The Friends of Cave Creek Canyon 2015 Garden Party

Another spring has arrived and it is time again for the annual Friends of Cave Creek Canyon (FOCCC) garden party.  A number of ask the expert tables were set up around Cave Creek Canyon's visitor center with topics ranging from local history to jaguars.  The plant sale took place again this year out in the garden FOCCC installed and maintains for the Coronado National Forest and the Painted Pony Resort now has a variety of new local perennials for the front garden.  Of course no garden party is complete without some tasty food and breakfast and lunch were served to visitors attending the garden party.  For additional images of the garden party please see FOCCC's Facebook page.

A panoramic view of FOCCC's 2015 garden party at the Cave Creek Canyon visitors center.
Insects of the Chiricahua mountains

Reptile exhibit.

Tables of experts at the garden party.

Without Color

Recently a post on the importance of light and color in how people "see" was posted which generated a thought.  What becomes important in an image if color is removed.  To see what happens the image below was created of an early morning cloudscape over the Peloncillo mountains.  When the colors are converted to grayscale the result is an image where differences in texture and contrast seem to dominate.  Rather than the wavelength of reflected light being a dominate component of the photograph (a phenomena external to the camera's CMOS chip) it is the internal differences within the image itself that become important to me as a viewer.  Visually exploring the color original my eye first focuses on the blue sky and not the clouds, while in the black and white image my eye is drawn to the clouds and the differences in contrast then in texture.  So perhaps underlying the differences in color are the important differences in contrast and texture which helps make a photograph interesting to a viewer.

peloncillo mountains clouds
Original multi-image panorama in color as a starting point.

grayscale clouds
Final product, an early morning cloudscape in black and white


The Painted Pony Resort and the Internet of Things

Living in a remote area has its drawbacks, for example the San Simon Valley south of I-10 only received cellular phone service last year and only Verizon service is available locally.  Previously, a repeater mounted on the roof of the main house at the Painted Pony Resort allowed Verizon Cellular service in one building.  But progress marches on and eventually service was established around the valley, welcome to the 21st century.  Another step in that direction occurred recently and that was the arrival of the internet of things on the estate.

Simply put, "[t]he Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure", Wikipedia.  The idea of connecting together all the electronics in a home is not a new idea, but only recently has it been possible to make this idea a reality for everyone.  The idea of a WiFi connection between physical objects like dishwashers, washing machines and the like makes sense but it still has a Skynet feel to it and leaves one with a vague uneasiness.

The arrival of the IoT was precipitated by the laundry.  With 13 bedrooms and 21 beds there are 30 to 35 loads of laundry done each after a set of guests leave.  The household sized machines in the main house and guest house just were not big enough to accommodate the amount of laundry that is done in a reasonable time period.  So the owner invested in new much larger machines for the main house which will reduce the number of loads and easily accommodate comforters making life easier.

One interesting aspect to the IoT on the estate is the downloadable application for a smart phone that allows one to remotely monitor and control their washer and dryer and instead of walking over to the main house the status of the wash can be checked from a phone.  The only problem, I don't own a cell phone much less a smart phone, so I will continue to walk over.

New washer and dryer, the IoT at the Painted Pony Resort.


A Chance to Say Goodbye

Saying goodbye, whether parting from family or friends. is always difficult.  Perhaps the most difficult is the permanent goodbye that accompanies the loss of a beloved pet.  The loss of a long term companion like a dog or cat is a change we are often not prepared for but must face like most changes in life.

My constant companion for the past 12-13 years was a dog named "Cholla", a little mixed breed female who resembled a fox or small coyote and was often mistaken by others as a wild animal even though she had a bobbed tail.  Tan in coloration, she was a rescue animal I acquired when working for the National Institutes of Health at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center.  Coming back from lunch with co-workers one day I noticed a women with this dog on a string.  The women was sitting outside on the steps to the building waiting for her daughter who had an appointment with a physician and asked if anyone wanted a dog.  It was a stray they had captured and were looking for a home for the animal.  One look and I wanted to take the dog home but initially suggested that a co-worker who had pets might take her.  She declined so I said OK.  Taking my new dog over to my truck she hopped right in and made herself right at home, it was just the beginning of a long relationship.  Having her checked out at the vet where she was neutered and received her shots I learned she was an estimated 1-1.5 yrs old.  I named her Cholla because it was clear she was a desert dog, she didn't like the water and could be a pain at times (just like the cactus).  After house training I soon discovered that she was deathly afraid of other dogs and most people, and when another dog approached she would try and climb up my leg to get away from the other animal.  She rarely barked and always stayed by my side unless she spotted a rabbit, she liked to chase rabbits but never caught any, just enjoyed the chase.  As a pilot I also taught Cholla about aircraft.  All I would have to say was "airplanes" and point away from the aircraft and she would move away, a good dog.  She never got into trouble with rattlers and would always steer clear when she encountered one, a true dog of the desert.

But we all age, Cholla included.  First her hearing started going followed by her eyesight, I would often find her standing in a corner seemly lost but once moved she was OK.  Then her hips started giving her problems and soon I had to carry her in and out of the trailer because the 3 steps were to much.  Last November there was a morning she could not get up and thinking this was it, I got the 30-30, a shovel, and prepared a grave next to the other dogs buried on the estate.  When I returned though she had managed to get up and was moving around so we continued with our routine of carrying her in and out of the trailer every day.

Cholla always stayed near the trailer and was not prone to wandering off.  I could always find her ensconced in her hole under the trailer staying cool during the summer or lying out in the warm sun during winter.  But the other day turned out to be different.  I took her outside as usual in the morning and went to work installing a washer and dryer, this was the last time I was to see Cholla.  By late afternoon I returned to the trailer but could not find Cholla.  Worried I began searching around for her but no luck.  Then I hopped in the Kubota and started driving around the estate.  This continued to well after sunset and I would periodically open the trailer door throughout the evening looking around expecting to see her sitting out on the concrete pad, but she did not return.  The next morning still no Cholla.  I can only hope she found someplace comfortable to rest.  She will be missed, goodbye Cholla.

Cholla sitting up waiting for a treat.

Cholla and Sonny sitting in a trike, ready to fly.

Cholla and me.


The Ocotillo Bloom

It started with grand plans for a series of images of a single Ocotillo stem bloom moving from buds to opened flowers that would morph from one image to the next either as an animated GIF or as a video loop with morning and evening images to show differences in light on the flowers with all the images carefully superimposed to give a feeling of being there over time.  In my mind I knew what I wanted to "see" so I began the translation process to create what I held in my mind.  I chose 2 stems and began taking photographs every morning and evening.  After several days and no progression in the reddish/orange buds I thought perhaps more water would speed things up, so I watered the selected Ocotillos.  Nothing, no change, no progression towards flowering just the groups of flower buds.  Unsure of how to proceed I just continued to take the twice daily photographs knowing that at some point the flowers would open.  Finally it occurred and one of the stems finally bloomed.  Not all once but it started, of course then then winds came up and changed everything, removing a number of flowers and making any additional photography pointless.  So I ended up with just a couple of photographs that were publishable, not enough for the planned animated GIF, but enough material for a little repeating video which was posted to the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon You Tube page.  Below is the final product which came out pretty well considering the amount of work and grand plans.


About Light and Color

Watching the landscape over time I have concluded it is all about light and color.  Light being the intensity and wavelengths of light from the sun filtered through the atmosphere that illuminates the landscape throughout the day and throughout the year, with or without clouds (creating shadows which add texture).  While color being the wavelengths of light reflected off the landscape as a result of the light.  While not a major revelation to most, the interaction of light and color is always producing something new to see which I find fascinating and struggle constantly with trying to create images that reflect what I see.

Since "seeing" is a combination of the biological components of vision and the processing of that information, it does not lend itself easily to study using a reductionist approach.  Rather I am forced to acknowledge that a holistic approach is required which incorporates both the biological aspects and information processing aspects of "seeing" when producing an image.  I conclude that the landscape views that I find so fascinating msut be the result of an emergent phenomena that results from the interplay of light and color interacting with visual processing creating something greater than the simple sum of its parts.

When addressing the information processing aspects of "seeing" I have no objective method for measuring what others see.  Instead I'm forced to post the image and measure others response to what was created.  While this semi-quantitative approach works it adds another whole layer of confounding variables.  The location where the image appears, the probability an image with show up in search engine rankings,  the biases associated with a specific audience that views the image, and the quality of the image reproduced on the viewers computer screen.  These additional variables impede the ability to understand how others "see" making it is difficult to tease out and concentrate on those aspects that would allow the creation of images with more universal appeal.

Below are 2 images both taken in the front garden of the Painted Pony Resort.  One is an evening view of the Yucca and Ocotillo taken with the long light of late afternoon.  While the second is an early morning view of a single Ocotillo stem starting to bloom.  These 2 images taken from essentially the same location (the single stem image is the Ocotillo on the left side of the first image) and at the same time of year demonstrate how differences in light and color affect the final image produced.  But in presenting these images (which I personally find appealing) I'm still no closer in understanding how people "see".

A view of the garden.

desert flower
A single Ocotillo stem beginning to flower


Honey Bees

It has been an interesting spring at the Painted Pony Resort, a number of groups have visited and another wedding was held on the estate.  This in combination with over 3" of rain this spring kept me very busy.  One result of the good rains, and in combination with the ongoing grassland restoration efforts, was the appearance of many wildflowers on the estate (see previous post).  With lots of wildflowers came the pollinators, honey bees.  Seven locations on the estate have experienced honey bee swarms trying to build new hives, 2 groups at the cabin, 3 groups at the bungalow, and 2 groups in the courtyard of the main house.  Of course bees and guests do not mix well, so efforts to persuade the bees to find other suitable hive locations was at the forefront of efforts over many days.
Most of the new colonies were fairly docile and I could approach with only a hat, getting right up the ladder to their entrances without disturbing them. One new colony though was not as polite and no longer having a resident Beekeeper in Rodeo, I was on my own in dealing with this hive. Realizing that some form of protection was required I began mentally inventorying supplies that were available on the estate to create some form of protection so I could approach the hive.  I realized I had an old flight suit that closed at the wrists and ankles, gloves were no problem, but the head covering stumped me until I realized there was some old screen used to cover the solar collectors to prevent overheating during the summer.  Cutting a large piece and folding it in half the edges were secured with PVC tape (as useful as duct tape on the estate).  Pulling this on over the wide brim of my hat would keep the bees at bay while I worked.  I chose to seal up the new hive entrances during the heat of the day since most bees would be out collecting nectar and pollen so the number of bees inside the new hive would be minimal and provide the best chance for the colonies survival once they moved on.  Initially using caulk to seal the entrances it became clear that the bees would chew through this obstruction so stucco was used to cover the caulk and seal the entrances.  This proved a successful approach and the bees could initially be seen clustering around the sealed entrance.  The next morning only a couple of bees were found around the old entrances, they had moved on to greener pastures or a location on another building I had yet to find.

I would also suggest that there is a chain of evidence in the number of bee colonies this year.  That by starting with the fencing to keep cattle off the estate and by building topsoil restoration barriers to restore and improve the grasslands, this has also allowed the wildflowers to re-emerge protected from grazing.  The expanded wildflower population in turn provides forage for the bees which now find the area attractive resulting in more swarms trying to settle on the estate.

In an effort to support the bees' and their important role in the ecology of the high desert landscape, the Painted Pony Resort is installing a bee box down in the riverbed.  This will provide a permanent location and space for a hive where the colony will have easy access to the wildflowers and other blooming plants, encouraging the continued restoration of the landscape.  It will also be a yummy source of honey for guests visiting the estate.

Home made Rodeo bee bonnet
Addendum:  The New Mexico Native Bee Pollinator Project is a resource for native bees in New Mexico, while the Honey Bee Health Improvement Project is a resource for honey bees, with many links to other resources that are of interest to anyone interested in promoting bee populations.


Always Something New

It was early Saturday morning, as usual I was up and out before sunrise with a cup of coffee wandering around trying to mentally organize my day when I heard cattle bellowing in the distance to the south east.  I grabbed the binoculars from the trailer and started looking for the cattle to see if they were on the estate.  I found several head in the distance and it appeared that they were on the property.  Cattle on the property is counter to the grassland restoration underway so I loaded the Kubota with fencing supplies and headed out to find the the problem and fix any downed fence.  I checked the south fence line, all intact, then the east easement fence along the old railroad bed, all intact, and no sign of cattle.  I must have misjudged their location so I headed back to the main estate.  While on the east side of the San Simon riverbed where the ranch road passes the old Mimbres hamlet something caught my eye.  Sticking up from the ruin were 12-18" stems of a wildflower I had not seen on the estate before.  Stopping and wandering over I found a number of unknown plants in bloom scattered about the ruin so I got busy with the camera to document the wildflower and for use in identification.  I posted some images and asked if anyone recognized the species as the first step then got back to work on this years crop of tumbleweed.  That evening I was rewarded with an identification from the curator of the Louisiana State Arthropod museum identifying the wild flower as Delphinium wootonii, commonly known as Organ Mountain Larkspur or Wooton's Larkspur, a member of the buttercup family.  Found in both New Mexico and Arizona the flowers clearly are "buttercup like" and easy to spot on the landscape.  I'm constantly finding something new and amazing each time I'm out on the landscape and a big thank you to Victoria, the curator at LSAM for the identification.

Delphinium wootonii, a member of the buttercup family

Organ mountain larkspur (Wooton's larkspur)


An Evening in the Garden

After a day of "Life Maintenance" chores, it was April 14th and I was behind schedule, some time was spent in the front garden as the long light of late afternoon/early evening illuminated the yucca with the yellow rays of the setting sun.  The warm glow of the low angle evening sunlight creates a very different feel in front garden on a warm New Mexican evening.  For comparison, a image taken in the early morning is included to show the difference in light.  While mid day light is generally flat with few shadows to make interesting landscape photographs, the difference between morning and evening light seems to be one of color temperature, with warmer light in the evening and cooler light in the mornings.

Other plants including the Ocotillo are starting to leaf out and many of the smaller plants are also now in bloom.  After a full day of unaccustomed paperwork and check writing, some down time in the garden at the Painted Pony Resort with the camera was a welcomed change of pace and made the end of a long frustrating day that much more special.

The front garden yucca in the long light of evening, 3 species of yucca and Ocotilllo.

The floating yucca, a Spanish Dagger.

A comparison image taken with the morning light.


More Adventures in Welding

I bent the Kubota tractor, well not the whole thing, but I did bend the lip of the bucket while grubbing mesquite on the estate.  After discussing the situation with the owner, he suggested reinforcing the tractor bucket lip with some angle iron.  So I cut down a fencepost corner to fit and started hammering to straighten the bent lip.  With little success trying to bend cold steel it instead took some heat from the torch to soften the bucket lip so it could be bent back straight.  Then it was on to another welding project, this time attaching the angle iron to the bucket as well as adding a hook.  My welding skills are slowly improving and I got the angle iron tacked in place and then began filling the edges between the angle iron and bucket.  The owner, who welds, also pitched in and soon the angle iron was firmly attached.  To finish off the edges I used a little liquid metal since the final bead was pretty shabby (still on the learning curve) and then added paint.  The final finish is pretty good and the addition of a hook will make hauling equipment around in the bucket much easier since there is a permanent point to attach ratchet straps.

Hook and reinforcement welded in place, back view.

Hook and reinforcement welded in place, front view.

Painted finished bucket, back view.

Painted finished product, front view.