Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

More Monsoon Critters, Summer 2015

Ah, sporadic sunshine! Now give us a couple of days to dry out… In the meantime, I have more pictures of the critters.

One afternoon, I saw this Rustic Sphinx moth (Manduca rustica). It had probably just emerged from its cocoon and was drying off on a pillar of the back patio. From its head to the back edge of its wings, it was a little more than 3 inches long, and its body was as long and a bit fatter than my little finger — so quite a big moth!


The scales on its wings aren’t flat as one would think, but more like really thick hairs. The next little moth shows off those hairy scales. The scales on this one are mostly a medium gray, except for the faint white dot in the middle of each forewing. The scalloped pattern on the wing is not due to coloring but a result of the different layers of scales.


After viewing literally thousands of pictures of moths (and I do know what “literally” means), my best guess is that this is an Elegant Prominent moth (Odontosia elegans). It’s purely a guess though, as that species is not marked as native to Arizona. But there are (again, literally) thousands more pictures of moths to look at, and I gave up.

This next critter is Arizona’s very own Western Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes).


Wikipedia says there are 900 species of spiders that might be called tarantulas, all belonging to the Theraphosidae family. When I lived in Florida, I had large hairy wolf spiders living in the garage, and we called them tarantulas too, but wolf spiders are members of the Lycosidae family and are not even closely related to tarantulas. Here in Arizona, I have seen wolf spiders — even had them in the house — and they are not as big nor as hairy as this.

I kept well away from this spider when taking its picture. I got close enough that it briefly put its front legs up in the air (their first threat response) and then I backed off a bit. They are said to fling their barbed and irritating hairs at you when threatened. I wondered if that bald patch on its back means it had done that recently. If so, those hairs won’t grow back until it molts again.

They’re friendly enough though. The day after I took this picture, I saw another one about a third the size of this one and it was trying to get in the back door. At some point while I was going in and out and not paying attention, the spider managed to get inside, which I found out that evening when it crawled out from under the couch I was sitting on. Eeyaah! It wasn’t in a clear area where I could catch it, so I spent the evening poking it with a yardstick so that it would stay away from me and out of sight until I could think of a way to scoop it up. The next night, I didn’t see it until very late, when I found it in a corner of the foyer, obviously heading for the front door. Once it ate the cricket in the living room, there wasn’t anything much left for a tarantula to eat inside the house. There is plenty of floor space in the foyer, so I coaxed it out of the corner to where I could put a plastic container over it, shove a piece of cardboard underneath and move it out to the front yard. Yay!


The power pole on the hill behind the house is the highest spot nearby, so it’s a favorite spot for birds to sit and check the area for food. These three American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) stopped to look around.


I find this picture a bit weird. The crows are so completely black that you can’t really see them, but only as silhouettes against the sky and the pole. There are ravens hereabouts too, but the ravens are the size of barnyard chickens (and not bantams, either!) so they’re bigger than these, and ravens’ beaks are thicker and more blunt. So these are crows. Another thing I can tell from this picture is that the temperature was over 100°F. How do I know? Because of the way the crows are sitting. When it’s really hot here, birds sit with their mouths wide open and their wings at sort of half-mast, held away from their bodies. It’s about heat dissipation, I’m sure.

Sightings of crows are supposed to be an omen, especially if there are three of them. The direction they’re facing is also supposed to be crucial in reading the omen. So for clarification, two are facing West (toward me) and one is facing South. I’ll leave the rest of the interpretation up to you. ;)

And It’s Still Raining

When I was very small and had not learned to count that far (not to mention being entirely clueless about the weather), it seemed possible that having rain for forty days and forty nights might actually cause a world-wide flood. That turns out not to be possible after all, especially not with the kind of slow drizzle that counts for rain in most places in the world. And besides, forty days and forty nights is a bit less than a month and a half, so also not all that long. I read recently that to move enough water in only a month and a half to actually flood the world would require something like the capacity of firehoses packed together from horizon to horizon in all directions. Yes, here I am, actually spreading the urban legend of alien space firehoses; Pass it on! These things have to start somewhere, and my version is every bit as believable as that other one. Or rather, those other ones, plural.

A little rain adds up though, even if it’s not exactly a world-engulfing flood. I continue to be astounded by the fact that one inch of rain over one acre of land adds up to about 27 thousand gallons of water. Times 14 inches per year, times 6.5 acres… that’s like 2.5 million gallons of water! I’m rich!

These little arithmetic calculations are just me trying to keep myself occupied while it rains. There can be no digging in the garden bed while it looks like this:


If you zoom in on the upper right corner of that puddle, you can see an instance of the classic “raindrop rebound” image. If the lighting & focus were better, that would have made a great picture. Yeah, that’s pretty much true of any picture, isn’t it? Moving on…

Having noted where the high spots in the tree moat are after the 4.5″ deluge the other week, I spent one morning chipping out the near third of the moat. In vain, alas, since it rained again that very afternoon.


I had just moved a load of dirt out of there. The universe, observing how stubborn I was in continuing excavations despite being surrounded by rain, finally found something that would stop the digging cold: my garden cart got a flat tire, necessitating a future expedition into civilization. Oh well, maybe next week…

The official monsoon ends on Tuesday, 09/15. Only a couple more days, and then the forecast is clear for a week. Just now, the wind is picking up, and I hear thunder.

Summer Monsoon Butterflies, 2015

The summer monsoon has been very wet this year and that means bugs, and lots of them. Whenever I step outside I am immediately covered in tiny gnats. They seem particularly interested in my ears. Getting bugs in my ears is another reason I prefer the drier parts of the year. It’s also why I’m keeping two bats behind the thermometer on the patio instead of just one like I usually do. Well okay, there’s no volition on my part keeping them there; the bats seem to like that spot, and they seem healthy and well-fed. It’s been crowded there behind the thermometer: there are also two lizards that have so far managed to avoid the hungry roadrunner that I hear every day clattering in the yard.

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Hole #2: And Then It Rained

I might have mentioned the rain we’ve been having this year (heh). Since January, it had been raining ‘a bit’ every few days. I say ‘a bit’ because I don’t know exactly how much — just enough to wet down the dirt piles from the tree moat. According to the NOAA data (best guess), by the end of June, we were 1⅓” above normal.

I finally bought my own rain gauge so I could see what is happening in my yard, but really. Through July, monsoon season was looking just like spring: my new rain gauge got between an eighth and three-quarters inch of water every 4 days. HAH! It wasn’t my imagination, and now I had proof!

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Hole #2: Breaking Ground

I do learn, slowly. Here’s the first lesson I learned when digging the first garden bed: water is my friend. Well, sort of. While digging the first bed, I noticed how much easier it was to chip out the dirt after it had rained. So I began watering the hole at the end of a day of digging, hoping to soften it up for the next day. Unfortunately, by the time I figured that out, some parts of the hole were much deeper than other parts, so the water would all run into those spots, and I ended up with deep soft spots alternating with hard mounds where the water just ran off.

And I really don’t know why it took me so long to buy a caliche bar either. “Caliche bar” is the local, modern name for a tool that is only a tool in the most basic sense of that word. An alternate name for this tool is “digging stick”, and I’m pretty sure the design of the tool hasn’t changed much in about twelve thousand years. The modern digging stick is a 6′ iron pole that has a square blade on one end for chipping and a sort of flattened knob on the other end for tamping. It weighs somewhere between 10 and 800 pounds. (It becomes heavier as you use it: ✨Magic!✨) The idea is that you pick it up vertically, then let it fall, blade end down (and hopefully with some directional control), and it embeds itself a tiny way into the dirt. You then repeat that several thousand times, or until your arms fall off. Next: go inside and have a nice cold drink. Or three. Take a shower. Read a book. Or three. Have dinner. Watch several hours of TV. Go to bed.

I’m kidding: I don’t have TV.

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Summer Critter Roundup 2015

Well, I have to clear out the critter clutter now, because with the real arrival of the monsoon rains, a whole new crop of them has emerged.

So this first picture has been the hold-up all along. I found this Arizona Walkingstick (Diapheromera arizonensis) sitting upright on the wall. But an upright picture doesn’t work well here, and it took almost forever for me to get around to rotating the picture.

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Hole #2: The Adventure Begins

I have more critter pictures, but I didn’t want to bore you with them while there is exciting news in excavations around the yard!

Truth: I was getting bored. The digging and sifting of dirt from the tree moat is almost finished. I walked around the stone maze about a hundred times, rearranged it and walked it some more.

20150815-123153.jpgHere’s a fun thing I did last month: the Netroots Nation conference was in Phoenix this year, so I went to that. There were so many interesting seminars & speeches & and stuff to see. Rep. Raúl Grijalva was on our trivia contest team! I skipped the Sheriff Joe Arpaio protest march, but I saw several progressive senators & representatives speak, and went to Bernie Sanders’ evening rally too. It was all pretty neat! :D

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The Birds and the Bee Mimics

I know what that sounds like, but I only have a few pictures and none of them are even slightly risqué. Those of you who accidentally stopped in for something else are invited to stay and take a moment to look at the critters. :D

I think I’ve mentioned that it’s been a wet(ish) spring. In fact it has rained twice more, just since the last time I complained about it. I’m starting to wonder how we’ll know when the summer monsoon starts if it just keeps raining? And that reminds me of the Country-Western song “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?” I know, I know, Climate Change, el niño and all that, but overcast days make me sad.

These birds are not helping. They’re White-winged doves (Zenaida asiatica).


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Garden Update & Root Harvest, June 2015

So the spring garden is coming along nicely. We have new tomato plants:


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Mesquite in Recovery

OK, this is more like it!


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