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Saturday, February 18, 2012


I didn't stay in Alpine very long before I felt the need to come back to the oasis to do some projects.... like finishing up the tank patching with that asphalt coating stuff. But when I got here it had just rained .2" so I bailed the accumulated water out of the big tank. Then last night it rained .3" so I spent all day bailing it again.

I know I could buy 600 gallons from the lodge for less than $20 and spend a fraction of the time doing it, but I can't bring myself to let that lovely rain water just sit there and evaporate. I transferred it to the other tank to use when I water trees next week.

Tomorrow I hope to finish the patching, unless it rains again in the night and I have more water to bail.

Just as I trudged out of the tank for the final time late this afternoon the phone rang. It was my husband. The first words he said were, "Are you worn to a nub?" He hadn't known what I was doing all day, but I guess he knows me well enough to know it was something grueling. I figure each time I dipped the bucket into the water I scooped up an average of one gallon. So that means I scooped about 600 times. No wonder my shoulder hurts all the time. I took this photo with one hand while doing the water with the other.

Yesterday I ran the water under trees so I don't know exactly how much I bailed out, but based on the 600 gallons I bailed today, I'd say yesterday was around 400 gallons. I figured the trees had enough for now and would appreciate it more next week.

Oh, and lest you think my arm had an easier day yesterday... not! My son had made me a drag for the high center on the road from an old tractor tire. But all it did was shove rocks into the ruts so I had to rake just about the whole mile long road. I retired that old tire.

After I finished bailing today I wanted to count birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count. There aren't many birds to count-- I only got 20 species, but it was lovely just sitting on my bench and enjoying the oasis. Something I rarely do because I feel guilty I'm not watering or hauling water or something. But with half an inch of rain the last 2 days I didn't feel guilty.

Since I was sitting under the possibly dead cottonwood tree, I studied it in detail through my binoculars. I'm pretty positive 90% of the tree is dead. I just hope something is alive so I don't have to cut it down. It would be too dangerous to leave it standing past a couple of years. It looked like one twig was getting ready to bloom but without actually climbing high into the tree I can't be sure. If there is some life in the tree I'll just prune off the dead limbs. I'm trying to keep it alive but if it dies I won't be sad. One less water hog. The mulberry beneath it will fill the void nicely in time. The only advantage of the cottonwood is its height. Tall trees fill an important niche for bird diversity. When the cottonwood lost its leaves last year I assumed, like the books say, that it was just its way of surviving drought. We'll see.

I think if I had it to do over again I'd plant white mulberry trees instead of cottonwoods. They grow tall and fast, plus make fruit for the birds. I planted one in Alpine last year and if it thrives I may start a cutting from it for the oasis.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CMO these days

Two days ago we got 15 hundredths of an inch of rain. It was nice to see the ground wet anyway. Yesterday my son and I rode down from Alpine and he installed a new pump in the stucco tank. Then today I painted some asphalt coating on cracks in it.

I feel like the regular patching I use doesn't contract and expand as well with the weather. I didn't finish but got a start. Looks pretty sorry, but once it's full of water it'll look wonderful. The biggest mistake I made when constructing this tank was to stucco it to the bedrock. Now it's one with it. The other tank is totally separate from the ground, even though it's below ground level. It doesn't have this problem as bad.

Some nice clouds late this afternoon and a chance of rain this weekend.

I think one of my cottonwood trees is dead. Normally it's in full bloom by mid-February.

Today there is no sign of life on the tree. Here are a few shots of the oasis today. No interesting birds anywhere. Some birders are coming tomorrow. I warned them that this is the worst birding here ever gets, but they want to just see the place.

This Mexican Elder tree is the greenest thing around. I have a bunch of them I started in pots from cuttings. Soon I'll be planting them. I'm going to put one at the oasis, one in the courtyard at the house, and the rest at my Alpine habitat. I'll post photos of them soon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rusty Blackbird in Alpine

A lifer for me. I've been hearing a strange bird sound all month but just yesterday afternoon located this Rusty Blackbird high in a pecan tree. I'm still in Alpine but packed for going south after this post.

Also this Red-shouldered Hawk has been hanging around for a month (ID per Kelly Bryan. I'm bad on hawks.)