Archive for the ‘cactus’ Category


August 10, 2017

First, watch this George Carlin video: carlin on stuff

A couple of weeks ago in the NY Times I read this commentary:  summer-bucket-listThe author, Bari Weiss, mentioned a Kondo closet, which I had to look up and found this article from a few years ago: Tidying Up.  (She also listed Buy Dyson hair dryer!  Had to hit that hot button.  They cost $400!!!)  I was intrigued.  Marie Kondo makes me look like a hoarder!   (OMG – there’s an American television series, Hoarders!)

Anyway, I got her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, from the library.  Before I’d finished the first chapter I began on my bookshelves and took three grocery bags of books to the library.  Then I started in on clothes, camping equipment and holiday decorations.  Four giant trash bags to Goodwill.  Plus numerous bags of recyclables and trash.  And I’m not even doing it right!  You’re supposed to start with your clothes and only keep ones that “spark joy”.  Now that I’ve finished the short book (and gotten her second, Spark Joy, from the library), I’ve learned to fold “properly” and the drawers that I’ve worked on are now only half full.  But it’s tiring…

Spurred by a comment in her second book, I started to throw on photos from albums.  Mostly buildings, such as ones I’d photographed in Mexico City.  Know the kids aren’t interested in them.  Then tossed out a few folders of student stuff from Pima.  And started in under the bathroom sink.  (Try it!) After than opened a few boxes in my third bedroom (AKA storage locker) and found the wrapping paper box I’d lost for a year, and some empty frames to donate.  Got my daughter to stop by to read old letters she had sent from her college year abroad in France so I could toss them.  Next she went through a pile of elementary school artwork.  Almost kept one gorgeous painting of a rabbit, but no, she’s got enough elementary school paintings by her own kids.

(Going to wrap up my son’s letters in one box and his elementary school paintings in another, and give them to him for Christmas.  Did that before – a number of years ago I had run out of room in my filing cabinet, so took two folders of each of my kid’s elementary school grades and awards, boxed and decorated them, and gave them to my son and daughter for Christmas.  My daughter had a hissy fit: Oh you’re trying to get rid of our memories, but my son read his, laughed about a lot of it, and then threw the pile away.)

Each time I visit my friends in San Diego, L & P, L asks me to help her clean out a room.  The last time it was her office, as she had retired as an attorney.  What I’m good as is triage – keep, donate, toss.  Because most of her documents were confidential, the shredder was working constantly.  We filled both the trash and the recycle bin, and even borrowed her neighbor’s.  To facilitate disposal, I even took four bags home to recycle them here.  (Scroll down in san-diego-continued for another project, Collection Triage, moving the chairs and bookcases in to the addition to their living/dining room, and “tidying up” in the process.)  L thinks I should hire out.

Seen in the past few weeks

There were four small bobcats in front of my neighbor’s garage as I drove past.  They heard the car and skittered under a huge red bird of paradise.  Not sure if it was a mother and three kittens, but when I took this photo there was some low growling.  When I checked an hour later they were gone.

This is the round-tailed ground squirrel that climbs the welded wire to eat my plants.  It’s trying to get away from me and my camera.  Cute as the dickens, but why we use that epithet is beyond me.  Dickens is a euphemism for  the devil, and why would a devil be cute?

I love to watch the mountains from the back of my house.  This photo at dusk.

A few unusual animals to see.  A red-headed lizard in my yard, probably a male collared lizard.  A (poisonous) Colorado river toad hiding from the heat in the corner of my daughter’s entry.  The hot gravel yards were no doubt inhospitable.

A defensive milky neurotoxin venom can be released from the parotid gland behind the eyes and similar organs on the legs. The venom is potent enough to kill a large dog, should the dog grab a toad. Symptoms of envenomation include foaming at the mouth, drunken gait, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, or complete collapse. There is no antitoxin.

A couple of police down the street from my daughter’s were watching an African spurred tortoise while someone was trying to find its owner.  They are much larger than our desert tortoise.  This article is probably about the tortoise on the lam:  Think Oro Valley is a bit slow on crime…

A silky flycatcher (phainopepla) has taken a liking to my birdbath.  Learned something new about them:

The Phainopepla, when pursued by predators or handled by humans, mimics the calls of other birds; imitations of at least 13 species have been recorded.

And my barrel cactus is blooming beautifully.


Easter 2017

April 17, 2017

Dyed eggs with my three grandchildren.  It’s trite, but they do grow up so fast!

Spring Flowers

Some of the palo verdes in the wash behind my house have turned yellow.  One of mine is now in flower.  The tiny backyard is looking beautiful.  A friend gave me a yucca and two prickly pear cuttings to fill in around the huge barrel cactus and rocks (see photo).

I think the quail have nested under a large Texas ranger in the side yard.  “Dad” was patrolling along the wall.

There is 18″ of 1/4” welded wire wrapped around the backyard wrought iron fence, and I assumed, when I planted a vegetable garden in a corner of the yard, that no rodents would get in.  Then I spied a rabbit, frantically trying to get out, until he realized that I was watching him through the window, and he froze. When I went out to open the gate to shoo him out, he was gone, and a dent in the top of one section of the welded wire.  He was so scared that he didn’t eat anything!


I enjoy seeing neighbors’ yards in bloom when I walk to the mailbox.  My next-door neighbor has this cactus in a pot, where it’s happily blossoming in fuchsia.  Orange flowers on a cactus down the street.  And this purple prickly pear is squeezed between an ocotillo and a saguaro.  My own prickly pear flowers.



Can’t remember what I was looking for when I found Erwin Wurm’s One-Minute Sculptures on the Net. Check out all three websites – there are lots more.

Smoke Bomb Photos

Then I somehow got into these smoke bomb photos.  Above, by Julie SmithAviphile, “Lover of Birds.”

And this one: Se me escapan las ideas by Marina Gondra

But that’s enough for tonight.  And you can google for hundreds more…

The Oro Valley Desert & Readings

August 27, 2016

The Desert

I loved to watch the wildlife at my last house – the deer, raccoon, javelinas, bobcats, rabbits (cottontail and jackrabbit), and all of the birds (especially the roadrunners and hawks).

There is a hill of desert behind the house I’m renting.  Because it is separated from the rest of the desert, typical of developers, (unless a creature, scarab_beetleusually a coyote, dares to cross the ring road around the subdivision), I can see only a few rabbits, cactus wrens (in the prickly pear, eating not the fruit, but the bugs after the fruit), doves, quail, and goldfinches.  And ants – lots of ants.  Also, recently the beautiful emerald green scarab beetles (also, according to Wikipedia, known as the figeater beetle, whose habitat is primarily the southwestern United States and Mexico).  Their photo.

“My” dove (see her photo in this blog: raised one chick and both of them left.  (Not sure if there was a father around – sometimes the nest was not being tended.)  Lazy, I didn’t get rid of the nest on the back patio beam.  A week later, the dove returned, laid one more egg, and raised one more chick.  They are gone now.  Reminds me of friends who had one daughter.  When she went off to college, being empty nesters, they thought it was the right moment for the second child. As she said: One morning woke up and realized it is now or never and voila!  (Kids are 18 years apart.)

Our monsoon rains have brought out flowers on the barrel cactus and many fruit on the prickly pear cactus (called tuna in Spanish).

IMG_6493 IMG_6495

IMG_6502[1]Here is a photo of insect eggs, yellow and gold, laid neatly in lines on my bedroom window.  (Okay, I didn’t work hard enough to get their color – it was too bright outside.)  Each is approximately 2mm long.  I googled insect eggs and found no match, but all of these gorgeous others.


insect-eggs-3insect-eggs-5 insect-eggs-4


Just read The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty.  In 1972 it won her a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was a nice novel, but I didn’t think that it came up to the quality of The Orphan Master’s Son, Olive Kitteridge, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, or other winners that I have read.  (But 1972 was when Marcus Welby, M.D, and My Three Sons were popular on TV.)

I am presently reading The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain. Bill Bryson married an English woman and now resides there and writes.  This book is a walking tour through Britain (with humour  and many snarky remarks).  I last visited the British Isles, approximately 25 years ago, when my children were young.  For the month-long vacation I had rented four cottages, two in England, one in Wales, one in Scotland (to see Blair Castle, but that’s another story), each for one week.  I remember being surprised that there was a footpath going right past the front garden of our Welsh cottage.  That’s when I learned that Britain has 140,000 miles of footpaths all across the island. 

Can’t imagine our Agro-Giants allowing people to walk through their crops in the US.  Plus, I checked, and Britain is about 57% the size of California.  I googled people who have walked across the United States, and there have been 19 recorded from 1896 to 2015.  A few more have bicycled; a young woman who I worked with in FEMA did it.  She had a hard time getting in enough training beforehand as we were working 60-hour weeks after Hurricane Katrina, and the storm had decimated most of the roads.  Also, my nephew rode across country back in his college days.  If I know two people who have done it, there must be hundreds.

But the walking tour brought to mind the walk a friend had taken with another, from Tucson to Nogales, approximately 70 miles (back when we were all younger).  Unfortunately, most of the way they walked next to a highway, breathing in the particulate matter and many noxious gases.  Their wives met them in Nogales for dinner.  (Google said that it should take 23 hours, 45 minutes for that walk, but I think they did it in half of that time.)  Believe that was the end of his long treks.



April 19, 2015

April Fool’s Day

April started with a friend posting on her Facebook page:
So we’ve decided to sell our house, moving to Puerto Rico!

My daughter posted:
trailerJosh and I are super excited to move into our next adventure… we have decided to take a little break from “real” life and have purchased a camper to move into with the kiddos for the next 6 months to a year. We haven’t decided yet where we will be parking and living, so let us know if you have any good suggestions!


yellow 009A few weeks ago got up at 5am (!!!) to go birding with a friend.  Noticed that while she was looking up, scoping birds, I was looking down, taking photos of the wildflowers.  We both checked out this broken saguaro.

(When T. S. Eliot wrote, April is the cruellest month, birding 013he wasn’t living in Arizona where our temps are in the low 80’s.)

birding 011

House for Sale

Many people won’t consider buying my house because it has stairs.

If you go to New York City, you will find thousands of 85-year-old ladies climbing three flights of stairs and shopping with their bundle buggies. They claim that those stairs, and the walk to the bodega, keep them healthy. In fact, we need to bring people closer together, not spread them apart with ever-bigger bathrooms in bungalows. Climbing some stairs might not be a bad thing for some people, and it might keep them out of wheelchairs. (Isn’t that better than designing our houses for living in wheelchairs?)1

More from Facebook

Sent this to my niece, who lives in Brooklyn:

My daughter posted a photo of my grandson (age 6) at the doctor’s with strep, and a photo of the grocery list he made for her.


I bet Monty Python could do a spoof on this.  (Read it with an English accent.)

The Queen has spent a second day enjoying the spring sunshine in Windsor Great Park this week.

Her Majesty, who is approaching her 89th birthday, was spotted riding her faithful black Fell pony, Carltonlima Emma, as she was joined by Lord Vestey [one of the richest men in England] and her Head Groom Terry Pendry in the beautiful park close to her Windsor Castle home on Monday.

She was well prepared for any spring showers in a lightweight waterproof, and, as is her wont, eschewed a helmet in favour of one of her silk scarves.2

liberalA friend posted this, Being Liberal:





Sage green

May 27, 2014

The name sage green covers a rage of shades.  My second house in Tucson had a yard full of sage.  Here we have bursage, so called because of its burr-like seeds, which would get into the dogs’ paws.  I removed all of it from the backyard.

sage greenbaby rabbit 003There are many greyish blue-green plants in the Sonoran desert.  So now for the color sage I think of the a century plant or Texas ranger or a prickly pear cactus.    memorial day 001lost wax 005(Or the cupric nitrate patina on my bronze cactus.)

Memorial Day

memorial day 018Yesterday, Memorial Day, I did go to my father’s grave.  I had heard on the radio that a Marine, Bob Fussner, has made it a goal that every American veteran have a flag placed upon his or her grave1.  Sure enough, there was one at my father’s.  He had been a navigator in the South Pacific during WWII.

There were so many flags!  For some reason I got kinda choked up, even though my father’s been gone for 35 years.  One family had set out fold-up lawn chairs and were chatting (possibly to the dead?)


This morning while I was still in bed listening to the news, a large family of quail trooped across my patio.  I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t count the tiny feather balls, but it looked like the proud couple had a dozen young ‘uns.  (Obviously not the couple who laid their eggs in a flower pot on my deck!)


baby rabbit 007baby rabbit 009baby rabbit 010Two mornings ago a wee little rabbit found the water dripping from a flower pot next to my bedroom patio.  Drove my cat crazy, though when she pounced she only hit the glass door.

baby rabbit 012But yesterday morning, while drinking, the bunny perked up and its nose went crazy.  Suddenly, it turned into a ball of fur.  Have no idea how it tucked in its ears.  A large coyote was sniffing on the far side of the fence.

I went upstairs to try to get a photo of the coyote, but, sensing me, it trotted off into the bush.  After it was gone the small cottontail hightailed it back to its den.

cherThis and That

Cher, who is my age(!), is doing another tour.  I thought, Sure, I could look like that (although maybe not as tall) if I had $305M.

A week ago an article in the NY Times about the high cost of American health care was entitled, Medicine’s Top Earners Are Not the M.D.s2
healthSomething similar was on the news this week, from ABC:

Propelled by a soaring stock market, the median pay package for a CEO rose above eight figures for the first time last year. The head of a Standard & Poor’s 500 company earned a record $10.5 million, an increase of 8.8 percent from $9.6 million in 2012…

This is where I start ranting and my Republican son-in-law calls me a communist.

OK, to get away from the issue of $$$, another article from the Times suggests that you think about your vacation ahead of time:

Wish you were on vacation right now? Don’t. Taking a vacation won’t necessarily make you happier. But anticipating it will.

This advice is problematic only if there is a chasm between expectations and reality. But even then, anticipation is still important — because that’s the part of the vacation that you were free to see however you wanted. Take, for example, the trip Professor Dunn took to Oahu, Hawaii. She spent plenty of time anticipating how wonderful it would be, which was a good thing because when she was at long last in Oahu she was attacked by a 10-foot tiger shark. The shark bit her leg to the bone but not into the bone, leaving her with scars though no physical impairments. It was, to state the obvious, her worst vacation ever. Yet Professor Dunn nonetheless pointed out that, “At least looking forward to it was still great.” Lesson: even if your vacation is terrible, nothing can take away the enjoyment you felt when you were simply fantasizing about it.3



May 18, 2014

white 009white 007

My white flowers are almost gone.  The ground cover, myoporum, around my spa deck, has been white for a month.  My cilantro has flowered and is starting to seed, so I’m using it for flower arrangements.  In pots next to my bedroom patio are volunteer white 011white 008snapdragons and phlox, and on the deck the alyssum is almost finished.  The sahuaro white blossoms have mostly turned to fruit.
white 015white 010.






Birds, and a lizard

hawk 001An immature Cooper’s hawk sat at my birdbath, watching me.  I guess one of his parents is the hawk who often sits in the huge mesquite next to my backyard.  They love doves, and there are a few around here.

white 001I noticed “my” roadrunner was limping, and saw that his left leg had gotten tangled in twine when I enlarged this photo.  (Click to see.)

My cat dearly wants to catch this collared lizard.  Unfortunately, she ate another small bird yesterday (I white 002found the feathers of what looked like a goldfinch under a living room window, so it may have flown in and broken its neck) and of course threw up on the rug.  She is confined to quarters today.

We broke the ice on the Santa Cruz

We hit our first one hundred degree day here in Tucson on Friday, May 16th.  Saturday we had a high of 101°.1



May 11, 2014

yellow 002Our month of palo verde blooms is waning.  First the blue palo verdes blossomed, followed by the foothills palo verdes.  Now the Mexican palo verdes (which grown fast and have the long leaves, shown on the right) are flourishing.  Finally the Desert Museum palo verdes, which are in front of my house and next to the living room, flower.
yellow 003yellow 004

These photos from my deck, kitchen window, and living room.yellow 005

Wax on, wax off…

For my final project in my Lost Wax art class I’ve done a few items.

In bronze, two sea shells (one of which didn’t come out, I think because the toothpick I was using for a vent came loose) and a tiny barrel cactus. (I took a lot of time clipping off all of the needles, as they would have hindered molding.)

The three items I first cast in alginate, as the eggs had been done. Then took out the cactus (which I neglected to plant right away and as I had washed all of the dirt from its roots, it died when I finally got it in the ground) and the shells.

Poured wax into the mold. After it had partially hardened I poured some of it out of the cactus mold so that the final bronze would be hollow.

Next took the hardened wax out of the alginate mold, and did the nine-step silicone shell. (See previous blog for details1.)

After a full day of drying, the bottom of the cup has to be scored so that the portion of the ceramic shell at the bottom will fall out when the shell is put in the kiln, so that the wax may melt out at 1600°F.

Finally, the burn out of the wax and in the next class, two days later, the pouring of the bronze. After an hour of cooling, the shells can be dripped in water to further cool. the chipping off of the shell. This went a lot faster than it had with the egg crate.

Grinding off the base of the gate took the longest.

bronze 002bronze 008Then did a green patina on the cactus. (Actually the instructor did it for me, heating the bronze with an acetylene air torch, spraying it with cupric nitrate, wearing a leather apron and a very serious chemical filter face mask, as the gas is rather bad.)

Considered a hazardous substance according to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1200.
Contact with combustible material may cause fire.
Harmful if swallowed.
Causes burns.
Risk of serious damage to eyes.
Toxic to aquatic organisms.

lost wax 005Buffed up the remaining shell, rather hard to do as it’s only 1¼” long.

In aluminum I cast Olivia, famous in children’s books by Ian Falconer, a pig with an attitude. (See my comment on the book in a previous blog.2) In one section of Olivia and the Fairy Princesses she dons a tube of material and replicates Martha Graham’s famous solo, Lamentation.3

Created her first in wax, then the ceramic shell, the burn out and the pouring in of aluminum (made from melted engine blocks which had been donated).

Poor Olivia had an unexplained hole in one arm and one in her butt, which the instructor welded a few drops of aluminum onto. (My welding skills had deteriorated significantly since I had a welding class almost 50 years ago).  So I had to file down these drops, and I also tried to improve her rough complexion (neither the wax that we use nor the metals are pure, and tiny holes and bumps will show up everywhere).

lost wax 010I started with a grinder on a pneumatic, pedal-driven tool (can’t forget to first use the tool oil – which I end up getting on my jeans), then a hand-held grinder with solid carbide burrs.  Finally a grinding stone, an attachment on my Dremel (shown here).

olivia 2


Note: my son-in-law had gotten a Dremel kit from his grandfather and re-gifted it to me back when I was doing wood projects. Have gotten a lot of use out of it in this class.

Friday I spray-painted her.  Typed this as I waited for each coat to dry. Impatient!  We have to present our finished projects in Monday’s class and I preferred not to go Saturday for another open lab. (To use their spray paints and spraying booth.)  Finished painting at home.


May Day

may day 001may day 004A friend from South Carolina commented on the May Day party that I had had there.  Still carrying on the tradition.  This year two artist friends made their own vases!  The one on the left by Moira:
The one on the right by Shirley:



May 19, 2013

Seen last week: a couple walking two dogs, one a tiny thing, the other a shaved St Bernard.  (No doubt his summer haircut.)  Also, a Yarrow Spiny Lizard on a rock as I was in my driveway.  Probably the one who peeks in my kitchen window, or his brother.  (This first ref shows the whole lizard1, the second the blue under his chin2.)  No time for a photo as I was on my way to work, but google Yarrow Spiny Lizard and you get dozens of them on rocks, warming up for the day.

palo verdebloomin' 001prickley pear2Photo of my next-door-neighbor’s palo verde as mine aren’t in full bloom yet, Mexican primrose and, of course, prickly pear.  Cactus flowers are so easy!  Love the painterly quality of this cholla.



twin tempsAnother advantage of cats: they kill scorpions.  My cat had been chasing something around the skirt of the bedside table the other night, but I figured it was some insect, and didn’t check.  Today when I took the skirt off to wash it, there was a very large (3″ with its tail stretched out) scorpion, quite dead.

Twin Falls. Idaho

I’m taking off tomorrow to visit my grandkids in Twin Falls for a week.  My daughter sent me the weather forecast.  And Tucson is slated to reach 100° by Tuesday.


Desert Flowers and Yes, More Art

April 28, 2013

rabbits 001My rabbit friend has found a mate.  Interesting that they were pulling down creosote branches, probably to nibble the flowers.  Creosote has toxic roots to keep other plants away, when it rains it has a heavy scent, and the bush has medicinal properties, so strange that the blossoms would be tasty.  This link has some beautiful photos, and a few fascinating facts:

Creosote is the most drought-tolerant plant in North America. It can live with no rain at all for more than two years.
It clones itself. Using radiocarbon dating,  one shrub in the Sonoran desert near Yuma, Arizona is thought to be 18,000 years old.

rabbits 008The rabbits were also nibbling on my Mexican Primrose, which has bubbled over its allotted area.  (See his nose, dusted in pollen.)   They detected the snap of my camera when I sneaked out to the outdoor deck,mex primrose 014 however, and scurried out of the yard.  (I must learn to use that privacy option which eliminates the click.)

octopusThe octopus agaves in the neighborhood are flowering.  (See photo left.)  That dates the houses, as the plants live 10 to 15 years.  Unfortunately, the bloom means that they will soon die, and the professional gardeners will take them out, so that the tiny cactuses that spring up along the trunk from the flowers shall be buried in a landfill.cactus flower 001

cactus flowers 007

The prickly pear in my yard is blooming coral.  (See above.)  I also took photos of the yellow flowers on my neighbor’s purple prickly pear and an ocotillo down the street which is exploding in blossoms.cactus flowers 005

Tohono Chul

Friday evening went to the Tohono Chul gallery in the park for the opening of Metal, Stone & Wood.  A friend’s daughter, Kerstin Dale2, who is a Grand Canyon river guide in the summer and art instructor at Prescott College in the winter, was in the exhibit along with dozens of others, but her work stood out.kerstin  006

Kerstin Dale’s plywood sculptural works are translations of her concern for the ecological changes in the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, where she spends much of her time throughout the year.
“The Plywood Series is a reflection of the rich visual environment in the Desert Southwest, from the horizontal lines in the Painted Desert, to the bottom of the Grand Canyon where the Colorado River builds waves that crash and flow around rocks carving the canyon.  This environment is my home; each twist, bind, and layer of the plywood is a reflection of our precious land” -Kirstin Dale

kerstin  005

cactus flower 015I also liked this roadrunner skull carved in alabaster by Joe Lupiani3, who works in a wide variety of media.