Sunday, November 11, 2018

Computers vs Reality


Weather: From Indian summer to winter solstice weather in two weeks. This week a cold front came through Thursday night, and the air temperature fell to 17 in the night. It rose before dawn, then dropped back to 21.

Another storm is forecast for tonight with even colder temperatures after. Clouds have been coming and going all day, with hard rain a little after noon. The moisture is a warning that makes the day feel ominous.

Last useful rain: 11/11. Week’s low: 17 degrees F. Week’s high: 62 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses in area, sweet alyssum, single flowers on plants in protected places

What’s still green: Juniper, arborvitae, and other evergreens, iris, red hot pokers, scarlet and blue flax, hollyhocks, winecup mallows, leather leaf globe mallow, beards tongues, snap dragon, golden spur columbine, bouncing Bess, pink evening primrose, vinca, coral bells, alfilerillo, green leaf five eyes, Saint John’s wort, cat mint, baptisia, violets, sweet pea, Queen Anne’s lace, alfalfa, Shasta daisy, Mexican hats, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, blanket flowers, anthemis, gazania, white yarrow, dandelion, purple and Mönch asters, June and needle grasses; new cheat grass emerging

Apache plume and cliff roses are behaving like evergreens; some leaves turn yellow then fall, leaving the rest.

What’s red or turning red and orange: Purple leaf plum

What’s yellow or turning yellow and orange: Broom snakeweed,

What’s gray, gray-green, or blue green: Four-winged saltbush, buddleia, pinks, winterfat, snow-in-summer, Silver King artemesia, golden hairy aster, chocolate flower

Tasks: The week of Indian Summer meant all the leaves fell at once when the temperatures turned cold. For the first time in years, there are piles of leaves in the drive. The leaves that didn’t turn color died this week, and remain on the cottonwood and black locust trees. I have no intention of raking them, even if were possible on gravel. They aren’t going to kill a lawn, and eventually will blow away

One tree that kept its leaves was the Siberian elm. When the leaves disappeared from other trees, it was possible to see all the places it had invaded without being noticeable during the summer.

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, earth worms


Weekly update: When I voted Tuesday in the local precinct, I was reminded again of the problems confronting areas that do not conform to big city patterns. We have no physical address, we have directions. I have a PO box, and had a hard time remembering by county road. Fortunately the poll worker was understanding; he said his physical has changed three times since the county started assigning building and road numbers (not streets with house numbers).

I’m sure one group that lobbied for the change was large service and delivery companies. Address meant they didn’t experienced drivers.

Whenever I call one and try to give them directions, they say it’s not necessary, the GPS will tell him where to go. I usually manage to get them to have the driver call when he’s in the area, so I can meet him at the road to open the gate. Inevitably, I watch him drive by and come back.

Many mail order nurseries that fill by box with catalogs refuse to ship to the box, because they give the lucrative business to UPS. If you want to start a friendly discussion with a stranger in this area, just mention a recent delivery problem and he or she will top you.

I wanted some lily bulbs and only one company has ever shipped ones that remained viable. Last spring I made arrangements with a friend in Santa Fé to have them shipped to him. Naturally, he told me his UPS story. The driver regularly confuses him with someone else, and the one calls the other when a package has been misdelivered.

When I didn’t get anything by the end of October, I assumed the nursery hadn’t shipped or the package had gone astray. But no, I got an email Friday night saying the package had arrived. Naturally, I didn’t get it until Monday, because there’s a built-in delay with UPS that doesn’t exist with the post office.

The nursery must have put the zip code into their database and come up with USDA zone 6. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had said a cold zone 5; the computer understands our needs better than we do. It also protects the company against people who genuinely don’t know, and removes one step from the order entry process.

Ahead of the Wednesday night cold front, morning temperatures were down to 23 on Tuesday and 22 on Wednesday. Even though I waited until late afternoon, the soil was wet and cold. I’m not sure if the worms were still active or just agitated when I uncovered them.

It didn’t take two days to plant the bulbs because I had ordered so many. My hands got cold. I went back out Thursday to lay some of those wire mesh screens over the bed. I had bought them early in the summer to protect the seedlings from the rabbit; now I wanted to make it harder for the ground squirrel to scavenge.


Notes on photographs: In addition to the murals on walls around Cook’s and Hunter’s old car business, individuals have landscapes painted on their own walls. Many try to recapture local farm life. This one is on private property in town. Pictures taken 19 August 2018.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Laws of Physics


Weather: Rain, lots of rain, followed by cold temperatures.

Last useful rain: 10/31. Week’s low: 25 degrees F. Week’s high: 68 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, sweet peas, sweet alyssum, large-flowered soapwort, chrysanthemums, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, senecio, bachelor buttons, gazanias

What’s red or turning red and orange: Purple leaf plum, Bradford pear, spirea, snowball,

What’s yellow or turning yellow and orange: Apache plume, apricot, apples, potentilla, cottonwoods, Siberian elm, lilacs, beauty bush, brome grass

What’s gray or gray-green: Four-winged saltbush, winterfat, buddleia, fern bush, snow-in-summer, Silver King artemesia, golden hairy aster

What’s still green: Cliff roses, juniper and other evergreens, black locust, alfalfa, iris, red hot pokers, garlic chives, scarlet and blue flax, hollyhocks, winecup mallows, leather leaf globe mallow, pinks, beards tongues, golden spur columbine, vinca, Rumanian sage, cat mints, baptisia, violets, Queen Anne’s lace, Shasta daisy, Mexican hats, coreopsis, anthemis, yellow and white yarrows, dandelion, June and needle grasses; new alfilerillo emerging

Tasks: Some more of the market gardens have been cleared; in others the stalks were knocked down, but remain in rows

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, geckos, sidewalk ants


Weekly update: The laws of physics can be finessed, but they cannot be violated. No matter the weather, the Earth continues its ordained journey around the sun. We had an endless mid-June when temperatures were high and humidity low.

Then, as heated ocean waters met the coming cool weather, hurricanes formed off Central America and México. We got three days of rain with some snow with Tara in mid-October. We got more the end of October, probably as Michael finally moved away from Florida. This past week we got rain Tuesday and Wednesday while Xavier was forming and cold fronts were coming from the northwest.

All that moisture meant plants that had been in remission began their August bloom cycles. More amazing, last week we had an actual autumn when the leaves on trees turned colors, but did not fall. Usually the leaves turn and drop immediately.

Time can be stretched like an elastic band, but when it reaches it fullest extent it snaps back. The leaves are on the ground.


Notes on photographs: All were taken 25 October 2018; all were members of the rose family.
1. Sandcherry (Prunus besseyi)
2. Elberta peach (Prunus persica) with yellow catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)
3. Bing cherry (Prunus avium).

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Cold without Frost


Weather: Snowed Monday. About a week ago the weather service hinted at the coming change of seasons when it suggested the storm was being driven by the jet stream rather than the hurricanes in the Pacific. It didn’t say that exactly, but that’s what I understood to be the definition of summer and winter.

Hurricanes are still forming off the western coast of México, but those northern winds are directing the waters from Vincente and Willa into southern Texas.

We did get some residual rain late in the afternoon Tuesday, and winds on Wednesday.

Last useful rain: 10/16. Week’s low: 29 degrees F. Week’s high: 66 degrees F in the shade.

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

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

What’s blooming outside the walls and fences: Bindweed, greenleaf five eyes, chamisa, senecio

What’s red or turning red and orange: Sand cherries, spirea, snowball, Virginia creeper leaves; Russian thistle stems

What’s yellow or turning yellow and orange: Sweet cherry, peach, apricot, pasture roses, cottonwoods, catalpa, globe and weeping willows, skunk bush, caryopteris, grape, milkweed, Maximilian sunflower, goldenrod, daylily leaves

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum

Tasks: Monday I passed people who obviously had planned to work outside before the snow started falling a little after 7 am. One was loading tree limbs that had been cut to make room for a trailer. He was standing beside his truck warming his hands. Two younger men were cutting the tops of ornamental grass. When I passed them, they two were taking a break to warm their hands.

I took advantage of the clouds on Wednesday to cut winterfat in the afternoon.

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, geckos, sidewalk ants


Weekly update: Monday’s cold did not bring frost; the snow landed on leaves after 7 am, and soon melted. Plants sped up their preparations for winter, especially the purple asters which went out of bloom. Almost none of the so-called weeds are still blooming in my yard.

Cultivated plants responded differently. Those classed as cool-weather bloomers, like roses and sweet peas, continued their late flowering. The annuals grown from seed, like the Sensation cosmos and African marigolds, apparently were able to stay warm enough to stay alive.

Some shrubs, like the sand cherries, turned color long ago, and others like the choke cherry are bare. But many others, like the cottonwood, haven’t begun to slow down their metabolisms enough to lose much color.


Notes on photographs: All pictures taken 19 October 2018 after two mornings when temperatures fell to 31, but before they day they went down to 29.

1. Blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata) grown from seed; this was the second or third year for ths particular plant.

2. Perennial sweet peas (Lathyrus latifolia). They went out of bloom in August and started blooming again the first of October. They picked this location themselves.

3. African marigold (Tagetes erecta). The seeds were planted in mid-May, began growing after rains in July, and started blooming mid-September. They’re in a sheltered area between the black locust to the west, Maximilian sunflowers to the south, and wooden fence to the east.

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.