Home

The Other Side of the Mountain

1 Comment

Recently I wanted to get out into some green.  I decided to visit Picacho Peak.  The name is redundant, since “picacho” is Spanish for peak, but that doesn’t seem to trouble anyone.  There is one in Arizona, too.  Like the one near Las Cruces, it is an isolated mountain.

Looking west from Las Cruces, the mountain looks very dry.  To climb it, one goes through several housing developments and some private land to a BLM parking lot on the western side.mtn from parking area

To get to the peak from the parking lot one must go through an arroyo and a few other ups and downs.arroyo

After that the trail is surprisingly straight.  In this closer picture, the hole at the right is along a particularly steep part of the trail, which then angles up across the picture to the outcrop (a small dark splotch) at the left. closer to mtn

That outcrop was a far as I got.  The trail is steep and I was definitely out of condition. I don’t think this trail was laid out by recreation experts, but by people who wanted the shortest way to the top.  I estimate I got about half way up the one and a half mile trail.outcrop

But it was nice to be on a green slope for a while.  Here’s a view from part way back toward the parking lot. to parking area

The San Diego Desert

1 Comment

I was in San Diego, California, in October, but other things intervened and I’ve only now uploaded my photos into the computer.  These photos are from a walk in the Scripps Preserve, a small sample of what the landscape of the San Diego area once was. P1000287It still seems amazing to me that this area was desert, right up to the water’s edge, before people started altering the landscape.  Dry bushes on the cliff give way to green in the arroyos, which probably benefit from the runoff from houses, roads, etc.P1000291There are small yellow flowers, similar to the ones I see in “my” desert far inland.  I guess that this is some variety of Bahia. a family with many varieties. P1000289Many of the bushes had recently gone to seed – as one would expect in October. P1000293And the overall look of the area made it quite clear that California is in drought conditions. P1000292Deserts are deserts whether near sea level or at 4,000 feet, where I live.  And this is in spite of the greater humidity coming off the water.  My skin appreciated that difference.

 

Is It Winter Yet?

1 Comment

Of course it isn’t winter yet by the calendar.  But many plants are reacting to recent freezes and changing their colors.

P1000309Cottonwoods in the arroyo are all golden, but haven’t yet dropped their leaves.  The leaves of the buffalo gourd vine, on the other hand, have all frozen, leaving the gourds to show their stuff.  P1000307In my back yard the four-wing saltbush is covered with ochre seed pods. P1000304And the tall grass plant is turning leaf by leaf from green through red to yellow to brown.P1000313There’s an extra glow in the morning sun which I haven’t found a way to catch in the camera.  I haven’t caught it in words either, though I admire it from my desk every morning.

September Revisited I

1 Comment

At the first cool spell in September I went out on a hike to see what the rains had done in the hills.  Yes, there was green.  And some wild flowers.  Then I got involved in my book readings.  It was over a month before I got the pictures transferred to the computer.  Then I forgot that I had done that.  Another month has gone by.  Here, at last are some views I found to share from that September hike.grassYes, there was grass along the trail.grass.sotolAnd thick growth as I climbed into the canyon.  There were lots of sotols.  These were not affected by the rains, they had bloomed in the spring and long since gone to seed, but I found one worthy of a close-up.sotolI was not up to a long hike, but it was pleasant to get closer to one of the Organ Mountain peaks.peakThere were flowers blooming, thought none were very showy.  If I went back this week, the grass would all be yellow and the flowers gone.

yellow flower

purple cropped

The Bad Guys

5 Comments

In case anyone imagines that I like everything and anything that will grow in my garden, I decided to devote a post to the nasty weeds I’d like to get rid of.  There are three.  P1000217

Nutgrass is a very attractive grass.  The deep green leaves are a contrast to most of the paler greens of the desert.  But it is terribly invasive, sending its roots deep and out in all directions.P1000218

Bermuda grass is known in many places, but wasn’t a problem where I lived in the east.  It too is attractive when it is young, and it can – almost – be kept under control as a lawn.  When it matures, however, it sends runners out, long and strong.  they appear spreading out over sidewalks looking for places to root.P1000216

Goathead, as the name may suggest, is the worst of all.  It is also the prettiest, with delicate leaves and a pretty little yellow flower.  Its seeds stick to everything, are a danger to bare feet, and can pierce through gardening gloves.  I may get lazy with nutgrass and Bermuda grass, but this plant I pull on sight.

I’ve recently realized that I’ve been taking more pictures than I’ve had time to post this fall.  This is a first step in correcting that oversight.

Fall Color

1 Comment

Some days I miss the many fall colors of the east.  There’s no question that the dominant fall color where I live now is yellow. P1000294I chose the chamisa for my garden because it does have great fall color.  The photo above is carefully framed.  Here’s the general view:P1000295I think the plant got too much water from the new watering system I put in last year.  It’s a problem I saw coming, but I didn’t crawl into the plant to adjust the emitter near its base, knowing it would be easier to reach when I cut it back   At least the clothesline holding parts of it from falling further doesn’t show up too much in the photo!

Gardening is ever an experiment.

Desert Blooms

1 Comment

The desert, in this case, is the arroyo behind the three mile long dam built to protect Las Cruces from floods of water coming down from the mesa into the valley.  Plants get plenty of water from the runoff of the rains. P1000205The weather is moving toward fall and a few days have been cool enough for a walk in the sand during good photo hours.  Above the yellow Bahia and the white datura (jimson weed) with the dam in the background. The city is right on the other side.  Below, some datura close up.daturaAnother native plant which has been enjoying the weather is the potato plant.  Like the datura, it is poisonous.potato plantThe dominant perennial plants here are creosote bush and mesquite.  The creosote bushes are covered with small yellow flowers.creosoteAnother plant which appreciates the rain is buffalo gourd.  There are already a few gourds on this plant.  Come fall, the gourds will be bright yellow balls, which some artisitic people collect to make Christmas tree ornaments.buffalo gourdOn my way back to the road, I noticed this Texas sage plant.  Its brilliant color is in contrast to most of the flora here.  Texas sage is not native here, but well suited to the climate.  Some bird brought the seed from somebody’s yard.sage

Napa 3: Yes, There Was Writing Too

1 Comment

P1000198My back yard has acquired its post-rain carpet of green.  When it first appears I can’t tell which plants will be weeds and which will be wildflowers.  I feel a bit that way about the results of my participation in the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.  I’m sorting out my drafts of poems and my new ideas and deciding which pieces have most potential.

Many of my poems centered on the past.  Perhaps this was because I was back in California where I grew up, though the Napa Valley wasn’t part of my home turf.  Perhaps it was because when one has 20 hours to produce a poem, one goes back to basics.  Here’s one piece which may be complete in itself, having taken the shape of a tanka.  The assignment was to show passage of time:

Almond blossoms in spring,
tiger lilies in summer.  Our height
marked on the door post.
Before my brother grows tall,
the house is no longer ours.

Another piece is too short for a tanka, too long for haiku.  Perhaps it is the beginning or end of a longer poem, though right now the rest isn’t working.

Prunes, apricots,
cannery by the tracks.  I bury questions
in my grandfather’s orchard.

Since I’ve been working on a different poem about trying to put my ancestors behind me, I may put this aside for a while.  I have researched all the main lines of my ancestry and after writing John Emerson Roberts: Kansas City’s “Up-to-date” Freethought Preacher (see Books page) I thought I was done.  But here is my grandfather and his orchard once again.P1000200

Meanwhile, in a corner of my yard not as covered in new green shoots, a little clump of purple mat, my favorite local wildflower, is flourishing.  It didn’t have to wait for the rain to get started.  And I have lots of other material to work with while I decide what to do with my new pieces from Napa..

A Few May Flowers

1 Comment

Each week there are different plants in bloom.  Some last a while, others change so quickly I can’t catch them on film.  I’d do better if I took my camera out with me on every walk.  I can’t seem to make it a habit.  Some of these pictures are plants I’ve run out to the backyard to photograph.  Others belong to my neighbors.

One of the plants in my yard which I classify as a wildflower, but I suspect many call a weed, is wire lettuce.  It is named for the fact that its leaves look like stems.  It has a very small white flower tinged with pink.  Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to capture that pink edge on film.

Wie Lettuce

Wire Lettuce

Another plant in my garden is blooming for the first time this year.  It was a volunteer; its seed must have come some distance since I haven’t seen this in any of my neighbors’ yards.  It is an acacia, and, yes, those round yellow balls are the flower, not the fruit.

Volunteer Acacia

Volunteer Acacia

I have two small desert willow plants in my yard.    They’ve only put out one or two flowers so far this year – one last year.  So I admire the mature trees in my neighbors’ yards.  On this one, you can see many blossoms, along with last year’s seed pods.   I think I have quite a few years to wait for this kind of display.

Desert Willow

Desert Willow

One plant I’ve been wanting for my yard and haven’t found a place for is cholla.  It is much better behaved and less weedy than prickly pear, so I may yet find a spot.  I love the way the flowers appear among the pods from last year.  At some point in my youth I was part of a class in colors, for clothes, in which we were told not to mix purple and yellow.  Nature missed this suggestion.  I see yellow and purple flowers together every all, and here, the purple flowers among yellow seed pods.

Cholla

Cholla

 

 

How Native Plants Behave

3 Comments

primrose 2Several years ago I planted Mexican primrose.  I thought I had killed it after a year.  There was no sign of it the third year, nor the fourth.  If I had known it could still come back, I would not have planted the chamisa bush quite where I did.  But it turned out that this was just what the Mexican primrose wanted.  Native plants do not need to be spaced.  In fact, they are happier in each other’s shade.  And the Mexican primrose sends its stems in all directions to take its flowers to the sun.

Other native plants have been active.  Poppies come up where ever they choose.  This one is sharing space with a plant I know as “wire lettuce.”  It has a small pink flower, when it decides to bloom.P1000078

Yucca plants which spent years squeezed by a prickly pear cactus have taken advantage of the space in the course of the two years since the cactus collapsed in an unusually deep freeze.yucca close

The yucca is the state flower of New Mexico  There are many varieties and the legislature neglected (or perhaps refused?) to specify which one is the official one.

 

Older Entries Newer Entries