Hooligans, Holes & Havoc!

I have been reminded in the past few weeks, how hard and sometimes haunting, life in the desert can be.  And, I have to keep reminding myself, that life at home in Todd’s Backyard, is not just a haven for harmony and happiness. There are more than a few residents that are destructive, dastardly, even deadly!  It may make it a little easier  to remind myself of these things, when I’m 1,000 miles away in Michigan, pining away for my peaceful desert oasis.

The  Cow Birds…

The scourge of the summer- 3 of them showed up about 2 weeks ago…now there are about 20. Next week, there will be 50! The nasty little secret about these birds, is that they look for the nests of other birds, like orioles and cardinals, dump out the eggs and lay their own.  Then, they leave their young to be raised by the surrogate parents! The cardinals and orioles must be a bit surprised when they see their foreign offspring, but nature’s duty dictates that they take care of them. We often see an oriole, cardinal, sparrow and other native birds feeding baby cow birds!

Then there are the Cutter Ants….

Ok….I’m in Michigan, can’t go take a picture of the ants. So, via Wikopedia here’s a pic-

Actually, I probably, couldn’t take a picture in Todd’s backyard anyway. These little beasts come out at night.

And….they can destroy and entire small tree or shrub in just 1 night! I was reminded of them today, when I was talking to some of my Michigan colleagues about gardens. They were talking about all of the flowers and luscious produce they will reap this summer. Todd was very excited to plant a ‘Salsa’ garden last spring. Peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, basically everything needed for a fab salsa fresco! Todd built an extravagant  cage to keep the garden protected from the rabbits and other hungry varmints. But….he did not take into consideration…..the ants!

The Cutter ants ate just about everything! So much for garden grown salsa!

Now lets talk about the Dirt Monkeys….a.k.a roundtail squirrels-

Oh, yes….they are cute!!

But for anyone who has walked around Todd’s Backyard, you know. With every step, you feel as if the entire yard will collapse beneath you!

And it could…

Holes, holes everywhere!

Yeah, we see you!

But perhaps even worse…Other creepy crawlers hang out in Todd’s Backyard’s underground laberynths.

This guy came out of his hole to hang with us on the porch one afternoon…Kind of ‘Halloweeny’!

He’s not deadly, but this guy is….

Luckily, we’ve had rattle snake traing for our dogs…but that’s a whole other story!

Ok….now I’m homesick!

Cowbirds, dirt monkeys, ants, snakes….oh yeah, I didn’t mention centipedes, scorpions, gila monsters, tarantulas/tarantula wasps, roadrunners (yes, they are vicious!) The Arizona desert can be harsh (Or ‘vicious’, as my Michigan colleagues claim) But, I love these things! Heaven wouldn’t  be heaven without a little hell! Hmmmmm? After all, it is the WILD west!

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Sunrise or Sunset?

I don’t know about you, but it seems like every day I’m trying to pull my head above water and breath some optimism into my life. I don’t mean to sound morbid or depressed, but times now are kind of scary! Todd’s and my life has been blessed… But,  I’m more concerned for this world than I have ever known. I do pray everyday….And I’m not even a church goer!…Thats right…I Don’t Go To Church (God forgive me!)…But I know that I’m so blessed to have a sanctuary like Todd’s Backyard, to keep me focused and and centered in God’s love.  I pray for my family, I pray for my friends, I pray for this country, I pray for everyone in this world!

Some of the  most inspirational times in Todd’s Backyard, to me, are the spectacular sunrises and sunsets in the desert.

The most amazing sunsets are before, or after the worst storms!

‘The Eye of God’

The thing is, all of the photos that we’ve captured, have been of sunsets, even though the sunrises can be just as spectacular!

It makes me think about Benjamin Franklin, when he sat, in physical misery, at the Constitutional Convention. He kept his mind off of his physical pain by staring at the back of a chair which was carved with a sun…..He could not tell if, in this carving, the sun was rising or setting.

I think a lot of folks these days, think that the sun is setting, on their lives, on this nation, on this world….But I do believe the best could, and will  be ahead…because with the storm, the sunset may take your breath away, but there is always a sunrise to come!

The Cottontail Club…Where great bunns like to party!

Warning: This post may be slightly offensive…. It contains a ridiculous amount of corny puns…but what else can you do when you write about bunns?

Bunns, bunns everywhere! (Rabbits, that is…)We’ve had a bit of a hop-ulation explosion in the past couple of years…. I expect the next few weeks things are really going to be hoppin’ around Todd’s Backyard. Lot’s of bunns in the oven this spring and the arrival of many new little bunn-dles of joy.

The Cottontail Club is not particularly exclusive… members only require a ‘hip-hop’ vibe. So, you may not be surprised to see quail, doves and dirt monkeys join their early morning and afternoon parties.

A pair of hares…. double trouble! (Are cottontail rabbits considered hares???)

When they’re not grazing, playing or partying, the bunns like to find a rab-bit ‘o’ shade and hunker down.

Zoe would love to join the Cottontail Club, but she certainly lacks that ‘hip-hop’ vibe.

Besides… A crazy cat in the crowd, could put a little damper in their scamper!

OK! OK! …enough! Somebunny stop me now!!

Rockin’ the hood!

I don’t know if I ever mentioned…We live on a mine! Todd’s Backyard sits on the east side of Freeport Copper and Gold. When the city decided to improve our main thorough fare, we had heaps of rock piled along side the road. It looked like piles of  brown dirty rock. Our good neighbors, George and Eileen, suggested that we take a hammer and go investigate. Armed with hammers and a wheelbarrow, we journeyed to the road, determined to uncover something amazing. We were not dissappointed!  Below the brown, mud encrusted debris, we uncovered treasure!!….

I bet there’s gold in them, thar rocks!

If not gold…beautiful color for sure!

Turquois?

Azurite?

One of these days, we are going to prospect in the wash that runs behind Todd’s Backyard! Even if we don’t find gold, Todd’s already developed a treasure above ground! But it’s always fun to find what might lie below!

The Jacktus

A little over 2 years ago, Todd’s dad Jack, passed away after a long painful bout with cancer. On the day that he died, Todd wanted to plant something in memory of Jack. There happened to be a cactus nursery, across the way, going out of business. At that point in the liquidation sale, there wasn’t much  left. Todd spotted the arm of some sort of cactus, just laying on the ground. It was about 25″ long. He got it for $25. When he brought it home, I thought that $25 may have been too much, but the nursery owner assured him it was well worth it!  So Todd cut the arm into 2 pieces, let the ends scab over and planted the top part of the arm in a pot. He left the other part laying down on it’s side in another pot. We called  it ‘The Jackuts”. Little did we know, that in about 4 months, it would put on a flowery show, more awesome than we could have imagined!

The reason we were somewhat stunned, was that the blossoms started out as little fuzzy balls.

The little fuzzles grew and grew….

Until one day, they just popped open, right at dusk!

The next morning, they shriveled up. It was just one night of glory!

We found out later that the Jacktus is an Argentinian Giant…A night blooming cactus.

The other part of the Jacktus remained laying down in another pot. Amazingly, it started to sprout cactus arms…not flowers. About 8 new little cactus grew off of that one. When they got to be about 5″ long, Todd cut them off, let them scab and replanted them. Now we have little Jacktus cactus all over!

The original Jacktus looks like this today…..2 years later….

It has 4 arms and, we counted 8 little fuzzies on it, that should blossom around June or July.

I know why the  Jacktus is so happy in Todd’s Backyard….Before Jack died, especially when he was so sick, he enjoyed sitting out on the porch and watching the wildlife and peaceful beauty. He loved Todd’s Backyard so much, and always reminded us how incredibly blessed that we were, to have such a wonderful yard! And then again, we were blessed to have such a wonderful Jack!

We miss you Jack….thank you!

Happy Hummers!

Hummingbirds can always make you happy! Unless, of course they dart into you and poke your eye out! But, luckily, that’s never happened in Todd’s Backyard!….Yet!

We have at least 6 varieties of hummingbirds through out the year. Sometimes there’s a few others that migrate through in the fall and spring. But, on any given day, there are a least 25-30 hummers. During migration season, it’s Hummingbird wars!  You have to be on your toes and literally dodge out of their way, as they chase each other around the yard, fighting for feeder time!

This is a  ‘Costa’s’ Hummer…It’s  too bad we didn’t capture this shot in better light. The dark areas on his neck are deep purple. Amazing!

This is one of our favorite little jewels…..a Broad-billed hummingbird.  A dazzling blue-green, these guys are the most easily recognizable. Some species look very similar, so we keep our hum-dentifier handbook handy!

In the spring and the fall, our hummingbird feeders look like this…all 6 of them!

Todds’ hummingbird food recipe: 1 part sugar, 4 parts water. Bring to a boil, then cool.

An ‘Anna’s’  Hummingbird- A gorgeous redhead for sure!

This is one of my favorite shots!

Violet-crowned Hummer

We still haven’ t got a great shot of a Rufus hummingbird- They are gorgeous- A fiery orange-red! They are vicious!

This is a special little hummer! She was imported from Tucson.

Trapped in a warehouse where Todd works, she spent hours of panicked frenzy trying to find the way out. Todd’s only solution, was to wet her down, so she would land. Todd could then catch her and release her back outside. The plan worked, except wetting her down put her into a hibernation mode- she was too cold! Because it was the end of the day, and the sun would soon set, Todd had no choice but to bundle her up and bring her home!

When Todd got her home, we put her on the porch in the waning sun. I kept trying to force a dropper of life-saving sugar food into her beak. Finally. her little tongue started to flicker. It took about 15 minutes of feeding and sunbathing to revive her. Suddenly, she flew up onto the nearest branch and took in her new surroundings. Immediately, several other hummingbirds swarmed around her. The little buzzing bullies tried to chase her away. But still too weak, she stood her ground. As the sun was setting, we saw her buzz off into the dusky desert.

The next morning, we were delighted to see, she was the first one on the feeder! She hung around for several days, made some friends, and possibly made here home around here. I don’t actually know if  she’s a she or a young he.  We think that it is a Broad-tailed Hummer. Slightly different than many of the other hummingbirds that frequent Todd’s Backyard.

All-in-all, it was a happy ending!

The hummingbirds in Todd’s Backyard are very willing models! We’ll have lots of shots to share in posts to come….hopefully the elusive Rufus will be featured soon!