Archive for the ‘Arizona’ Category

winter in arizona – 3   3 comments

Posted at 9:48 am in Arizona

This is the third and final post about last winter’s sojourn in the desert. Sometime very soon, I’ll put up some posts about summer here in Nova Scotia.

As mentioned in previous posts, the sky really is half your world out on the desert – actually it seems like more than half. With most of my time spent outdoors, it’s only natural that I would be paying a lot of attention to what was going on in every direction. Some of the skies were just mind blowing. The one in the above photo and the next two, was absolutely crazy. Surreal – like something out of a Salvador Dali painting.

A couple of friends came over to visit that evening. I had cooked up several indian dishes and we were chowing down before playing some music. All of a sudden, the whole landscape became drenched with that warm pink glow that often happens around sunset. We got up from our chairs and wandered out to the west side of the cabin to watch the crazy sky show that was taking place over the Mule Mountains. I got out the camera and shot photos of the clouds and my friends as we celebrated the spectacular scene. Truly a memorable evening for the food, company, music and incredible sky.

I’m sometimes asked what it’s like to live in a small space. It’s a fair question, but it’s good to keep in mind that I’m biased. I’ve never cared about having a lot of indoor space. My world has always been outside. Indoors is just a place to go and sleep, cook, and maybe hang out and make art or music if it’s not nice enough to be outdoors.

Anyhow, the main thing to be said about living small is that you learn not to waste space on things you don’t really need. For me, that’s not too hard. Food, musical instruments, art supplies, a bed, some clothes and books are the essentials. Most of the necessities fit into a scene such as the above. Anytime the place starts to feel too small, it’s time to go for a walk.

Well, that was pretty much my winter. Almost countless wonderful sunrises, sunsets and cloudscapes. A lot of playing music with friends. Long walks in the desert with the dogs. Good meals cooked in the outdoor kitchen using very fresh vegetables. Sage and Shelby had a great time exploring the desert with me.

And so it was that I said goodbye to the desert after taking one last long look back at the cabin. I reset the trip odometer and rolled on eastward. It would be about 8 days and 4,000 miles before I would see home.

Written by Administrator on July 14th, 2015

winter in arizona – 2   4 comments

Posted at 10:47 am in Arizona,Art,Bisbee,desert,insects,sage,shelby

The *new* blog seems to be working okay now. Comments can be written and read, although I’m having to approve them before they actually appear. That’s fine with me – a small price to pay for having a working blog once more. If you write a comment and it doesn’t appear immediately, don’t be concerned as I will (hopefully) soon see it waiting for my attention.

Although I’m now at Round Hill, I would like to write a few things about last winter’s sojourn in southeast Arizona. This is the second of three posts before moving on to life back in Nova Scotia.

Shortly before my early November arrival in Bisbee, there was a community exhibit at the Central School Project (CSP), in honour of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Located so close to Mexico, there is a lot of cultural exchange happening in the border towns as so many residents have roots running deep into the south. In fact, that’s one of the things that I enjoy about spending winters in southeast Arizona – that the area is a sort of nexus for geography, geology, flora and fauna, art, language, food, and lifestyle from both sides of the border. This event certainly captured the sense of Bisbee’s location on one of these cultural crossroads.

So much beauty and creativity by members of the community. It would take dozens of photos to do justice to the exhibit, but I’ve chosen a few to give some impression of the sculptures, shrines, paintings and other art.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, this year marked a significant change to my lifestyle. No longer were the dogs and I in a house in town up in the Mule Mountains. Now we were in a cabin in the Chihuahuan desert of the Sulphur Springs Valley. We had exchanged steep mountainsides clothed in juniper, live oak and pine, for the gently sloping landscape of a huge bajada on the eastern side of the Mule range. For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia says it better than I can muster – a bajada consists of a series of coalescing alluvial fans along a mountain front. These fan-shaped deposits form from the deposition of sediment within a stream onto flat land at the base of a mountain. For a wanderer on foot, what this means is that the floor of the valley gradually slopes down from the foot of the mountains. The soil is a mix of sand, clay and many stones ranging from pebble to boulder, and all of this cut through by washes – the ever-changing stream beds created by the torrential rains that occur during the monsoon season of late summer. The landscape is dominated by low-growing mesquite, whitethorn acacia, creosote bush, ocotillo, yucca and many other plants.

Having traveled so much in recent years, it didn’t take too long to feel settled and comfortable with the change in locale. Both dogs were visibly elated by the freedom which echoed that of our place up north. They didn’t stray far on their own, but could wander around always in sight of me. In the morning and evening, they would lie around together in the sun, and during the heat of the day, find a shady spot alongside my van or the cabin. We spent a lot of time going for exploratory rambles, getting to know the plants and creatures that inhabited this new-to-us landscape.

Unfortunately, one of the plants that we got to know a little too well was a kind of grass which people in this area call fox grass, cheat grass, or foxtail grass. Although I’ve lived and hiked in southeast Arizona for several winters, I’d never encountered it before – or should say that it had never caused problems in the past. At first, it seemed innocuous and didn’t bother us, but as autumn wore on into winter, the golden patches of this grass bleached and dried out to pale ivory and became increasingly bristly to the touch. The merest brush with one would cause the seed awns to break away and embed themselves in my clothing or the dogs’ fur. Soon, the fluffy comforters on the bed were riddled with these irritating little buggers. Combing them out of the dogs’ coats, I soon discovered that some of the seed awns had worked their way into the long hair between my dogs’ toes, then pierced the skin to begin their next bit of nasty mischief. Sage, having the thickest fur on her feet, got the worst of it. I clipped away the hair to reveal a few horrible looking carbuncle type blobs between her toes. After soaking them in hydrogen peroxide a few times over a day, I soon realized that it was going to take something more to rid her of these things. I drove her to a vet that I’ve taken the dogs to in the past. He told me that the severe dryness of the past few weeks had triggered a real onslaught of cases similar – but many even worse – than Sage’s. He gave her some sedation and removed all the seed awns – fortunately restricted to just her front feet – then bandaged her up and wrote a prescription for antibiotics. He advised keeping the hair on her feet clipped very short as that helps to prevent the original “winding” action of the seed awns.

It took awhile, but about a week after the foot surgery, Sage was ready to return to walks. However, now I vowed to refrain from walking anywhere except down in the sandy washes where the grasses do not grow. That’s actually not too restrictive as one can walk for miles in the maze of washes – some like roads, while others are just narrow pathways winding between mounded clay topped with mesquite trees.

There’s also much to see in the well washed sand of these dry stream beds. They are the highways used by most of the wildlife of the area. Above, I’ve posted a photo showing many roadrunner footprints. One particular wash is always well trodden by roadrunners that seem to stick to a particular route. Other washes are frequently marked with the prints of javelina, deer, coyote, fox, rabbit, kangaroo rats, and countless other creatures.

I’m sometimes told by visitors that southeast Arizona is such a dry, blasted, lifeless looking place. While that may be somewhat true of the driest part of winter – yes, it can seem desolate – there is abundant life all around. Birds are with us at all times. Black-throated Sparrows (Amphispiza bilinear) became my companions as they perched in the leafless mesquite in winter, quickly moving in to take a look anywhere I had been working just moments before. Occasionally, a flock of Sandhill Cranes would pass high overhead after taking flight from the nearby playa of Whitewater Draw. Two Raven frequently cavorted in the air above the cabin, croaking and clunking – especially on one morning when I was making a solar cooker out of a sheet of reflectix. No doubt they wondered what shiny prize I was creating. Also particularly conspicuous was a Loggerhead Shrike that took to perching near the cabin as it watched for grasshoppers or any other insect. One day while studying plants near the cabin, I found the dried remains of a female Praying Mantis, impaled on a mesquite thorn — a graphic reminder that life is unforgiving out here in the desert.

In spite of occasional ups and downs, my days soon settled into a relaxed cycle of events. Most mornings, I was up early to witness the sunrise. I became a little spoiled by the incredible skies – so many amazing sunrises and sunsets. Still, sometimes there would be one of surpassing beauty and I would have to get out the camera. I came to view these sky events as being the desert’s reply to the aurora borealis, countering the cool greens on inky black of the north, for warm pinks and oranges on the impossible blue of the south.

an amazing dawn sky to the east of the cabin

Within a few weeks, the catastrophic run-in with the foxtail grass now forgotten, Sage was back to her old self again, enjoying long rambles in the safety of the washes. Another blog post coming up soon.

Written by bev wigney on June 20th, 2015