Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spring In "The Valley"

It has sprung, exactly 6 weeks after who-cares-whether-the-groundhog-saw-its-shadow? In Minnesota we would call this summer, with temperatures pushing or crossing the 90s. Here however it comes without the thundershowers. Or mosquitoes.

Opposite habits are called for, harder to adjust to. The furnace got turned off several weeks back and we closed the house up in the evenings and opened it up for warm afternoons. Now suddenly we open the house at night and close it down when we get up. That's if everybody remembers the new plan.

We could leave the patio door open in the warm daytime for the dogs to come and go at will, but lately the local coyote pack has been prowling outside the fence during the day as well as evenings. Our high fence and Fred's low bark so far have driven them off, but we no longer trust it if we have to leave the house.

Weeds have started springing up in the yard, so Round Up use has resumed. With two of us here, we optimistically hope to nail them before they have a chance to seed and spread. Of course, who knows how many years of seeds lay in the ground, waiting?

We are waiting for our first glimpse of baby Gambel's quail. I want pictures, as well as just being able to enjoy the cuteness. All kinds of birds gather in the yard behind us now that the citrus are dumping the last of their copious fruit supply in favor of flowers for the next crop and the renters aren't keeping up. Hummingbirds have abandoned our feeders for the abundance of "real" food, including tiny insects. We haven't seen those bitty bugs, but their predators, the mosquito hawks, fly into the house when the patio door is open.

The rear pine tree is wild with blooms, so we're expecting a humungous crop of cones this fall. We've never seen that one bloom and it's graced us with a mere handful of cones each year.  I can just imagine the mess, considering Ellie loves to chew them into bits... inside the house! How does she sneak them in?

Meanwhile the hummers seem fascinated by the pine blooms, though whether any kind of nectar is produced I doubt. My guess is they go for whatever flies to or crawls on them. Or perhaps if it's not too late, they're going for the spiderwebs for their nests while the spiders are going for the bugs going for the flowers. Considering we saw active nests on our February honeymoon when we hit the hummingbird house down by Tucson in the Sonoran Desert Museum, it probably is too late. No signs of young ones yet though.

Butterflies have started visiting the neighborhood. We saw our first today. Coincidentally our pink oleander in the back corner popped with its first hundred blooms or so, compared to less than a dozen yesterday, and two last week. I'd prune it as the branches are becoming spindly but whatever idiot fenced the back yard angled it across that corner, blocking us from the tree.

The new plantings seem to be thriving, though it's been hard to tell over the winter. Our desert willow is finally leafing out all the trunks and branches to the tips of the stems, after showing its first baby leaves a couple weeks ago near ground level. The palo blanco is sprouting more needle-like leaves, but unlike the mature trees at the community center has not yet produced a catkin, much less the thousands they are showing off. The foothills palo verde - what Steve refers to as our thorn tree - has no leaves but its thorny branches are lengthening. There was a wooden stake in the pot with a tie to one of the branches, and we planted it with that intact, giving us a comparison point. I get to go prune it in the next month or so, sorting out where trunks will stay or go out of the bottom cluster and ridding it of crossed branches. Lucky me! Even the heaviest gloves don't quite meet the demands of that job.

Speaking of thorny things, the baby ocatillos along the ease fence have all 4 leafed out and are growing taller. I was convinced a month ago all but one had died, but then buds appeared on the branch tips rather than just dried cut ends, and hope renewed. Each ocatillo is surrounded by rocks holding chicken wire cages in place to defeat the rabbits, and suddenly the green is getting taller than the rocks so we can actually see the plants! Upon planting last fall, only a couple tips were visible, and those rocks aren't all that big.

This next weekend is the semi-annual plant sale at the Desert Botannical Garden in Phoenix. We're going to see about a baby tree aloe. There were none for sale last fall, a much more ideal time for planting so it can get watered and established properly, but if ya gotta, then ya gotta. We might consider taking the pot elsewhere for summer TLC, then planting when we return, unless we can enlist a bit of watering help. We did that one summer already, paying a fellow named Felipe, and those plants thrived.

While there, we plan to also do our monthly tour of the gardens, seeing what's blooming, what's flitting around, what new pictures demand to be taken. Who knows? We may even fall in love with something new that needs to be added to our yard.


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