Monsoon Indecision

The monsoon season is always a welcomed change, the summer rains bring the desert back to life, the greening of the grasses and new plant growth, the frantic rush of animals finding mates to start the next generation.  It is a hectic pace and that extends to the cloud formations.  Both the Chiricahua and Peloncillo Mountains go through several cycles of cloud building on a daily basis, sometimes bringing rain sometimes not.  The image below was taken one afternoon during the current monsoon season and shows the indecision often seen in developing weather during the monsoon season.  Cumulus clouds were developing just above the Chiricahua Mountains while higher up the clouds took on a runny egg appearance. The difference was the result of different wind speeds at different altitudes with higher winds at higher altitude smearing the developing cumulus clouds.  No rain resulted from this buildup but the appearance of this cloudscape was particularly pleasing.  This weather indecision culminated recently in a spectacular evening of lightning and rain.  The bottom image shows the distribution of lightning strikes in the San Simon Valley and both mountain ranges as a result of this particular monsoon storm.  Very localized and confined to a small (for the desert) area the storm produced rolling thunder constantly throughout the evening.  An image of lightning from this storm taken by Steve Wolfe may be seen here and here. All in all it has been a great monsoon season with almost 8" of rain recorded at the Painted Pony Resort.

black and white cloudscape
Two different cloud types over the Chiricahua mountains on a monsoon afternoon.

Lightning strikes from an overnight storm over the San Simon Valley and surrounding mountains


Rubber Rabbitbrush

The landscape restoration efforts at the Painted Pony Resort continue and new challenges constantly arise.  One of these revolves around the idea of succession, that the desert plant communities on the estate are in flux either as a result of changes in climate or more directly the result of past human activity.  The idea of secondary succession in restoring the grasslands had not occurred until a close examination of the test restoration area showed a majority of woody shrubs.  In areas where all the topsoil was lost, Rubber Rabbitbrush, Ericameria nauseosa, is one of the species that first covers the area as topsoil is rebuilt.  In areas around buildings where this species has colonized and was later removed have now returned to grasses supporting the notion that plant community succession is occurring in areas where active restoration activity is occurring.  Previous work at the Portal Project suggested in a paper that a landscape wide reorganization was occurring as a result of climatic changes.  Specifically increased winter moisture which favors the production of cool season active C3 shrubs at the expense of warm weather C4 grasses was responsible for changes observed in their fenced test plots.  So there seems to be 2 alternatives with respect to the appearance of  Rubber Rabbitbrush, either it is symptomatic of a reorganization or that its appearance is related to active landscape management and is part of the natural succession that accompanies landscape restoration on the estate.

Rubber Rabbitbrush rapidly colonizes burned areas and is useful in preventing soil erosion.  Its' woody stems contain a natural rubber compound, hence the common name, but is not economically viable as a rubber source.  Nor is it particularly useful as forage but does provide pollinators a late summer source of nectar and cover for birds and mammals. Another useful feature is that it does not compete well with native grasses and over time will be replaced through competition.  While the density of Rubber Rabbitbrush varies across the landscape it seems to do best (the largest stands) where water collects suggesting it has a higher moisture requirements when compared with native grasses.

pre-monsoon view showing protected versus grazed land.  Note the quantity of Rubber Rabbitbrush in ungrazed areas.

Rubber Rabbitbrush

Rubber Rabbitbrush in bloom, note the small yellow flowers

Stand of Rubber Rabbitbrush around a grey water drain.


The Snowshed Trail in the Chiricahua Mountains

The Snowshed trail #246 is one of those trails that climbs into the high country in the Chiricahua mountains, but the lower part of the trail is fairly gentle as it slowly climbs out of Cave Creek Canyon.  I had the opportunity to walk part of the trail yesterday along with entomologists from the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum who are currently in residence at the Painted Pony Resort on their annual collecting trip.  The goal was to do some collecting as well as recover a trail camera from last years collecting trip.   A warm sunny afternoon with a few scattered clouds and it up the trail from an access point just across the road from the trail to Chiricahua Crystal Cave.  A slow assent brought the group to some open meadows full of junipers and large stands of grasses, mostly Hairy Grama grass.  With the reds rocks in the background the views were typically spectacular.  The trail camera was recovered and with over 3000 images there should be some interesting wildlife captured in images.

Red rock cliffs from the Snowshed trail

A view south back into Cave Creek Canyon

The image above is the same outcrop in the photograph below, taken last year from the McCord trail.  In this instance the view is looking up canyon while the above image is looking down canyon.

Same outcrop as above but viewed from further down canyon.


Laundry Room Wall with the Gypsy Carpenters

Supplies for the Painted Pony Resort are currently stored in 2 separate areas, one in the main house and the other in the laundry room of the guest house.  The guest house laundry room is one of 3 guest laundry areas but storing cleaning and estate supplies can cause problems and is unsightly.  To remedy the situation the Gypsy Carpenters were hired to build a partition in guest house laundry room so guest have unfettered access to the laundry facilities and unsightly shelves of supplies may be hidden away.  In short order the wall went up, the door installed and it was quickly finished.  I was amazed what professional carpenters can do.  When I undertake a project like this, it usually involves lots and lots of thinking and planning since I'm inexperienced at this sort of work.  I acted as Susan's assistant so I could learn all I could about partition walls and quickly realized that if I had tried this project myself my approach would have been all wrong.  It pays to have the professionals do the job.  The job is done efficiently, quickly, and looks great.

Susan's post about the job is on the Gypsy Carpenters blog and includes a really good image of the Chiricahua Mountains taken through the front garden.

Header going in and Susan checking job schedules

door installation

Final partition wall ready for paint

Here is the final finished product with a fresh coat of paint.

finished partition wall.


Chiricahua Peloncillo Heritage Days 2015

The Upcoming 2015 Chiricahua Peloncillo Heritage Days is shaping up into another great event for the area.  The Painted Pony Resort will present a talk on landscape restoration on the estate.  It will cover techniques implemented on the estate to restore the grasslands and improve range conditions on the 750 acres of deeded land comprising the estate.  Covering water, soil, vegetation, and animals it will highlight techniques that may be implemented by any land owner to improve landscape conditions

Chiricahua Peloncillo Heritage Days 2015

There will be several walks on Sunday after Saturday's presentations for participants of Heritage Days.  If your interested in seeing and learning more about the area, please join one of the walks for a great learning experience.

The farmers market for this years Chiricahua Peloncillo heritage days is ready to go.

Goodies at the framers market


It's Raining, but not here

One characteristic of the monsoon season in the high desert is uneven rainfall.  It will be bone dry at the Painted Pony Resort but pouring buckets some place else in the valley or in the mountains.  The last time this effected the estate was when it rained in the Peloncillo mountains but the estate received only 0.05".  The water from the Peloncillos funneled through the estate tearing out and moving a 30" x 20' diameter culvert.  While out working yesterday I noticed a monsoon storm building to the south and took the panoramic image below.  A single isolated area of falling rain was visible.  Upon checking the radar to see if it was moving north I noticed that what I viewed outside was actually occurring 27 miles south of the estate, down by Paramore Crater and in the San Bernardino Valley.  Since this is across the drainage divide all the rain water was headed south.  But it nicely illustrates the idea that you can see forever in the San Simon Valley.  I should say that the monsoon faded then built again and the estate received 0.61" overnight, bringing the monthly total to 4.81" for this monsoon and a yearly total so far of 8.35".

The main house and guest house at the Painted Pony Resort with an isolated monsoon storm in the background

Screen grab of the radar image showing the location of PPR and the isolated monsoon storm shown in the photograph.



Arising before sunrise has some advantages.  Frequently during the high desert's 2 rainy seasons the morning clouds take on special shapes and colors creating breath taking views.  Below are 3 images of sunrises from this past winters rainy season.  The first 2 taken at sunrise through Antelope Pass in the Peloncillo mountains of southern New Mexico.  The wispy yellow cloudscape was a pleasing way to start the day.  While the last image is the sunrise of Christmas morning 2014.  The range of color, purple through yellow, contrasting with the cloud texture from smooth to well defined clouds is especially pleasing.  Sitting in my files, I recently rediscovered these images while cleaning and wanted to pass along these awe inspiring views of sunrise in the high desert of New Mexico.

whispy clouds
Sunrise through Antelope Pass in the Peloncillo Mountains.  Note the mimetolith in the lower right corner.

Cloudscape of blue and yellow
Christmas morning cloudscape


Selective Color Desaturation

Contrast and color are important aspects of any photograph and I always struggle to find the right mix that produces depth and helps create an interesting image.  One method which mixes both color and contrast manipulation is selective desaturation.  This method relies on the removal of specific colors during the post production process either by painting out color in certain areas or the wholesale removal of certain colors from the photograph.  By selectively removing individual colors from the image a composite of Black & White and color is created.   Below are 3 images, the first is what came out of the camera.  The second is with the mountains, clouds, and sky desaturated.  While the third is one in which the foreground appears desaturated while the mountains, sky, and clouds retain their color.  This simple technique can add a great deal to an image and help enhance specific aspects of an image.

Full color image

Sky and mountains desaturated

Foreground desaturated


The Tenth Wedding

The Painted Pony Resort was pleased to host it 10th wedding this weekend.  With a western theme and planning by one of the local wedding planners it was a family affair with good food, music and dancing.  We all wish the happy couple well and hope to see them again soon. 

Wedding decorations with a western theme.

Exchanging rings at the Painted Pony Resort

the happy couple in the front garden
Husband and wife in the front garden.
Additional images from the wedding may be found at Desert Lace Images on Facebook


Puddles of Pink and Other Stuff

Below is a nice sunrise through the Antelope Pass in the Peloncillo mountains of southern New Mexico.  Pink puddles of light illuminate the edges of cumulus clouds at dawn. Closing in on the end of a 30 hr work day, I saw this as the sun was beginning to rise.  It is followed by a view of the front garden where selective colors were desaturated to create a Black & White background with the blooming Crepe Myrtle in the foreground.  I find this image pleasing as a result of the difference in contrast afforded by the partial desaturation.

Little puddles of pink at sunrise.

Crepe Myrtle in color with Black and White mountains.
Here is one more selectively desaturated image, this time reversed with B&W predominating the image.

Selective desaturation of clouds over the Peloncillo mountains