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


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


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!


Vegetative Construction Project

A re-post from Facebook:

Look carefully at this photo. It looks like a jumble of colors and lines, but camouflaged within are a couple of recent Peniocereus greggii shoots, AKA La Reina de la Noche, AKA Night-Blooming Cereus.

This particular plant is the first one I ever saw, over a year ago, so I was distressed when hungry jackrabbits without a shred of aesthetic sensibility ate the plant to the ground last winter.

About two weeks ago the plant mustered energy stored within a large tuberous root and, even though we haven’t had rain in over two months, managed to send up two roughly-designed shoots.

I can picture the scene in the plant’s construction headquarters. The foreman tries to rally the workers:

“Hey, guys, gals, and all of you asexual enzymes and proteins, we gotta get some sort of photosynthetic structure up there into the light, or we’ll all die. You wanna keep this job? Well, fuck symmetry — we need something quick and dirty. This chlorophyll won’t keep too much longer!”

Pardon the profanity, but cell-division crews are even coarser than drywallers and roofers! You ought to see what they do after hours!

Brand-new Shoots

Brand-new Shoots

Roadrunner Story

Here’s an interesting anecdote from John Forrey, a great photographer here who lives here in Cochise County.

A preamble: John was commenting on a photo by Charles Morton, another skilled photographer who lives just up the road from me. Here’s Charles’s photo followed by John’s comment:

05/26/16 Roadrunner carries his prize catch around! McNeal, Az

05/26/16 Roadrunner carries his prize catch around! McNeal, Az

“I saw one perched on a rock with a big lizard in his beak. I wondered why he wasn’t munching it down. After a few minutes another roadrunner came running and got on the rock with him. They immediately started to mate and the instant they finished she grabbed the prize from him and took off! Wish I had my camera with me. So that’s why the male walks around with a lizard in his beak.”


Giant Water Bugs As Food And Flavoring

I enjoy growing edible plants and reading about food about as much as I like cooking it and eating. Food plant origins and history, recipes from various cultures — it’s all grist for my mental mill.

This morning as the sun rose I was reading about a very peculiar Southeast Asian food flavoring. It’s a pheromone-laden secretion derived from certain glands in a giant water-bug, a monster insect which has flight muscles large enough to carve out as chunks of meat. The flavoring agent from that three-inch bug is known in Vietnam as cà cuống. The substance is used to flavor the family of Vietnamese soups known as pho.

So there must be people in Southeast Asia who are insect butchers! This fascinates me, as I come from a culture which values structures and traditions a couple of hundred years old, while in Europe and Asia “old” traditions tend to be more like thousands of years old.

A Wikipedia article about the Asian giant water bug:

Lethocerus indicus


Lazy Sapphic Afternoon

After talking with folks at the Bisbee Farmer’s Market, doing my laundry, and checking my post office box in Bisbee, I drove back to my desert home, hung out the laundry, and took a nap. I woke up after a while, finding that Dingo and the tomcat were sprawled out on the bed near me. I began to re-read Mary Barnard’s wonderful translations of Sappho’s poems.

I noticed a bit of distracting commotion; the tomcat seemed to have pounced on something — a fly, perhaps? Suddenly the cat jumped up, looking perturbed, and swiped at his mouth with one paw. He jumped off the bed and ran under it. I saw a moribund honeybee where the cat had been, picked it up, and flung it onto the floor.

I returned to my book after this mild domestic calamity and found this poem, one I’ve always liked, perhaps more so now that I am older:




Copper, The Pot-bellied Pig of Slaughter Ranch

Thursday was Field Trip Day at Echoing Hope Ranch. Various staff people and ten or so clients piled into four vehicles and headed east for a visit to a historic site known as Slaughter Ranch.

I had vaguely heard of Frank Slaughter, who served as a Cochise County sheriff and was part of the team of lawmen who tracked down Geronimo. He bought the ranch property in 1884 and was one of the first ranchers to run cattle in Arizona.

The ranch today is a marvelous place, blessed with abundant spring water and with well-irrigated grounds dotted with picturesque old cottonwood trees. Restored stone buildings serve as a museum complex. The centerpiece is an acre-sized pond with a stone wall bordering it.

Ramon, one of our ranch’s staff members, took advantage of a propane BBQ conveniently located by the pond and several picnic tables. He cooked the hot-dogs, hamburgers and cheeseburgers for everyone. After we ate my co-worker Mallory and I gathered up several clients and walked up a trail to a lookout butte where supposedly the ruins of an Army fort can be seen.

Before we left Ramon tried to give us additional cheeseburgers. “I just hate to waste food!”, he said. I politely declined but Ramon cajoled Mallory into taking one.

I walked ahead with a couple of clients. Later Mallory and her clients caught up with us. She had a half-eaten cheeseburger in her hand but seemed disinclined to eat it.

“Larry, you won’t believe what just happened! We were walking along and Jim spit tobacco juice on this cheeseburger! So disgusting! I can’t eat this, and I’m full anyway.”

Jim (not his real name) is older than most of the clients, perhaps in his mid-forties. He’s a big slow-moving guy and chews tobacco incessantly. Usually he has a pop bottle to spit in, a bottle which looks quite nasty towards the end of the day. Jim works for the garden crew in the mornings, so we know him well. I said:

“Why don’t you just pitch it into the bushes? Something will eat it!”

“Oh, I hate to just waste it. I know! I’ll wrap it up and tuck it into my cowboy boot! I’ll give it to Copper the pig when we get back.”

She did that; the little parcel fit right in the boot next to her ankle.

I should explain that the ranch has a free-roaming Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Copper, a friendly beast which knows that a picnic means dropped food.

After looking at the low ruins of the Army fort and appreciating the wonderful view of the thinly-inhabited San Bernadino Valley, we made our way back down to the pond and the rest of the group. As we were packing up to leave I ran into Mallory. I said:

“So, did you give that cheeseburger to Copper?”

“Oh, it was so funny! I had forgotten all about that cheeseburger. Copper found it, though! She was snuffling at my boot and that reminded me of what was in there! Copper ate it in one bite.”

Somehow in the turmoil of getting ready to leave on that field trip I forgot to fetch my camera from my truck. The ranch site offers numerous photographic opportunities, so next time I visit the ranch I’ll be better prepared!