So around 2 PM I wandered into the kitchen. It’s cloudy and not hot outside today, although humid, and while it hasn’t rained yet there’s been enough thunder to discourage me from cinching Emma up in her harness and taking her for a walk. For light I opened the blinds.
And was astonished to see the backyard full of birds. There were dozens of them, perched picturesquely on stumps and the bushy dead treelimb I left for that very purpose by the galvanized tub of water set out as a birdbath, or wandering around pecking assiduously at something. They ranged from mourning doves through chickadees, a few pretty red-headed house finches, and a horde of what birders call LBJs, for “little brown jobs.” Who are what they sound like, little dust-colored guys, weavers and finches and sparrows, oh my. There was also a big bird – by which I mean robin-sized – that hopped around aggressively. From its size and its long, sharply curved beak, and the fact that my NatGeo bird guide says they live here, I’m surmising it was a curve-billed thrasher:
I don’t really know what they were after. I dared hope they were scavenging goatheads, the nasty little natural mini-caltrops that so torment poor Emma. And me, when she tracks them inside. This seems unlikely; they’re so hard and savagely spiked that it’d take a mighty beak indeed to crush them into a form that would slide safely down an avian throat.
It hasn’t yet begun to rain regularly here, but the last few days we’ve had a couple brief, exceedingly intense rains. That’s bringing up a profusion of new weeds sprouting. In fact I went out and spent some time uprooting some of the more egregious goathead plants. Which I learn are also called puncture vines, appropriately enough. And when the weeds get a bit larger and make themselves better target it’ll probably be time to sharpen up the scuffle hoe and hold an old-style Weed Massacree.
I’m still hoping to get a lawn in. Which also entails hoping the rainy season isn’t passing me by. But I’m really going to have to go into overdrive on writing, so we’ll see what I can do by way of landscaping.
At any rate, my honeysuckles are flourishing like mad things, and the spearmint I put in a month or so ago, having spread out some horizontally, is getting some good height on it. looks as if some’s getting ready for ice tea.
Sadly I find few decent xeriscaping resources online. There’re lots of files available but not many places I can find where questions can be asked and answered. The Albuquerque Master Gardeners’ site seems to be seldom updated and little use. Plants of the Southwest, which as I say I like, misses what seems to me an obvious and valuable bet by not having a forum or ask the experts feature.
So what the hey, I’ll toss some questions up and see if someone, please, will kindly answer. Ann Sasahara, who flies by sometimes (usually to see what adventures Emma’s had recently) is a certified Southwestern Gardening Goddess, so maybe she can offer sage advice.
Specifically: first, how to get rid of goatheads. Not the plants (which actually uproot pretty readily) but the thorns. These so far successfully resist our best brute-force efforts, which consist largely in Emma and I picking them up on our feet. Fortunately I do more of that; my feet are much bigger; Emma’s smart enough to stick to paths that are pretty free of the fiendish things; and when I venture out I wear shoes or sandals, the soles of which usually come back encrusted with the damned things, which I then flick off into a wastebasket with a knife. But despite the fact I seem to be eradicating the plants before they produce more, the residues of past years seem nigh inexhaustible.
Also: a good friend recently assured me that a horticulturalist told her bluegrass, though it takes a lot more water to get established than native grasses (such as the buffalograss/blue grama mix I intend planting), takes no more water to maintain. This strikes me as odd. Judith Phillips, author of the magisterial New Mexico Gardener’s Guide, says that bluegrass is “poorly adapted to the heat” – less an issue this year than usual, since it’s the coolest summer by far I can remember here – and that “bluegrass lawns use more water than any other landscape feature in New Mexico.” (pp. 362-3 of the older version; I couldn’t find my newer, more profusely illustrated and colorful edition.) Which is odd since I thought Phillips did the landscaping for my friend’s old house.
Anyway, what’s the scoop here? I’m actually still intending to put in native grass mixes front and back, but curiosity is biting at my fanny. As it’s so wont to do.