The Homeless Couple Who Took up Residence Under Dad’s Shed

22 June, 2014 (00:00) | Uncategorized | By: Gail

Fox on the Farm

Dad at age 17 with a baby fox on the farm.

Greg and I are back in Minnesota visiting my Dad and taking care of the long list of RV projects.  When Dad built his house it was surrounded by rural countryside a few miles north of a typical Minnesota small town.  The Minneapolis metropolitan area slowly grew til the suburbs surrounded his 3 acres, swallowing up meadows and oak savannah alike.  Since Dad’s place was bordered by some property that couldn’t be developed, his yard has remained a little oasis for wildlife — think “A Little Prairie in the Housing Development” instead of “A Little House on the Prairie”.

The vixen and kit out for an evening frolic.

The vixen and kit out for an evening frolic.

This spring a new homeless couple kicked the hapless woodchuck out of his cozy longterm nest under Dad’s garden shed.  We’d seen gray foxes pass through the backyard in previous years but were amazed to find a couple were raising a family not 100 feet from the kitchen windows.  Gray fox have up to seven kits per litter but this pair only had one, probably due to the brutal winter Minnesota experienced.  We spent many evenings watching the kit pestering his parents until they’d climb the nearby oak tree for a few moments of peace.

The vixen leaves to go hunting.

The vixen leaves to go hunting.

The kit apparently outgrew his den last Friday as we haven’t seen them since and the woodchuck is cautiously trying to determine if its safe to move back under his shed.   This video is from last Friday:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVySevNIilU&feature=youtu.be

– at 0:23 seconds watch for the fawn in the long grass trying to move further away from the foxes. At 2:08 another critter makes his escape in the same spot in the long grass. And at 2:24 the male is in the tree for a rest and then jumps back down.

Here is an earlier video including some night shots when the family was most active.  The squeaking noise is from the kit and the white, round object the kit is playing with is a wiffel ball:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrivJEQvomo

Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me! The RV Version

26 March, 2014 (18:42) | Uncategorized | By: Gail

So today we’re going to play the RV version of NPR’s “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, Bluff the Listener” game.  We will give you three stories about our everyday life and you, the reader, will tell us which one is true.  To set the stage, keep in mind that we just picked up our first of three back-to-back visitors, having primped and prepped the Big Lebowski in an attempt to treat our guests to an endless whirlwind of adventure and entertainment.  Strenuous hikes, orienteering, kayaking, off-road excursions, maybe even a mule ride or two were planned for the next 17 days.  Here we go:

Bathsheba in action.

Bathsheba in action.

A.  Our granddaughter, Jacqui, arrived Saturday morning and informed us that she really, really wanted to go to the Renaissance Festival.  Really, we said: in the hot, dusty, grimy desert with hoards of other sweaty tourists?  YES!  So we packed up on Sunday and headed out early to arrive one full hour before it opened in order to avoid sitting in traffic for an hour.  After milling about in the crowd for 6 hours or so in the hot sun, Greg decided a few beers would be necessary to get him through the rest of the dusty day. Luckily, the beer stand was situated right next to the belly dancing stage.  So after a few pints of ale, Greg was easily persuaded up on stage with the other targets tourists, to demonstrate just how easy it is for old white guys clad in sandals and black knee socks to learn how to belly dance.  Unfortunately, when Bathsheba directed “pump to the right”, the geezer next to Greg, pumped to the left, his belt-loaded iPad knock-off collided with Greg’s hip. Greg went down hard and plink!, broke his 5th metatarsal.  Some dudes on stilts loaded Greg up in the back of a camel cart and hauled him out to our car.

Campsite critters.

Campsite critters.

B.  Our granddaughter, Jacqui, arrived Saturday morning and informed us that she was game for any activities except those involving reptiles, snakes, or slime of any sort.  By 2 pm the same afternoon, Greg, lounging in his lawn chair, was prompted to look up when he heard the distinct sound of gravel being shaken in a tin can….or a rattlesnake.  There at the edge of our campsite stood Jacqui, whiter than a spring tourist from Minnesota, staring at a gigantic rattlesnake not 2 feet in front of her. Greg, in an attempt to defend his eldest granddaughter from certain peril, grabbed his walking stick and vaulted the picnic table to reach her side.  Well, almost.  He didn’t quite clear the table and landed nose-to-nose with the snake.  Luckily, the snake blinked first and slithered off toward the hapless tenters next door.  Unluckily for Greg, his foot clipped the iron picnic table, breaking his 5th metatarsal.

Note the rock which was wedged precariously under one side of the platform.

Note the rock which was wedged precariously under one side of the platform.

C.  Our granddaughter, Jacqui, arrived Saturday morning and by Saturday afternoon the Arizona outdoors was proven totally unsafe when a rattlesnake was discovered sunning in our campsite. Despite being successfully wrangled, relocated, and entered into the Witness Protection Program, the snake’s presence prompted Jacqui to declare “Game On!”  for cards – indoors — thank you very much. By Sunday afternoon, Greg informed me that he was through with wild gin rummy games for the rest of his life (guess who was losing) and headed outside for some “peace and quiet”.   Which, strangely enough, goes well with cold beer.  Descending the stairs with righteousness, he hit the edge of the 1” platform that contains our rug, turning both platform and foot on their sides and landing in a heap at the bottom of the steps.  Good God, where’s that First Alert necklace when you need one?  Jacqui heard a bit of commotion followed by moaning but continued to play QuizUp on her phone.  Gail continued to look out the window, asking “now where’d he go now, I told him to start the grill”.   Greg was back on his feet, well, one foot, hopping up and down, swearing incoherently.  But not as bad as when the doctor told him the next day that he had broken his 5th metatarsal on his driving foot.  We are now Googling “geocaching on crutches” and other fun ideas for our next two guests.

Spring Has Arrived

19 March, 2014 (00:00) | Uncategorized | By: Gail

Scuppers enjoying a rainy day in Apache Junction.

Scuppers enjoying a rainy day in Apache Junction.

The changing of the seasons is a bit more subtle here in the desert southwest but we have noticed signs, nonetheless.  The last shred of winter was washed away with the first rainfall all winter.  Unfortunately the 1.5 inches fell on the same day the Phoenix marathon was held.  We’re generally not runners, unless being chased, but we did notice this marathon rather abruptly as it started from Usery Regional Park where we happened to be camped.  The first starter gun went off at 5:55 am.  You know it’s close when it makes you jump even though you are, or were, sound asleep.  We groggily wondered if all marathons start while it’s still dark and attempted to go back asleep.  Five minutes later they set off fireworks, also close.  I guess if you need a fireworks display to start your marathon the start must be before daylight.  We were wide awake by this time and resorted to starting the coffee brewing.  Ten minutes later it started pouring cold rain and we were quite happy to park our non-running bodies inside for the morning.

Other signs of spring abound:

Colt with protective parents in the Salt River Recreation Area north of Phoenix.

Colt with protective parents in the Salt River Recreation Area north of Phoenix.

Greg high atop the Phoenix metro on the Wind Cave Trail at Usery.

Greg high atop the Phoenix metro on the Wind Cave Trail at Usery.

Curved-bill Thrasher nest deep in a prickly Cholla.

Curved-bill Thrasher nest deep in a prickly Cholla.

Turtles enjoying the sunshine at Granite Dells close to Prescott.

Turtles enjoying the sunshine at Granite Dells close to Prescott.

 

The cottonwoods leafing out trail ribbons of neon green through the valleys.

The cottonwoods leafing out trail ribbons of neon green through the valleys.

Spring breaker flying a kite at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

Spring breaker flying a kite at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

Newly emerged Cecropia Moth drying its wings.

Newly emerged Cecropia Moth drying its wings.

 

Greg just happened upon the moth on the steps to the rest rooms at Dead Horse Ranch S.P.  The wingspan on the moth was 5 inches!  Here is a short video:     Cecropia Moth Drying Its Wings

 

Vortex

Greg looking for a little Sedona vortex action on the West Fork trail. Not POLAR vortex action!

 

 

 

 

 

Better Than Garden Catalogs

28 February, 2014 (00:00) | Uncategorized | By: Gail

Canyon Lake on the Apache Trail

Canyon Lake on the Apache Trail

Prior to becoming a nomad I spent much of my time in happy pursuit of gardening.   A life of wandering has left my green thumbs itchy, a feeling everyone in Minnesota knows well in the winter.  Back on the frozen tundra  the best Christmas gift would arrive in the mail —  an armload of new garden catalogs filled with  visions of colored mums to dance in my head. I spent hours paging through those catalogs, picking out plants, planning new garden beds bursting with improbable blooms. Neither the boat nor the RV allow for anything potted so I soothe the craving to cultivate by visiting botanical gardens here and there.

Organ Pipe National Monument.

Organ Pipe National Monument.

This year my yearnings have been quelled by being surrounded by the Sonoran desert, a garden in itself.  Well, nearly quelled.  Greg did catch me with a gallon jug watering some plants in the desert one day at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I had to sheepishly explain that I just wanted the thousands of  buds on these plants to open up before we left.  Don’t tell the park rangers!

Fairy Duster.

Fairy Duster.

Desert blooms also sent me on a 2-week treasure hunt to find the source of an intoxicating fragrance I kept noticing.  It seemed to waft by everywhere but no blooms matched the scent up close. Finally, I discovered that the ubiquitous desert mistletoe was covered in tiny obscure blooms bursting with jasmine-like fragrance.  Lovely!

The back porch of the Usery Nature Center.

The back porch of the Usery Nature Center.

Along the Apache Trail.

Along the Apache Trail.

These red flowers were the favorites of the local hummingbirds.

These red flowers were the favorites of the local hummingbirds.

 

 

The Singular Saguaro

23 February, 2014 (00:00) | Uncategorized | By: Greg

Back in January when cruising friend Lynn commented on a posting about their quest  to find the perfect “cartoon” saguaro, I started to take a closer look at the shapes of these wonderful “trees”.  I guess it was the opposite of not seeing the forest for the trees, I was not seeing the cactus for the cacti. I soon realized that, like snowflakes,  no two saguaros are the same. So then, of course, I started to take note of some of the more bizarre saguaros.

No two are alike.

 

No cartoon cactus here!

 

See if you can touch your nose to your toes.

 

You looking at ME?

 

Hook-em horns!

 

Don’t worry bro, I’ve got your six!

 

Bad hair day…

 

If you’re happy and you know it, raise your arms…all twenty of them.

 

Still my favorite, the escapee from Roswell living at the Tohono Chul Gardens.