Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

Not an Infestation After All

I spent much of December house-bound and abed, due to a respiratory infection. I’m one of those awful people who rarely gets sick, and then when I do, I don’t mention it because — well, don’t you just hate people who talk incessantly about their health? I do, and I don’t want to be one of those people.

I only mention it because I spent a lot of time last month looking longingly out the window at my yard at the rescue tree and the new garden bed under construction, and you might wonder why I was just sitting around staring out the window instead of going out and playing in the dirt. But I was trapped in the house, and I was also a little bit brain-addled from lack of oxygen and the amount of concentration it took to get a bowl of chicken soup down my throat. Or hot tea. Anyway, my eye tended to rest on this image:

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See it? Right there in the middle: isn’t that Donald Trump hiding behind that prickly pear? This bothered me for weeks, until I could get real proof that it wasn’t.

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What a relief, it’s just a bird’s nest!

Later, the good weather passed. Fortunately I was able to get out and cover the dirt pile before things got really ugly.

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That’s sleet. I would have preferred snow, but I rarely get any here. Rincon Peak behind me got snow that day though.

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Snow is a fine thing when it’s eight or ten miles away like that. Half of that will sublimate, but the rest will eventually be water in the well for us, and that is a very good thing. And better still, a few hours later, the sun set it all on fire:

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Same mountain, same camera, same angle, same lens: actual colors. Amazing.

I’m all better now, and I won’t mention it again, heh.

2015 Year-End Hole Pictures

Big sigh here. WordPress isn’t taking my photos lately, so I had to arrange for an alternate storage location. Much of the problem is probably due to poor rural Internet service, although WP is trying to make me buy a new computer too, so there’s that…

Anyway, here are the big year-end pictures of my lovely second garden bed! So yay.

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This is the fifth layer of dirt off (for those of us keeping score), and the hole is about 6″ deep now (more or less), which is only 25% done. I had hoped to be finished with this hole by now. In the picture, you can just see the tomatoes at the left edge: they survived that first frost (in mid-November), but not the one that followed. Oh well, they had a good run.

You can also see that one of the two big rocks at the southeast corner came out, the other is still being assessed for size. And the irrigation pipe does slope downward towards the north (upper left) end of the bed, to align with the two other sprinkler heads farther out in the yard. On the next pass, it will be uncovered end-to-end, and then I’ll think about cutting and capping it off.

When the sun is this low, the shadows are deep and the details in the pictures are poor. So here’s the view from the other end.

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And of course, the big pile o’ dirt. 13 cartloads represented here:

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Feeling ambitious in mid-November, I started chipping out the next layer, hoping to squeeze it in before it rained again. Here’s what it looked like then:

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All those round clumps are mostly dirt; the soil isn’t quite that rocky here, but it was damp when I chipped it. For this layer I’ll save up the rocks separately from the main rock pile, so I can see just now many I’m getting typically. And I’m still trying to tell how big that lump of caliche is in that corner. You know how it is with rocks: you just never know how big they really are until you can see the bottom. If it looks like it extends some ways beyond the edge of the hole, I might just have to leave it there. I don’t want to undermine the walkway around the edge.

Unfortunately, that’s as far as I got with the digging. There followed a lovely week in the mid-70°s with sunshine and warm enough to play in the dirt, but something else got in the way, and then it got cold and rainy again.

Somewhere up in the sky, above all the cold and gray and wet, the day is 9 minutes longer than it was three weeks ago. Summer is coming.

Happy New Year!

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.

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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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