Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25, critters continued....

Welcoming the fall season, the temperatures are getting cooler and days are getting shorter. It’s always a time for transitioning from our summer activities. Here in the desert, it’s time to get back outside and explore, to do some hiking in the hills or just walking around the neighborhood.

My yoga classes are starting up again and I have had the good fortune to take on two new classes, one with Green Valley Recreation (aka GVR) and the other at a retirement community, La Posada. I felt a little rusty since I haven’t taught any class since April so I connected with a few of my students who are full time residents here and offered a free class for them. We had a wonderful time, even though we had an unwelcome visitor. No, not a person who was misbehaving or anything like that. A pepsis wasp, commonly called a Tarantula Hawk. They are very pretty, however, they also have the most painful sting of any North American stinging insect. Although they are not the most venomous, but who cares about that if it’s the most painful? 

I saw the critter slowly crawling around in front of one of my students and didn’t give it much thought, figuring it would crawl or fly away. It didn’t have a chance! Once she saw it she was off her mat, shoe in hand a gave it a good whacking. She left her shoe on it so we could continue and later have a good look at it. After our practice and lovely savasana, she picked up her shoe and the bug was still moving. Everyone got a good close look at it and decided after I shared what I knew about them that it needed to be put out of it’s misery completely so she squashed it flat. I don’t really like to kill things that aren’t bothering me and won’t sting unless provoked, but other people don’t even want to give those creatures the opportunity to flee. They’ll still be lurking out there in the desert just waiting for someone to cross their path.

I learned about these tarantula hawks because last week as we were pruning our oak trees, I discovered in one of them a wasp nest. These were no ordinary wasps, even though the nest they are building looks like a paper wasp nest. But these guys are about 2 inches long! Bright yellow and huge. As I was researching what kind of giants were setting up house in my front yard, I stumbled across the information for the pepsis wasp. Turns out the paper wasps are beneficial critters, they eat other bugs and don’t sting unless provoked. So we decided to leave them where they are. As the temperatures cool off, the drones will die and the queens will move on so we won’t have to worry about evicting them. 
Then there was this little guy who paid us a visit on the back patio the other night after dusk. A praying mantis landed right on my hand. 
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And it could have been one of these guys who killed the cat I saw the other day. This guy was walking along the wall of my neighbors across the street. Apparently it jumped down into their yard, maybe to get some water out of their pool. Guess my two little kitties will need to stay indoors more.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Septebmer 18, 2016 a quiet Sunday

September 2015, right
We haven’t had any more scorpions lately, which is a good thing. We did have a false black widow on the patio and I moved her out to the garden. Perhaps if I had been more with it when dealing with the scorpion I might have taken it outside, likely not though.
 September 2015, left

September 2016, right
I am always amazed at how much things grow around here, even without supplemental watering. In April, 2015, my friend Mavis gave me a couple of paddles from her Texas spineless prickly pear cactus. 

In September 2015, after we got back from our summer of travel, this is what they looked like.
They have a nice yellow flower and bloom profusely.

I figured it would take a few years for it to amount to anything, but here we are, one year later and look at these two! Holy cow! 
September 2016, left

 I could have a whole forest of these if I wanted. Anyone want a cactus start? We are limiting the plants, primarily for this reason. Stuff grows like crazy around here and you gotta prune it. And everything has thorns or spines even if it does have spineless in the name. 
A friend down the street gave me one of her low growing shrubs and I put it in a pot to keep it off the ground. Low growing stuff is prime snake hideout so we don’t want any foliage laying on the ground. It looks a little rough yet because it was out of the ground without water for a few hours before I got it and planted it and gave it some water. It should come around. The beauty of it being in a pot too is I can move it around like a piece of furniture and brighten up a different spot in the garden if I want too.

I am reading The Hidden Lamp, a compilation of Buddhist koans and stories all written by women. I’m going on a retreat next month and we will be studying the ideas presented in this book. I am looking forward to having discussion with others who are reading this book too. At the end of each story and its commentary there is a one or two line question or comment. As I enjoy spending time in nature, this one spoke to me.

“Is it possible to enter and witness the wilderness without taking something away from it? Why is it so easy to forget to pay attention to the beauty all around us?”

Just think, when you go for a walk, even in the city, are you just walking or do you look for the flower coming up in the crack of the sidewalk? Do you notice the birds in the trees? The leaf as it turns color in the fall air?

Enjoy this fall day wherever you may be. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

September 9, 2016 Desert Critters

I know we are supposed to share this space, but I just wish that some of these desert dwellers would stay out of the confines of my space.

The other night, Ruby was not in her usual bed time spot at the foot of the bed. She goes in there about 9:00 to get a rub down from Jay before he settles in for the night. When I went in to the bedroom, she was lying in front of his closet door. Odd. She was in the watch mode, head up, front paws together. I didn’t think much of it, maybe she was trying to find a spot of cool air there, it has been pretty hot here lately even with the AC running. 

So Jay went in to bed and he later reported that she was lying on the floor at the foot of the bed. When I went in to bed about an hour later, she is still on the floor at the foot of the bed. Toby is in watch mode next to my dresser. They are both just staring in that general direction. Okay, I’ve seen this before, it usually means there is a mouse under a piece of furniture and they are waiting for it to move or emerge so they can pounce. This happened in the trailer in June and it was a dead mouse under the couch, so I was hoping for a 4-legged critter here. Actually, I was hoping for nothing, but that wasn’t in the cards.

I went to the kitchen to get a flashlight to shine under there so I could maybe see what they were looking at. Well, I didn’t see anything, right away, and I was wishing I knew where the blacklight flashlight was(turned out it was right next to the regular flashlight in the drawer). A blacklight illuminates crawly things like scorpions. 

Well I don’t have the blacklight to help me out here, and I’m down on hands and knees trying to see what they see. I have a basket on the floor, so I thought maybe it was a spider they were playing with. I scoot the basket a little bit to one side and there it is! Their new toy! A scorpion! And now they can see it and want to pounce on it! I move the basket directly over the top of the thing so I can think about what to pick it up with and also maybe what to smash it with before it can crawl away. As with anything that is on a soft surface like carpet, smashing is pretty ineffective especially with something that has a hard shell. I discovered this right away as I whacked it a few times with the flashlight. I put the basket back over the top of it while I went to the kitchen to get a paper towel. Then back to the bedroom to dispatch the scorpion. I moved the basket and it promptly took off running down the edge of the baseboard. And the cats are on the move too and I’m trying to shoo them away while not letting the scorpion run off. A few more hits with the flashlight against the wall and it’s stopped. Here’s my chance to pick it up with the paper towel and flush it down the toilet. Phew!

Now to try to get some sleep. I lay awake for about an hour thinking about all the scorpions that were now going to be running around in my bedroom, lurking under the covers, under the bed, in the toes of infrequently worn shoes and how long is it going to take me to pack up everything I own and move away from here!

Bark Scorpion
In the morning, I did some research on the good ol’ innernet about scorpions. There’s a bunch of different ones that live here in Arizona, most of them harmless, but the most common is also the one that packs the biggest punch in its sting, the Bark Scorpion. I didn’t scrutinize the one in my bedroom too closely but it sure looked like the one in the pictures I found and it was about 2” long. So I guess I’m lucky that no one got stung. And it only took me about a week to calm down about finding hordes of them in the house.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1, 2016 Chesterfield, Idaho

salt box style home, 3 rooms and a loft
Okay, no we are not in Idaho now, but we were there in early August. After our week at Bear Lake, on the Utah side, we went to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. We stayed out in the National Forest about 7 miles north of town. I had read about this old Mormon settlement that was about 20 miles further north and east of where we were staying. I thought it would be a fun diversion for an afternoon, so one day we took off to check it out.

it works too!
tithing house
It's no wonder they left. It is really remote, the next nearest town of Bancroft is 10 miles away and it's not much of a town. I don't even think they had a gas station. The town of Chesterfield was settled by the Mormons in the late 1800's, they lasted out there about 80 years before throwing in the towel. Too remote, harsh winters, short growing season, etc. A while back, the descendants of this community decided they wanted to preserve the buildings and the village and they began the long process of restoring them. The whole village is on the National Register of Historic Places and they have done a beautiful job of restoring 20 of the buildings so far. They provide guided tours of the inside of the buildings. We just happened to catch up with one of the tour guides as he was showing one of the homes. He was happy to show us around to a few more places, the tithing house, the Bishop's house and a couple of the old homesteads.
quilt in the Bishop's house

It's always amazing to me to see places like this and how the settlers managed without any of the modern conveniences we have. Everything they did would have just been for survival. It was a cool place to visit, one of those that you really have to go out of your way to see, or in our case, just a short afternoon drive.

a two room homestead

on the porch of the Bishop's house

two room up front, kitchen off the back

cookstove and a dirt floor

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