Category Archives: The Brewer Nature Preserve

An accounting of all of the desert “wildlife” that visits. Thankfully most of it stays outside.

Backyard Visitors

On Friday, I mentioned the unwanted spring cold that has taken up residence in my sinuses. Thank you so much to everyone for your lovely comments and “feel-better” messages. I am feeling a little better after a busy weekend that didn’t allow for as much rest as I should have made time for. But I am still behind. Is it just me or are spring and summer colds the worst?

Slowly but surely, I am putting the banana bread post together and should have it up tomorrow. I decided last minute to bake up a batch of banana nut muffins to add in and have again set myself back. Honestly, I think I am way more excited about this post than anyone else could possibly be. I need to get it up so I can stop thinking about it.

But today, just for a quick check-in to say hello, I thought I would share with you a few pictures of my favorite backyard visitors. We have a lot of interesting visitors to what we call the “Brewer Nature Preserve” and it often feels like we never need visit a zoo again. Well, we don’t have tigers and rhinos (and I am most happy about that) but we do have lots of coyotes, javelinas and the occasional bobcat sitting on the fence or trotting casually through the driveway.

I know. It took me a while to get used to it too.

My two favorite visitors are the bunnies and the quail. They are sweet and peaceful and are always there nibbling on the grass or scratching for seeds when I first look out the kitchen window in the early morning.

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I look forward to seeing them.

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I love that the quail are always in pairs. Do you see the second pair in the background behind the orange tree? We are just starting to see the “mommies and daddies” with a long trail of babies scrambling along after them. So precious.

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The bunnies are usually in pairs too. This guy heard me coming as I interrupted his breakfast; I though I was being so sneaky and quiet.

He stopped for just a moment, listening.

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And then he and his buddy were off for the back gate. But he did make sure to take his breakfast with him.

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Often times the bunnies will be just outside the gate running around chasing each other, playing in the tall brush. So much fun to watch!

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The bunnies and quail are definitely welcome company. And while they might be slightly more terrifying company, I do have to admit it is pretty incredible to see a bobcat just hangin’ out on your back fence post.

Or even up in a Saguaro …

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This is not my original photo, I found it on-line and borrowed it. 

It is amazing to me that these cats climb up and then sit atop these sharp spiny cacti.

Before I go today, I just want to extend my thoughts and prayers to all who were affected by the horrific tornado in Oklahoma yesterday. We lived in Altus, Oklahoma when we were stationed there for two years and absolutely loved the area and the local people we met. They are kind and strong and will overcome.

We have a lot of family in Oklahoma as well and are so incredibly thankful that they were not in the path of the storm and are all just fine. We are praying for those who were not as fortunate.

The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

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Spring has Sprung; well at Least it had Yesterday

I think, finally, I can say that it is officially Spring around here. Finally. It is a little cold and rainy again this morning but I am going to stick with the idea that it is indeed, Spring.

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I know, I know, if you are back east, in the midwest or up north, you don’t want to hear a southwestern girl complaining about the cold – especially today with yet another winter storm blowing in. I used to live with snowy long winters too but I have been in Arizona for a long time now and my blood has become very thin. VERY thin. I could never go back, I wouldn’t survive a real winter.

Even here, we have had an unusually cold winter with several nights of record below freezing temperatures – not fun for desert plants or desert gardeners. There were a few mornings of taking kids to school in 20 degree temps that I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. Heated seats are the only thing that saved me.

But it has been warming up and for about a month now, I have been crazy to get outside and get my hands in the dirt and on the pruners. We live on just over two acres of Sonoran Desert and I have fallen in love with cultivating this harsh but beautiful land. One day soon, I will tell you the story of how we ended up here but for now I will just share that we have put almost 3 years of blood, sweat and tears (literally – everything here has a thorn or a spike) into our spread. I know it is only two acres but there are days when it feels like 200.

Finally, with the warm weather and long weekend, we were able to spend four straight days working outside; which is also why it has been a few days since I posted. It was warm and sunny and wonderful. We  planted a couple of new citrus trees and did a lot of pruning, clean-up and fertilizing and started working on our outdoor kitchen. We still have a lot to do but I am happy to report that everything seems to be showing signs of life – everything except my beloved Hibiscus but I haven’t given up or lost hope yet.

Yes, it is spring and I have proof …

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The tall spiky branches of the Ocotillo are covered in green.

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The landscape plants are starting to bloom.

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The Lantana, which was hit hard, is starting to show signs of life and recovery.

Spring-2Soon there will be peaches,

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and mandarin oranges,

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and lemons,

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and figs,

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and tomatoes,

and Meyer lemons, navel oranges, limes, grapefruit and fresh herbs (the full vegetable garden is in the works for next year).

We have also had our first visitor …

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found happily sunning himself stretched out on the back patio. I have come to an understanding with his kind. As long as they don’t have a rattle or venom of any sort, stay outside – let me repeat that STAY OUTSIDE, don’t startle me, don’t end up in the pool either dead or requiring rescue, don’t hiss at or threaten me or camouflage themselves in such a way as to startle me when I don’t see them, we are able to live in harmony or at least in tolerance. The rest of my family thinks these gopher snakes (who are around 5′ long when fully grown) are cool, awesome and “soooo cute” as Nathan says. As for me, I am just happy they don’t have fangs and a rattle.

So, now that Spring is officially upon us, I will be outside, A LOT, happily playing in the dirt. I may be absent from the blogosphere a day or two, here or there, but I promise I will be back with more stories of the land, the house, the family, the food and the savior that I love.

Come back for a visit tomorrow – I have a confession to make.

Happy Spring!

So about 9 hours after posting this, I am feeling the need for a “Post-Publication Edit”  …

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Ariel view, taken today, of the ball fields where “spring” training starts next week.

Spring 13A view of the Loop 101 Freeway in Scottsdale, taken today.

In this part of Arizona, we do not get snow. Not ever. Okay, once in a million years and today.

I may be an optomist but it is a good thing I’m not a weatherman.

“Mommmmy, DAT PIGS EATIN’ MY PUNKIN …”

What is that strange noise?

It is 10 o’clock at night and we are sitting down (finally), relaxing and watching a little TV that doesn’t have a square talking sea sponge, brightly colored Ninjas or a little pirate named Jake. The kids are all in bed asleep, Gracie is curled up in her dog bed next to us, Grandma isn’t making any trouble, so what is making that sound?

My husband gets up to investigate, looks out the window next to the front door and “whisper yells” – you know the voice I am talking about, that excited voice that doesn’t want to wake the kids or in this case scare something away (or wake the kids) but needs to convey urgency – at me “You have got to come take a look at this. You aren’t going to like it, but you need to come and check it out.”

This NEVER turns out well for me.

Since we moved to a more “deserty” area of the Sonoran desert, our home – which we now refer to as “The Brewer Nature Preserve” – has been visited by all manner of creatures. Most stay outside where they can be “appreciated” from a distance. However, on some regrettable occasions, a few have made their way indoors, prompting my husband to say something like “you aren’t going to like this, but you need to come and check it out.”

So I muster my courage, swallow the lump in my throat, and walk in his general direction; he’s still by the front door, looking outside. Whew, at least it’s outside. I peek out the window and “what to my wondering eyes do appear?” Three Javelinas devouring the perfect pumpkins I had just purchased earlier that day. I did not expect that.

Late night snack.

My immediate reaction was relief “thank the Lord it’s not a snake” (I do not enjoy snakes) which was closely followed by “hey PIG, that’s my kid’s pumpkin!” Which then quickly changed to “Hey, those are Javelinas. RIGHT THERE. Amazing”. And then I saw two more and then I saw the baby one.

Can you see that tiny baby “pig”?

Baby anything is a guaranteed heart-melter and this little piggy was no exception. Actually, Javelinas are not technically pigs but they sure look like ’em. Wikipedia tells me they are “a peccary, a medium-sized mammal of the family Tayassuidae or New World pigs. Peccaries are members of the artiodactyl sub order suina, as are the pig family and possibly the hippopotamus family.” What this tells me is they are “pig-like” and that I think I may have just figured out the origin of “here suie, suie, suie”. Maybe not but words like Tayassuidae and artiodactyl have given me a headache and I don’t want to look it up. I personally think they are RUS’s (Rodents of Unusual Size); can you name the movie?

Anyway, I couldn’t let the kids miss out on this but as any mom will tell you, it is best to let sleeping kids sleep. So, I ran and grabbed my camera and slowly opened the front door to get a few pictures. Javelinas are wild animals and are known to be aggressive but the “Lucy” (you’ve heard about her in a previous post) in me took over and I had to get close.

When I went out, they ran off – but not far. I called them back in a soft, soothing, sing-songy voice saying things like “come back, you’re okay, you can have the pumpkin” – “it’s okay widdow piggy, I won’t hurt you” – “come on, that’s it, that’s a good piggy” – “eat the yummy pumpkin” – crazy thing, they came back and started eating again with me crouching just a few feet from them. You can just call me “The Javelina Whisperer”.

So now, I’m slowly getting my camera in position and am saying something more like “okay piggies, don’t charge the nice lady when she takes your picture and sends a blinding flash of light through the darkness at you.” They didn’t. Thank the Lord. They just kept eating. Crazy!

I took several pictures, none of which were very good, but good enough to show the kids what they missed while snug in their beds.

Turns out the kids got to see the Javelinas for themselves because the next morning they were back to finish off whatever bits of pumpkin they had left behind. I called the kids to the windows and Nathan (who thinks a lot like his mom) immediately shouts out “HEY, MOMMMMMY, DAT PIGS EATIN’ MY PUNKIN” and goes to open the front door while saying “I go get dem way from MY PUNKIN!” No fear, no regard for the “strangeness” of the situation (it’s not as if we have “pigs” in our front yard on a regular basis) just a desire to save that which is his.

Of course, I did not let him go outside with the wild animals. I assured him that we could get new pumpkins to carve and he felt better. Then he saw the baby and I practically had to barricade the door. He was certain that the baby pig wanted him to pet it and that we should keep it.

There is not anywhere near enough “Lucy” in me for that!

In the end, the kids were satisfied with watching our visitors through the windows. Eventually, they trotted off around to the back of the house (making the dog go crazy as she stood nearly nose to nose with one through the back gate), knocked over my bird feeder and moseyed on down the wash. We haven’t seen them  since, which maybe a good thing as I have since learned a few more things about Javelinas. Things I probably should have known before I went outside to commune with them:

  • They are called Javelinas because of their razor-sharp tusks, Spanish for javelin or spear.
  • Adult males can weigh 40 to 60 pounds.
  • They can run fast and have been clocked at 35 miles per hour.
  • They have a distinct musky odor which they will emit when excited or threatened (think skunk).
  • Javelinas are generally harmless to humans when undisturbed but watch out when they are with their babies! Even in captivity, they are unpredictable.
  • They cannot be domesticated as they are likely to injure humans.

Here’s the best part …

“It is not recommended that you feed them in your yard since they WILL return and in larger numbers. They will get into your garbage cans, dig holes in your yard, knock over your potted plants eating the entire plant AND eat your vegetable, cactus and flower gardens!”

Great. So, they are raccoons. Smelly, fast, potentially dangerous, pig-like, razor tusked raccoons.

Welcome to the desert! Wait until you hear about some of our other visitors.