Thursday

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.

Sunday

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.

Wednesday

Poppies in New Mexico

With over 3" of rain recorded for the first quarter of 2015 the wild flowers in the high desert have come into bloom.  The poppies are always a favorite but so far this year they have been confined to swaths of the San Simon river bed.  One interesting observation is that this year the large swaths of poppies are confined to the east side of the riverbed paralleling the route of the "old road".  Whether this localization represents crop marks defining the route of the old road or just a fortuitous happenstance is unknown but the yellow, orange, and white poppies are certainly spectacular this year.

Looking west across the poppies in the San Simon riverbed

South along the route of the "old road" covered in poppies





Yellow, orange, and white poppies




Poppies, up close and personal
Finally, this image was made several years ago when there was another wet spring with poppies and is a favorite.

A double gradient of poppies.



Saturday

Keep Looking Up

It has been busy around the Painted Pony Resort with 5 groups, including a wedding and the owners quarterly week long visit, along with rain this spring.  Two sets of guests were here when it rained and the roads and parking areas required a great deal of work to get the vehicle packed gravel restored so everything looks nice.  As a consequence I have had little free time to pursue the blog and for this I apologize.  As a reminder of the beauty of the southwest and an invitation to come visit, here is a sunrise view of contrails over Antelope pass in the Peloncillo mountains at sunrise taken yesterday morning as I started work in the high desert of New Mexico.

contrails at sunrise over the Peloncillo mountains
Keep Looking Up.  Contrails over Antelope pass in the Peloncillo mountains at sunrise.  Click to enlarge and see the face in the lower right corner looking up.

Sunday

Yuccas in Bloom

The front garden at the Painted Pony Resort is always the first thing guests see upon arriving on the estate for a visit and a lot of work goes into making it an inviting area for guests to explore.  There are several large Spanish Dagger plants (Yucca schidigera) in the garden and these are generally the first of the yuccas to bloom.  This year one of them has produced a number of flowering stems which were photographed over a 24 hour period as they began to bloom.  The large thick red flowering stems grew quickly and began to open producing light yellow/creamy white flowers.  Yuccas are pollinated by moths (Tegeticula sp.), with different species specializing in different yucca and with the large blooms it should be a feeding/pollinating frenzy for the moths this year.

Yucca stem starting to open

Yucca stem soon to produce an explosion of flowers

Yucca in bloom (the best image)

Two more flowering stems


Flowers at the top of the 8' yucca


Tuesday

An Image From a Guest

The recent 2015 All-Star Telescope star party at the Painted Pony Resort always brings a host of talented astrophotographers out to image the sky, but the landscape also draws attention.  Recent experiments with black and white photography motivated some others to experiment in capturing the Chiricahua mountains in black and white.  The image below is a view of the Chiricahua mountains in black and white taken by the talented Canadian astrophotograher, John McDonald.  While I get images when and where I can, this is an example of what someone who knows what they are doing and captures the Chiricahuas in a completely different light.  The small puffy white clouds contrast nicely with angular mesquite in the foreground with the 8000' Portal Peak and eastern flank of the Chiricahua mountains in between.  Truly a spectacular image and thanks to John for allowing the reuse of his image.

Other images by John McDonald may be found on his RSAC Victoria Centre Zenfolio astrophotography page

Portal Peak and the Chiricahua mountains in black and white.  Image and copyright by John McDonald.

Sunday

Moving Clocks

The shift to/from daylight savings time change effects the valley twice a year and it is always a time of confusion when trying to make an event on the other side of the state line.  The New Mexico side of the valley changes time but the Arizona side always stays the same and events across the state line always leads to an arrival either an hour early or an hour late, especially for me.  Though the change to/from daylight savings time has no affect on the views on either side of the state line as evidenced by these 2 views, one east and one west taken at sunrise from the Painted Pony Resort.  The sun still rises over the Peloncillo mountains and the first rays of sunlight illuminate Portal Peak in the Chiricahua mountains.  With views like this it is all right to be late to an event.


New Mexico sunrise
Sunrise over the Peloncillo mountains on the New Mexican side of the valley

setting moon over portal peak
Sunrise on Portal Peak on the Arizona side of the valley with the setting moon

Friday

Topsoil Restoration Barriers, an Aerial View

Range land restoration at the Painted Pony Resort uses natural materials from the landscape and redistributes this material to barren areas with little or no top soil to encourage the development of new topsoil and native grasses by slowing water flow and providing microhabitat to catch wind blown seeds.  Using Amaranth, mesquite, or tumbleweed cannoli the before and after aerial views shown below demonstrate how the barriers encourage new grass growth and topsoil creation in overgrazed areas of the high desert of New Mexico.


Google Earth view of the north end of the estate before topsoil barrier construction.  The red line indicates the estate's northern boundary.


A recent still from an aerial video showing the locations of topsoil barriers at the north end of the estate highlighted with black arrows.  Aerial image courtesy of Dalton Wilson.
Addendum:
Another image from Wilson's drone showing state land and the west side of the estate.  Note the large areas where the topsoil is completely lost and large reflective areas of hard desert pan are visible.  These barren areas are restoration goals for the estate, as well as increasing productivity, restoration efforts will slow the water moving across the landscape allowing more to reach the aquifer.

State land versus the Painted Pony Resort an aerial view.

Saturday

All-Star Telescope Star Party, 2015

With 30 guests All-Star Telescope hosted another successful astronomy retreat at the Painted Pony Resort.  This marks their 7th visit over the past 5 years for a week of astrophotography in the high desert of southern New Mexico.  At night, the hanger becomes the congregating point for the astronomers while others enjoy the hot tub and courtyard area at the main house for other activities.  This year 2 daytime hikes were completed for a total of 11 miles, one hike up south fork canyon for some afternoon birding and a second hike across the high desert to the outcrops at the base of the Peloncillo mountainsDalton Wilson brought his drone and took some magnificent images of the estate and high desert, see below, showing 14 telescopes setup by the hanger.  The area around the hanger is ideal for astronomy since the main house, guest house, and bungalow are over 500' away and with minimal outdoor lighting does not interfere with astronomy activities.  At night only red lights, to preserve the astronomers night vision, can be seen moving around the telescopes in the New Mexican desert as they concentrate on capturing the perfect image of astronomical objects in the southern sky visible from the estate.  With dinners catered by Jackie Lewis of the George Walker house the guests reported having a wonderful time at this years star party and were discussing returning again next year.

Aerial view of 14 telescopes set up at the All-Star Telescope New Mexico star party.  Photograph by Dalton Wilson.
A view down the road in South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon with guests out for some birding.

Thursday

Google+ and BAlvarius

I monitor visitor statistics on the blogs and websites associated with the Painted Pony Resort in an effort to understand what attracts people's attention resulting in a click to visit one of the sites.  I use a number of tools including StatCounter and those provided by Google to compare keywords, images, and subject matter to gauge performance.  It is pleasing when something created performs well and highlights efforts to promote the resort and area in an effort to encourage visitation.  I'm a firm believer that everyone should have the opportunity to make enough money to buy food for dinner and work to spread the business around when visitors are in residence at the estate.  This effort works particularly well when the estate hosts a wedding (there have been 8 so far with another one scheduled next month), since generally the immediate family stays on the estate while other wedding guests utilize local lodging sites in the twin cities of Portal and Rodeo.

Google's foray into social media several years ago with it's product Google+ at first seemed like just another attempt to compete with Facebook, but Google did a couple of things in launching this product.  They tied all the blogs they host to Google+ as well as images.  This immediately created another way for individuals producing content to get their material viewed by a larger audience.  This blog and the Sky Gypsies both now direct their feed to Google+ and the page's performance has done quite well, recently surpassing its' 1,000,000 viewer.  While the images produced and curated on Panoramio have done quite well (with about 1.37 million views), the rate of the Google+ performance is much better and better than both blogs themselves.  Based on this evidence it would seem Google got it right.  The obvious conclusion is that if a business provides online tools, users will make use of those tools and site visitation will follow.  To view BAlvarius' Google+ page follow the link.

Google + page for BAlvarius reached 1,000,000 views