Drought Victim

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I’m continually beguiled by the contorted and very sculptural shapes of the long-dead chunks of mesquite and acacia which I gather this time of year, as the nights and mornings become chill and the moderate Southeast Arizona winter sets in.

These weathered and twisted pieces of wood are legacies of a prolonged drought. They are mere schemata, all but the fibrous cellulose soul having been eroded to dust by years of much sun and little rain.

Yesterday I picked up a three-foot-long stick of mesquite. It was too long for the wood-stove so I sawed it in half. I examined the cut end of one of the halves. The newly-revealed growth rings I saw on the orange-brown surface were very narrow and closely space, mute testimony of slow growth in a harsh and rocky environment. The stick was two inches in diameter and I counted fifty growth rings. I roughly estimate that the branch had been dead for at least twenty years. Let’s say that the mesquite branch died in 1996. That branch might have shot out from a bud just after World War Two, several years before I was born.

Of course the numbers I came up with are conjectural, mere guesswork, but plus or minus five years they are probably close to the truth. 1996, the year I’m guessing the parent mesquite clump died, was near the middle of the prolonged drought which afflicted this county during the last two decades of the 20th century and which continued for a few years into this millennium. Judging by the sheer quantity of dead wood which litters the stony ground in my neighborhood, there must have been a mass die-off of scrubby trees as a result of that drought. This area must have looked quite desolate twenty years ago. Some would say that it still looks that way!

More Russian Kale Dialogue

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“Hey, here comes that guy that waters us. I could use a good root-soaking!”

“I’m kinda wondering about that guy, truth to tell. Look what he’s doing over in that carrot bed!”

“Shit, he’s pulling up half of the plants! What’s got into him?”

“Y’know, I saw a documentary about plantopathic gardeners. They get some sort of sick thrill from pulling up plants, plants just like us, by their roots! It could be that Larry is a serial thinner!”

“Oh, no, here he comes!”

“Hey guys, I gotta do this, but it’s for your own good. You are growing too thickly. Some of ya have to go! I should tell you that most of you are destined to be eaten by humans.”

“Oh, Larry, is that why you planted us? I thought it was just because you like plants! All of my illusions are being shattered!”

I’ll omit a description of the sad carnage which followed this exchange! Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

Larry

Up On Juniper Flats Again

This morning I was parked in the Old Divide parking lot, waiting for some fellow hikers to show up. I had planned an excursion to some favorite localities way up top, where the piñon pines and Toumey Oaks grow.

The first hiker to show up was Willow, a Bisbee woman I’ve known casually for a few years. Willow has been caretaking Matt the stonemason’s house on West Boulevard, right below the Old Divide. Then Jamie showed up in his old white Toyota, probably tired from working the night shift at a residential care facility.

We waited a while for three more people who had said they would come, then gave up on them. Jamie drove his truck, and Willow and two dogs ascended the rough switchbacked road in my truck.

Our first stop was a rocky ledge overlooking Rt. 80. The cars down below looked miniscule, like matchbox cars. Jamie immediately noticed a remarkable amount of developing cones on the Border Piñon trees. I’ve never seen so many on those trees, which eke out a living growing right from crevices in the granite.

This photo shows Willow and Jamie looking at the piñon cones:

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Jamie and Willow

The next two photos show the piñon cones and a tree bearing male flowers.

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Developing piñon cones

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piñon male flowers

This last photo is a view looking over the Mule Mountains into the San Pedro Valley, where I work most days. The Huachuca Mountains,which border the San Pedro Valley on the west, can be seen, blued by haze.

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San Pedro Valley

The heat was beginning to build and the dogs were panting, so we headed back to the trucks. On the way down the trail we had passed a couple of women out hiking, one of them being strikingly beautiful. Jamie later told Willow and I that the pretty woman was his ex-wife. He said “I hope she doesn’t vandalize my truck!”

When we got back to the trucks we discovered that someone, most likely the ex-wife, had shattered Jamie’s rear truck window with a rock, which was still there in the truck bed. What a mean and spiteful thing to do! It had to have been Jamie’s ex.

Our next hike will likely be in the northern Mules, where Deb and Dennis Moroney have a ranch.

Larry

Hot Saturday In The Borderlands

It was a hellaciously hot Saturday yesterday in Cochise County. I was at the Bisbee Farmer’s Market early, and met up with my musical buddy James Wahl. We talked about music session politics, always an issue, and listened to a family bluegrass band from Douglas.

I had bags of laundry in my truck, but I lacked cash and decided to stop in at the Double Adobe Campground Monday at some point and do the laundry then.

I bought some Scotch Eggs from an Italian woman who is a marvelous cook. Hard-boiled eggs baked with a sausage casing — that food sustained me until later in the day, when I was at John Beland’s place playing music.

Late in the afternoon I finally got home again after a lot of hot driving. My truck has AC, but it struggles to compensate for one hundred degree temperatures.

Last week I bought a used evaporative cooler from a friend in Bisbee. I hadn’t tried it out, as I was unsure as to whether my home-brewed solar panel/inverter system could handle the load, 4.5 amps. I managed to drag the bulky semi-portable unit into the cabin, tipped three gallons of rain-barrel water into it, and fired it up.

It didn’t work. The fan blew, but I could detect no moisture in the flow. I pulled the back panel off and found that a hose running from the pump to the drizzlers up top had become disconnected. I fixed that, and now the cooler is my very good friend.

Spot, my female cat, was curious about the new addition to the cabin’s furniture. Soon she was perched atop the vibrating unit and I got this shot as she glanced outside to see what Dingo was up to.

The other photo is of the sibling cats out on the porch step as, blessedly, the sun began to set.

My Cats

My Cats

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Looking East as the Weather Changes

This photo is from a few days ago, when the possibility of some pre-monsoon rains was becoming evident.

I had been cooking some ramen noodles with tuna that evening and I was waiting for the food to cool a bit. I stepped outside and saw a fragment of rainbow forming, grabbed my camera from my truck, and got this scene.

Evening Eastern View

Evening Eastern View

Larry

A Pre-sunrise Photo, and Thoughts

Another re-post from Facebook:

June Pre-sunrise Cluds

June Pre-sunrise Cluds

This morning was blessedly cool, such a change from the hot afternoons lately. While my morning porridge was slowly simmering, I stepped outside to relieve my bladder.

Such a subtly pleasing sky! Not one of those mind-blowing scenes of pre-sunrise clouds, just a pleasant stack of rosy clouds which might be a harbinger of rain to come. We all anxiously await the monsoon season around here. Will we get some nice soaking rains? Will my road flood? Will some wash change into an impassable barrier? We shall see!

Larry

Glass Fragment Found While Hoeing

Re-posted from Facebook:

A couple of days ago, before this heat wave descended upon us, I was out in the Echoing Hope Ranch garden hoeing between cowpea rows. The soil was moist and friable due to a morning sprinkler irrigation. A killdeer was maintaining a safe distance from me, probing the ground for provender while keeping an eye on me, as you never know what those erratic humans might do!

A glint of something in the soil caught my eye. It was a fragment of glass. For some reason glass fragments are common out in the garden; perhaps it once might have been a household dump site.

I picked up the arc-shaped piece of glass, noticed that it had a pleasing iridescence, and stuck it in my pants pocket.

It’s a hot afternoon here in Cochise County. While sorting laundry I came across the chunk of glass. I became curious; could I capture that thin film of iridescence in a photo? I set up my tripod and shot this photo with the camera set at 1/13th of a second exposure.

Garden Glass Fragment

Garden Glass Fragment

Larry

Afternoon Moth Visitor

A couple of days ago I was drinking a cup of coffee while I waited for my breakfast porridge to attain its perfect state of being. There have been a lot of moths around lately, and one of them had evidently decided to commit suicide in my coffee cup. Moths can be subject to existential anxiety and depression just like the rest of us! This little moth was washed halfway down my gullet in a miniature river of coffee and lodged there, still fluttering. I tried to hack it up, I tried to swallow it down, but only patience and more coffee conveyed the doomed creature to its final resting place in my gut.

Yesterday I had recently gotten home from work for a brief respite before driving back to Bisbee to play music and hopefully make some tip money. I noticed a moth perched on a five dollar bill next to my laptop, part of the contents of my pants pocket. The moth cooperated by staying there while I got my camera out and shot a few photos. I’ve seen the species before and ID-ed it, but I’ll have to consult my moth books and web-sites in order to remember its name. I think its the same species of moth that I digested the other day!

Desert Moth

Desert Moth

Spinach Unleashed

It can be difficult to anticipate future needs when growing vegetables for CSA box customers. Cultivated varieties of vegetables are bred to bear early, but even so, time creeps on inexorably and the garden crew at Echoing Hope Ranch is often faced with this situation: we should have planted more of this or that two weeks ago. This is our first year of intense production, though, and we’re learning!

About three weeks ago I was in the ranch truck on a mission to Bisbee to buy something we needed, I don’t remember just what.

It occurred to me that we were out of spinach seed, and spinach had been doing well in the greenhouses. I knew what spinach varieties were available at the Ace hardware store, but I wanted something different. On a whim I stopped at a Dollar General store to see if they even carried garden seeds. I bought a packet of some giant Italian variety of spinach for a buck and change. Well, that Italian spinach variety just went nuts in the greenhouse, producing succulent and fleshy leaves approaching a foot in length.

A week from now, with hot weather approaching, these burgeoning plants will begin to bolt, so CSA customers are getting large bundles of spinach this week. Certain chicken and goat friends of mine will get the remainder!

Spinach Bed A Week Ago

Spinach Bed A Week Ago

Spinach Bed Yesterday

Spinach Bed Yesterday

Larry

Rows In Collision

Years ago when I was a novice gardener I would carefully lay out planting rows with a tape-measure, stakes, and strings. I was likely influenced by OCD-ish book and magazine garden writers.

These days I mark out the four corners of a vegetable planting and just eyeball the rows, my rationale being that these rows will only be there for a few months, and I really don’t mind a bit of asymmetry in a garden. I just want to get the seeds in the ground quickly so they can go about their business!

About ten days ago I planted a patch of cowpeas at Echoing Hope Ranch. A few days later I expanded the patch, doubling its size. I had left a couple of stakes on the ground indicating where I had left off, but one of those stakes might have been kicked by someone. Who knows?

The result was a very peculiar sight which almost induces vertigo, like one of H.P. Lovecraft’s descriptions of the architecture of the alien Old Ones. Here’s what it looked like this morning:

Skewed Cowpea Rows

Skewed Cowpea Rows

The rows will eventually fill in and this misalignment won’t be visible. Right now it’s an amusing sight for the whole garden crew!

Larry