Monday, April 29, 2019

The Bank and Cactus

We spent much of yesterday working on the bank, again.  It was so steenking hot!  We were fried, it was an early night.  Today we went for a nature walk, there was no power walking this morning, too tired.  It was overcast and very windy, so we could go later than normal when it's really hot.  The desert is now eerily yellow.

See the steps in the background?  That's where we just came from.  Look at the blossoms and buds on the saguaro foreground right.  They are also having a really good bloom.

Yellow, as far as the eye (or the camera) can see.  This is the most yellow the desert has been since we started coming for winters in 2007.

The cactus bloom has been stunning this year.

Prickly pears.

Staghorn chollas.  They are an unattractive plant, but they make such pretty flowers.

This is something we have not seen before.  This is a teddy bear cholla, so named because they look furry.  They are terrible cactus, they sort of leap into your flesh.  The bloom is on for the teddy bears.

The weather was very unsettled all day.  It looked like this for awhile, then the wind really came up, it rained briefly and then the sun came out.  We went for a short walk in the neighborhood in the afternoon.  It's a weird weather pattern for this late in April.

I have no idea what this is.  It's in a neighbor's yard.  It has a pretty wild hair-do.

Friday, April 26, 2019

More Bank Maintenance

Yesterday was spent on even more bank maintenance.  Palo Verdes, which are considered by many (including me) to be trash trees, are just the work of the devil.  Branches die off, little twigs die off, and they all turn into brittle black twigs armored with stickers.  Monday we're having another eight tons of rocks put on the bank.  We originally thought that we could just do half of the bank, but then that made the other half look tatty.  So rocks there will be from end to end.  It seemed stupid to dump all of those rocks on top of dead and dying vegetation and twigs so we spent several hours grooming the bank.  Everything down there has thorns, even the vines.  What makes it really difficult is that none of the rocks on the bank are anchored, they all move.  I feel that our proprioceptors have had a significant workout walking up and down the rocks, especially carrying a skill saw.  Dead branches were removed, twigs were raked up and removed, much was removed.  It does look way better.  At first we thought we could box the debris.  Nope.  We ended up with a 4 by 8 foot trailer and 100 pounds of branches and twigs.  Early afternoon it was off to the dump.

The dump is on the other side of town on surface streets.  It just took forever to get there.  It's a typical dump.

We were sent to the clean green section.  It's hard to tell, but that is a towering hill of biomass.

There's our trailer and part of our load.  Getting it out was a pain because all of those stickers and thorns had braided themselves into one giant mass of vegetation.  There's more on the other side of the trailer that you can't see. 

I think there are three more branches I want to take off the trees, and then after that we're declaring victory.

This was last night when the sun was setting.  The trash trees were being illuminated by the sun.  So was Bren peak in the background.

Today we were whooped, and did very little other than go to Target and Home Depot.  We're looking for a bug zapper.  I was out admiring the bank last evening and got three mosquito bites while I was out there.  Reviews are mixed on Amazon, ranging from kills everything to kills nothing.  A little consistency would be good.

Trees in the Target parking lot.  Palo Verde on the left, Mesquite on the right.  Mass quantities of pollen.

It hit 98 today.  The air now has that "sitting in an oven" feel to it.  I am really going to miss residential air conditioning when we leave for the summer.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

HIke and Bank Maintenance

Greetings Gentle Readers!  How is your spring progressing?  Ours is ok at the moment.  We were, again, up and out early for a restorative hike in the desert.  One scans for rattlesnakes and hopes for the best.  Generally we believe they can tell from the amount of vibration we're making that we're too big to eat.  In all of our years here, we've only had one challenge us on the trail.

It was a nice morning to be out and about.  If you look about dead center, you can see a black dot.  That's one of a group of ravens that were riding the thermals and enjoying the day.  They are such good flyers.  They'll go up, and then slip sideways.  We just love watching them.

After a bit, they moved away from the mountain so we could see them better.

This is the skeleton of a dead saguaro.  He's been like that for quite awhile.  Eventually he'll fall down.

After lunch I went over the wall and picked up construction debris that a previous owner had decided to pitch in the wash, rather than disposing of it properly.  When I was done with that, Jim decided to move some of the agave bits down the hill and take them out.  After being stabbed three times by the incredibly sharp tips of the agave, he decided perhaps he would wait until removal had occurred.

This is the spike.  The top part that broke off weighs about five pounds.  It's no wonder the base was pulled over.  It wasn't due to agave snout weevils - the roots were not up to the task.

This is the source of tequila.  They cut the leaves off, press the juice out of the main ball of the plant and ferment.  The ball is amazingly heavy, it's full of water and fiber.

Two and a half hours later after the landscaper arrived, we were left with this.  I can not believe one man, working alone, was able to complete that task.  It would have taken us weeks; and then there is the dreaded issue of disposal.  Jim and I trimmed the big agave next to the driveway.  Using google translate, I got the words to ask could I put the leaves in his truck.  Apparently my Spanish accent is even more abysmal than I thought it was.  Anyway, at least he knew I had tried to ask for permission to put a few leaves in the back.

So a hike and bank maintenance were the activities for the day.  Soon there will be another cactus post.  I'm saving them up for maximum impact.

Monday, April 22, 2019

It's Always Something - the Agave

As we suspected, the agave producing the flower spike was sick, agave snout weevils would be my first thought.  During the night, the weight of the spike pulled the entire plant over.  We're going to have to get someone in to remove this. 

Farewell to thee, old ancient agave!

In happier news, the ocotillo is finally blooming.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

MMR, the Gym, Hiking and Wildlife, Cactus

It's windy and HOT.  Yesterday it hit 98.  We figured after a terrible winter, that the climate would quickly jump to being really hot.  It did.  Yesterday we went to the gym.  I'm starting to like it again.  It takes awhile to get back in to it; one has to decide which machines are good and how much weight to use.  Thursday we got the Mumps, Measles and Rubella vaccine.  It's a live virus and makes some people feel bad.  After my response to the Prevnar 13 shot I figured it would be me, but nope - Jim felt bad on Friday.  Going to the gym actually helped, so that was good.

It was interesting, the pharmacist at Costco did not want to give us the vaccine.  Apparently the CDC has issued a statement that if you're old, you're immune.  I happen to know I do not have immunity to rubella because my immunity titre was run in the past.  I also know I've never had mumps.  So, how then, if I did not have the illnesses, did I develop immunity?  The pharmacist said that would be a good question for the CDC.  We got the shot.  After seeing a 60 year old rabbi on NBC news talking about how his one measles vaccine was not enough to give him permanent immunity (current standard is two), and he and 20 people in his synagogue contracted it, and some are now deaf and some are blind, we decided just to get the shot.  We spend summers in Washington which has a higher than expected failure to immunize. 

Today we were up and out early for a restorative walk in the desert.  We saw two snakes, two rabbits and three deer.  The first snake was a small brown one.  It scared the snot out of me crossing the trail right in front of my foot.  The second one was stretched out across the trail not moving. He had his head up, so we knew he was awake.  I bowled a rock in his direction, and he took off.  It's a Groundsnake, they're not venomous.  But they still give me the willies.  Photo is courtesy of the internet.

The cactus bloom continues.  I like the ocotillo arch over the trail.

The buckhorns and staghorns are starting to pop.  They have a really pretty blossom for such an unattractive plant.

The lizard was in the front yard today.  We were concerned that the wretched road runner might have eaten him, but there he is.  It's a terrible picture, too short of a lens shot through the blinds.

This isn't much better, point and shoot with a lot of zoom.

That's it - I have nothing really interesting to report.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A New to us Trail, Cactus, a Rabbit and the KT Layer

Yesterday we found a new trail.  It's a better route back to the trail that goes to our house from the trail that goes to the big wash.  We found it on the far end, and today walked it again so we'd be able to find it.  This will start out as a very boring post for all of you.  There will be more interesting stuff later.

The trail branches about 12 to 15 feet from the intersection of the trail that goes to the water tower and the trail that goes back to the house.

Jim built a cairn for the far end of the trail where it intersects with the trail that goes to the big wash. 

The trail continues on towards the big rocks.  This is the marker on one side of the trail, and the cairn marks the other side.

The permanent marker for when it's time to turn off the trail that goes down to the big wash is when the water tower becomes visible 90 degrees to the trail.  Cairns and rocks are not permanent, the water tower is.

There are cactus blooming.  This is a hedge hog.  I have no idea why it's called that.  They have the most incredible purple blossoms.

There are yellow prickly pears. This is going to have a lot of flowers.

Another yellow one.

This is a teeny tiny cactus.  I found it living in total darkness under a bougainvillea.  It used to have another section, but it fell off after I moved it.  It's maybe 1/2 inch tall.  It appears that it's putting out two little sections from the top.  Cactus are really tenacious.  I did go out and straighten him up a little.

Look at the center of the photo.  That's a rabbit down in the wash.  We could see him because he was wiggling his ears.  The Javelina have worn game trails in the wash.  It makes it much easier to walk around there.

The agave flower spike is continuing to grow.

Mary Moon linked to a really good article on the death of the dinosaurs.  It's well worth a read, and can be found here.  You will  learn much.  That's it!  That's all I've got!  Trails, cactus, a rabbit and the KT layer.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Palo Verdes, Tubac and Notre Dame

Saturday we spent most of the day in the wash next to the house, cutting the tops out of the Palo Verde trees.  They're a terrible tree, they have sharp spines that rip your flesh, and an unattractive growth pattern.  Large sections of the tree will die, and then you have all of these black branches hanging around.  Jim wielded the 16 foot pole pruner, and I pulled the cord to cut branches.  It's difficult.  Then there was sitting on the rock bank with a pruning saw, cutting off dead branches.  By the end of the day, we both hurt pretty much everywhere.

We made four large bundles of branches for trash pickup.  They're compressed and tied up with twine so they're easier to pick up.  I am starting to really hate Palo Verdes.

I do love my Hopseeds.  They continue to bloom.

Sunday we were still pretty sore, and decided a restorative stroll in Tubac would be a good idea, instead of hiking or the gym.  When we spent winters in the RV park, one of our neighbors had a house built in Quail Creek.  It's an age targeted Robson community.  It's out in the middle of what used to be pecan groves.  It's enormous.  There are several floor plans from which to choose, and options and extra costs abound.  Their motto is "Live Life Inspired."  Look at it, it's everywhere.  On the way to Tubac, we decided to go look at it.

They have set up a model home village.  There were about nine houses that had been built, that you could tour and decide on the one you want.

This model was about 2,600 square feet.  I will say that I give the builder credit for putting in a lot of storage.  Each model has many places to put stuff.

This particular house has a back yard water feature and overlooks the golf course.

Notice the giant trees.  The were large when they were installed.  The surrounding neighborhoods where people actually live have zero trees, they have rocks and some cactus.   The trees make it look nice.  That's fake grass, it looks really good.

I could not live here.  The houses are too close together.  The nearest grocery stores/drugstores/etc. and about 10 miles away in Green Valley, which is another old person ghetto.  The roads have shoulders, so a person could ride, but the ruts and bumps are significant.

After looking at Quail Creek, we continued on to Tubac which was our intended destination.  I do like the chickens.  They're smiling.

If you go to Tubac, you should go to the Graham Bell Gallery.  There is a lot of cowboy photography, works by Edward S Curtis, and photographs from Tibet.  They have some good stuff.  These are pictures of some of the art for sale.  The woman working  there was studiously ignoring us, so I took a quick shot of this.  I love the horse and the flying rider.

This is border patrol north of Tubac, going north.  It was weird, the majority of the cars had Sonoran plates.  The agents working the station were just waving everybody through.  The dog wasn't working, and no one seemed at all interested in anyone.  Usually they pull the Sonoran licensed cars over for special attention.

Last night there was a small sunset.

This morning there were doves on the wall.  They're really pretty.

Later we learned that Notre Dame was on fire.  This is so devastating, especially to the people of France.  I just can not believe this has happened.  The age of it is just staggering.  Many of the trees that were harvested in the 1200's to build the cathedral were 400 years old, the seeds had germinated in the 8th century.  Much was saved, but much was not. I do not know how you rebuild something like this.