Ride ’em Cowgirl

I have been forced to hide Callie’s butt ugly worm toy because she became so addicted to it that she wouldn’t even go outside to climb her beloved olive trees. That was quite a startling revelation for me and I pondered over the thin line between seeking pleasure and it becoming an addiction. I have Bipolar Disorder, so I have to always be aware of being too attached to something, anything, everything. Balance and moderation with a good dose of routine, exercise and healthy eating habits is the key for me.

When Callie sat over her worm toy and only wanted me to play THAT game with her, I had to put it away and find other fun things for her to enjoy! Ride ’em cowgirl is her new fun and favorite thing, but it doesn’t consume her every waking hour like the worm did. She jumps up on my old leather reclining chair and sweetly looks up at me and invites me to get behind it and literally rock it back and forth aggressively so that she can ride her bucking bronco. She holds on for dear life as I tumble her back and forth. What a funny one she is. I have to make sure that there is balance in her life though. Climbing trees, going on walks, riding in her bike basket and being the queen of the RV dash is the variety that keeps her stimulated and engaged, but healthy and happy too!

We leave for Lake Cuyamaca on Monday and the fun will begin again for her and for us. We all go a little crazy out here in the middle of nowhere after a while, even if it is beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Off-road biking and hiking the beautiful trails of this gorgeous country park will be restorative and exciting. Callie hates being bored and hanging out in this house for too long drives her crazy. I can relate!

Now What!

It is an absolutely gorgeous morning in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the powder blue sky. The temperature is a lovely 65 and the high today will be 85 degrees. The winds won’t return until tomorrow, so a bike ride is in order.

Callie climbed her second favorite olive tree at dawn with Lara and I singing her praises and offering encouragement. The reason this is her second favorite tree is that the bark is stripped and the trunk is narrower. It is a difficult tree to climb up high in. That didn’t discourage Callie this beautiful morning though and she took to the challenge like a duck to water. The only problem with climbing so high was getting back down.

Bone Dry

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park received scant rainfall this year, but two years before that we experienced the super-bloom. It just amazes me to no end how the flora and fauna of desert life survive in such extremes. I hear the pack of coyotes most evenings and once again at dawn as they howl and yip their joy at being reunited once again after a long night, the big horn sheep that come down to the golf course to drink and graze on the grass have moved back up to higher ground, my cheeky roadrunner will stop and look Callie right in the eye if she happens to be outside while he is making his rounds, the Anna’s hummingbird dips and dives and attacks any other bird that comes into the yard, the mockingbird that Callie almost killed when we first moved here is still singing up quite a storm, and I could go on and on.

I biked today around the De Anza Golf Course and took photographs of every bloom I came across. The ocotillo have thrust out their bright orange/red blossoms even if there are only a few pathetic leaves on the stalks, the scrubby creosote have white, puffy blooms that look like cotton balls before they turn a pretty yellow, there is scarce purple desert verbena in small patches, cactus of all kind including a saguaro which is not native to this desert has gorgeous white blossoms on its tall, slender sides that bats, moths, and hummingbirds find irresistible, beaver tail, cholla and yucca throw everything they have left into desperate, ornate flowers, but the plant that gets first prize for putting on the most dramatic and dazzling display this season, is the hardy and thorny, acacia tree.

As I stepped up to each tree cautiously in order to take a photograph, the deafening buzz of thousands of wild, desert, honeybees filled the air as they covered the tree and left me in awe at just how much nature depends on these industrious pollinators. The hardy, wild bees that live in the desert year round are much smaller and darker than their European cousins, and I marvel at how they can survive in the long, hot, summer months? They are also much more aggressive and protective, so you do have to be careful when getting too close to them. So everywhere I looked today, I could see the bright, golden yellow blooms that completely covered the acacia trees dominating the arid landscape. It is a welcoming sight for an otherwise bone-dry desert, with little else that was native, even remotely green as far as the eye could see.

Oh, and did I mention the intoxicating scent of the acacia along with the well watered and pampered, grapefruit and orange blossoms of the farmers groves that are grown here locally? These farmers can tap into the ground water in Borrego Springs for free and use up all the water that they need! That is another story to be told, but the Ruby Red’s, Navels and Valencia’s, plus the seedless Cuties that everyone loves to eat are offered here at local stands and shipped out everywhere.

Callie has been very happy and healthy ever since she was diagnosed with asthma and is also on a special diet for her itchy ears. She loves dashing up the olive tree in the morning and then sleeping the day away, high up on her loft bed. The heat hasn’t arrived in all its vengeance yet, so it is still a hospitable place in which to live. In another month or so we will have to make our great escape with Pipsqueak, our 24 ft Class C RV, in search of cooler ground.

The Greatest Show on Earth

There are a lot of beautiful places on earth, but for now, I am in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and my very own “Mount Illuminous” lit up with molten gold this morning. Every sunrise is unique, but after a rainstorm, the desert visibly responds to the moisture and the air is permeated with the intoxicating scent of negative ions, sage, creosote, and flowers. It is so fresh and alive outside, that you can’t help but skip and dance and throw your arms up into the sky with joy and appreciation. The desert depends so heavily on what scant rainfall that does drop from the clouds, every living creature, plant, and animal, rejoices after a storm that provides rain.

The coyotes were yipping and howling last night once the wind finally subsided and it makes sense to me that the party starts when they reunite with the fast-growing pups. I used to think they began their chorus after a successful hunt and kill, but I now believe that it is just the adult coyotes returning to the younger members of the pack. I suppose it could be both, but it doesn’t really make much sense to howl after a cottontail or jackrabbit is caught because they would be busy devouring it. Coyotes actually hunt more insects and date palm dates that require little effort, than expending so much energy running down a bunny. You rarely see fur in their scat.

So this morning dawned as the greatest show on earth for me today. It is beautiful outside and the desert will reach 80 degrees today. We leave tomorrow for our RV trip up north so I probably won’t be entering as many blog posts for a couple of weeks. Time to be in the moment and enjoy the great outdoors. Writing has helped me so much while living in the middle of nowhere, and I am so grateful to my readers for following my blog posts. It helps me feel a little less isolated and to also appreciate the unique environment that I am currently living in.

Callie, of course, ran up her beloved olive tree and surveyed her domain with regal curiosity. She seems to be getting over her love affair with the absent Romeo. The suitcases have come out, and she knows what that means. She loves being Queen of the dash and RVing.

A Sequel to the Sacred Olive Trees

Today dawned golden and bright with a brisk temperature of only in the 50’s. This is the best time of year to be living in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. Exotic migratory birds like the oriole, tanager, and flickers, return for the winter. Packs of coyotes have raised their young and if all goes well, the pups will survive and contribute to the chorus of howls and yips by adding their own little squeaky voices to the early morning mix. The bighorn sheep once again move to higher ground with their springtime lambs and every one of us that made it through the harsh summer can take a deep sigh of relief. The desert is where I call myself home now, and I am eternally grateful that the heat is once again behind us.

The summers are brutal here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We had a high of 124 degrees F, but because there is a constant source of water that is made available with natural springs flowing most of the year, bighorn sheep, bobcat, mountain lions, badgers, desert foxes, quail, roadrunners, many species of birds, jackrabbits, cottontails and so much more, are able to survive the summer heat.

Fortunately for us, we were able to travel in our 24ft Class C RV during most of the hot summer in order to escape the scorching months of July and August with our cat, Callie and only had to return last week to settle in for the fall and winter season. We will continue to take shorter trips for the fun if it, but the desperation of fleeing the heat of summer is behind us.

Callie has been on an antibiotic for 7 days now for acute bronchitis, which was triggered again when we drove through the horrific fires of Santa Rosa, California. Due to the highway 101 closure, we were forced to dry camp at Salt Point Campground north of Bodega Bay in order to try and get away from the smoke. Fires had broken out all over the map and we were not successful in finding a campground which was smoke-free. She started coughing soon after we spent the night there and it became progressively worse the second half of the 5-week trip. Fortunately, I have a good vet in Morro Bay who was able to call in a compound prescription for us and she is on the road to recovery.

This morning was the first day Callie dashed across the backyard in order to reach a fast enough momentum to climb high up on her beloved olive trees. She loves these trees and climbing them is a passion for her. The higher she climbs, the prouder she becomes! It is always a good sign when she throws herself on the trunk of the tree and then dashes straight up until she can climb no higher. It made me feel good too, to see her once again feeling better.

That Rascally Roadrunner

Mr Roadrunner is going solo again and making the rounds of our backyard around noon each day. He loves to race back and forth and zig zags across the yard and always makes it a point to check in to see if Callie is eavesdropping on him. If she is sitting by the door and they make eye contact, he zips right up in front of her just like the cartoon character with such fast movements he is a blur of motion. A second before he collides with the screen door he puts on the brakes and rocks back and forth while staring at her intensely. This always takes Callie by surprise and she rears back a bit before leaning forward again so as not to loose too much face. He has the upper hand and he knows it. There is no doubt in my mind, or Callie’s mind for that matter, that he could poke her eyes out and would do so in a flash if she gave him any lip. I hope she isn’t caught outside some day when he is making his rounds and she is challenged to a dual. I believe that Callie would just turn and  run like hell, but he is so fast that he would overtake her with ease. He looks like a descendent of some dinosaur and he is one bad ass dude. Fortunately for today, he found Callie safely inside and paid her a quick visit, gave her the evil eye and then spun around to continue his journey. It is just another peaceful day in Borrego Springs where coyotes make sneaky midnight visits and rascally roadrunners follow with attitude in the full light of day…

Chasing Your Dream

There is something very special about the dawn unfolding in the desert. The lighting is so diffused and the shadows on the mountains distinct and mysterious. Everything looks flat and the horizon so close you could reach out and touch it. The mountains almost look like they are cut out of cardboard and pasted dramatically on the backdrop of a theater stage. The San Ysidro Mountains blush a brilliant golden rose, and the whole sky lights up a pale and soft feathery blue. Mornings are for hummingbirds and Callie loves climbing up the olive trees to follow her dream of chasing and catching anything on the wing. I am always careful to protect all the little creatures from Callie’s grasp but she doesn’t seem to hold it against me.  Her enthusiasm hasn’t waned after a year and a half of futile chases and I believe she just loves to climb for the shear joy of it. I usually get up before the light of dawn and have a cup of strong coffee and Callie waits in her red basket for the mountains to light up in the distance. When the light is sufficient for keeping Callie safe from becoming part of the food chain, I fling open the door and out she races. There are three olive trees in the backyard and her favorite one is close to the house and the hummingbird feeder. It has lovely branches that reach out parallel to the ground and she can climb to the top and still have a good foot hold. There are many hummingbirds at this hour flitting from branch to branch and Callie does her best to try to catch one. It is so quiet in the desert in the early morning hours except for the squeak and grind and funny little noises of tiny hummingbirds singing their hearts out.  The flash on the neck of the dominant rubythroated male that tries to hoard the feeder is outmanueuvored by four, very smart, less brilliantly colored females. They work in cooperation and use their intelligence rather than their size to drink the nectar. I always put two feeders up about twenty feet apart so it is difficult for one bird to hog the feeder alone. He may be the biggest bird in the yard, but he is worn out by the sheer number of smart but smaller females. Callie is in heaven chasing multiple birds and the hummingbirds all have a chance at feeding because of the distraction. It almost seems like everyone is having a good time of it. May Callie continue to chase her dream without actually catching it, and may I have the pleasure of many mornings to come, watching the drama unfold.

A Chance Visit

My husband and I were sipping tea and coffee outside after our morning  bike ride when who should come to visit, but Mr. Roadrunner, and this time he brought his mate. The male has a beautiful headdress of red, black and white that flashes brilliantly when he stops to stare at me. He is really quite stunning and seems to know it! He runs very fast with a burst of energy for a short distance, and then stops abruptly and bobs his head. The female is more subdued in color but just as beautiful, and takes her cue from him. When he starts to run, she shadows him and I can only imagine what would happen when they come across a snake. It appears that they work as a team when hunting, and they are not afraid of Callie at all. If I had stayed perfectly still, they would have come into the backyard.  I wanted to take photographs though, so it forced them to stay on the wall.  To my surprise, they are eating the black olives from the olive tree and that is why I am seeing them more often. It has become an everyday experience to see at least one of the roadrunners careening through the backyard.  They zip back and forth and act like they own the place, and would  love to see Callie challenge them to a dual. Callie on the other hand thinks “not a chance” and acts brave but stays close to me and just makes funny little facial expressions and clucks to herself. When they flew back over the fence and into the desert, Callie raced up the olive tree to get a better look, and watched them with intensity as they ran along with their funny lope, back into the wilderness. What a wonderful way to start the day.

Extending an Olive Branch

Before moving to Borrego Springs, California, Callie had free rein of the outside world. I was always vigilant about keeping her in at night but allowed her to explore her surroundings during the daytime.  She usually stayed close to home and preferred to have me around so that the local tom cats left her alone. In the desert, it is not safe even in broad daylight, because of all the predators around that would love to have cat on the menu. We have a beautiful silver kit fox that hunts right outside of the backyard and coyotes, rattlesnakes, scorpions and even owls and hawks are abundant here. The coyote population is steady and you can hear them yipping and howling most nights. Michael and I see them during the day when we are on a hike or biking and even though they are shy, they wouldn’t hesitate to snatch Callie if they could. Because Callie loves dogs and when I watch her response to midnight coyote serenades, she has no fear of coyotes. She would probably let a coyote come up to her to touch noses and that is my worst nightmare. So, Callie cannot be left unattended in the backyard, and I have had to teach her to stay and not go over the wall. She is tempted and when we first moved here, she on several occasion, went butterfly chasing out into the desert. She knows that it is wrong now, but because of a cat’s nature, I don’t trust her in the least. So, in order to keep her safe and happy, and to feel some freedom off the leash and harness, most mornings we have a routine of climbing the olive trees. There are three trees in the backyard that she loves to climb. She  usually flattens herself on the ground for a minute or two before dashing up the nearest tree and running as high as the branch will allow. She loves climbing trees and she is good at it. She will follow me from tree to tree and does her personal best at getting to the top of the tree before climbing back down and starting all over again. The sun is just starting to rise in the east and the light reflects off the foothills in the desert behind the house. It is a beautiful time of day and Callie and I both look forward to it. I can have a cup of coffee and watch her play in the trees and she can work off some pent up energy. Of course, there are hummingbirds that flit in and out of the foliage and she tries to catch them. It is fun for both of us. When she is finished with playing she is brought back into the house and served a nice breakfast. She has adapted to this routine and seems quite content as long as I find other activities later in the day to entertain her. It has been over a year now living in the desert, and except for the inferno during July and August, Borrego Springs has been a wonderful place to live and retire in… I think that Callie would agree with me. Extending an olive tree branch has kept the peace, and best of all, Callie is safe and sound.