Sunday, February 28, 2016

Terra Cotta Reds

Chuparosa in full bloom.
The desert is changing color!

When I arrived, in late January, it was yellow. Perky little daisies - Brittle Brush - everywhere I went.

Desert Globe Mallow
Two weeks later, Globe Mallow began to blossom, giving the desert a brand new, and bright orange, personality.

I happily wasted the better part of an afternoon meandering Spur Cross Ranch, to photograph this pretty girl.

And, then came the reds. That gorgeous, jaw-dropping, terra cotta red. The color I always think of when I'm thinking of the desert Southwest.

This is the Ocotillo - bursting forth on 6 -10 foot tall, gangly, prickly stems with stunning clusters of (edible!) red blooms.

And, right when I thought it couldn't get any prettier... up pops a POPPY!

Well, not just one Poppy. Plentiful Poppies! Mexican Poppies blanketing the hillsides.

I don't remember her name. Horses are the only thing we have in common.
It inspired a horse back ride with a few new friends - who quite literally met up on a horseback riding bulletin board because we wanted to ride and we didn't want to ride alone. (Having a horse is not much different than taking your pup to a dog park. It takes like 5 minutes to meet great people who are a lot like you.)

I'm not sure why I love horses so much. But, sometimes I think the #1 reason is because it's a whole lot easier to climb those high hills when the horsie is doing most of the work! :)

Cave Creek, Arizona, is a crazy, eclectic horse town.
We rode into town, tied our horses to a hitching post, outside the restaurant, and had ourselves some lunch ~ cowgirl style!

Then, we took the long way home.

Where I spotted some purples and blues.

Shock o' the world, there is a Desert Lupine! And, what appears to be a Canterbury Bell! (I don't know the correct names of these.)

I'm from Minnesota - where Lupines shrug off that ridiculously cold weather...

It's so hard to imagine they would grow well down here. But, I guess we all flourish with a wee bit o' sunshine.

Here's hoping y'all had a wonderful week.

~ kate

* I rented my house to a snow lover, in exchange for this house, in sun country. I'm visiting Cave Creek, AZ for 6 weeks this winter. My! How time flies! Next week, it is time to go home.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Lovely Place to Visit...

My rental house has orange, lemon and grapefruit trees in the backyard.
"You need to eat more grapefruit."

So sayeth the owner of the house, that I am renting down in Cave Creek, Arizona.

I hear ya! I responded.

Well, actually, I'm hearing the grapefruit.

Plump, ripe fruit, dropping from the branches, with a resounding thud on the stone walkway beneath the tree.

It would be impossible to consume all of the fruit produced by these hard-working trees.

However! I have managed to strip the lemon tree bare.

I love, love, love the opportunity to slice up a fresh lemon, every morning, and add it to the sun tea jar.

The owner is hoping that I'm very happy down here. That I'll come back every winter and pay him lots of money to live in this house.

I haven't the heart to tell him this is a failed experiment. Mostly because I don't want him to kick me out early. :)

Took a walk with the dog yesterday.

He bumped into a Jumping Cholla Cactus, shrieking in pain from the barbs. It took almost 20 minutes to remove those thorns from his feet. He's still limping and my hands are still swollen from the pricklies.

At first, I was enthralled by the harshness of the desert. But, it's almost too harsh for my tastes. Something's always out to get ya!

Anyhoo, back to that perpetual summer... And, the opportunity to grow exotic things...

That, right there, was the number one curiosity that inspired me to try life in a desert climate for part of the winter.

To pick fresh fruit in your own backyard? Such joy!

Fairy Duster
To walk outside, barefoot, in February? How grand!
I rented my house to people who dreamed of a snowy winter vacation. Then I rented this house, in Arizona, to savor a second summer. Which, I imagine is every gardener's dream.
I forced myself to be here long enough to feel like a local. To meet people, make friends, slide into routines. Experience downsides in addition to upsides.

This is actually a sad sight, now that I've done some research on desert plants. 
Droopy arms on a Saguaro cactus indicate that it's sick and dying, 
though that could take many years. It's probably the result of freezing temperatures. 
Which is happening more and more frequently in Arizona. 
I fear it could spell the end of these magnificent giants.

Before I arrived...

I thought of Phoenix as a flat, dry sprawl of a town that didn't deserve to be here, because there isn't enough water to sustain it. How's that for being close-minded?

I still get a little freaked out when I walk through the neighborhood and see people washing their cars... precious water filling the gutters and pouring into the drain.

Using water as if it's a plentiful resource and will never run out.

I keep thinking about that book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. An Arizona native moves back east to try her luck in an environment, where water and soil and sunshine can naturally produce enough food to live on for a year.

Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver, for pointing out the error of my ways. :) The desert is a lovely place to visit. But, I wouldn't wanna live here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Superstitions

Recent rains have inspired some stunning desert wildflowers. This is Globe Mallow.
Weeknights, I pour over the Arizona map, in search of cool destinations to explore on the weekends. (I'm spending the month of February in Arizona, to escape a harsh winter.)

Find the Superstition Mountains on the far east side of Phoenix.
And, that's how I learned about the Lost Dutchman. A super lucky and also terribly unfortunate fellow ~ who found an amazing gold mine, got rich quick, and then the Indians killed him.

But NOT before he carved a map into stone, so as to never lose the path to that gold mine!

The odd map to the Lost Dutchman mine ~ carved on stone tablets.
Fast forward 100 years, and some hiker finds these stones -- with the map carved into them!

To the gold mine! 
Where we can all get rich quick! 
And, pray the Indians don't kill us, after we've found the loot.

Brittle Brush, celebrating the sunshine.
It's become the Holy Grail of hiking trips.

For 60 years, people have been searching for this lost mine. (Which makes me think the Dutchman was a pretty lame cartographer...)

Buckets of gold are hiding in them, thar hills.
We had the entire afternoon free so we thought we'd give it a shot. You know, feeling lucky and all...

So, off we went ~ into the wild ~ in search of riches and glory ~ and, with any luck, some pretty wildflowers.

Ocotillo: the flowers are often served in salads.
Turns out that Dutchman is one popular guy.

There must have been 500 people on that trail. None of them willing to walk a step past the spot where the pavement ends. Can't really blame 'em.

It's hot out there!

Entire [fake] ghost towns have cropped up along the route.

It was an absolute riot poking around this tourist trap! Complete with prickly pear ice cream.

With so much competition for the gold mine, we decided to head on down the road, into the Tonto National Forest where we discovered Canyon Lake.

A delightful break from the sand and heat of the surrounding desert.

We dipped our piggies into the cool, clear water, relaxed beneath a shade tree...

'Twas here... where I confessed I don't think I'll ever become a desert gal. 

Oh, this was a fine experiment - seeing what it's like to be an Arizona native.

And, it's pretty and everything.

But, home is where the heart is. I'm missing my snowy mountains. My family and my friends.

The same three things that were making me absolutely miserable just a few weeks ago.

But, I guess that's why we take vacations. And, also why we get pretty excited when it's time to go home.

Here's hoping you're all having a lovely Valentines Day.

~ kate

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Lovely Lantana

Lantana is popular annual where I'm from. A gorgeous perennial in Arizona.
A week has gone by, living in the land of perpetual summer (Cave Creek, Arizona) and I'm still getting lost on a regular basis! :)

More Lovely Lantana!

Be it hiking a trail - or in the car, running errands - pretty much every adventure turns into 'The Long Way Home.' Because I never know where I'm going 'til I get there.

Seems like everything is prickly in the desert but it's all delightful to me.

Honestly, I don't know how I'd survive, these days, without Google maps and my iPhone.

I'm confident my dry cleaning is somewhere close... but I can't, for the life of me, remember which strip mall that place is in ~ because they all look alike. And, my puppy ate the claim ticket.

So far, that's the most interesting aspect of testing out life down here. The sprawl, how everything is brand new.

The houses are very pretty, but they all look the same. Streets don't necessarily take you anywhere. Those streets dead end at the last house in the development and won't go further until somebody else moves in!

And, that's all so weird compared to back home. Where the houses are older, more distinct. There are true city blocks and navigation is a breeze. In my humble opinion that gives a neighborhood a bit more personality.

However! I am not complaining! It's still a grand break from the difficult winter we're experiencing back home.

Although there has been some finger-pointing going on.

This is.. 
A) A rocking beer party at the botanical gardens or 
B) A noble attempt to shield these babies from frostbite.

I have been accused of bringing the cold weather with me.

Yes. 'Tis I, the newbie, who is being blamed for the harsh cold snap we suffered through this week.

Me, being a winter gal... I think it's warm as toast down here.

But, the natives are none too thrilled.

For them, it's unseasonably cold and yesterday morning - while walking the pup - I saw blankets and bed sheets and beach towels covering precious plants to save them from the freeze.

It killed off a lot of Lantana. 

In the arctic region I call home, Lantana is a favorite annual. Such a perky, happy flower! 

RIP Lantana - couldn't handle the freezing night.

Down here, in zone 9 Arizona -- can you believe that?? Zone 9! What a gardening paradise!!

Okay. I'll try to contain myself...

Down here, in zone 9 Arizona, Lantana is a waterwise, workhorse of a perennial. (Well, it was until last week.) So, it made me very sad to see so many dead shrubs from that nasty ass freeze.

I guess that's the problem with everywhere these days. Mother Nature handing us everything we don't want vs. what we desperately need.

I'm still of the mindset that I desperately needed this escape, though.

Been trying to get up super early. Get my work outta the way so I can play with the dog in the afternoons. He's older, now, a teenager, and he runs so fast, every photo I take of him is a blur. :)

I'll leave you with a picture from our last hiking adventure: The Ocotillo Trail - in the Sonoran Desert Preserve. Which I was delighted to discover is only 2 miles from my rental house.

Towering cactus trees. So cool!
To put this in perspective.. the tallest of these two Saguaro is at least 40 feet high. 

Here's hoping you're all having a wonderful weekend!