This and That – 2021, Trees and a Virus

This


I put all the Christmas decorations away last week – everything but the Christmas tree. The tree takes up quite a bit of space in the living room – so I scooted it out to an adjoining area. Now it is out of the way, but still clearly visible when I sit in my favourite chair!

I think it will stay there for quite a while. The lights make me happier and I need all the happy I can get to dispel the gloom of Alberta winter nights and mandated Covid social limitations.

We’ve turned the corner on sunlight, of course. The shortest day was December 21, and we are gaining almost a minute a day of daylight right now. We’ve also had a few weeks of mild weather. That is to say, temperatures have been such that I’ve traded heavy winter mitts for light ones when I go for a walk.

We’ve spotted the moose, a few times, though not in our yard. They have been favouring the lands west of us. We’ve been seeing more non-local vehicles drive up and down our road lately. I suspect they are hoping they will see the moose too.

That

As you can see, we’re still in Alberta. We haven’t made the annual snowbird trek to Arizona yet. Travel outside of Canada is not advised and we aren’t allowed to enter the USA by car.  In one of those strangely odd ‘rule loopholes’, we are allowed to fly there, though. That makes Arizona happy because they need the tourist dollars.

The Car Guy is ready to pack his bags and board a plane. I’m not so enthusiastic. For whatever reason, I’m just not keen to get into a metal tube full of people wearing masks to fly to a State where a different group of politicians is making rules that also ignore the concept of good ‘risk management.’

The Other

2021 – A new year, a new crop of memes and jokes – and names to remember. Covid-19 is now more commonly called SARS-CoV-2. You might remember that it became politically incorrect to refer to it as Wuhan flu or China virus, but you might be forgiven if you call the new variants UK variant and South Africa variant. Remembering their real names,  20B/501Y.V1, VOC 202012/01 and 20C/501Y.V2 is just a bit much.

There doesn’t seem to be a run on toilet paper so far.
We got a message from our nephew a while back. He wanted to thank the person who responded to his desperate search for yeast – and he thought it was funny that the yeast came wrapped like a nickel bag of dope.

 

This was funny when I saw it a few months ago. I’m not aware of anyone in our family who would bring weed to a family gathering (thought it is legal) – but family gatherings were illegal this Christmas.

Attitude Adjustment Time – Not Weeds – Wildflowers!

In Arizona, we live in a community that encourages low water use desert plantings. This means gravel yards instead of grass. Landscaping is done with cactus, succulents and plants that don’t use much water. Residents are also expected to keep weeds under control.

This past spring, the vacant house and lot next door to us quickly become overgrown with a carpet of weeds. Most of these weeds had tiny flowers, so the overall effect was greenly messy. As the Arizona sun got high and hot, the weeds started to die, and the yard started to look brownly messy.

I was less than impressed with living next door to a weed seed factory… but my attitude changed when I photographed the plants with my macro lens! Suddenly they were wild flowers!

Crypthantha (If you hover over each photo, you can read the caption. Click on the photo to see the full size version.)

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.
– Doug Larson –

Common Fiddleneck

Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.
– Dave Barry –

Erodium

Plant and your spouse plants with you; weed and you weed alone.
– Author Unknown –

One person’s weed is another person’s wildflower.
– Susan Wittig Albert –

Phacelia

So many weeds, so little Thyme.
– Author Unknown –

California Poppy – there was only one of these plants in the weed patch, but the bright yellow flowers really stood out!

It’s a wildflower if you want it and a weed if you don’t.
– Author Unknown –

Lupin – these are quite common roadside flowers in the spring, but they were few and far between in the weed patch.

Same Flowers, Other Filters


How is your ‘Garden of Weedin’ doing this summer?

Run Over by a Truck – Goodbye Cactus

Incident Report:
Date: March 2, 2020
Location: Our property on an Arizona Street (a cul-de-sac)
Nature of Incident: Hit and Run
Details: Truck pulling a trailer misjudged their turning radius. Golden Barrel Cactus was unable to get out of the way.
Medical Analysis: Bifurcation of cactus with distal crushing on road side
Patient Prognosis: Certain Death

 

 

I wonder if the cactus fought back and gave the truck a flat tire…

Canadian Snowbird Stories

The fountain in Fountain Hills Arizona – on St Patrick’s Day. the water is tinted green.

I’ve edited the following popular Snowbird joke that circulates in emails. I made it an Alberta/Arizona joke instead of Minneapolis/Florida (though it is rather far fetched to think someone would choose to honeymoon in Arizona…)

An Alberta couple decided to go to Arizona to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Calgary and flew to Phoenix on Thursday. His wife would fly down the following day. The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an e-mail to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her e-mail address, and without realizing his error, sent the e-mail.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. He was a minister who was called home to glory following a heart attack. The widow decided to check her e-mail since she was expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted. The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I’ve Arrived
Date: November 18, 2004

I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send e-mails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.
PS. Sure is freaking hot down here.
– Original Author Unknown –

Now, here is a real Canadian Snowbird story.  If you are going to run out of a prescription drug before you can get back to Canada, there could be a way you can get it refilled.

Take the remaining medication to a local Urgent Care (Primary Care Walk-in) Centre (we used the one nearest  to us, in Fountain Hills Arizona). Be sure the medication is in the original container with the label from the pharmacy that filled your prescription.

The Doctors or Nurse Practitioners will give you a similar check-up to what your doctor at home would do before renewing your prescription. There will, of course, be a fee for this service.

The prescription will be sent to a pharmacy of your choice for pick-up the next day.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

The Feather Files
Name:  Eurasian Collared-Dove
Species:  Streptopelia decaocto
Native to and Migration:  In North America – most of the United States; SW Canada, Mexico; non-migratory.
Date Seen:  May 2017; March 2016
Location:  North of Calgary, Alberta; north of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes:  These birds are now native to Europe and Asia, though they were originally from India. They were introduced into North America in 1974, when about 50 of them escaped captivity in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas – then moved to Florida.

These doves typically breed close to human habitation where food resources are abundant and there are trees for nesting. They can produce three or four broods a year, which helps to explain their successful colonization of such a large part of the world.

They are a valuable food source for owls, eagles, hawks and falcons.

The dove’s monotonous coo – coo – coo can be incredibly annoying because it is repeated over and over and over – for hours. If the bird (or birds) are sitting on the top of the fireplace chimney, the sound is amplified and even more annoying… A flock of doves on the roof of your house is a very messy affair.

Greater Roadrunner

The Feather Files
Name: Greater Roadrunner
Species: Geococcyx californianus
Native to and Migration: Year round resident of the desert and semi-open, scrubby habitat of South West United States and Mexico
Date Seen: March 2018; April 2015
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes: These raven sized birds eat mostly animals – almost anything they can catch: small mammals, reptiles, frogs, toads, insects, centipedes, scorpions, and birds. Rattlesnakes are also on the menu. They are fast and agile on the ground, but aren’t strong fliers. When threatened or displaying to a rival, they erect their crest.

The roadrunner in the first two photos was in our yard. The last photo was a bird in the neighbourhood. Sadly, they did not find and remove the rattlesnake that liked to hang out on our patio.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

The Feather Files
Name: Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
Species: Aphelocoma woodhouseii
Native to and Migration: Year round resident of the dry lowlands from Nevada, United States into Mexico
Date Seen: April 2016
Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona
Notes:  Unlike some other species of Jay, this one does not have a crested head.

Desert Spiny Lizard

At first glance, this was just another lizard. I wasn’t close enough to it to see the colors, or the beautiful scales. I just took some pictures, zoomed in to see it closer – but still didn’t appreciate what it looked like until I saw it on my computer screen!

The Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) is 5.6″ from snout to vent and is a stocky lizard with large, pointed, keeled, overlapping scales. They exhibit metachromatism – they change color depending on the temperature, generally with darker colors in cool temperatures.

This lizard can be found in six western states including Arizona. Comments on the internet suggest that the Desert Spiny Lizard lives quite comfortably around humans – so much so that people name the ones that live in their yard.

This one wasn’t in my yard, but if it was, I might call it Norbert, though Spike might work too. What would you name it?

Phainopepla

Phainopepla female
Phainopepla male

The Feather Files
Name: Phainopepla
Species: Phainopepla nitens
Native to and Migration: Deserts and arid woodlands of the southwestern United States and Mexico. Breeds twice each year in two different habitats. Some spend winters in the southern part of its breeding range.
Date Seen: March 2017
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes: Individual birds will eat at least 1,100 mistletoe berries per day when they are available.

They are versatile songsters that can imitate up to 12 other species of birds. Though I see them frequently, they are harder to photograph than other birds because they spook very easily.

Bald Eagle in Arizona

The Feather Files
Name: Bald Eagle
Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Native to and Migration: Resident to long-distance migrant throughout Canada and the United States. Northern adults begin fall migration when lakes and rivers freeze – migrating coastward or to open water. They return to breeding grounds when weather and food permit, usually January–March.
Date Seen: April 28, 2019
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes: One of the largest birds in North America, wingspan slightly greater than Great Blue Heron. Arizona has 87 Bald Eagle breeding areas.

I live near a small, stocked lake that is a short flight from one of Arizona’s Bald Eagle breeding areas. Sometimes I see the Bald Eagles fishing in the lake, or sitting near the top of a tall tree that grows on an island in the middle of the lake.