Friday, June 30, 2006

Bridges As Barriers

Several years ago, the put-down comics had their laugh at the expense of the dry country cowboy. The joke was that the cowboy says to his girl friend, "Hit's been a'rainin' . Why don't we git in the pickup and go down to the river and watch hit run."

Well, I have news for those smart-ass back-east slickers. I've lived in the big city where it rains every other day and I've lived where Spanish moss drips off of the live oaks. But once I returned to Arizona, my water tropism kicked in. These days, there's nothing more wonderful than to go down to the river or the creek or the wash and watch the water run!

That's why I am conducting a one-woman campaign against those absolutely awful cast concrete barriers that line the edges of modern bridges. You can't see a dang thing when you cross the Verde on I-17 Northbound or Kirkland Creek heading to Bagdad or on any modern highway crossing a watercourse.

Look at those cement monstrosities below. They're on the new super duper Willow Creek crossing on Williamson Valley Road. Whether the creek's dry -- or whether it's in flood stage -- you wouldn't find out by glancing out the window. Talk about being disconnected from your environment!

At one time, bridge designers took care to allow passers-by to see that which was being bridged. Take a look at the Verde crossing on I-17 going South as a reminder of a more bountiful day. You can actually see the river on its way to fill the faucets of greater Phoenix.

Even better, consider this bridge over the Verde at Perkinsville. A wonderful old structure that lets the driver know he's up in the air over a Real River. There was a similar bridge over pretty little Kirkland Creek at Yava until a few years ago, when the highway improvers installed the typical concrete barriers that now obscure the creek.

I thank artist Linne Thomas for making a living record of the Perkinsville bridge -- and for letting me use the painting here to illustrate my point. Linne has captured many pieces of the Arizona that is disappearing as the land is subdivided and structures from earlier days are either prettified or bulldozed. You can see more of her work here or in the Arts Prescott co-op gallery on Whiskey Row.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Road Toad

We had just visited my Mom at the upscale assisted living facility. We, consisting of me, the stepson, his wife and my two grandchildren who are visiting me this week. Before we leave the grounds, Sson puts on the brakes. "It's a toad."

And so the adventure begins.

When we get home, out comes a proper container for the odd small vertebrate or interesting insect. (SSon is an ecologist, professionally, with the Park Service. He comes equipped.)

It turns out that the critter is a spadefoot toad. Not necessarily rare, but rarely seen, says SS, adding that in nearly 30 years in the Arizona outback, he's never happened across one.

Reason being, spadefoots normally hide underground most of the year. "During 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. 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°F (30°C) 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." All this according to the Desert Sonoran Museum.

Of course, it is time for a series of proper pictures in a less confined space. Once Free! Whee! the toad begins, first, to hop away, then to use his spurred hind feet to dig right into the pathway.

While I don't come equipped with a hot new professional digital camera, I do get this shot of our toad in a proper natural background. I'm reasonably pleased!

Finally, it is time to release our captive. We pick the creek area at the back of Prescott College's Crossroads Center.

And wash our hands thoroughly. The spadefoot releases a toxic substance through his skin. If he had been the Colorado River toad and we were folks with an interest in far out visions, we might have licked our fingers, instead.

Later: for accuracy's sake, the commentary on toads above refers to Couch's spadefoot toad, which is a desert species; our mountain amphibian is, says Sson, a Hammond's spadefoot.

This little exercise in research has taught me a lesson or two about Google. 1st -- there were far more entries about toad licking than about the spadefoot toad. 2nd, there was no reference to the Hammond's version. 3rd, Firefly Forest is not Googled -- and it had a neat little reference to the spadefoot toad.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flora & Fauna

Today was a day for critters. Not just the chipmunks, who chirp at regular intervals throughout the day. No. As I was eating breakfast on the back porch, I heard rustlings among some plants. Not to mention the neighbor's dog carrying on. So I approached the sounds. Up rose three grizzled javelina, who sauntered slowly off into a shrubbier area where, presumably, they were invisible.

Turns out they had discovered a heap of dirt given me by another neighbor who was getting rid of his lawn. The dirt was moist, from watering. And it sat atop a two-year mulch pile. Home, no doubt, to some delicious grubs. Perfect for wallowing and for eating.

The animals returned at least three times. Currently they appear to be gone, but I wouldn't count on it. I expect them to return. Regularly.

But I was doubly blessed today. I saw one or two dark birds who flashed white on their wings as they flew. Phainopepla, which I haven't seen in my yard for several years. The mistletoe must be in berry, although I've read that these glossy black flycatchers also like juniper berries and similar fruit.

The picture above is courtesy of T. Beth Kinsey, who posts her photographs and writes her nature observations at Firefly Forest. Although Beth is in Tucson, many of the wildflowers and animals she photographs are found here in Prescott. She, too, has resident javelina, tho hers appear to be better behaved!

Firefly Forest is one of several good Arizona wildlife links I've just posted to the right. Three are specific for the Northern half of the state. Doug Von Gausig, of Nature Songs, specializes in recording the sounds of nature, but he also offers photographs of Verde Valley flowers.

Jim Morgan lives out the Walker Rd. and has photographed lots of local flowers. Catch them at Wings of Nature. And be sure to return -- he keeps adding to his gallery. Back in the Verde Valley, bookseller Lee Dittmann is compiling a Northern Arizona Flora.

Two of the links are more general. Biotic Communities of the Colorado Plateau is a general ecology reference, while Sonoran Desert Naturalist is good desert reading. And for tracking down plant IDs, I recommend the Southwestern Environmental Information Network.

Two other sites from Southern Arizona complete the current list. Curious about that -- nature bloggers seem more common in that part of the state than elsewhere.

If you have other Arizona/Southwestern wildlife sites to recommend, please pass the info along. I'm always looking!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Scenes from the Alley 5: Wayside Tea Table?

Or, perhaps, beer. Or, more likely, one of those isotonic drinks. Whatever.

I guess that it won't be needed today, what with the smokey cloud cover. But any time during the past hot week, I would have been happy to come across this comfy, shady spot while out walking. (Which I don't do during the heat of the day, thank you!)

Furthermore, it's just two and a half blocks from the Square. And it borders Granite Creek.

My guess is that this oasis was created by the people over at the Quixote car repair place on the alley which leads up to the Sam Hill Warehouse. They have more of the ubiquitous white plastic chairs across the way, but in the sun. Plopping into one of those chairs wouldn't be as comfortably anonymous as sitting by the creekside!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A New Verb, Transitive: To Flamingo

To flamingo (flamingo, flamingoing, flamingoed.) To stealthily implant a flock of pink plastic lawn ornaments on a targeted yard under cover of darkness.

OK, I'll admit it -- I've been living in a backwater for a long time, now. I try very hard to be au courant -- it's the occupational disease of the journalist. However, here's one I missed almost entirely.

But let me back up. In Arizona, one can't help hearing about the quinceañera celebrations -- sometimes elaborate coming-of-age parties for Latinas on their 15th birthdays.

All of which reminds me of my Australian brother and his boys. It seems that in Australia and New Zealand, Twenty-First celebrations were once common coming-of-age occasions for both young men and women. And this is when I first heard about "flamingoing". Well over 10 years ago, when my nephew Will came of age. Tradition calls for a flamingoing.

As you can see from the photos above and below, there was already a business niche for the professional flamingoer in Western Australia. When Will's younger brother came of age, he was dinosaured, by the way.

What brought the subject up again was a story in the Courier the other day about a flamingoing for charity in Bullhead City. My, I thought, an interesting import from Down Under.

But duty required that I check Google before pontificating on the latest social trend in the USA. Oops. Lots of entries. Franchises, of course.

Even a blog. By the Flamingess, who operates a "night flocking" business in the San Francisco Bay Area.

And instructions on how to operate a flamingos-for-charity operation. There's one flamingo/night flocking operator in the Phoenix area, by the way.

My only consolation is that the AP considered flamingoing newsworthy enough to put the Bullhead City story on the wire -- and thus bring it to my attention. I guess I'm no more out of the loop than those other journalists.

Friday, June 23, 2006

When Ivy Grows Up...

Ever take a look at those big old trees thick with ivy? I mean four--six--maybe eight feet across. Prescott's older neighborhoods are full of such trees, if you keep your eyes open. Here's an especially good example I found along Park Ave. There's another thoroughly buried tree north on Granite St. near the downtown Chase bank parking lot. Somewhere in the middle of that jungle of ivy is a tree.

Once you spot such a ivy, take a closer look. In the right season, you'll see little flowers, and most of the year, there will be little dark blue berries in clusters. Certainly not the English ivy of my mind's eye or, I presume, yours.

Proper ivy is a vine that clings sveltly to a tree or building--or covers the ground. It's leaves, that's all. No flowers. No seeds. Just nice, well behaved deep green, notched leaves. Everybody knows that. That's why it's so popular as a landscape plant.

So what's with these overgrown, blowsy ivied trees I'm pointing at? Well, such vines have been around a long time. They're old -- and they've reached the limits of their climb. There's only one thing to do: grow out. If you push some leaves aside, you'll see that the ivy has sprouted tough branches. And a closer look shows that the leaves are shaped differently -- they aren't notched!

What the ivy has done is Grown Up. At last. These are Adult Ivies. And I'm using the term "adult" in its more sinful sense. In our modern world "adult" either means over the hill (as in "active adult community") or sinful, not for the kiddies (as in "adult" bookstore or "adults only"). Yes -- these are ivies engaging in plant sex ... flowers, seeds, and all that entails.

I suppose that's why the nurseries I found by Googling the term "adult ivy" apparently preferred the more sedate form, "mature ivy". Here's what Country Living had to say:

Part of the ancients' reverence for ivy may have had to do with its bizarre habit of undergoing a fascinating biological change when it gets the chance to fully mature -- hence the allusion earlier to "ivy wood." Gardeners in milder climes are more than familiar with the fully mature ivy's habit (some may say pernicious penchant) of ascending 20, 30, often 40 feet into the tops of trees, where a strange thing happens: When the vines can climb no farther, they undergo a change, becoming a quasi tree.

In this adult, or arborescent, form, the leaves, which previously were five-lobed and pointed, become elliptical and lose their lobes; the vines themselves thicken into upright stems, and the plant flowers (with greenish-yellow blooms) and produces berries that are the delight of birds (and, of course, help spread new ivy plants). When cuttings are taken from these metamorphosed versions and planted, the plants that grow from the cuttings don't revert to vines; rather, they will form bushes or small trees, whence "ivy wood."

Turns out that planting hedges of bush ivy is fashionable in some parts of California. And, bless Google, I also found out that in more benign climates, with enough moisture for ivy to go wild, it often turns into a real pest, like vinca down along parts of Oak Creek. It's illegal to sell ivy in Oregon! More info at this site which features a villanous, 8-ft. long ivy branch at least 4" in diameter on the home page.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Weather Update

Following yesterday's rather sketchy discussion of local summer weather, I checked with friend Dan and got this intell: "Last year we received 64 mm (2.52") on 23 Jun. Total for the month of July was 56 mm (2.2"). It didn't rain until the 18th of July; it was 3 weeks before the start of July rains."

Because of the wildly varying climates in the Prescott area, I should note that the above numbers are for a location out Iron Springs Rd.

And add that there's a good source for up-to-the-minute weather data from eight personal weather stations, from Humbolt to Groom Creek, Williamson Valley to Chino and Thumb Butte, at the bottom of this Weather Underground page. We can probably credit this cornucopia of detail to the fact that Embry Riddle has a meteorology department. Contact them for a big batch of weather links.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Prescott PMS Blues

The tease begins. First there is a wee puff above the ridges -- like yesterday. Nothing worth noting except that it is.

Now, today, the weather gods are making it look a lot better. Hah. This is the time that should be called mountain PMS. Short for Pre-Monsoon Swelter. Or maybe, considering the nasty fire up north of here, Pre- Monsoon Stress -- counting the days before the rains come, hoping that we won't see any flames in the meantime.

I always thought that clouds -- especially storm clouds -- came from somewhere. Until Prescott. Here in the summer, I will watch the clouds build up over the mountains until it finally is time to break loose and rain.

Curious -- when I was a child in Arizona, nobody -- but nobody -- talked about monsoons. Monsoons happened in India and W. Somerset Maugham wrote novels about them and Hollywood made movies with Tyrone Power in a white headdress and Maria Ouspenskya with a pearl in her nose! Maybe it rained more in the late summer in Arizona, but that was about it. (I do recall how wonderful the desert smelled after one of those summer rains.)

Today, what with the Weather Channel and satellites, we are sophisticates. We know all about the shift in wind direction and weather patterns galore. I make a note of the low sitting over the Colorado River and the high settling in over 4-Corners and know that the rains are due any day. I check to see if the rains are happening yet in New Mexico -- they seem to precede ours by a couple of weeks.

And yet there is other, more folkish weather lore. For instance, the official local prediction is to expect a chintzy Monsoon season, with a minimum of moisture. However -- I have a brother in Perth Australia, at the End of the World. It's winter there, the rainy season, just like California. My experience has been that when Bill gets good winter rains, we have light Monsoon rains. And vicey-versa. Last night, he called. Their winter is dry, thus far. So maybe, just maybe...

Now, my friend Linda, an old-timer locally, cites the old wives' wisdom to warn that if the Monsoon comes early, then it is destined to be short and sweet. (No, I don't know just when "early" know how old wives are.)

In the meantime, we wait, it gets hotter and the clouds build up a little bit more each day, the lightning and the thunder begin, and finally we get those wonderful big plops of water. We earn them by suffering through PMS.

If you have a better S than "swelter" or "stress", do let me know!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Scenes from the Alley 4: Just In From Arcturus?

One way of looking at this object is that it is just one more geodesic dome. My question, however, is, what is it doing there? Most geodesic domes are destined to become shelter of some sort or another. As I recall the sales pitch back when Bucky Fuller was an infant terrible, there was this logic about the domes and it was all very very functional. Something about the rock- bottom minimum amount of material necessary to provide a cover.

But this unit is just sitting there. If shelter is indeed intended, it's for midgets. This guy might be waiting for a mate. Or maybe it's an exotic plant, that will blossom one of these days.

We just have to wait and see!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Faux Boulders

A couple of weeks ago, I commented on the extensive use of stones in old Prescott landscaping and building. But I wasn't expecting to see these "boulders", straight from the factory floor and now in place at a local construction site. Note especially the little access panel at the bottom of this "rock." One wonders just what might be hidden inside.

And here are four of the mystery units, lined up -- and, I presume, a permanent fixture of the modern landscape. But I do wonder how well the plastic will hold up under the brutal ultra-violet the sun delivers at these elevations. Colors fade, surfaces abrade and pretty soon you've got some pretty tacky looking "boulders."

On the other hand, it occured to me that they just might conceal new, hi-tech gas meters meant to be read by radio waves rather than the eyeball. In which case, I should really be less snarky -- those pipe meter droids all over the front yards in the city are not my favorite sight.

The picture below demonstrates a much more organic approach to un-rocks. This fence is made of straw bales, plastered and then painted to match the trim on the house--sort of a purple mountain majesty color.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

An Awesome Arizona Adventure

At breafast the other morning, I told my friend about my new and absorbing adventures in blogging. When I mentioned that I was trying to write a post everyday, her comment was, "that's not a pasttime, that's a job."

And so I'm taking the evening off to pay some bills and get prepared for visitors. To make sure you have good
Arizona- style reading, I recommend you to my daughter's current blog.

Friday, June 16, 2006

B&G Is What's for Breakfast Today

Some years ago, while breakfasting at the Skull Valley Cafe, I heard a local young woman comment about her recent trip to a Big City -- Chicago or St. Louis or some such. "I didn't see any pick-up trucks," she said, querulously, wondering what the heck was wrong with city folk.

My experience with things country and western is similar, in the opposite direction: until I moved to these parts, I had never heard of biscuits and gravy. Honest.

This despite the fact that I was an editor/writer on the biggest of the restaurant trade magazines in the country. For over 30 years. In all those years, we never ran an article that involved--or even mentioned --biscuits and gravy.

As a kid, I learned about grits when the family moved to the South. "Aren't yuh gonna eat yer grits, honey?" was the standard question in the cafes back then. And, no, I wasn't. Grits struck me as a tasteless, unnecessary side dish. Like rice. I never did eat my grits, honey.

But once I landed up in the hills here, I quickly discovered that B&G is another matter. Tasty! Especially when it is cold and you are about to climb down a little canyon as the morning's exercise. Besides, I always did like breakfast sausage.

When we moved West, my late husband, another city sophisticate, drove some of our goods west, accompanied by his son and a couple of young stalwarts. Son, who had recently been in the army, not only was a connoisseur of B&G, but knew which parts of the country offered the best. He was looking forward to Missouri, in particular.

It turns out that in the Missouri countryside, a serving of biscuits & gravy is yeti-sized -- even bigger than the standard oval plate out at the Iron Horse in Chino Valley, where I always settled for a 1/4 size bowl. Today, my little walks in the city hardly exercise me enough for a hearty breakfast of B&G, but then we might have a real winter one of these days.

It's been 30 years since we moved West and times have changed. I suspect that with the emergence of down-home chic, you can get an upscale version of B&G in any Manhattan bistro that serves meat loaf made from premium Angus beef.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Garden Wildflowers

In case you haven't already guessed, I'm an enthusiast for growing native wild flowers in local gardens. It can be a problem obtaining them, however. At this time of year, Watters carries some natives, primarily the shrubbier specimens, but also some penstemons and other flowering plants.

For the best selection of high country wild flowers, however, drive up I-17 to Flagstaff Native Plant and Seed. Most of the plants they carry will survive at our lower elevation (5200 ft. vs. Flag's 7000.)

A good native for the Prescott landscape is bear grass, which really should take the place of pampas grass all over town. It's in bloom right now among the granites out Iron Springs Road (on the right hand side as you head out of town), along western- most Gurley, and up Coronado. This plant was photographed by a friend; it is a feature of his garden.

The seed heads are even showier than the flowers. Besides, if our world comes to an end, you could always grind the seeds into a flour and weave baskets or shoes from the leaves, Indian-style.

And don't worry about bear grass taking over. It will, but the process takes some 50 or so year for this slow growing plant.

The commercial nursery folk have finally discovered just how spectacular native milkweed plants can be. The butterfly weed above is growing out of the rocks near Gurley Place. I have one, too, which is happy on my hillside.

This is the first of the asclepias to be gentrified (note that you'll never see the term "milkweed" in a garden catalog -- unless it is a highly specialized offering for butterfly fanciers!) The butterfly weeds in these parts are a rich buttery yellow. In the Midwest, they are more of a red orange.

Back in the Midwest many years ago, I tamed not only the Chicago- namesake wild onion, but also a common milkweed, which has huge leaves and a very pretty ball of dusty pink flowerettes. That was the year I got a ticket from an officious city minion for having broken the weed ordinance!

In these parts, you'll find butterfly weed out at Granite Basin Lake, uphill from the concrete picnic tables ... along Iron Springs Road (I saw one today) ... and, if you're up to a trip, the very very best displays of all are along the West Fork trail in Oak Creek Canyon.

Among other milkweeds in these parts are antelope horns and an interesting vining milkweed, which I first saw along the Agua Fria River at Badger Springs.

You wouldn't think that anything as completely adapted to to the high desert as penstemon barbatus would be so happy potted and watered, but this plant of mine has prospered. It is one of two red penstemons found in the Prescott area -- and one of eight penstemon varieties I've located growing wild between the Bradshaws and the Upper Verde River. But more about these wonderful humming bird flowers later, when I have the necessary time and references.!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TJs, We Need You. Now!

Douglas Rauch, Pres.
Trader Joe's
800 S. shamrock Ave.
Monrovia CA 91016

Dear Mr. Rauch:

Please note the nice store pictured above. It is empty; has been for some time. Location: west side of Prescott AZ. Suitable, I'd say, for a Trader Joe's. Even with a west side location, I'm willing to bet that this store would draw from the Verde Valley, Sedona and even Flagstaff (no one wants to drive down to Phoenix in the summer, you know.)

This area has waited a long time for its own Trader Joe's. With 9 stores down the hill in Phoenix, even reclusive, old-time Prescott residents are pre-sold on TJs. And now, with the influx of Californians, you would find a dedicated customer base.

You may recall that several years ago, Trader Joe's topped an informal poll to determine which retailer was most wanted in the Prescott area. Since that time, we've been subjected to periodic rumors that we will be blessed...then that we're too small a market... or that TJ has other, more important markets to tend to, such as Times Square in NYC. We are very frustrated but remain loyal.

Besides, my mother is running out of dried Blenheim slab apricots and her friendly contact down in the Valley is getting tired of wrestling 10-15 1-lb. packages to the post office to make sure Mom gets her fix.

Yours sincerely,

Granny J

If any readers want to nag Mr. Rauch directly about Mom's apricots, the company phone number is 626-599-3700; here's the web site. There is no email address.

A little background: "Trader Joe's actually began in 1958 as a chain of convenience stores called 'Pronto Markets' in the Los Angeles area. In 1967, the founder, Joe Coulombe, the original Trader Joe, wanted to expand the stores' offerings and enhance their image. He doubled the floor space and offered hard-to-find, boutique domestic and imported wines and gourmet food items at outstanding prices. He decked out the stores with cedar plank walls and nautical décor and garbed the Captain (the store manager), the First Mate (the assistant manager) and the Crew Members in colorful Hawaiian shirts. 'Trader Joe's' was born.

"Currently Trader Joe's has expanded to over 200 stores in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington."

All the above info from the company website. What is not mentioned is that Trader Joe's has been owned by a German firm, ALDI, since 1979.

Trader Joe's rates its own Wikipedia article, not to mention a couple of dedicated blogs (Tracking Trader Joe's and Trader Joe Fan.) There's even a TJ message board.

By the way, the TJ dried apricots are really the best I've ever eaten. Tart, not overly sweet like Mediterranean-style apricots.

Later: Sorry, it was Union Square in NYC; don't really have a feel for where in Manhattan that is. And -- pleading for your very own Trader Joe's is apparently a nationwide phenomenon: check here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Scenes from the Alley 3: A Public Place for Poetry

As you turn from Gurley north into the alley heading to Prescott College's Crossroads Center, take a quick look to your left. That's where Dan Seaman posts his poetry and sometimes parks his Jeep.

Dan is a very public poet, active in performance and at slams. You can find out a lot more about all this at the site of Prescott Area Poets Association. If you're a poet, you might also investigate the group, Professional Writers of Prescott.

Good writing!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Prescott Is a Hollyhock Kind of Town

"Do you know where I could get seed for single hollyhocks?" The clerk, toting up my overly ambitious purchases at Flagstaff Native Plants last summer, added, "I've had several inquiries lately."

"Not in commercial quanitities." I told her I had a small collection of seed at home which had started gardens in Texas and a couple of Arizona towns, as well. Seed I had gathered walking the older neighborhoods of Prescott where you can't miss the hollyhocks at this time of year.

What I didn't know at the time was that finally a commercial seed company was again packaging single hollyhock seed. None other than Burpee, the gold standard for gardeners.

And available at Wal-Mart, at that.

For years, the only plants or seeds available commercially have been the overly bred, fancy, fluffy doubles. Attributable, no doubt, to an American mind-set that goes for giant radishes and "blossoms as big as saucers."

Interest in the old-fashioned kind of flower might be attributed to the current fad of down-home chic that we suffer as comfortable old-time Western towns are repurposed (suitable, that horrid word!) into boutique mountain towns.

But in my better moments, I credit it to the plants' beauty. After all, what other flower can get made into a pretty little doll so easily?

If there were to be a vote, I'd choose the hollyhock as Prescott's civic flower! It's settled in and happy in our climate -- and is especially suited to the local Victorians, such as the Grove studio (above) on, yes, Grove St. or the buildings on the Sharlot Hall grounds.

You'll find old-fashioned single hollyhocks growing all around the older section of town. I suspect the reason is that over on Grove St., down on Granite, in many alleys and elsewhere, the hollyhocks are the next thing to wild.

(Don't forget, there are native Arizona plants that are close cousins to the hollyhock. Bright apricot to orange globe mallows that grace the roadsides from Prescott all the way down to The Valley. And at higher elevations, near permanent water sources, delicate pink checker mallows.)

Hollyhocks are amazingly persistent. That thriving plant above is in among other species dried up because the drip system hasn't been delivering. The plant below comes up every year right at the street on Park Avenue. (This year of serious drought is the first time I've seen it give up completely. The leaves are brown and on their way to dust.)

Even when the soil covers our basic granite only a couple of inches deep, the hollyhocks really try! I've got a plant, several years old, which has found (or made) a crack in the stone; it comes up every year, may get as high as 8 inches, opens a blossom or two and produces a single seed pod before the frost nips it. There's one median strip on west Gurley where the property owner keeps mowing; when I last counted, there were 27 hollyhock plants trying their damndest to grow up. Most have been there several years.

Even the formerly Valley National, formerly BankOne, now Chase bank on Gurley has its own hollyhock (below), if the maintenance people don't discover it before it blooms!

And I noticed that down along the bank of Granite Creek at the mural below the Bank of America, there are a couple of hollyhocks. I think you can thank me -- I made a point of scattering seeds down there several years in a row. Or was it columbine seeds?

Even if the more stiff-necked tidiers manage to corral all the downtown hollyhocks and make them behave, there are still some more-laid-back business folk who don't mind if a flower or two (or several) jump the bounds of the planter and make themselves comfortable right at the sidewalk. Long may they live and prosper.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Seven Letter Day

There it was, the first play of the afternoon. I drew S-U-G-E-T-N-O. So play S-U-N or maybe G-E-T-S. Oops. Aha!

T-O-N-G-U-E-S! All seven letters used! Wow! Plenty points! Not only doubled, for first play, but a bonus of 50! Believe me, I don't have this happen very often. But my luck didn't hold. Mom caught up and I drew a Q at the tail end of the game, long after all the U's were used up & guess who won. Not me.

On Sundays, I don't do much walking. Instead, I visit with my mother at a local retirement home; we usually play two games of Scrabble. (By the way, in the picture below, Mom is the white hair, I am the mousey one. She's 102. Half-way to 103. Me? Guess.)

As I was saying, we play Scrabble, twice a week. Despite the fact that Mom's eyes are getting thoroughly macularly degenerated. Despite the fact that Mom's memory has really started flaking.

Her Scrabble game is not too bad. She may forget the day of a doctor's appointment or what she had for lunch -- but she recently learned that "D-A" is a word, per the Official Scrabble Dictionary. A new and very useful 2-letter word? Not something she's likely to forget.

Her game vocabulary still includes such goodies as D-O-R (her definition, "a clicking beetle"...the OSD says "a European beetle") and T-O-D (nothing to do with Tristan & Isolde dying on that boat deck, but, rather a "bushy clump" or a "British wool measure.")

And she unerringly spots the double and triple score squares when she works out her words -- even though sometimes I have to remind her to multiply her scores.

One improvement we made to the game is a special set of tiles we ordered from a site specializing in practical gizmos and thingies to help deal with low vision, among other physical problems.

Take a gander at this amazing lady on her 102nd birthday last December. The day she stops wearing earrings that match her stylish outfit is the day I'll start worrying. I am truly blessed in my mother.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Scenes from the Alley 2: The Chainsaw Dog

This dog is where he is because that is where the tree he was carved from was. A splendid example of chainsaw art -- a subject deserving of a much longer post one of these days Real Soon Now. But I can't resist a hint: try Googling "chainsaw art" -- and wonder at the over 24,000 entries! By the way, I saw this advert very recently in the Courier:

carver. Don't just cut it down, get me
to carve it up. Call today. 717-0887.

Scenes from the Alley 1: A Horse Called Ollie

I don't know anything at all about Ollie. I saw him one day while walking down an alley hereabouts. The Dutch door is on one end of what must have been a real carriage house 100 years ago, and the last time I passed by, it was closed -- no Ollie to be seen.

He must have been very important to the people who live in the big house up front. I can only hope that Ollie and his master(s) had many good years together!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dull Camouflaged Cars

When I was a kid and when I was a teenager and when I was a young mother, cars came in Real Colors. Like tans, greens, blues and yellows, sometimes bright, sometimes pastel and sometimes dark. Two-tones were popular, too. And the early station wagons featured real wood paneling.

Today, what do we have? Aside from Arrest-Me Red, car colors are either white or some shade of Can't-See-Me. Makes for a dull parking lot or street scene. Oh, yes, I have noticed that every year or so, the auto styling gurus allow one (1--count-em--1) Real Color to reach the showrooms. Usually it's a dark shade. And metallized. Blue. Green. The colors of scarab beetles.

Occasionally one of those wonderful fiesta-colored VW bugs made in Mexico shows up on our streets. Curious -- I couldn't find any good pictures of lime green or lavender or pink Mexican VWs when I went a-googling. Though cars from a vintage VW show at this site certainly come a variety of colors.

Things are a bit different in Japan, (thank you, Google) where the two-tone vehicle is preferred. And I learned tonight that an Italian firm has a two-tone luxury model on display. But it is, again, in colors dark enough to merit the Can't-See-Me tag.

Funny thing, in a Murphy's law sort of way: while I was riding home from the supermarket, I saw both a taxicab-yellow sports sedan and an incredibly BRIGHT orange family SUV. That's what comes of riding rather than walking -- I wasn't able to get a picture of either!

It Seems I'm IT

The daughter, caught up in the fun and the camaradarie of blogging with a group of mothers, has decided that it's my turn to get tagged. This means that I get a bunch of personal questions I should answer. I'll try. I don't promise to be honest at all times.

1. One body part you'd like to change:

How about 40 years worth of wear and tear on the old machine. Frankly, I'd settle for 10. It'd beat the weekly workout at the "Y".

2. Describe your ideal Saturday: Huh? At my stage of life, how does Saturday differ from any other day of the week?

3. You get to travel back in time for one day: It's the classic one -- I'd have bought Haloid when it went public, before the name was changed to Xerox, or Microsoft when Bill Gates had his first IPO.

4. If you had one hour with the President, what would you say to him? I just knew that a "free" Iraq was going to wind up as one more Islamic theocracy, with the women in cages.

5. One body part you'd never change: The health genes inherited from my 102-year-old Mom. Goodness knows, I really pushed the envelope by smoking all those years!

6. What have you got for leftovers in your fridge? Got you there -- I just threw out the year-old carton of eggs and the unused pie crust makings from 1 or 2 Thanksgivings ago. See:

7. Your most and least favorite things about motherhood: That I didn't have more children.

8. Ultra-violet rays or tan-in-a-bottle: Not my generation, tho I do recall that way, way back in the bad old days of WWII, we used a thick tan concoction out of a bottle on our legs when dressing up, because nylons and silk stockings were non-existent.

9. You have an unlimited expense account; what three things do you purchase first? Hear me -- I do not need Any More Stuff. How about a real, live personal secretary to keep me organized, daily maid service and a string quartet to play music to sleep by.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

More Outdoor Links

A short post tonight to note that I've added several links to outdoor activities in the Prescott area. Most are to organizations, such as the Prescott Audubon Society ("birding") or the Prescott Outings or Hiking Clubs. One thing you can count on -- if an club or organization is mentioned, it includes hikes and field trips among its activities.

You can sign up for archeological digs...bird counts... or learn to live off the land (if leanly) from Prescott's own aboriginal man, Cody Lundeen. He's the fellow you might see in the cold of winter walking around in his bare feet!

In this drought year, don't overlook the link, "fire alert". It will take you to the official inter-agency site where the latest info on local fires, including the forest, is posted.

And by all means, link to those trail maps. They are actual USGS topos with trails overlaid and checked out on the ground by Derek Brownlee.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Civic Graffiti

Give a talented kid a can or two of spray paint and the resulting graffiti may be nice eye candy even if it's not high art. Like the one-time materials hopper over where Sheldon curves down into McCormick.

Give the street-corner scuzzball a can or two of spray paint and the results are bound to be gross. Obscene language...turf marks...scribbles and scrawls. This type of graffiti offends the eyes and sensibilities, but not much else.

Give a few cans of spray paint to a clean-cut guy in chinos and a white shirt with a metal detector and watch out! The graffiti he creates is tame stuff -- lines, arrows and occasionally words, all cluttering the public ways.

But this graffiti has very real and serious consequences. Pavement torn up. Deep holes in the ground. Traffic delays.

My name for this rainbow of spray-painted streets, alleys and sometimes trees (or even prickly pears) is Civic Graffiti. It is Authorized graffiti. Ok'd by engineers, Planning & Zoning and officialdom in general.

Have you seen enough Civic Graffiti over the years to have figured out the color codes? Thus far, I've got blue for water (obvious metaphor). Green for sewers. White for Fix-This-Damned-Sidewalk-or- Pavement-Before-the-Lawyers-Serve-Papers.

Pink appears to spell doom -- or heavy butchery -- for any vegetation that stands in the way of progress. Then there are the hot colors: yellow, red and orange. These obviously stand for gas, electricity and phone/cable lines, but I'm never sure which is which.

The other day over on Congress Street, even the dried grass got a dose of spray paint. And it would be there forever if it didn't weather away. The powers that be are quick to see that graffiti-defaced buildings or billboards are cleaned up. But nobody seems to be in charge of cleaning up Civic Graffiti once the pipes or lines are fixed, the holes filled and the street repaved. It just gradually fades away.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summer Is A Comin' In

You know the season is about to change in Prescott when the booths go up at the Square or at the Sharlot Hall museum grounds. Another weekend, another fair! Until September. I fear that large numbers of the locals go into hiding about this time.

But this past weekend saw my absolute most favorite of the tourist festivities -- the Annual Folk Arts Fair over at Sharlot Hall. My husband and I always called it the "biscuit" fair because one feature is an exhibit with women and men in pioneer costumes churning butter and baking biscuits over an open fire in a Dutch oven.

(My mom had a Dutch oven -- but she always used it for stews and such like. And I always wondered how come it was called an oven! Now I know.)

It's probably my own perverseness, but the reason I am so fond of the Folk Arts is that it is a reminder of how people survived in this country before SUVs, malls, air conditioning and fast food.
And Toys R Us. This little girl is learning how to make a corn husk doll.

While this kid tries his hand at gold panning. Not the subject for a Folk Arts Fair in, say, Iowa or Florida. But eminently suitable for Prescott, where it is not unusual to run into armed prospectors out in the woods. (More on that in a later blog...)

Last Sunday, sheep were shorn, baskets were woven, rugs were hooked, horse shoes smithed (did I get that verb right?). There were ladies in layers of calico, men in old Western garb or Civil War uniforms and even children in old fashioned dress. Plus music and dancing.

And this reminder of how woman's work was never done.

It hasn't been that long, really, since washday involved these instruments of torture. In my childhood, wringers were still in use, though there were washing machines. And, yes, washboards were not that uncommon.

I recall that when we moved from Phoenix to Jacksonville, Florida, we hired a washer woman, who arrived once a week, carrying her buckets and her charcoal for boiling the clothes.

Between you and me, I like it better these days!
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