Wednesday, September 30, 2020

bottlebrush tree

I know it's not really called that - it's Callistemon citrinus - but that's how I always think of it - just like the spiky brushes used for cleaning out test-tubes in the chemistry lab at school.  Some good textures, here ... it was just about cool enough to take a walk very early this morning, but I can't say I'm very happy being back in merciless 100-degree heat ...


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

cascabela theviata

... otherwise, and unromantically, known as "lucky nut."  It's sprawling all over our front yard, here.

I know you really want Owl News.  Harry spent the day on a branch very close to my study window - it's rather unnerving talking about the Ashcan School when you're periodically being stared at by some huge yellow eyes.  Around dusk, he did a big brown feathery glide around the back yard, and landed back in the tree - to be joined by Harriet, just a branch away.  Very touching.  I guess they're off for some nice rats, now.


Monday, September 28, 2020

the Owl and the Pussycat

There was a very loud warbling hoot outside our bedroom window this morning: someone was defending his territory.  Moth was - horrified!  Not scared (which she should have been), but - what was THIS?  He took off and moved one tree over, where he stayed for most of the day, occasionally glaring.  I think this is Harry - one of our pair of Great Horned Owls - slightly smaller, and more deeply hooting than Harriet (we have Juan and Juanita in Santa Fe).  Those eyes!


Sunday, September 27, 2020

weighing up the risks ...

... in the age of Covid.  Traveling back to LA (a couple of necessary appointments, this week), was a toss-up in safety terms: drive from New Mexico to Los Feliz in one thirteen and a half hour go, which would involve driving back into LA at nighttime when very very tired, or risk a night in our usual stop, La Posada, in Winslow, and hope that they were as carefully masked and sanitized as they claimed to be ... we opted for the latter (which, given the crazy driving coming into LA, was wise from that persepctive), and we were ever so impressed by their protocol and general masked-up-ness (certain late middle aged male guests, outside the property itself, not so much, but ...).  I wish I could say that we had a restful night's sleep, too, but when a semi-elderly cat decides that she's going to have a (?? travel-sick) vomiting attack on pale green rug and mid-green bedspread, in the middle of the night ... let's just say that this involved a lot of washing, and then hard labor with a hair-drier.  So it'll be an early night tonight.


Saturday, September 26, 2020

as our neighborhood jackrabbit says ...

... I mean, I can't, not being a citizen, but please do so for me ... This is the large tin rabbit that was wearing a New Mexico mask earlier in the summer: this one has become its fall mantra.


Friday, September 25, 2020

more chamisa

It may make me sneeze, a bit, but who could resist all this yellow chamisa everywhere?  And it's undeniably pretty, whether on its thick bushes, or in silhouette form.  And the leaves are just beginning to turn, to offer up matching patches of yellow and gold.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

socially distanced!

The USC English Department reconvenes, in miniature, in Santa Fe - SO GOOD to see friends here, albeit at a patio's distance ... an evening that made me feel how very much we've missed company that doesn't come in little flat rectangles.  Also, it was an excuse to make cheese - what shall I call them?  in English, biscuits; in American - cookies doesn't sound right, but biscuits are something else.  Savory cheese thingies, whatever.  It was, before that, the longest of days, so this evening was especially welcome, and the sunset did its spectacular bit.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

today's challenge ...

Can you find the quail?  OK ... it's on the wall, just to the right of the left-hand wall opening.  Shortly afterwards, it was joined by several more of its family, scuffling around looking for breakfast, and drinking out of the bird bath.  We haven't had any large quail families in the back yard this summer - though they are around - so it was good to have this small visitor group.

As you can see, the morning glories are in a pretty sorry state by now (so are most of the herbs, because we've eaten them).  Next summer, I'm planning more vegetable self-sufficiency ...


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

chamisa and sunset

This evening's sunset was enhanced by the chamisa that we just happened to be passing, at just the right moment, on our walk ... 


Monday, September 21, 2020

a strange kind of plant

Officially, we don't have outdoor kitties - but now that the foxtail season seems at an end, LucyFur and Moth are allowed a five minute outing in the enclosed back yard at lunchtime.  Moth starts banging on the glass back door about three hours before that, with her little soft paws.  Here, Lucy has clearly found something that smells delectable ... we are about two minutes off from the ritualistic Clapping of the Hands, at which point they scamper back inside again.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Maximilian's Daisy

or Helianthus maximilianii.  Because we're not usually in New Mexico at this time of September, it's been a wonderful surprise to have encountered all these yellow flowers everywhere - at the side of the road; in various place on our land.  They've taken over from what one might think of as "normal" sunflowers - the big flashy ones.  These are unequivocally native plants, despite their name: they were called after the naturalist Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, Germany, who led an expedition into the American West in the 1830s.  Doubtless they have numerous native names.  They are not so much sunflowers, as asters - like the Michaelmas Daisy - and although they have lots of seeds, so are very valuable for birds, they're actually rhizomatic, which is how they normally propagate.  So - there are many of these, and they are a perfect autumn color and presence.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Santa Fe skies (and RBG)

Our local paper, the Santa Fe New Mexican, did its very best to claim RBG as its own, today: there was a lovely piece about how she used to come here for a week in the summer, in large part to go to the Opera (we were, indeed, ourselves there a few years back when there was a standing ovation when she came in - though I confess that at the time we didn't know what was happening ...).  And there were reminiscences of her climbing the ladders at Bandelier National Monument, to see inside the caves, and of her going to Georgia O'Keeffe's house at Abiquiu, and, indeed, of how much she loved the skies - she would ask her friend (when she wasn't here herself) how "her skies" were.  The answer, today, is very blue - but a little hazy with smoke from California.  Or with grief.


Friday, September 18, 2020

in memoriam, RBG

On a devastatingly sad evening, the photo that I had lined up for today just wouldn't do - so I went out into the yard, and sought out our last, late-blooming hollyhock.  (Flash would not have been appropriate). What can one even say, other than express so much gratitude - and - get - out - and - vote?  Of course, I'd been living, like so many people, in some realm of magical thinking, believing RBG to be invincible, and to be able to beat all odds and carry on, at least into next January.  And hearing how she'd hoped to retire in 2016, when the first woman President had been elected, made so much sad sense, too.  Oh - sad, so sad.  And very troubling.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

reach for the sky

One more brave Morning Glory!  I thought we'd seen the last of the deep blue ones, but this greeted me when I went out to water the plants this morning.  In other wildlife news, at various times this morning a large flicker, and three quail made their appearances.  


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

LucyFur watches, attentively

It almost looks like meditation (or preparing for another Zoom class).  But no - she's watching someone dig up a gopher trap in our back yard, and find that, alas, it's failed to catch the gopher that - judging by its energetic excavations - is rather too rapidly approaching my potato bed.  And yes - she does favor proximity to the long snakeskin ...


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

fall, approaching

The roadside just by the end of our driveway has arranged itself pretty well.  The annual vicious mowing spared many of the inedible gourds, and there are a range of sunflowers and their close relatives growing happily among them - only disturbed by the busy rustle of a passing pack-rat.  That last line looks pretty much parodic - straight out of Private Eye's nature notes ... plash of the water-vole, and all of that ...


Monday, September 14, 2020

Michaelmas daisies

... at least, that's what I think of these as being - they may be called something else, here.  Very much an autumnal flower, especially in this evening light - with a slight smoke-filter deepening the gold, it must be said.  Last week's rain has given a sudden burst of energy to the semi-wild flowers ...


Sunday, September 13, 2020

faded, battered ...

... and very probably the Last Hollyhock of the Summer.  But - like the few brave Morning Glories down the other end of the garden, without argument, a survivor.

In other non-news, that was another weekend that wasn't a weekend.  Our daily walks, and inspecting the flowers - that's the only time away from teaching prep and admin.  Let no one - no one - suggest that our current mode of delivering teaching is in some way easier - or, for that matter, leaves us any time to do research, or anything else.  I'm feeling decidedly faded and battered as well, and we're nowhere near half-way ...


Saturday, September 12, 2020

she made it!

One small - very small - brave Morning Glory.  With luck, there will be a few more out tomorrow.  About two-thirds of the leaves have been damaged by wind - especially wind - and the tiny bit of snow, but I don't think that anything has been irrevocably frost bitten, so we should have a couple more weeks, unless there's more freak weather.  But everything's quite definitely sliding towards fall.


Friday, September 11, 2020

california comes to new mexico

The smoke from the wildfires (the Californian ones, primarily, but also some in Arizona) is arriving here, darkening the skies: everything went grey this afternoon, and the sun is making only the most sullen effort at setting, this evening.  


Thursday, September 10, 2020

when winter arrives early ...

... and there's snow and drenching icy rain outside, and we bring in the seats for the patio chairs, then they are quickly occupied.  The fact that we have underfloor heating probably doesn't hurt, either ...


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

yes, snow

OK, so it's not very much.  But it was a thin sprinkle of the stuff - and. much more fell just to the north of us, a few hundred feet higher.  And it is September 9th, which is Too Early.  The morning glories may not have made it through very happily.  The basil looks completely withered and miserable.  Today it's carried on raining sporadically - there was a huge thunderclap in the middle of the class that I was teaching this evening, which made me jump not a little - with more to come tonight - but I think most of the white stuff will miss us.  I realise that this will see somewhere between bizarre and insulting to those of you battling heatwaves and wildfires and smoke and ash: it is, surely, part of global weirding and climate change horrors more broadly.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

the wind strikes its first blow

Admittedly, this is a small branch on a not very healthy tree ... I have mixed feelings about the couple of willow trees around our house, because it's not just that they are non-native: they are water guzzlers, and shouldn't be here at all.  But still - I hate to see wind savaging a tree.  I think that the worst of the high winds have past: we just wait and see what kind of cold precipitation falls from the sky later tonight.

I fear the morning glories may not make it.  A day of chilly 35 mph winds has not suited them, at all.  Updates will follow, I'm sure.


Monday, September 7, 2020

full morning array

In dawn-light, and looking good!  Who knows whether they will make it through the weird weather that's heading this way in the next few days ...

In other news, it's Labor Day.  I fully intended not to labor, but that was a vain and futile intention ...


Sunday, September 6, 2020

inside, outside

If the weather this week is as bad, for 48 hours, as the forecasters are saying, I mightn't be celebrating the Morning Glories all that much longer ... so indulge me.  Here are my favorite blue and white ones again - looking inside, and then from the outside ...


Saturday, September 5, 2020

morning glory with fluffy golden clouds

To be sure, I could probably have managed a better, wider shot if I'd moved four feet to my right - but I didn't have shoes on, and rightly suspected that if I went inside to find some, the fluffy golden clouds would just turn, quickly, into normal white puffy ones.  The morning glories are starting to look a little end-of-the-season and ragged, but we are casting around for some old sheets to tie over them to protect them from the threatened frost on Tuesday night ...


Friday, September 4, 2020

teaching assistant

Unfortunately, there are many things this Teaching Assistant doesn't do.  Let's list them.  Teach.  Grade papers.  Monitor the "chat" during Zoom meetings.  Scan.  Upload scans.  Answer emails from students complaining that they can't download scans.  Send students pdfs of scans from her own email account.  On the other hand, she's present for both of my courses, very often, and also for Chairs' meetings.  So that's something.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

parsley and dill

This has been one of my more successful pots of herbs - and the dill is just producing flower-heads, which will turn beautifully into seed for next summer.  Arugula - good.  Basil - amazing.  Cilantro - ok, ish, but not super-enthusiastic.  Sage - fine.  Tarragon - reluctant.  Chives (two kinds) - thin, spindly, and like interestingly flavored grass stalks.  Mint - at last, and reluctantly, surfacing.  Everything else - blah; not interested.  I'm trying to work out what the common denominators are behind this summer's seed-sowing, and can't, as yet, find any ...


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

back to tranquillity

... not a drop of rain or thunderclap in sight.   The morning glories are twining round the Russian Sage.  It looks pretty verdant in the background... admittedly, that's tumbleweed growing over our septic tank, but it has a pleasing air of rusticity to it.


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

and the storm rolls in

... this is when one wonders if a storm will come and blow out the power, and hence one's Zoom teaching, for the afternoon.  Only it didn't, although there were a few minutes' worth of pelting hail and strong winds.  So the students who turned up (a definite drop-off today, though none have unregistered) and I soldiered on ...