Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Sight Seldom Seen

If there's any sight that's missing from the modern American scenery, it's the old-fashioned clothes line. Imagine my surprise when I spotted this picture behind a nearby building while on my walk this afternoon. Whoever is doing this deserves a great big C-for-carbon credit! I'm sure the reason is more mundane -- like not owning a dryer. I certainly hung enough laundry when I was young -- and, yes, the romantics are right, sun-dried laundry does have a wonderful odor. However, it is a lot of work! On the other hand, doing laundry in dry Arizona sure beats doing it in a damp climate, like Florida, where you're lucky if your clothes, towels and bedding dry before the mildew sets in.

Blogging Noted: Our local paper has published an online look at several local bloggers, including yours truly. And two more of the Podcast interviews from our recent blogger meetup are online over at Prescott Arts Beat. Featured this go-round are Tom Steele of The Truth PV and Dina of That Girl Dina.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Spring Wildflowers

As I 've explained previously, I do two kinds of gardening on my Prescott hillside. For bright, colorful annuals and a few perennials that want Real Soil, it's pots. For plantings in the ground, local wildflowers, many of which are quite spectacular.

For example, the most prolific Indian paint brush I've ever seen! Pictured above, the plant on April 18, just beginning to flower. This is the end of May; it is still adding more blossoms, and this without a host plant (paint brush are semi-parasites.) I'm sure the secret to my wonderous paint brush is that it gets regular watering.

The bright reds of this plant are not actual blossoms, but, rather, modified leaves surrounding the working parts.

Pink. Fuschia. Red. Purple. Almost blue. And, I've heard, an occasional yellow. Those are the colors of upland Arizona penstemons. I've counted eight species that grow in the greater Prescott area, but perhaps the most outstanding is Palmer's penstemon. In a good year (meaning early spring rains), this pink beauty grows flower stalks up to 6 feet tall. Do peer into the throat of a blossom. See the guide lines for insects and that cool yellow beard?

The leaves give evidence that this is a plant for arid country. Not only are they somewhat waxy, but they are arranged down the stem to deliver what little water falls directly to the roots. Look for Palmer's penstemon out the Iron Springs Road, beside the road to Granite Basin or along the White Spar through the Prietas.

This penstemon is a spectabilis, I believe. Not a Prescott plant, but found higher up in the mountains. Doubtless a purchase from Flagstaff Native Plant/Seed.

The last of my earliest penstemon -- psuedospectabilis or Arizona penstemon, another plant for arid country. The best local site for this plant is way out the Dosie Pit Road. These samples surely explain why British plant breeders adapted the penstemon into a really smashing cultivated garden favorite here and abroad!

Too bad that the desert four o'clock opens so late in the day, as it is another very attractive plant. I came in close on the flowers to show the bracts from which a daily blossom emerges. Only one seed per flower, but many blossoms -- and, given enough water, most of the seeds will sprout. This plant was grown from a neighborhood seed, BTW.

Coral bells were a perennial staple of my gardens back in Chicago; it turns out that they are also Arizona mountain natives! Though I paid good money to Watters for this plant, I did discover a small clump of white coral bells in a shaded rock outcropping along Mint Wash below the Granite Basin dam.

This is one of my own New Mexico locusts. Pretty flowers, but nasty thorns. New shrubs keep coming up from very long underground runners. However, I have a problem with a myriad of nasty juice-sucking critters that attach to the stems and kill them. Maybe the city is simply the wrong location for this locust!

Pretty little claret cup cactuses are mountain plants, adapted to elevations as high as 7000 ft. This means that, unlike most cactus, they are tough little guys who can survive winter snows, as can prickly pears.

Here is my great disappointment. A fine specimen of bear grass -- but instead of a proper, tall flower stalk, my plant grew a crooked stem that hugged the ground. I've no idea why this is so!

And another admission of incompetence: I am totally unable to grow a sacred datura from seed. I have tried in pots. I have tried in the ground. Up the hill. Down by the road. No success. Bought this seedling at, you guessed it, Flagstaff Native Plants. Should have bought several. More garden wildflowers later, as they bloom.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Western Art on the Square

The Phippen Memorial Day art show is a Big Deal in Prescott. Its focus: Western Art, a genre very, very popular in the Southwest. Held every year since its 1974 debut at the public library, this show now fills the Courthouse Square each year. No room for refreshment stands or cutsey poo collectibles. A serious venue.

Two of the major themes of art at the Phippen: cowboys, Indians. However, I would never expect that painting of a gunman above to take a prize. Too much of a Hollywood cliche. The mission of the Phippen Art Museum, the show's sponsor, is to preserve and exhibit museum quality Western art and educate the public about the unique heritage, history, legends and influence of art of the American West.

The themes above -- a cattle round-up, a mountain man -- are more to the point of the show. I was interested to note that compared to other shows on the Square, there was less art depicting the Native American in a cloyingly romantic fashion.

There were works by Indian artists on display; this booth held a prize-winner.

However, the bronze above truly represents the meat of the Phippen: a working cowboy beset by too many head of cattle. A bit more history from the museum's web site:

George Phippen, first President of the Cowboy Artists of America, died in 1966, leaving behind a group of artists interested in creating a facility that specifically represented artists in the American West. In 1974, the George Phippen Memorial Foundation was formed to create a centralized venue that would fully support Western Art. The resulting museum finally opened its doors in 1984.

Animals are another favorite subject of Western Art. Here buffaloes. But also eagles ... mountain lions ... bobcats ... bears... and, of course, horses. Not much in the way of javelinas or ravens, two of my favorites.

One trend spotted this year -- though always a major venue for bronzes, the show saw sculptures getting larger and LARGER. A good example: the epic size elk and moose above. Suitable for the grounds of those huge McMansions being built north of town, I guess.

And while many booths featured landscapes -- mountains, forests, streams, deserts -- I overheard one artist say that only one such painting gets an award each year. Reason: landscapes are not quite on-theme.

More than one artist added action to her display by painting a quicky...

... an unexpected strolling Victorian couple added color to the scene ...

...while the lone busker played a mean banjo and sang western songs.

Did I mention that the originals on display were pricey? That's why an important part of many artists' offerings included a good supply of less expensive prints ready for the wall. No, I didn't buy this year. Don't have the wall space. Too many books.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day: Flags, Bunting & a Touch of Irony

Memorial Day, I am sure, has lost much of its meaning for large numbers of Americans. Certainly as compared to someone like my mother, who recalls tearful ceremonies honoring men who died in WWI. Yet, Prescott remains a small town at heart ; as I walked down to the Square for the Phippen Art Show, I was surprised at the flags and bunting that came out of storage for the day.

This bunting looked to be a family heirloom with many years of service.

The flag above at what I call the lit house includes light bulbs for a night-time display; this is the house where every possible holiday is celebrated.

More bunting at one of the displays of bronzes down at the art show.

And along Whisky Row.

A store window display with a patriotically themed doll and teddy bear.

The day also brought out a lone protester.

Although I'm not really sure about the clothing (above, below), whether it is a quietly ironic protest against patriotic displays -- or merely part of the modern refusal to take most things seriously.

Me? I wasn't raised to be a flag waver, as Mom called ostentatious patriotism. On the other hand, I confess to being somewhat disquieted by the lack of respect to the national symbols I saw this afternoon. Must be my age showing!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ghosts on the Square

I had a chance to drive past the square early on a recent Saturday morning to see a true still life: Courthouse Square with ghosts.

Tis the season. Of the art shows. The antique shows. The collectibles shows. The rodeo. The Tsunami on the Square. The Art Car Parade. In fact, almost any activity that will draw tourists up from the heat of Phoenix to spend their paychecks.

When I was young, in Chicago, we had only two art fairs: one in Hyde Park, the other in Old Town. Out of such modest beginnings has sprung up a veritable nationwide Industry. There is a ritual order to the weekend event. Exhibitors arrive of a Friday afternoon or evening to pitch their tents. Next morning, the fair opens and crowds gather. Comes dusk, the tents close their flaps, to open again on Sunday. Sunday evening (or Monday in the case of a long weekend), the wares are gathered, tents folded, and exhausted exhibitors drive away to recover and prepare for the next weekend's venue. Yet not a never-ending cycle; eventually, the first frost puts a stop to another summer's shows.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More Prescott Critters

The Courier has reported major animal sightings locally -- yet another mountain lion in a resident's yard, to be specific. Me? I haven't even glimpsed a javelina lately. No, my critter adventures are pretty tame at this moment.

For example: the columbine is a lovely, photogenic flower. The colors. The curved spurs. The cluster of anthers and pistils. The delicate petals. The aphids. Yes, the native Arizona uplands yellow columbine does attract a goodly supply of little green aphids -- nor did I see overseer ants attending them. The critters show up best on the left stem. FYI, my plants appear to prosper despite the aphids.

Also from my potted garden -- this young fellow, in his 1st or 2nd instar, I'd guess. He had been clinging to this dried out Dutch iris blossom for some time. Perhaps he had recently emerged. In any event, he posed nicely. It took a major wave of my hand to get him to jump.

Just who emerged from this husk clinging to my big-flowered sedum? Certainly not a critter of the butterfly or moth persuasion. I've no idea.

Here's a pic from a recent walk. I don't know if I managed to catch the ant lion's claws or not! When I found this insect trap, the ant lion was busy tossing sand to capture the prey which had fallen in. He was still throwing sand when I left the scene. Hope he managed a good meal.

Now for a critter that's maybe a bit more cuddly -- one of the neighborhood doves. This pole top actually belongs to the acorn woodpeckers, but they've apparently been too busy with nesting activities to venture out gossipping.

As for the bunny, it's entertainment for the ladies and gentlemen over at Las Fuentes Assisted Living. The window glass in the dining room is tinted so that residents can look out, but the rabbit can't see in, thus I found it easy to take several pictures as bunny munched out on grass. Spotting the rabbit is a high point in the day for many of the elders -- a welcome window on the outside world.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Duke

Of course, it's a little bit late to be ordering the tschotkes and memorabilia for your John Wayne's 100th birthday party, because he was born Marion Robert Morrison 100 years ago today in a small Iowa town. However, there's plenty of the stuff out there in the great cybermall.

For something a little more special, you go to someone like my buddy Jim, who makes custom gun rigs based upon old Hollywood A & B westerns. Here he is holding one of three John Wayne gun belt replicas made for one customer. This particular outfit was worn in The Shootist, which was a class act and fitting finale to The Duke's long career.

Prescott has been a western town far longer than its new role as a boutique town serving the Left Coast; thus you still find John Wayne symbolism here and there, such as at the front of the Grove Street gun shop. Just incidentally, when I consulted The Google concerning the western star, it referred me to the exact same cutout at a London party shop.

Here is my most favorite John Wayne appearance in town this past year -- he stands guard at the western-themed tree at Watters' annual Christmas tree extravaganza.

A small note about Prescott and western stars: our real locally connected Hollywood cowboy was Tom Mix, who shot films here and owned a ranch hereabouts. Wayne ranched up on the Rim, near Eager, a fact I learned from NPR, believe it or not. That small town is one of several celebrating his birthday this weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Son of Munch. Munch. Munch.

Last fall I whined about my troubled relationship with nasturtiums. But I did learn in the process. For example, I read some of the instructions! This spring, I read more of the instructions. Seems these splendid plants like to bloom in the coolth. Like sometime next fall once the sun has stopped frying everything in sight. My problem: I've already started several seedlings, which appear to be prospering. However, they have attracted a few gourmet insects. What I want to know is how to make sure these fellows survive until it's blossom time. I really don't like using poisons, BTW.

Notes: The second of the Coyote Radio blog interviews is up; this time, Sadira of Fooleswoode, talks about her approach and how blogging has affected her life. On a totally different subject, I was completely blown away by the new Vermont Country Store catalog that arrived today. You may know this outfit for selling pricey nostalgia products (Tangee lipstick ... Walnuttos candy... chenille bedspreads ... mumus). However, there on the same page with three industrial- strength bras is VCS' own comfort thong. This you gotta see!
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