Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

Why I Love Weeding

I often tell people that I find weeding very therapeutic and Zen-like, and then they tell me how much they hate weeding, or else they smile in a vague sort of way and change the subject.

Last week, a member of our local gardening group on the book of faces shared a cartoon that I wanted to show you. Somebody out there knows exactly how I feel about weeding:


(The google-machine finds this picture in multiple places, and I can’t find any attribution. Thank you, Unknown Cartoonist!)

Just Give Me a Box of Dirt…

Next to my front door, there is a small flower box sunk into the concrete of the patio. I have tried to have pretty growing things there, but the location isn’t very nice for plants. For one thing, the garage wall on the south side means that this spot gets very little light all through the springtime. By late May or early June, the sun finds its way onto the patio, and then the spot becomes a blazing inferno. There are trees just to the west, but they aren’t very tall, and don’t provide any shade until just before the sun sets.

So of course, I planted some strawberries there. Six of them. I dug up the dirt, added some soil amendment and compost, and watered them every other day. Five of them died immediately. But one hung on, survived a summer, and then a winter, and then a little more summer, and it was looking a bit tall and spindly, but I kept hoping it would bush out a little with the increased sunshine.

Well it was summer, and it was brutal as always, but the little strawberry plant kept going. The frequent watering kept the dirt loose and cool(-ish) and although it never changed very much, it seemed comfortable there, if not overly enthusiastic. I thought that it might all work out.

Then one afternoon, I heard scritching and scratching coming from the area near the front door. I know that a bird was nesting on one of my porch lights, but this sounded more massive. And so it was. I grabbed my camera. That nice cool(-ish) bed of dirt seemed attractive to one of the critters that pass through the yard on a semi-regular basis. This is what happened to my planter with the strawberry:


So the strawberry is no more. Looking behind me, I see the culprit, skulking off:


Miscreant javalina

At the bottom right of that picture you see a low wall, which surrounds the entry space in front of the patio. At that corner of the wall, I have one of those little solar-powered path lights. As the javelina got to the wall, it turned and looked at me, as if hurt that I had turned it out of its cool wallow. Then it turned its head slightly, and found itself looking directly at my little path light. Which it then knocked over. And then it looked back at me, as if to say “So there! Take that!” And then it walked away.

Well, the strawberry wasn’t looking like it would have fruit anytime soon anyway. Maybe I’ll try some nice flowers there again…

Wildflowers — Spring 2016

Taking a break from the excavations 🙂 Here are some wildflowers I found around the yard this spring.


This first group is Parry’s penstemons (Penstemon parryi). Every spring I see little clumps of these along the road to town, but had never caught them blooming in my yard until this year. Here’s a close-up:

Photobucket Photos

See the orange brush running up the throat of the flower? That bit glows brightly in ultraviolet light. So if you were a bee, that would look like a landing strip.

Next, I have a Desert Hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum). They grow all by themselves or in groups of up to three, between the rocks all over the scrub part of the yard.

Photobucket Photos

Doesn’t that name sound nice? Desert hyacinth. That’s the alternate name, though. Which I prefer, because the more common name is Blue Dicks. When I went out to mow down some of the bunch grass that grew so well with the rains last year, it sounded so much better in my mind to say I should “Leave the desert hyacinth growing” rather than to keep reminding myself “Don’t cut off the blue dicks”.

I haven’t been able to identify this flower at all. I’ve looked at hundreds of pictures, and I just don’t see this one in the databases. I’m sure it’s there, but my exemplar is probably some kind of mutant. The closest thing looks like a wild American carrot. Maybe.


Many of the wildflowers bloom for only a few days or maybe a week, and if I’m not out there, I’ve missed them for the whole year. When I do get a picture of them, I look them up and write down their names and file the pictures by month, with a bit of the leaves too, so that next year I know which plants to look for and when, which makes it easier to catch them again. Here are some flowers I’ve shown before, but this time not so close up, and you can see what they look like when you’re just walking by them. So I have some of this year’s Smooth Threadleaf Ragwort (Senecio flaccidus):


And these are the Caliche Globemallow (Sphaeralcea laxa):


It doesn’t look like much from far away (and by “far away” I mean 5 or 6 feet) but they’re really pretty, and visible from quite a distance, since they’re such an unusual color around here.

And lastly, another Fiveneedle Pricklyleaf (Thymophylla pentachaeta), and kinda close-up because I couldn’t resist 🙂


For fun, I’ve been kinda sorta loosely participating in a photography “class”: in the sense that some guy online has a weekly “try this technique & post your most interesting result”. The object of this particular lesson was to manipulate a picture you already have, to emphasize texture & depth. I took one of my (many) pictures of fairy duster flowers, removed the color and sharpened the contrast a bit.

Photobucket Photos

I really like it. It came out like a kind of 3D, time-compressed explosion. Or, y’know, whatever you saw… 😀

The Digging Continues

Winter is over! Yes, the temperatures have been in the 80s several times already, but there was a brief (2-day) cool spell last week that I counted as “wintry” weather. That’s all over now, and all the mesquites have sprouted leaves, and that means they think we’re done with cold nights. And none too soon for me!

The old garden bed has sprouted too, with corn and peas and lettuce, and even some carrots I think, leftover seeds that didn’t grow last year. It looks like the spinach & sunflowers didn’t make it — old seeds, I think. I need to get more. The netting is preventing the birds from eating everything as soon as I plant it, so that’s working just right. I didn’t have room for potatoes, since they don’t seem to like growing in the same spot two years in a row, so that’s just more incentive to get this hole dug quicker.

And work is progressing there:


Yes, I still haven’t cut & capped that irrigation pipe. That would require going into town and buying caps, and that hasn’t really risen to the top of my agenda yet. Maybe next weekend.

Meanwhile, the big rock emerging in the north end of the hole has now shown itself to be at least twice as big as it appeared last time:


Shown here again with the sandal for size comparison.


No idea how that dirty foot keeps showing up in the pictures! Anyway, last time, the triangular bit on the front face and the ridge at the top of the rock was all that was showing. It’s definitely a bit of a whale. I still need to uncover more of it before I start planning its removal.

And here’s the growing dirt pile:


It only rained once in February, and once so far this month (that cold spell), so we’re just a bit more than an inch above normal YTD. Rain really is magical for the vegetable plants: they accept the water I give them from the well, but when it rains they really look happy. Maybe an extra inch of rain over a three-month period isn’t such a bad thing.

Hole Update, Plus: Chores!

First, an update on the garden bed progress. The pile of dirt is growing more quickly now, and I need a wider angle to get it all into the picture.


It now reaches halfway across the space I had planned for it. I guess that’s good, since the hole is about half as deep as I want it to be, but I’m seeing the corner of the garden fence getting closer, and I’m starting to think about running out of room.

And the next layer of dirt is out of the hole.


The rocks are getting bigger and more numerous now. In fact, I think I’m starting to see a moby-sized one appearing at the north (upper) end of the hole, just below and to the left of the white rock sticking out of the wall there. Here’s a close-up:


Size 8 sandal shown for comparison. Dirty foot should be ignored.

OK, the real reason I’m showing all these pictures of the garden bed under construction is because (and you are forgiven for not believing this) I’m terrible at taking before-and-after pictures. I’m trying to get better at this, with only moderate success. As seen below.

I remember mowing the grass in Florida. I had (have!) a reel-type mower, and the grass there grows three inches a week in the summer, so most days I’d be out chewing down the grass. It was great exercise, but there were days when I heard about yards in the desert covered with rocks, and I dreamed about how “maintenance-free” such a yard would be. Now I have one of those rock-covered yards, and it isn’t quite as maintenance-free as it seemed, although it isn’t the three-days-a-week ordeal that hand-mowing in Florida summer was. Now it’s more like twice a year weeding and the bi-annual rock grooming.

The “decorative rock” that covers the whole front yard and circles the back yard are just stones that have been hauled in and poured over the dirt. When you order them, you get to pick a color for the rocks; mine are mostly reddish. Anyway, there’s nothing but gravity holding them in place, and sometimes that gravity is not my friend. Wherever the level of the rocks is slightly higher than the surrounding dirt, the rocks have a tendency to run away, and I have to round them up and herd them back where they came from. In other places, where the rocks are slightly below the surrounding dirt, the dirt drifts over them when it rains and then the rocks need to be disinterred. And (did I mention?) it rained a lot last year. But the truth is, decorative rock looks so much more decorative when it’s on top of the dirt.

2015 was the year for rock grooming, but the rock grooming didn’t happen. I blame the extra rains, and the fact that there were more engrossing excavations going on in the yard last year. It’s not that I was ignoring those rocks though. Each day when I went out, I looked at those rocks and thought about their increasingly scruffy appearance, thought “Ugh!”, and passed them right by. This year, I will be paying for my negligence.

If I were good at before-and-after pictures, I would have taken some before I started. But I forgot. So here is one where I had just cleared the crevices between the red slate pavers and barely started the next section:


At the left is a small area I’ve already worked. Almost the entire right side of the picture, where you can see a small number of scattered stones, is the work I have yet to do. And that’s just the little section between the red slate walkway and the recovery tree moat. Another large section on the other side of the walkway and on past the garden is lurking as well.


Most of what looks like dirt there is actually buried decorative rock. The rocks above the French drain (rounded gray rocks) are holding pretty firm, but the outside is looking very ragged. At some point, I’m going to need to dig out the drain as well, since it doesn’t work well when it’s full of dirt. Later, later…

I think I heard somewhere that playing in the dirt is good for you and raises your serotonin levels. So let me grab my handy little claw tool and go herd those rocks!

The Hole is Halfway Done

This little critter was showing off for me this week. It’s a Harris’ antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus harrisii), standing on the tarp over the dirt pile in the backyard. It stood there for quite a while and let me get several pictures before running off.


Read more…

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:

Photobucket Photos

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.

Read more…

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.

Photobucket Photos

Read more…

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.


Read more…

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.

Read more…

Post Navigation