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!

dry

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…

dry2

dry3

dry4

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….

IMG_9128

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!….

drenched1

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!”

 

 

Advertisements

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…

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees….

And the Clouds Up Above…. And a thing called Love….

I LOVE this Spring! The desert is bursting with blossoms and buzzing with activity. The unusually wet weather has made this month aMAYzing!! It usually doesn’t get this lush and green until mid July! And the Palo Verde Trees were spectacular with their brilliant canopies of yellow! I just love the Palo Verde Trees!

IMG_6256

 In fact, it’s been a monsoon-like this Spring…Just last week it built up in the afternoon. Big billowing clouds with distant rolls of thunder and a hint of rain wafting in the air. We love these kinds of days before the heat of summer has us in it’s grasp! Gotta Love it!!

clouds

Yesterday, the temperature only got up to about 73! By this time of year it’s not unusual to hit the 100 degree mark. Needless to say, the flora and fauna are flourishing with the cooler, wetter weather!  In April the Cactus started to blossom and paint the desert with their brilliant shades of magentas, oranges and yellows…

FLOWERS2

The Buckhorn Cholla. Love them prickles ‘n all!

 

FLOWERS3

 The Pencil Cactus…Love!

 And the Prickly Pear  popped with a variety of  peaches and yellows…Love, Love Love!

FLOWER5

FLOWER4

Some of the blossoms are bugged 🙂 Love…not so much!

The bounty of blossoms attract all kinds-

Even the beezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

BEES

Um…..Love them????

A few weeks ago, we were shocked to discover the mesquite tree that sits right off of our porch, had been bee-dazzled by a huge swarm! We have never seen anything like this. I didn’t even notice them until my brother-in-law pointed it out! The dogs and I had been walking around the tree and sitting right next to them for some time.  These were, most likely, killer bees…or a killer bee hybrid which, I’ve been told most bees in this area, are now. I’ve also been told that they usually only get aggressive when they’re threatened by certain noises or smells. Luckily, we didn’t buzz them off!…We must smell and sound ok?  They disappeared as suddenly as they appeared, when it warmed up in the morning…Whewwww!

I’m pretty sure that the birds that frequent that particular tree were happy to see them go as well! I noticed while the bees were there, the birds, especially the humming birds were chased away by the buzzy bee guardians.  But after their abrupt departure, the usuals came back to their favorite hangout….

BB4

The Orioles

IMG_4008

The Cardinals

100_2874

And the Humming Birds. Love them all!

But unfortunately…

IMG_3849

The dreaded Wood Pecker resumed his perch! Can’t say I love you dude!

Of course we have a huge variety of other feathered residents, but they tend to frequent some of the other trees in the yard.

We did have a different feathered visitor which we had not seen before in Todd’s Backyard….

BB1

The Grackle.

But evidently, he was not impressed with the accommodations and left…haven’t seen him again. Hey…you’re mission’ the love! Oh, well!

So, life goes on in Todd’s Backyard and we are relishing this incredible Spring with the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, and the clouds up above…And a thing called love 😉

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) 😉

Signs of Life

In the light of recent world events, it’s a good time to remember that out of bleakness comes brilliance. Renewal is one of the greatest miracles! Sometimes when looking at the bigger picture, hope appears futile. But focusing on the tiniest things, the smallest changes, can make anything seem possible!

In our little microcosm of Todd’s Backyard, we experienced the most devastating winter since we’ve lived here. Certainly not a dangerous, life changing event, but it did have significant effect on the plants and wildlife. With the advance of spring, the temperatures are warming and the days are getting a little longer. Finally we are seeing those small signs of life that will start to aleviate our winter woes.

Lantana buds are starting to peek out from under the frozen remains of last years greenery.

 

The barren branches are starting to bud. Hopefully, this summer, Todd’s kiwi (pictured above) will really take off!

And the bees are busy gathering nectar from the hummingbird feeders until the yard blossoms…

And it is blossoming!

One of the most exciting developments are the tiny fuzzy buds sprouting all over the Jactus!

We counted 13 buds…

And for anyone reading this that isn’t familiar with the Jactus, this is what we can expect in about 6 weeks….

And life goes on….

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!

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!