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…

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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) !!!

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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!

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

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

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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!)

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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.

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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…

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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!

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 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!!

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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…

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The Buckhorn Cholla. Love them prickles ‘n all!

 

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 The Pencil Cactus…Love!

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

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

The bounty of blossoms attract all kinds-

Even the beezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

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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….

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The Orioles

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The Cardinals

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And the Humming Birds. Love them all!

But unfortunately…

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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….

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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 😉

Eat, Drink, Be Merry…and Some Other Shit

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The heat is starting to prickle here in the desert. This week promises temps between 100 and 110…. aaauuugggghhh! So, it’s not surprising that the feeders, water dishes and pond are popular hangouts for the local wildlife. Every morning and late afternoon we see it all! Birds, rabbits, squirrels, javelina, lizards, bobcat, coyote, and just the other day our ‘creature from the desert hollows’ (the toad), crawled out of his hole to find refreshment. When it’s just too hot to do anything else, just eat, drink and be merry!…

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Five finches find food at the fully filled feeder.

A quail couple chow down on the ‘Peckasso’ block seeder.

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Baby buns have fun nibbling in the cool grassy place.

A red winged black bird gets photo-bombed while stuffing his face!

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Hummingbirds flirt and hover around their honey hole hangout.

This Baltimore oriel takes a sip stop on his way-back-home Northern route.

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Drink…

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This starling likes to take a sip and a dip.

The bunny takes a drink to put the hop  in his hip!

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 The hawk  takes a water break and claims his domain.

 Mr . Toad  took a sip and a dip now just waits for the rain.

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The coyote gets a cool drink, soothing and calm.

A closer look reveals…yes it is…another photo bomb!  (Silly quail!)

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And be Merry…

 

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 The javelina , you would think, might want some water to swallow. But, they would rather tip over their drink and make a nice mud wallow!

Eat, drink and be merry, then what do we do?

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Guess the only thing left…. you just gotta poo!     (Pictured above, a lovely specimen of javelina shit 😉 )

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) 😉

Temper, Temper…ature!

WTF! We just survived the hottest June in Tucson history! As a menopausal woman with hot flashes, this is NOT the ideal place for me to live in the summer!  But, regardless of the sweat drenched attempts to sit on the porch trying to enjoy some outdoor time, life in the desert goes on! Everyone and everything is just looking for a little relief, and there are those that can get a little bitchy, a little crazy and even a little tempra-mental! Take the cardinal that’s figured out if he comes and sits on the patio and screams at us long enough, he will eventually get a little refreshment…

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I’d like to think that if I sit on the porch and bitch long enough, someone will bring me a refreshing treat before I burst into flames! But, actually, I need to go into the house for a little blast of air-conditioning, get my own refreshment…perhaps an icy Tangueray and Tonic….ahhhh yes 🙂 And then I’m ready to go sit back out on the porch and sweat some more!

And after a drink… or two, with my irritability slightly extinguished, I can enjoy some summer antics happening in the yard, as the desert critters go about their business.

Now, here’s a guy that loves the heat! When nature turns up the heat, he turns up the colors! …Or wait a minute…did I just have one too many drinks? Actually, I believe his colors go crazy when he’s hot, like in a Van Haleny/ ‘hot-for-creature’ kind of way 😉

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Poor Gerti (our desert tortoise)…

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She can only dream about a ‘hot’ summer romance. No wonder she gets so grumpy!…Really! If you don’t think a tortoise can have a fit, think again! When she’s mad she stomps back into her house and won’t come out for days!

The sizzling summer heat brings out the beast in everyone! Check out these squirrels!…They literally went NUTS!

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I mean, holy crap!…You can actually see ’em 😉

Thank goodness there’s only 3 more months of this crazy hot summer!!!

It’s a Wild Life!

Well, December 21st came and went. The Mayan calendar ended, the planets aligned, 2012 is coming to a close and life is going on without any major events…Except some nice stormy and wintery weather for the Holidays! For the most part, its been a good year. Todd’s projects have yielded a lot more landscaping, a beautiful revamped pond complete with fish, an outdoor potting/work bench, a chicken coop with chicken and a large garden plot ready for planting this spring! Our little desert acre is a mental sanctuary that keeps us from dwelling on the pressure and stress of ‘real life’! We have been so blessed!

Of course, one of the things we most enjoy about living here is having all of the wildlife that we can watch from our living room or the porch! This time of year, all of the reptiles, squirrels and dirt monkeys are safely tucked away in their underground homes, sleeping the winter away. We lose some of the variety of birds, as most go south, but we still have the quail, sparrows, mourning doves, and the cardinals…

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The cardinals dot the winter landscape with their brilliant color!  (I just missed getting the 3rd bird in this shot!)

The javelina are thick and having lots of babies!

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But, the baby javelina are good eatin’ for some during the winter…

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Bob has been hanging out  a lot!

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Although, we have not seen the bobcat get a baby javelina, we have seen him get rabbits! Quite gruesome!  I think the coyotes are more interested in the baby javies than the bobcats! (This next year I hope to get a photo of a coyote..the only pic that I don’t have!) We rarely see coyotes during the day, but almost always hear them at night, yipping and yelping! The other night Todd ran outside because we thought they might be trying to get into the chicken coop! Since then, Todd has put lots of reinforcements on the coop to prevent that from ever happening! I think the coyotes and bobcats have been a major contributor to the dwindling rabbit population! Now, we are lucky to see just one or two bunnies at a time!

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Awww…One bun’s just no fun!

So we decided to get a couple of our own!

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Meet C-Lo (Carrot LOver) and Odie

They are living happily inside,  and hopefully, we might train them to be good house rabbits (i.e. to use a litter box). We got a big portable  pen to put on the porch so they can go out and run around a bit. It’s a riot watching them running and hopping around! They are little hip hoppers! We can’t leave them unsupervised for a moment though.

Fresh buns  would be delightful delicacy for this guy…

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More than once, Mr. Hawkins has flown under the porch to check out our other possible menu items…

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Like Feline ala Furreir

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Or perhaps just a plain hot dog!

The only other possible pickings we had to offer was Petite Puggle…but I believe that she is no longer on Mr. Hawkin’s  menu…

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But Daisy had better watch out! Plump puggle would be a lovely dinner for Coyotes!

Beaugliful!

Last Sunday, the first day of the new year, I sat on the porch trying to get inspired. For some reason, I’m just not that into 2012. Not just because it’s supposed to mark the end of the world on the Aztec calendar (in fact, the big New Year’s Eve party in Tucson was called Aztec Apocalypse) which in itself, is not a very optimistic celebratory title.

I had to shake my malaise, so I grabbed the camera and headed out to explore the backyard, thinking that I could capture that New Year’s Cheer in some beautiful photos. I had missed the New Year’s Eve excitement the night before, going to bed at 9:30 pm, trying to stay awake watching Dick Clark’s New Years Bash, or whatever the hell it was. I had to give it up when they started extolling the virtues the occupy Wall street idiots….Gag! Yeah, that’s great….let’s encourage self pity and class warfare…that’ll surely bring great things this year!

So…anyway… on New Year’s day, I thought I would just occupy Todd’s Backyard and be happy! But, as I scanned the yard, looking for some lovely photo ops, I was having a hard time. The winter blahs have started to ‘brown out’ the lush greenery of Summer/Fall past. And many of the critters are hibernating or gone for the Winter….Ok, a little self pity here…

 I was however, a bit startled when focusing on said dreariness, there was something beautiful here!

I continued my photographic exploration…

I was discovering very interesting,  almost otherworldly  scenes through the lens of the camera! A kind of beautiful ugliness, if you will.

My imagination started to kick in, my spirits lifted!

The moon among the rocks?

A coyote head in the cholla bones?

A rock garden atop a weathered table!

I was on a roll…then I smelled him…

I turned around, and of course, what could be more thrilling than a javelina snuffling among the garden sculptures…

And the aroma!….Immediatly  brought me back to thoughts of the ‘occupied’ people….Aaauuurrrrrggh!

Ok, snap out of it!

Life is good!

Be Happy!….Beaugliful!