Sunday, September 22, 2013


Weather: Cooler mornings, rain; 12:10 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, silver lace vine, Russian sage, daturas, zinnias and African marigolds from seed, alfalfa.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, sweet peas, leather-leafed globe mallow, bindweed, greenleaf five-eyes, yellow evening primrose, wild lima beans, clammy weed, lamb’s quarter, Russian thistle, pigweed, ragweed, chamisa, snakeweed, Hopi tea, Tahoka daisy, gumweed, horseweed, broom senecio, native sunflowers, áñil del muerto, golden hairy, heath and purple asters; Indian paintbrush near a chamisa.

In my yard, looking east: Winecup mallow, Maximilian sunflowers; pink evening primroses germinating for next year.

Looking south: Rugosa and miniature roses.

Looking west: Johnson Blue geranium, David phlox, catmints, calamintha, bachelor buttons from seed.

Looking north: Chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, anthemis, chrysanthemum, dahlias.

In the open, along the drive: Fern bush, hollyhock, California poppies, larkspur, Heavenly blue morning glories, black-eyed Susan, lance-leaf coreopsis, few Mexican hats, Sensation and yellow cosmos.

Bedding plants: Snapdragons, sweet alyssum, French marigolds.

Known unknowns: Madcap, the flower at the bottom.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Hummingbird moths, small bees, hornets, large and small black ants.

Weekly update: An arroyo seems such a simple thing. A channel carved by water seeking a lower place.

Every time I return, I think I see something different. When I’m home, I realize I saw it before, and forgot. I repeat myself. Yet when I went out yesterday, after three weeks of rain, I was sure there were differences.

Geology began the enterprise and still controls through changes in elevation that alter flows of water. The far arroyo washes up from the south, widens and narrows, widens and narrows. Below a fault line marked by a line of harder rocks, the water shifts to the right, where it’s carved steep banks.

Water washes off the edge, eroding the base, and undercutting the bank some more.

Here and there, water moves down from the hills through breaks it made.

Then man built a road, that channeled more water into a canyon.

Where the water enters, the recent rains cut a channel a foot high. Every year they create a sharp edge, that’s smoothed by the winds and gravity.

Over time, the bottom widened, chamisa sprouted in higher places. Its islands perpetuate their heightened elevation.

Water leaves its mark, for nothing grows where it moves. The flood banks along the side are covered with an annual grass, seven-week grama. It’s denser near the road crossing and the tributary canyons, and thins between.

Climb up the bank, and the grass grows near the arroyo edge, where the land is flatter, and water lingers.

Farther away, the slope is steeper. Only late summer ring muhly grass and Russian thistles have sprouted.

Few flowers are blooming. It’s late in the season. The chamisa, broom senecio, purple asters and snakeweed always arrive this time of year. But, here and there, something is blooming that has been dormant for several seasons.

Photographs: All pictures taken yesterday, 21 September 2013.

1. Wash entering the arroyo with large purple aster and yellow broom senecio.

2. Looking from the cholla flats across to the Russian thistle covered hills; yellow snakeweed.

3. Steep arroyo walls, right bank; water begins to carve a channel, indicated by the steps in the center. The channel then erodes the base of the bank, making it higher. Mainly four-winged saltbush at base.

4. The water meets a project of the right bank, the channel ends, and the water flows toward the center. The vertical scored in the bank are caused by water running down from the prairie above. Chamisa islands in the center of the arroyo.

5. Seven-week grama marks the path water has carved in the prairie edge as it moves down into the arroyo. Winterfat and other shrubby plants mark the junction. Chamisa islands are in the arroyo center.

6. Right flood bank where the ranch road enters; covered in places with seven-week grama; shrubs grow at the base of the bank where water falls, then remains in shadows.

7. Channel edge downstream from the ranch road. Layers of gravel alternate with sandy loam. The gravel falls out and marks the waterway. The water undercuts the bank, and it eventually falls, widening that section of the arroyo level. Overexposed to show the strata in shadow.

8. Water paths between the right chamisa island and the right flood plain, downstream from the ranch road. Some perennial grama is blooming in front.

9. Right flood plain between the ranch road and the small natural channel, covered with seven-week grama. Chamisa and some yellow áñil del muerto.

10. Prairie above the natural channel. Seven-week grama in front, with some stickleafs and snakeweed. At the back, channels made by ATVs. Across the ranch road, Russian thistles grow on the slope.

11. Close up of the Russian thistle that has grown between existing dead grass clumps. The brown heads are late-season ring muhly grass.

12. Indian paintbrush. I last saw one in the arroyo last May (2012) before the drought began.

13. An unknown flower; although I know it has bloomed in places around the arroyo more recently, the last time this plant bloomed was May of 2009. It grows on the left flood plain before the wash and ranch road enter.

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