Sunday, June 26, 2016
Weather: Power outage lasted more than two hours at dawn on Wednesday. The closest sign of rain was a pockmarked surface Saturday morning; last rain 6/7.
What’s blooming in the area: Desert willow, hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, fernbush, Russian sage, Spanish broom, sweet peas, trumpet creeper, Japanese honeysuckle, silver lace vine, red-tipped yuccas, daylilies, lilies, datura, hollyhock, winecup mallow, bouncing Bess, yellow yarrow. Corn plants becoming visible.
Produce stands have signs for "sweet peas." Grocery stores call them green peas. Sugar or sugar snap peas the term used for a cross between green peas and snow peas. Sweet peas generally refers used to the flowers. Right now they’re forming pods, but the seeds haven’t developed much.
Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, cholla, buffalo gourd, showy milkweed, tumble mustard, tufted white evening primrose, velvetweed, scarlet bee blossom, alfilerillo, purple mat flower, goat’s head, silver edge nightshade, bindweed, fern leaf and leather leaf globe mallow, yellow purslane, yellow sweet clover, scurf peas, alfalfa, Queen Anne’s lace, fleabane, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, Hopi tea, strap leaf and golden hairy asters, native dandelions, brome grass.
In my yard: Dorothy Perkins and rugosa roses, snow-in-summer, larkspur, golden spur columbine, purple beards tongues, Johnson’s Blue geranium, sea lavender, blue flax, Saint John’s wort, annual blue salvia, catmints, sidalcea, pink evening primrose, Shasta daisy, bachelor buttons, Ozark and purple coneflowers, Mexican hats, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis, white yarrow.
Bedding plants: Wax begonias, snapdragons, nicotiana, French marigolds, gazania.
Inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Two rabbits, small birds, geckoes, cabbage and sulphur butterflies, dragonfly, bumble and small bees, hornets, ants, small grasshoppers; heard crickets.
All week the young hummingbirds looked like they were filling more of their nest. They tended to sit parallel to each other with their beaks in one direction and their tails in the other. Earlier the beaks had pointed upward. Yesterday, their bodies were visible, and it looked like one was standing on the edge of the nest. This morning they were gone, and I was able to get near my tree again.
Weekly update: Technology changes, then our perceptions of the world change. When I was in graduate school in the 1960s, one of our instructors was dating a scion of the Lippincotts. He told us the textbook publisher could no longer find artists with the observation skills necessary to create medical atlases. Advances in photography have since rendered such people obsolete.
The same is happening now with cartography. As more people use Google Maps’ aerial photographs, the less they are going to be able to make the abstractions required to read or draw a map.
Such unrecognized corollaries of technology no doubt contribute to people being able to deny the existence of climate change or evolution. The more time they spend in air-conditioned rooms watching televised images, the less time they spend outdoors looked at vegetables or flowers they are growing. Distance breeds ignorance.
Some years ago I planted sweet peas, those models used for simple genetics lessons. One year the wind blew their seeds north, and a new patch developed, the same color as the original. This year the progeny of that colony appeared with my roses. This time, the flowers were white, just like Mendel said would happen 25% of the time.
The single hollyhocks appear in shades ranging from pale pink to deep rose. Last summer one had a double flower. The two subspecies of Mexican hats mingle their pollen every summer to produce variants. One sees such evidence of genetic variation so often, one becomes almost immune.
This week I noticed a pink rose with the Dr. Huey root stock. I thought, now how have those wild roses spread this far. When I got down to look, its stem was attached to a Dr. Huey. I thought, so that’s what botanists mean by a sport. More evidence of what creationists deny.
Weather is harder to judge. Were this year’s early warm spring, long cool late spring, and the current spell of daily temperatures in the 90s unusual or a pattern that recurs in long cycles? Climatologists are never ready to commit themselves, but, the insects are.
Apparently the warmth awoke the aphids and locust borers early, and what followed wasn’t cold enough to kill them. They must have had a longer growing period. This week when I went out to weed, all my columbine flowers were sticky to touch, and another locust trunk crashed across my path. Fortunately, it was smaller and I was able to remove it.
I think the bees have reacted to the heat of the last two weeks by foraging earlier in the day. Usually, I’m done in the garden before they come round. This week, the small ones in the columbines defined where I could and couldn’t work. The bumble bees in those volunteer sweet peas near a path forced me to find another way to my back door.
Water must be a problem. There seem to be more hornets this summer, and they congregate around the connections of the irrigation hose that’s running. I’m less tolerant of them than the bees, but just as wary. I’ve had to wait until they moved before I could turn off valves.
The ground squirrel is testing everywhere. Last week I cleared the remains of its mounds in the columbine bed, and put down new dirt and manure to replace the clay it had dredged up. This week, there was a new hole in the bed. The deepest place was under the drip hose. This morning I found holes under a regular hose that crosses the drive. Apparently it is making explorations to see where potable water has accumulated.
The long, cool, windy spring delayed seed planting. After a week or two the weather became so hot, things stopped growing. Even though they seeds were getting the same amount of water, the moisture disappeared in areas with no shade faster than in areas with trees. Naturally, the annual seeds are the ones that are exposed.
Whether or not the climate is changing, it is impossible not to see the consequences that the smallest variations in temperature can have on plants and animals. Unless, of course, you’re avoiding the heat by staying indoors, which, come to think of it, is the only intelligent thing to do this year.
1. Sweet pea pods, 21 June 2016.
2. Hummingbirds, 25 June 2016, the day before they left the nest.
3. Second generation sweet pea flowers, 20 June 2016.
4. Third generation sweet pea flowers, 20 June 2016.
5. Pink flower on a Dr. Huey rose stem, 20 June 2016.
6. Red flower on the main plant, 20 June 2016.
7. Dominant Mexican hat subspecies.
8. Recessive Mexican hat subspecies.
9. Their progeny.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Weather: Very hot with very low humidity in the afternoons; last rain 6/7.
What’s blooming in the area: Catalpas, hybrid roses, Dr. Huey rose rootstock, yellow potentilla, fernbush, Spanish broom, sweet peas, Japanese honeysuckle, silver lace vine, broad leaf, weeping, Arizona and red-tipped yuccas, daylilies, lilies, red hot pokers, datura, hollyhock, pink evening primrose, larkspur, Jupiter’s beard, purple salvia, Shasta daisy, yellow yarrow.
Beyond the walls and fences: Cholla, buffalo gourd, showy milkweed, tumble mustard, tufted white evening primrose, velvetweed, scarlet bee blossom, alfilerillo, purple mat flower, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, fern leaf and leather leaf globe mallow, gypsum phacelia, yellow purslane, yellow sweet clover, scurf peas, purple loco, alfalfa, wild licorice, fleabane, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, Hopi tea, strap leaf and golden hairy asters, native and common dandelions, brome grass.
In my yard: Dorothy Perkins, Betty Prior, rugosa and miniature roses, Maltese cross, snow-in-summer, coral bells, golden spur columbine, smooth, coral and purple beards tongues, Johnson’s Blue geranium, sea lavender, blue flax, Rose Queen, Rumanian and annual blue salvias, catmints, bachelor buttons, Ozark coneflower, Mexican hats, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis, white yarrow.
Bedding plants: Pansies, wax begonias, snapdragons, nicotiana, moss roses, French marigolds.
Inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Small birds, geckoes, cabbage, sulphur, swallowtail, and black butterflies, bumble and small bees, hornets, ants, mosquitoes.
Weekly update: Nothing ever stays simple. Once inanimate things exist they take on imperatives normally reserved for mothers-in-law.
Years ago I bought some large ceramic pots, thinking I could grow warm-climate plants like bougainvilleas in them. I couldn’t, but then I had the pots, demanding to be filled, year after year. Nothing I tried made it through the summer, but they were too large and too heavy to throw out. I finally treated them as architectural elements on my back porch.
The one year I had any success was when I tried patio versions of small trees. They survived the summer, but died in the winter. I couldn’t give them water when they needed it because the clay pots would have shattered.
This year I thought, maybe if I used wooden baskets I could lift maybe I could get something to grow. So, I found the baskets and dollies, and then looking for some suitable small trees.
I was seduced by a weeping cherry. Only, I don’t think that’s what it is, despite its price tag. The labels gave no Latin name, and the grafts suggest some flexible, long-branched cherry was simply put on a tall piece of stock like a standard rose. On-line sources say that’s how Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’ is marketed, but I won’t be sure until mine blooms - if it lives so long.
Meanwhile, the weather was so iffy this spring, I didn’t dare transplant it. And now I can’t because that hummingbird set up her nursery on one of the nice horizontal branches. I couldn’t even water it easily, without arousing her. I had to take the hose and aim from a distance. So much for trying to control the amount of water accumulating on my wooden porch floor.
A week or so ago, she disappeared. The day after I saw she was gone, I pushed the tree back towards the house. The winds were so high the leaves were being shredded.
Then, I noticed some beaks sticking up above the top of the nest. Once in a while, she would come back. I never actually saw her near the nest. She would just suddenly stand in the air or fly back and forth if I was on the porch.
Today was the first time I dared take pictures of the tree, and they’re from a distance. It looks like the two young are doing fine with their absentee parents.
Meanwhile, the plan to get rid of the clay behemoths is on hold. Before I can break them into pieces small enough to put into my trash, I have to remove the dirt from them. To do that, I have to transplant the cherry. And to do that, I have to wait for the birds to finally leave.
Photographs: All taken today, 19 June 2016, on my back porch.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Weather: Hot and dry and late afternoon winds; last rain 6/7. The early warm weather seems to have hatched the locust borers earlier; more trunks have died than usual and earlier in the year. The cool month that followed nurtured the catalpa flowers. They’ve been opening everywhere in full heads, not in the partial ones that survived late frosts the past few years.
What’s blooming in the area: Catalpas, hybrid and pink roses, Dr. Huey rose rootstock, yellow potentilla, Spanish broom, sweet peas, Japanese honeysuckle, silver lace vine, broad leaf, weeping and Arizona yuccas, daylilies, red hot pokers, datura, hollyhock, pink evening primrose, larkspur, blue flax, Jupiter’s beard, purple salvia, Shasta daisy, yellow yarrow. Peas for sale in local produce stands.
Beyond the walls and fences: Showy milkweed, tumble mustard, tufted white evening primrose, velvetweed, scarlet bee blossom, alfilerillo, purple mat flower, bindweed, silver leaf nightshade, fern leaf globe mallow, gypsum phacelia, yellow sweet clover, scurf peas, purple loco, alfalfa, wild licorice, fleabane, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, Hopi tea, strap leaf asters, native and common dandelions, brome, cheat, rice, needle and purple three awn grasses.
In my yard: Dorothy Perkins, Betty Prior, rugosa and miniature roses, vinca, Maltese cross, snow-in-summer, coral bells, golden spur columbine, smooth and purple beards tongues, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Rose Queen, Rumanian and annual blue salvias, catmints, bachelor buttons, Ozark coneflower, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis, white yarrow.
Bedding plants: Pansies, wax begonias, snapdragons, marigolds.
Inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Rabbit, hummingbird in her nest and other small birds, geckoes, cabbage butterfly, bumble and small bees, hornets, ants, mosquitoes.
Still having problems with mosquitoes. Some may have hatched by the river with the hard rain a week ago, but I’m still checking every place water accumulates. Usually we get heavy rain later in the season, apparently after their breeding season.
Weekly update: Political commentators feign surprise that people are so angry with American corporations they’re willing to vote for Donald Trump. One wonders if they’ve ever tried to do anything more complex that download apps to their smartphones.
It isn’t outsourcing that’s the problem. It’s the need to increase profits every year on a basic product to finance bonuses for management. Cheaper parts are substituted and quality control doesn’t exist. The adoption of the one and the elimination of the other add to that internal money pool. Just try to find a decent hose. Those managers, of course, have professionally installed systems and undocumented yard men maintaining their grounds.
When I started my garden years ago I looked for soaker hoses to lay in the bed. The first ones were flat with two water channels and holes every few inches. If you laid them face down, the water didn’t travel very far; if you laid them face up, much of it disappeared before it could fall to earth.
Then I discovered some made from recycled tires. They were essentially porous, and water wept through. If you ran them long enough, water seeped to both sides.
With time, the insides seemed to silt up, but I don’t know if that was from dirt, calcium, or other particulates in my water. All I know is less water got through.
After a few years, the ones I bought had random large holes - not because of a plan, but because the manufacturing process degenerated. That kind of hose requires consistent pressure. When there are large holes, no water accumulates to exit the small holes. They delivered less water than had the flat two channel ones.
For a couple years, I couldn’t replace broken hoses and hobbled by. Then I discovered someone’s new idea: a flat plastic hose encased in a fabric sleeve. While the water was supposed to seep through the fabric, it tended to exit through the seams. They sent water a bit farther, but only worked on flat ground. Dead spaces appeared wherever the ground rose slightly.
Then someone found a cheaper way to make them, with two seams. Less water got out, but they still functioned. Last year they found a cheaper connection. One split soon after it was installed. They must have also changed the stitch length creating the same problem the larger holes had created in the weeping hoses.
This year, the connectors simply leak. I bought a few in spring as a reserve. By the time I realized the problem it was too late to return them. I ordered some more, this time a different brand. When they arrived I tested each one. They all leaked. I shouldn’t have to establish my own receiving inspection station.
The ground squirrel has destroyed hoses, but I can’t do anything to replace them.
The regular hoses that transport water to the soakers have their own problems. The connectors used to be brass, or something that looked like brass. Usually they were OK, but some leaked as soon as they were connected to something. It wasn’t the washers. They either weren’t truly round or truly the size they should be. Just a little out of spec didn’t matter as much as the accumulated cost savings per unit.
Then they started substituting plastic. They start to leak after a few years, but when you tried to remove them, they destroyed the end of the hose they were connected to. I think it has something to do with the different rates of expansion between the two kinds of material. I know it means, when one hose fails, I often have to buy two new ones.
Now, none of this is life threatening, except of course to my plants. But, when a corporation becomes so callous to the effects of its cost cutting, it undermines trust in all corporations, and, as we’ve seen this year, that distrust spreads to all institutions that support those corporations.
As they say, all politics, and all economics, is local. And in my case, local means my garden.
Unfortunately, the well-being of my plants can’t be the basis for my vote, because unlike someone like Biden, no one running for office this year seems to have a home base: one lives in a hotel or on his golf courses, and the other probably hasn’t had a permanent home she personally maintained since she moved into a governor’s mansion.
My choices come November are as bad as my watering choices this summer.
Photographs: Taken today in my yard, 12 June 2016
1. Dr. Huey rose rootstock climbing high in black locusts that have been killed by locust borers.
2. Catalpa flower head.
3. Weeper hose I bought this week as a substitute for what I wanted. It produced water when it was coiled up. It remains to be seen if it delivers anything to the ground.
4. Weeper hose with large holes that send sprays everywhere. They may be what’s breeding my mosquitoes.
5. Fabric hose that waters about 3" on each side. This area died when a hose stopped delivering water. So far, only pigweed has germinated. The lines are spaces in the fence.
6. Hose new this year, that began leaking a day after it was tested and installed.
7. Hose connector leaking in same general area, this time on a regular garden hose.
8. Fabric hose releasing water.
Monday, June 06, 2016
Weather: Rain Wednesday and Saturday, wind and sun.
What’s blooming in the area: Catalpas, hybrid and pink roses, Dr. Huey rose rootstock, yellow potentilla, beauty bush, purple locust shrub, Spanish broom, sweet peas, Japanese honeysuckle, silver lace vine, broad leaf, weeping and Arizona yuccas, red hot pokers, datura, pink evening primrose, peony, oriental poppy, blue flax, Jupiter’s beard, snow-in-summer, purple salvia, Shasta daisy, yellow yarrow.
Beyond the walls and fences: Showy milkweed, tumble mustard, tufted white evening primrose, velvetweed, scarlet bee blossom, alfilerillo, purple mat flower, bindweed, fern leaf globe mallow, scurf peas, purple loco, alfalfa, wild licorice, fleabane, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, strap leaf asters, native and common dandelions, brome, cheat, rice, needle and purple three awn grasses.
In my yard: Dorothy Perkins, Betty Prior, rugosa and miniature roses, chives, vinca, Maltese cross, pinks, coral bells, golden spur columbine, smooth beards tongue, baptisia, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Rose Queen, Rumanian and annual blue salvias, catmints, Ozark coneflower, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, white yarrow.
Bedding plants: Pansies, wax begonias, snapdragons, marigolds.
Inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Rabbit, hummingbird in her nest and other small birds, geckoes, bumble and small bees, ladybugs, cabbage and swallowtail butterflies, hornets, ants, mosquitoes.
Weekly update: Rain Wednesday marked the boundary between late spring and early summer. The day before the first stormy disturbance for the season was reported off the west coast of Costa Rica. The day following afternoon temperatures jumped to the 80s and morning ones no longer fell below 50.
I still hadn’t put in many seeds because of the high winds, but by Saturday conditions seemed propitious. Seeds that planted themselves last year were beginning to germinate. The weather bureau was forecasting 30% chance of rain for Los Alamos and Santa Fé.
I planted most of them, and sprinkled some dry dirt and ant killer over their tops. The latter was to discourage the marauders for the few days it took for their prey to germinate.
The winds started a little after 3:30 pm, and the skies darkened around 6 pm. It seemed we had also entered the summer monsoon cycle of afternoon showers in Los Alamos that pass us by.
Then hard rain started at 6:50 pm, coming from the north. It continued for more than 10 minutes. Thunder was continuous, but lightening wasn’t obvious.
I checked the weather forecast again. Los Alamos was still only reporting a drizzle and Santa Fé nothing. There were no warnings about potential flooding like there usually are.
Rain continued, but not as hard. The thunder didn’t stop. And nothing appeared to change in the weather forecast.
Water had accumulated everywhere. My neighbors’ yards were flooded. I had pools for paths that were lined with bricks.
Finally at three the next morning, the weather bureau reported there had been flash flooding the night before. The only news report was a Twitter feed picked up by one television station that roads around La Puebla on the main road between Española and Santa Fé were being closed because of "severe flooding." I went to the road conditions map maintained on-line by the state to see if there were any residual warnings, and discovered it no longer showed Española as a location, only the surrounding pueblos.
I know I didn’t dream this. When I walked down to the near arroyo around 7 this morning, one man was out on his backhoe releveling his newly rutted drive. Mud caked grasses that were laying in the path of water backed up by a broken culvert.
In my own yard, the dirt and mulch of top of the seeds had moved, and more grit that dirt graced the surface. A few seeds lay exposed. A locust that had been attacked early by borers had fallen over the walk. And, of course, the protective ant killer had disappeared, and mosquitoes were everywhere.
But, maybe with didn’t have a storm, but something else. After all, those storms that get reported are cells that can be picked up by radar.
The continuous thunder with no lightening may have signified one air mass passing over the other, forcing out water as it went like a wringer.
Or maybe, there’s no radar north of Los Alamos to pick up storms. Whenever I look at the weather bureau loops forecasting the movements of clouds they always vaporize when they get to Rio Arriba County, and in fact we rarely do get rain.
I haven’t figured out if that means something about the narrowing distance between mountains prevents rain from falling, or as I said, there simply is no radar because there are so few people. After all, we’re no longer on the state map.
Photographs: All pictures taken this morning.
1. Water flattened grasses in the wash with the destroyed culvert.
2. Black locust down across my walk. The wind only finished what the borers had begun.
3. Mud silting the culverts under the road over the near arroyo. The height of the cut between the main bottom and the path of the water gives some indication of the amount of water that passed through.
4. Neighbor releveling his rutted drive.
5. Mud caked grasses where water was diverted in the #1 wash.
6. African daisy seeds and an emerging California poppy in a bed where the fine soil has disappeared, and only the grit remains on the surface. The African daisy seeds look like elm seeds.
7. Near arroyo, looking upstream.
8. The hummingbird in her nest, taken from a great distance. However, you can see the beak and tail. So far, she only watches me, but I don’t know how long the truce will last.