More Signs of Spring - Plum Flowers

Plum Flowers

This is one cluster of a couple of new flower clusters opening on the flowering plum tree that we recently had replaced. The old tree was destroyed by the monsoons last summer when its trunk snapped in a microburst.

The new tree, at our request, is a more substantial one than the little sapling that it replaced. The little trunk was two or three inches in diameter and the new tree is more like six or maybe seven inches. In addition to the new little flowers, purple leaves on the tree are appearing.

There will be some rain coming to town this weekend to nourish all the spring flowers that will be coming soon. I can’t wait for spring flowers everywhere. Click on the image to enlarge.

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I just love it when these show up before spring really gets here. Yesterday, while shopping for a few things, I saw that the flower concession stand featured cut daffodils. I picked up several bunches and this morning they were all mostly open.

Last year, as I recall, the flowers lasted for several days, perhaps up to a week, before they would begin to wilt. I’m hoping these will do as well. Click on the image to enlarge.


Seeing Spots

400 Years of Sunspot Numbers

Over eight years ago, we posted a chart similar to the above in a write-up about Correlating Sunspots to Global Climate. The conclusions from that post still hold true today given the lack of ocean levels rising and icecaps melting that the Greenbats would have had you believe. At this point in time, we’re way past the supposed deadline of doom that the Greenbats, UN loonies and Algorians foresaw back then.

I was reading the March 2015 issue of QST Magazine, the publication of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), when I saw the graphic above. The associated discussion with the sunspot graphic spoke about predicting sunspots for the next solar cycles. The author mentioned that the current cycle may lead to another period of minimum activity as the sun has previously exhibited.

Ham radio operators have known for a century that radio propagation is greatly affected by sunspot activity. The more spots, the merrier for long-distance communication on certain frequencies. Solar flux causes the atmosphere to ionize, thus refracting radio waves over the horizon and even around the entire planet.

If, as the writer of the QST article fears, another sunspot minimum is in the works, then ham operators that depend on ionospheric propagation for their hobby will be out of luck. The rest of the world, in that event, should prepare for the bitter cold that a new minimum will likely bring.

Click on the image to enlarge.


Desert Marigold

Desert Marigold

We were out along the side of the driveway this afternoon, trimming up some of the unwanted shrubbery and a cats paw tree. I always bring my camera so I can get a before and after photo of our work, which I did, but those will be for another time.

What attracted my attention was our first wild Desert Marigold of the spring has opened up the hill a few steps from where we were working. I walked up and took the above photo of the new flower. Even though it’s only the middle of February, we have seen this and other desert wildflowers in bloom.

Here’s an excerpt and a link to the Wikipedia article on this flower:

Baileya (the desert marigolds) is a genus of plants in the aster family Asteraceae. All are native to the southwestern United States and to Mexico.

They are typically annual, though B. multiradiata may be perennial. The leaves, which may range from being entire to deeply lobed, mostly occur in a basal cluster. From this arises several flower stems, up to 18 inches (50 cm) in height, usually carrying a single yellow radiate flower each, although B. pauciradiata may have 2-3 flowers on a stem.

Desert marigolds typically have their main bloom in the spring, extending through July. Summer thunderstorms may enable a second bloom in October and even into November.

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Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

There are a bunch of hummingbirds that frequent Damsel’s feeders. I took a photo of this little male Anna’s Hummingbird sipping at the west feeder last evening. I was not aware that this variety’s range was limited to Baja California and the west coast until the 20th century when urbanization of desert areas expanded their range. Moreover, I had no idea why it was “Anna’s” hummingbird. See the following Wikipedia excerpt:

Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) is a medium-sized stocky hummingbird native to the west coast of North America. This bird was named after Anna Masséna, Duchess of Rivoli. In the early 20th century, Anna’s hummingbird bred only in northern Baja California and southern California. The transplanting of exotic ornamental plants in residential areas throughout the Pacific coast and inland deserts provided expanded nectar and nesting sites, and the species was able to expand its breeding range greatly.

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Wickenburg War Memorial

Wickenburg War Memorial

The Town of Wickenburg dedicated a war memorial in 1976 to those men and women who served in the Armed Forces and Merchant Marine of the United States. In 2013, the Kellis-Draper American Legion Post 12 (so named for the town’s two WW1 heroes killed in action), re-dedicated the memorial in a more prominent place in town on the Post’s property in the center of the old downtown district.

Plaques on the memorial contain the names of our town’s servicemen who perished in the service of the country in honor of their devotion in keeping the United States of America free. Wickenburg people perished in all the big wars since the start of the twentieth century: WW1, WW2, Korean Conflict, South East Asia and the War on Terrorism. The latter, is still in progress today, whether the current political mess in Washington, D.C. admits it or not.

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Multi-National Neighborhood Flags

Neighbor’s Place

Our next-door* neighbor to the west has roots in Montana and also in Alberta, Canada. When her relatives and friends from way up north come to visit, she flies the Canadian flag below the Stars and Stripes. In the summertime when the northerners are all back home, she generally flies the Arizona flag in the lower position.

* When I say “next-door” I mean that literally, even though her house is another 500 feet up the road beyond our place. Our next-door neighbor to the east is another 500 feet in that direction. We like the semi-rural feel of our Arizona home.

I took this photo while Damsel & I were walking the dogs after lunch today. I was at the neighbor’s house to the east taking telephotography of the west neighbor’s flags, a distance of about 1000 feet.

Camera Settings: focal length 200mm, ISO 100, aperture F7, shutter speed 1/500 second.

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Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

This afternoon, I went out in the courtyard with the camera and telephoto lens. I occasionally have done this since obtaining the camera in December, looking for targets of opportunity.

Today, a mourning dove was perched on the courtyard wall. Oddly, the bird just sat there, not particularly startled by my appearance. It did keep an eye on me as I removed the lens cover, adjusted a couple of things on the camera and took a series of photos of the bird. It finally fluttered away after I moved to a different part of the courtyard for another shot or two.

We have seen several varieties of doves here in town, including mourning, white wing and collared doves. The mourning dove is the most prolific and for good reason according the source quoted below. Click on the image to enlarge.

From Wikipedia:

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is a member of the dove family (Columbidae). The bird is also called the turtle dove or the American mourning dove or rain dove, and formerly was known as the Carolina pigeon or Carolina turtledove. It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds.

It is also the leading gamebird, with more than 20 million birds (up to 70 million in some years) shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and for meat. Its ability to sustain its population under such pressure stems from its prolific breeding: in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods a year.

The wings can make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing. The bird is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph).

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Garden Maintenance Day

Beavertail Transplant

Today was a beautiful spring-like day with temperatures reaching as high as 80°. It seemed like a perfect day to get some chores done.

The first task was to spray nearly three gallons of Roundup™ on all the weeds sprouting just about everywhere on the landscape. I have a two gallon spray container wherein I mix the concentrated weed killer with water. The container is one of those that you pressurize with a built-in pump. I sprayed most of the areas where the weeds had started sprouting, refilling the spray tank once.

The photo that Damsel took is of me putting the finishing touches on transplanting a Beavertail Cactus (opuntia basilaris) that had been growing in a pot in the courtyard. The paddles were rescued from a beavertail up near the north property line last year. This set of paddles had flowers last spring while in the courtyard pot and we’re hoping to have more this March through June.

You can see the finished item in the inset to the photo above. Click on the image (courtesy Damsel) to enlarge.

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Rose Quartz & Cactus Rescue

Rose Quartz

We found a large, rather flat piece of rose quartz up in the back of the lot today. We have plenty of rose quartz rock laying around, but this almost looked as though it had been cut. Click on the image to enlarge.

Bob found the stone while up in back rescuing a queen-of-the-night cactus that a palo verde branch fell on in the microburst last summer. The queen cactus is in a pot (image) waiting for the cut to dry up so it will (hopefully) take root and can live closer to the house or maybe in the patio.

We also rescued several paddles (image) from a tree-like prickly pear (image) on the new lot that toppled onto its side, presumably in the same microburst that took down the palo verde branch. Those will be taking root in a pot for the time being before being transplanted to the west side of the property where our cactus garden grows.

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