Monday, December 7, 2009

Surprising neighbors -- Cranes!

Gloria spotted them at the open space a mile or so from our house. When I mentioned it to Julia at work, she said, "Oh sure. They over-winter there!!" Gee, thought I, where have I been?! --You don't have to drive all the way to Socorro? Who knew?!

It was windy and freezing cold. We snapped a few pictures, but the birds keep their distance (pretty consistently ~50') and our point-and-shoot equipment quickly revealed their disappointing limitations, but this will give you an idea. (Click to see the full-size image.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Winter storm sweeps in

Where is Cheyenne? They are getting dumped on... Had a bazillion accidents and finally gave up and closed the interstates. >Slow moving winter storm dumps on the west. ABQ is staying warm enough for it not to be a problem. Probably Santa Fe is dicier.
This site lists Sept 26th as a common 1st frost date for Albuquerque, NM.
5/25 for last frost in the spring.
Taken from: "Climatography of the U.S. No. 20, Supplement No. 1", 1988, National Climatic Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

If these dates are still roughly accurate, then I guess I can't complain about last week's killing frosts.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yard and Garden update

Rain - To remind myself, it rained hard (Oct 7th) Then again last week--the 20th and 21st. (Where to find stats re annual rainfall? Local temperature history? First day of frost.) Filled up the new rain barrel, then we didn't think to drain it so we were not able to collect any of the gold that came pouring down 2 weeks later.

Fall Garden - the peas are darling. The rest of the crops are trucking along too. (photos?) In general though, I've had a hard time getting motivated to take pictures. Plants dying back, shrinking, turning brown. On one hand, I'm tired and welcome a winter rest (to maybe putz and nest indoors). On the other, it's painful to part. The leaves are either gold or gone on the red bud. The wysteria has shed most of its leaves. The sunflowers and sunchokes are gangly brown skeletons.

Straw and Firewood - we got 2 loads (10 bales) of straw and some more frost cloth. And half a cord of seasoned mixed hardwood. (Hal made a fire while we were gone because the heater isn't on yet and it was 64-degrees in the house.) So that was the first fire at our address this fall; G built one Saturday morning. Very nice.

Dark in the mornings - Until it's time to drive to work, at which point the sun turns all its fury on anyone driving east. That dangerous time of year. Several clear days where the new moon is a wisp against unbroken blue. The sky so far away. The cottonwoods along the ditch are roughly at their peak: huge shirring masses of
goldenrod and yellow. A have either heard or spotted a few cranes and Canadian geese overhead. Hummers are gone. Birds on the move. Wonder if the hawks are going over too?

Goal - giving Aldo Leopold another chance.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hard Frost - Sept 30th & Garlic in!

Note: Last week we had a cold snap. G and I were not paying very close attention. It was cold enough either Tuesday or Wednesday night to kill everything but the chard and the leeks in the garden, burned the sweet potato vines and green pole beans badly. Duh. Tomatoes in the raised bed and along the front west wall seem to have been sheltered a bit more. They made it through okay. Gloria talked to some other ABQ folks via the internet--north valley was the only place it really hit. Everyone else in town was spared. Just takes a few degrees either way, right?

Note: Soft-necked garlic cloves came the end of last week, so we planted those in the fall garden bed Sunday afternoon. Then put in the rest of the daffodil bulbs. Had to replant half a dozen along the west side because a critter (Ruby?) dug them up. We unrolled some chicken wire over them this time. G also put in a second planting of Wando peas, and we laced up some string for them to climb on. It looks very official! As always, 'There's a lot of hope out there....'

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mystery Guest

Wasps? Early Sunday evening (not quite dusk) I went out to pick some basil for a meal of tomatoes and buffalo cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I stopped to admire the leek blossoms (aka seed heads), and spied this amorous couple. I ran back in for my camera. The light was a little low, and my hand wasn't very steady, but you get the idea. What are they?

One last Hollyhock:

A late bloomer. Quietly, over against the west wall, face down, hiding modestly in the leaves... some lovely blossoms the color of pink grapefruit. I held back the foliage to get a good look at them.


The hard-necked garlic came, but isn't in yet. Soft-necks backordered still. Laura, formerly of Plants of the Southwest, shrugged. As long as you get them in by October you're fine. (Early? Middle? End?)

This variety is named "Music Pink" - Hmm...


I thought all of the roughly 6 or 8 carnation plants had bloomed, but this past weekend noticed a delicate baby pink one. That's pretty impressive since Gloria's tiny little summer savory exploded into a very handsome small bush and has all but crowded them out for the last month or so.

Spider Who are You?

Spider: Recently we spotted a striking, unfamiliar spider in the sprawling summer savory. Messy web-configuration. Black and yellow with bits of chartreuse. Seems to be harvesting the bees who have recently been attracted by same. At last count, there were two little mummies dangling in her open-air larder.

Equinox whooshing past...

Sleepwalking into the new season:
I don't think anyone even mentioned that it was the equinox. Nobody said, "Happy First Day of Fall!" That seems sad and just plain wrong. Another small danger beacon flashing, a warning that humans in the wealthy industrialized nations are rapidly losing their connections to the planet.

Equinox. I have to look up the images every time, to picture what is happening--distressing since I took a year of astronomy as a freshman. I can picture the cover of the textbook. And remember thinking it was amazing. It has to do with the earth being tilted on its axis, then rotating in a long orbit around the sun right? [Add photo] So we have two days a year when it beats directly on the equator. Equal day and night. And with it, the start of a new season: longer days in for South America and Australia and most of Africa, shorter ones for Iceland and North America, Europe, Russia, Asia. [What is the distribution of folk living above and below the equator? Are we "top-heavy"?]

Equal day and night: I didn't feel very balanced. But I continue feeling intoxicated by the weather, and by all the drama just outside our front door.

The list of observations/ developments/ adventures
over the last 10 is as long as ever...

Weeds - suddenly, everywhere I look the ground is covered with an unseasonable spring green haze: the wild mustard is making a break for it. [Not pictured. I can't bear to record the onslaught...]

Praying Mantises
- At Linda and Teresa's the other night, they spotted a female praying mantis locked in mortal combat with a hefty, olive-brown grasshopper. Yeesh. Godzilla vs. King Kong in slow motion and in miniature. Hard to know who to cheer for... Eventually, Ms Mantis was able to bite through a chink in Mr. Grasshopper's neck armor. It was pretty grisly. We were hungry, so we stopped watching and retreated back into the house. [Is that ironic? Her attempt at a meal made me squeamish, mine seemed "normal"? Another reminder re. why I have been a vegetarian for so many years.]
Re. our Mating Pair, we have been keeping an eye out, hoping to spot the egg case. We found several videos on YouTube, of egg cases and the youngsters hatching. Amazing. [Find links and post them]. I'm not sure we pursued the topic thoroughly enough to find out roughly how long the interval might be between insemination/ fertilization and egg-laying, or between egg-laying and hatching, or what kinds of plants they prefer for depositing the egg case.

Ristra - G made a cute little ristra out of her red chilis. Very handsome. (Hey, that looks like the real thing!)

The uranium enriched sweet potato: we cut and ate it in a curry Friday night. It was 'like the real thing' too! grin. What else is under there?! The literature says to wait until after the first frost kills the vines. (We are sitting on our hands, I'll tell you that.) Gloria is already talking about trying some white potatoes next year.

Planting Bulbs:
Our big effort this past weekend was planting daffodils and small irises Sunday afternoon. G bought a big bag of each at the budget box store... so 80 irises, 90 daffies. Planted all the irises, and 2/3rds of the daffies. "There's a lot of hope out there..."

Gloria's fall bed: She thinks these are broccoli and cauliflower babies. I laid down on the ground next to them to take their picture. There are so many different vantage points in this life, aren't there?

Raised bed: Sunday afternoon G chopped out the yellow pear plant. It was looking wilty. Hard to believe that the entire bed was completely buried by just 2 plants! The Mexican midget variety (little cherry reds) still left takes up 2/3rd by itself. On the whole, we have felt overwhelmed by our tomato friends this season. But, note to self, they are less intimidating if given plenty of room. We had a couple of volunteers from my blue tub urban tomatoes of last season. They came along 6 weeks later than TJohansen's 'hothouse' wonders. We stuck these mystery plants in the ground near the west wall and more or less ignored them. They ended up being a weird yellow pear/ cherry mix--waxy yellow and round, and very tasty. Another note to self: none of our cages were big or sturdy enough. I put stakes and rope in this weekend, to help these guys stand back up. [One last photo--the coxcomb--is something of a non sequitur. Just didn't know where to put it this week. But couldn't leave it out. We continue to gape at it... it is such a strange, lush, exotic being--we'll give it 'the last word...']

Thursday, September 17, 2009

60 gallons plus!

We bought ourselves a water harvesting barrel... a real luxury. And as these things go, I figured we had missed monsoon season--that it wouldn't really be of use until 2010. But starting last night, and continuing today, we have been getting rain/rain/rain! Glorious rain. Surprising rain. Rain and clouds -- the penultimate contrast to every other day. Puddles?! Mudholes. Slickers. Spring-loaded umbrellas. Windshield wipers slapping. Hair curling humidity. Yummm! My desert rat girlfriend had nightmares... she was trying to find travel crates for our pets and load everyone into a canoe to escape the flood. Can you see four cats and 2 dogs bobbing along, not tipping the craft?!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ancient Human Activities: harvesting fruit, dancing and making art

Picked raspberries at Heidi's Raspberry Farm today!

Then went downtown to Robinson Park to see the gigantic puppet parade. We Art the People. Off Center Arts. Wish I had taken some pictures, but I was too excited by the whole experience to be bothered with snapping.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mating Mantis Mania

Over Labor Day Weekend, while watering, Gloria spotted a praying mantis in the butterfly bush. She called for me to come quickly. And as we looked more carefully and chased it around with various cameras, we gradually realized this was a female carrying her sex partner on her back--copulating. Their sexual liaison bordered on grotesque, since the male had inserted a section of his entire abdomen into hers. Coitus with a fire hose. This reminded us of the Green Porn video short (didn't she say the female sometimes eats the male afterwards?!)

It turns out their joining was not particularly hurried. We continued to check on them (and they--in roughly the same position) for more than an hour before we lost interest. In the meanwhile, I spotted a second individual on the same bush. Another green (the 2nd photo here). Are the sexes color coded? Was this second mantis a jealous male? A juvenile bothering mom at an inopportune time? A female hoping to catch some action after big Bertha was satisfied?

And if we were seeing copulation, what might happen next? Will she lay eggs? Where? When? (How might we recognize them?) And roughly what is their life span?

Hummingbirds. Dirty Dishes.

Early in the summer [what date?], we put up a hummingbird feeder under the trees along the front of the house. We lamented that there were only a couple of birds who condescended to come by... then late in the summer when the band from Mexico came north, there was a lot more activity, including lots of aerial dog-fighting.

Last week, G found that feeders were in the summer sale pile at the home fix-it store, so she got a second one. It is terribly cute--looks like a flying saucer. She hung it right outside the kitchen window. It has been very popular, almost from the moment she put it up. Though they hover and stare in the window. They aren't sure they trust us... they hover in this oddly confrontational fashion, tail/rudders flipping side to side. As much as I have enjoyed the first feeder, this kitchen window viewing platform is fabulous! You can even spot them from our little dining room table sometimes (across the room).

I will try to get a photo showing these flitting fairy wonders before they all start winging south. Linda and Teresa, who live closer to the university, have had scores and scores of hummers all summer. Over dinner last night, they said they thought the numbers had dwindled noticeably. They also think that they are now seeing transients. Shy skittish birds stopping off for a quick bite on their journey. Linda saw her first specimen with a black hood. The same variety who was our only regular customer in north valley for most of the summer. Before the Mexican Reds blasted into town (late July? early August?). Anecdotal evidence on all of our parts of course. But interesting.

Color and spice

Status update: The Carnations
Wonder how long it has been from seed to splendor? The carnation starts Linda gave me in Dixie cups at the start of the summer are now at their lovely, pungent peak! Sprays of red, salmon pink and cream.

Plant them here/ plant them there...
They have done much better in the pot than their sisters in the flower bed behind them. Those were smaller and slower to bloom, though a week or so ago we had the first--a white. I have been a little bit disappointed in that the individual blooms don't last very long, and the stems tend to droop down, making it harder to admire the blossoms. That being said, I am enjoying them mightily.

Sweet Potatoes

Oh Yummy Onions!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Misc Images Aug 10-22 2009

Here's a photo dump from August 10-22--since I've fallen behind the last two weeks and the GARDEN keeps going! **It rained past our 10-bucket "gauge" capacity last Sunday night, then a little more Monday and a few drops last night--Thursday. Always feels like a godsend. The dogs like drinking out of the rain buckets... guess they like the taste, the novelty and 'at their age' not having to bend down. (grin)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ides of August - part two

G started to create a new fall bed in one spot, then realized as she spent time in that patch of the yard, that as the arc of the sun sags, the house will blot out the afternoon rays. After pacing and considering, she began again. Hard labor—by hand, a total of two feet down—one shovel full at a time. She is preparing the fall plot according to the instructions in a new book she bought a week or so ago. She was engrossed by it from the day she brought it home, but by day two or three she was in a real snit. He’s challenging all my beliefs and assumptions, she fumed. I was pretty startled. She’s one of the most sweet-tempered people I know. She was curt and snappy. “So where is he from?” I asked.

I’m guessing this is a big undertaking, that we won’t end up with much because the bed won’t be ready to plant in a timely way (i.e. now, and no later than the next two weeks). “Double-digging”

Lizard – oops.
She was very sad; said she accidentally killed one of our many chubby lizards as she rolled up the fencing from around the new patch of grass on the west side. It somehow got tangled and mangled. I didn’t ask for details. I tried to soften the blow by saying that we’ve been keeping the cat in—so that has to have made the yard a bit less perilous. With all our new plantings and watering, there must be more hunting ground and more insect prey. But then I wonder what I really know about them.

Up Front by the trash bin & the mail box
Crape Myrtle day two. That frustrating ash that keeps dying back to the ground: maybe the third time is the charm? Several weeks ago (a month? 6 weeks?! egads) we started a new bed up front… in hideous soil, with mystery plants Linda dug out of her yard to make way for a driveway. (We think one bit of twigs could be a Chamisa? a more robust small thing with tiny purple flowers might be something commonly referred to as Bluebeard, and a young, good-spirited clump of spurge.) With a few random stones to line out the area, a couple of handfuls of gravel scrounged from somewhere. Ratty. Half-hearted. But G has watered the sad little spot from time to time & I’ll be darned if they aren’t hanging on. Saturday I stuck in some of our 9 thousand Walking Onion babies. May not be well-drained enough for them. G frowned at my efforts. I did not exude the confidence of someone who had used enough compost. We added 3 decorative rocks, more edging stones and several quarts of gravel. It actually looks like of sweet. Tamed. Hopeful.

The new crape myrtle. (Need to research them...)

What’s Hot and What’s Not:
This past week, I was sorry to see that the landscaping crew had hacked down several lovely huge old Junipers (the size of 3 VW beetles). How old were they? How old do they live? I have been musing, based on some older neighborhoods around the university, that junipers were in fashion in the early 60s. I hated to see them go. Seems wasteful and mean. But I didn’t intend to go on a pro-old Juniper rant. (Pollen Factories? The males but not the females? Seems like I heard that somewhere). My observation was about Fashion in landscaping: what they put into the bald spot, startling me this afternoon on my walk back to the parking lot, were Crape Myrtles! Now I’m thinking that my recent awareness of them has more to do with marketing and product placement than with any intrinsic merit on their drought-tolerant profusely blooming qualities. As I pay more attention, they seem to suddenly be everywhere!

The carnation report:
A single maroon one this evening. Such a spicy peppery fabulous smell. Who knew? Sad to say that they seem to be short-lived. Nearby, the summer savory has exploded. I swear it has doubled since I last considered it—a heroic sprint to the seasonal finish line like the lemon verbena. The red thingies… oh come on, big cut flower dudes—white pink and red. The blossoms keep growing after they open. Unbelievable!

At the Feeder:
Surprise. Last evening, fuming after a bad day at work, sipping a very palatable Cabernet, I suddenly realized I was looking at a red-headed woodpecker! The feeder G bought a few weeks back and hung under the middle apple tree was designed for woodpeckers; poof. We suddenly manifested one! What a surprise!

Realized tonight, apropos of nothing, that I haven’t heard our phone pole Grackle in a long time. ?! Was it a male who got lazy after the young were fledged? When he could let down his feathers about defending territory? Or did they head north to escape the heat? Surely a neighborhood doesn’t suddenly lose a Grackle family?!

Note to self:
?! A couple of weeks ago now, the chicks and hens began sending out strange thick phallic shoots... it turns out they are covered with tiny blossoms. I meant to photograph them last weekend and then got distracted.

Finally photographed them 8/22. First week of classes delayed posting photos. [And that is an understatement! grin] Here they are... wild huh?