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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving time so soon again

The older one gets the shorter the years are, because everything is relative. A year is now just another short blip in my life. My son surprised us with a painting he did. I was really surprised too. I had thought he had quit painting years ago.

Windmill by Leonardo Ohl Sonoqui
I think he has quit, but years ago he promised to paint my husband a windmill picture, and I guess it was weighing on his conscience that he hadn't done it. He's always so busy. So he surprised us with it. But the oils weren't dry enough for him to do all he wanted to do before he visited for the holiday, so he may work on it again someday. Or not.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Shades of autumn

Not much color going on at CMO, but then I did not plant based on what would make good fall color. My preference is evergreen year around.

The red leaves in the next photo belong to the one surviving Bigtooth Maple. The yellow, of course, is the cottonwood tree, also the only surviving one.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Short post on short day

Came down to CMO midday today. Having trouble with my eye. Vision blurry and shouldn't be. Will probably have to have some lasik tweaking done if it doesn't clear up soon. So depressing and stressful.  No one else has any post cataract surgery problems. I didn't on my other eye. More trips to Odessa in my future I presume. A price for living in the country.

Had birders here today, which was lovely. Lots of young sharp EYES to inventory the birds here. I didn't see anything interesting to photograph but took this photo just to be sure it was a Brewer's Sparrow since it was a lifer for the young man observing it with me. I was pretty certain it was a Brewer's, but with my eye such as it was, wanted photo documentation.

I think another reason I needed a photo was because to me it looked a little bright, like breeding plumage, and seems too early for that.  I'm not familiar with the various subspecies of Brewer's, so that might explain what appears to me to be a not-as-drab-as-usual individual. Anyone else have thoughts about that?

(On Mar 19, 2010 I posted a much drabber Brewer's Sparrow if you want to see how I expect them to look here.)

Nov 23: Here are a couple more shots of the bird that hopefully will help resolve the ID. I don't think a Chippie ever has that big white eye ring and pale lores. I would certainly like to know for sure what it is.

Nov 24 update: Experts have confirmed it as a Brewer's. I'm really glad to know definitively.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Alpine habitat vs CMO

The past ten years of creating a habitat in Alpine have really been difficult and frustrating. Our soil here is the most impervious clay there can be. The ponds hold water so good that a couple feet away from them the soil is rock hard. And nothing grows fast. We planted a couple cottonwoods some years ago and they're barely surviving no matter how much water we flood them with.

On top of that, deer strip everything, fences and cages notwithstanding. When I chased this deer away and examined the poor mulberry tree that has been struggling for many years, unlike those in the sandy soil at CMO that are huge, I see the deer chewed the twigs right off, even as far as 6 inches inside the cage. Alpine is overrun with deer. If you want a million bucks, this is the place for you.

Don't even get me started on the fire ants. And goat-heads that are so big they go right through the soles of my shoes.

CMO certainly isn't without its challenges, but the deer don't bother it (except in the record drought of 2011), no fire ants or goat-heads. And when the tanks don't leak, an awesome habitat with interesting and rare birds, butterflies, and dragonflies, is an exciting reality.

I can only survive Alpine because I have the oasis to go to for recharging my batteries. The first thing that I notice when I get there is the quiet. The magical quiet liberates my soul to breathe. It energizes my creativity. No stifling barking of dogs, nor oppressive trains with whistles screaming, night and day...... even now as I write this.

But I'm not complaining. I get a four-day vacation every week. Few people are so lucky. Meanwhile, I try to make the best of my time in town.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Madrone Project

Got inspired to work some more on the madrone terrace and retainer wall, even though it was really cold this morning. I have to work to stay warm on mornings like today. This summer while the project idled, two Mexican Buckeyes sprouted on the fill dirt behind the wall.

I figure they're as good as anything else for fast-growing shade for the madrone... if I prune them up as they grow. And they're native. And best of all, they're already planted, although not where I would have planted them had I had a hand in it. 

So, that means the project is done except I am still going to plant something of my choosing on the top, even if it's a flower bush. Preferably something evergreen. I left a hole and pot where I want to plant something. I'll  just go ahead and let the buckeyes provide the needed shade. Normally when stuff sprouts underneath the madrone I remove or relocate it, but since this is on the side that needs shade, and since it's an acceptable species, I'm going with it. I don't know what kind of symbiotic relationship it'll have with the madrone, but I have a small Gray Oak to the west of the madrone that should cover that need. The madrone is in the very center of this photo. As you can see, things are still pretty lush and green so far. The cottonwood and other deciduous trees have yellowed.

This next shot shows the pot where I'm going to put a plant. That's the stream on the right side. I built that out of concrete when I made the grotto water feature, but it's another of those things that don't get used. It's sort of an overflow now for the water feature, which I've posted tons of photos of in the past.

Madrone in upper left corner

Which sort of reminds me, I've blogged for over five years now and the last several days I've spent going through the 800 plus posts, doing a little tweaking here and there. I was really amazed at how some trees have grown. I see them so much I don't notice that they're growing. One isn't of course. That's the dead cottonwood tree. I'm enjoying burning cut up logs from it in the stove, even as I write this. This next shot shows one of the two buckeye sprouts. It's straight below where the pot is on this photo, nestled in a cubby-hole I made around it inside the "wall."

Madrone on left side

This last shot was taken from the "stream" on the east side of the madrone showing the madrone in front of the terrace wall. Hopefully, it'll thrive now. It may take a couple years before the buckeyes shade it. Meanwhile, other trees are growing in the vicinity and will provide more shade than they have been. Thankfully, I have plenty of water to ensure good spring growth.

Madrone on right side

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Orange Giant-Skippers from Marathon

When Brian visited CMO this fall he was working on some of his butterflies while there.  He raised these and has to process them when they're ready, no matter where he is at the time. Here is how one batch looked during that process. He's meticulous in his work, I might add. I'm not sure why the pupa cases are with the specimens on this first photo and not the second.

I haven't seen these specimens since he left CMO but he sent me a photo recently of how they look now. I'm impressed.

To see one of these alive in Brian's hand check out my blog post for 9-14-14.