Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eating My Words

Remember when I said I'd gladly give up my tomatoes to a Hawkmoth Larva?
Well.....the time has come........

The upside? It returns to feed on the same tomato so I won't lose many,
and maybe I'll have the pleasure of seeing it next year, after metamorphosis,
hovering about the scented blossoms in my little garden.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


This post is about my Mom, but check out the Wizened Wizard for some awesome pix of the lunar eclipse!

Yesterday, I happened to look out of the window to see my ninety-four year old Mom, working in her shop. I thought she was working on her latest project, a bamboo flute, but she was sorting out sheet music from a storage box. Her drill press is in the background and her radial arm saw is outside, a whitish canvas covered shape in the lower left corner.

She hasn't made much furniture since she turned ninety, but she made rocking chairs and swings among other things, for all of us when she was in her eighties. I'll post pix of some of her projects one of these days.
Here's a longer shot that includes part of her little cottage with the little shop behind. The bit of tilt is the fault of the photographer!
My Mom recently gave up driving and losing that part of her independence has been hard on her.

Her secret for longevity? Good genes for one, but she's always taken good care of herself. She's taken vitamins for as long as I can remember and she's always exercised. Much of that exercise has stemmed from just plain hard work, but she still walks every day. Her motto is, if it can be done, she can do it. She has an insatiable gusto for life and always has a project going.

At night, I look down from my window to see her light shining bright in the otherwise unbroken darkness as she sits reading with her little dog Sadie at her feet. When the light goes out, I know she's tucked herself away in the same little bed she slept in as a girl.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tomatoes in a Tub

Anyone for fried green tomatoes?

For the sixteen years E. and I lived in Chino Valley, a rural community about fifteen miles north of Prescott, we grew vegetables in a huge garden plot. Each autumn found us busy canning and freezing just about every vegetable you can think of.

We pickeled cucumbers and beets, tried our hand at sauerkraut, and one time only.......made some horseradish. It was an overpowering experience. Tears streamed from our eyes. Near to unconsciousness from the overpowering fumes, we gasped, "Never! Absolutely, never, ever again!"

One of the reasons we chose the One Acre Wood as our home when we moved to the big city of Prescott was the old garden plot, a flat sunny area in about the center of the acre. For ten years or so, we gardened here and continued to preserve much of our own food.

Fresh summer tomatoes mean a lot to me, so now that our well no longer produces enough water for indulging full scale vegetable gardening, I grow two tomato plants in half-whiskey barrels each year. Although these plants aren't as productive as tomato plants grown in rich garden soil, I'm always rewarded with some home grown tomatoes. Early Girl is not the biggest tomato, but as the name implies, an early tomato for our short growing season. And here's the first ripe tomeato of the year!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The August wind comes blowin' in........

As the end of August draws near, nights are cooler, and the relentless chant of cicadas in the cottonwoods, and scrub oak, seems thin and lacking in enthusiasm.

A cool breeze stirs the pines, and slides slyly past to conjure in me some primitive almost overwhelming need be off .. following in it's fly away.

Although I love geese and sometimes I'm as silly as one, I'm not equipped to migrate. From where does this vague sense of unease, arive to plague me each autumn? And why? Will they someday define some gene as the one passed on to me from my nomadic ancestors? Like Mole and Mr. Toad from Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows, I'm ripe for change and adventure.

Some garlic chives have naturalized on the top tier of my neglected rock garden,

where bees work busily among the frothy umbels.

A head count confirmed that the Cooper's Hawk was unlucky with it's chicken hunting. It hung around for a couple of hours before departing on other business. Chickens are not as dumb as people think they are.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Little Predator

For anyone who wants to see the best Hawk Moth shot yet, go over to Arizona Babylon,

where he's written a poem to accompany the shot, and refers to the Hawk Moth as a Sphynx Moth, which, of course, it is.
As we were carrying our breakfast outside this morning, E. and I noticed this Cooper's Hawk perched on a low, woodpecker riddled pine branch. It was the perfect vantage point to see both down to the chicken yard and over to the bird baths.

For two or three years, a pair of Cooper's Hawks nested in Kanga's tall Ponderosa Pines. After all, with all those bantam chickens running about in our yard next door, it was a perfect place to bring up the kids.

The whole neighborhood enjoyed watching the chicks grow and we were all amazed and amused by their pathetic attempts to fly. They crashed clumsily about, banging into tree branches and taking dizzying spills toward the ground before they mastered the art. But master it they did, and of course they learned to hunt chickens.
The chickens, however are quite sensitive to any shadow moving across the ground and quickly alert each other to danger. The hawks caught few chickens, but proved very good at hunting down the Eurasian Doves that have infiltrated our neighborhood in the last four or five years.
The Eurasain Doves, not a native species, drove both Mourning Doves and Inca Doves from our neighborhood, so the hawks have restored some balance to nature. The last I heard, we had been the only neighborhood in Prescott to host Inca Doves. Normally, they are found at lower altitudes, but a little colony had settled here and we were sad to see them driven out by the much larger E. doves.
Taken against the light, this picture is misty, but shows the yellow low on the hawks underbelly.
By the way, both chickens and birds were notably absent or hidden. I don't think a hawk has an easy time catching his dinner.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More Bathing Birds.

Taking a break from black and white......

Remember this little Lesser Goldfinch couple who were
taking a break from the July heat?

Eeyore snapped them through the living room window.
bringing in their brood of three...
Papa, is on the right, mostly hidden by
the upper bowl. His yellow front is just showing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Just Another Skunk Story

Not a skunk, but a sweet little black and white moth.
This shot is more black and rosy.

I have to get all these skunk stories out of my system!

Long, oh, so long ago, Eeyore was maried to someone else. I'll call her R. She was a pixie-like charmer who considered herself a great authority on animals and was, indeed, an animal lover.

One day, E. and R. were driving past the local hospital on Willow Creek Road. For those of you who live in Prescott, Willow Creek Road was then a two lane, paved road that ran between rows of giant cottonwood trees. There were grassy ditches alongside the road that drained into that catch area the City has now planted with cattails and trees. There was a pasture that was kept green by artesian seepage where the helo-pad and parking lot are now. A beautiful chestnut, mare used to graze there.........
Well, E. and R. spotted a skunk in the ditch by the Hospital. As a rule, skunks just don't go out in the daytime, so animal lovers and observers that they were, they stopped to take a closer look at this phenomenon. They soon saw that this skunk was blind. Heavy scar tissue sealed both of it's eyes.

"This skunk is someones's lost, deoderized pet," decided R. "A blind skunk could never survive in the wild for any length of time." Striding fearlessly up to the creature, she picked it up by the tail, climbed out of the ditch, and deposited it in the back of their pickup truck.
"We have to save it," she said.

This created a problem for them as they lived in Chino Valley, about sixteen miles to the north, and they were in route to Bagdad about fifty miles to the west.

As the skunk bumbled about in the back of their truck, they debated their course of action.

Just around the corner, on Iron Springs Road, Prescott Animal Hospital existed in approxomately the same spot that it does today. They decided to leave the skunk there since, at that time, that's where the dog pound was located. Surely, anyone seeking a lost pet would check with the pound first. If it was not claimed, they would take it as a pet for themselves.

At the Animal Hospital, R., carrying the skunk by the tail, plunked it on the counter. The Veterinarian on duty that day, a kind man and excellent Vet., now retired, was dubious about taking the skunk, but they persuaded him, saying that they would stop back to pick it up. He found a box and R. picked up the skunk and placed it in the box.

Saying their goodbyes, they headed out the door as the good Dr. carried the box back to the impound area. When he entered the impound area all the dogs started barking. Immediately, that horrible, pervasive odor of spraying skunk poured forth. Looking at one another in shocked surprise, E. and R. made an instant decision.

"Sorry, Doc," they called as they beat their cowardly retreat.

It is to that Veterinarian's credit that he seemed never to hold a grudge, and continued caring for all of E.'s animals until his retirement.

People used to have the scent gland removed from baby skunks and raise them as pets, but I believe that's now, against the law.
That's my favorite funny skunk story. Stay tuned for a grim look at the part skunks played in the settlement of Prescott.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kanga has the Polecat Blues

This week, my daughter Kanga's German Shepard, Conan had a confrontation with a skunk that was probably planning to dine on his leftover kibble. Unfortunately, this occurred just outside Kanga's open bedroom window.
The next day, Kanga called to tell me about it. She and my SIL had bolted from the bedroom into the kitchen as though mindlessly running from an explosion, which I guess they were, as the overpowering odor poured into the room. At that point they were groggy and bewildered. But, as the pervasive smell trailed after them throughout the house, the truth of the situation became clear.
There was no sleep that night. The next day, when K called me, she was still scrubbing, laundering, or throwing away everything in that bedroom. She was in a blue, blue mood.
Still, when I asked about Conan, expecting that he'd been thoroughly skunked, she burst into laughter. Conan, who has some skunk experience under his collar, apparently feels that discretion is the better part of valor, so after confronting and annoying the skunk, he beat a hasty retreat around the corner of the house escaping the crucial moment. Only the tip of his tail was a bit smelly!
Skunks, like coyotes and ravens are thriving as civilization encroaches upon their habitat. They prowl at night eating whatever they can find from earthworms and crickets to pet food to hens eggs and chicks. A skunk will jump on the back of a nesting hen, kill her and partake of her eggs and/or chicks at leisure.
E. had penned a little hen and her brood for safety, but still, a skunk reached through the wire to tear the wing from this little hen when she was a chick. It managed to snag and kill another baby, but of course, couldn't get either chick through the wire Little Lefty is about half grown now and looks rather pathetic with so many adult feathers coming in. This is her wingless side. She won't be able to roost in the tree with the rest of her brood, but she'll learn to sleep in the hen house with the non-fliers like this little Cochin hen.
I have quite a bit more to say about skunks including E's method of skunk disposal, but it can wait until next post.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Best of Friends

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious,
it is the true source of art, science, and friendship."
Albert Einstein
My best friend is coming from Florida for a visit next month. We met in the eighth grade, were inseparable throughout high school, and although ours is mostly a long distance friendship, it is still strong.
I moved from town to town and school to school too much to form lasting friendships until I was in the eighth grade and settled down to finish school here in Prescott. Maybe that's the reason I've enjoyed watching the friendship between my Granddaughters, cousins Piglet and Mu, as it continues to grow and mature over the years.
When they were four or five years old I ran across this little poster. It could be P. and M. walking hand in hand on the beach, and when I see it is.

Piglet was one year and ten days old when Mu was born.

They took to the water together..........

learned to ride horseback together............

made beautiful music together...................

and today, they spend as much time as possible together,
always including Mu's little sister Roo in their activities, but Roo is ten
while they are TEENAGERS......

I love the idea that each of these girls will always have a special friend,

one who understands and cares about her, who will listen to her,
and with whom she can share her triumphs, tribulations, and just plain everyday life.