Pumpkin Flowers and the Veggie Garden

Pumpkin Flowers

It’s springtime and the seeds planted in the courtyard pots are starting to produce. These are typical squash blossoms and are on the pumpkin vines I planted. Click on the image to enlarge.

I also have planted (from a store-bought starter kit) radishes, carrots and several other veggies that I hope to harvest later in the summer, if we can keep the ground squirrels and rabbits away, that is. I also have tomato vines with several new flowers.

We shall see how the garden projects will do. We are still learning about how to deal with the higher temperatures in the desert.

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Never Forget Our Freedom Enablers

never-forget.jpg

Memorial Day is the time for us to stop and remember those brave men and women of the armed services who gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice for America. Sure, we’ll be grilling up some holiday treats and celebrating the beginning of the patriotic summer season, but we’ll also have our American flag flying at half-staff until noon in accordance with the Memorial Day protocol.

I liked the sentiment in the Ramirez cartoon above with the symbolic spirit of a disabled veteran giving a hand to the next generation of free Americans. Just as we Never Forget the Islamic Terrorism events of 9-11 and other times, we also will Never Forget the honored dead in all the wars from the American Revolution to the War on Terror still raging today. God Bless ‘em All!

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Curve Billed Thrasher Fledgeling in the Nest

Thrasher Fledgeling

I was out in the courtyard on this beautiful morning, camera in hand, hoping for any photo opportunities that might arise. I was alerted by one of the thrasher parents to some activity in their nest in the little cholla cactus just outside of the courtyard.

Sure enough, when the parent bird left the nest, I could see some movement in the nest. From about 20 feet away, I pointed and shot several frames hoping that I could get a close-up of one of the nest’s occupants.

I didn’t see it until downloading the images to the computer, but this is a pretty good image of a thrasher fledgeling that looks as if it’s about ready to come out of the nest. Canon SL1 settings: 1/320sec, ISO 125, F5.6, 220mm focal length. Click on the image to enlarge.

We have given the birds their space since seeing eggs and then several hatchlings in the nest. There could be up to six of the little birds since we observed that many eggs a few weeks ago.

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Spring Quail Chicks Now Showing

Quail Brood

Although we have spotted quail with juveniles during the past few weeks, this is the first time we have seen a brood in our yard. The mama quail is at the right, the papa toward the bottom center and the seven chicks can be seen scurrying toward the left. This isn’t the best image due to late afternoon shadows, but you can on it to enlarge for more detail.

These juveniles must be several weeks old since most of their permanent markings and topknots are visible. Each chick is about two-thirds as large as the adults.

Wikipedia has an extensive article on Gambel’s Quail:

The Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambelii) is a small ground-dwelling bird in the New World quail family. It inhabits the desert regions of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Sonora; also New Mexico-border Chihuahua and the Colorado River region of Baja California. The Gambel’s quail is named in honor of William Gambel, a 19th-century naturalist and explorer of the Southwestern United States.

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Desert Gopher Ground Squirrel (See Comments & Update)

Pocket Gopher

I’m told that these are rarely seen and I believe that since this is the first time in four years that I have seen one. We think it’s a pocket gopher or similar critter according to a wildlife pamphlet we consulted after I took this photo.

I went up on the hill behind the RV drive to refill the bird feeders and saw the gopher near the base of the garden poles where the feeders hang. It went back into its hole and disappeared, so I went about my business with the birdseed block and bell I brought up with me. When I opened the packages, there were a few loose seeds that I threw down close to the hole where I saw it a few minutes before.

After I finished, I retreated down the hill a bit where I could see the hole. By and by, the birds started to come back to the feeders and shortly after that, the gopher stuck its nose out of the hole and started eating some of the seeds I had tossed its way. Eventually, it came all of the way out of the hole and I was able to get this photo of it.

At present, I don’t consider the gopher a varmint, but just another of the wildlife critters in our desert. I reserve the right to reconsider its varmint status if it starts to devour some of Damsel’s cacti and veggies. Click on the image to enlarge.

UPDATE: Thanks to the keen observation skills of reader and friend Crotalus, we have determined that this is not a gopher at all, but rather, a Round Tailed Ground Squirrel.

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Meet Alex

Alex

This is Alex, our eight-month old great grandson, playing in a baby playset on the RV drive. He and his Mommy (our granddaughter) flew from California to visit us for the weekend. It was the first time that we got to see and hold him in person, rather than on the FecesBook™ thing.

Alex (Alexander David) is a delightful little guy, who is also gregarious, wanting to interact with people. He was not afraid of his great grandparents one bit and exhibited his coy little smiles and attempts at talking with us more often than not. Like all babies, he has his less cheerful moments with teething and other discomforts, but all in all, he was great to have around for a few days.

The both of them have gone back home, but I’m sure that they had a nice time visiting us. We hope to take a trip out west to see them and many of our friends and relatives real soon.

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The Church of Woodworkism

Going to Church

Damsel and I took an interesting ride out to neighboring Congress, AZ today to work out the details of our back courtyard gate at home. When we got there, we met with “Roger” who was working on our project. We got specific about the details of the gate, made a cash down payment and inspected his work in progress. It was all good.

While we were there, Roger offered to show us around the compound and lumberyard. One feature, which was not there four years ago when we commissioned them to build the front courtyard gate. He referred to the church-like structure as the title of this post. In reality, it was a storage facility where freshly-milled wood planks (more like thick beams) were placed to dry out prior to being used in any of their projects.

The whole compound is really interesting and consists of an art studio, a lumber yard, several rustic-looking buildings and museum-quality relics of all sorts. If you’re ever in the area, the place is located on Arizona State Route 89 just inside town limits of Congress. It will be on the left if going north on 89. It’s hard to miss.

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Our Second Saguaro Flower

Second Saguaro Flower

I didn’t put up a picture of the first saguaro flower on our “big guy” cactus because it was in an awkward place to photograph. Click on the the link to take you to a profile view of the first blossom which was directly behind the second-to-open flower bud when it was open.

In the view above, you can see the inside of the flower a little better. Click on the image to enlarge.

The big saguaro has dozens of flower buds, so we should be in business with many flowers to open over the next few weeks. I just love springtime in the desert!

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Another Grandson on the Way

Grandson Ultrasound

We have known for a couple of months that we are going to become grandparents yet again. My son called me today and announced that the ultrasound shows a 99% probability that this is a baby boy.

Even though we are already great grandparents, this is the first grandchild from this branch of the family tree. Our son and his wife both had careers to nurture before children, but we’re glad that the blessed event is on the way.

It was especially nice to get this news on Mothers Day. Happy Mothers Day to all.

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Sage and Hummingbird

Sage and Hummingbird

I got an unexpected opportunity to photograph this beautiful little hummingbird hovering between flower stems while collecting nectar from one of three Cleveland Sage shrubs in the courtyard this afternoon. Damsel says that even with good luck that you have to be at the ready with your camera should a photo-op suddenly present itself. I managed to get the shot and a compliment from the household photo expert.

I don’t know the binomial description of this species of hummer, but I do know it’s a pretty one flitting between sage flowers several times today out in the courtyard. Photo taken with my Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR, F5.6, ISO 1000, shutter speed 1/4000 sec, focal length 300mm from a distance of about twelve feet. Click on the image to enlarge.

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