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!”

 

 

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The Lizard of Ahhhs

The lizard has become an iconic symbol of the desert Southwest for a reason. The desert is full of them! And there are many different kinds of lizards that live in Todd’s Backyard. I used to hate ’em. Lizards and snakes. But, having lived here now for awhile, I have come to love the liz! Their fierce scaly bodies and beady little eyes, have become no- so-creepy as I have witnessed their antics!  Having been close up and personal with a few, I must admit they are truly beautiful and intelligent creatures! Plus, they are nature’s best pest control, eating bugs and such   <_> j””””’j——–~

 

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 This Tiger Whiptail is a gorgeous fellow! We caught him hanging out, sunbathing on the side of the house!

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The Spiny Lizard is a spectacular species! We see them everywhere including the trees! When the males go into a mating frenzy, their stomachs turnbright turquoise!  And they are frisky little buggers…

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Actually, not so little…they reach up to 12″ long! We had one last year that started hanging out on our porch begging for a bit of fruit! He eventually would take food right out of my hand!

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Above is a Western Fence Lizard we caught a pic of on our wood pile. We don’t see these very often!

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These are two Zebra Tail lizards I spied doing push ups together on a nice warm rock. The male’s colors are amazing!

Although, all of these lizards are certainly AWEsome!…. There is one lizard that IS the ‘Lizard of Ahhhs’!…

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The Gila Monster!!!

One of only 2 poisonous Lizards. It can get up to 22″ long! This guy is  our local Gila Monster…we believe that his burrow is in our neighbor’s backyard, where this photo was taken.

And, I have a story….

The day before yesterday,  Todd an I were sitting in the living room when I saw this Gila Monster marching up to our sliding glass door!! For a minute, I thought he might scratch to get in, but instead, he found a nice shady spot behind our flower pots and laid down for a nap. Of course, we couldn’t let our dogs out, but we grabbed the camera and went out on the porch to get a few good photos…

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I’m not sure if you can appreciate the size, but he was at least 20″ long! Quite startling to actually see on up this close!  He ended up spending the entire afternoon lounging on our porch, going from spot to spot to find a comfortable place to rest, I’m assuming after a large meal! I figured, if he was ok with me sitting outside at our patio table having a beer with him, he might be amenable to a little love pat. I’ve always wanted to touch a Gila Monster! Todd wasn’t  around, so I did…just a light rub across his stubby tail. The Gila Monster only slowly raised his head a bit. Didn’t seem disturbed at all. But, I did not test my luck and try it again! When I told Todd what I did, he just about bit my head off, as the Gila Monster could have easily bitten my hand off. Or, at least, I could have lost my hand had he bitten it!  But come on, this is what I’ll do for a good story 😉 The large lazy lizard stayed on the porch for another few hours, then went on his way!

Mr. Gila Monster hasn’t been back on the porch since. I hope that if he does come back, he will have the curtesy to knock on the sliding door and let us know he’s out there. I don’t think he would be as well mannered if he were to be stumbled upon!

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OxO j””””’j——–!

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 😉

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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!

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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!…

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

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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!”

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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!

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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) 😉

Chirp Wars

Chirping…Buzzing, crowing, hooting, ka-cooing, whistling, screeching, trilling, tooting, whoot-whoot- woooing, tweeting (not the on-line kind ;)) This cacophony of sound emanates from the yard, bursting through every open window of the house! ‘Tis the mating calls and loud bird brawls that dominate the atmosphere in Todd’s Backyard this time of year. You may think this a serene and peaceful environment, and perhaps it is for some, or most. But, if one requires supreme concentration (like me, with my A.D.D.) or one who would appreciate a nap (like me, with my insomnia), you may get a little irritated with all the HOO HOO HOOpla! There are a few brash birds in particular that dominate that top the high decibel charts with their loud  and abrupt conversation tactics…..

TODD’S BACKYARD TOP 3 AUDITORY AGITATORS:

#1. MR. PETER PECKER The sweet sing-song of the finch and gentle rustle of leaves will suddenly be drowned out by the raucous cackle of the WOODPECKER…or even worse, his pecking on the chimney or front door which will unleash the spontaneous outburst of barking and howling dogs, deceived into thinking we have guests.

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#2 THE CARDINAL’S CLAN- Oh yes, he is strikingly gorgeous in his brilliant red suit, but his piecing screech is as loud as his appearance!  When he’s in love, watch out! And his screaming babies are just as bad…When they want to be fed it’s worse than any child’s tantrum. Witnessing the scene below, I believe , Mr. Cardinal is trying to teach his little screechling how to eat from the bird feeder.

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#3 CAN-NOT-IGNORE ORIOLE- A summer resident, the orioles have just recently arrived along with their piercing call. They sit in the mesquite tree off the porch clacking and whistling, making their presence known.  Oh, oriole, we see you in all your brilliant yellow glory! So put a sock in it and shut the F*&# up!

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Don’t get me wrong, I love all the birds, and we are so lucky to live smack dab in the middle of a  migration route! After all the migratory birds have traveled through, the ones that remain for the summer will soon be drowned out by the buzzing of the cicadas (locust-like bugs)  when the heat starts to crank! So, sing birds, sing! And I will rejoice with you in this lovely pre-Summer Spring!

A sad casualty…

A couple of weeks ago, we heard the most lovely and unusual bird call. And we found it coming from a most lovely and unusual bird! We think it may have been a pet, not a native bird to this area, because it looked rather exotic. As a consequence, we were worried that it may not be suited for the chirp ‘n’ turf wars in Todd’s Backyard desert bird habitat. And we were unfortunately correct….

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Todd found him on the ground, outside the chicken coop 😦 Not sure the cause of death, but appears to have been pierced in the stomach….and possibly his ear drums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!…

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

Now where are the unicorns?   😉

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We had a visitation!….Well, actually our neighbors, George and Eileen had a visitation, but they were nice enough to share it with me! They called yesterday afternoon to suggest I sneak over and bring my camera in hopes that I might get to see their special visitor!

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And it was indeed a very rare site! He let me get pretty close to get these amazing shots!

He has been hanging around our area for a little while. In fact, there have been other owls in area as well.The other night we were awakened by a conversation one was having with his friends. We heard the call coming from the mesquite tree right off of our porch, then from afar, another was responding.Todd went out with a flash light, and spied a small owl. I thought it was our chickens at first, because it really didn’t sound like and owl, more like a baaagghhhk, baaaaaaaaggggk, baghk! But, then I guess that was probably because these owls knew whooooo they were talking to 🙂