Monday, September 24, 2012

Welcome Indian Summer

Daniels Summit, Wasatch County, Utah
With the advent of the Autumnal Equinox we have the beginning of "Indian Summer" or the first part of Autumn late September and October.

This is the time when temperatures are relatively comfortable in Zones 5-7. The leaves change in the mountains of the Northern Hemisphere(March, April in the Southern Hemisphere). Of particular interest are the Rocky Mountains, Alps, Himalayas, and Appalachians among others.

The Rocky Mountains are surrounded on all sides by desert or semi-desert  areas. The mountains of the Great Basin, high Mojave, Sonaran and Chihuahua Deserts in the United States all have "islands in the sky" of color. This is especially true when the colors peak in October. This year the colors will peak earlier it appears than other years. Leaves around my area were well changed before summer ended.

Alpine Loop, Mount Timpanogos, Utah.

If you hit the high country before the snow flies you can catch more than scrub oak, maples, aspen, and cotton wood changing. Ferns also provide a large ocean of color. Especially on the eastern or southern slopes where rain gets dumped  before hitting the rain shadows of the desert. These ferns are beautiful and deserve a look. Though short in life sometimes not coming out until June, they provide a great backdrop to the trees and surrounding countryside.

Many foothills of these mountains are also covered in Opuntia (prickly pear) in the drier locations. The Rocky Mountain Prickly Pear can withstand temperatures far below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The surrounding desert areas have sagebrush, yucca, Mormon Tea, and mesquite depending on the desert ecosystem below the high elevations.

The Grand Canyon is a great example of this. At the North Rim it is 8,000 feet above sea level with Aspen, and pine. At the bottom the Canyon resembles the Mojave Desert and can reach summertime temperatures well over 100 degrees.

So if you get a chance to get out and drive, especially is less green areas to the mountains to get some pictures of color before it all goes gray and brown and the snow settles in for the lifeless winter.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kirk's Photo's on Our Facebook Page

Here are some photos Kirk has updated on our Facebook page. Click "Like us." We wont mind.

Old Man of the Andes

This cactus is one that is just sitting there. It hasn't grown much, but it is alive. It sits in my office window getting some sunlight in the morning hours until noon.

It makes a cool part of my collection. The white "beard" on the cactus is clearly a plus. At first it was hard to tell if the cactus was alive or dead. So I dug through the beard and got green flesh.

The cactus is very much alive.  I bought it at a Home Depot or Lowes on sale.  It just kind of sits there living up to its namesake.

The Old Man of The Andes is native to the highlands of Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. It might be better as an outdoor plant. For now though it sits in the office window.

I would recommend at least watering every other week. Some Miracle Gro Plant Food is good with a watering.

Let the soil dry out to avoid rot. It is good to mix in newer soil with the old, especially for an office plant. You are not looking for Arnold Schwarzenegger biceps or pecs here.

It it is suspected that the cactus may be on the downward spiral pull back the hair and using scissors or a knife pull back the hair to get at the green flesh. This can be hard as the needles make it a bit tricky.

The flesh should be bright green and roots firm in the soil. Normally one would repot each year or two. But why repot if the cactus is slow growing?  Take an envelope opener and mix in the top layer of soil. Then add a cup or so of new soil, water and thoroughly dry between watering.

You can also pull on needles to check for health. But that is not necessarily a good sign in and of itself. You may get a chunk of flesh on needle and think you have rot.  That's why I recommend  going straight to the stem. If the wound you make in the cactus heals then you are okay.

I have so many cacti in my office I don't know what to do. Some ladies hoard cats and men hoard old junk cars. I hoard cacti. If you have any tips on how to get stumpy here to grow I'm all for feedback.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Great Salt Lake Desert

Great Salt Lake Desert, Juab County, Utah.
The Great Salt Lake Desert is part of the larger Great Basin Desert. It is approximately 250 miles long starting in the northwestern corner of Utah and extending down to Juab County. It is approximately 120 wide about 40 miles west of the Wasatch Range on the east and extending to the Nevada State Line on the west. The Topaz Mountain area is one location where Japanese Americans were interred during World War II.

Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah. The Newfoundland Mountains are in the background.

The Bonneville Salt Flats is home to the world's fastest land speed records and  is so flat in spots you can see the curvature of the earth. The salt flat areas of the desert are also home to a number of salt mining operations such as Morton Salt Company.

Aragonite Area, Tooele County, Utah.

Portions of the Great Salt Lake Desert feature a more distinct  basin and range  pattern typical of the Great Basin.  Salt flat areas are much more wide and mountain ranges are farther apart. The Great Salt Lake Desert is used by the US Military for a variety of reasons from Air Force Testing to the closely guarded secrets of Dugway Proving Grounds.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Tale of Mr. Whiskers

"Mr Whiskers" came into my life during a trip to stay with some friends at a time share in Palm Desert, California.  It was the summer of 2005, which I remember well.  The temp was a cool 115 degrees F during the day. Quite comfy I would say, NOT. No worries it was a vacation just the same.

Upon arriving in California land of many cacti and desert type plants I stumbled across golden barrel cacti. Native to further south in the Sonoran Desert, these cacti were like a big barrel I had back home, but were huge!  They made for a pretty landscape.  So a trip to the local Walmart and $5.50 later I was the owner of  a barrel cacti.  Now these cacti ARE NOT cold hardy.  Nonetheless, I was going to take this specimen back home bring it out during the late spring to early fall and keep it in my basement during the winter.

A name came to me while taking it back to the condo. "Mr. Whiskers" also being a cat lover at that time. Well Mr. Whiskers was potted and the journey began.  He spent time with us in California and then travelled back to Lehi, Utah with my family where we were living at the time.  Mr. Whiskers grew slow and steady.

Golden Barrel Cacti

Over the years Mr. Whiskers battled root rot, some time being in my outdoor garden of very poor draining clay soil, fungus, and some other problems. But this was the bounce back cactus. Mr. Whiskers even survived some cold snaps supposed to kill this type of cacti.  When I moved north in Utah and eventually when my marriage went splat! see previous post, I was a lone man living at his parent's house with some of my cacti and palms.  It was late February 2012.  Miserable time for a non cold hardy cacti to live outside. My other barrel was there too along with some Washingtonias grown from seed and a date palm.

Late spring storms were relentless with cold and wet on Mr.Whiskers. He suffered cold burn that turned him white.  He did scar very well.  Well I finally got an apartment where I am now.  Some cacti were not going to make it.  My other golden barrel had fought the onslaught of late winter and early spring, but death was near. Finally, rot took my other unnamed barrel out.  Several other cold hardy cacti survived, others I couldn't take.

Finally it was my cycad that was burned, fried, toast, on life support and Mr. Whiskers burned almost every where, but not rotting.  White from cold burn, but still retained some green.  Spring did come and only Mr. Whiskers and my Cycad remained.  All my other cacti were dead or casualties of me hoarding the things.

Mr Whiskers slowly began to grow. The scarring gave way to green flesh and new needles formed on the crown.  Mr. Whiskers came back making a full recovery!  My cycad was dead, but still was green in the trunk. It was ugly! But I decided to see if that green meant anything. I gave it the best sun I could.  One day arriving home from work I discovered new fronds coming out of the trunk and the burned ones moving out of the way for the new ones. My other stick cholla from the Mojave is cold hardy, but it survived and is now also growing gangbusters.

Mr Whiskers should have died, but he lives! He still bares the scars of the cold winter months he spent outside. Other golden barrels I have owned have almost made it before succumbing to rot and disease.

Mr. Whiskers is a trooper and dispels the myth that one of the most beautiful cacti around cannot take harsh conditions and survive. Same with my cycad, an extremely tropical plant. Today Mr. Whiskers is fat and happy and golden as ever!

Cactus Ring

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