Growing up we used a wheelbarrow. My upper body has never been as strong as my legs. I’m known to flop over a wheelbarrow full of hours of hard work with ease.
With all of those “fun” childhood wheelbarrow memories, I begged my husband for a wagon. Four wheels, sturdy, long handle, a wagon.
(Side note: though we are FAR from wealthy I am spoiled. My husband takes amazing care of me so when I say I “begged”…ok “begged” isn’t the right wording…after a long session of hard yard work, covered in scrapes and thorns, I Bambi eyed my husband and told him I work hard. I deserve a wagon. I don’t remember a foot stomp but it’s possible.)
I wanted a wagon, a good and sturdy one.
For some girls its expensive shoes and purses, and I like those too but my yard tools aren’t going in my Coach bag.
So we go and buy the wagon and bring it home and put it together. It’s green metal with off roadish type tires. I’m seriously the child at Christmas. It’s ready to go to work with me and I love it.
Huge smile on my face, I load it up with potting soil and a watering can and tools and plants. My shed on wheels.
Proudly I drag it over to the driveway ready to head down to re-pot the front entrance planters with a couple of lantana. I’ve got way too much weight in my new wagon and my driveway is gravel and steep but apparently I also have no sense when excited about a new toy despite the fact I am not 5 years old.
*Now if I was watching me on TV getting ready to do this I would be saying “she’s stupid, there’s too much in that wagon and that driveway is long and steep, then roll my eyes claiming home video shows are predictable and set up. But there I was, just thankfully no one filming it.*
It’s getting ready to be bad fast. The clunky steel toe boots I work in have no traction on the gravel and now I’m sliding. The too heavy wagon is coming fast and sideways and pushing me down the hill with it. I’m too stubborn to bail on my new wagon and it’s way too dangerous to leap off into my “yard” so I skid me and the wagon over to the side and brace myself. I’m roughly a quarter of the way down and alone out there hanging on.
Now I’m only sliding in short, halting, inches… boots turned sideways trying to slow me… a moment flashes in my mind where I realize just how stupid I look to say, a person scaling Mt. Everest…
I don’t take my wagon straight down the driveway anymore. Oh whatever… me and a wheelbarrow woulda been way worse.
By now I’m sure you have realized I don’t have many wildlife photos. Come to think of it I’m not sure if I have posted any animal pictures except one of a 17 year old sleeping Shiba Inu.
Not exactly wildlife.
But if you have played along and read any of my posts you will already know I have never claimed to be a professional anything. All I claim to be is desert.
Oh I have tons of blurry nonsense. A grey blur I will happily tell you is a bunny. My blurry Javelina shots I took from way too far away. Yes, I have them. And because the reality is my odds so far have not been good with getting any quality shots when it comes to our furry friends, I’m going to show them to you. If you squint it sorta helps.
I don’t have a high powered camera. I use my iPad. Yes EVERY picture I have taken and everything I have posted has come from my iPad. When I started this blog a lot of the excitement and motivation came from the up close experience I get with the cactus and nature when I am outside in the yard. I want to be able to share all of this natural beauty with anyone who is interested. For those who can not ever get to the desert I want to share in a more personal up close way.
The cactus are great at holding still while my amazing piece of technology that is an iPad does the focusing for me. I have some awesome pictures. I do and I am proud. It’s still my views and angles for sure but for a person like me who has little back ground with technology the iPad has made my life easy.
I stay with easy when it comes to most things computer related. I don’t want a bigger camera. I think there are plenty of amazing photographers out there who can take pictures of animals so crisp and clear it doesn’t even seem possible. They are rock stars. Anyone who has taken a picture of a living creature will tell you huge amounts of patience is required. Wild life in extreme heat that are the same color as their surroundings and can move as fast as lightning? You go with your big lens.
I think in my defense it’s pretty hard trying to capture images of Wile E Coyote ( Super Genius) and the roadrunner on my iPad while I am outside working in the yard.
This is me:
Wait…stop!… I see something moving!…let me take off my gloves and set down my lopers…grab my iPad and pray it hasn’t gotten too hot from being outside with me… turn it on… wait…where did the bunny go…?
Ok, so take my blurry shots with a good story and use some imagination!
Also in my defense, none of these creatures want to sit and pose for me. If I move when I’m INSIDE the house bunnies will scatter! Forget me trying to open the door to get closer when they are being cute. Quail? Forget it. They are on to me and just run faster hurrying their adorable fluffy babies along to get away from crazy me. I am just dumb enough to semi chase half inch fluffy baby quail to try to get a picture on an iPad. Go ahead and picture it.
The other night I am outside on the patio with a close friend who was in from out of town. It was her first visit here to our little house on the hill in Gold Canyon but she is not new to the desert. Armed with a camera and lens the length of my arm, she came already knowing the views here are pretty awesome and ready with high power.
So we sat staring off at the beauty that is the Superstition Mountain, laughing, catching up and just relaxing. It’s about 7:30 so it’s prime animal watching time. Even though it’s still over 100 degrees outside there we sit happily in the shade.
Then it happens! She spots a coyote! Just trotting along the way they do. It’s in the high traffic zone, the wash that is the acreage next to our driveway. We see the Javelinas over there quite often. Jack rabbit bounce through there all day long. Because we are up on a hill it gives us a great vantage point. The wash is not flat and I’m not sure just how deep some of the gullys go. I’m not about to go wandering through there to find out either and that is going to be about the only way I’m going to get a clear photo with my iPad.
Enjoy the blurry.
So there we are already excited for one coyote when a second coyote can be seen just a few yards back trotting as well! Coyote trot. I don’t know how else to say it. I’m sure they run and lay down that’s not what I mean. Any time I have ever seen a coyote they are not running or walking its always this trot. It’s a trot with attitude. Coyote have no shortage of swagger that’s for sure.
With this distance and trotting I have no chance of getting any usable photos. But honestly don’t really care because I had been blessed to get a recording of them howling just a few nights earlier. I will take that chilling sound over a blurry photo.
The mesquite trees are dropping pods everywhere. The bunnies and rabbits eat these. Last night I look over and under one of the trees two rabbits are eating. They are cute. One looks like a young jack rabbit with the longer legs and black on the ears. But I am inside the house so I already know I’m not going any closer to get a better shot or angle. Not with those ears! They KNOW I’m watching but the pods are too tasty to leave. I grab my iPad anyways. You never know. Then I see there are now three rabbits. Oh fun! Wait! Is that four rabbits? They are multiplying before my eyes but I can’t get a decent photo of it to save my life! NO seriously? FIVE of them now!? So cute hopping around. Can I get at least ONE decent photo of this cuteness?
The vultures are not quite sure what to make of me yet. I’m outside a lot. I’m on the ground a lot. And if I am taking pictures of a plastic yellow cowboy I am almost definitely lying face down on the rocks and dirt. A vulture took a couple of fly bys the other day. Good lower circling to see if I was road kill or what. A Turkey Vultures sense of smell is keen so I did feel better knowing that it had to come closer to investigate me because I was lying there, not my odor that had drawn its attention. I rolled over in hopes of photographing this big hovering bird but then it realized I was alive. I swear I saw a look of disappointment! It just turned its wing and glided off.
I got nothing. Blur.
Javelinas are unique. This is not a wild hog or boar though it looks like one, I guess. It is a collard peccary. I am told it is related to a hippo. I’m giving you a great description right now huh? I can’t. This one you will have to look up. Javelina. I will dedicate a whole post to them later.
There is a small family who wander through our property, climb into planters and eat their way through cactus. The first night they came for an up close visit was terrifying.
It’s the middle of the night, we have been in our new house just a few weeks if that. We put up temporary fencing out the back so our oldest dog Jethro could go pee at night without the risk of rolling down a hill into cactus. Nothing major just the roll out kind of fencing. This isn’t for security and we hadn’t made the commitment as to where and how and if fencing 2.5 acres of desert was needed. We can’t just leave the door open at night for him because around here who knows what will find it’s way inside.
This night my dog Cotton is acting strange. I’m getting the nose poke repeatedly and now it’s with a whimper. This is not normal. I’m half asleep and think he just needs to pee really bad so I open the sliding door turning on no lights. Cotton bolts out like he has been shot from a cannon and I hear growling barking snorting grunting mayhem erupt! My brain is now wide awake and aware that I have at least one startled Javelina on the other side of the flimsiest fencing possible with a white ball of unstable but well meaning fluff coming straight for it! I wear contacts so I see basically as blurry as most of my photos but can make out the shape of a Javelina running away and down our front hill.
Not too many days later my husband is in the living room and yells to me to come. Uh, the Javelina family is in our front planter! It’s still light out! There are three of them. Obviously mom, dad and child. I grab my phone and snap pictures. I’m not blogging at this point and have no idea how much trouble I would later have trying to get these blurry but close pictures on to my site. It’s just cool and scary and exciting. These are not animals you walk up to safely and snap photos of. This house and property sit in line with a natural wash. It is their home. My planter will never get to have flowers. The Javelina uprooted a whole cactus, flowers wouldn’t make it a day.
So for my Intro to Wildlife Photography I give myself a C -. I think that’s fair. I don’t deserve an F. I haven’t failed. I continue daily to try. The effort and want is there. I believe the skill is too. I don’t deserve an A because of my trying or my effort though either. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe we all get a trophy at the end just because we showed up. Like I said earlier there are photographers out there who have pictures of individual strands of hair on a wolf four hundred feet away. They get the A.
I gave myself a C – knowing that I will get better. It’s a start. And you know what? It’s a really fun start.
Today’s high is 108. Our low temperature was 88 degrees last night. I feel drained. Monsoon season is just starting. We desperately need rain. We need a break.
I love the smell of the desert when it just starts to rain. The dry dirt, the cactus, the trees, the animals, everyone getting wet for what has been a long hot time. It’s a wet nature smell. The cool the rain brings, the soothing, I crave it. It’s a smell I encourage you to experience yourself because there is no way I can really explain it.
The weather forecast isn’t giving us great rain news. Maybe 20 percent chance? I wonder if they really even know. Storms can just pop up out here. Fingers crossed.
The dogs and I get up early every day. They have their routine. They don’t care that we had company all weekend and I’m tired and want another hour of sleep. To them 5 am IS another hour of sleep so I get up unless I want another cold wet nose poke to the face.
I’m blindly making coffee and look up and watch as Jethro wobbly on his old morning legs slides off the front ledge of our yard down into cactus and what not! ( J-dog turns 17 in July!)
I fly outside in t-shirt and underwear, no shoes and scramble down to where a very old and confused Shiba Inu has landed. He’s fine. He’s so old and crazy at this point I’m not sure he even knew what just happened. The other two dogs are no help. Cotton and Tucker come running to investigate sending more rocks and dirt rolling down at me and Jethro who is now so confused I just pick him up so he doesn’t tumble down any further. He hates to be picked up at this point in his life. Barefoot I’m trying to hold a squirming 27lb old bag of bones and not tumble half naked down another thirty feet into cactus and rock.
Its barely 5:30 am if that! I crawl me and Jethro back up to the top with the other two silly dogs hopping around us, both of whom can easily run up and down this hill sideways.
I stand up, brush off the dirt and turn to see this sky.
If you like the pictures thank Jethro.
He took a nap. That was a lot of excitement for an old dog.
Saguaro. Pronounce it Suh war oh.
Saguaro are beautiful, strong, and unique. No two look alike yet when they are drawn or painted they get the generic treatment, cartoon round top and two arms. Like most “desert” souvenir the imagery is cliché and dated. A mighty Saguaro becoming just a cactus on a mug or a key chain…its wrong
As a society we have taken plants like roses and mass produced and modified them to the point that the ones at the grocery stores don’t even smell. What is the point of a rose if it doesn’t smell?
Yet this same society kicks and fights and screams about seeing one another as individuals, unique, not lumped into a category. Praised for being special. I guess the saying “You do you” doesn’t apply if you are a plant.
Quite a few Saguaro live on the property we just bought. Some are definitely over a hundred years old with the others not that far behind. How do I know how old they are? Saguaro get their branches or arms anywhere from 50 to 70 years old. They get flowers on the top around 35 years.
We are talking about a plant, a cactus, that typically lives 150 to 170 years!
Not sheltered in a green house. Not lightly misted by an ocean breeze. No this plant has seen year upon year of scorching heat in a desert that kills. It has lived without water for periods so long that the ground dried and cracked. Yet time and again men drop dead after only a few hours in the same harsh desert. Season upon season of monsoon winds sand blasting and drying, sun baking and burning. The Saguaro still stands.
It has had its skin picked and torn to create shelter for the desert birds. Hawks use them as a perch to launch an attack.
Saguaro live only in the Sonoran Desert and not even all of it because Saguaros don’t grow above 4000 feet typically and they don’t like freezing.
Oh and we grow slow. An inch to an inch and a half in the first EIGHT years. Inch to an inch and a half! This from a plant who will eventually tower over the landscape growing up to 50 feet!
The fruit that grows on the top each contain about 2000 tiny black seeds. Now fun fact! If a coyote or a cactus wren eat the fruit is gets dispersed throughout the desert when they poop but if a quail or dove eats it then it just gets digested. I’m sure the birds still poop but it doesn’t help grow more Saguaros.
Saguaro are not endangered but they are protected. I cannot just go out into my yard and dig one up. It’s called the Native Plant Protection Act.
Quite possibly one of the coolest thing I have ever seen is a Crested Saguaro. Go to http://www.nps.gov/sagu/learn/nature/why_crested.htm. I am on a mission to get my own photo of one.
Protect enough space where special things can continue to grow naturally. Truly start to value the real unmodified beauty that’s all around us. Don’t be willing to live in a world that would dismiss such a cool plant by turning them all into two armed cartoons.