Category Archives: Uncategorized

Duck Soup

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Arizona. It begged for a stop at the local park.


If you are interested in waterfowl, winter is a good time to visit a park here. The human-made lakes are a veritable duck soup.


Take the male ring-necked ducks, named for the hard-to-see cinnamon band at the base of the neck. They also have white markings on the bill.


These little guys were diving and swimming under the water more than the other kinds.


The light brown duck in the foreground with the green on its head is a male American wigeon.


There were a lot of colorful males. Here’s a male mallard. Can you see his curly feathers on top of his tail? Male mallards have those.


According to the Cornell Ornithology website, the curly-tail feathers mean this male is of mallard ancestry, even though his coloring is much different.


Ducks weren’t the only birds in the water. There were also American coots,


as well as some Canada geese.


Look closely at the bill (hopefully this will show on your screen if you click on the photograph to enlarge it). You can see the grooves called lamellae along the sides of the bill. The goose uses the lamellae like teeth, to cut the grass and leaves it eats.

It was fun to learn more about the birds. Thanks to our friends for making this a special day!

Sunshine brings out the… bunnies?

Our weather can be questionable at times, but this afternoon it was gorgeous. I went out to take a few photographs.


This golden-haired prickly pear cactus was back lit.


Look how the spines glow.

The species name for this small padded cactus is Opuntia microdasys. Can you guess the common name?


It’s bunny ears!

Queen of the Night

When a friend calls and says her Queen of the Night is blooming, you just have to drop everything and go.

They only bloom for one night and quickly close up in the morning.

Here comes the morning light.

By the way, if this blog was 4D, you would be nearly overpowered by the sweet perfume of this flower.

Thank you, Deb S., for sharing.

Mexican Hats

This week we have a new plant in bloom.

Our Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera, have began to open.

A friend of ours gave us a few of these perennial plants last year from a garden bed she was renewing. We had never tried them before.

Right now there’s a little lag between our main spring bloomers and the flowers that thrive in the summer heat. The Mexican hats are filling that gap nicely.

Remembering a Special Christmas Cactus

What do a spur-of-the-moment purchase and an article in an old magazine have in common? Turns out they are the keys to a cherished memory.

The article was in the December/January 2004 issue of Birds & Blooms magazine, found in the cabin were we staying in over Christmas break. It was about a Christmas cactus that had been in a Delaware woman’s family since her great-aunt had purchased it in 1888. At the time it was some 115+ years old, and if it is still alive, it would be roughly 124 years old! But, more about that in a minute.

The spur-of-the-moment purchase was made last fall (2011). My son saw a bedraggled twig of a Christmas cactus in a grocery store, and immediately wanted to rescue it. I had my doubts, but said, “Fine.” We brought it home.

This is what waited us when we returned from our Christmas break trip:

The lackluster plant turned into a blooming beauty.

I immediately thought of my paternal grandmother. In her later years she took great enjoyment from an assortment of houseplants, and one of her pride and joys was a huge Christmas cactus that stood on a plant stand in her living room. Every Christmas it would transform into a a fountain of red-fushia flowers.

I so wish I had a photograph of the plant I remember. I also wonder what happened to it after she passed away. It turns out that Christmas cacti often live for a century of more, so it could potentially be still alive if someone adopted it. In fact, I found a photograph on Flickr of another Christmas cactus with a history from 1893. It is now at the Washington State Capitol Conservatory.

I’m telling this story to my son in the hopes that he continues to cherish this Christmas cactus. I’d like to think that some future great-grandson or great-granddaughter will remember us by gazing a plant gaily decorated with bright red blooms.