Saturday, March 31, 2007

Trees in Bloom

It is close to the end of the blooming season for our deciduous trees; in fact, the lilacs are about to open big time. Therefore, I'm getting my blossoming tree pictures out in public while the season is still on.

I'm not really sure which brand of tree this is; common enough that it might be an ash. Hoping that a reader may be able to help me out. Since this is a tree matter, I suspect it should be a male reader. Funny. It's been my experience that IDing flowers is a girl thing, while expertise in trees tends to be a guy thing.

Of course, being a civilized little city, Prescott is peopled with folks who have planted many, many ornamental fruit trees with beautiful spring blossoms and no intentions of producing fruit. The flowers above are an exception; I caught these up the hill at the Shrine of St. Joseph. Possibly a peach volunteer from a visitor's lunch. I have a little peach tree that came up from a seed I tossed; it has rewarded me with one peach.

OK, I'm not quite sure just which of the ornamentals this cluster of buds represents. Anyone out there more expert with a suggestion? Mighty pretty in any event.

Once the red-purple leaves have popped, the flowering plum is especially spectacular.

This tree was a huge white presence along Park Avenue. Possibly a flowering pear, very popular in Prescott.

Seeds of the Siberian elm appear early in spring, lending a lovely green to the local scenery. Looking at all those seeds (below), you can understand why this import has turned into an unwelcome guest tree in much of the country. My neighbor has been fighting a losing battle against the Siberian elm.

These small, unpretentious flowers were on a heavily blooming, fragrant squaw bush (three-leaf sumac for the politically correct; lemonade bush for the old-fashioned.) A flock of early butterflies was sipping nectar as I took pictures, but none would hold still long enough for a portrait.

Don't know anything about this red beauty. Tain't local -- something from the nursery.

As is this popular ornamental bush.

And in conclusion, more Siberian elms, because they are simply very photogenic. And green.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Historic Wheels

Consider how we value our comfort; if you don't agree, just take one look at the conveyance above and visualize your ride down that dusty, bumpy western "road." I'm inclined to think, also, of the skill it took to make those wheels in a world where the latest factory did not have machines that we had in my husband's home workshop.

Both the buckboard (top picture) on display in Mountain Club and the wagon above, down in Yarnell, feature wooden wheels with an iron rim.

Here's a set of iron wheels I found over on Park Avenue. Probably from some sort of farm equipment.

A more formidable wheeled instrument, this cannon in the little park on West Gurley, must post-date the Civil War. Unlike most smallish mid-America towns, Prescott was settled too late to earn a Civil War cannon for its Courthouse Square.

The modern uses of these old wheels? Yard decor...

...supporting a mailbox...

...or perhaps an informal street sign. How we do take for granted what was one of the great inventions that gave the Old World its major advantage over the civilizations of the New World!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My New Camera Gear Arrived!!!

The waiting is over; the new camera, a gift from Mom, finally arrived, only a month or so after I ordered it. So here's the gear: 1) box with camera, its associated hardware, and reading matter; 2) extra memory; 3) a battery charger & batteries.

Inside the box -- media, meaning instructions. See the little guy at the left? 169 jam-packed pages with how-to info and data. Plus software, including heavy-duty picture editing to compete with PhotoShop. I don't think I'll be learning this camera in time catch those by-now- adolescent ravens down at the Courthouse.

Here's the star of the show, plus other odds and ends that were also inside the box. The two big features of this Canon PowerShot S3-IS are a 12x optical zoom and image stabilization. (Though I have a sneaking hunch that my best bird shots are going be made here at home where I can get out a good tripod. I don't think I'm in shape to lug one around.)

Were you wondering why I switched background colors for my photos? Look above. The Max cat saw where the center of attention was focused and immediately jumped into the spotlight. And if you by any chance wondered why the red background, this was to honor Ms. k, who posted a scarlet ibis on her blog just for me. She's in Florida, where the ibis are white; I'm in the west, where the ibis who fly through are quite black. She knows that I groove on R.E.D.! Go take a good look at that bird.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Skull Valley -- a Quick View from the Road

Getting to Skull Valley is easy. Just turn left onto Iron Springs Road and keep driving. After a few mountains, the highway leaves PNF forest land, the road narrows and downhill on the left is a valley that's green and lush, compared to the sere roadside. The outskirts. Important fact about this ranching community -- it has possibly the best water availability in the whole county.

Ahead on your right looms a dark, rounded mountain. Volcanic, obviously; mountains built of other kinds of stone (granite, schist or even limestone) display their rocky origins in a muscular way. Do take note of the two dimpled blowout spots. Busy mountain at one time. Very busy.

Downtown Skull Valley ahead -- the gas station. The only place to gas up between Yarnell and Prescott, by the way. And not on SR89. This is the county road that semi drivers travel to avoid the many "curves and mountain grades" of the White Spar coming up from Wickenburg.

Downtown includes the cafe, currently closed and on the market. Will someone please buy the cafe; I miss it. When my husband and I first moved to Wilhoit, we almost always breakfasted here. Dick's chili was a great way to start a day of exploration; Helen handled the cowboys, ranchers and outlanders with a fine rural finesse. It was at the cafe that we learned when there would be roping or a gymkhana down at the Kirkland arena. Occasionally a miner from the Copper Basin would drop in with a vial of gold flakes. Oh, yes, bikers from the big, hot valley down south would show up, as well. Not only that, but railroad crews would radio ahead with their orders-to-go and then park their trains to pick up lunch.

After the disappointment of the closed cafe, heading back into town -- except that a train is coming. Giving me time for a good shot of general store -- #3 of downtown Skull Valley's three buildings. All kinds of special goodies sold here for ranch living and operation.

I am reminded that, in Prescott, I really miss the trains!

Admittedly, the modern train, consisting almost entirely of piggy-back trailers, is not nearly as interesting as the old-time mix of box cars, tankers, gondolas, and refrigerator cars, punctuated by the all-important caboose. (Anybody know where all those old cabooses went to retire? Maybe you can buy one on e-Bay...)

Once the train is gone, we can leave Skull Valley for the drive uphill back to Prescott. There's certainly a lot more to be said about Skull Valley, but not on this short visit. If you are curious, the Sharlot Hall Museum site has some background reading.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Scenic Surfaces

Surely there are no more landscaped walls and similar decorated surfaces. Already, I have put together two collections of pictures from around Prescott (here and here.) Not counting the murals. But checking out the photo folder, I have found still more:

Only in one of those forest in-holdings would you discover such rustic overload: a painted rooster and the horse, plus sahuaro bones plus old rusted bedsteads. I did discover another painted horse in an alley near my house last year... but Ollie hasn't been visible of late.

Next stop, Jay's Bird Barn, which features two beautifully decorated columns (above and below.) Trees full of birds, of course.

Closer to home, it's still a bit chill to be enjoying the patio, but the daisies continue to bloom all winter.

Plain bricks don't sell as well as painted ones, even up in Sedona. A shop I spotted while at the recent film festival.

I'm not sure if this painting of a barren Thumb Butte plus our civic bird, the raven, qualifies as a painted wall or a painting. But I'm very fond of ravens, so the picture stays, regardless. At the Raven Cafe, of course.

And finally, subtle, not gaudy, this water tank. The scenery fits in nicely with the nearby oaks. Found way west at a small subdivision off the south side of Iron Springs Road. For now, I've exhausted the supply. Want to bet I won't find any more?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Links of the Day: Variety

No pictures tonight. Instead, some of the varied links I've been collecting over the past several weeks. For instance, considering our elevation, how about high altitude baking. Admittedly, I don't bake these days so I can't vouch for the advice. I'm more likely to follow advice from this slug & snail fancier, partly because the subjects are more interesting photographically! Besides, one of the bloggers I read has a visiting slug named Barry. But perhaps you're not into Nature, red of claw etc.; in which case, you might like to know that Geoffrey Chaucer hath a blog. Closer to home, enjoy a different take on the southwest via the daily photo from Albuquerque. For that matter, locally we have blogs from the Smoki Museum, the Prescott Courier, and the YMCA. Now... if you still have time on your hands, you can play the game of identify that photo over at Google. It's a real time killer, as I've found; on the other hand, donating a little time to The Google's ID-the-image project is a small price to pay for all that free info.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Lesser Evergreens

The heading is by way of saying that not all mountain evergreens are conifers and their relatives, such as our majestic ponderosas above or the alligator junipers below.

Admittedly, most of our other evergreens are shrubs, sometimes verging on treelike growth. However, the emory oak is a very serious tree, as the the picture above attests. A surprise: the acorns of local emory oaks contain very little tannin and can be eaten without the retting treatment required to make most acorns palatable. My husband and I called them "gourmet acorns" when we first discovered this useful fact.

The leaves of the emory are wavy in outline -- but they do not bite like the turbinella or scrub oak that is so common in the uplands. Take a look at the leaves below. Each of those points is exactly that -- a tiny dagger. And when the leaves from the scrub oak finally rot and turn to mulch, the last item to go is, you guessed it, that little point. Reason enough to always wear gloves when gardening. The turbinella grows to about 15 feet in height and forms thickets. (FYI: the rounded, more yellow-green leaves are mistletoe; the shaggy orangey growth is the result of a gall insect.)

In yesterday's post, you were introduced to one of our more spectacular shrubs, the manzanita. The leathery leaves are green year round, the branches are a striking mahogany red, and the clusters of little pink, bell-like flowers clearly identify this plant as a member of the heather family, along with the arbutus tree. The growth habit of the manzanita is to spread via underground stolens; given an open area for spreading, a manzanita will create a large fairy ring 20 feet or so in diameter as the original portion in the center dies off. And, yes, those "little apples", the fruit, make a fine jam or jelly.

As for the mountain mahogany (above), I've got no idea how it won its name. Probably because the wood is both very tough and heavy. The example below is one of the well watered specimens from the thicket uphill from the house. The limbs seldom grow larger than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, but may range up to 12 or 15 feet tall.

Those limbs or branches are reasonably straight and make a good trellis for morning glories and other climbing plants.

In conclusion, lest we forget, cacti might be considered shrubs -- and they certainly remain green-ish year round. A gentle reminder for friends from Oz -- these prickly pears are growing in their home turf and do not present any ecological problem. My favorite amazing prickly pear fact: the plant is native in all but one or two of the states.
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