A New Garden and an Unexpected Guest

It has been a very strange week or two weather-wise.  The constant threat of rain from hurricanes stalled our water pipe project.  After everything was trenched and the pipe laid, the asphalt company (apparently there is only one in Tucson) refused to make asphalt because of the threat of rain.  The hurricane ended up being much ado about nothing, but yesterday, in stunning end-of-season monsoon fashion we got an inch of rain in about twenty minutes.  The unasphalted trenches siphoned all the water from our cul-de-sac onto our property–there was a little lake in front and a river in the back.  It took some time, but the water all eventually got redirected (David did some retrenching) and absorbed.

Unfortunately, we picked yesterday morning (before any sign of rain) to plant our new garden.  We waited weeks for just the right time (i.e. not too hot), and here’s how it looked with our plants happily situated in the space:


We decided to give ourselves a break and buy the plants this time, but I still started a bunch of seeds in the greenhouse.  They’re coming along nicely but aren’t ready for prime time yet:


In the garden we planted lots of leafy greens, some peppers, eggplant, cauliflower and herbs.

This morning, after the deluge, we reraked around the plants;  they looked a little shell-shocked but after a day of sun and some gentler watering they are perking up.  They must have heard about the BIG CARDINALS WIN against the San Francisco Forty-Niners today!!  (Just had to work that into the post).  So it’s exciting to have all these veggies planted and we’re optimistic that they will do well here.

Now, for our unexpected guest.  As I’ve mentioned before, the torrential rains bring out all sort of critters, but nothing could have prepared me for this guy, who was not out of, but in our house!!!


That’s a desert tortoise that walked himself into a corner of our entryway and didn’t know how to put himself in reverse.  He must have gotten in yesterday when I had the front door open when I was checking out the monsoon damage.  I was sitting in the kitchen, knitting away, when I heard a groaning sort of sound.  I couldn’t imagine what made the sound.  So I followed the noise and … YIKES!!  I handled it the way any level-headed person would–I hightailed it out of the house to find David .  He dutifully dropped what he was doing to begin operation “get the turtle out of the house”.  It was actually a pretty simple “operation”.

Step one:


Step two:


Both the tortoise and I were much happier when he went on his way.

In general, I’m very grateful for all the rain that comes our way.  It’s great for the environment and makes everything beautiful and green.  Plus there’s always the promise of wildflowers.  But right now I’m very ready for the months and months of cloudless Arizona skies that are on their way.


Positively Biblical

Monsoon season in the desert can be quite a spectacle.  When I first moved to Arizona I had a hard time getting my head around the idea that dangerous rain and flash flooding could even happen here.  A flooded basement in Scottsdale let me know that rain damage could and did happen in the summer in the desert.  And I heard plenty of stories about people drowning in the rushing water in the washes.

Summer in Tucson is even more tropical with afternoon rain a common and welcome occurrence.  Since we moved here, I’ve seen lots of surprising monsoon-related things, from snakes climbing onto my deck to escape the water to helicopters plucking stranded hikers out of the canyon after an unexpected microburst.   But as we ventured out today we encountered a less than delightful monsoon-related phenomenon:


If this photo makes you think of plagues and locusts I get it.

This was not our first encounter with this.  Last summer, upon heading out for an early morning walk on a super-humid day, the swarms were everywhere, both in the air and on the ground.  As we considered turning around (I mean, really, what price fitness?)  we met up with one of our neighbors who told us that these are flying ants-unpleasant for sure, but harmless.  A quick google search told us that intense humidity and moisture can create the perfect mating environment for these ants (which don’t bite by the way).  This swarming business is related to the mating activity.  Quite the frenzy if you see it up close.

When we ran into the flying ants on the road this morning we knew what was going on but it wasn’t any more pleasant to be around.  I was disappointed that I didn’t have my camera with me, but lo and behold I had my own personal swarm outside my kitchen door.  That’s when I took these photos.  I tried to get some close-ups but given all the frenetic activity it was a challenge.  The ants taking a rest from the mating ritual:


I was not resting but rather swatting frantically so I could get closer:



As the humidity lifts these should clear out–can’t be soon enough for me!  So as not to leave my readers with a pretty creepy visual I will share a few shots of the more lovely aspects of a well-watered desert:


The prickly pear, plump and ripe.


The stunning blooms of the barrel cactus.


One bloom opening to greet the day.

Much better.