It’s Barrelly Fall in the Desert!

It’s almost Labor Day, which brings with it the promise of fall. When the rest of the country enjoys autumn with lowering temperatures and colorful trees, we desert dwellers, enjoy it a little differently….The mesquite and palo verde trees stay green and the temps don’t really drop until later, in October. We are, however, treated with a brilliant display of fall color – bursting on the barrels!

The barrel cactus dot the yard. Their flowery crowns in fiery shades of reds, oranges, golds and yellows, infuse the desert with fall color!

As they start to blossom, the buds look like flames. Then, when they are in full bloom, burst into fall fireworks!

Who says you can’t enjoy the seasons, when you live in the desert!

Quenched & Drenched

We’ve had 4 inches of rain, and still, the monsoons rage across the desert. The ground is soaked, the trees are green, the air is thick and mushrooms of various types are sprouting all over the yard.

I think this might be the wettest season I have experienced since living here! At this rate, Todd’s Backyard is likely to become a jungle!

We actually had a pretty wet winter. This is what the quail pavilion looked like around March…

This is what it looked like this morning! We’re lucky if it gets this green by the end of the monsoons (around mid September). We should have a great crop of prickly pear fruit this fall…mmmm….can’t wait for those margaritas!

I don’t know if the resident wildlife are happy this time of year. I can’t believe it’s easy for all the birds to weather the raging storms. The squirrels must be miserable getting flooded out of their underground homes.  The javelina have to love it…they get a nice bath (which they really, really need!) But for sure, all of the plants and the cactus are getting fat and happy!…Well, maybe…

Our old man cactus looks a little grumpy. But I guess his budding blossom would mean otherwise!

Pretty in Pink…and Prickles

Jumping Cholla… (pronounced choya) prickly, poisonous, pains in the ass…or a pain anywhere you might come in contact with it! But, somehow, this time of year, you might say they are pretty? Late bloomers in the desert, they produce delicate, bright pink blossoms in the intense heat of June.

The flowers turn into fruits that form chains, thus, this fierce foliage is also known as ‘Chain-fruit’ cholla. The fruit is edible and was harvested, at one time,  by the native tribes who inhabited this area.

The flowers don’t seem like much from a distance, but up close, they are quite beautiful!

Like brilliant little bursts of fuchsia fireworks against a barbed background.

The cholla are intriguing plants that we have an eternal love/hate relationship with. Often, we find baby animals or birds, impaled on it’s deadly branches. There are actually stories of people dying when they have been alone in the desert, impaled, and unable to get off of one. The abundant spines are actually hooked barbs that hold on to anything that carelessly comes close! Even when you’re attached/attacked by a small piece, you have to cut the spines off with scissors, before you pull them out…I guess this releases some pressure and makes them easier to detach. But the affected area will swell and be very painful for a while!

So pics like this, always amaze us!…

The cholla are popular nesting nooks for the local birds- Thrashers and doves especially!  I guess they serve some useful purpose…plus you could eat them…and they can be pretty. So the lesson here?…

Don’t let cholla paranoia destroy ya!

Sunday Morning Serenity

This morning started with a bang….literally! A large white wing dove hit the bedroom window, flushed by a hungry hawk. The impact shook the house and instantly killed the dove. It hit so hard, it left a ghostly an imprint…

Needless to say, it did’t seem like a great beginning to an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning.

However, we were pleasantly surprised to open the sliding glass doors to a cool breeze reminiscent  of cooler spring days and the yard drenched in a lovely late Spring, early morning light! The day was looking up!

As we sat with our coffee, taking in the perfect peace, our little ‘Chi-otie’ found a patch of sun to get her warmed up for the day…

And the succulents perched on the porch ledge, were soaking up the sun as well…

I think it IS going to be a lovely day!

Barking Up the Wrong Tree!

Humph… Things aren’t always what I imagine! I had always believed that Todd’s Backyard was an ancient cactus forest full of prehistoric plants holding the secrets of the distant past.

Perhaps this massive cholla helped sustain the Hohokum Indians that made their homes here.

Maybe this giant pencil cactus saw the Spanish Conquistadors and missionaries crossing the desert here hundred’s of years ago…. Or,  more recently, it could have been a movie prop in some of the old 4o’s Westerns that were filmed in this area (check out the ‘Westerner’ with Gary Cooper….or it could have been another actor, can’t recall off hand). It was filmed, possibly, right on these grounds!

Most of the cactus in Todd’s backyard are varieties of prickly pear, and cholla. They grow more like trees…with knarly, barky trunks- certainly, a sign of extreme age!

My bubble was burst last Friday, after talking to a botanist at the Desert Museum.

I learned that I AM OLDER than these barky, prickly,  scarred old plants! Ugh! Here I hoped I would have a fantastic tale of ancient history to weave into a great post….But I did get this out of it….

I may be old, knarly and prickly, and have a bit of my own ancient history. But like the cactus, I still have a little blooming left to do!

Just the Beginning

As I start my own new phase in life, Todd’s Backyard is lending me great inspiration in it’s incredible re-birth after a long rainy winter! The yard has never ‘lushed’ out  so soon in the season. It usually doesn’t look like this until July…

Now, this may not look like much to some folks, but the blossoming cactus are the star of the show….

And it’s just the beginning!

This is something we haven’t seen…two different colored flowers on the same plant!

The Buckhorn cholla, ready to burst with fiery fusha flowers!

And here it is…

The entire yard is ready to burst with color!  The possibility of  total dazzlement , is due to  all the rain that has  blessed the desert this winter. In the seven years we have lived here, this promises to be the most amazing seasonal event we have ever witnessed!

And this is going to be one of the most spectacular events….hopefully tomorrow night!

Can’t wait for all the incredible ‘blossombilities’!

I will keep you posted!

Jactus Fest 2010…Possibly the Most Awesome Blossom!

The Jactus popped last night…the first blossom of the season! We celebrated with our neighbors, George and Eileen and Todd’s mom Donna, as the gigantic cactus flower came to life!  The Jactus is an Argentinian Giant (night blooming cactus) that Todd bought in memory of his late father Jack. Three months after he planted it in a pot, it put on a flowery show that we had never expected. Last year, we only got 1 blossom. But last fall, Todd planted the Jactus in the ground… And it took off….

When Todd planted it, it was just 1 stalk about 20″ tall.  In one year, it has grown 4 arms and the main stalk is about 36″ tall!

It put out 14 fuzzy blossom buds. Here is a little example of how it grew in just the last 2 weeks!

The fragrance of the Jactus blossoms, smell just like an Easter Lily… We thought it was going to pop on Easter..But hey, 2 days later?…Just extends the  seasonal celebration!

“Jactus Fest 2010”

We felt we had to celebrate the moment, because the Jactus only blossoms at dusk, comes  full bloom at night,  and then, the  flower dies the next day.

And…..Amazingly, the awesome blossom lasted throughout the day to wait for it’s partner!

Now, we get to wait for the next 12 buds to come! Happy Jactus Fest!

Aloe in Wonderland

Aloe Vera… It has to be one of the coolest plants ever! Not only to they provide soothing goo, to heal your boo-boos, they provide a lush and interesting ground cover in the yard. You can plant one, and before you know it, you have an aloe field!

Todd planted a few little patches of aloe under many of the mesquite trees. They’ve grown into their own little environments.

We literally have islands of aloes!

The great thing is, they stay green all year around and actually have the most incredible blossoms, which are hummingbird favorites!

The ‘Aloe Islands’ have also become popular hangouts for the lizard ‘folk’…

The ‘Collared Lizards’ are some of our favorite inhabitants of Todd’s Backyard! They hibernate (in their dens under the aloes) all winter.  And right now, they are starting to come out and get warmed up for summer.

The Aloe fields are well established now, and as they mature, they are starting to grow in really weird ways!

It would be really cool to take a camera into the underbelly of the Aloes to see what really lives B-loe!

Love at first scent!

The orange blossoms popped today! I wish there was some way to transport the fragrance via the internet!…(Hmmmm….I bet that technology isn’t too far off!) Anyway….Imagine the most delicate, sweet and potent fragrance wafting about, as you sit on the porch, watching the spring sunset and sipping sangria. It’s that time of year! Oranges to come in February. So we have about 2 weeks of heavenly scents, then another 10-11 months before the heavenly crop.

This is how they look today….

This is how they will look in a few days….

And in February…..


I can’t even tell you  how Todd has babied these trees for 6 years. It’ been well worth it! Totally Orange-gasmic!

A Sunny Sunday Afternoon…

Finally….the weather is perfect! About 72 degrees, light breeze and lots of sun! Everything is getting ready to blossom. The citrus trees, the cactus, the wild flowers. Todd and I sat out on the porch considering all of the projects to come. While we pondered, I got some great pics! Here’s a sample of our lovely  Sunday afternoon….

The bees are busy! The aloe and lantana are already abloom!

T

Todd’s discussing one of his next projects. In case you might be wondering why he’s wearing safety glasses, he’s almost poked his eye out twice in the last month on a hackberry bush! After several doctor’s visits and lots of meds, I guess he figured it was about time to take some precautions!

Bun in the sun….waiting for some fun!!

“Mr. Woodrow Peckerhead”

The fierce Chi-yote!  Surveying her kingdom and enjoying the afternoon.

Hopefully we’ll have about 6 weeks of this perfect weather! Guess that’s what Arizona is all about. Better enjoy it now though, because 100+ degrees will be upon us before you can say ” Hot Friggity Dog!”