I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dogs of the desert

I have two "real" dogs of the desert. I stumbled across this breed by accident. My elderly Brittany was in poor health, he mourned his mother who we put down a few months earlier. He needed company. The dog shelter had a lot of pit bulls which was out of the question. So I answered a quiz on AOL and it came up: Canaan dog. What in the heck is a Canaan dog? I put the question to Google, as I often do. I found about 10,000 websites and proceeded write to breeders all over the world. For about 9 months I lurked on a Yahoo discussion group called Canaani-L. I was fascinated. Finally I decided to get one. They are the only dogs mentioned in the bible, kelev of canaan. As fate would have it, a friend who takes church groups to the holyland was going to Israel. I asked her to go see this puppy who was available. I sure didn't want to spend a lot of money on some weird dog. Long story short, we got our first CD. We named her B'sorah Tovah, which means good news in Hebrew. A couple of years later we got a male who is named Simcha, or happiness. They are the perfect desert dogs. Tova's sire was a free born or wild dog that the breeder got from a Bedouin tribe. The Bedouins use these dogs for herding their goats and sheep. The dogs are said to be so ferocious that they will chase mountain lions away from their herds. I didn't mention that the dogs from the desert are cream colored and the ones from the mountains are black and white.

I was amazed when Tova first got here, she flew from Tel Aviv to Zurich, Switzerland, then on to Los Angeles, where we picked her up. She was 3 months old and in a crate for 22 hours and never even peed. Two days after she arrived, we were watching television and a character in the show said a blessing on his grandson in Hebrew. This puppy ran up to the front of the set and froze, she didn't move until he stopped speaking. Some months later, I was watching a training tape from our obedience trainer and she watched it with me. NO LIE, she was intent on the section about breaking your dog of stealing food from the counter. A few minutes later, she jumped off the couch where she was sitting next to me. She went into the kitchen and took a piece of fish off the counter and ate it. She has never done it before or since. She will growl at the TV when dogs are shown, I think she is protecting us from those evil TV dogs. National Geographic had a special last year called Search for the First Dog. They visited areas of the planet where indigenous dogs still existed in the wild. First they visited Tova's breeder in Israel, then to Australia to see the Dingos, Carolina to see the Carolina Yaller Dogs, India to see Santal dogs, these are breeds called pariah dogs. Common characteristics are a short double coat, prick ears and a curled tail. Thought to be descended from wolves, they all look amazingly similar. Tova watched the tape that motherkitty made for me from her satellite dish. She only paid attention when the Canaan dogs were on. The other dogs didn't get a second glance. Maybe it was because Tova recognized Myrna, her breeder. Maybe it was a fluke. Since then, I've shown the tape several more times to guests, same thing, Tova only watches the Canaan dogs.

We like the way she protects us. I hired a guy to plant a tree for me and when he came running toward me to help carry a bag of mulch, Tova got between us and there was no way he was getting near me. She was very concerned when my husband had surgery last fall. One sniff of his bandage and she was right there keeping people and dogs a safe distance when we went to the dog park. She may sound ferocious but you should see her with kids, especially my grandkids. She thinks they're part of her pack, I guess. And that's the way we like it.

Simi is just a lover, he loves everyone. Two dogs couldn't be more different. He is happy to see anyone and everyone. His name fits him perfectly. He is totally dominated by Tova, except for his bone. The female is the alpha dog in this pack. These are not dogs for everyone, they don't sit in your lap. We like them because they are our early alarm system. And they do have their moments.

Monday, February 27, 2006

More about Spring in the Desert

I'm sitting at my desk and looked up this morning to see my apricot tree beginning to bloom. That means more work, picking fresh fruit, cooking jam and sauce, fighting the birds and cleaning up the dropped fruit. It's an amazing tree, very prolific. Right beside it is my lemon tree with literally lemons hanging and blossoms for this years fruit already opening. It's a dwarf Meyer Improved lemon. We didn't get any fruit the first 3 years but since then, we get hundreds of lemons every year. It isn't possible to use them all so my husband and I pass them out to everyone we know. No one leaves without a bag of lemons. So the saying goes, when life (or your friend) gives you lemons, make lemonade.

What's in bloom in my yard

Gopher weed
This is supposed to repel gophers but I don't have any so I can't verify this. The sulfurous yellow flowers really brighten up the yard.

Desert marigolds

The Latin name for this plant is Baileya multiradiata, meaning many rays. It survives in our alkaline soil and is such a wonderful plant, this is growing my my front yard with many other native species.

Desert mallow

Desert mallow
This is almost a weed, it grows along the road in disturbed soil but what a winner. I have this volunteer in my front yard. I think it's related to hollyhocks. I also have a red one and a pink one. I love this plant.

Desert sage

This is a little native beauty growing in my yard. It's very hard to establish in the home landscape. The plant is about 18" tall and is glorious in full bloom.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Spring in the desert

Freesias and Angelita Daisies

I love spring in the desert, it's so much earlier than spring in Indiana where I come from. If we have a wet fall and winter, it is glorious. You have to admire all these sturdy plants that survive the coldest and the hottest of the 5 western deserts, the Mojave Desert. I remember the first year we lived here and there were the El NiƱo rains, Death Valley was amazing. I left at 5 in the morning to go photograph flowers and didn't leave there until dark. It's a couple of hours drive from Las Vegas, so I was pretty late getting home. My husband was really worried that something happened. Well it wasn't the first time I got yelled at for making him worry, nor the last. I pretty much do as I please, it can cause some friction.
Anyway, the show was splendid. Purple! Yellow! White! I was so impressed I built a 23 foot long flower bed in those colors. There are low growing flowers called belly flowers. The prize though is finding the desert five spot. You cannot imagine the thousands of people who visit Death Valley to see the desert bloom.
Closer to home is Red Rock National Recreation area, a few miles west of Las Vegas. There are amazing plants that grow there and grow no where else in the world. A redbud that has to be a hundred years old puts on the most spectacular display. There are terrestial orchids growing along a stream. Discovering canyons with petroglyphs and pictographs left by ancient native Piutes, with amazing wildlife and spectacular views has led me to love this "barren" desert. If you come to Las Vegas, I hope you'll venture off the strip and find the real Las Vegas.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Going on Vacation

It doesn't always seem worth all the trouble, getting ready to go on a trip. It takes twice as long to get ready before and to put all your stuff away after you come home, as the time you were away on "Vacation." We don't go on vacation very often, there's the dogs, the cat, the garden, the pool, the planning, the packing, stopping the mail, stopping the paper, paying all the bills ahead of time. Holy moly, it's exhausting. Of course, I had to arrange for new passports and shop for new clothes. And if I forget one little thing, it's my fault. My husband just has to go. And that's the way it is.
This year we are taking a real vacation, we won't be visiting our kids, or other assorted relatives. In our married life, I can count on one hand the times we've taken a trip just to do something fun for ourselves. We're going to Costa Rica. But I admit, even with all the arrangments to be made, I am getting excited. I'll see a real volcano, a rainforest, a butterfly garden, and many other exotic treats. I'm ready, I bought a 1 GB memory card for my camera. Boy, in the old days, I'd be hauling loads of film in lead bags, extra lenses, a flash, a tripod and of course, extra camera bodies. Now I can tuck that digital camera in my purse and off we go. Our trip is still two weeks off, but I'm ready. I'll post lots of exotic pictures when I get home, if I can figure out how to download the darn things!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Are you ready?

This is heady stuff, writing anonymously, knowing the world can view your opinions. The very thought makes me feel vulnerable. Who will read and comment on my words? Will they think them trivial? I am someone who has been outspoken and never cared much what others think, so here goes nothing. You're welcome to give me moral support.