Archive for the ‘Snakes’ Category

Back in The Heat

June 28, 2017

Seen Today

A quail with two young’uns crossing the road.  A ground squirrel climbing up the welded wire into my yard to break off pieces of my purple wandering jew; would have thought that it was poisonous. A pair of pyrrhuloxias on the fence.  (Photo of the ground squirrel on the other side of the fence with branch, and a pyrrhuloxia on the purple sweet potato vine.)

A gila woodpecker at the birdbath.  A dove on the barrel cactus eating the fruit.  A coyote behind my  yard chasing (unsuccessfully) the ground squirrels.  (Sorry – bad photo; he was moving fast.)  This hot (106° today) desert is home to many.  But the neighbor’s mesquite has rained seed pods all over; where are the javelina and deer who should be eating them?

My housesitter found a baby snake in the house (how did it get in?), said it refused to be caught, so she had to kill it and save its body for me.  It appears to be a baby kingsnake.

Missed so much last week!  Oro Valley police beat said that one woman was ticketed for illegally making a U-turn, and three teenagers were caught with a bong.

And hadn’t been watching the national news either.  Never heard of Kim Kardashian’s blackface controversy.  Nor of Randy Rainbow’s “Covfefe: The Broadway Medley.”  (He’s A Bit Much, but he has a nice voice, and you can google it.) Or that Jared Kushner finally speaks: Jared Kushner Speaks.

But yes, I do know that Bill Cosby got off, and that the Congressional Budget Office said of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 that The Senate bill would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million in 2026 relative to the number under current law.

(Have time to catch up on my blogs ’cause my daughter’s family is escaping the heat with another family in the White Mountains for a few days.)

Advertisements

In the Pink

April 21, 2017

Palo verdes are still flowering, but the desert ironwood (top) that I pass every day on my way to work or the Y is in gorgeous bloom.  And the almost-dead desert willow in my side yard, which I severely trimmed, with the help of my son-in-law and his chainsaw, is in bloom, although not as dramatic.

Critters

I love the view from my computer.

A common kingsnake just glided along my fence, on the inside.  Don’t know how it got in, but it kept testing the welded wire along the fence, so I figured it wanted to get out.  Opened the gate and edged it along with a rake handle.  It then slithered away into the desert in those S-shaped curves.  By the 4½ inches  between the posts, it appeared to be three feet long.

Yesterday it was a bobcat, a wriggling quail in its mouth, which stopped at my fence to peer in.  I did not go outside to take these photos, as it would have disappeared.  (The snake just became stationary.)  I had thought a couple of quail had nested under a huge Texas ranger in the side yard a week ago, as whenever I went out the gate, in a rapid flurry, one flew out.  But the next day it didn’t happen, and there were a few feathers about.  I couldn’t figure what had gotten the bird until I saw the bobcat.  It could have easily jumped the fence.

Taxes

I got some money back on my taxes – enough to pay the accountant!

But let’s consider tax reform.  How about if we had no deductions? (This list mostly from Five Tax Deductions that Favor the Rich1.)  No charitable-giving deduction.  If you want to give your Picasso to the art museum, do it, just don’t deduct it.  Same goes for your church, or UNICEF, or your kid’s school.  If you believe in it, donate to it.  (Bill and Melinda Gates do, although they have gotten a small tax break, they could probably do find without it.  From 1994 to 2006, Bill and Melinda gave the foundation more than $26 billion. Those donations resulted in a tax savings of less than 8.3 percent of the contributions they made over that time.2) Long-term capital gains, which derive from the sale of investments such as stocks and bonds held for more than a year, are taxed at 15 percent.  They should be taxed as part of your income.  Eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, which encourages people to scrape more of our biome (a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat) to build large houses, thus making our earth less habitable.  No deductions for children.  If people want to have children, they should pay for them.  The government already provides schools.  No deduction for yourself or whomever you care for, as head of household.

No

  • State sales taxes. …
  • Reinvested dividends. …
  • Out-of-pocket charitable contributions. …
  • Student loan interest paid by Mom and Dad. …
  • Moving expense to take first job. …
  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. …
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) …
  • State tax you paid last spring. …
  • Refinancing mortgage points. …
  • Jury pay paid to employer. …3

(I don’t consider tax-deferred retirement plans a deduction, as you end up having to pay tax on the money when you take it out.)

Then everyone who makes at least $31,200 (52 weeks of 40 hours at a logical minimum age of $15/ hr, married or not, old or young, dependents or not) pays 20%.

So for Trump’s 2005 return where

According to the Form 1040, Mr. Trump paid $36.6 million in federal income taxes on $152.7 million in reported income in 2005, or 24 percent…  Significantly helping matters back in 2005 was the fact he reported a $103.2 million loss that year…4

Without his deduction of losses, he’d pay on $152.7M + $103.2M = $255.9M, of which 20% is $51.18M.

Sure, that would hurt me.  I’d be paying almost 4 times what I paid, as an old person with deductions.  (But I wouldn’t have to pay an accountant.)  However, if that happened to everyone, we could take a bite out of the national debt, which is presently $20.1 trillion5.  Kay Bell in 8 tax breaks that cost Uncle Sam big money says that there’s a $4 trillion giveaway in tax breaks.6

I have a feeling that most of my friends will disagree with this proposal…

1http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2011/12/07/five-tax-deductions-that-favor-rich.html
2http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Foundation-FAQ
3https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Tax-Deductions-and-Credits/The-10-Most-Overlooked-Tax-Deductions/INF12062.html
4http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trumps-tax-return-leaked-rachel-maddow-what-accountants-think-alternative-minimum-tax/
5https://www.google.com/search?q=national+debt+today.&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
6http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/8-tax-breaks-cost-uncle-sam-big-money-1.aspx#ixzz4eqKyTARS

Weeds

March 18, 2017

My grandson was helping me pull weeds.  But Grandma, these have yellow flowers.  Why do we have to pull them?  The line between weeds and wildflowers is a wavy one, or maybe a dashed one.  Had to kill all of the weeds at my last house, then move into another rental house, 4.7 miles away, only to get a note from the HOA that we have to have all of our weeds pulled by April 1.  No fooling.


But speaking of wildflowers – while the east coast is covered in snow there is a spectacular wildflower display here in the desert wherever the housing developments haven’t scraped the ground and replaced the natural desert with a few trees, cacti, bushes trimmed into tight balls, and lots of gravel.  This photo from the Web of the flowers at Picacho Peak, where my daughter and family are camping for the weekend with the Boy Scouts, there to see the wildflowers and the reenactment of the Civil War battle at Picacho Peak.  (http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/picachopeak.html)  Unfortunately, the hot weather (it’s 92° right now, at 5pm) has also brought out the rattlesnakes, so she texted me that they’re leaving after the roasting of the marshmallows tonight.

Backstory

My life has gotten just a tad busier the beginning of February.

Did dislike the last rental.  January’s gas bill was $148!!!  The insulation was terrible, and, in the winter, it was cold downstairs, with drafts, and hot upstairs.  But good news – hah!  So many things had gone wrong with it (such as the heat going out four times in one year!) that they decided to sell.

My lease was up end of January,  then was on month-to-month, but four families had looked at it in the first week, so I figured I better find another rental as my son-in-law won’t finish his training (to be a hospital CFO) for another year, and when the hospital chain assigns him to a hospital somewhere, if it’s a nifty place, I may move there too, to be near the grandkids.  Another move!  Much harder than finding a place to buy, as rental agents “own” their own properties.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Online, looked at 50 (!) houses near here (which means near my daughter and my grandkids), and chose five.  One zapped me for having a cat, so I looked at four.  Found a smaller, less expensive rental (but with a view of the desert and mountains) west of the last house.  The people were moving out the middle of February, so I started packing, yet again.

Here’s a photo from my bedroom window, after I got all of the windows cleaned.  (Not as good as the professional photo above, but it is 5pm, with its long shadows.)


Was chest high in boxes on that first weekend and I was sore to the bone, double-popping ibuprofen.  In order to get my security deposit back, had to have the empty house clean, including the tops of the fans (ten feet up in the living room), the outdoor lights, garage, you name it.  And no weeds.  (This all in the lease that I had signed.)  Of course, we had had our winter rain, and then the temperatures soared into the 80’s.  Never saw so many weeds.  Too many too small to pull, even with my grandson’s small hands, so I had to resort to the dreaded poison.  (Sorry Mitch!  It was that v. $2200.)  My daughter, having never read Silent Spring, had a poison sprayer canister, which I borrowed.

Final inspection.  A woman came to spend an hour taking photos of everything with cabinets open, lights on. Then she gave the set to the rental agent (the fourth one I’ve had, and never met) and he would decide how much of the security deposit to return in two+ weeks (per contract).  The photographer called me the next day and said that they had just put a check in the mail for the entire security deposit.  Guess I overdid it!

Speaking of rental agents- I mentioned to my present one that the garbage disposal was backing up and she said she’d get back to me. Four days later and no return call to my message left, so I tried it when the dishwasher had filled up the sink, and it magically fixed itself. What a way to get things done…  (There’s an apocryphal story that Napoleon opened his mail about once a month. Why? Because if it was still important after a month, he attended to it; if not, one of his minions had dealt with it, or it was just junk mail.)

Too Much to Protest, Too Little Time

As I was packing, moving, unpacking, etc I was feeling very guilty about not having enough time to protest!  Sure, I had emailed my senators regarding Trump’s appointments, especially of Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos.  (See my blog from January: https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/trumps-appointees/)  As if Flake and McCain care about my opinion.  But my rep is Tom O’Halleran, and he’s a Democrat, so no prob.  Next was the protest against Monsanto, which is building a huge greenhouse near here.  https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/monsanto/

Then I sent off an email to my governor because he…

 …defended state laws that let parents use public funds to send children to private and parochial schools.  But he sidestepped questions of whether he would sign legislation to open up that possibility to all 1.1 million public school students statewide.
http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2017/01/27/ducey-depends-using-public-funds-for-private-schools/

Unfortunately,

Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature are attempting to fast-track a plan to eventually offer vouchers to every public-school student and, in separate legislation, privatize oversight of the public money given to parents to pay private-school tuition and other expenses.

The Legislature is training its sights on the plan to broaden eligibility for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a school-choice program created six years ago for disabled children. Under the legislation, all of Arizona’s 1.1 million students would be eligible for the program by 2020.

Sen. Debbie Lesko, of Peoria, and Rep. John Allen, of Scottsdale, have introduced identical bills to expand the program in their chambers, a move intended to expedite passage. ESAs allow families to use public-school dollars on private-school tuition and other educational expenses.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona-education/2017/02/08/republicans-fast-track-school-voucher-bill-arizona-legislature/97572798/

As I had pointed out to my governor, private schools, including Catholic or Christian, are segregated – either by economic inequality (with shades of race discrimination) or by religion.  As Wikipedia points out,

Separation of church and state is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Consequently, I believe that it is in our constitution that our taxes should not be used to fund private and parochial schools, and that includes the school tax credit, which comes out of our taxes.  But Arizona is a red state, so it’ll no doubt pass.

Zero to 1.34 Million

You must read Nicholas Kristof’s column from Sunday’s New York Times from a month ago, regarding Trump’s original travel ban:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/11/opinion/sunday/husbands-are-deadlier-than-terrorists.html

People’s Climate Movement April 29th

This was in my Sierra Club magazine:

Michael Brune on the People’s Climate Mobilization, Feb 24 2017

Two years ago, the first People’s Climate March took place on a crisp, blue-sky September day in Manhattan. An estimated 400,000 people, representing the full display of American diversity, were united in the same righteous purpose: to demand that our leaders act fast to address the climate crisis.

The day was filled with promise, and in the following years our enthusiasm was reciprocated with progress. The Paris Agreement. The Clean Power Plan. The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. We could say that, powered by a movement of millions, the United States was truly leading on climate.

Now the political landscape is different. Donald Trump’s election will upend U.S. climate policy. I doubt that many citizens voted for Trump because they were enthusiastic about his views on climate change, but that’s beside the point.

The Trump-Pence administration has no mandate to roll back environmental progress. Polling before the election showed that seven in 10 Americans agreed the government should do something about global warming. Polling after the election showed that 86 percent of voters—including three out of four of those who voted for Trump—support “action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy.”

… we can’t afford to underestimate the Trump administration. Unchecked, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are a threat to our climate and the civil rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. This is a dangerous moment in U.S. history.

…If the Trump-Pence administration attempts to roll back the progress we’ve made in the past 50 years, we do not have to stand for it. Instead, we will stand up against it. We will march, organize, and keep marching—and we will not give up.

The Tucson march:


https://www.evensi.us/tucson-peoples-climate-march-el-presidio-plaza-park/202310124

Women of a certain age…

May 17, 2015

Yesterday in the mail I was informed that You may qualify for the Funeral Advantage Program… Guess I’m of that certain age.

The poet Byron in 1817 wrote, “She was not old, nor young, nor at the years/Which certain people call a certain age,/Which yet the most uncertain age appears.” Five years later, in a grumpier mood, he returned to the phrase: “A lady of a ‘certain age,’ which means Certainly aged.” Charles Dickens picked it up in “Barnaby Rudge”: “A very old house, perhaps as old as it claimed to be, and perhaps older, which will sometimes happen with houses of an uncertain, as with ladies of a certain, age.”1

Snakes

A few days ago when I left for work there was a rattlesnake, about four feet long, in the middle of our cul de sac.  I went around it; it was not there when I got home, so I guess nobody ran over it. Snakes are good – they keep the pack rat population down.

…in 2012 only one person in the nation died from a snake bite whereas 791 were killed by toasters…2

Bobcats

bobcats 009Got home from work yesterday to see a large bobcat sitting in my backyard.  My cat sat on the bed and growled.

This morning as I was reading the newspaper in bed the cat sat up, eyes wide.  I looked over, and a smaller (?) bobcat was crossing the spa deck with a large lizard in its mouth.  (Notice the lizard’s turquoise underside.)  The bobcat jumped from the bridge into the wash, but stopped a minute to put down the lizard and look at us.  (I had the door open to the screen, so maybe it heard my cat growling.)   The lizard took off running, so the bobcat dashed after it, through the fence as if it weren’t there, catching the lizard again in the neighbor’s yard.

bobcats 014
1
http://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/02/magazine/in-language-a-woman-of-a-certain-age.html
2https://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Gardening/Archives/2015/Redefining-Curb-Appeal.aspx

Rattlesnake

July 5, 2014

 

July 3, 2014

rattlesnake 001

rattlesnake 006As I was having my morning coffee and newspaper, noticed that my cat’s hackles were up.  The adult bobcat on the spa deck again.  It didn’t stay too long, but later I noticed something else there.  Turns out it was a three-foot rattler.  I may start wearing cowboy boots outside to do my yardwork.

 

rattlesnake 011

Later in the day, when I was getting changed for qigong, the bobcat was back.  Sat on the spa cover, then opted for the cool ground cover.  Looked up when I took a photo from upstairs, but my flash went off in its eyes.

rattlesnake 012

rattlesnake 014rattlesnake 019

 

rattlesnake 022

WHISKER DAMReading

Continuing my reading on landscape architecture.  (Believe this was from Landscape for Living.)  Fascinated by a “whisker dam”.  This from 1937.

An August Evening

August 27, 2013

A gold leaf sky
Behind the dark grey mountains
A desert evening

Rattlesnakes

My neighbors have emailed:

>Earlier this week there was a run-over baby rattler on our street just past C’s.  This morning, I found one sunning in our driveway. Friends in other sections of Starr Pass have also mentioned baby rattlers, so keep an eye out for them. 

>We had a mature RATTLER just outside our front door approximately three weeks ago.  We were gone on vacation during that time.  According to our house sitter the rattler was there from about 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.  She talked to some services to get rid of it with no success.   She was told that the rattler would eventually go away.  She had a relative of hers come after work and kill it.   We also took our doggie to a snake training which involves getting the strong scent of a snake and moving away from it.

All I’ve seen in my yard this summer was an eight-inch snakeskin shed from a baby rattler.  (Two years ago1 and three years ago2 had a large rattler on my patio.)  But I am considering wearing my cowboy boots if I’m cutting weeds outside my fence.  Wish I had a bullsnake (subspecies of the gopher snake that looks like a rattler). Rattlesnakes have a more variable diet (snakes, lizards, amphibians, and all types of warm-blooded prey).  Bullsnakes favor primarily warm-blooded prey and bird eggs.  Bullsnakes are active foragers, investigating rodent holes3, and I had maybe a dozen in my yard, so I’d be happy to rent someone’s bullsnake.  Gave some thought to getting my own to rent to neighbors who have problems with mice and packrats, but not sure how to keep track of it, maybe with a GPS tag like they do with dogs?

Many houses ago, when I lived off La Cholla and Ina, I had a bullsnake that lived in my woodpile.  Never had a problem with packrats.  Scared the dickens out of my uncle, who almost tripped over it and swore it was six feet long.  Not true, at least when I was a foot away from it – it looked about only three or four feet long.  On that occasion, I was draining my fishpond.

Backstory

Almost 40 years ago friend J got me started digging a hole for a fishpond, and I just bought some ready mix concrete and lined the hole.  Shaped like a comma, the tail being the shallow end, about four feet by seven feet.  Filled it with water; that night all of the water drained out.  Plastered the pond.  Filled it again; this time only half of the water drained out.  Plastered again.  This time it mostly held water, but seeped enough to delight the iris I planted next to it.  Also the palo verde it was under.

Put a pot of dwarf umbrella plant in the center, and bought a few tiny goldfish for like 35¢ each, but the person at the pet store let me pick which ones and I picked variegated colors.  The fish grew to about 8”, almost as pretty as koi, but I hadn’t made the pond deep enough for cool water in the summer, and I had put in no circulating pump, so a few times each summer I fished out the goldfish and put them in pails of water, drained the pond and swept out the muck.  It was at one of these occasions that I looked around and my bullsnake was drinking from the pond, right next to me.  It would drip its head down to get some water, then put its head up to let the water drain down, I guess.  Great snake.  (The goldfish eventually got too large for the shallow pond, and died.  Had to buy more little ones.)

In the spring time I heard what sounded like a lost sheep baaing in the wash behind my house.  Here’s the sound: http://www.tucsonrana.com/sounds/couch1w.mp3  (Ctrl + click to follow links.)  I walked out into the yard and realized that the sound was coming from my pond!  Being relatively new to Tucson I didn’t know about the Couch’s Spadefoot toads which dig into the sandy wash behind my house, to appear only during monsoon season to mate.

spadefootDuring summer monsoons, the spadefoot is well-known for emerging from its subterranean estivation to breed in the temporary ponds created by the heavy runoff. Interestingly, the cue for adult emergence during these summer thunderstorms is not moisture, but rather low frequency sound or vibration, most likely caused by rainfall or thunder. Upon emergence, males begin calling to attract females. Their calls sound like the bleating of sheep or goats. [They puff out their throat sacs to make the noise.]  One female may lay as many as 3000 eggs. Once the eggs are laid, they must hatch quickly into tadpoles before these shallow pools disappear. And hatch quickly they do—at water temperatures of 86° eggs hatch in 15 hours! Tadpoles must also metamorphose quickly—2 weeks on average, sometimes as little as 9 days—into froglets before the ponds dry up. In this exacting atmosphere very few eggs make it to young frogs. 4

Well, these poor critters had picked the wrong pond.  They usually don’t have to contend with fish.  Do believe my goldfish ate all of the eggs.  Never saw any froglets.

Froglets

Here in Starr Pass there is a small section of the large wash behind my house where the sprinkler water from the golf course puddles.  During monsoon weather there will be hundreds of tiny froglets there trying to escape predators.  When we had just poured the concrete floor of the Bridge House next door (the first house I designed and built), there was a square hole, also concrete, about 6” deep.  (A friend said I’d never sell a house with stairs in what is basically a retirement area, so I designed closets, one above the other, large enough for a residential elevator to be installed, and the hole was necessary for the elevator.  Actually, had no problem selling that house, but no bites on this one, with stairs, and no elevator shaft.)

tadpoleThe monsoons hit, the hole filled with water, the spadefoots (spadefeet?) bred, and we had hundreds of tadpoles.  My (now ex-) husband was going to drain it but first I decided to save as many tadpoles as I could.  Bought a large galvanized tub, filled it with water and a rock, and put it in the backyard of the rental we were living in during the building process.  Many trips of ferrying tadpoles from the building site, miles away.  Didn’t know they ate lots of small bugs and different green veggies (not having the internet fifteen years ago), but I do remember my son yanking grass out and putting it around the rock.  Two made it to froglets and pulled out to the rock.  One died, gave the other to friend N, who had a terrarium.  The rest kept swimming around.  Called the Desert Museum.  Was told that only about 1% become frogs!  Bummer.  They eventually died and we used them for fertilizer.

Birds

A covey of six quail coming down my driveway this morning, greeting an Abert’s towhee.  Believe it was because one of my drip lines had a small hole that created a small spray of water.

1https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/denizens-of-the-desert/
2https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/rattlesnake/
3http://havesnakeswilltravel.com/bullsnakes-vs-rattlesnakes-by-bryon-shipley-rattlesnake-researcher/betty/
4http://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_spadefoot.php

Fiji Day 6

June 26, 2012

Thursday, 14 June 2012

It only stopped raining temporarily twice today.  People are starting to make little snapping comments about each other.  Plus, R and G didn’t lock their room, thinking everything was safe here, and lost two ipads and an iphone.  (The laptop, sitting out, was still there.)  Two policemen came out from the big island to investigate.  The thought is that it’s two construction workers, but they can’t find the goods.

Diving

When we moored for the dive a banded sea krait (snake) was swimming on top of the water and wanted to get on to the boat!  (The dive master said that it was probably tired and wanted a rest.)  So he jumped in and grabbed it for photos!

Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina), one of the most poisonous creatures on the planet.  They are not in any way aggressive, as long as you don’t try to play with them.

C took lots of photos of the golden crinoids and anemone fish.

Sea Stars, which include starfish and feather stars, also called crinoids, are Echinoderms.

Also a lot of photos of coral.  (Easier than fish, as they don’t move!)  I was trying to identify the red (encrusting) coral and found these classifications:


Colonies of reef-building corals (hard corals) exhibit a wide range of shapes, but most can be classified within ten general forms.

  1.  Branching corals have branches that also have (secondary) branches.
  2. Digitate corals look like fingers or clumps of cigars and have no secondary branches.
  3. Table corals are table-like structures of fused branches.
  4. Elkhorn coral has large, flattened branches.
  5. Foliose corals have broad plate-like portions rising above the substrate.
  6. Encrusting corals grow as a thin layer against the substrate.
  7. Submassive corals have knobs, columns or wedges protruding from an encrusting base.
  8. Massive corals are ball-shaped or boulder-like corals which may be small as an egg or large as a house.
  9. Mushroom corals resemble the attached or unattached tops of mushrooms.
  10. Cup corals look like egg cups or cups that have been squashed, elongated or twisted.

Above are the encrusting coral and a mushroom coral.  Below a cup coral and a birdsnest coral complete with fishes.


There were too many soft corals to list.  Below are an orange carnation coral (which we also saw in red, yellow, pink, lavender) and a bubble coral, next a leather coral and a gorgonian fan.


The bright blue flat worm was my favorite, 3” long with a yellow edge and yellow markings.  C instead got a photo of this beautiful black one.

Singularis bannerfish chasing each other and a school of rainbow runners (each about 2’ long) with light blue horizontal stripes (this photo from the Web) .

The Village

In the afternoon we went to the Lalati village, namesake of our resort.  We landed in the rain after only a 5-minute boat ride.  A few women were waiting for us on the covered porch of the nearest house and we all got leis.

About 130 people, including the children away at school live there.  Many houses are made of CMU and not very attractive, but they hold up to cyclones better than the old ones.  Metal roofs.  Woven palm frond mats over the wood floors, no furniture.  (Except the church has benches to sit on.)

Saw their fresh-water well (just a hole in the ground lined with rocks and concrete).  We were all carrying the resort’s giant, multicolored umbrellas, but our guide did not seem to be bothered by the light rain.

Next the tapa tree, which surprisingly is no more than an inch in diameter.  They cut it down, beat the bark for cloth, and it grows back from the roots.  (This internet photo shows “islanders from the South Pacific stripping the mulberry tree branches of their bark and taking the white inner bark to create the textile.”)

Lots of clotheslines full of soaking clothes.  Only a few pre-school children around.  Plus chickens and small dogs, all short-haired and skinny.

A variation on the traditional clothes, the women in plain or tropical large print dresses, long, or skirts with T-shirts.  The men wore collared shirts (or an occasional T-shirt) with sarongs.  (As I had no skirt with me I had to borrow one of the resort loaner skirts.  The men had to borrow sarongs.)

A ceremony in the head man’s house.  (His is a hereditary position.)  We all sat on the mats, having left our muddy sandals outside the opening doorway.  (No doors.)  The head man’s appointed speaker and a few others gave speeches in Fijian, followed by slow, loud claps.

Then the kava ceremony.  Kava is made from a tree root and mixed with water in a large wooden carved bowl with legs (sold at Jacks on the mainland – would be nice with a piece of glass over for a very low side table, but with shipping to the US – it’s heavy $800).

The kava was served to us, one person at a time, in polished half-coconut shells.  You clap once, down it, then clap three times.  With their men taking turns, and the nine of us taking turns, it took a long time.  It tasted like a muddy bitter sun tea and numbed the mouth a little.  Not much affect from only one drink, and most of us took no more.  According to Wikipedia:

Fijians commonly share a drink called grog made by pounding sun-dried kava root into a fine powder, straining and mixing it with cold water. Traditionally, grog is drunk from the shorn half-shell of a coconut, called a bilo. Grog is very popular in Fiji, especially among young men, and often brings people together for storytelling and socializing. Drinking grog for a few hours brings a numbing and relaxing effect to the drinker.

Then we walked across the way to a covered concrete patio where just fewer than a dozen women had laid their wares out.  As I had just dropped $20 in the box for the community building fund I had to borrow $20 from R to purchase a carved wooden turtle (on the left), smaller than the one at Jack’s that I wanted to buy, but I’ve met the artist and have a photo of her.

Back to the head man’s house.  Three guys played guitars and sang in Fijian as members from our group were pulled out to dance, basically a two-step.  No doubt the men in our group had not worn skirts before, especially not to dance.

At 4:30 after having been offered more kava and having danced some more, we thought we’d leave.  But the boat was gone.  We ended up being ferried back to the resort in two trips in an open fishing boat, in the rain.  (And this was supposed to be the dry season!)

I was an uncharacteristically quiet liberal in a group of vocal Republicans.  This night at dinner two guys agreed they both hate Grijalva (who I voted for) because of his call for a boycott of Arizona, but one called the other a racist for referring to him as a “dirty Mexican”.  Then the other said he like all of the Mexicans who worked for him.  ‘Nuff said.

In April, 2010, shortly after Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a bill which she said was meant to curb illegal immigration, but in actual fact shockingly legalized racial profiling — in the process either purposely or inadvertently turning Arizona’s more than 2 million legal Hispanic residents into a suspect class — Tucson Congressman Raul Grijalva called for an economic boycott of his state.
http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/raul-grijalva-sb1070-supreme-court-interview-10036834#ixzz1zIwxD54Z

A few in the group are in AA.  Lots of dinner talk about that (especially after the kava).

Funny, I put sunscreen on today to go to the village and the other day to go to the school just because the clouds parted for a few moments.  No chance of getting a sunburn this week.  R’s laughing about losing his tan in Fiji.

4” O.C.

October 24, 2011

The uprights on my fence are 4 inches on center, but this javelina got through.  My fault – I threw out some old cereal for the birds, and he was eating it.  His mother was pacing outside the fence.  When he finished eating he couldn’t get back out, although he kept trying, getting more frustrated, so I had to open the gate and herd him out (by clanking a rake in front of me on the rocks).

When I went outside the other day, and almost walked into a snake on my patio.  Zero at the bone.  (That’s from this poem by Emily Dickinson-)

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides –
You may have met Him – Did you not
His notice sudden is –

The Grass divides as with a Comb –
A spotted Shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your Feet
And opens further on –

He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn –
But when a Boy, and Barefoot
I more than once at Noon

Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled, and was gone –

Several of Nature’s People
I know and they know me –
I feel for them a transport
Of Cordiality –

But never met this Fellow
Attended or alone
Without a tighter Breathing
And Zero at the Bone.

But it was not a rattlesnake; no rattles and the head was not triangular.

Apple Annie’s

This weekend went to Willcox with my daughter’s family to pick apples, and, most importantly, pumpkins.  (I had made this a tradition when my kids were little.)

There were pigs fenced in the pear orchard to eat their windfall.  The sheep were in the apple orchard for theirs.  You could smell the rotten apples turning alcoholic.  Reminds me of an American Girl story where the pigs got drunk on rotten apples and stumbled past the window where her mother was having her bridge club…

The kids’ waiting area for the hayride had hay bales to sit on and dried corn kernels underfoot as well as stock tanks full of corn for the kids to play in.

picking 061My grandkids wore themselves out and slept in the car on the hour-and-a-half drive home.  Fun day.

 

Denizens of the Desert

October 14, 2011

I was just out trimming my hedge next to the driveway.  A bobcat strolled down the sidewalk, glanced and me and continued.  Monday night as I was closing the bedroom curtains I noticed this rattlesnake next to the door.  (Those are one-foot tiles.)

Bloomin’

Seems our monsoons got the desert blooming again.  I thought saguaro only bloomed in the spring.  (The flowers are too high for me to get a closeup.)  The rain lilies are abloom. 

My vine (forgot what kind) is producing its yellow flowers.  The blue rosemary flowers are buzzing with bees. 

The Mexican primrose has put out a few pink blossoms, and the white and purple lantanas continue to flower.

My coleus, however, has been populated by light-green inchworms.  I’ve been picking off the ones I can find, and luckily it’s healthy enough to withstand the onslaught.  Went to pick a few leaves from the six lettuce I’m growing on the deck, and noticed that someone had nibbled three leaves.  When I picked them I detected one of the worms pupating on the underside.  I’m keeping it to see what it’ll turn into.

My old Haunt

South Carolina is now tied with three other states for the highest unemployment rate: 11.6%.  In August these were the highest figures:

SOUTH CAROLINA

11.1

MICHIGAN

11.2

CALIFORNIA

12.1

NEVADA

13.4

Oh my, the High!

March 15, 2011

(No, I’m not talking of desert hallucinogenics this time.)  Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to be 89°.  And we’re only halfway through March!  Contrast that to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  My Michigan friends who had visited a few weeks ago said that yesterday morning it was !  Ya gotta love the cold to spend winter in a cabin in the UP!

This Week’s Critters

Coyote

A very large coyote slunk by my fence this morning.  I ran for the camera, but it had melted into the underbrush.  It’s amazing how stealthy it was.  Not a branch stirred, not a rock displaced.  The rabbit that had been there an hour before was long gone, and the fat quail had also disappeared.  The half dozen goldfinches, delighted that I added more Nyjer seed to the feeder, completely ignored the predator.

Roadrunner

A large roadrunner has been hanging around recently, making that wind-up-toy whirring sound they make.  Yesterday morning it was hopping up the stone steps to my bedroom patio when my cat, apparently defending her territory, rushed down the spiral stairs from the deck.  Roadrunners can be pretty ferocious (they kill rattlesnakes), but discretion being the better part of valor, this one took flight (which they rarely do) and perched at the top of a nearby tree.  (Photo – mine from last year.)

Snake

Unfortunately, my cat brought in a small gopher snake last night, and when I found it she had bitten off the last 4” of its tail.  (The snake was only about 18” long.)  It looked dead, upside down, but when I put it in the rosemary it was moving its head about.  I hope that it lived.  This morning it was gone but I don’t know if it was taken by another predator.  (I was too sad about the snake to take a photo – I really like gopher snakes.  This one from the internet.)