Thursday

Monsoon Weather

This 2016 monsoon so far is slow in bringing needed water to the high desert.  The  Painted Pony Resort is at about 2.8" so far (for a yearly total of about 4.5").  Yesterday though the Painted Pony Resort received its' first traditional monsoon storm.  A gully washer, a chunk-floater, a fence lifter, a frog strangler, or a trash mover (1).  In other words lots of rain in a short period of time.  Although only delivering 0.3" it had some small hail embedded which made it all the more monsoon like.  After the storm was past I went back out, after drying off, and saw a dust storm moving south on the other side of the valley, completely obscuring the Chiricahua Mountains.  This was followed by rain according to a friend who lives across the valley, so the Arizona side of the valley also received moisture.  I have seen this phenomena before, but in terms of extremes the photographs below show how the weather can be radically different across the 9 mile width of the valley.


Weather radar screen capture of monsoon storm that delivered 0.3" of rain.   

The view before the dust storm moved down the west side of the valley.


The dust storm a short time later.
1.  https://dare.news.wisc.edu/same-thing-different-words-synonyms-by-region/

Saturday

Sights and Sounds

Some experiments with sights and sounds from the Painted Pony Resort.  I'm interested in "how people see" and sights and sounds can make a big impression so I've been exploring different ways of seeing and hearing.  Since it all about ideas and concepts and not people and personalities, the ability to present what I see and hear every day may have a positive impact on others.

The image is of a Crepe Myrtle from the from the front garden.  Using Fyuse which creates a 3D rotating view of a subject it creates an interesting presentation and coupled with recordings of bird songs captured in the mornings it provides a different way experiencing the Painted Pony Resort online.

If viewed from a smartphone, just rotate the phone to rotate the image, if viewed on a tablet or desktop computer just click and drag.




Friday

UV Fluorescence in the High Desert

The other day while out attending to chores about a mile and a half from the main buildings on the estate I came across an interesting piece of chalcedony out in the desert.  Tucked up next to a mesquite bush this unusually shaped piece of chalcedony looked more like a cartoon mouth or a rock shaped box that formed when the the quartz was liquid and flowing creating a shape I'd never seen before.  Finishing my chores, I shoved it in my pocket and continued walking back out of the desert.  Back at the estate one of the first things I checked after cleaning the stone was it fluorescence.  Using a short wave UV light, which I use to check bedding at the Painted Pony Resort, the specimen fluoresced green. A previous post about fluorescence shows both yellow and green fluorescent chalcedony found around the estate and this specimen gets added to the pile of big and little specimens that when illuminated with short wave UV light re-emit light at a visible wavelength. 

I use a 395-410 nm UV light to illuminate the desert and look for a variety of fluorescent plants such as lichens, animals, and rocks at night.

Chalcedony specimen under normal lighting.


Chalcedony specimen with short wave UV light fluorescing green.
Chalcedony found around the Painted Pony Resort.

Wednesday

When it Rains, it Pours

When it rains, it pours, but not the weather related rain rather the occurrence of equipment failures on the estate.  I've been running constantly repairing broken equipment and have had little time for blogging or anything else.

First it was the pool cover.  The cover is vital to keeping pool clean and during cooler weather keeping the temperature up.  But the UV out here is hard on any plastic material and the pool cover finally gave up the ghost.  A new replacement cover arrived and I've spent time getting it installed.  A 20' by 40' pool cover weighs about 100 lbs. and it took some time to maneuver it down to the pool and get it into place.  I'm on the last bit of the installation just need to get the ropes connected to the hydraulic system.

The next item was the dishwasher.  The motor bearings have been making noise and cleaning and lubricating only temporarily resolved the problem so a replacement was ordered.  Of course the connections to the water supply were not the same requiring switching the the old inlet valve with the one on the new dishwasher to allow installation.

Then the air conditioning went out while guests were in residence.  It turns out a capacitor went bad on one unit and half the main house was warm.  Fortunately the other heat pump helped maintain a reasonable indoor temperature but with 20 guests it was pushed to its' limits.  I got the system fixed and back running within 24 hours which made the guests happy.

Of course then the Direct TV system went on the fritz in 2 buildings.  A combination of tree growth blocking signal solved the problem in one building while understanding how unattended toddlers like to push buttons on equipment allowed me to finally figure out the other problem.

Finally the owners wife requested a garden planting bed for herbs and peppers.  Because of poor soil from erosion I tasked an old pallet for a new raised planting bed.  Wrapped in black plastic it is filled with dirt from the river bottom and should provide a useful planting area for raising young plants.

Just to show that it has not been all repair work while I'm running around making the place inviting for guests I still managed to get a couple of interesting cloud images.  The Monsoon is starting and the skies are generating nice cloudscapes some of which were extremely picturesque.


Installing the new pool cover

Inoperative heat pump

Bad capacitor on heat pump

New planting bed for the owner

Wispy clouds at the edge of a storm

Monsoon cloud build up over the The Chiricahua Mountains




Saturday

Rain, after 4 Months of Waiting and Watering

Finally some rain.  Spring was a bust and the desert is parched.  Everything is brown and it has been a hard time for the wildlife.  The promised El Nino did not materialize and the irrigation could not keep up with dry weather.  I struggled to get the front garden area at the Painted Pony Resort looking presentable for guests partly the result of irrigation and partly because of a major pruning last winter where 15 yards of materiel was removed.  Expecting good El Nino rains I heavily pruned all the plants and was relying on the rains to kick start the garden and allow new growth which would cover any pruning errors.  But the rains never materialized here in the valley and I have been watering the plants by hand to supplement the irrigation.  The yearly rainfall total currently stands at 1.33", not good for the first 6 months of the year but if the rain continues and the monsoons are strong this hardy landscape will recover.

The next day while writing the draft post clouds started to build again.  A large buildup resulting in the last photograph which dissipated with some rain in the Chiricahua Mountains but none on the estate.  A second buildup after sunset did deliver another 0.17" on the estate.  Good news for the dry conditions in the valley.

Rainfall from CoCoRaHS for the Painted Pony Resort
Rain with the setting sun over the Chiricahua Mountains
Panorama of the front garden after the rain
Storm clouds the next day which yielded another 0.17" of rain
Addendum:

One more photograph of the big buildup over the valley.

Brush Strokes.  The edge of a large dissipating cumulus cloud formation.

Sunday

Working on the Solar System

Not NASA's nor ESA's work exploring the solar system but rather the solar collectors used in heating the pool at the Painted Pony Resort.  To put it bluntly I made a mistake and as a result damaged 2 panels.  The system had a leak last year and after digging up the lines and cleaning out the lost fluid I could not locate the apparent leak.  I recharged the system with water and left it alone to see if time would show the leak.  The system ran fine all season never losing pressure.  So in the fall I reburied the lines and continued to run the system.  Of course once buried I began to lose pressure indicating a leak.  I kept the system running but at one point during the cold weather shut the system down and had a freeze.  So I began the process of pulling the 4' x 8' panels and exploring options.  I found ruptured pipes inside 2 of the panels and began the repair process.  I realized that while I could cut out and replace end connections any split pipes required brazing.  So I set off to learn how to braze copper pipe and after learning the fundamentals of brazing I repaired the ruptured tubes.  Then it was a reversed process of replacing the repaired panels back into the system.  After getting the repaired panels installed and recharging the system, I brought it online and started bringing the pool back up to 85 degrees.  Using the geothermal system I built was able to maintain the pool at about 70 degrees but the goal is 85.  Currently, the pool is back above 80 using only the solar system and is ready for guests.

water inside solar panel

Removing a solar panel


Repairs

Wednesday

Building a Yard List for Guests

Birding is a big deal around here.  With the Chiricahua Mountains and Cave Creek Canyon the area draws lots of birders looking to add to their life lists and as a result the birding season draws lots of visitors.  A number of birding guides (for a list see the side bar) are available locally but many birding visitors just spend time on their own, hiking and birding locally. At the Painted Pony Resort we see primarily groups and not individual birders but some guests wish to participate in the local birding scene while visiting to get an introduction to the activity.  As a result I have started a yard list of local avian species so guests will have easy access to a list of the most common species visiting the estate. 

Not being a birder though it required some preparation.  Binoculars were the first tool needed and fortunately I had a pair I use to check the estate.  The next was a location to bird.  I'm out and about constantly but getting the camera ready and quickly getting an image to document a species is not really a viable option.  I have used the iPhone camera to some extent and with some success but I needed a location that I frequent where I could keep the camera handy and settled on the doorway of the trailer.  I'm frequently in and out of the door in the early morning and with a small mesquite tree which is visible from the door is the perfect location to see local birds.  From the doorway I'm in shadow and do not disturb the bird I'm trying to photograph allowing me more time to catch a usable image.  Then came identification, there are reference books in the main house for guests but I needed something handy and found the Merlin Bird ID and eBird apps which fit nicely on the iPhone.  These tools allow the rapid identification of the local bird species I manage to photograph.  The goal will be to place the yard list some place guests can easily access such as the blog and website as well as adding to the online listings.

The yard list currently sits at about 2 dozen species and I have a long way to go, in both finding and identifying the local bird species as well as photographing examples for guests.  Below I have added a couple if images of birding from the doorway that I've been collecting for the yard list as a taste of the local birding tool being built for guests.


Bullock's Oriole

Wilson's Warbler

American Yellow Warbler

Sunday

Life at the end of the Line

The Painted Pony Resort is at the end of the line, figuratively and in reality.  Located at the very end of Painted Pony Road, the estate sits on over 750 acres of deeded land in the high desert of southwestern New Mexico.  The quiet and solitude is only broken by the occasional bird watcher, delivery vehicles, and of course guests.  The estate is also at the end of the line for DSL internet services which snakes its way in from Highway 80 and electric power which is delivered to the estates' NE corner 1.75 miles away.

The isolation and anonymity provided by the Painted Pony Resort makes it ideal for those who wish to get away from it all and find someplace quiet for a family centered reunion or other event.  The estate has helped celebrate a dozen weddings, from small intimate family weddings to those with over 100 guests, as well as hosting other group events such as astronomy and artist workshops.

As opposed to estate rentals in urban areas with distractions that reduce family time and distract from family oriented activities, the Painted Pony Resort is a place of ideas and concepts where the distractions are few and the landscape itself provides the entertainment.  While the estate has all the onsite amenities associated with urban settings, satellite TV, wireless internet, pool, hot tub, basketball, and with 13 bedrooms in 4 buildings, it is New Mexico's high desert and the surrounding mountain ranges are the real attractions. So if you are looking for a unique location for your next event, come on down for a visit.

Arriving at the Painted Pony Resort

Aerial view of the Painted Pony Resort, looking south.

Aerial view of the Painted Pony Resort, looking east.

Aerial view of the main complex at the Painted Pony Resort, looking east.



Thursday

Working with Apple's iPhone SE

I've had the new iPhone SE for a couple of weeks now and I'm extremely happy with the experience so far.  I find that with the lack of radio station reception in the valley that I use the iPhone as a portable radio.  Internet streaming NPR radio is perhaps my favorite, news and interesting stories from outside of the bubble makes outdoor work a pleasure.  With a pair of Bluetooth earbuds I'm not tied to the iPhone while working and a dangling cable is not in the way.

I have also had a chance to start experimenting with the camera and I'm also generally pleased with the results, 2 example images are shown below.  The 12 megapixel camera has good color reproduction but I find that editing images still requires work on the big desk top computer screen to see the details and to make the usual changes in input and contrast levels.  To help I purchased a 128 MB wifi powered thumb drive from SanDisk.  The SanDisk Connect is an easy way to back up the photo library as well as other stuff without maxing out the iCloud backup provided by Apple.  Though I am looking at a telephoto lens for the camera for those multi image up close views of the Chiricahua Mountains that I like to make, but have yet to decide on one that will fit the OtterBox case I use.

I should point out that I'm still fairly low on the learning curve with the details of the iPhone.  Figuring out how to do things Apple's way is taking some time but is not overwhelming.  Finally, I did notice that all the gloom and doom prognostications by the Apple pundits before the release of this edition of the iPhone were incorrect and the iPhone SE's demand is currently greater than supply.

A single Ocotillo bloom (Fouquieria splendens) in the front garden at the Painted Pony Resort,
taken with the iPhone SE camera.

Penstemon splendens, planted last year, is up and blooming,
taken with the iPhone SE camera.
Addendum:
One more iPhone image of a Soaptree Yucca, Yucca elata, beginning to bloom in the courtyard of the main house.

yucca elata
Saoptree yucca with a single stem of blooms about to open.

Friday

The Cycle of Life: Part II

Recently, I posted a short note on the Cycle of Life about an old Mule Deer who lost his fear of humans and came up to the Bungalow while guests were in residence.  He found a comfy spot under one of the pine trees to rest and eventually died.  Well, just a couple of weeks later as I was stepping out of the trailer one morning I was greeted with another aspect of the cycle of life, mothers with babies. A small herd of female Mule Deer with their young had come up to the Guest House at the Painted Pony Resort to browse on the newly leafed out Red Push trees.  Upon seeing them, I carefully backed into the trailer to grab the camera for some photographs.  Although only 10-15' away, I was not seen and did not spook the animals catching the images posted below.  It has been a hard spring this year with little rain, but colorful sunrises and sunsets indicating atmospheric moisture, and the local wildlife were consuming everything in sight on the estate.  The rabbits were climbing into the Ephedra to feed as well as eating bark of plants in the front garden and several small pines were stripped of needles by the deer.  In spite of this hardship it is nice to see physical evidence that the cycle continues and even though there was little rain the wildlife on the estate manages.


Female Mule Deer and young

Babies and the cycle of life

Browsing on newly leafed out foliage