Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

Slow Progress on the Hole

I detect a fairly large schedule slippage.

The gnats have had a wonderful (and prolific!) year here. They live only such a short time, but every time they started to settle out, it would rain again and a whole new batch would emerge. If it weren’t so hot in summer, (and if I didn’t live in such a red state) I’d seriously consider a burqa, just to keep the gnats off. I don’t mind them much on my arms and legs, but I hate having them crawling around inside my ears. And honestly, they should have the decency to just die as soon as they’re inhaled. Instead, they just wiggle around in my sinuses and trachea, which makes for misery digging.

This is the hole with the fourth layer dirt removed.


The summer monsoon has slipped directly into the winter monsoon, and so the digging is progressing slowly. In fact, the north end (at the left) didn’t get well cleared out before the rain came again. The tomatoes are loving it though. You can see a few of them in the picture. I finally got a large enough group that ripened all at once to make a big pot of spaghetti sauce. It was the first time I’ve tried that, and it came out well. And I probably have enough canned now to last until February or so, and still have a few whole tomatoes left for slicing onto sandwiches.

Actually, I’m about to go out and pick all the big green ones today. There are still a few flowers on the plants, but I hear there will be a hard freeze tonight and if I don’t cover everything well, by tomorrow they’ll all be black mush. It seems a bit early for a real freeze, but the weather is getting so strange, isn’t it?

Noontime shadows are getting pretty long too (well yes, that’s normal), making it harder to get a good view of the south end of the hole. So I took another picture from the other side.


So far, the rocks coming up have been mostly fist-sized or smaller. The deeper I go, the bigger are the rocks I find. You can see a couple developing in the southeast corner (top right). Even those don’t look all that big (as far as I can tell). I’m just hoping there’s nothing bigger than a basketball lurking below.

In that picture the hole looks a lot deeper at the south end, but that’s an effect from the shadows, plus the ground is higher there, so the dig is a little deeper but the bottom of the hole is mostly level. This is working out better than the first hole.

After the freeze tonight, the temperature will be back in the mid-70s by the weekend, which is perfect digging weather (as long as its dry). But it’s now getting on toward the end of November and soon, too soon, it will be too cold to scrape and sift the dirt across the metal screen of my sieve with my bare hands. And there’s the schedule slip. I was hoping to be almost done by now, so that I could put in potatoes and carrots and garlic and onions next month.

Well, no matter. There will be other entertainments over the next few months. Meanwhile: Look at my pile of dirt!


Opuntias All Look the Same

It’s not really true, but it seems true.

One of my neighbors has a small planting of various kinds of Opuntia cacti at the end of his driveway, and at some point I should go down there and take pictures to show you how much Opuntias can differ from each other, but today I’m just talking about the ones on my property. Mine are boring, and they all look the same (to my grossly uneducated eye). And there are thousands of them.

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Quick Update on Hole #2

Now that the summer monsoon is “over”, the level of precipitation has dropped back to merely 50% above normal. It kept raining through September, and by my gauge, we ended the month at 4.6″ which doesn’t sound like much to my Florida friends, but is actually 3.2″ above normal for the month. During the rest of the month, there wasn’t a day when the hole was dried out enough to work on, so I spent that time pruning the bushes & trees around the house. There always seems to be pruning to be done, so that was a good use of that time.

Once the hole finally dried out, I had to work fast to get the third layer of dirt out of the hole before more soakings.


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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!


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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.

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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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