Monday, July 30, 2012

Favorite Street Signs of the Desert

Thumb Drive, Desert Hot Springs

Golden Slipper Lane, Landers

Memory Lane, Yucca Valley

Don't STOP Believing--my neighborhood

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grow Shack

At last, we have a "Grow Shack"--thanks to Nicholas Holmes, architect and builder extraordinaire, and his partner in Grow-Shack-dom, Stephanie Smith. It's an 8 x 12 completely enclosed structure that we will use for growing vegetables and herbs.

Desert critters are such a problem that it's almost impossible to garden successfully here without an enclosure of some sort. Our Grow Shack has 1/2 inch hardware cloth covering the walls, ceiling, door, and floor. There's also a windscreen of clear polycarbonate panels around the lower portion of the structure. The wood is finished with an all-natural product, tung oil.

What you see in the middle is a walkway. The raised beds will be around the perimeter. Now comes the fun part--getting an organic soil mix together and choosing seeds.

If you want a Grow Shack of your own, you can contact Nicholas at

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Rain moved through the hi-desert late last week and over the weekend. There were some spectacular storms. We had thunder, lightning and heavy rain at our house. Over in Joshua Tree, there was hail and flooding. East of 29 Palms, Hwy. 62 was damaged and closed for repairs.

In between storms, Bill and I drove to Joshua Tree National Park early one morning. Got rained on a bit, but the clouds passed through. We stopped at Hidden Valley, where we were the only people (a rare event--it's usually overrun by tourists). It was wonderful to wander about and take pictures with no one else in sight.

Then we drove on to Keys View--and again, we were the only folks around. The usual summer smog was absent, and though there was a wee bit of haze, we could see all the way to the Salton Sea.

After enjoying the view, we stopped to read a small sign on the way back to the car--just a piece of paper encased in plastic and stuck to a post. Turns out it's a warning about aggressive bees! Apparently they've been swarming, chasing, and attacking people--the warning was, keep your car windows closed; don't carry food or water with you; and if you're allergic to bees, stay in your car and/or visit someplace else in the park. Given the severity of the warning, we thought the sign should be bigger!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nesting Dove

Hot, hot, hot! It's been over 100 degrees every day so far this week. Yesterday, while we were out early watering, I was giving our big yucca plant a little squirt--when all of a sudden, a dove flew up from the top. Her nest was completely invisible to me until that moment. She returned after a short absence. I went out this morning, and she let me take these pictures without budging.

Bill and I speculate that this dove has a superior I.Q. Most doves who nest around our house will pick any old spot (for example, an inches-wide ledge), throw a few sticks together, and look depressed when their eggs fall and break. We have never seen a nest this well hidden and protected. Plus, it's about 10 feet away from the backyard water dish--very convenient.

Now you see her, now you don't. Doves are the most abundant birds we have. Every day we witness dove battles, dove sex, you name it. They also sometimes seem to be posers. I wrote a poem about that this spring, back when the weather was still downright chilly, which I'll share here.

Ordinary Doves

The world is full
of ordinary doves
who arrive like
something they’re not—

Puffed up in the cold
to twice their size
and landing in a swirl
of feathers.

They sit perfectly still,
immovable—for once,
no fussing or fighting,
no cooing calls.

That one, on a rocky outcrop,
tries to imitate a hawk—
the hunch, the chiseled profile,
the turn of the head.

As the sun lifts higher,
he preens and fidgets,
the heat seeping into
his witless brain.

A vague hunger stirs.
There was something
he meant to do—
but what?

An ordinary day
with its petty battles
is already unfolding.

It’s time to descend
from the heights
and engage.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Miracle Springs

Here's one version of a perfect desert morning: have breakfast, hop in the car, and head on down to Miracle Springs, a spa hotel located in Desert Hot Springs. Day use of hot mineral water pools is $14 per person. This is a bit more than the Spa Hotel next door, but what you get is a facility that's better kept, cleaner, and more serene. (It's a trade-off--we do like some of the pools at the Spa Hotel better--overall, they seem hotter.)

Here's a couple of views of the main swimming pool. That's Mt. San Jacinto towering in the distance above. We like to arrive around 9 am and stay for a couple of hours. On a weekday, it's not too crowded and the air temperature is not too hot yet, either.

Above: one of the smaller jacuzzi pools. We found some powerful jets--aaahh!! Soaking, lounging, and reading make for a very relaxing morning.