Sunday, October 14, 2018

Outbuildings


Weather: Each year when we reach this time in October when we get some rain, I stop watering and let the plants adjust to nature’s water levels.

Last useful rain: 10/14. Week’s low: 38 degrees F. Week’s high: 70 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, silver lace vine, Russian sage, datura, sweet peas, Maximilian sunflowers, chrysanthemums, zinnias

What’s blooming in my yard: Calamintha, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Sensation cosmos, African marigolds, morning glories

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, chamisa, broom snakeweed, senecio, purple asters.

What’s red or turning red and orange: Sand cherries, spirea, Virginia creeper leaves; prostrate knotweed stems

What’s yellow or turning yellow and orange: Sweet cherry, choke cherry, peach, apricot, catalpa, skunk bush, caryopteris, grape leaves

Bedding plants: Petunias and dwarf marigolds locally

Tasks: It’s a hard time of year to work outside. My body has no problem adjusting to changing hours of daylight, but my mind is another matter. It’s used to my doing physical labor right after breakfast, and then getting on to other more cerebral activities. When I can’t because it’s still too cold, it doesn’t want to go outside in late morning.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small brown birds, geckos, hornets, sidewalk ants

The Maximilian sunflowers are out of bloom and the leaves turning yellow. Earlier today I saw the first batch of birds harvesting the seeds. They probably were goldfinches that blend into the pied foliage.


Weekly update: Last year at this time I had hired a dumpster and was cleaning out the garage. I was forced to that expense because I could never find anyone with a pickup truck willing to work, and I simply couldn’t get rid of stuff one trash container at a time.

This problem seems universal. Even when people have trucks to haul away trash, they seem to limit themselves to taking away brush, large weeds like Russian thistles, and crop debris. Manufactured objects just take on roots.


Once upon a time, when men had to build their own storage sheds, the labor acted as a deterrent against amassing stuff. The adobe ones mostly are ruins now, and few wooden ones exist, perhaps because of the cost of wood, perhaps because frame construction isn’t as indigenous as block.

Businesses of different sorts offer easier alternatives: self storage units fill vacant lots and portable sheds are hawked. The problem with these is they fill up, and rather than clean them, more sheds are installed.

Very often the first is well done, but the next is more ephemeral.


I’ve lived in Michigan, Ohio, and west Texas where tornadoes are always a threat. When I drive by these sheds I wonder about how well they are installed. My one neighbor put a cement slab under his first, and had the sellers erect it and its mate.

Another neighbor put his on an existing slab, but probably on some kind of blocks. He told me that’s where the ground squirrel lives.

Like you I’ve been looking at photographs of destruction in western Florida. The winds apparently got under metal surfaces and lifted the sheets away. They show buildings stripped of their siding, and not just the usual trailers. If such winds every happened here, all our sheet metal roofs could disappear.

One child was killed when a carport flew into her house. Those metal canopies on poles are ubiquitous here. I’m not sure it mattered in Florida how strongly they were attached, but here I wonder about them in the spring winds.


Notes on photographs: All taken in the area on 23 May 2018.
1. This began as a garage and attached carport. A few years ago the carport was walled. Later, the metal barn was added.

2. The one on the left was first.
3. Two wooden buildings.

4. Another outbuilding was installed first. Then the one on the left. After that, the one on the right was built.

5. I’m not sure of the order for the carport and two sheds. You can see both sheds are perched somewhat unsteadily on blocks, unlike the ones in #2 which were professionally installed.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Season in Review


Weather: Another hurricane stayed west of the Rockies, giving us only mist. This year, they ones from the Pacific that sometimes come up the valley either have been kept south to go into Texas or stayed beyond the mountains. Since Tuesday, winds have come up every day around noon and continued late in the day.

Last useful rain: 10/2. Week’s low: 33 degrees F. Week’s high: 84 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, silver lace vine, Russian sage, datura, sweet peas, Maximilian sunflowers, chrysanthemums, zinnias

What’s blooming in my yard: Calamintha, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, white cosmos, African marigolds

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, chamisa, broom snakeweed, senecio, áñil del muerto, pigweed, Russian thistles; purple, heath, and golden hairy asters peaked. Seeds from tahoka daisies have become a nuisance; the tridents stick in my pant legs.

What’s red or turning red and orange: Sand cherries, spirea, Virginia creeper leaves; prostrate knotweed stems

What’s yellow or turning yellow and orange: Sweet cherry, choke cherry, peach, apricot, catalpa, skunk bush, caryopteris, grape leaves

What has fruit: Apples have been dropping for some time. Pyracantha berries are bright orange in the area. My purple grapes are turning into raisins, uneaten this year by the ground squirrel. The privet berries finally turned black and glossy. The Woodsi roses are the only ones with hips in my yard.

Bedding plants: Petunias and dwarf marigolds locally

Tasks: It’s too late to clean beds; plants are dropping leaves to cover themselves this winter. I can get out the pruners and go back to removing winterfat that’s grown in places I don’t want. I stopped earlier this year because I couldn’t burn the debris in the drought.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small brown birds, geckos, hornets, sidewalk ants


Weekly update: Usually when the heat passes in summer, some annuals come into bloom. This year, only one neighbor has zinnias. Mine have peaked and never got more than six inches high.

Sensation cosmos usually are blooming now, but I haven’t seen any yet. The white ones always have done better in my yard, and the Purity have been blooming since mid-August, even if they remained short. The rose-colored Dazzlers I planted in early June put one their first flower this week. The yellow, which are a different species, came up, produced one flower per plant, then quit.

I’ve only seen a few of the mixed morning glories. My neighbor’s came up and covered part of his inside fence, but produced no visible color. My Heavenly Blues finally began blooming this week.

My bedding plants have all but given up. The sweet alyssum that came up from seed has replaced them. The past two summers the French marigolds died in August, but the gazanias stayed in bloom until frost. This year I planted only gazanias, but had to accept a different variety. Like the old marigolds, the plants shrank all summer. While a few have bloomed since, most never did.

The other thing that usually happens this time of year is perennial buds from early summer that didn’t open begin to flourish. A few neighbors have some nice roses, but not many. Betty Prior has had only one cluster open at a time. Some other roses that didn’t appear in the spring are like the yellow cosmos: they put out one late flower.

I have some red hot pokers blooming, as does my next door neighbor. Two weeping yuccas in the village are blooming, as are the Arizona yuccas.

Otherwise, one branch on the Rumanian sage is back in bloom, and a few Jupiter’s beards have put out flowers.


Notes on photographs: All were taken 4 August 2018.
1. Red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) that self-seeded.

2. Heavenly Blue morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor) growing through wire mesh put down to keep the rabbit from eating the seedlings. Purity cosmos are blooming with them.

3. Purity cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus).

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Columbine Returns



Weather: Fall arrived on Friday when the morning temperature near my house fell to 33 degrees.

Last useful rain: 9/26. Week’s low: 33 degrees F. Week’s high: 82 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, buddleia, silver lace vine, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, datura, sweet pea, coreopsis, Maximilian sunflowers, chrysanthemums, zinnias, pampas grass

What’s blooming in my yard: Chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, white cosmos, African marigolds, bachelor buttons, larkspur

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, leather leaf globemallow, broom snakeweed, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles; purple, heath, and golden hairy asters; quack grass; seven-week, black, blue, and side oats grama

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf marigolds locally.

Tasks: The days get shorter, and so does my time to work outside. This week I switched from a three-day watering cycle back to a four-day one. It’s now dark at 6 am, when I used to start.

Animal sightings: Cat, small brown birds, geckos, small bees, hornets, other small flying insects, sidewalk ants, crickets

The neighbor’s cat doesn’t like cold air. Some mornings it looks like it would dive into the house in the morning, even though the rest of the time it treats me with suspicious indifference.

Weekly update: This summer I cleared the golden spur columbine that was crowding the daylilies. I also did some leveling with new soil.

The columbine is back with a vengeance. The plants in the new soil have woods that are at three to five inches across, and deeper than my spade will dig. I get out what I can, but the remains will regenerate. I had hoped to plant something else there, but not I fear the columbine roots will choke anything from underneath.

The plants also reburied the daylilies. There’s one small rose that’s disappeared completely. When I did them out, I find the same kinds of massive roots have replaced the smaller ones I removed earlier.

Seeds landed between and right next to leaves that stopped the flow of air. They put down narrow roots, then expand. It's hard to get them out without damaging the daylily or poker root. Even then, the buried remnant is likely to squeeze out the desired plant.

When I remove the plants, I discover the ground covered with small seedlings. What with the cool temperatures and bits of rain this is their season to grow.

Notes on photograph: Tree of life on sign for a business painted on the side of an adobe building, 19 August 2018.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Grass Attacks


Weather: Decent rain on Thursday. In the past week the golden spur columbine has doubled in height and seedlings have come up in every available space. They buried some recently planted iris.

Last useful rain: 9/20. Week’s low: 43 degrees F. Week’s high: 90 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, buddleia, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, datura, sweet pea, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, Maximilian sunflowers, chrysanthemums, zinnias, pampas grass

One person planted annual four o’clocks in a raised bed at the end of his trailer. They’ve now been there several years, getting larger and bushier every year. I don’t know if they winter over or if the owner lifts the roots and replants them in the spring.

This year, I ordered some seeds to see if I would have his luck, especially since the perennial species has naturalized in my yard. The plants remained small through the heat of June and July, then began blooming a couple weeks ago. They’re nothing yet to compare with my neighbor, but maybe they’ll survive like his.

What’s blooming in my yard: Large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, pink evening primroses, calamintha, scarlet flax, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, white cosmos, African marigolds, bachelor buttons, larkspur

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, leather leaf globemallow, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, yellow evening primroses, broom snakeweed, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, dandelions, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles; purple, heath, and golden hairy asters; quack grass; seven-week, black, blue, and side oats grama

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf marigolds locally.

Tasks: I had another hose fail this week, but in a new way. The rubber pealed away on the inside, blocking the flow of water.

I’d known something was wrong a couple weeks ago when beds were getting less water. I checked that I hadn’t left another hose running some place that was diverting the water. Then I climbed into the well to purge the sand filter. Nothing changed. It didn’t seem right to call the maintenance company to change the other filters: they’ve never created this serious a problem.

Friday no water came through. I walked the line and found no leaks or kinks. Then, I detached the hose from its connection and water came pouring out. I reached into the hose and felt something hard a few inches from the end I thought was a stone. When I got it into better light I saw the rubber.

Animal sightings: Cat, small brown birds, geckos, small bees, hornets, other small flying insects, sidewalk ants, crickets

When I was weeding this week I found a dead crow in the grass a few feet from the utility pole. I asked my neighbor, who had worked for electrical utilities, if it had electrocuted itself. He said it was possible: if it put its beak somewhere near a certain place near the pole then current would jump to it.

He suggested I look for singed feathers. I didn’t get that close. I removed it wearing rubber gloves and a face mask. Besides, it probably had died just before I smelled something bad last April, because only the feathers and bones were left.

As I’m sure someone already has said: gardening is not for the squeamish.


Weekly update: I wonder sometimes if it’s inevitable that steppe vegetation will completely replace native grasses in this area. When a winterfat or four-wing salt bush gets started it kills everything under it, leaving the soil open to the kind of wind erosion I mentioned last week. The area remains bare after I cut down the intruder.

I know grasses evolved as a plant type before trees and plants at a time when the Earth’s climate was very different. I thought it possible the native grasses simply hadn’t adapted as well to the changes and were vulnerable to the plants that emerged with the new conditions.

I have one area above the retaining wall where nothing would grow. I put in some bulbs and the ground squirrel ate them. I finally managed to get some miniature roses to grow and the rodent bit them all off at ground level and no more would grow.

I noticed what looked like crab grass did grow, so I planted some blue grama and buffalo grass seed. Some finally survived, I think the buffalo.

Then, everything started to invade. The golden hairy asters and hollyhocks have been the most aggressive. Next, the pink evening primroses moved in. This week, while I was removing those ground squirrel mounds I mentioned last week, I found quack grass on the perimeter getting ready to drop its seeds.

Apparently the lush grass creates a ground cover that retains water and traps seeds. Alas, as soon as the seedlings grow they kill their nurse. Or, I kill them.


Notes on photographs:
1. Perennial four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora) in my yard, 19 August 2018.
2. Annual four o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa) in my yard, 8 September 2018.
3. Annual four o’clock in neighbor’s raised bed, 9 July 2018.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Footings and Mortar


Weather: Morning temperatures fell to new lows. While this may be expected this time of the year, I suspect Florence and all the other tropical disturbances were drawing the moisture away from this area. That upper atmosphere water acts as a shield that keeps heat from rising. With it gone, temperatures fell to 43 on Thursday and to 38 on Friday when Florence was close to the North Carolina coast. Humidity levels fell to 10% in Los Alamos and Santa Fé on Thursday afternoon. This morning the air is moist and warm again.

Last useful rain: 9/2. Week’s low: 38 degrees F. Week’s high: 87 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, buddleia, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, zinnias, pampas grass

What’s blooming in my yard: Garlic chives peaked, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, lead plant, pink evening primroses, perennial four o’clock nearly gone, calamintha, scarlet flax, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple and yellow cone flowers, white cosmos, Maximilian sunflowers, African marigolds

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, scarlet creeper, leather leaf globemallow, white sweet clover, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, white prairie and yellow evening primroses, broom snakeweed, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, dandelions, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles; purple, heath, and golden hairy asters; quack grass; seven-week, black, and side oats grama

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf African marigolds locally.

Tasks: For reasons still unknown, the ground squirrel left piles of dirt around the iris growing in front of a retaining wall. The soil it brings up hardens and absorbs no water. I wonder how it can support roots a few inches underground, but perhaps the grasses and other cover keep it from drying out.

I suspect this is what is uncovered when that vegetation is removed, and the wind takes away the veneer of top soil. None of the seeds I planted in barren areas this summer grew more than a few inches. Some were in the path of a leak that kept them very wet.

Animal sightings: Cat, rabbit, hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, small bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers, sidewalk ants; heard crickets


Weekly update: About six weeks ago, one area in Santa Fé got a lot of rain in a short time. My friend who lived there said water reached his retaining wall that edged the sidewalk on the house side.

His street sloped down into a T intersection. The pavement, curbs, and sidewalls channeled the water, while the crown directed it toward the wall of a woman who lived at the corner. It eroded the mortar and the wall came down in a single piece. The flood waters then crashed into a wall on the other street and took out another wall.

They probably were built by the same mason. Both walls used half-high, hollow, cinder blocks with a solid layer at the top.

When I investigated local walls a few years ago, I noticed many of the earlier ones had rough textured grout. I assumed it was used before Portland-cement mortars became available in town. I assumed Santa Fé didn’t have the same problems. But, this neighborhood was developed in the middle-1950s for middle-class families, and the mortar resembled putty.

My friend also told me people had advised the woman to apply to FEMA for assistance in rebuilding the wall. I thought, but didn’t say, FEMA? I know it was a bad storm, but isn’t that money better spent in Puerto Rico? Or saved for real disasters, like the ongoing one in the Carolinas?

The last time I saw him he said she had decided a FEMA loan wasn’t worth the paperwork, since it only covered 30% of the cost. Her greater problem was finding someone to do the repairs.

I always thought my problems with finding people to build fences arose from the fact I lived in the Española valley, and tradesmen simply refused to travel north.

I did also know a hierarchy of skills existed in Santa Fé before the economic crash of 2008. Contractors who worked at Las Campanas struggled to keep their crews together when the work stopped. Many who were immigrants simply left. With Trump’s war on Spanish-speaking immigrants, more may have returned home.

Newspapers proclaimed the economy was near full employment this week. They believed that was the result of the Republican tax cut, but in some occupations it may simply have been the elimination of skilled competition.

The woman discovered the result was the few men who were willing to bid on her job had highly inflated ideas of their worth, based on what better skilled men had earned in Las Campanas. One told her she had to supply both the stone and the grout, a demand that suggested he didn’t believe his skills were up to the task and wanted to have something to blame if the wall failed again.

Every tradesman I ever talked with wanted to supply everything so he knew the quality and could add the markup to his profits.


After I saw her wall, I thought again about the ones I built around my garden. Her wall had footings, and I simply had laid bricks on top of the soil. I wondered why mine hadn’t failed like hers. When I looked closely I saw her footings, like many I’ve seen here, were level with the surface of the ground, rather than raised like the slab under a house.

I don’t know anything about the relative strengths of currents in layers of water, so I don’t know if they’re stronger at the very bottom were her footings met the wall. The bricks in my low walls footed themselves when they sank partly into the ground, so they didn’t have weak areas exposed to running water.

When I was removing the bad dirt around the iris this week, I noticed the bricks had sunk so low the top layer of soil washed away. Before I could recover the exposed rhizomes, I had to add another layer of bricks to hold the soil. At least, I didn’t have to hire someone to do the work.

Notes on photographs: All taken in Santa Fé 21 August 2018, at least two weeks after the storm.
1. The wall came down in a piece.
2. Close up of the grout between blocks that failed.
3. Close up of the footing after the grout was gone.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Locally Grown


Weather: I suppose it was inevitable that with the summer temperatures so high the natural change to fall would be abrupt, but it was still a surprise. Leaves on some cherries and peaches have started to turn color and drop.

Last useful rain: 9/2. Week’s low: 48 degrees F. Week’s high: 84 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, buddleia, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, alfalfa, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, pampas grass

What’s blooming in my yard: Hosta, garlic chives, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, lead plant, pink evening primroses, perennial four o’clock, calamintha, scarlet flax, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple and yellow cone flowers, zinnias, white cosmos, Maximilian sunflowers, African marigolds

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, scarlet creeper, leather leaf globemallow, white sweet clover, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, white prairie and yellow evening primroses, crane bill, broom snakeweed, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, dandelions, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, purple and golden hairy asters, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles, quack grass, seven-week and side oats grama

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf African marigolds locally.

Tasks: The market garden fields that were abandoned have been colonized by áñil del muerto and native sunflowers. While áñil is dense in many places in Santa Fé, these fields are the only ones with many plants locally.

I’ve got hoses that are beginning to fail. I don’t know if its age or an animal has attacked them. I do know I can’t replace them; Amazon no longer has them available. I’ve installed a couple 50' hoses where I need 25' just to save some plants. Manufacturers and merchants who’d rather have one short than one left over at the end of the season don’t know the true cost of their calculations of unused inventory.

Animal sightings: Cat, rabbit, hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, small bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers, sidewalk ants; heard crickets


Weekly update: Genetic diversity is one of the keys to species survival. When a flower produces a number of seeds with minute differences, chances increase that at least one will be able to survive the unknowns of the next season.

Thus, the datura that came up from seed did much better this summer than the purchased plant, though both had parents from the same grower.

My seedling produced a few flowers in July then went out of bloom. Area plants that have been around for years began blooming in May and never stopped.

Then, on 28 August my seedling was covered with buds and the purchased plant had one. Most, but not all those buds have opened. Yesterday, I discovered the small bees, which had disappeared in mid-summer, were back. One was a datura flower.

Perhaps the tryst of a local bee with the local seedling will mean I’ll finally get some plants as durable as my neighbors.

Notes on photographs: Small bee on Datura wrightii flower in my yard taken 8 September 2018. I’m not sure about the species of these bees.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

City Sidewalks


Weather: We have tropical storm Gordon headed for Louisiana and hurricane Olivia moving to the west. I often wonder how storms on both sides of México interact.

Last useful rain: 9/2. Week’s low: 43 degrees F. Week’s high: 89 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, desert willow, trumpet creeper, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, rose of Sharon, purple phlox, datura, sweet pea, annual four o’clocks, alfalfa, farmer’s sunflowers, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, pampas grass

What’s blooming in my yard: Miniature roses, caryopteris, hosta, garlic chives, golden spur columbine, large-flowered soapwort, David phlox, winecup mallow, hollyhocks, lead plant, pink evening primroses, perennial four o’clock, calamintha, larkspur, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, Mönch aster, purple and yellow cone flowers, bachelor buttons, zinnias, Maximilian sunflowers

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Apache plume, purple mat flower, stick leaf, velvetweed, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, greenleaf five eyes, scarlet creeper, leather leaf globemallow, white sweet clover, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s head, prostate knotweed, toothed spurge, purslane, yellow evening primrose, Hopi tea, horseweed, wild lettuce, dandelions, goat’s beard, plain’s paper flower, áñil del muerto, native sunflowers, goldenrod, golden hairy asters, Tahoka daisy, pigweed, Russian thistles, seven-week grama, quack grass,

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum; petunias and dwarf African marigolds locally.

Tasks: Most of they hay fields were cut over Labor Day weekend.

The change from summer to fall is marked by the weeds. During the summer heat it was possible to weed an area and see the results a week later. With the rain, all the weeded areas have regrown. The only solace when I removed garlic chives for the third time from one bed is most were new seedlings, and not ones I’d missed earlier.

Animal sightings: Cat, rabbit, hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees, hornets, other small flying insects, grasshoppers, harvester and sidewalk ants, earth worms; heard crickets

The ant hills are multiplying as quickly as the weeds. I know the experts say a new queen is required to start a new hill, but I swear they’ve taken lessons from crack houses. I no longer shut down one hill than two new ones appear, one next to the old and another a bit away.

As the summer progresses the hills become less obvious. Instead of piles of sand or gravel, all they do is make holes as invisible as possible, usually between some stones. When that’s not possible, they create an opening under a tahoka daisy or a small stick. 


Weekly update: Country song writers lament the attraction of bright lights and city streets that lure their true loves away. As I weed, I’ve decided the appeal transcends humans. The rabbit and the ground squirrel much prefer to walk down my block walks and gravel drive to getting their paws dirty in the grass lands beyond the cultivated beds.

So-called native wild flowers have shown a similar proclivity for my tile drainage areas. The coral beard’s tongues died when I planted them in beds in different locations. Instead, they went to seed in the tiles in front of the house. They were soon joined by the chocolate flowers.

I had said to myself, nothing in the tiles. They gave me an ultimatum: leave them alone or they would leave.

Now the blue flax as taken up residence in the tiles on the west side of the house. It tended to die out in winters and come back from seed. This year the seed just chose a domesticated area, rather than a wild one.

Beyond perversity, there are two reasons they move. The tiles trap moisture in the way rocks do in nature, and so I unwittingly recreated a necessary part of their environment. Second, the chocolate flowers and domestic coreopsis were escaping the more aggressive golden spur columbine in front, while ladybells recently had taken over most of the real estate reserved for the flax.


Notes on photographs: All were taken 3 September 2018.
1. Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) growing in cracks between tiles that it enlarges.

2. Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) growing between tiles.

3. Blue flax (Linum perenne) in a crack, with Queen Anne’s lace on the left and ladybells on the right. Only the flax will be left alone.