Little Things

I got up this morning and went out to the porch with coffee and camera in hand, looking for something spectacular to document for a new blog. But, in the glow of the rising desert sun, it was the little things that caught my eye….The shadows that are changing with the coming of fall, little bursts of colors I hadn’t noticed before, spiderwebs glinting in the morning sunlight…

Even the dried and shriveled remnants of summer splendor have sustained a kind of delicate beauty that needed to be captured on camera.

Hackberry bushes, bursting with berries made a new colorful backdrop for even the most common of subjects.

And shadows highlighted the unique desert landscape, creating eye catching sculptures.

It was a beautiful little surprise that landed right in my camera sites, that confirmed a sense of wonder in the unexpected treasures that I stumbled upon…wandering around Todd’s Backyard this lovely Sunday morning.  It’s these little things that keep me focused on living one day at a time. Thank you God, for the little things!

Becoming a Bird Nerd!

I always thought birdwatching was basically….for the birds! (or nerds…) I could never imagine getting an adrenaline rush at the sight of some rare feathered foul. I always imagine a group of camouflaged kooks with their binoculars, handbooks and journals, wandering through the woods looking for the elusive Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Well, we’ve got binocs….we’ve got handbooks….

But, we don’t have to trudge around the woods, (or in our case, desert) to go find a plethora of winged wonders.  Our porch provides very comfortable accommodations for birdwatching…A nice chair, a refreshing cocktail, a fridge with more cocktails, the camera and a handy field guide to bird identification…how could it not become a fun and interesting hobby!  We’ve captured some really cool pics in the process…Here’s a bit of our bird gallery….

Cactus Wren


Hooded Oriole


Gila Woodpecker


Curve-Billed Thrasher


Phainopepla (not related to a Cardinal)


Northern Cardinal and a Pyrrhuloxia (Cousins)


Rose Finch

Gold Finch

This is just a small sample of the variety of birds we get in Todd’s Backyard. This does not include: Hummingbirds, Quail, Sparrows, Doves, Pigeons, Blackbirds, Cowbirds, Warblers, Owls, Hawks, Thrushes, Verdin, Shrikes, Flycatchers, Crows, Vultures…I could keep going!  We live on a migration route, so at anytime during the year, we can see almost any kind of bird! I just have to include this last photo, even though it’s not very clear….

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

We think….or perhaps we just had too much to drink!!

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!

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!

Working for This Weekend…

The big Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Time to relax and enjoy….for some! For the rest of us, life goes on as usual. Just trying to survive and thrive!

One of the big events witnessed this week was the ‘bunny birthing’. The rabbit laying down is actually squatting over a burrow she dug out only minutes before. It took a few moments for us to realize that she was actually giving birth.  Her boyfriend in attendance, as well as a local quail family. We saw her digging furiously before she went into baby mode. I don’t know if you could call it labor…it only took about 5 minutes max. We knew it was over when she bent down and started licking, licking, licking, then was chased off the nest by about 5 other males ready to make more babies!

Then there’s all the little baby dirt monkey’s learning the ‘ropes’ of gropes….

Precariously perched to pluck his meager mesquite salad from the tree!

Hard worker award of the week may have to go to the parents of the quail ‘mega’ bunch. They have herded and protected this massive bunch of babies (We’ve counted over 25!) for over a week. Kind of funny though, the babies seem to be in charge, dragging the poor parents all over the yard.

Then there’s Mr. Don Iguana….well, he’s not an iguana, but at least, almost as big!  We watched him getting all puffed up and chase the local lizard ladies. Whew…Watching all the futile reptile seduction was …well….funny!

The  many cactus wrens  spend hours picking and pecking for any grub they can find, anywhere they can find it! They wrender themselves useful, by spending hours on the porch eating all of the bugs!

Maybe the one working hardest for the weekend?….

Baily earns his keep, lapping up all the attention he can get!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend! And thanks to those who have given their lives in defense of the freedoms and blessings we hold so dear!

Oh…For Heaven’s Snake!!

As we relaxed on the porch last Sunday, a friendly bull snake decided to come hang out with us. He likes to come up and cool off under our outdoor beer fridge. We discovered him there last fall. Todd  had spotted his little tongue flicking from under the fridge when he went to grab a beer. We thought at first, it might have been a rattler, but after Todd stood on the counter and pulled the refrigerator out from the wall, we concluded that it was not.

Mr. Snake comes to  his ‘cool’ hideout on a regular basis, but he’s a little shy about approaching when we’re sitting on the porch.

Sunday afternoon, we first spotted the sneaky snake making his approach from under the mesquite tree on the side of the porch.

When he saw us watching, he got a little shy…

So he finds an inconspicuous spot to observe and wait for the perfect timing to make his approach.

The minute we went inside the house, here he comes. Straight to his favorite spot. After he made himself comfortable under the outdoor fridge,  we resumed our outdoor- porch-pre-dinner-Sunday afternoon- social with friends and family. Everyone was a little hesitant though, to get their refreshments out of the fridge…

‘Cause Mr. Snake wanted to be the  bartender!

Barking Up the Wrong Tree!

Humph… Things aren’t always what I imagine! I had always believed that Todd’s Backyard was an ancient cactus forest full of prehistoric plants holding the secrets of the distant past.

Perhaps this massive cholla helped sustain the Hohokum Indians that made their homes here.

Maybe this giant pencil cactus saw the Spanish Conquistadors and missionaries crossing the desert here hundred’s of years ago…. Or,  more recently, it could have been a movie prop in some of the old 4o’s Westerns that were filmed in this area (check out the ‘Westerner’ with Gary Cooper….or it could have been another actor, can’t recall off hand). It was filmed, possibly, right on these grounds!

Most of the cactus in Todd’s backyard are varieties of prickly pear, and cholla. They grow more like trees…with knarly, barky trunks- certainly, a sign of extreme age!

My bubble was burst last Friday, after talking to a botanist at the Desert Museum.

I learned that I AM OLDER than these barky, prickly,  scarred old plants! Ugh! Here I hoped I would have a fantastic tale of ancient history to weave into a great post….But I did get this out of it….

I may be old, knarly and prickly, and have a bit of my own ancient history. But like the cactus, I still have a little blooming left to do!

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!!