. And now it showed how happy.