Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

Archive for the tag “nature”

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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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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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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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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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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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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. 😀

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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Midwinter Blues

I knew it would come to this, and I prepared ahead.


These are Desert Tansyasters (Arida arizonica), and there are almost always some of these blooming around the yard somewhere. Since I get pictures of these almost every month, I hadn’t been showing them, since there was always something else to show you. January, though, is flowerless this year — dreary and cold. OK, not cold compared to other places, but enough to make me feel a bit cranky. And I so miss the sunshine.

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‘Tis the Season


Desert mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) growing on a Chilean mesquite tree in my front yard. I took this picture only 2 days ago. When I showed it to a plant-nerd friend, he said it was weird, because it’s completely off-cycle. Like by six months!

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