Saturday, May 31, 2014

Around the Yard

 School is out, which means it's summer time! (Desert Girl keeps asking if it's spring or summer, and I've decided to tell her it's summer.) Desert Boy got a new bike for his birthday with gears and hand brakes, and he's been learning what it can do. Desert Girl got a $6 thrift store bike with new inner tubes and princess decals, but lately she's been asking to go back to her smaller bike, so we may take a step back. (Wearing her fancy dress, in the photo above, doesn't stop her from bike riding. She's a princess who likes to do everything!)

We've been really busy in the garden. I've almost got everything planted. The hardest part for me is getting the irrigation system in and working correctly. Fortunately the first plots in the garden are well on their way, and we've been harvesting lettuce, kale, spinach, and cilantro for weeks.

The kids love to pick peas.

We got some broccoli, but it started bolting, so it wasn't as nice as I was hoping.

The kids are fascinated with the garden and also all the insects of the garden. Desert Girl continually has new insect pets. She leaves them all over the house, so I have to watch out for strange containers. By the way, Desert Girl now has shorter hair because she keeps cutting it. Besides new insect pets, I also find little tufts of blonde hair here and there throughout the house.

We're pretty sure Luna is a rooster now, since he cock-a-doodle-doos in the morning. We had a recent scare when some dogs scared the chickens and they all scattered. We slowly rounded them up, but couldn't find Luna. The four hens were not happy in the coop all by themselves. When we found Luna the next morning, cock-a-doodle-dooing in the garage, they immediately perked up. Luna is missing a few tail feathers, but otherwise seems okay.

We've really enjoyed having chickens so far. Hopefully we will make it to the egg-laying stage!
And that's the news from this neck of the woods desert. Lots of playing in water, using power tools to work on forts, play dates, and lazy afternoons watching the kids play. We're savoring early summer and the good weather. We hope you are too!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Taking Kids Caving

 A few weekends ago we joined two other families for a kids' caving trip. We had five adults and six kids, ages 2 to 8. All of the adults have been in multiple caves before, so we knew what to expect, even though it was a new cave for over half the group. We had helmets and lights for everyone, plus kneepads for most.

As we went into the cave, we kept an eye out for wildlife. We spotted these fox tracks on some flowstone. We saw a lot of fox scat too.

As we got back to the more delicate parts of the cave, we reminded the kids to be very careful what they touched, as one misstep could damage a formation that had taken many thousands of years to form. The kids were great about caving softly. They also loved it when we told them they could lead the way through the mazy section.

Caving with kids is so much fun because they have such a sense of wonderment. It makes us adults slow down and smell the roses cave.

Kids also make caving look really easy, as they don't have to crawl and stoop walk as much as adults.

We spent longer in the cave than we were expecting because we were having so much fun checking it all out. We didn't even get to see the whole thing, so we will have to go back again.

Here's our group of happy kids after the cave trip (plus one dog who patiently waited for us at the top).
If you'd like to learn more about how to cave safely and softly, here's a link to the National Speleological Society techniques page.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Post-fire Regrowth

We joined some friends for an outing up Lexington Canyon, where the Black Fire burned last year. The weather wasn't exactly promising when we started out, but we decided to go anyway. I'm glad we did, because the contrast of the newly sprouting plants with the charred trees and white snow was stunning.

Desert Girl was happy to hike because her friend Rose was along.

The diversity of species was interesting. American vetch (Vicia americana) dominated much of the ground cover where we were, but we also saw lots of other plants, like lupine, this yellow violet (below), Packera multilobata, Indian paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa), Descurainia sp., heartleaf twistflower (Streptanthus cordatus), phlox,  and much more.

The American vetch was like a carpet in places, with its purple blooms livening up the forest floor.

I find burned areas fascinating. You can see how the fire progressed and ponder why one area burned and another different. The resulting patterns of burned areas have a strange appeal.

Despite the high intensity of the fire in this area, many of the plants are regrowing, including these chokecherries.

A gate is supposed to go in here now, but for now a sign warns people to be careful of falling snags and other hazards. A flood that came after the fire washed out this road.

Even in areas that had both burned and flooded, plants grew.

Gradually the clouds floated away, allowing the sun to warm the charbroiled land.

Desert Girl was fascinated with all the flowers.

Hopefully more people will get to experience the rejuvenation of the land after a forest fire. It is truly amazing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spring Birds

 I've been having a dilemma: when I go for a run, I get distracted by the birds and want to stop and look at them. Exercise or bird watching? Argh, I don't know!

So I've been doing some of both. The birds are singing all the time (starting about 4:30 a.m., although the owls may hoot before then). Sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to sort out all the songs! Above is a house finch, one of the noisiest songsters of them all!

A distinctive song is that of the red-winged blackbird, which also happens to be quite easy to identify and remember its name.

Another house finch!

The western kingbirds look like they live a good life. They're either chasing insects around with their mates or relaxing on a perch.

We have a lot of robins around here, but I still love watching them.

While I was looking at birds a couple weeks ago, I noticed a bird dart out from the end of a clothesline pole. I took a closer look this week and saw a little blue egg in it.

House sparrows were seen in the nearby trees, but this doesn't look like a house sparrow egg. I didn't get a good enough look at the other nearby birds to figure out what kind of egg this is.

I continue to find bird photography very challenging. The lens I use only goes up to 200 mm, and I generally don't have a tripod with me. So I delete many more photos than I use. Nevertheless, I can't help but try! I learn the birds better when I examine the photos.

Some of the really colorful ones I've seen lately are lazuli buntings, evening grosbeaks, and yellow warblers. What cool birds are you seeing?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Preschool Days

 I see the biggest changes in kids the younger they are, so seeing photos from preschool from year to year are often a bit shocking. Those kids sure develop fast! It's so neat watching them find their likes and dislikes and become little people with distinct personalities.

Here are a few photos from recess this spring.

Kind of makes you want to go and play, doesn't it?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Under a Moonlit Sky

 It's springtime on the ranch, which means my husband is spending a lot of time irrigating. He usually can't get everything done he wants to during the day, which means that the kids and I spend some time in the evenings going out to various places so he can move water. If I have my camera and binoculars, I'm a happy camper, because I enjoy photography and bird watching so much.

On this particular evening I asked my husband to just let me walk around. I found a cool sign with an almost full moon just above it.

I am fascinated by the moon, and keep trying to figure out good ways to get photos with it. I still have a bit to learn, but hopefully practice really will make perfect!

We moved to a different part of the meadow. The orange irrigating dams really stood out in the fading light.

The wind is often blowing, so it was nice to have a calm evening. It was taking awhile to move the dams, so I started wandering again.

I came across the gravesite of "Hockman Hand, Rest in Peace."

Not much further down the road is the Hockman Cemetery. I can't remember the whole story (it's in Graham Quate's book), but I think the Hockman hand shot at someone in the Hockman family, so he wasn't allowed into the family cemetery.

These old family cemeteries are found all over the area, little time capsules of what life was like and who used to live out under the vast open skies. I bet the moon looked the same to them back then, too.

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