Gerti Digs Her New Digs

We had to pull Gerti (our desert tortoise) abruptly out of her peaceful winter hibernation to move to our new place. We put her in a plastic tub with dirt and straw and hauled her down to Elephant Head. We placed her little temporary home in a quiet back room, hoping she might continue her winter nap for a few more weeks until we could build her a suitable new home.

Unfortunately, it started warming up and Gerti started to get a little antsy, so we had to hurry up the habitat construction. We decided on a nice (soon to be shady) hill, right off our back porch!

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We decided not to put a block wall around the bottom like she had in her old garden. One of her little tricks was to pull herself up on top of the block, and usually end up on her back after tumbling off! We thought she might like to fully enjoy the incredible views from her new home!

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This is looking to the South East

 

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And this is looking to the South West!

It didn’t look like much of a garden when we got her settled in. But, Gerti didn’t seem to mind! The smile on her face said everything!

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And yes…you can absolutely tell when she’s smiling and when she’s grimacing- Who knew tortoises were so expressive!

During the next week, Todd installed some grass, plants, and flowers to  ‘garden’ it up!

Gerti had to help…GertiDirt

We planted some hibiscus- That’s her favorite!! We also transplanted some native grasses she can nibble on!

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We still have some work to do, but now that the grass is getting established and the trees are filling in, it’s quite apparent that Gerti is really enjoying her lush new digs!

 

Madness and Miracles…and More Madness!

Last year was brutal. Circumstances finally led us to rethink our priorities and make some very hard choices. We chose to sell the house, leaving behind our cherished yard that Todd had put so much work, love, and care into for 15 years. It was our sanctuary, our inspiration and for the most part, a lot of our entertainment! There, we had the opportunity to experience things we would never have had the chance somewhere else! And, the opportunity to share them here!

A few highlights…

We raised the Whootoos (baby quail)….

and desert tortoises….

Met the 3 little javelinas…

We witnessed nature in action, only some see on TV….

And we learned so much about the desert and the creatures that live there!  It was an amazing 15 years!

January 15th, we put up the For Sale sign and held our breath! We had no idea where we would go. All we knew is that we needed to ‘down-size’.

 First, we looked in the retirement community of Green Valley. Both Todd and I are finally coming to terms with our senior citizen status ;). But, folks in Green Valley don’t like yard work, so finding anything with a yard bigger than the area rug in our living room was a challenge.

We had 5 dogs, two desert tortoises, 3 chickens (And Todd’s brother) that were going to move with us. So we started looking at property outside of town with some land. We looked at manufactured homes East of town. We traveled down miles of bumpy dirt roads, through washes and gulleys, trying to find a place with ‘potential’. But, most of the homes we found were rat infested, falling apart, or next to something even worse…beautiful land, but a little too ‘whiskey-tango’, even for us.

We were getting so angry and depressed. It’s a horrible feeling knowing that you are moving on, with nowhere to go!  We just kept trying to put our faith in God, knowing that he would lead us to where we needed to be!

Finally, we started looking the other direction- South.

 To Elephant Head…we could actually see it from our old house-

It’s a small community of about 100? homes. Maybe less. Some beautiful big homes, some manufactured homes- all on 4+ acre plots of grassy, mesquite studded land. All set against the breathtaking backdrop of Elephant Head and the Santa Rita Mountains.  It felt right!

And that’s when the miracles started happening!

A manufactured home appeared in my daily real estate search. It had been on the market for some time, but I hadn’t previously seen it! When we drove out to look at it, it was only a 20-minute drive from our old house. No dirt roads, all paved. The home itself was great (except for the questionable shade of green in which it had been freshly painted).

Larger and newer than our old house…. and on 4.5 acres! Perfect! We made an offer on the contingency that our house would sell within 6 weeks….Auuugghhhhh! The stress!!!

Our house had already been on the market for 2 weeks. We had several lookers, but no bites. We started getting even more nervous. Were we asking too much? Was the yard too much? Hmmmmm. One week after we put the offer on the new place- They found it! The people that walked into Todd’s Backyard and fell in love! The couple made a full price cash offer!!!!!! A miracle!!! I was happy I had the opportunity to meet them- They are wonderful people 🙂

But then, the real madness began. If anyone has ever bought and sold a house at the same time, you might know what I’m talking about! We had to close on both houses within 3 weeks. Paperwork! Scrambling! Packing! Cleaning! It was a whirlwind of chaos. Finally, on Feb 28, we took one last look at Todd’s Backyard in the mad rush to get out- the deed had recorded. It was no longer ours. We closed the doors and moved on. We didn’t even have time to cry.

Of course, the day we moved is the one day of the winter that decides to unleash it’s cold, unholy wrath. Rain, sleet, and snow accompanied us to our new home.

 

But, we made it!

It’s been almost 2 weeks since we have been in our new home and dreaming about what’s in store for the next chapter of Todd’s Backyard.

I’m not sure, at our age, if it’s the wisest project to take on- It’s a raw, wild and a blank canvas…

 

But, there is sure to be plenty of material to photograph and to write about as this next chapter of our lives unfold! We can’t wait to share it!


PS- Unfortunately, a few of our family members didn’t make it. We decided to find a home for the chickens, as the logistics of moving them and setting them up was just too much. And most unfortunately, our dear Baily and Bizbee were not able to handle the stress of moving in their old age 😦 But we look forward to new additions to the family…perhaps a goat?…mini horse?…who knows!

Zoom Zoom

It’zzzz Zeptember and the yard is abuzzzz with all the little zoom zoomers pazzing through to their winter digzzzz. Almost like science-fiction…Imagine hundreds of tiny heat seeking missiles chasing each in swarms, everywhere in your field of vision! (It’s probably not exactly hundreds, but hard to tell as they are too fast to count!). However, you better be prepared to duck as many of these buzzing warriorzzzzz zoom past your head! It’s quite startling when two warring hummers brush past you so close, you feel a little poof of air in your hair!

The frenzy only lasts a day or two, then calms down a few days until another group passes through. The – we call it the annual event the ‘Humming Bird Wars’.  And, it came this weekend!

Here’s a little sample….If you turn up the volume, you might get the zoom zoom!

 

From Death to Drenched

The Southern Arizona Summer engulfed us last June, like like the fiery blazes of hell! 120 degrees for days…100+ for a month. The only thing that kept us sane was looking forward to the cooling rains of the Monsoons, officially declared to start on June 15th. Sometimes- I think last year, in fact- they started early. We were hoping the same this year, we desperately needed the rains…the desert was dying!

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By the end of June we still had no rain. Not even a hint. The heat was depressingly oppressive!  You know its bad when the drought tolerant/heat tolerant cactus start to shrivel up and die…

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We thought this poor agave was a goner!

June dropped off the calendar-still with no rain.We started feeling like the cactus!

But, the 4th of July would be here soon, and we ALWAYS get rain on the 4th!! However, independence day came and went with only the booming of fireworks- not the booming of thunder we had counted on. Aaauuuuughhhhh the agony!

Todd even went to the extremes of putting sprinklers in the yard on some of our cactus to try to salvage some of  them! Something he had never had to do before. We noticed some of our neighbors were doing the same.

It wasn’t until about a week after the 4th, that Monsoon finally arrived! As we watched the lighting streaked clouds come rumbling in, Todd stationed himself on top of the shed to act as a human lightning rod….

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Here’s a little taste of the desert monsoon….

An no…Todd was not still sitting on the roof as I shot this!

I wish I could share the smell the rain drenched desert and feel the cool mist floating in the air. A mist that’s created as the rain dances on the parched desert ground. There is nothing like it! The temperature generally drops from 100+ to about 75 in a matter of minutes! The relief is almost euphoric!

Since then, over the past month, it has rained, and rained- one of the best Monsoon seasons we have had in years! Todd has marked over 7 inches of rain so far! Most of the plants that melted with the heat, rebounded!

Here’s the heat ravaged agave- unbelievable that it came back to life!….

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Now as Fall approaches, we can enjoy the beautiful desert, revived, refreshed and blooming! We celebrate nature’s gift, even though the ‘dry heat’ has turned muggy and mosquitoes  abound- we raise our glasses to Mother Nature with a toast: “Even though you can be a ‘bitch in heat’ or a frozen mother ‘f’er, when you pour…girl, you Reign!”

 

 

Yellow…But not Mellow

Everywhere you look, you will see pops of bright yellow frantically bouncing around the yard. The Orioles are back in full force this Spring! We get several different Oriole varieties in Todd’s Backyard. All slightly different, however they share the same shrill chatter, as shocking as their brilliant hue!

Their chatter reaches all time highs when they are playing their high-stakes game, we like to call, Who-Can-Get-The ‘Oriole Glory Hole’!

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In this game, there are 2 prizes!

1st, their ‘watering hole’. They constantly fight over position on the hummingbird feeders to quench their appetite for their favorite sugary treat! Not only are they competing amongst themselves (or similar versions of themselves), but they have to fend off the ferocious little hummers!

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And the 2nd prize….or maybe this is the 1st prize…

oriole2The female  ‘Glory Hole’ if you will….eeehhhhem.

Anyway, the Oriole fun and games, be it a bit noisy, are always fun to watch! You can’t help but be a little excited when these spectacular specimens of  fine feathered fellows come back to Todd’s Backyard every spring.

Here they will stay until fall in all their ‘Glory’!

oriole6This is a Scotts Oriole.

And below is a Bullocks Oriole.

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orioleThe Hooded Oriole

Oriole, Oriole, sprightly fellow. Flitter about all brightly yellow. Have your fun, but don’t harsh my mellow!!!

Gotta Keep Believing!

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Change….Evolution…Everything begins and comes to an end….And then it begins again, sometimes when we least expect it! Life’s cycles should be expected, but are usually unpredictable. Like life in the desert. The seasons come and go, bringing with them lovely mild moments and breathtaking sunsets to the searing heat and ferociously destructive bursts of the Summer monsoons! Always changing and adapting, but forever surviving!

There is something comforting in that. I believe that there is always a purpose and a reason for everything! We have recently been faced with  a major life change forcing us to make profound adjustments. The stress is overwhelming. We may be faced with the decision to sell our home and leave Todd’s Backyard to someone else’s loving care. But, even if that happens, there will always be a ‘Todd’s Backyard’…somewhere. We will always find beautiful and fascinating material to keep this blog alive wherever we end up.

But, I do believe God gives us signs and direction if you pay attention. And, I am paying attention!  I am going to follow the path he has chosen, but it’s not going to be easy! Giving thanks with a joyful heart to the opportunities we are given will be the key!  So, with my trust in God,  I will  face the future with bright optimism and peace.

And for anyone else going through ‘prickly times’ I found these 5 mantras for surviving them:

  1. All situations are temporary- everything is always in transition!
  2. There is no wrong decision- what is meant to be will be.
  3. You have survived difficult times before- Think about how you got through them.
  4. Be still and know- Be in the now- don’t worry about the future, concentrate on the present. Take one step at a time!
  5. Trust the guidance of the universe- Choose to believe where you are is OK!

Everythingz Fuzzy!

Warning:  If you suffer from Spring Allergies, just looking at these photos might bring tears to your eyes! 

Though beauty abounds in the  Desert Spring, we sometimes endure it with a little sting. When the temperature rises and starts to prickle, our noses start running and twinge with a tickle. Budding plants, ready to burst with a buzz, are covered with soft and treacherous fuzz!

100_6717Treesy Sneezy!! The acacia is the worst! However, it smells delightful, such a terrible curse!

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The creosote bush has small balls (and a bunch!) They might lack in size, but pack a mighty pollen punch!

AAAAAAACHOOOOO!

But, some budding beasts will compensate our misery with a spectacular show of nature’s wizardry!

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These small sleeping gremlins perched atop the Argentinian Giant, shed their furry coats as they wake up and burst into a floral triumph!

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The furry buds below look  much the same…

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Until they burst out into their splendorous brilliant flame!

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Itchy eyes, runny nose, sinus headache, God only knows! Although we suffer through the season, there’s always a rhyme to the reason!  🙂

Where ever you are, what ever you do, ride out the Spring…God Bless and aaaaa…. aaaaaa….AAAAACHHHOOOooo!