Nature Friday ~ December 3, 2021

Nature FridayWelcome to this week’s edition of  Nature Friday where we join our pals, Rosy, Sunny and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard.

This week’s nature moment is a bit of a travelogue from last week’s Thanksgiving festivities from my trip with my Dad and brother to see family in the Lone Star state. It was so special seeing everyone after losing mom earlier in the year. One moment however did dampen the holiday when we ‘encountered‘ a deer at dusk in rural Texas. Other than the deer, the only other casualty was Dad’s car but we were thankfully, unscathed (other than frazzled nerves). Getting there was quite the adventure with miles and miles of wide open spaces that were particularly stunning for this here city-slicker.

With miles of driving, taking hours and hours to reach our destination just outside Austin, our route took us through the northern part of New Mexico’s quiet plains. Vistas with plateaus in the distance and flat-to-rolling plains along the highway showed a “Dances With Wolves” landscape. Wide open and unblemished save for the occasional fence post. It made me wonder what was being corralled for no antelope, deer or cattle were spotted as we drove through.

NM

Apart from wide open spaces, miles and miles of cotton fields were encountered once we reached the Panhandle. It was beyond anything I’d ever seen before. Fields of white fluff as far as the eye could see.

Cotton fields
Image courtesy of Flicker, Northwest Texas

Getting to Texas is a long, challenging drive. My first shift behind the wheel was 5 hours long and yet there was still so much farther to go. After my brother hit the deer and made a turn in the wrong direction, we ended up spending the night in Abilene. We arrived at my sister’s the next day.

Pecan

Reaching my sister’s took us through pecan country. These beautiful trees can be seen from roadsides as well as directly in my sister’s neighborhood. The pecan tree, like the fruit of other members of the hickory genus, is not truly a nut, it’s technically a drupe meaning fruit with a single stone/pit,  surrounded by a husk produced from the exocarp tissue of the flower (the internal structure of the fruit, i.e. its ovaries). The  nut develops from that structure and contains the seed. My sister said they are a ‘messy tree,’ having spent days and days raking up leaves and hulls before we arrived. I was captivated by the large, wide canopy on these trees.

Pecan

In addition to pecans, live oaks (which don’t lose their leaves) were abundant. This one was full of  acorns and filled my head with visions of clever craft projects.

Oak tree

The landscape was not all drab, with this colorful beauty gracing the pool area. “Duranta repens” (a part of the verbena family native from Mexico to South America and the Caribbean) is a flowering ornamental shrub. It’s apparently considered an invasive weed in some areas of Australia but is very striking.

Flowers

Despite warm temps (warm by Colorado standards), Thanksgiving Day was deemed ‘chilly’ in that it only reached the upper 50’s for our traditional family game of football following the tasty meal. There was a brisk wind which, coupled with humidity, made it seem cooler than the numbers might suggest. It struck me how relative perspective played out with each of our interpretations of ‘chilly.’

My canine buddy during the visit was sweet little Miley who decided I was a good auntie and kept me from missing Norman and Elsa too much. A pocket full of tasty treats and belly rubs go a long way.

Miley

Our return trip was uneventful and we powered through 13 1/2 hours of driving in one felled swoop. A long drive buoyed by great memories of a family who enjoys celebrating holidays with one another no matter what the cost. Hopefully we can make another trip down there without time restrictions and really enjoy some of the amazing slices of nature along the way.

Now that we’re in December and many of us are preparing for the next holiday, we hope you’ll be able to sandwich in some time during these hectic days enjoying a quiet moment of pleasure experiencing nature at its best. Have a great weekend!

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 19, 2021

Nature FridayWelcome to the Nature Friday blog hop where we join our pals, Rosy, Sunny and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Don’t forget to click on the link to  see what others have shared.

Well it finally happened, the leaves have been wrested away from trees that have been hanging on  (yeah, I’m talking about you, Mr. Passive Aggressive Catalpa). Bags, bags and more bags have been raked up and carted off to the city’s composting station at Sloans Lake…so now what? It’s November and although temps are still pretty mild, with no leaves on trees to check out, let’s just say the month of November can be pretty dull and boring. Could that be why there’ve been some pretty colorful sunsets?

After Wednesday’s post showing off the Oregon coastline at sunset, you probably think I’m a bit obsessed with sunsets. And you’d probably be right (though truth be told I enjoy a beautiful sunrise every bit as much). The sunsets have been pretty amazing lately (despite the fact that my urban sunsets unfortunately include power lines with no rugged coastline). This one started early on and it only got better.

Sunset

This week I’ve been charmed with Nick Offerman’s latest book, “Where the Deer and the Antelope Play (wherein he waxes on philosophically about Mother Nature) and on one evening, I looked up to see why the living room was so brightly lit up by orange light. Getting up from my comfy reading spot and disturbing a couple of furry snugglers, I went outside to see a brilliant sunset highlighting stately evergreen trees across the street.

Sunset

It was as if a wildfire was burning close by (which sadly there is-the Kruger Rock wildfire near Estes Park, where a fire fighting tanker plane crashed, killing the pilot). It’s so hard to comprehend that we’re still in the midst of wildfire season. In November!

The evening skies have been exceptionally vivid lately. I guess if you’re November, you’ll do just about anything to make yourself look good now that autumn leaves are history.

With this being the last weekend before the Thanksgiving Day holiday, do you have any special plans? Whatever you decide to do, we hope your sunsets are spectacular and that you’re able to enjoy some time outdoors appreciating Mother Nature’s evening light show.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 12, 2021

Nature Friday

Welcome to the  Friday edition for this week’s  Nature Friday blog hop as we join our pals, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Click on the link to  see what others are sharing.

It would appear that Mother Nature is fighting with herself. One faction (pending winter) has dropped temperatures and  foisted a few nights of light frosts while amping up windy conditions during the day. It’s been very blustery most of this week forcing residents to rake leaves repeatedly. One of the few remaining Halloween decorations even seemed to be complaining of its aching back.

Leaves

On the other hand, the summer faction of Nature has been hanging on for dear life. And it seems to be doing a pretty doggone good job at it.

We’ve been monitoring landscapes around our neighborhood and have been pretty amazed at the number of flowers still in bloom. For instance…when was the last time you saw tender morning glories blooming in the middle of November?

Flowers

Yesterday Norman discovered a fairly robust California poppy growing out of a retaining wall.

Flowers

Just a few houses away from the California poppy, a very vigorous lavender plant bloomed amongst fallen leaves. In November! I can safely state I have. never. seen. lavender. blooming in November. The scent was every bit as intoxicating as it would be in June.

Flowers

As we meandered around our daily route, we encountered a rose in the midst of dry conditions with a fallen leaf hung up in the fence. It seemed like the perfect juxtaposition for Nature’s ongoing battle while it figure out which way it’s going.

Flowers

Potted plants continue to provide color like it’s July and even my potted cherry tomato is still setting fruit and making  dailey contributions for nightly tasty salads.

Flowers

What in the world is going on with Mother Nature?! We sure have no idea but will lounge about enjoy watching sunflowers bloom and the solar fountain do its thing this weekend while it lasts. Our weekend forecast calls for sunny conditions with temps in the upper 60’sF. Perfect weather for leaf raking.

Norman & Elsa Fountain

Is Nature slugging it out in your ‘Hood and will you do anything special to enjoy it this weekend?

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 5, 2021

Nature FridayWelcome to the first Friday of November for this week’s edition of Nature Friday as we join our pals, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. For those keeping track, there are only 57 days left in 2021! Try and wrap your head around that while we take a look at this past week.

Having survived a cold Halloween with a chilly temps and a few days of light frosts, the Mile High has returned back to mild temps and clear skies. It seems like Mother Nature tapped many trees on the shoulder as a reminder to shed their leaves and some seem happy to oblige.

Trees

Others have taken a hybrid approach, with some leaves still on and some off. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I came close, ever so close, to jumping into that small pile of leaves to the left of this tree imitating Linus who always jumped into the middle of Charlie Brown’s freshly raked pile. I did come to my homeowner senses but wondered how many kids walking home from school couldn’t quite manage to do the same without enjoying some joyful mischief.

Trees

And then there’s my Catalpa which naively takes the Scarlett O’Hara approach to dealing with the upcoming winter season: “Tomorrow is another day.”

TreeUmm…sweetheart, I hate to break it to you but while it’s mild now, it’s no longer summer and you need to pick up the pace to catch up with the rest of the trees.

One of the more interesting aspects of autumn is how leaves impact the dogs. Daily “walks” take on a whole different vibe. It’s as if Nature opened a library and invited the Ranch hands to come in and browse through the collection. And browse they do. What normally takes nearly an hour to complete our route is now taking more than an hour and a half as they read each. and. every. page.

Norman cannot seem to get enough sniffing done in leaves. This Ranch Hunk takes any job on with gusto but his work ethic seems particularly focused when checking out leaves. And not all sniffs result in ‘watering.’

Norman

He roots around, over and under leaves as if he were a Bloodhound tracking a lost child. What is it about autumn leaves that turns dogs into Sherlock Holmes looking for clues?

Elsa takes a different approach to leaves. Oh sure her nose goes into overdrive when she’s on those narrow strips of grass between street and sidewalk much like Norman does but will try to find a clear pathway without leaves on sidewalks. Apparently she has no desire to crunch leaves and goes out of her way to not step on them when they cover sidewalks. Sam was the same way and would weave like an Army convoy around leaves on sidewalks. Norman being the Humvee sized dog that he is, merely plows through waiting for the next deep patch that he can plunge his probiscuis into olfactory nirvana. I think there were audible sighs of pleasure.

How does your good dog approach walking (or in our case  sniffing bouts) in fallen leaves?

Halloween

Do you have big plans this weekend, like sending the Halloween back into their storage shed? Whatever you do, we hope you get outside and enjoy Mother Nature first hand and have a great weekend.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ October 29, 2021

Nature FridayWelcome to the last Friday of October for this week’s edition of Nature Friday where we observed some urban Nature. As always, we’re joining our PNW pals, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard.

While parts of the both Coasts were pounded by rain, the Mile High received a pittance of wet stuff and what did fall was more leaves than moisture. It was very windy for a couple of days so a lot of leaves are no longer on trees. I was determined to find any remaining color on yesterday afternoon’s walk and  was quite surprised at what I encountered. Care to tag along on a walk through the ‘Hood to see what we found?

First off, many trees still look like those in my yard. Green with brown edges. Even my two Locust trees are only slightly yellow, fairly unusual for this time of year. The Catalpa looks as if it’s still channeling summer. Its leaves mockingly stare with a look of disapproval when I pulled out the leaf rake. I think I heard it chortle, “Fat chance, lady-you ain’t getting rid us any time soon.”

Trees

Ok, big boy, but your day will come…one way or another. Think wet snow, dude. Many oaks I’ve come across look similar but not nearly as arrogant as the Catalpa. I think they’re just trying to figure out what the heck is going on this autumn.

Trees

As I wandered about, I was determined to find some colorful trees. And I wasn’t disappointed. Looks like it pays to take different routes on occasion to see different landscapes. Ahem…you hear that Elsa…Miss Can’t Possibly Deviate from the Route” walking partner. I feel rather foolish for kvetching about a lack of color on our daily walks. I stand corrected, Mother Nature, with my apologies.

While this maple had a lot of green on it, there were a fair number of red mixed in on the lower branches.

Leaves

This maroon beauty was especially pretty even in the shadows of a corner lot.

Trees

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a long autumn walk on a clear day. We’ve been blessed with lots of those trademark Colorado bluebird skies lately and they stand out in between colorful leaves.

Trees

Colorado’s rising COVID numbers may be depressing, but receiving a healthy dose of Vitamin D daily helps keep the spirits up.

Trees

Turning onto a new street, this red beauty practically screamed at me.

Trees

At least it should be easy distinguishing fallen leaves on the ground from brown grass and leaves as shown on this nearby sidewalk.

Leaves

A detour over to Sloan’s Lake shows how clear the skies were yesterday. The downtown skyline gleamed.Sloans Lake

While on my walks, I’ve been noticing Halloween decorations. The neighborhood has really gone all out. My favorite house that I pass every day has a colossus skeleton, a dozen life size skellies, and a dog skelton (they are the people who had the gigantic Aragog spider that I featured earlier). Yesterday they had added 3 vultures overlooking their fence. Earlier in the week, the colossus was engaged in a game of tug-o-war (see on our Instagram feed) with the skellies. These folks must have a great sense of humor. I always laugh at their latest arrangement with the decorations.

Halloween

People seem to be embracing costumes too. This local pup was dressed in prison stripes behind bars of his yard which made me giggle. “Louie” was not amused by my response and barked ferociously as I passed.

Dogs

It’ll be interesting to see if any Trick-o-Treaters will venture out this weekend. The weather is set to change here with rain/snow showers starting Sunday evening. Typical Colorado weather for Halloween. I’ll be prepared just in case some fool trick-o-treaters decide freezing is worth a piece of candy.

What are your plans for the “Howl-oween” weekend? Staying in or going out? Whatever you do, we hope there’s some outside time taking in all that Nature offers us when we only take a moment to look. Stay safe but have fun.

Live, love, bark!  🐾

One Word Wednesday ~ October 27, 2021

Autumn

Autumn

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ October 15, 2021

Nature FridayWelcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday where we take a look around our urban neighborhood to see what Nature has served up. As always, we’re joining Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard.

Leaves changing colors continues to be hit or miss. One tree will show color while the tree right next to it steadfastly holds on to the green. It’s one of the oddest autumns I’ve ever seen. Earlier in the week, mild warm days graced the Mile High which allowed for extended walks around the ‘Hood.

Trees

So let’s check out this week’s most interesting plant discovered on one of our afternoon walks. I’ve seen these eye-catching plants around before but never knew what they were called until I did some further investigating. Castor bean plants (Ricinus ommunis) are often planted for their striking foliage. Originally native to Ethiopia, the plants are now cultivated throughout the world. Caster bean seeds have been found as far back at 4,000 years ago in ancient Egyptian tombs. The oil obtained from the plant was used to light lamp wicks and is still cultivated as a natural laxative or massage oil. With it’s extremely high fatty acid content, it can be useful for treating dry skin. Caution should be exercised however when planting these striking plants around small children and pets, as the seed pods are extremely poisonous. After looking it up, I was grateful I didn’t touch those seed pods. {shudder}

Castor Beans

Castor bean

Yesterday Mother Nature decided to do a runner and skip town with temperatures plummeting and snow falling in some metro areas (though not in my neighborhood). The nearby mountain ski area, Arapahoe Basin received 14″ of white stuff and will officially open one lift this weekend, bringing a collective hear-hear from Front Range hardcore skiers.

Here in the city, a light freeze from a few showers left a hint of frozen water in the solar bird bath last night but warmer temps will return by Sunday (forecast calls for 75ºF/23ºC). Colorado’s yo-yo weather remains intact.

First Freeze

While I don’t mind temperature changes since Nature has been more than generous with warm temps thus far, it will take some time getting used to juggling two leashes with poop bags while wearing gloves. The dogs seem to not only enjoy the crispness in the air but also the inability of my easily adapting to manage yet one more thing in hand on morning constitutions. Elsa in particular finds these are her best squirrel hunting moments and seems to relish turning me into a kite at the drop of a hat. Stay turned, no doubt there’ll be a good story about me landing on my back side while the dogs enjoy seeing me trying to ‘master’ the art of prestidigitation.

Any plans to get out into Nature this weekend? Whatever you do, we hope you have a ‘pawsome’ outing.

Live, love, bark!🐾

Nature Friday ~ October 8, 2021

Nature FridayWelcome to Friday where we take a look around an urban neighborhood to see what Nature has offered. We’re joining Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard who host this weekly blog hop. If you click on their link you’ll see what others have shared.

Before we share this week’s nature sights, I want to thank everyone for your gentle and kind comments yesterday on Sam’s Sweet Sixteenth birthday. I greatly appreciate your warm, tender support. It means the world to me knowing that Sam touched your life.

So let’s get started looking at this week’s scenes. Autumn is definitely in the air even if it isn’t showing up with colorful leaves although a few more are starting to change. Finally. When you live in Colorado you’re spoiled with beautiful bluebird hued skies and shockingly gold leaves on aspen trees and brown just doesn’t cut it. It’s true we generally don’t have a lot of the bright oranges and reds you’d see on East Coast trees, but the contrast is still breathtaking.

That said, we did see some unusual autumn sights around the ‘Hood. As we begin to prepare the garden for winter, we’re seeing fewer butterflies but a  lot more evidence of spiders. This spider web caught my eye after a brief morning watering. The glistening drops on the web in the early morning light really captivated my interest. I watched for several minutes to see if some cheesed off spider was scurrying around trying to dry off and felt a bit badly that some industrious arachnid had received a cold shower early in the morning. While I’m a bit afraid of spiders, I welcome them in the garden (inside the house…not so much).

Nature

One of my neighbors has a Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata) in his front yard which always captivates my eye. It looks unusually parched this year no doubt given to the drought-like conditions we’ve all endured. Still, when a breeze is evident, the lantern-like pods shimmy and shake like a Vegas chorus line.

So what’s the story about this unusual looking tree? It’s one of few trees that have yellow blooms which cascade all over the canopy in midsummer. Once seed pods begin to form in late summer, they usually turn orange and resemble little lanterns. These more brown-than-orange colored pods still provide visual interest. A moderately sized tree, Golden Raintree is quite hardy, standing up well to heat, harsh climate conditions and city pollution which proves that it won the trifecta. They are hardy in Growing Zones 5-9, and tolerate temps to -10ºF below zero (-23ºC).

After showering the garden with one of the season’s last waterings, I ran into this Aragog look-alike a couple of mornings ago. Although the photo appears fairly light, it was actually taken shortly after sunrise and needed to be highly edited. A motion detector in one of the forelegs lights the eyes up and startled the living daylights out of me as I came round the fence. Even the dogs paused and proceeded to cautiously investigate. Me…I stayed as far away as possible from that thing! Guess I need to be far more considerate when watering around spider webs. Hopefully there’s a strong padlock on the storage shed that will likely house this giant in the ‘off-season.’ I’d hate to have him chase me down for inadvertently evicting one of his cousins.

Whatever you do this weekend, get out and enjoy Nature. But watch out for Arachnids.🕷

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ September 24, 2021

Nature FridayWelcome and happy Friday to you. We’re joining our Pacific Northwest friends, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard on their weekly blog hop. Be sure to click on the link to see what others have shared.

According to the calendar, it’s ‘official’ ~ Autumn arrived a couple of days ago and the Ranch Hands and I welcome the new season-our favorite. Although it’s fairly dark when we typically take our morning constitution (and on the crisp side-it was 39ºF/3ºC earlier in the week), we’re relishing the more civilized temperatures. It will mean however that we’ll need to carry a hand torch with lack of early morning light with each passing day.

Dark Side
Image Courtesy of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce CEO tweet

The Ranch foreman was out of town for a couple of days visiting her Dad so today’s pickins’ are a bit on the slim side. Still it’s good to see that summer is finally beginning to move into the rear view mirror. Good riddance, I say.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

In my urban neighborhood, folks tend to get pretty wound up about decorating for certain holidays. And even though it’s more than 5 weeks away, a number of homes have already been bitten by the Halloween bug. Insert eyeroll here.

Halloween

You may remember this porch from a recent post. Perhaps the newly installed ‘coven’ is there to protect the premises from future visits from any masked criminals.

From the back patio at my Dad’s, I marveled at the bluebird clear skies. It was a simply gorgeous day where we spent time relaxing and just soaking it all internally.

Blue Sky

Notice the absence of any changing colors? I’m beginning to think it’s been so hot this summer, the majority of leaves will just go straight from green to brown without any seasonal color change in between, especially if there’s an early frost. In Denver, the average date of the first freeze is October 7.

The light during autumn tends to be golden anyway, but the pièce de résistance of time spent with Dad was yesterday’s sunrise. Just. glorious. color. welcoming the day.

Sunrise

So how were your outings this week? See anything particularly exceptional? We hope you have a great weekend enjoying this special time of year. Norman and I will be attending the Old English Sheepdog Rescue Picnic and fundraiser on Sunday (we’re hoping for loads of photo opportunities). Just picture for a moment, more than 40 “Norman’s” running around. I know, the mere thought makes me giggle just thinking about all those wiggly OES bums. Whatever you do, we hope you enjoy the beauty Mother Nature offers.

Live, love, bark!  🐾

Nature Friday ~ September 10, 2021

Nature FridayWelcome to the best day of the week-Friday where we join our ‘fur-iends’, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard on their weekly blog hop. Be sure to click on the link to see what others have shared.

While the calendar says autumn is less than two weeks away, Mother Nature apparently hasn’t seen the memo and continues to bake the Mile High City with summer temps (it’s supposed to be near 100 today), dry conditions and smoky skies. Ozone levels have been abysmally high and exploring various elements of nature have been limited. Still there was a surprise guest in the neighborhood. While there are miniscule signs that maybe, just maybe the autumn colors might begin their annual change, autumn been slow to get started with a couple of exceptions.

Leaves

Maple leaves are always a favorite this time of year. When walking the dogs yesterday morning, I found this lovely specimen though never did see the tree from which it came.

Here we have a smidgeon of color. Notice the leaf stress from the hot, dry conditions? Far too many trees are struggling and I can’t help but wonder if there will be more trees lost if we don’t get relief soon.

Trees

This week has been filled with lots of goings on my schedule every day and with the high ozone alerts, my time outside has been limited to very early morning walks with the dogs.

As we prepare for our second pet therapy evaluation later this morning, I realize we’re probably about as ready as we’re ever gonna be. The bathroom however is still recovering after Norman’s required bath (bathing this hunka furry real estate  is quite the exercise in dog wrangling and achy backs but boy does he smell great!). I’m certain he’ll do just fine. As always, my biggest worry for this pet therapy team continues to be me as the weak link and can only hope I remember all the details critical for a successful pet therapy team. Fingers and paws crossed we can report back success next week with a few smiles for nurses and patients today and tomorrow.

We did manage to see one particularly unusual sighting this week. As I’ve mentioned before, encountering bunnies are not at that unusual but the frequency they’ve been spotted every day this week is. We typically pass through the backside of Sprouts grocery on our route noting the hotbed of activity in the early morning hours as vendors’ trucks line up with the day’s fresh produce. Seeing bunnies daily this week had me wondering if there isn’t a special time set aside for senior bunnies to ‘shop’ for discarded veggies. I saw 3 yesterday morning alone in different spots.

Bunny
‘Washing up’ after breakfast

It seems odd that this week we encountered more wildlife than I saw in last week’s adventures in the mountains around Glenwood Springs. With all the development and traffic in Northwest Denver these days, foxes who used to be seen, have moved away to less inhabited areas. A fellow dog walker gave me a heads up that a fox was spotted ahead. Appreciative of the head’s up I gripped the leashes with white knuckle determination to keep the nearly 150 lbs. of prey driven paws by my side. I figured the chance of seeing it were likely Slim to next to nothing with Slim having left town before we’d get there but lo and behold, a red flash galloped across the street. A shy but leggy fellow dashed across the street. I stopped to admire the beauty of this fox and realized how much I’ve missed them when they frequently frolicked under my bedroom window ages ago. Forgive the poor quality of the image I had to really stretch the capabilities on the zoom of the cell phone but I think you can see how handsome this guy was.

Fox

The dogs were more than ‘intrigued’ so I tried to slowly walk away and then realized he was sizing us up. We stopped to admire this good looking boy while he no doubt hoped we’d keep moving along. That face!

Fox

How fortunate was that? Well I can only say I haven’t seen foxes in my ‘Hood for close to 15 years.

So much for this week’s nature in the ‘Hood. Have a great Friday and an even better weekend. For my fellow Westerners, stay cool. For those on the East Coast, try to stay dry.

Live, love, bark! 🐾