Monday, July 28, 2008

A cool lily pond

Our rains have moved east toward New Mexico for the week and, this being Arizona, everything has heated up again. I remembered I had water lily pix from the Sharlot Hall museum grounds; what better way to suggest cool, cool water? FYI, the little yellow flowers dotting the lily pads and the water are from the golden rain tree that shades the pond.

The pond is surrounded by benches; the water is circulated through the ivy-covered cistern (below). My favorite natural lily ponds are in the mini canyons up at the absolute head end of Sycamore Canyon in the Kaibab, especially the Pomroy Tanks. One of these days Real Soon Now, I'll locate pictures the LH took up there many years ago.

Note: I am getting on another airplane tomorrow; you might not hear from me for a few days, and when you do, bear in mind that I will be using an Alien Computer -- not my favorite habit. Where? Alaska, believe it or not.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thru a glass lightly

One of the downtown library's many features is a lovely little walled garden, accessible primarily from the coffee shop. You may recall that a mountain lion guards this garden -- and that there's a young girl in bronze who's enjoying a book in the garden. This view is, of course, through the glass doors.

But there's more glass. Neither lion nor girl was visible when I decided to photograph what was to be seen through two sets of glass bricks that overlook the garden.

For the record, here's another view of the garden without intervening glass, shot from above the wall. There's the little girl in one of the black benches. The splendid white tree trunks are quaking aspen.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mid-summer munchies

Plants are prospering with our sun and rains. And, the more they prosper, the yummier they get.

This poor petunia, complete to root plug, was pulled out of its pot, probably by a javelina, tho he/she didn't eat much. As a rule, I find that my petunias, the dianthus and the snaps are not buffet favorites.

Quite unlike morning glory leaves, which provide sustenance to all kinds of critters, including snails, slugs, grasshoppers, as well as leaf miners (below). Many years ago, I did see a leaf miner, which was a teeny-tiny caterpillar like animal who made his home in the middle of a leaf 'til it was time to emerge. The example below looks to have been eaten by two types of leaf miners, one leaving just a squiggly trail.

Fashionable restaurants boast of the nasturtium leaves and flowers in their salads, so why shouldn't arthropods eat them, too?

However, the leaf eater that has always puzzled me is our old friend, the javelina, who will munch out on prickly pear pads. He must have a belly of steel to handle those thorns.

Here is one of the chief munchers in my garden -- a genuine escargot; yes, the snails were imported from France long ago as a delicacy, but escaped and made themselves quite at home throughout the southwest. Somehow they manage to hang in there, hidden, through our drought months, only to emerge once the rains come. I haven't seen their cousins, the slugs in the past couple of years.

Another culprit -- he's still very small, yet look at how he's decimated that blossom! Grasshoppers can get pretty pesky later in the season.

This huge moth (5-6" wingspan) shows up periodically at night on my windows; therefore, you are looking at his underside. While I'd bet he/she only eats nectar, I'm sure there will be offspring sooner than later with a voracious appetite for greenery. Ditto for the butterfly (below) who was hanging around on one of my logs waiting for the sun to emerge from the clouds.

Friday, July 25, 2008

About that gas pipeline...

From SR69, it looks like another highway is being carved out of the chaparral, though, come to think about it, the word "shaved" is perhaps more appropriate. No modern highway would dare to go up and down the contours like this path. So what is it that is so visible from some stretches of highway as one motors down to Phoenix?

I'll quote from Zonie Report, which did a pretty good job of filling me in on the project: A 284-mile-long pipeline that soon could be delivering 500 million cubic feet of natural gas energy throughout Arizona and parts of New Mexico may be partially operational by this summer and fully functional by the end of the year. The pipeline will deliver energy to users throughout central and southern Arizona. A large portion will run through ranch lands in Yavapai County and snake southward around Phoenix toward Gila Bend before turning east toward Coolidge.

You may have noticed this steep "road" to the west at right angles to SR69 in the Mayer area; it is one of the two points where the pipeline crosses over (or under) the highway. South of this point, the project work heads down into the Turkey Creek and Black Canyon lowlands. It is being built by Transwestern Pipeline Company and connects near Ash Fork to the cross-country pipeline that runs roughly parallell to I-40 and serves primarily California. North of Prescott Valley, its route is to the east of SR89. The new pipeline, which is competitive with the existing El Paso Natural Gas line, will furnish fuel to nine power plants, including a pair operated by APS, as well as to smaller users.

Here the pipeline route is visible against the Bradshaws. These pictures above and below were taken in June en route to Crown King with the Sson. Rough country!

In a few places, the actual pipe (42" and 36" in diameter) was quite visible.

We did wonder about the dead porta-potty which we found along the Transwestern route. Was it just the usual louts at play -- or a protest at the latest invasion of the outback. We'll never know, of course.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Now you know where to buy your walrus

The time has come, the Walrus said... oops, wrong walrus. This gaudily gilded pinniped is obviously a female, unlike Mr. Carroll's critter. Where, you might ask, did I happen across a walrus mother and young? She was at the back with the bedding and linens at Tuesday Morning, not up front with all the pricey lawn kitsch. I wouldn't mind owning her; she might well find a home in my living room or possibly the kitchen, which is where I spend most of my non-keyboard, non-gardening time.

Correction: Apparently what we have above is a manatee or dugong, also called a sea cow, a native to Florida and the West Indies. I've heard from a couple of readers who know their sea mammals a lot better than I do. Now, I'm truly amazed at this garden sculpt showing up in an Arizona shop, of all places. Thanks to Lewis Carroll and/or the Beatles, folks know about the walrus. But the manatee????

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Louisiana oil bidness

With petroleum dominating much of the news currently, what better time to post the oil bidness pictures I took while in Louisiana. Aside from Cajun food, a university and local color, oil is what Lafayette is all about. We waited more than once at railroad crossings for tanker car after tanker car. And, on the highways (below), tanker trucks were everywhere.

When I asked the Sson about local industry, he noted that there were many specialty machine shops serving the exploration, drilling and pumping business. Very likely that well wrapped package on the truck below has something to do with oil.

More gear -- including pipes for moving the crude.

And there were storage tanks everywhere!

Trucks lined up to either fill the big tanks or to take the petroleum elsewhere. I have no idea which way the arrow points.

I caught sight of a couple of walking beam well pumps, though I was unable to get a picture. Mostly, they were hidden behind trees or way out in the bayous. (Not at all like those bizarre pumps that looked like insects which were all over the Long Beach that I recall from my childhood!) The picture above may be of a well -- or possibly a pumping station on a pipeline. I'm expecting my Aussie bro, who was once in the oil bidness in Louisiana to come down pretty heavily on my picture IDs, BTW.

Something related to oil is going on in the swamp behind those grasses (above). Other workings in the salt marshes (below).

A pipeline emerges here -- is there a name for such a location? Note fire plug!
These storage tanks were located in the Atchafalaya Basin bayous at the end of a pipeline. This immense wetland is where Robert Flaherty shot his prize-winning documentary, Louisiana Story, which contrasted the simple life of a Cajun boy with the coming of the oil wells.

Crude is transferred from the tanks to trucks at this point.

Of course, Louisiana oil is found not just in the countryside and in the bayous, but also in the Gulf of Mexico. Cameron is one of the little Gulf towns whose reason for being is the oil bidness. According to Investors Business Daily, there are 3,200 oil rigs off the coast of Louisiana. During Katrina, not a single drop was spilled. More than 7 billion barrels have been pumped from these wells over the past quarter-century, yet only one thousandth of one percent has been spilled.

Here are two pictures of Gulf oil platforms. They were barely visible to the naked eye; it took all my telephoto zoom to get these faint images -- they certainly didn't spoil the view of this tourist! And, as Investors Business Daily notes, a study by Louisiana's Sea Grant college shows that there's 50 times more marine life around oil platforms that act as artificial reefs than in the surrounding mud bottoms. Some 85% of Louisiana fishing trips involve fishing around these offshore rigs. The Flower Garden coral reefs lie off the Louisiana-Texas border. They are surrounded by oil platforms that have been pumping for 50 years. According to federal biologist G.P. Schmahl, "The Flower Gardens are much healthier, more pristine than anything in the Florida Keys. It was a surprise to me. And I think it's a surprise to most people."

We came across this wreckage on the beach; it had been one of escape pods kept at the platforms for emergency get-aways. One more note about offshore drilling -- apparently a Chinese company is drilling 60 miles off the coast of Florida in Cuban waters, tho Florida waters are closed to exploration.

And here's yet another side of the oil bidness, to make your day -- there will always be a lawyer!
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