Gilded Flickers are in Town

The upper bird seemed to be doing a mating display or merely grooming. I could not determine. The lower bird was uninterested.
The upper bird seemed to be doing a mating display or merely grooming. I could not determine. The lower bird was uninterested.

Our aloe are attracting more birds everyday. Yesterday the gilded flickers stopped by for a sample. I found the flickers entertaining because they use the fence to walk from plant to plant rather than fly. I saw my first flicker in Montana. It happened to be injured and stuck on the ground. We carried it off to the bird therapist and never heard from it again. Some birds are like that. That was not a gilded flicker but a northern flicker. They differ in the under wing color and habitat.

Here in Baja these birds carve nest cavities in the ginormous cardon cactus. The cactus could seep out water and meet its demise from these holes but instead they secret sap and the sap hardens and makes a little room for the birds. How sweet is that? Maybe our possibly preening bird below is cleaning wet sap off its feathers?

Check out that face,
Check out that face,
Look at my pretty wing. That's how you can tell I'm gilded and not a northern. That and the habitat.
Look at my pretty wing. That’s how you can tell I’m gilded and not a northern. That and the habitat.
Alas, poor Yorick. Our gilded flicker wonders what happened to this pelican,
Alas, poor Yorick. Our gilded flicker wonders what happened to this pelican,
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Chirimoya

Kind of looks like a giant raspberry.
Kind of looks like a giant raspberry.

Here we have what Mark Twain called “the most delicious fruit known to men.”   I’d never even heard of the chirimoya until  two days ago and now it is blooming into a minor obsession.  Priscila gave us one Thursday. When she handed me the heavy and hard thing she said wait a day or two before you eat it. It did not resemble food. I forgot the name immediately and wondered if we would like it. I worried we wouldn’t enjoy eating the chirmoya because we are not fans of many fruits and we both really hate unripe or over ripe fruit. Here was a perfect storm of mysterious fruit and social pressure to enjoy. Two days passed and I thought we better eat the fruit. How to address the thing? I would have googled but I forgot the name. Its outer packaging is tough and nubby. It looks like a giant raspberry. I was intimidated. What if it wasn’t ripe? What if I ruined it? I picked a bit at the outer lobes but they did not give way so I decided to slice it open. My knife slid through with no resistance. The insides were a revelation. I found a creamy white flesh dotted with giant glossy black seeds. I ate it like a watermelon and spit out the seeds. Good thing, too. I found out later the seeds are poisonous. It was so tasty I found myself conflicted about saving some for Burt. I’d be hard pressed to name a fruit I prefer. It was sweet and mellow and creamy. Two forks up for the chirimoya.

Today Priscila (she was a teacher) texted me to remind me to eat the chirimoya before it went soft. Hah! I’d already eaten it and I now had the name spelled out and my research could begin.  This fruit is very old and has a long legacy amongst the native people of South and Central America. The chirimoya is depicted in pottery and art from thousands of years ago.  The fruit is borne by a shrubby tree or tree-y shrub that is a deciduous  semi-evergreen. It likes elevation and cool weather but not frost. The indigenous people say the tree likes to see snow but not touch it. Sounds like me.  Because of the smooth flesh the chirimoya is also called the custard apple. Some people east it chilled with a spoon and call it the ice cream fruit. And I can’t disagree with Mark Twain except to say women like it, too.

Or maybe a pine cone.
Or maybe a pine cone.
The sweet and silky inside flesh.
The sweet and silky inside flesh.
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Cactus fight back

This grizzled teenager sized cardon lost her main stem.
This grizzled teenager sized cardon lost her main stem.

Cardons are the signature wild west cactus of lower Baja. They are very similar to the saguaro cactus of the Sonoran desert of the the southwestern United States. Cardons are bigger and more rugged looking than saguaro but both are long lived and very large with massive arms. Hurricane Odile took down many cardons in our neighborhood. A favorite up on the hill is gone and many in Janet’s yard tipped over. Many desert plants can be tipped right back up but cardons weigh hundreds of pounds. Even without all the spines it would be a risky endeavor. Our own cardon snapped in half just above the ground. There was no saving it. Or so we thought.

As I wander through town and spring is upon us I am discovering many plants that appeared hopelessly maimed are in fact alive. We had a few days of gentle rain this winter and the desert is waking up. One of the terrote trees (elephant tree) in our own yard is making its own miracle recovery.  This particular tree did not break in the storm but topped over. Shallow but wide reaching roots are how desert plants find water. Shallow roots allow a plant to fall without breaking.  I adored this tree. It has a lovely curve to its trunk and the branches spread in an artistically pleasing way. It’s only about 8′ tall and 6″ around. The tree had been out of the ground for several months when we arrived and we gave it up for dead. We hauled it to a pile of debris across the street. I was so sad. The loss of this tree was harder for me than the loss of our palapa. I stopped thinking about it. I planted some new things but the special tree’s hole remained empty.

The days are longer and the dewy spring has arrived. A few weeks ago Burt gave the tree a second look. Things were waking up all around us so he wondered if the tree was really dead. Burt broke off the tip of a branch and found a bright green and wet inner core. He decided right then to put the tree back in the ground. Today, just 3 weeks later, every branch on that tree has new leaves. Tears filled my eyes this morning when I saw them. It’s our very own Lazarus tree.

The main stem on the ground. I think somebody cut off the tip and planted it.
The main stem on the ground. I think somebody cut off the tip and planted it.
Close up of a new button.
Close up of a new button.
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More Tarantula Hawks

Up close of the Tarantula Hawk.
Up close of the Tarantula Hawk.

Yesterday I visited the chiropractor. My mid-back was feeling stuck and a yoga wasn’t helping. Too much fiddle, too much yoga, or too much life, I’ll never know which. There are a number of practicing chiropractors in our area and just like in the the U.S. they have a range of styles and sensibilities. Burt finds real relief from getting an adjustment and so he suggested I give it a try. Things were pretty much okay at first.  Dr. Back (his name is changed) didn’t make any crazy healing claims and he was clean and tidy. His price was reasonable and his office was nearby. He did the usual shaking and twisting and a lot of crackling came out of my spine and neck. Dr. Back even did a nice release of my diaphragm, which I have to admit was a big relief. I’d been finding it difficult to breathe freely ever since my heart procedure. But while this was going on the Doc made inquiries about my bowels and claimed that I should be pooping 3x a day. Hmmm. Even if that is true it sounds damn inconvenient. I started to wonder what else he would tell me is wrong with me. In stead he handed me a health questionnaire to take home and fill out. He said it would help him access what needed to be done to help me with my passage through menopause and, I presume, get me pooping after every meal.

Now Burt did not get this list of questions and both he and I came to the same conclusion independently. This guy saw me as a mark. Not that he doesn’t believe in what he is doing but ask any 49 year old woman if she feels tired, eats too much and has gained weight and 98% are going to say yes. The questions were of this nature. It was not a family or medical history. The questions were: do you pee too often? Do you pee infrequently? Do you stare? are you hot? There were a lot of questions for which on any given day I could say yes or no. I filled it out for fun to see if I could make my own diagnosis. Then I came to this question: Do you have any masculine tendencies? Pardon the implied cuss word but, WTF does that mean? WTF s a masculine tendency? If this question makes me mad is that a masculine or feminine tendency? I have well beyond average math skills. I can wield a hammer and I can kick someone’s ass. I am big. I also have an ample backside and mammary glands and am lacking a penis. I do not self identify as a man. I am not gay. This despite the fact that a dermatologist once suggested I might as well be gay since I didn’t want children. What the F@#k is a masculine tendency? What is wrong with people? Gender(like sexuality) is a continuum. Many of us are lucky to be clearly one or the other. But I personally know people that are neither. Their DNA confirms this. To attribute any kind of skill or tendency or inclination to one sex or the other is stupid and limits the bounds of what is possible for all of us. Pisses me off.

In celebration of my own personhood here are flower and bug pictures for your enjoyment. This rush milkweed is a gorgeous succulent with a complicated and attractive flower bundle. The flowers are a favorite of the scarier than science fiction Tarantula Hawk. In case you’ve not been keeping up with my blog here’s a refresher. The Tarantula Hawk  is a wasp with a potent sting used to paralyze tarantulas. If the wasp manages to sting a tarantula the victim tarantula is paralyzed and becomes a living food source for the wasp’s larvae. The larvae slowly eat the still living tarantula bit by bit saving the vital organs for last. I can’t get the picture of a half eaten but still alive tarantula out of my head. Burt gave me a tarantula hawk for my birthday this past year. Talk about masculine tendencies. Who’s more masculine in that scenario? Burt for the odd gift or me for appreciating the odd, poisonous present?

I risked my limbs for these shots.
I risked my limbs for these shots.
Rush Milkweed
Rush Milkweed
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Birdies

Male hooded oriole taking in the view from our fence.
Male hooded oriole taking in the view from our fence.

The aloe is in full bloom all around and the orioles are here having a grand time hooking up and eating to their fill. I have an oriole specific feeder full of sugar water but so far only ants, bees, hummingbirds and butterflies have used it. The orioles prefer their native food source.  In this part of Baja both Bullock’s Oriole and the Hooded Oriole can be found. Orioles are part of the blackbird family and like most blackbirds they have a rich song. A friend recently saw a yellow headed blackbird kill another yellow headed blackbird in a mating dispute. We’ve seen some fights around here but nothing close to lethal. Perhaps the yellow heads are the hot heads of the blackbird family.

Spanish class is calling. Gotta go.

 

Female on aloe.
Female on aloe.
Female sticks her nose into the aloe. It looks like they were designed for each other.
Female sticks her nose into the aloe. It looks like they were designed for each other.
The male protecting his yard.
The male protecting his yard.
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