Rain in the Desert- Snow in the Mountains

What a magnificent winter storm! Finally, we received rain in the parched desert and snow in the dry and thirsty mountains. There is nothing quite like waking up before the sun rises in order to watch it illuminate the foothills of the San Ysidro Mountains behind my house. I have photographed the same view for several years now and every sunrise is unique. When the sun is just starting to peak above the horizon, it sends radiating, low lying light directly onto the foothills turning them molten, or purple, pink and rose. I never tire of the show that nature puts on and it drives me out of the house at a run in order to capture the scene. I have to jog across the yard and hop along the back wall and after steadying myself, I start shooting photographs. This morning was particularly beautiful and from what I have heard, snow is falling hard in Mount Laguna and the San Bernardino Range. California needs water, so bring it on!

Callie is all snuggled up in the bedroom loft bed that I created for her on the TV hutch. She has to jump up quite high in order to reach her bed and feels safe and warm above it all. She can also look outside at the same view that I have photographed while she listens to coyotes yip and quail click and cluck. Maybe the 4 sister turkeys will pay a visit today too!

Homemade Cat Food

Two weeks ago I decided to make some homemade cat food for Callie and I am already amazed at the improvement in her overall health. She has more energy, is less itchy and invites us to play with her constantly. Her coat is glossy and she acts like she feels much better. She isn’t begging to eat at night and the food seems to satisfy her more. The only downside so far that I can see, is that she is getting pudgy.

When she wants to play, she licks Lara’s forehead and then dashes off to her catnip mouse and a pathetic whip that has seen better days. I highly recommend making your own food for your cat. Now a dog, on the other hand, is probably too labor intensive and I totally get how spoiled it sounds. I am retired now and have the time to indulge myself with whimsical stuff like cooking for my cat. If I were holding down a job, I don’t think it would be a high priority. On the other hand, Callie’s overall improvement in her health has been amazing.

There are all kinds of recipes on the internet and it may be less expensive to prepare your own food. It smells delicious and Callie’s breath has improved. I still feed her Science Diet Oral Care dry food for dental reasons. One other good reason is the recent news of dog food tainted with a drug used for euthanasia. This leaves you wondering at the quality and safety of commercial pet foods.

Lower Coyote Canyon

The weather has been perfect for outdoor activity and Michael and I impulsively decided to off-road cycle to Lower Coyote Canyon. I have a somewhat new Raleigh bike that I had yet to try out in deep sand and wanted to check it out. It performed beautifully and we were able to bike all the way to the first spring where coyotes and Bighorn Sheep drink and Brittle Bush bloom in the middle of February. The Ocotillo were starting to green up too and some even had the beautiful bright orange blossoms at the end of their thorny stalks. Purple, fragrant desert verbena is only blooming along the banks of the water source, nothing like last spring when the super bloom blanketed the entire desert.

Swainson’s Hawks are migrating overhead from Argentina and Mexico on the return trip to Canada and they only eat insects on the wing as they travel home. Birders come from all over the world to count how many hawks pass over Anza- Borrego Desert State Park and there is a bench at the entrance to Coyote Canyon for the counters to sit on and watch with binoculars.

There has been very little rainfall this winter, but the natural spring is still flowing and the sky a deep, powder blue with wispy cereus clouds and contrails streaking high up overhead. Wild bees were buzzing and we were the only bikers out there this morning. Five 4 wheel drive jeeps caravanned past us slowly as they continued up the road to the upper spring, but otherwise, it was only us and nature.

It felt good to bike off-road and I actually prefer it to street biking. I love horseback riding, and this type of biking reminds me of being on a horse. We did pass two riders that board their horses at Vern Whittaker Stables and I was just a tad bit jealous. I love horseback riding and miss doing that with my sister.

A beautiful day unfolded and it was a perfect bike ride. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is at its best in late winter and early spring. Callie has enjoyed several servings of the new, homemade cat food and I hope she will continue to eat it. All is good in the middle of nowhere!

The Proof is in the Pudding

Who would have ever thought that I would make homemade cat food for Callie, but it appears that I have done just that. My sister shared with me a program that she had watched on Netflix about the pet food industry and how disgusting the ingredients are with even the high-end cat and dog food and that it is appalling what sells for fancy pet food these days.

Callie has suffered from asthma and itchy ears and my veterinarian thinks the ear problem could be food allergies. I had the brainstorm to cook up a batch of soft cat food for her today and I was amazed at how easy it was. A nutritious and fresh homemade cat food that would last 2 whole weeks and it only took me about 30 minutes to prepare.

I simmered one chicken breast in water until tender and then added 5 baby carrots and a 1/2 of a zucchini and let them cook until soft. I also combined 1/2 cup steamed rice with 1 Tablespoon avocado oil, a boiled egg and then puréed the whole mess until it was the consistency of baby food. I let it cool down and excitedly served Callie her first homemade cat food, and what did she do? She turned her nose up and walked away.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! She didn’t like the food I had so lovingly prepared for her. How could that possibly be? I didn’t skip a beat though and thought to myself, “what a spoiled rotten cat, I wonder if Michael would like this dish?” I could add a sprig of parsley and present it ever so artistically on fancy China and see what happens. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with any of these ingredients except that they were all mashed up and looked like something the cat had thrown up!

Fortunately for Michael, I didn’t have to do it because Callie came up to me while I was resting on my bed about an hour later and signaled to me that she was hungry. She licks my hand and chews to express her desire to eat. I excitedly jumped off the bed and ran over to the homemade cat food and brought it back to her and once again tried to introduce her to the food. At first, she just stared at it, so I rubbed a little on her chin and she licked it off and was mildly interested. Her attitude changed once she really tasted it though and she wolfed it down and relished every bite! How could I have forgotten that particular step when introducing her to the new food? She just needed to be served her lunch in bed.

I stored the new food in little glass containers the size of a small can of cat food and will freeze the rest. I hope she continues to enjoy it and that there will be some relief with her itchy ears. The proof will be in the pudding if she tries a second helping though. I did share with Michael my hope that if she doesn’t eat it, maybe he would?

Beware of Automobiles

What with the dangers of cycling in the city, Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is an awesome and safe alternative. California’s largest state park, it has miles and miles of paved roads and off-road trails that are scenic and you rarely come into contact with a car. It is only about a 2-hour drive east of San Diego and is a fabulous destination if you want to get away from it all.

This morning, Michael, Lara and I biked to Indian Head Ranch, Coyote Canyon, Seley Ranch and the start of Henderson Canyon. The weather was perfect and we met Ed from Oregon and Tom from Colorado. Michael was delighted to have some male companionship and the three guys talked nonstop as they biked along behind Lara and me. All three men are in their 70’s and in great shape. We did 19 miles today and my daughter, Lara was able to keep up with all of them.

There is something so wonderful about cycling and then coming back to a quiet house in the desert in order to relax and read and write and look at photography. I would go a little crazy living out here in the middle of nowhere if I didn’t at least wear myself out for the day! So three cheers to biking in the desert. You are more apt to see a coyote, roadrunner or quail than you are a car!

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Callie got just a little bit too rambunctious this morning climbing up her beloved olive tree! She raced up the trunk of one offshoot branch that was smooth and didn’t have any bark on it. When she decided to come back down, she couldn’t turn around because there was nothing to hook her claws into. The look in her eyes and the expression on her face was hilarious and I could tell that she was in just a little bit over her head as she reluctantly slid and scraped her way back down the slick and tractionless trunk, butt first!


Walking on the Moon

Today we decided to collectively go on a big adventure and off road to Sandstone Canyon at Split Mountain in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to visit the wind caves. Callie had to be left behind because I wasn’t sure how hot it would get and it just felt wiser to let her rest quietly at home.

It was quite a bumpy ride and Michael may have ended up on the wrong road, (we turned down a less traveled canyon trail) because it got so narrow and the rocks were too difficult to navigate. You actually follow ancient river beds where flash flooding occurs when it rains heavily. We almost made it to the end before we were forced to turn around and head back to the wind caves to watch the sunset.

As you ride along, you pass an unusual geological rock formation called an ”anticline” or ”drag fold” that leaves you in wonder at the powerful forces that would have created such an unusual site. Geologists believe they were caused by massive flash floods that churned and pushed rock and sand in front of the water. This particular flood came to an abrupt halt when it hit solid granite rock. The layers of sand and rock folded up and over itself because it couldn’t go any further. Continuous erosion and flooding lowered the river bed and exposed the canyon walls that we see today.

Right as we got to the sign describing the geology of the scene, a coyote dashed passed us in fright because the canyon walls were too high for it to scamper up and the opening was so narrow, the coyote was forced to run right past us.

The wind caves were amazing and looked like little pueblo dwellings or something on a moonscape! They apparently were formed by the onslaught of robust and sustained winds over many years that carried sand and debris which then chipped away at the softer sandstone walls of parts of the canyon. You could stand up in some of them and it was a perfect place to watch the sunset in the west.

The skies were still stormy and the temperature cold enough for midday exploring in the desert. The sunset dimmed in shades of molten gold and amber and faded into pale tints of purple and pink that unfolded ever so slowly. By the time we were finished watching the sun dip behind the clouds, it suddenly grew dark and we had to scamper back down the trail at a quickened pace. Once we got to the car and headed for home, it was already pitch black out and our headlights cast an eerie glow on the steep canyon walls that were illuminated by the light as we drove along. The highway felt so smooth after our off-road adventure.

Make your Bed

As most cat owners know and understand, and reluctantly accept, is that cats make their own bed decisions. A box is preferred over most fluffy pillow purchases and you won’t be able to make a cat sleep where it doesn’t want to.

In Callie’s case, she has discovered Lara’s stereo. It has become a favorite place in which to rest her chilled bones because it gives off heat! I placed my hand on it and was surprised at how hot it was. With the weather having turned cold, ( in the low 60’s with a low of 45 at night) for all of you bracing the snow and ice conditions of the Midwest, you must think we are crazy, but to Callie, this is cold. When we went to Zion in Utah, a little less than a month ago, she froze and Utah was experiencing a warm spell!

We leave the stereo on now so that she has a place to rest during the night, and she loves it. A winter storm has blown across the desert this week, but there will be another warming trend starting in a couple of days.

So for now, Callie has made her bed, and will sleep on it too!

After the Storm

The winter storm I mentioned earlier today, did end up producing a little rain, and the wind died down and it turned out to be a beautiful day. When it starts to sprinkle, the first thing you notice is the very interesting and unique smell of creosote. I love the smell of this low lying bush with waxy leaves and small berries, and it reminds me of the desert.

We didn’t receive much rain, but it did dampen the desert floor and washed the sky of dust. It feels fresh outside and the temperature dropped into the low 60’s. Callie enjoyed climbing two of the three olive trees in the backyard and made it a personal goal to climb as high as she could. She loves looking all around from the highest vantage point and took pride in her far-reaching accomplishment of making it to the highest and thinnest branches. It is always easy to race up to the top, but it isn’t so easy turning around and crawling back down.

A Winter Storm in the Desert

When a winter storm makes it’s way past the barrier of the San Ysidro Mountains, it does so by way of wind. You can usually hear the storm advancing long before there is much in the way of clouds. If the storm is powerful enough and the clouds heavy with water, rain will be dropped on the dry side of the mountain. If not, the desert will just embrace the wind and the wind will send the sand flying in all directions, making it difficult for birds to fly, road runners to run and coyotes to hunt. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park has had a very dry winter so far, so I am hoping for a little rain.

First thing this morning, I awoke to the roar of wind through the olive trees and watched as the tall Mexican Palm trees danced and twirled while being anchored in one place. Cloud shadows raced along the sides of the mountains and the foothills at the base, which then glowed with molten light as the sun rose in the east. Callie loves to climb the olive trees when there is a storm developing, and gets a kick out of being tossed around while surveying her view of the desert.

This storm has produced dramatic light and shadow, but very little rainfall so far. Another storm was predicted in a couple of days, but I can already see that that storm too has given up its punch and fizzled out. It takes a really strong and powerful storm to push its way past the mountains, that is why it is called a desert. Rainfall has trouble getting over to the other side!

The wind also makes it next to impossible to cycle in. At the very least, you have to work so hard to push forward with any momentum, and I always worry about getting sand in my eyes. As a high schooler, I use to bike to school, and one day during a particularly strong Santa Ana wind, I actually scratched the inside of my eyelid and it took months for me to recover from the pain and discomfort.

Today will be a day of writing and I will be reading indoors, so I am appreciative that I was able to capture the photographs that I did at sunrise. Now I can write and share with my viewers, the beautiful cloud shadows and Callie climbing her beloved olive trees. Every morning she attempts a dash up at least one of the trees before going back to sleep for a nice long nap.