Bee Cause

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If you play along and are one of those who read my madness on a regular basis, you already know all of my photographs are taken on my iPad mini. Getting a shot of a bee flying means I am up close and personal. I am not using a high-powered zoom from a yard away.

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This limitation has allowed me to learn how to relax and be in the moment. To take such intimate pictures I, at the very minimum, must be tolerated in the bees’ space or I will get hurt. Plain and simple. To be honest, I am more afraid of the hummingbirds. Thank goodness they don’t have stingers! I was dive bombed by a seriously angry hummingbird trying to get this shot.img_7692

img_7686The bees I watch have no time nor patience to be bothered by anything. Flowers are in bloom now. Period. They don’t seem to want to share flowers either. I have witnessed midair buzzes, heated discussions on the matter. Basically, its get your own flower.img_7923

And again, if you have been playing along you also know I claim to be nothing more than Desert. I am not the bee expert nor am I trying to be here. I cannot name these particular bees nor am I going to give lectures on them.

I love honey as much as Winnie the Pooh. It’s that simple. Bees are valuable, endangered and get a bad, reputation.

Did you know:

A honey bee dies after it stings.

 

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My purpose has always been to take everyone to the desert with me. To share with anyone who wants to see, hear about or experience the amazing Arizona desert that bumps up against the Superstition Mountain.

This desert is not always brown and dry. We have seasons. When it rains, we bloom. Overnight flowers pop up. The temperatures have been in the upper 60’s to 70’s with mild winds. I giggled when I almost fell over trying to capture a bee flying into a lightly blowing flower.IMG_9764.JPG

I must move slowly. I have to relax and not send off crazy energy at this tiny flying creature. Can you imagine Godzilla hovering over your every move shoving a huge black square towards you? Yes, keep that image of me.

Respect is what I believe allows me to stand there unharmed. Time and again the bees have ignored my presence and worked as if nothing else mattered. Taking these types of photos does not happen in one or two shots…I’m there for a while.

I don’t swat at them or move them or the flowers. I am just there. It’s a form of meditation. I follow the flight. The focus. The persistence. The knowing if you just keep searching there is more out there to find, gather and store.

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I see flowers…

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I remember me as a little kid in the desert looking for things to do, having been sent outside to play. Alone and bored, I would notice tiny flowers. Mostly tiny yellow ones but there were also tiny purple ones and tiny white ones.img_9217

Carefully picking them with enough stem to put in a vase once I got back home, I would gather these delicate flowers until my hands were full.img_9216

I remember proudly walking in to the house with my dirty little fists full of the bounty of wild desert flowers I had collected all those long, hot hours wandering around outside alone.img_9219

Finding my Mom in the kitchen, I could hardly wait to give them to her, positive she would just rave at what a wonderful child I was.

My mom turned, looked at my offering and flatly said “Stacy those are weeds.” Then turned back to her dishes.

I remember arguing that if she looked close enough they were flowers, forcing her to see. Being a mom, she grabbed a Dixie cup and humored me along by putting them on the window sill then sending me right back outside.

As I got a little older, one of my main chores was to weed along the fence line. My parents, now convinced I’m the family expert on the matter, figured I should have no problem locating them and removing them.

No dead heading allowed. If I had a pile of snapped off weed tops to put in the wheel barrow at the end of the work day I had hell to pay. I better have a pile of weeds that look a lot like sad undeveloped carrots with visible roots if I had any chance of getting to go out that night.

Now as an adult, I live on 2.5 acres in the amazing desert that bumps right up against the Superstition Mountain. Things have started to bloom all over due to recent rains and our never-ending sunshine. I spend hours outside alone still but enjoy it so much more now that I’m taking pictures to share with everyone.

I may not pick those tiny little colorful buds and put them in Dixie cups anymore but I will argue all day long that I don’t see weeds… I still see flowers.img_9270

The Bone Yard

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In the far back right corner of our property sits a grouping of trees and cactus and rocks. And a bone yard.

We bought this house and property from a lovely elderly couple. The bone yard is their work. I am no anthropologist but I’m saying its Dinosaur.

If I was my 8 year old self it would be. Guaranteed. Dinosaur.

Bones scattered as far as my 8 year old child’s eye and mind can imagine! Bones everywhere! Bones hiding under trees so there’s actually some shade and relief from the awful heat! Can it get any better?

My adult self is jealous.

Growing up I was told to go outside to play. Now people I want you to really think about that. If you have read my post “Desert Cred” you know part of my childhood was spent in Baker CA.” Gateway to Death Valley”. I’m living in the hottest, middle of nowhere desert and I’m told to “go outside and play.” That’s when I learned to catch lizards.

Thanks Mom.

Actually the 8 year old me had moved to a much larger desert town by comparison… Hesperia CA (This is 1976 and that was a joke)

Now, I had hoped, if I’m lucky, there is another child possibly my age living somewhere only miles away. But no, sadly my hour morning bus ride to school proved all ten or 12 of us desert children were separated by miles and miles of not much.

So I played outside alone. Don’t feel pity. I’m a desert kid. I’m desert strong. I can play outside in the heat alone. Please.

The shrubs and bushes and trees by my home in Hesperia did not have a hidden bone yard for me to uncover. Had it, I would have never come back inside the house.

I used to steal my mom’s spoons and go dig in the dirt, mostly believing I was digging a tunnel to my best friend’s house so we didn’t have to keep asking for rides to each other’s houses. 1976. No cell phones just one loud main phone ringing to announce that you want your friend to come over with her spoon to dig in the dirt with you. That means asking one of the Moms to drive you over in the station wagon, leave you there and then drive back a few hours later to pick you up. Oh and it’s 110 degrees outside.

So I would dig alone.

Eight year old me would have died and gone to heaven had I found ANYTHING let alone a whole bone! My little heart wouldn’t have been able to take a whole YARD of bones!

So yes, still after more than eight months living here I get twinges of jealousy when I glance over at the bone yard. I know I can’t just plop down there and dig with one of my spoons. It’s not the same. And I really don’t need to by secretly photographed doing that either.

The bone yard will stay as it is. No raking it up or clearing it away. This treasure is waiting for future generations to discover.

Intro to Wildlife Photography: Second Semester

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If this were an actual class and the teacher asked me what have I learned so far I would have to say ” Oh honey grab you a drink and sit down…this is going to take a while…”img_7172-2

I live in Gold Canyon Arizona. It is at the base of the Superstition Mountain. Though there are golf courses and mansions all around there is still  plenty of natural desert for all the native critters to roam. Our house sits on top and over looks 2.5 acres of desert. Home to coyote, javelina, jackrabbits the size of a dog, snakes, birds, and the list goes on and on.

The amount of nature plus stunning beauty out here is almost overwhelming to me. I want to photograph everything I see but it is not that easy when you are talking about wild animals and I work with an iPad. Instead of making the excuse of needing high-powered equipment, I push to see what I can do with what I have. ( read Intro to Wildlife Photography if you are confused)

The local coyotes I have recorded and posted numerous times. I wish someone would pay me to study them and the howls they make. They are beyond ridiculous. They yip and howl and party all night. Then, they do that gangsta style trot on the way home in the morning. I love them. But me taking a good picture of one is not going to happen unless it’s blind luck. Oh I see them in the day time quite often but has never been close enough or me quick enough. Honestly sometimes I’m still just in awe watching them roam that I don’t want to miss the random glimpse to run off and grab a camera. The most coyote I have seen in our back acreage at a time was six making their way over to a seventh that had been howling earlier. This was in the mid-morning and sunny out.Construction is happening over on the golf course and I think the coyotes were having a meeting about it.img_0250

The Javelinas deserved and got their own article posted “…wasting the day away in Javelinaville” They are a handful and I have no plans on getting closer for your entertainment.img_8474

Which leads me to having a huge tarantula on the front door. Another experience that prompted a full post ” Shut the Front Door!” img_1404

I no longer hope to take a simple good picture. Oh no! Nature out here says ” You wanna come play? Let’s do this.”img_6714

The awareness of what is actually living in some of these holes has changed my flopping onto the ground with abandon. img_1429

I have been circled by a bird large enough to do me some damage. Seven vultures one day made me question my dog Tucker’s safety. Again another post.img_3954-2

Zooming in requires me to now forget my surroundings. Ask the bunnies or the quail, pay attention to your surroundings.img_7274-2

I have learned about old wives tales and birds in your house. One in the house is supposed to fore shadow death! img_6503

Not too sure what it means if it happens regularly except close the doors. Of course I wrote about that ” An Old Wives Tale”img_6592I have learned patience.

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Wild animals have their own rhythm. They do what they do.img_6797

If I’m lucky I see it. img_4733

So for this semester I give me a B.

 

 

…wasting the day away in Javelinaville

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7:30 pm. Javelina time. The family of four that roam our area have been seen in our front planter often enough around this time to put higher bets on the possibility of seeing them…

but they are wild so…all bets are off.

The fence is flimsy, temporary and meant to stop a seventeen year old dog from falling down the hill when he wobbly lifts a leg to pee. The area is just off the back porch and runs the length of the house. It was never meant to hold, corral or deter an angry and confused Javelina.

The dogs need to go outside to pee so I open the sliding glass door. This will again answer the ongoing question of why we don’t have a doggie door.

I have let my guard down and not looked outside to see if we were alone before opening the door nor have I turned on the back-porch light. Tucker, small and insane, immediately charges to the left along with Cotton close behind. The Javelina are out there and the dogs know it. Though they have been all over our property at one time or another, this back area is not the usual Javelina route.

Tuckers spiney backed, over the top barking, answered by grunting snorting confusion sends both Tucker and Cotton running straight back into the house. These spoiled little dogs are NO match for a Javelina of any size. Pretty sure one of the good-sized Jack rabbits around here could kick both their ass.

So now we have a startled Javelina who has charged our “fence” and is way too close for comfort. From safely behind our sliding glass door we watch as this confused and adrenaline filled animal realizes he is trapped inside our back fenced area and without a second thought he makes a run directly at the fence and breaks free.

This is our new normal.

Now this video I took just a few days ago but I put it towards the top for you who don’t read all the way down.

 

 

When I moved to Gold Canyon I became obsessed with the wildlife around us. Born and raised desert you would think I would be unfazed. As a child in Baker all I ever saw were lizards and sidewinder tracks. In Hesperia CA or even Mesa AZ, I don’t recall ever seeing any critters. But Gold Canyon is different. I am surrounded by nature. I am in the middle of it. The Superstition Mountain is overwhelmingly beautiful. The desert is alive. It’s that constant nagging, that fear that I’m going to miss something, that leaves me spending more time than not staring out the windows.

Within the first week of moving here the Javelinas made their presence known. Happily munching on cactus in our front planter, a family of three good sized Javelina were mere feet from our window. It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. They uprooted a cactus and seemed completely unconcerned as I tapped on the window asking them to get out of my planter. Momma Javelina rolled her eyes at me I swear.IMG_1300 (1).JPG

Now I spend most days keeping an eye out for them. The wash below our house seems to be a regular spot of theirs. Our house is on a hill. I can safely stare out the kitchen window and watch as the Javelina wander their way across the open desert.

Just a few days ago I was outside watching the now family of four. I squint and stare and feel the excitement as I see Momma Javelina scoot her little nugget along with Jr and, by his size and coloring, Poppa Javelina. He’s impressive.

I’m proud to know they are doing well against all the dangers they face daily. The wash behind us is coyote territory no question. I see at minimum one coyote regularly and have seen as many as six at one time making their way over to meet up with a howling seventh. That wash is not safe to casually walk through. I have never seen the Javelinas over there.

Another recent night around 7:30 pm my “bark first ask questions later” dog Tucker takes off outside losing his mind at the fence. We look out the window to see FIVE Javelina in our front yard only mere feet from our living room window and even closer to Tucker. One Javelina is staring Tucker down. They have TWO babies not one. Poppa Javelina is huge and ready to defend but it’s Jr. that’s in the staring contest.

 

We grab Tucker and go inside so everything will settle down and we can watch what the Javelina will do. Jr. is still staring at nothing. Javelina have poor eyesight. Combined with not being the brightest animal it was going to take a while before Jr. would be convinced Tucker was not behind the fence anymore. Frozen like a statue, he stood there in the dark staring.

We shut off all the inside lights so we could get a better view of outside. Though prickly pear, a Javelina favorite, grows all over our property, this planter has nothing growing in it. We have nothing that we know of attracting them to walk all the way up here. As I said, we live up on a hill between two washes, this would make for a decent trek with little pay off.

Now a momma of any sort is usually not the beast to upset. This Momma Java has two babies to protect in a land swarming with coyotes. You think she’s edgy? Damn right she is. Poppa Java is big and bristly. I can see why the ‘yotes have left them alone. He is more than double their size and this Poppa is on alert. One look at him and I’m sure the coyotes are like “uh… let’s go chase a rabbit…”

Saturday. 7 ish in the morning the dogs go out back to pee. Immediately theres a problem. The dogs charge to the left side of the yard. The Javelina family is wandering on up at a different time…morning. We never see them up here in the morning! I usually don’t see them until the late afternoon or evening. The dogs startle them enough to send them running off.

Now… grabbing for an iPad to take a shot of any of this is ridiculous but I do it anyways. For you. You’re welcome. I get nothing.

It’s been really cold for us lately so we have been building fires in the fireplace at night. My husband and the dogs start to head out side and over to the garage to grab more wood when the dogs realize the Javelina family is out there in the dark with them. Tucker has no sense and Cotton has even less so my heart goes into my chest when I hear the panic in my husband’s voice as he’s telling the dogs to get into the house. Miraculously, two dogs that normally only sort of pay attention when they are called both come running back to the house.

I step outside and can still hear the grunting and snorting but cannot see them.

The most recent encounter I was able to safely catch on video. Thats the one up top.

The other morning the Javelina family were making their way across the bottom of our property to head over to the wash. I figured if I moved slowly and stayed far enough back maybe I could get a picture or two. As I reached the side of the garage the big male changed his course and now was taking a path that could lead directly to me. I quietly eased behind the car thinking if he spots me and charges I’m climbing up on the hood! He notices me but just freezes and stares. I videoed it for a few but realized he literally doesn’t move so what is the point? Hoping to change his path I shuffle a bit and that’s enough to send him trotting down the lower trail and over with the family.img_8471img_8477img_8474

Gee…thanks?

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My dad used to make the best oyster stuffing for Thanksgiving. Not only was the flavor amazing but the texture spot on. Not dry, not mushy, wonderfully sturdy enough to hold its own against a mountain of homemade gravy. Yummy stuff worth fighting family members over.

I don’t know why oyster. My dad was not really the type of man who was going to be your next star on a food channel explaining why. He spent very little time in the kitchen except for Thanksgiving when he took over completely. The kitchen became a no kid zone. I was not permitted to get in my father’s way on such an important cooking day. I truly have no idea how he made his stuffing. I’m almost positive some, if not all of the stuffing went into the bird, then came out, then went in the oven in separate pans with or without raisins. Labor intensive and highly monitored is what I remember. No notes were ever taken.

Years back, sweet, loving, friends of mine tried to recreate my father’s oyster stuffing for me. Waves of terror rolled through me when they informed me of this fact that fateful Thanksgiving afternoon. My fear made substantially worse when told how difficult it was for them to find the oysters.

I grew up in the desert in Hesperia CA. Guaranteed our oysters came from a can from an ordinary grocery store. My father went to no extremes to locate a single ingredient for his stuffing. What on earth had my friends bought and in what quantities? Please don’t tell me you spent hours in the kitchen turning into a grumpy and stressed old man too!

Obviously I had raved too much about loving my dad’s stuffing. So much so that now people who love me have invited me into their home for a special meal and have gone to great lengths to try to make it in my honor.

I brace myself as an oven warm ceramic container of soupy gray is presented to me at the table with pride. All eyes on me.

I cannot print the response my father would have had he seen it.

Mixed into mashed potatoes it tasted just fine. Not much else was going to help the color or texture. I will be eternally thankful I never told my friends we used to make stuffing sandwiches with it the next day!

perspective

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Apparently, it’s possible to piss off a hummingbird. I’m guessing little bird complex.

There are two hummingbirds I see regularly. One has red on its chest or throat. The other is more of a green. Their feathers are iridescent. Really, they are pretty birds, but as you all know I use an iPad mini so I have no shot at getting a good close up. I don’t even try.IMG_7680.JPG

I have been waiting for our bird of paradise bush to bloom in hopes of a good picture. It’s right by the living room window so I keep a pretty close eye on it. This time of year here in the desert random plants are blooming because the weather change has been so drastic.

Yesterday morning the bush seemed to be covered in new orange blooms. The little tube like flowers wilt easily and have a very short shelf life. Something hummingbirds are aware of also. As with everything in life, it’s all about timing.  I needed to get out there quickly.img_7695

I’m frozen and wearing my oversized white fluffy robe so I need to change before I go out. With an expected high only in the 70’s, the morning was cold for a desert kid like me but I’m pretty sure I don’t need to hover over this poor plant looking like the abominal snow man so I go and change.

The red hummingbird has beaten me to the bush. I hear the hum as I step closer.

As expected, due to this weather snap, it’s slim pickin’s already for me to find blooms that haven’t started showing signs of stress. Red however is having absolutely no problem locating happy orange tubes to insert it’s face into.

Not that long ago after the last good rain, our purple flowers bloomed and were immediately covered in desperate bees stocking up. I was able to stick my arms into these bushes holding an iPad without one sting.IMG_4864.JPG It was busy and bustling but as long as everyone stayed out of each other’s way lots of work was getting done. I took some amazing pictures that day.img_4877

Apparently, hummingbirds aren’t as cooperative. I can guarantee you Reds not.

Not concerned in any way for my safety, I lean in to the orange bush to get a closer look only to have a hummingbird whiz past my head then fly up to the tree and land on a branch making noises I took as hummingbird cussing.img_7686

The bush is covered in flowers but, unlike working with the bees, me and Red CANNOT share and I’m being told about it.

My head is now the tower and Red is requesting a fly by. I feel the side of my head vibrate as this miniature jet fighter screams past. Faintly I hear “…gonna take you right in to the danger zone…”

This makes me laugh. I say out loud “you’re serious right now?” and throw up my hands as if I’m saying “bring it little bird.”

No big crazy humming bird fight happens next. Red didn’t tackle me and flop me around with his surprising hummingbird strength. No, just another talking to from the branch above.img_7680

But now I feel guilty. I’m in the way of food and trust me no one wants to be in my way when I’m “starving” so I get it.

For me, minutes of snapping unnecessary pictures is nothing. But to this hardworking, fast moving hummingbird I’m some huge, incredibly slow moving creature who isn’t even eating, just staring at the food, slowing down the buffet line while the food goes bad, until, infuriated, it screams “move bitch get out tha way!”

It’s all perspective.

 

 

 

 

Picture Day

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You wake up anxious. The outfit has been decided. The look, casual, not trying too hard.

Don’t lose the envelope! The envelope that your Mom spent hours studying, trying to decide if package A or package B had enough 8×10’s, 3×5’s and “wallets” she needed to send off to some relative you have never met. The envelope that contains her check in the amount of $15.75 for package B. Don’t lose the envelope!

You only have this one day to look good and one envelope so don’t mess up. It’s Picture Day!IMG_5634.JPG

You arrive at school and can feel the energy and excitement. Combed hair, dresses, clean shirts, none of the usual attire.

There is sure to be tears.

It’s Picture Day.

In today’s day and age with selfies at an all time high, school photos are not the hot commodity they were back when I was in school. There was once a time when you signed the back of your school photo and gave it to your friends. You had to wait to find out how many pictures Mom was going to let you give away and who you were going to give one to!

See, if Mom’s decision for package “B” only left you 3 “wallets” then 3 friends were getting pictures. That’s it. This was serious business. Today with all of the technology we have, photo sharing happens unlimited daily, not just when your school pictures arrive.

But Picture Day still happens regardless. You need a student I.D. card.

Now, if you don’t take this seriously you could be stuck with the worst student I.D. ever for a full year! You get one chance. Retakes are weeks later and you need your I.D. now. Today’s technology will hand you your card immediately after taking your picture. No waiting necessary.IMG_5635

It actually could turn out to be the best picture you have ever taken in your entire life but you are still going to show everyone the “AWFUL” picture of you while loudly declaring it is the worst of all time! (It’s ok if you secretly love it, they don’t have to know!) Make sure you show EVERYONE just how bad this picture is.

Also note the outfit you spent so much time agonizing over hardly shows in the picture.

( Are you ready?…yep… this is my actual job, I’m the one holding the master list of names for an entire school being photographed. We are in a very large and loud Gym or Auditorium. Though fully capable of yelling to their friends across campus this is what I encounter repeatedly)

“What is your last name?”

…mumble…

“Can you say that again?”

Mumble.

“Ok start spelling it..”

J…o…

“Johnston?Johns?”

…mumble…j..oh..hana…hnahana…….

“Johannason?”

Mumble

“Johsiaaah??”

“Joshua?”

“Write it down for me”

Next!

“No, you can’t have a retake”

“No, we don’t do photo shop”

“No I don’t want to hear the weird noise you can make”

“Yes you need to take your hat off”

“Yes, you have to have your picture taken”

Next!

“What’s your last name?”

…mumble…den…

“Hayden?”

…mumble…den…

“Cayden?”

“Aiden?”

“Is that your first name?”

“I need your last name…”

mumble…

“You are in the wrong line.”

Next!

“Last Name?”

…preston…

“Is that your first or last name?”

…oh…kennedy…

“Preston Kennedy?”

…uh…no…

“Kennedy Preston?”

…uh…?

“Never mind just spell your last name”

Next!

“Last Name”

….arila…

“I’m sorry say that again”

…uerilla…

“Gu?”

…yes…

“Just start spelling it”

“Are you Luis?”

…no…

“Miguel?”

“Juan?”

“Javier?”

“Xavier??”

…yes…

“Which one!?!?”

NEXT!

Picture Day.IMG_5636.JPG