The Unearthly Hour

Cue music and let the story begin…

Something haunting and mysterious happens when the sun sinks low in the sky and lingers for just a brief period of time.  The sun’s setting rays illuminate the desert landscape with dramatic effect. All of the strange little details are revealed, that, which might otherwise go unnoticed. The hour has come which turns Todd’s Backyard into a strange place, not of this world…

USE1

The show begins when some cactus catch your attention, having suddenly turned into bizarre silhouettes. Their shadowed forms, outlined with spiny halos, are transformed into some kind of grotesque creatures springing from the ground! I can almost imagine them like the many-headed serpent the ancient Greeks called the Hydra, hissing and writhing …(As if rattlesnakes weren’t scary enough ;o) !!!

USE11

Some of the cactus on our porch turn into wooly alien creatures that can make your own hairs prickle with the anticipation…Just waiting to see if they might start dancing or climbing out of their pots like little gremlins. Oh, the mischief they could cause!

USE14

Spiky flames, that were once agave, flicker with moving shadows, setting the yard ablaze in a shades of green…

USE7

USE2

Patches of short spiky spires carpet portions of the yard. Neither man, nor beast dare walk in their prickly path!

cactus

And as the visual drama heightens the senses, the bird’s happy songs turn into the screeching cries of souls that loom among the lightness and the dark! (Ok, maybe a little too sinister?)

But this IS rather sinister…Spider webs appear out of nowhere, now to be seen glistening among the cactus throughout the entire yard! (Yikes…now realizing how many spiders we have!)

USE9

And then, with only moments before the show ends, the sun sizzles on the horizon like a fierce red eye casting it’s gaze on the landscape, creating shapes and shadows that devour the yard in it’s glowering wake.

CLOUDS2

For that unearthly hour each day,  the spell has been cast.  We can put reality aside and just imagine. Be it monsters, fairies, demons or angels…It’s the time when our minds can play after a long day of work and possibly a few drinks ;)! And it is with this climatic ending,  that the curtain falls. The sun has sunk behind the hills and Todd’s Backyard returns to the serene sanctuary in the desert preparing for a peaceful slumber and the dreams to come….

I just hope I don’t have nightmares!….

Auuugh spiders….. and cactus gremlins…

Advertisements

Rocks of Ages

It’s a new year!

And Todd’s Backyard?….It’s still here!

Kinda like sands through the hour glass, (wink, wink 😉 , a little tribute to my mom’s favorite soap opera),  the days of our lives keep on sifting and shifting.  2015 was a little rocky. But, I guess somehow getting rough and tumbled now and then, can really ‘polish’ your perspective on life!! 2016 promises to be the beginning of a dazzling new year. And one of my many New Year’s resolutions is to start blogging again on a regular basis! So, it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll…

In the Sonaran Desert, rocks are, as you might suspect, plentiful! River rocks are a main staple in a lot of the landscaping in these parts. You will see many yards with dry rock river beds running through their property. In our case, Todd built this one that runs right off of our back porch which lines a natural wash. So, when it rains, it turns into a lovely little babbling brook! With El Nino visiting this year, it’s been running quite a bit!

brook

 Todd has used a lot of river rock in his landscaping, but, we have been lucky to embellish the yard with the natural rock we find right in our own yard!   We just happen to live a stone’s throw from the base of a large copper mine! So we’ve created a few little rock gardens to show off and display the rich mineral colors that are the trademark of the South West…

use1

Azurite, malachite, chalocite, antite, chalcopyrite, this-ite and that-ite…We totally dig living in the ‘ite’deal location for rock fans like us!! Several years ago, the town of Sahuarita redid the main street at the end of our block,  which runs close to the mine. They dug up tons rock filled with glistening crystals and vibrant colors, leaving the piles on the side of the road! So, we took our wheelbarrow and a pick and traveled down the street to do a little ‘mining’ ourselves….

Not only did we find some lovely colors, we were most happy to find some gorgeously quartz laced rock…

use13

use15

use14

Alas, we found no gold, silver or copper 😉 But the crystals were a nice addition to Todd’s Backyard landscape!

 My interest in rocks actually goes way back! Back to the prehistoric era that was my childhood! I attribute my appreciation for rocks, to my mom. When I was 4 years old, she took me rock hunting on the shores of Flathead lake, where she grew up. It was there and then that I discovered some varieties of rocks that tickled my imagination….Like flint (the material that the indians used to make their arrowheads). Petrified wood (which looked just like wood but it was a rock!)  And best of all, agates! These beautiful rocks that are transparent  and glow with colors when you hold them up to the light! All of these rocks were special, magical…they were treasures that could be found right on the ground!  By age 10, my entire room was filled with rocks! Rocks that I had either found, or bought from rock shops on our many family vacations. I learned all the names and knew all the scientific facts of each specimen- My dream was to become a geologist! But years later, that bubble burst  when I found out that the mastery of math was involved in such scientific endeavors.  ;p

 I never stopped loving rocks. Inevitably, my eyes always go to the ground when I’m out in places where the prospects for finding a rocky treasure might be good!  Once a rock hound, always a rock hound! Years ago I passed on the best of my childhood rock collection to my nephew when he was younger. However, I held onto and still have, many of the rocks from my childhood. Todd and I have  given them a special home in Todd’s  Backyard….

use16

There they sit, around the base of our chimenea mixed with other rocks that Todd and I have collected in the later years of our lives together. I don’t remember the names of many of them, but I remember many of the stories behind them….

use17

Pictured above was one of the very first rocks I ever found, back on the shores of Flathead lake. Mom called it flint, but I believe most rock experts call it jasper. I always imagined the indians chipping away at it to make their arrow heads! We also found many arrow heads on those same shores!

 Now displayed where Todd and I can enjoy them everyday, these rocks create their own kind of magic and artistic inspiration, especially when viewed in a different perspective…

use10(Tourmaline, agate, petrified wood, rose quartz)

use4(Petrified wood, desert roses, turquoise, azurite)

use9(Agates, quartz, turquoise, azurite)

Close up, they can be appreciated for the exquisite artwork, only God can create!

Although I have aged and my mother is gone, these treasured rocks will remain ageless and will live on through the ages, holding within them all of the dreams once held by the little girl I once was.  And holding all of the memories of the woman that has found  some of her greatest treasures in Todd’s Backyard!

_____________________________________________________________________

I’ve taken some of these photo images and created products that are available on Todd’s Backyard Zazzle Shop:

Grey Granite and Quartz Mug
Grey Granite and Quartz Mug by ToddsBackyard
Check out Rock Mugs online at zazzle
Turquoise Treasure Pillow
Turquoise Treasure Pillow by ToddsBackyard
Browse Zazzle for a different throw pillow.

It’s a Prickly Paradise!

The cactus popped a little early, it’s an awesome event we look for yearly. Gorgeous blossoms bursting everywhere(y), make these prickly plants just a little less scary 😉

pp10

Prickly pear cactus are most commonly seen, yellow flowers on the purple and red flowers on green. Perfectly contrasting colors on a color wheel, and when it happens in nature it’s truly ideal!

pp6

Other cacti that grow wild in the yard, like the buckhorn and cholla we can’t disregard. Although, these are the  barbed beasts we try to avoid, this time of year they can be enjoyed!…

pp11

But, the real show stoppers are that are almost hypnotic, are the blossoms on cactus that are more exotic…

pp8

For instance, our Argentine Giant, we call the Jacktus, has the largest blossoms of all the cactus! Sometimes 8 inch blossoms dwarf  it’s appendage, making it look like some strange awkward assemblage!

Our neighbors have some exotic-tacular cactus blossoms , the kind that gets lot’s of “Eeeews!” and “Awesome!”s. We get to enjoy them when we go over to visit. My exclaimation is just simply, “Exquisite!”

pp9

These pretty pricklies are a variety of Echinopsis. They grow into a beautiful blossoming cacti colossis! Perfect for a cactus garden..”EXCUSE ME, WHAT?!!” …a cactus garden? “I beg, your pardon’.

Varieties have names like ‘Red Torch‘ and ‘First Light’, the Echinopsis cactus are a desert garden delight!

pp1

With  a blossoming landscape in the month of May, it’s always a reminder, the heat’s on the way. But we can enjoy this prickly paradise, beautiful for sure, but a word to the wise…

These flowers are for admiring while still on the cacti…Picking them is extremely painful…and that’s a fact(i) 😉

Spring Spectrum Spectacular

Spring has sprung in Todd’s Backyard!

Although the weather has been somewhat Spring-like most of the winter with the mild temperatures!  But now, with the arrival of the ‘true’ Spring, we are treated to the budding beauty of the desert awakening from it’s barren winter repose!  Bursting with wildflowers, budding leaves, new green cactus growth…. and lots and lots of pollen…..AAAAAHHHHH……AAAAAAHHHHHHH……AHCHOOO!…sniff, sniff.

But even watering eyes and stuffy nose can’t dim the colors! Believe it, or not, the desert is a living rainbow this time of year!…

pink2

orange2

yellow

GREEN2

blue

purple

A rainbow, that can be virtually psychodelic with enough allergy medication!…

Now where are the unicorns?   😉

Pond Stars

Around mid July, when the monsoons are in full swing, the humidity climbs and Todd’s Backyard starts getting lush. And, us lushes start getting a little lushier since the most entertaining activity (that doesn’t require a lot of sweat), is to sit on the porch with a cool drink and watch the desert wild’s. One of the main attractions this time of year, is a little oasis we like to call…the pond….because, for lack of better words, that’s what it is. It started as just a ‘water feature’, but over the years, Todd has added some water plants, and then some fish,  and Wa La!…. it’s a pond!

pond10

It has become it’s own happy little ecosystem, and thriving under Todd’s TLC.

pond1

Of course, as you might expect in the desert, the pond attracts a lot ‘wild’ life!  It’s become a nice day spa for our feathered friends, in need of a refreshing splash…

pond8

Or a nap enhanced with the soothing sounds of trickling water…

OnToddspond9

Also a source for liquid refreshment for all kinds of critters! The rabbits, assorted squirrels and javelina frequent the pond to get a drink. We’ve even seen the bobcat quenching his thirst ! (Where’s the camera when you need it!) You might think the bobcat might try his hand at fishing, but either he doesn’t know that these strange bright orange fish are food, or he just hasn’t seen them. The fish are elusive! Anytime anything or anyone gets close, they dart under the rocks.  So, unfortunately, we rarely get to enjoy watching them up close.

pond11

Yes, the pond adds a calming sense of peace and tranquility to Todd’s backyard….

Until the sun goes down!…

Then, let the ruckus begin!

The explosive cacophony of pond partiers starts up just about the time we go to bed, keeping us awake until the party dies down. So, the other night, I took the flashlight and the camera to see if I could catch them in the act, possibly scaring them into silence!  As I approached, I was startled by the brazen display of indifference. I also had to  calm my gag reflex at the disgusting sight…

pond6

Happily frolicking and splashing around, two slimy frogs where having the time of their life! Both croaking at the top of their lungs, with a chorus of others that were hanging around in the bushes.

pond2

I am not a frog fan! But the longer I watched, it was kind of fun seeing them have fun. Their little slimy bodies gracefully swimming and diving in the clear, flashlight-lit water.

Now,  if these were Colorado River Toads, I don’t think I would have been so entranced. (I don’t believe these were river toads as they are much smaller, lighter green and have different eyes).

The toad creatures are hideous!

pond9

 Yuck! (gagging) Toadally gross!

Unfortunately, we’ve discovered Jabba the Toad hanging out in the darker recesses of the pond’s filter system.

Hopefully we won’t discover him in the pond.

Mesquite Mess-take

About 6 week ago, Todd and I decided to harvest the mesquite beans that were bursting on the trees! Something we had thought about, but never got around to actually doing it!

I had done a little research and found out that there are several ‘milling events’ around this area in the fall, to mill these beans into flour! We were really excited because we had a bumper crop of beans that appeared to be perfect for this process!

We selected the best beans from the trees and filled two 5 gallon pails, which should yield enough to make several loaves of bread….ahhhhh fresh baked bread with sweet mesquite dough! Every time I think about it my mouth waters…I can just smell it…

But, alas,  this vision will only be in our imaginations since we messed up our delectable plans with procrastination.

We were supposed to  place the beans in the oven right after we picked them, and bake at 120 degrees for 2 hours to make sure that they were dry enough to mill. Well, Todd put the buckets ‘o’ beans in the garage, cleaned and covered, to await the baking process. It was finally about 2 weeks ago, we decided to start the ‘bean bake’…..but bugs beat us to the punch! Arrrrggghhhh! Apparently, baking not only dried the beans, but killed any little buggy things that might be inside them! Oh well, another year, another lesson!

Full

I think a better word for Fall, is Full. Everything is full…. the rain gauge (almost 10″ this year so far!), the billowing, late monsoon clouds, cactus loaded with fruit, trees lush with leaves, critters feasting and getting ready to  hibernate, hearts getting ready for the holidays. It has to be the best time to live in the desert!

The white wing dove’s nest’s are still full, with the 3rd and final round of summer babies before they leave for the winter.

The prickly pears are bursting with a bounty of fruit, ready to pick now through the end of October. We’ve already been picking some of the fruit for our favorite resident…

T.L.’s favorite!…and she is certainly getting her fill before she hibernates!

Our other favorite residents, Jairy (the javelina) and his buddies, are bringing their little one’s around so they can fill up for the cooler months to come.

The birds are thick….migrating through the backyard, keeping Todd on his toes, trying to keep the feeders full.

Not to mention the hummingbird feeders, which get drained every night (this time of year), with the bats coming through to feed! Although luckily, the hummers have a few other sources in the yard for their sweet sustenance.

We are looking forward to our own sweet treats later this fall.We are going to get the mesquite beans milled into flour. We’ve collected and filled two 5 gallon pails, which will hopefully yield enough flour to make…um…..something…sweet???

We should also have a bumper crop of oranges, come February! There are literally hundreds of little oranges growing on the two orange trees in Todd’s Backyard.

We are truly thank-full to have made it through the Summer to enjoy this beauti-full and bounti-full fall!