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!

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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!

Water Works and Sky Lights

A season to feed the soul…

The monsoons finally got whipped up about 2 week ago, bringing with them dramatic displays of nature and a refreshing break from the heat. This promises to be a pretty good season, Todd’s rain gauge has already documented almost 2 inches.

We love this rainy season! Even when all the patio furniture gets water-logged before we can pull it up under the porch. You can’t get enough…The smell of fresh, moist earth after the rain. The cool mist that brings the temps down about 20 degrees…at least for a brief time. The plants getting fat and lush. The toads invading the yard (mmm… ok, it can live with that)… But most of all, we love the monsoon season because it provides a veritable feast of photo ops!

When the storms start brewing, the cloud formations can make you feel like you’re in heaven on earth!

These views never get old!

It’s quite exciting to see the washes running. There are many washes that run through Todd’s Backyard, the largest runs along the back perimeter.

This is what it looks like normally.

But, when we get a good storm it quickly turns into a raging torrent…

After the rain starts pouring, it only takes a few minutes for the water to get to this point. Then as quickly as the wash fills, it empties, when the rain stops.  When we get a ‘hell-bent’ storm, as Todd likes to call them, the first thing we do, is go run out in the rain and watch the wash run!

Ahhh, and the lightning… another spectacular feature of these temporary tempests!

Unfortunately, we don’t have the best camera for capturing nature’s fireworks. But, we did get this shot of the view from the top of Todd’s shed…would have been perfect, if it hadn’t been so blurry…still kind of cool!

And, of course the rainbows are plentiful!

But, we still haven’t found a pot of gold. Still looking though!

We only have about 2 months left of monsoon mania…

Can’t wait to see the mouth-watering visual vittles this season will serve up!

Todd’s Little Helper

We had a surprise visitor with us for a couple of days last week…Todd’s 3 year old niece Ariel! She came down with her dad (Todd’s brother, Spike), who needed to recover in a peaceful place, after having his tonsils out. OUCH! Under the circumstances, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise…. Spike didn’t have much fun, but Ariel did!

She happily followed Todd around helping him, as he did the daily ‘yard chores’….Watering plants, feeding the birds, cleaning the pond, filling the dirtmonkey holes, shooing away the road runners and cow birds, cleaning up dog poop, etc.

Ariel loved every minute! Just like a Disney princess, all the birds and other desert creatures welcomed her into their happy home!

Ariel got to spend a little  time with one of our favorite residents, Jairy….an experience, I’m sure, she will not soon forget!

Todd’s ready to sign her on for permanent yard duty….but he’ll probably have to wait until she’s old enough not to be sleeping on the job!

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!