Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

Moving to the desert August 4, 2015

Filed under: green,Pinal County,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 2:46 pm

IMG_1105I awaken to the calls of woodpeckers and Gamble’s quail. It is 5 AM, Tuesday, August 4, 2015. I have lived in the desert for 13 years.
As I go outside finches await in the branches of the witches broom bushes for the seeds I regularly deposit on the ground for them. I moved over to shade under a mesquite tree as the beans crunch under my feet. Ants carry pieces of the ground up mesquite beans on their trails. A lizard does push-ups in the sun on our back porch and moves to the shade. I too must move as the ants are protesting that I am sitting in their pathway and are stinging me. The shade feels good as I know it will be 112 today.
My husband kindly refills a water tray for the birds before going to teach at a school one mile away. We, along with the investors in Bank of America, own a house built in 1970 on a lot of about 1 1/4 acres. My husband cleaned up a trash dump on the property and has planted many desert plants to try to keep the poor soil in place so it will not be washed away during the monsoon. Previous owners had livestock and we are restoring some of the area that has been grazed.
I always ask my husband to watch out for the rattlesnakes of which we have had quite a few, but also a variety of other snakes some of which I hope are scaring away the dangerous snakes. Just about every night during the monsoon we have several toads that come and bathe in the water dish. One is a small and green and the other is large and dark brown. They sit under the light in our carport and eat bugs.
On his way to work and my husband points out parents and kids meaning quail adults and chicks. We have had quite a few this year and I will refresh the water several times throughout the day today because it is so hot. We use pumped groundwater which has quite a bit of salt and is not very good for our plants, but several items have died recently so we are watering plants and trees to keep them alive. The ground water table is dropping so we are in part of a foolish race to keep alive trees whose roots no longer extend to the water table. All of our plantings have been native desert plants or aloe that are low use water plants.
As it gets close to 8 AM I know I must do laundry in our outdoor laundry room before it gets too hot and finish putting out water in the dishes for the birds, rabbits and squirrels. A week ago I saw a lizard drinking from one of the dishes. I did not know they needed water. The lizard immersed itself in the water dish and drank. Our water dish in the front yard where there’s no fence attracts coyotes, javelina, deer and a road runner as well as other birds.
The road runner, a carnivore, sometimes sits in the tree directly over the water dish. I chase it away when I can. I miss my parents in Ohio, but it is 90+ degrees with high humidity there. Our humidity is about 20%, which feels sticky to us. I have lived in Arizona mostly since 1977 and moved to Yuma near the Colorado River in September when it was very hot and muggy. I was one of the few employees at a small newspaper that owned an air-conditioned vehicle. Most of the others could not afford a new enough vehicle to have air conditioning and to pay for the Freon to fill up the air conditioner. Today we own one 72 Beetle with no air conditioning and with our credit union members own a three-year-old Prius that does use gas to power the air conditioning.
Now there are many birds, mostly quail and red breasted finches eating the sunflower seeds I have put out for them. They are dependent on a 7 AM and 5 PM feeding. I will be away over the weekend and put out food that I hope will last them. A slight breeze dances through the Mesquite and I am hesitant to disturb the birds and go into the house to cool off. I hear cars going by during rush hour as we live on a heavily trafficked road. So, we are not quite in the desert. We have traffic and airplane noise and neighbors burn their trash instead of paying for pick up or taking it to the dump. We maintain a septic tank, hoping that it doesn’t harm the soil and groundwater too much. Our air conditioner has coolant and we recently replaced it for a more efficient model. We are unable to afford solar panels to use less of the Salt River Project energy that comes from a nuclear plant, a coal fired plant and some solar panels.
While I miss mass transit and being able to walk to my favorite places when the weather is good, I am learning to live in the desert.


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