Nothing new here

ringneck turtle doveThere is not a lot new here in Arizona. I work, sleep, and work again.

I have updated a couple of websites – and will post particulars soon.

My friend visits daily, and she persists on being a nuisance until I feed her. Her mate still will not eat from my hand, but she will tolerate me rubbing her feathers with a finger for a few seconds in exchange for a kibble.

Saguaro bloomThe Saguaros are beginning to blossom, a little early this year. The white flowers bloom at night, and generally do not last more than a couple of days.

Last month we had a week with record high temperatures, after a rare winter snow on New Year’s Day and a higher than normal amount of precipitation.

Saguaro bloomThe spring bloom in the desert appears to be tied to a healthy El Nino effect; the higher than average precipitation in the winter a harbinger of the awakening of hibernating flowers.

With the flowers come the bees. While we have had incidents of Africanized bees, with horrific attacks, the wild honeybees are just as dangerous.  We have had several bee attacks on hikers in the past weeks. Awareness of your surroundings in the desert is of the utmost importance. If you don’t disturb the bees, they will leave you alone.

cottontails in my drivewayI am greeted every morning, when I arrive home from work, by cottontails that love to play in my driveway.

With the mountains being as lush as they are with vegetation, and the washes still containing ample water supplies, we don’t see many coyotes in the city limits. Come August they will likely be making forays closer to civilization.

Tonight is my Friday – one more night of work. Then I have a project; the water main into the house is leaking and I have to perform emergency surgery on the line.  Hopefully it will be an easy task. Saturday, Liz and I are heading to Phoenix to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Good music, and Abita beer! The only thing missing from the New Orleans experience will be humidity!

 

Prickly Pear in blossom

prickly pear blossomThe Purple Prickly Pear cactus in front of our studio is in full blossom this week. The flowers last a couple of days, providing a very brief splash of color in the desert.

The petals make a very interesting addition to a salad, as almost all of the prickly pear cactus is edible in one form or another.

The flowers will soon disappear, giving way to fruit. By summer, the fruit will be bright red and ready for the picking. The pads can be harvested any time of year for nopalitas. They are delicious in a cold salad, or cooked in an omelette. Read more

Gila County live-forever

Gila County live-forever

(Dudleya collomiae)

I have many thanks to my botanist friend who has kindly offered me more accurate information on my wildflower images.

He has provided scientific names for the flora that he has been able to identify, whereas I had too often only used the local nicknames. In some cases I had totally misidentified said wildflower.

This succulent flower is actually a native plant, unique to this area of Arizona. While it is named for Gila County, this plant was located in Pinal County, which borders Gila. It was found in the Tonto National Forest, and large parts of Tonto are located in Gila County.

The leaves do resemble aloe, but the plants are distant cousins at best. From his email to me:

A quicker identification on the succulent plant. It is Gila County live-forever (Dudleya collomiae; sometimes also known as Dudleya saxosa subspecies collomiae) in the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae). It is not common, being endemic to Arizona. Species in the stonecrop family are not related to aloes but they can sometimes certainly resemble aloes, especially the leaves.
  A nice sidebar here is the life of Rose E. Collom (1870-1956), the botanist for whom the species honors. Rose Collom’s original specimen of the species is at the Smithsonian and can be viewed here (http://collections.mnh.si.edu/search/botany/?ti=3). The genus name honors William Russel Dudley (1849-1911), botanist who taught at Cornell Univ., Univ. of Indiana, and Stanford Univ. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Russel_Dudley).

Bougainvillea

BougainvilleaTwo years ago we planted a Bougainvillea by the studio. I am maintainign the position that Liz’s brown thumb killed it.

We are trying again, and she promises to keep her hands – and watering pot – off of it.

This test will determine whether her overzealous watering killed it, and whether my plan of neglect will be successful.

Hiking to the old corral

Sonoran Desert Toad

Sonoran Desert Toad

[Edited 3/31/15 - added identification of wildflowers]

My hikes, even when following the same route, always yield surprises.

Last Saturday Liz and I did a short two-mile hike around the old corral. One of the old-timers here tells me it was the Double-E Ranch back in the day – 1960’s or so. If the cattle gate was open, you could wander up to the ranch.  If it was closed, keep your distance. Read more

Summer is here!

ceiling fan in ramadaSummer is here already, a little bit early! The temps are in the 90’s in the valley.  I installed the ceiling fan under the ramada just in time!

We wanted a tropical themed fan to coincide with the Key West themed bar area. All of the fans at Home Depot had light kits included. Yeah, I know, you do not have to install the light kit; I have this aversion to paying for something I don’t want or need.

We checked out Amazon.com, and all of the fans that fit our criteria started at around $300 – insane. I finally went to the Home Depot website, because they claim that if you cannot find it in the store, you can find it online. Did you know that you can get a kayak from Home Depot? Read more

No flowers for Algernon

desert poppiesAs is all too often the case, my timing was off.

Today, Liz and I drove out to Globe and Miami, AZ – two old mining towns that are due east of Apache Junction. Miami’s major attraction is a Walmart Supercenter and a grocery store. Globe has a hanging tree in their downtown.

the hanging treeMy main purpose of the drive was to hopefully catch some of the desert spring flowers. The fields leading up to the mountains are blanketed with desert poppies, carpeted in bright yellows and oranges. Clusters of lupines add purple to the landscape; but we arrived too late.

We explored the downtown business districts of both Globe and Miami. They are quaint little downtowns with tons of potential. The buildings have unique architecture, and the towns are doing their best to evoke a sense of civic pride and to offer attractions for tourists.  There are art galleries (none were open) and antique shops in both towns. And if you are a local, there are plenty of watering holes. Unfortunately, since this was a day trip, we had no chance to pay a visit to any.

Globe’s main attraction was a lynching treGlobee in the middle of their down town. I have to imagine the guest of honor was very short, or they used another tree. The lynching is described as very orderly – which is good.  I prefer orderly lynchings.

We stopped at Guayo’s El Rey cafe, a Mexican resaurant that is considered one of the best around the Valley.  I did have a Dos Equis with my enchiladas. For a small town, the place was packed for lunch, and most of the patrons were locals.  Lunch definitely made up for my disappointment at missing the spring bloom this year. There is a one week window of opportunity – hopefully next year my timing will be better.

All is not lost – the century plants (agave cactus) are getting ready to bloom, and I will be in the desert every weekend to hopefully get some good shots.  And of course, in June and July the saguaro and prickly pear will be in full blossom.

Eating out of my hand

eating from my handThe ringneck turtle doves are not community oriented. Monogamous, ringneck doves mate for life, and can live for up to thirty years.

The pair of doves that seems to have adopted me is very territorial, driving all other ringneck doves off of the property.

The male and female spend an equal amount of time haunting me when I am relaxing on the patio. They keep their distance when Liz is out and about.

These birds have been domesticated for thousands of years, and this feral pair has become more and more familiar with me. If I am on the laptop and ignoring them, the female will grow impatient and perch on the top of the screen staring at me.

I knew it would be a matter of time before I had them eating out of my hands, and yesterday it happened. She is still a tad shy, and I imagine it will be some time before I have them perching on my finger.

While they are extremely aggressive towards other ringneck doves, they will totally ignore ground doves, and don’t pay much attention to the mourning doves.

Not native to the area, these families of doves have most likely originated as descendants of domesticated escapees from California. The arid climate of the Sonoran desert seems to particularly suit them.

Desert colours

Superstition color[Edited 3/31/15 - added identification for the wildflowers]

The Superstition Mountains are the greenest they have been in years, according to locals. The trails are awash in color, hopefully a portent of a spring bloom days away. Here is a shout-out to Gerry Moore.

I am recovering from a bout with the flu – my first in twenty years. Winter is officially over in the desert – temperatures in the 90’s forcing me out of the house and into the fresh air. Read more

Renaissance Festival

Tartanic chic We did the Renaissance Festival today. It is one of the high points of our year, an annual excursion. As always, we grabbed a cold beer before heading to the Falconer’s Field to enjoy Tartanic – otherwise known as “Men Without Pants”.

After that we relaxed at Pan’s Oasis – the show was a lot less creepy than it has been in previous years.  The Washing Wenches followed with an extremely bawdy and NSFW show. Read more