Friday, May 20, 2011


"20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case." - Lance Armstrong tweet

Remember back in the 80's, when 60 Minutes did their hatchet job on Audi, claiming the cars took off by themselves, even though the drivers were standing on the brakes? And then, when it was shown that while the drivers thought they were standing on the brakes, they were actually standing on the accelerator, which is why they drove into storefronts, and rivers, etc.? And this was long before today's "sophisticated" electronics which make Toyotas really take off by themselves? And when presented with the actual facts, that due to a slight design flaw the brake and accelerator pedals were a little too close together for big American feet, they just ho-hummed and moved on to the next ambush victim without so much as a mumbled "sorry" to Audi?

Yeah. That 60 Minutes. They're going to do it again this Sunday. I'll miss it, because I haven't watched it in over 25 years. See if you can't miss it, too. And I hope a million cancer survivors march on CBS headquarters in protest.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Beyond The Sea

The parents.. Otis/Fada.  Image ©Camilla Colleen
Earthly arrival early June.  Hare-Brained Homestead arrival anticipated late-August or early September.  Watch this space

Life at the Hare-Brained Homestead

So, enough with the semi-hopeful signs of life with the trees.  Here are some things in the yard that are positively thriving.  The drought-hardy, Chihuahuan Desert native flora..

Prickly Pear Cactus

Cholla Cactus

Survival Mode

The drought continues.  According to the weather services, the humidity late yesterday afternoon was 1%.  The dew point?  A ridiculous -20°F.  That’s right.  Twenty freaking degrees below zero!SOS_4091  And since the ambient temperature was 110° higher than that, it wasn’t likely that we would squeeze any moisture out of the air.

Somehow, despite the lack of any measurable precipitation since the end of last year, (and that was a single snow fall, so really, the dry spell goes all the way back to Summer), things are turning green.  It’s most noticeable when driving  home from town.  Huge green swaths of creosote bush surround the base of the Florida Mountains.  In the yard, the mesquite brush seems to be the most drought-hardy of all the plants.  Dammit.  Of all the flora I wish dead, the mesquite is at the top of the list!

I’ve been watering (and no, so far there’s no shortage of water in our aquifer, knock wood) the peach tree and the pecan tree, and the fruit is looking good.

The pines, at least from a distance, look as dead as the pronouncement from a friend who knows things about trees and plants.  But if you look closely, the trees have a secret.  When stressed, as they are in extreme drought conditions, they seem to go into a kind of survival mode.  First, they dropped almost two-thirds of their needles.  New needle clusters normally would be sprouting fromsign of life the ends of the branches , but even with the constant, 24/7 drip I’ve got going to our two pines, the tree’s not sending water to the extremities.   But it is using the water!   A few weeks ago, I noticed these little green needle clusters start showing up on the branches closer to the ground.  As time passed more have begun to sprout, and on higher branches, too.

What seems to be happening, and I couldn’t find quite what I was looking for on Google, is the tree has gone dormant at the top, and the extremities, but it is keeping itself alive by pushing out enough green to keep transpiration happening. 

This is even more evident on one of the trees in the back yard.  Up until a couple weeks ago, I was certain it was dead.  While other trees in the yard were full of broad, green leaves, nothing was happening with this tree (which we’ve never identified, but we know the hummingbirds like to roost in it because it’s the closest tree to the feeder).  The ends of the branches were brittle dry.  No sign of life.
Then a strange thing happened.  Leaves began to sprout from the trunk; and from the thick areas of the branches closest to the trunk.  It looks odd, but this is another tree that’s killed off part of itself, to save itself.  Kind of like that kid in 127 Hours.

One of the climate models looking 6 months to a year out, shows a powerful el NiƱo is a possibility.  That , if it happens, will most certainly break the drought.  Will the trees then “wake up”, and go back to the way they were before the drought and the powerful February freeze?  Don’t know.  We’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m happy they seemed to have figured out a way to hang in there and wait with us.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Boy Needs A Bib!

Scott's Oriole feeding on Ocotillo
The last couple of months in and around the yard have been like an amateur birder's wet dream.  The short list of birds is pretty stunning.  In addition to the pollen-covered Scott's Oriole, above we've seen-

  • Bullock's Oriole
  • Blackchinned Hummingbird
  • Roadrunner
  • Mockingbird
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • House Finch
  • Red Tail Hawk
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Cactus Wren
  • Western Kingbird
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Kestrel
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • Harrier
  • Golden Eagle
  • Gambel's Quail
  • Scaled Quail
  • White Winged Dove
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Western Bluebird
  • Lark Bunting
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Horned Lark
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Slate Colored Junco
  • White Crowned (or White Throated) Sparrow
  • Boat Tailed Grackle
  • Common Raven
And probably more that I can't remember right now, or haven't seen yet.

The hummingbirds are probably happy the Ocotillo finally began to bloom, as it's now keeping the Orioles out of the feeder...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Persistence Hunting

The pronghorn. The fastest mammal in North America.. the second fastest animal in the world, capable of running 55mph for extended periods.

In another part of the state of New Mexico, hundreds of miles from where I'm sitting, human beings tried to run a pronghorn down, using only their lung capacity, their legs, and their brainpower.  What the hell are they up to?
"The pronghorn is the second-fastest animal on earth, while the men are merely elite marathon runners who are trying to verify a theory about human evolution. Some scientists believe that our ancestors evolved into endurance athletes in order to hunt quad­rupeds by running them to exhaustion. If the theory holds up, the antelope I'm watching will eventually tire and the men will catch it. Then they'll have to decide whether to kill it for food or let it go."
I'm not sure whether or not I can buy into that theory, but it's really tantalizing to picture it.  Read the whole article to find out how these world class marathoners fared against our New Mexico Pronghorn.

This, of course, is not the only animal that is run down by humans.  There are numerous, incredibly fast and agile football players in college and pro ranks, including the University of Michigan who hale from a poor, rural location in Florida called Pahokee.  They  hone their skills like this..

Cottontails and "muck rabbits" (whatever they are)are one thing. Our blacktail jackrabbits are another thing altogether. Nobody is going to catch one on foot. That's why we use another method that's nearly as old as persistance hunting-