Meet the Varmints- Episode 1- Rocky

Todd’s Backyard is filled with an assortment of furry little creatures….Varmints, if you will. In fact, we seem to have created a varmint paradise. Supplying a plentiful bounty for our birds, of course invites these little bastards. But, they keep the hawks, snakes, bobcats and coyotes fat and happy around here! You could call it Todd’s  Backyard Wildlife Diner!

Now, ‘Diner’ really fits since we got our new little Bird Photo Booth (www.birdphotobooth.com)- a feeder that is attached to a motion activated camera! We decided to introduce the contraption to the ground dwellers, as they might provide some entertainment before the jaws of nature snap them up.

The first varmint that decided to check it out was our resident rock squirrel, as we so dubbed him Rocky. Not totally original, but fitting….

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He figured out quite quickly, this was pretty cool…

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As did a few others.

Rocky got a nice dinner and gave us some great mug shots…

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

This photo is taken by AllWinner's v3-sdv

 

And that, my friends is Rocky!

 

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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…

Rocks of Ages

It’s a new year!

And Todd’s Backyard?….It’s still here!

Kinda like sands through the hour glass, (wink, wink 😉 , a little tribute to my mom’s favorite soap opera),  the days of our lives keep on sifting and shifting.  2015 was a little rocky. But, I guess somehow getting rough and tumbled now and then, can really ‘polish’ your perspective on life!! 2016 promises to be the beginning of a dazzling new year. And one of my many New Year’s resolutions is to start blogging again on a regular basis! So, it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll…

In the Sonaran Desert, rocks are, as you might suspect, plentiful! River rocks are a main staple in a lot of the landscaping in these parts. You will see many yards with dry rock river beds running through their property. In our case, Todd built this one that runs right off of our back porch which lines a natural wash. So, when it rains, it turns into a lovely little babbling brook! With El Nino visiting this year, it’s been running quite a bit!

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 Todd has used a lot of river rock in his landscaping, but, we have been lucky to embellish the yard with the natural rock we find right in our own yard!   We just happen to live a stone’s throw from the base of a large copper mine! So we’ve created a few little rock gardens to show off and display the rich mineral colors that are the trademark of the South West…

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Azurite, malachite, chalocite, antite, chalcopyrite, this-ite and that-ite…We totally dig living in the ‘ite’deal location for rock fans like us!! Several years ago, the town of Sahuarita redid the main street at the end of our block,  which runs close to the mine. They dug up tons rock filled with glistening crystals and vibrant colors, leaving the piles on the side of the road! So, we took our wheelbarrow and a pick and traveled down the street to do a little ‘mining’ ourselves….

Not only did we find some lovely colors, we were most happy to find some gorgeously quartz laced rock…

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Alas, we found no gold, silver or copper 😉 But the crystals were a nice addition to Todd’s Backyard landscape!

 My interest in rocks actually goes way back! Back to the prehistoric era that was my childhood! I attribute my appreciation for rocks, to my mom. When I was 4 years old, she took me rock hunting on the shores of Flathead lake, where she grew up. It was there and then that I discovered some varieties of rocks that tickled my imagination….Like flint (the material that the indians used to make their arrowheads). Petrified wood (which looked just like wood but it was a rock!)  And best of all, agates! These beautiful rocks that are transparent  and glow with colors when you hold them up to the light! All of these rocks were special, magical…they were treasures that could be found right on the ground!  By age 10, my entire room was filled with rocks! Rocks that I had either found, or bought from rock shops on our many family vacations. I learned all the names and knew all the scientific facts of each specimen- My dream was to become a geologist! But years later, that bubble burst  when I found out that the mastery of math was involved in such scientific endeavors.  ;p

 I never stopped loving rocks. Inevitably, my eyes always go to the ground when I’m out in places where the prospects for finding a rocky treasure might be good!  Once a rock hound, always a rock hound! Years ago I passed on the best of my childhood rock collection to my nephew when he was younger. However, I held onto and still have, many of the rocks from my childhood. Todd and I have  given them a special home in Todd’s  Backyard….

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There they sit, around the base of our chimenea mixed with other rocks that Todd and I have collected in the later years of our lives together. I don’t remember the names of many of them, but I remember many of the stories behind them….

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Pictured above was one of the very first rocks I ever found, back on the shores of Flathead lake. Mom called it flint, but I believe most rock experts call it jasper. I always imagined the indians chipping away at it to make their arrow heads! We also found many arrow heads on those same shores!

 Now displayed where Todd and I can enjoy them everyday, these rocks create their own kind of magic and artistic inspiration, especially when viewed in a different perspective…

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Close up, they can be appreciated for the exquisite artwork, only God can create!

Although I have aged and my mother is gone, these treasured rocks will remain ageless and will live on through the ages, holding within them all of the dreams once held by the little girl I once was.  And holding all of the memories of the woman that has found  some of her greatest treasures in Todd’s Backyard!

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I’ve taken some of these photo images and created products that are available on Todd’s Backyard Zazzle Shop:

Grey Granite and Quartz Mug
Grey Granite and Quartz Mug by ToddsBackyard
Check out Rock Mugs online at zazzle
Turquoise Treasure Pillow
Turquoise Treasure Pillow by ToddsBackyard
Browse Zazzle for a different throw pillow.

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 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!

Peek-a-Bob

A bobcat seems to have made himself comfortable in Todd’s Backyard, apparently with the abundance of fattened (feathered and furry) food sources! We have seen him passing through the yard now and then, over the past year or so. But, this past week, we have caught him on several occasions, catnapping under the cactus in the late afternoons!

Todd saw him first, a few days ago.  Excitedly, he pointed out to me, the big cat’s location. I grabbed the camera and went out to investigate….but I was having a hard time spotting him….I kept focusing on the specific area where Todd swore he could see it!

Then, finally…I realized I was looking at badass cat ass!

Having picked out his position, I was able to get some pretty good pics!

Peek-a-boo, I do see you! It is so amazing how he blends into the desert!

Bob must have felt pretty confident in his blending ability, because, he saw me snapping photos.

Undisturbed, he just continued to lounge.

He even posed for the camera with a purrrfect pussycat grin. He stuck around for about 1/2 an hour, then sauntered away, going on to do whatever bobcats do when they are not snoozing or snacking.

The next day, around the same time, we spotted him lounging again…this time in a different locale…

 Just off of the porch by the hot tub. ( Yes,we do keep our pets in, when Bob’s out!)

Again, he stayed and napped for about 1/2 hour before moving on.

So, yesterday, as we sat on the porch enjoying our Friday afternoon cocktails, we  were hoping we might see him again…and we did! Back in his cactus hideaway, by the wash, beyond Todd’s grill.

Bob naps, enjoying the late afternoon sun!

Feeling as if we had found ourselves in a desert wildlife sanctuary, it got even better! Our javelina friend, Jairy, decided to visit! ….Uh oh…do bobcats eat javelinas? We really hoped that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to find out!

I thought about grabbing my video camera in case we were to witness a little tumble and rumble in the desert. But, as the drama unfolded, there was no drama..whew!

After Bob moved on, I took the opportunity to ask Jairy what might happen if he ever bumped into Bob in the future…

His reply…”Bob don’t be messin’ wid this stink ass bitch!”

Oh…Ok….whatever!

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!