Many Rocks and a Lot of Hardscape

Earththe substance of the land surface – in my part of Arizona it reminds me of the saying ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’! Landscaping strategies here include generous numbers of Rocks and plenty of gravel Hardscape.

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Big River

Our yard consists of a gravel mulch that covers soil that is a course reddish material with large sections of impenetrable caliche (soil particles that have been cemented together by calcium carbonate.)

Meandering from one end of the yard to the other is a stone feature I call ‘Big River’.

‘Big River’ is a make believe creek bed that only gets wet when it rains.

‘Big River’ begins in a spiral rock feature I call ‘The Maze’.

A large stone lizard slithers towards the patio and breaks the monotony of yet some more gravel (the maze area is in the distance.)

In contrast, Earth at our Alberta house is a rich black soil. A carpet of green grass (sometimes a blanket of dead yellow grass if we don’t get enough rain) circles flower beds and stone walkways.

The Arizona yard and the Alberta yard, though on different ends of a spectrum of what Earth has to offer, are in just two of the many ecosystems that the Earth’s surface can support.  What kind of land surface do you call home?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Earth.

Greenery of Arizona

You might not think of the word ‘green’ when you think of Arizona – but the State is more than just desert with a few cactus!

Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens

The Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens is a showcase of arid-land plants from deserts around the world. This Dale Chihuly Glass Sculpture– Desert Towers welcomes visitors. It was installed as the entry-point to Chihuly’s first Desert Botanical exhibition in 2008. The installation was purchased by the Garden as a legacy to the exhibition.

Greater Phoenix ArizonaEast of Phoenix are the Superstition Mountains. In the spring, they sport a coat of green, sprinkled with bursts of color when the desert plants bloom. The mountains rise steeply to an elevation of 5,024 feet, and are characterized by sheer-sided, jagged, volcanic peaks and ridges.
Tonto National ForestNorth and east of Phoenix is the Water Users Recreation Site on the Salt River in Tonto National Forest. The Tonto National Forest, encompassing 2,873,200 acres, is the largest of the six national forests in Arizona and is the fifth largest national forest in the United States.
green water St. Patrick's DayNorth of Phoenix is the community of Fountain Hills. At noon on St. Patrick’s Day, the water of the Fountain Hills Fountain is tinted green, and when it is turned on, it shoots to the maximum height of 560 feet. Normally the height of the fountain  is limited to 330 feet. It runs for 15 minutes at the top of each hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week!
green water St. Patrick's Day

Winter in ‘Zona is springtime
Spring is summer askew
Summer is torturous hellfire
Autumn is summer part II
– Terri Guillemets, “Spring sun,” 1993 –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is It IS Easy Being Green!

Ocotillo – Prickly but I Wish Mine Would Grow Leaves

Arizona

There are plants on the Arizona hillsides that look like bunches of spiny crooked dead sticks. They are the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). The photo above is of my plants. They are leafless.
ArizonaSmall 2 inch leaves will grow from the stems when there is enough moisture. They may lose these leaves, and then sprout new ones, five to eight times a year. Dense clusters of red tubular flowers grow from the end of the stems from March through June. Here in our Arizona neighbourhood, most of the Ocotillos have leafed out, and many have started to bloom.

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I wish my ocotillo would grow leaves and bloom too!  Maybe those tiny reddish brown buds are the first signs of life…

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Wish.

These Things Match up with Things on my Wants List

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Sometimes it is best if The Car Guy just agrees with me…

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This bench would be perfect on my patio! Too bad it is in a store in Calgary, not Phoenix.

565-neon-sign-dads-garageThis would be perfect in The Car Guys garage.
Too bad it was in a store in Phoenix and not in a store in Calgary.

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Ice Cream and cereal and fruit – a good match when I’m out of milk and yogurt.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is A Good Match.

Great Horned Owl in Arizona

For the past few weeks we have been serenaded by several Great Horned Owls. Their calls, a series of deep hoots (who-who-ah-whoo, who-ah-whoo) break the silence of the late evening or early morning. It is always too dark to see it, or take pictures.

Today, however, owl starting hooting before sundown. It sounded very close. I scanned the nearby tree, and finally spotted it. Unfortunately, owl was mostly hidden by a veil of willowy leaves. I didn’t want to scare ‘my’ owl away, so I slowly worked my way along the back of our house, well away from the tree. I tried to be quiet, but it is almost impossible to walk quietly on gravel – crunch, crunch, crunch.

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Owl didn’t budge. When I had reached the optimum location, I was able to take a few good photos.

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Then I crunch, crunch, crunched my way back across the yard and into the house. Hope this is the first of many more owl encounters, and the last of the rodents who burrow under the prickly pear cactus patch.

The Feather Files
Name: Great Horned Owl
Species: Bubo virginianus
Native to and Migration: Found all across North America up to the northern tree line; no regular migration – individuals may wander long distances in fall and winter, sometimes moving southward.
Date Seen: February, 2017
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Against the Odds.

Shadows on the Snow – a Mystery Shape

I call them Crystal Days. When the morning sun falls on the right kind of new snow, each snow flake glitters like a crystal.

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This photo was taken on a Crystal Day, mid December, a few years ago.  The overnight snowfall had turned our yard into a series of snow mounds, each sparkling in the morning sun. The snow pattern in this photo was particularly interesting. What had been a grid, was now a geometric series of hills and valleys, with each hill casting a shadow into the valley. Nearby objects added splashes of shadow too.

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Here is a closer look at one of the valleys. Now you can see the sparkles of the snow crystals on the hill surface.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember what was under the snow. Whatever it was, it had to have been a nearly horizontal surface. It was something in my yard and it was apparently familiar enough that I didn’t bother to take another photo that put this one into context. I didn’t even see the need to change the name of the photo from P1060359 to something a bit more useful. Drat…

Here are some more shadow photos. Click on any of them to open a slideshow.

If you have any suggestions as to what created my snow shadow mystery, please leave a comment!

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Shadow.

Ambience of the Moon – Setting the Mood

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A perfect moon for a Halloween night
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The magic of a moon lit night
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Perfect conditions for a quiet night of moon watching
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Calm and Peace on Christmas Eve

In awe, I watched the waxing moon ride across the zenith of the heavens like an ambered chariot towards the ebony void of infinite space wherein the tethered belts of Jupiter and Mars hang, for ever festooned in their orbital majesty. And as I looked at all this I thought… I must put a roof on this toilet.
– Les Dawson –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Ambience.

How has the moon affected the ambience of a memorable occasion for you? Did you know that ambience can also be spelled ambiance?

Cabo San Lucas – Donkey and Pancho – Boats and Sea Lions

We were in Mexico last week – specifically Los Cabos, which is a municipality on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, in the state of Baja California Sur.

Though we spent most of our time in San Jose del Cabo, the Cabo San Lucas Marina was the scene of the most excitement – if you like all the things that ‘bob’ on top of or ‘swim’ in water. This Marina has 380 Slips and 33 Megayacht Berths and just about every craft had a name!

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The Sea Lion might have a name too. If you Google ‘Sea Lion Cabo San Lucas Marina’, you will find several items about ‘Pancho’ the bandit sea lion. The sleek dark beast demanded fish from every boat that came in to dock, and it would aggressively attempt to ‘take’ any fish it spied. A flock of brown Pelicans followed the sea lion, supplying diversionary tactics that kept the fisherman busy scooting the birds off the motor and the back of the boat. It was all quite entertaining!

Have you ever owned a boat? Did it have a name?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Names.

Over the Air Television – Anticipating a Better Picture

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Christmas Reindeer inspect the new flat antenna before it is positioned for best reception.

One of the things on our Christmas wish list this year was a gift for our TV set.

Television – in my lifetime, I’ve ‘seen’ it all! Our first TV had rabbit ears which were enhanced with wire and tinfoil. In later years we had roof top antennas, then big satellite dishes, little satellite dishes, and cables. Our first TV gave us one station. In later years we had dozens of stations, then hundreds of stations. Our TV screens were sometimes as small as a laptop computer, sometimes big boxes that took two men to lift, and finally flat screen lightweights that hung on the wall.

We wanted to see if we could ‘cut the cord’ on our Satellite TV service. To do that, we needed a digital antenna that would pick up free Over the Air (OTA) television. The Car Guy chose a TERK omni-digital antenna for 1080 HDTV broadcasts.

Like children who peek at their presents before Christmas morning,  we opened this  gift a few weeks ago. The installation was very easy once The Car Guy had finished exploring all the possible ways not to connect the cable.  We were pleasantly (okay ecstatically) pleased with the crystal clear High Definition picture we now receive thanks to an uncompressed signal.

The antenna cost just a little more than the price of one month’s satellite TV and gives us free TV from 6 local stations: GLOBAL, CTV, CITY, CBC, YES and OMNI.  Three of these stations broadcast the seven shows we like to watch each week. What a great Christmas present!

Have you ‘cut the cord’ on your TV service? Discontinued the phone land line and gone cellular? Turned off the internet for more than a day? Moved out of your parents basement? Finished your Christmas shopping? Do you anticipate doing any of these things?

This week’s WordPress.com photo challenge is Anticipation.

Monarch Butterfly – a Magic Migration

We’ve had Monarch butterflies in our Arizona yard recently. They may be migrating south to Mexico, north-west to California or they may overwinter here if the conditions are favourable.

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The Monarch’s Southern fall migration is made by a single butterfly that will live for 6 to 8 months. The Northern spring migration will take multiple generations of butterflies. These butterflies live only 2 to 6 weeks – a lot of their energy goes into producing the next generation of butterflies and migrating north.

Scientists believe that the Monarch butterflies navigate by using an internal Sun compass. They use the time of day and the sun’s position on the horizon to find their way.

I think that is wonderfully magical, because I sometimes have trouble navigating out of the parking lot of the big mall…

The Flutter Files
Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
Common Name: Monarch Butterfly
Migration: In Summer from as far north as Southern Canada to wintering grounds in Southern California or Mexico.
Date Seen: November 14, 2016
Location: Central Arizona

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Magic.