August 30, 2016


It has been six years since I heartlessly, foolishly, and disastrously lopped off the newly arrived pear trees at the knees. And it has taken this long, and some professional coaxing from my friend Phil, to get the trees to recover and produce pears, but this year we have a crop!

We are all eating them: we, the people, Emma, the dog, Cody and Bueno, the horses, and I am sure that the cores of the pears I am eating while outside get snarfed down by the bunnies and the chickens. Nothing of that juicy deliciousness is getting wasted.

August 29, 2016

Hummingbirds on the move

On August 1 the first rufous hummingbird arrived at one of our two feeders. Already on his way from breeding grounds as far north as Alaska to overwinter somewhere in South America. I find it hard to believe that such a tiny, but very feisty, bird covers such huge distances every year, but that is what the books say.

We see the migration at the end of the summer and seldom on the way north in Spring, but we have become a regular stopover in August. All month long we see a couple of varieties on the feeders, mostly black chinned, some Anna's, and the rufous (we call them Rufios) and I end up filling the feeders twice a day. We go through a lot of sugar.

In another couple of weeks it will all be over, but I continue putting a feeder out even in the winter. There always seem to be a few birds who decide late to go south and are happy to find some quick energy, and some of them stick around here all winter and survive in freezing temperatures. They are amazing little birds.

August 13, 2016

Ready to fly

This year we have had some new guests at the WD. Some birds, or rather some of their species, come  here every year to nest and raise a family such as the cactus wrens that nest in the boxes across from the kitchen sink. Such fun to stand there at the faucet and see young birds growing up and fledging.

Another year we had orioles that made a beautifully woven nest they hung from (dead) electrical wires for a porch fan. In a subsequent year they decided that the Ash in the yard was a good spot for a nest. There they got to deal more with bird traffic than with humans walking by and using the grill right next to the nest. The last couple of years we have had kestrels nest in a box originally made for a northern flicker.

This is the year of the barn swallows. I was surprised to see these great fliers in the desert as they need mud to make their nest and water is not in great supply here although there is always water in the horse founts and there is certainly enough dirt to make mud pie with. So this pair showed up and made a beautiful nest on the porch, using the top of a roosting pocket (long since fallen apart) as the base.

Sometime ago two eggs hatched and there has been lots of flying back and forth to feed the young birds and, as of this morning, to get them to fly. The young are quite tame as the faucet and hose are right under the nest and I can do my watering chores without disturbing them. When they do fly and move south, I do hope they return next year to that gorgeous cup nest.

August 11, 2016

Apres rain

At this time of year it is hard to believe this is a desert. We have had good rains over the last two weeks and plants immediately respond. They know these moist conditions will not last and now it the time to "make hay". This includes the weeds of course.

The garden has taken a breather and is putting on more growth rather than ripening fruit but there is still plenty to eat and there are lots of flowers and busy bees to keep the plants producing over the next months.

There are signs of fall though (hard to believe). The tunas (prickly pear fruits), really fat and juicy thanks to the rains, are changing color and will be harvested soon by rodentia or snacked on by the various birds.

Great time of year!

August 1, 2016

That giant sucking sound

We had significant rain yesterday afternoon (almost an inch) and the desert is drinking it in with a big gulp. I was all set for a soppy early morning dog walk with rubber boots, thinking there would be multiple puddles to wade through but not so. It did start raining again, a steady and persistent rain, the kind the plants just love.

I think that some of the birds are enjoying the rain too: while we were having breakfast, there was a white-wing dove sitting on a branch exposed with his or her beak turned up to the sky as if to go "ahh". But many birds are seeking refuge on the porch in between visiting the feeders. The barn swallows who have nest up there with eggs or young are having a job maintaining a safety zone. Another dove was wading in the water underneath the feeder, picking out the floating seeds like bobbing for apples.

We are relishing the sound, smell, and water that rain brings. More moisture in the forecast so perhaps the monsoon is just late this year.