We were in Tucson for a few days over the Memorial Day weekend and finally got to see our torch cactus bloom! It's been three years since we were there at the right time to see the beautiful red flowers on our torch cactus. We'd always arrive a day late or we'd leave a day or two too early. They are lovely red flowers and the cactus is putting out another appendage at the base.
We had a not so fun plumbing project that involved 6 trips to the Animas Mercantile for parts, but we finally got her done. The frost proof water hydrants at the back and side of our house had not been installed correctly, years ago, so when they drained, the water just sat in the dirt and rusted away the pipes connected to the main water line. We fixed the first one that had broken all the way through and we could here water running underground and then decided we'd better check the other one that was leaning quite a bit too. We dug out that one and it appeared to be stable, but leaning, so we gave it a little twist and put a support post next to it, filled in the hole with rocks as directed and it worked fine for about two days. :) Evidently the little twist to straighten it out, put too much pressure on a pvc joint and it broke too. So we dug it up again and redid the entire pipe mess that was in that hole! Shortened and cleaned up, this should last the rest of our lives. We hope!
In digging this hole, we unearthed three spadefoot toads in estivation, a state of animal dormancy, similar to hibernation, characterized by inactivity and a lowered metabolic rate, that is entered in response to high temperatures and arid conditions.. They burrow into the ground and stay there until the monsoon rains soften up the soil and leave rain pools were the toads mate, lay eggs and eat before returning to the underground. Amazing creatures, their development from egg to toad can be as quick as 8 -10 days and one meal will hold them for months in estivation.
We've had a couple of snake encounters so far. The tiny blind snake was inside the back door and it is so small it was hard to get a grip on it to move it back outside. It was about 6 inches long and about as big in diameter as an earthworm. Not as big as a night crawler! Just last week a beautiful diamondback rattler was outside our kitchen window coiled along a rodent trail waiting for a mouse or chipmunk to come by. Since it was so close to the house, we called the local snake wrangler Barney, and he took it away. We usually don't worry about snakes if they are out away from the house, but this one was a little too close to our doorways for me to be comfortable.
We had very little winter rain this year, so it's very dry and we've had quite a few lightning and human caused fires around the state so far, but the wildfire crews have been able to keep them contained. One fire on the east side of the Chiricahuas below Portal Peak a week ago got within a mile of some homes, but thanks to a windless night the fire crews and airplanes were able to wrap it up in a little over 24 hours.
We're helping with hummingbird banding again at the George Walker House and we enjoy the opportunity to make a contribution to human understanding of these amazing little birds migration habits. It's so amazing to hold these tiny birds and feel their little heartbeats before giving them a drink of sugar water and sending them on their way.
There's still lots going on in the Portal area, even now that it's the hottest time of year. Those of us who live here year 'round keep busy no matter what time of year it is. Still travel to Tucson once or twice a month to play with the Banjo Blasters and see Melody and family, but we love Portal and are so happy to be able to live here.