Thursday, August 31, 2006

Circle of Life

That, of course, is a ponderosa pine seedling. Fresh popped from the earth. If we have a few more rains like we had today, there will be many more of these would-be trees in the forest and in Prescott. (Up near Flag, my daughter plucks them out of the lawn like weeds!)

A handful are destined to take the place of these pines, dead from drought plus the bark beetle infestation that has decimated forests throughout the West.

Travelling through the forest locally, I've seen mountains, once thick with pines, which are now lucky to be covered with scrub. And there are those strange contrasts -- a barren hillside facing one direction while on the opposite side trees seem to be prospering -- or at least holding their own.

Those forests of dead snags are an open invitation to fires. Fortunately, many (by no means all) of the dead trees are finally being cut down. Some are even being harvested for a new lumber mill up near Ash Fork set up to turn beetle-killed wood into flake board or equivalent. Seems that the beetle lavae leave a blue stain that ruins the lumber cosmetically.

(One evening recently, I was having dinner with a group at a restaurant on west Gurley. We actually cheered when we saw a truck hauling timber down from the Thumb Butte area. This is the first logging our town has seen in quite a while.)

Look at those spindly ponderosas above! According to an NAU site on forest fires:

"Historical records from around the year 1900 show that the density of trees measuring 12 inches or greater in diameter at breast height (dbh) ranged from 8 to 51 trees per acre (Woolsey 1911). The forests were characterized as open and park-like, with diverse grasses, forbes, and shrubs in the understory. Numbers of trees in different age classes were evenly distributed with approximately equal numbers of young, middle-aged and old trees.

Today's forests are crowded with small-diameter ponderosa pines, leaving little room for the diversity of plant species that once flourished in the understory. Total tree densities now often exceed 1000 trees per acre (Allan 1998). The majority of the trees are young 50 to 100 year old trees with diameters of 3 to 6 inches dbh, fewer trees in the 6 to 9 inch class and even less in the 9 to 12 inch dbh class. Fire resistant trees, over 12 inches dbh, are relatively uncommon.

Credit our no-fire policy of many decades! Plus an unwillingness to thin the resultant jungle.

It looks like the dog hair thickets were already becoming common by the 1920s in Northern Arizona forests, if this photo from Forest Service archives is to be believed. Makes sense -- almost all the trees were logged off locally to fuel the mining, railroading and other economic activities of a growing community.

(Have you ever noticed while travelling north on SR89 near Ash Fork that the junipers all seem to be of a size? Those woodlands fed the firepots of the Santa Fe mainline for many years until coal replaced wood.)

We've been fortunate to have a periods with a little more rain the past couple of years and it appears that the current fall of pine cones has been good.

Look extra closely in the picture above and you'll see six pine seedlings. (Sorry, I had to do a lot of PhotoShopping to bring up what color was there!) Took the picture out by Thumb Butte; all of the seedlings I saw were in a blanket of pine needles, which helped hold the moisture in the ground.

Here are some three or four year old tree-lets. We won't be around to see them as big, prosperous old growth -- it takes far too long. Hope just one of them makes it -- no need to encourage "dog hair" thickets in the years ahead!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sad Tale of East Mitten Thumb One Big Hoax

Whew! I didn't get suckered into posting the Monument Valley hoax, though I did forward the photos and the note to my list of usual suspects.

What hoax, you may ask. Answer: the email that circulated with "before", "during" and "after" photos of an avalanche at the landmark East Mitten butte (above).

"The lucky few tourists who were there at 12:45 p.m. on May 18, 2006 witnessed a once-in-a- lifetime event. A huge slab of East Mitten butte finally gave in to the effects of wind and weather, and came crashing down in a sandstone avalanche," reports the September Arizona Highways.

However, the email I (and many other folk) received left the impression that the slab which collapsed was the thumb of the mitten. Not so, says the September issue of the magazine. The perpetrator of the hoax included an "after" shot angled so that the debris showed but the thumb was concealed -- apparently gone for all time.

And now that I have reviewed the original email, nowhere was it stated outright that the thumb had collapsed! Here's the complete text I received:

Header: Monument mitten collapse

Text: FW: monument mitten

Out at Monument Valley, Utah

Kathy Thoms called Goulding's Lodge and verified that the East Mitten is now changed for all time.

By the way, this is one urban legend that never made it to -- I searched on "Monument Valley" and "East Mitten," with no results.

The only reason I didn't post the story a while back was that I wanted to get permission to use the photos and didn't know whom to contact. Just shows that clean living and right thinking do pay off. Occasionally.

A Sting Operation

There it was this afternoon -- a do-not-cross tape surrounding much of Las Fuentes' pretty little woodland park. But no body outlines. No police guards. So what was up? Turns out a gang of bees had not only moved in but had stung several residents of the retirement complex.

Not to worry -- the bee man is on his way to deal with the renegade hive, the tape will come down and the private parkland will be opened to residents again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Angry Cats!

Game and Fish announced that its agents had killed the mountain lion which has been stalking hikers out in the Granite Basin Lake area. I have mixed feelings about this -- yes, cougars can be dangerous and apparently this young male was aggressive and fearless around humans.

On the other hand, I hate the necessity of killing yet another wild animal in his native habitat (Granite Mountain). So I dedicate these angry cats to his memory. Above, an American lion, as pictured at Big Cat Rescue. He is snarling because he cannot roar like a Real Lion. And because he is the largest of the "smaller cats," says

"Cougars are the largest of the "smaller" cats which make up the Puma family ... What?! Even though it is a large animal, it is still considered a "small" cat because it can't roar! ... Cougars, like other "small" cats can't roar because they have a different kind of voice box from big cats. The bones inside the voice box of "small" cats are connected so tightly that they can't vibrate very much. Small vibrations make small sounds, so the cougar can purr, chirp, snarl, and females have even have their own special scream – but, sorry, no roar!"

Here's another angry cat -- Amber. At least that is what the neighbor and I figure is her name: folks up the hill on the next street call for "Amber" frequently and this marmalade puss has the coloration to fill that bill. The occasion for the picture: one of the regular stand-offs between the Amber interloper and my good cat buddy, Max. Here she's occupying his favorite lookout station.

Black Cat is also angry. Very. I see this man-sized poster every time I pass by a local blacksmith's open air workshop. Figuring that I should be familiar with the image, I checked The Google, both for pictures and for regular references. The nearest miss was a Chinese fireworks outfit whose closest retailer is in New Mexico.

Note: for more data about the cougar/puma/mountain lion/ catamount, check in here. Includes a good discussion of what to do if you meet up with one of these wild native animals.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Gallery of Mailboxes

For starters, there simply isn't a lot to be said about the mailbox. A utilitarian item, circumscribed to some extent by federal law. On the other hand, is there any reason it can't be easy on the eyes? That seems to be the opinion of the homeowners whose mail receptacles are show in this post.

Nothing extreme -- although you can find those on the web if you consult The Google. Mainly what I've seen around Prescott is prettified boxes. A feminine approach, largely.

And, if you look closely at some of the decorated mailboxes, you'll discover that there is apparently a market in mailbox wallpaper, which simply wraps around and across the top. I don't know where one buys the stuff -- maybe Home Depot or True Value, maybe even (they're selling everything else these days.)

Home made decorations are rare.

And more masculine themes are the exception to the rule. I'd call the deer above gender-neutral, though the house had a look of hunter about it. But the setup below is very definitely a guy thing. Pretty neat enclosure, at that.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

For State Insect...

...I nominate the scorpion. Oops -- I just counted the legs of the specimen above & there are eight, instead of the requisite six. No insect, he (or she). Too bad, as the scorpion is certainly a favorite subject of Arizona folk art, such as the paper weights (above) that you'll find in all sorts of tourist places. I kinda like the metallic monster I saw on an excursion up in Mountain Club the other day (below.)

Strawberry Fields Forever & Ever

In one of his lives, my son-in-law did landscaping. (I can believe it! When he and my daughter lived in PV, he did an absolutely elegant front yard consisting almost entirely of native penstemon. )

He tells of a rich Dallas lady who had very definite ideas of what she wanted and didn't want. I have to admit that her idea for suitable ground cover is the best I've ever heard: strawberry plants. After all, they are a bright green and put out lots of runners; within a year they should cover any bare spot if they aren't spaced too far apart.

Of course in the wrong neighborhood that could be dangerous. My late husband shattered his heel doing a Superman leap off a high landing to chase away some little kids raiding my berry crop back in Chicago.

When we bought a second house in that city, the previous owner had given his dogs the run of the back yard. I put a handful of transplants into the ground and the next year and every year after that, we had a strawberry shortcake fest in June.

If you figure on planting strawberries in our pitiful soil hereabouts, be sure you get the ever-bearing variety to avoid a late frost. I guess strawberries should be happy here, if they don't dry out as mine do -- after all, wild strawberries do grow up in the Bradshaws.

(Note: to see some awesome landscaping work, click over to Splendid Pictures Around the Net...)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Apple of My Eye

The year 2005 was Prescott's year of no apples. One friend who generally knows about such matters said that the problem was a bee bust -- a disease that decimated our local pollinators.

2006 is an entirely different matter. Despite our extra dry winter and spring, the trees are l-o-a-d-e-d with beautiful fruit. All around the town.

I don't care if a worm or two have made themselves comfortable in many of the fruit -- the local apples I've picked up from the sidewalk beat the grocery product all hollow.

The problem is that Fry's and Albertson's and Safeway and Basha's all buy the Big, Beautiful, Polished product of the Washington growers, who have forgotten how a Real Apple should taste -- tart and crisp, like autumn.

Unfortunately, I lived to the East for many years and am used to those smaller, scrawnier Jonathans from Michigan. What they lack in beauty they make up for in flavor! The western growers introduced Jonathans last year -- but they had been Californicated! Bigger, without bigger flavor to match.

OK, the Granny Smith apples almost make the grade. But I expect to make great applesauce and Waldorf salad from Prescott tree droppings this fall!

Some folk are kind enough to put the dropped apples in a box on the sidewalk for passers-by (or possibly deer or javelina) to help themselves. They even make good yard decor (above.)

In addition to apples, two other fruit can be counted on to weather the late spring frosts up here in the mountains -- plums and pears. Biting into ripe, locally grown Barletts is the next thing to Heaven!

Friday, August 25, 2006

These Walls Are Made For Painting

Murals -- or at least highly decorated walls -- have been a local feature ever since my husband and I moved into these parts. You should have seen the south wall of the old 4-flat on South Montezuma, with its sun and solar system occupying a 2-storey canvas. (Yes, of course Pluto was included -- astronomical matters were simpler back then.) Alas, that building's been gentrified; the solar system is long gone.

Then there was the Mexican- American artist who lived on Montezuma near the joining to the White Spar Road.
He was a member of the family that lived at and had owned the Oro Belle mine down beyond Crown King forever and a day. He painted murals on his buildings. (About all I can see in my mind's eye from back in the 80s is an eagle.)

So it was on a hunch that, when I had the Memphis niece in hand recently to ferry me around, we checked out this general location. Lo and behold as we rounded the White Spar toward Montezuma, we beheld a bright and shiny new mural. Nothing reminiscent of the earlier Mexican-American artist, either.

The motif was different, but the mural continued around the corner of the building on the alley side. We parked. While I took pictures, the niece met the owner of the building, Steven Brock, an artist and metal sculptor.

As it turned out, he had nothing to do with the murals. He had given a group of artist friends his o.k. to paint the building whenever the mood hit them. He might show up at his studio to find a new mural...

... or this painted floor (a floral?) inside the studio, which was his surprise one day.

Brock recalled other murals in the area from older days -- a madonna and other religious art, for example. While we were looking at the yardful of sculpts and art works, we did discover this remainder of earlier times on the side of a shed.

(Yes, pictures of his metal works will be featured in a future post -- as will several other murals around town.)

Heard of Ileana Yet?

Both the Arizona Republic and ERAU's weather mailing list are giving Hurricane Ileana some credit for spinning in the moisture that fueled yesterday's heavy downpours here, in Flagstaff, in the Valley and probably elsewhere in the state. However, current predictions are that the rain probably won't be back until after Labor Day.

Not for the record, my neighbor reports that his gauge read 1.8" for yesterday's storm and subsequent drizzle, but that some spray from the downspot might be included in that total. Official rainfall at the airport (which is in a totally different climate zone) was under 0.5".

In case you haven't noticed, the Eastern Pacific (i.e., Mexican Coast) hurricane names are already up to "I", compared to the Atlantic's puny "E" for Ernesto.

And if you share my ideosyncratic obsession with the strange weather in the Arizona mountains, you might go back a few spaces to this page.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rain, Rain -- Please Don't Go Away

I didn't go walking today. No way. Reason? Take one look below.

That is a torrent of water coming down the hill next to my second floor front porch. Cutting itself a little channel. Which is to say that it really, really poured.

The clouds started building up around eight in the morning; the faucet turned on before noon and after the downpour, it drizzled until late afternoon. All very welcome in the land of little water!

Thus far, no data on just how much fell. I'd guess at least an inch or more -- I won't know until my next door neighbor reads his gauge. The official record for Prescott will mean nothing as far as my trees and plants are concerned; our rains are that spotty!

As I was about to send my first pictures to the daughter up the hill in Flag, I got this message: "One inch in an hour, expected to have more. Power went off. Network went out. ITS servers went down. Phones are out. Flood Advisory up. Whoooh!" Wet everywhere. In spades.

So I took a taxi over to visit Mom. I tried to get a picture of the river heading downhill on Gurley -- got a great shot of raindrops instead. Asked the driver if he'd make a turn into the Lincoln Street crossing to take a picture.

"You got lucky. There are two cars stuck down there."

One of them got away. Maybe.

Or maybe this car sticking its toes in the water is the same one that was stuck earlier. I'll never know. What I do know is that this is one tricky grade level crossing. It has drowned at least one driver since we came to Prescott. That's why the city put up the barriers.

In the lounge at Mom's assisted living facility, there was this superb view of the mountains with a misty, Chinese-style perspective of layers.

By the time I left, the sun had come out in the west, but there was still enough water on the drive for a reflection of the stone wall.

If we're lucky, it'll happen again! (And again!)


Here I am, minding my own business, walking around Prescott and taking snapshots of scenes, things and stuff that intrigues me -- and suddenly (flash of lights! blare of trumpets! sound of processional music!) I'm a celebrity.

Well, sorta.

What it all adds up to is that I was written up by Walktopia, a blog that promotes walking, hiking and bicycling as fun, good for you and the way to go. Take a look. Thanks, Eliz.!

And ...

I gave a small workshop on "Blogging for the Writer" at last night's meeting of Professional Writers of Prescott. If you'd like a list of the links I gave participants, drop me a note.

I'll be back later with pictures of today's downpour, and maybe later pix if the Flagstaff weather radar is to be believed!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose Is....

All I can say at this moment is "get yourself in gear and take a walk through the special garden over at the Sharlot Hall grounds. The roses are blooming and they're gorgeous."

I'm not really a rose afficianado (except for wild roses and those "Henderson" yellows), but there I was on Sunday and I couldn't stop taking pictures.

Originally, the garden contained only varieties that dated back to Prescott pioneer time (or earlier), but I believe that policy has changed. As you may or may not know, you can nominate outstanding local women to be honored with a rose in the garden -- get the nominating forms in the main museum building.

Herewith, an mini-album of beauties:

Ending up with these classics (above and below). I doubt if the specimen below would prove very popular these days, what with its subdued coloring, but it surely evokes Victorian ladies' hats and gowns.

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