Succulent Gardening

90269015_10112222698685751_204282409967943680_n

In my last post, I briefly mentioned I’ve taken up succulent gardening this spring. What turned into a side dabble quickly took on a life of its own as I delved deeper and deeper into the world of succulent varieties, and in more recent weeks, has proven to be a happy little sanctuary and positive focus for my brain as times get crazier and crazier, and I’ve even been able to get a lot of these little guys through mail order.

I’ve harbored a low-grade interest in succulents for years. They’ve fascinated me, the different colors, forms, and varieties, and I’ve experimented with trying to grow them here and there, with minimal degrees of success, mostly due to our largely inhospitable summers around Phoenix and the fact that most plants don’t like to be cooked.

I started my first succulents over 20 years ago, when my parents were putting our backyard pond in, and I wanted something to call “my own” in the yard…so I ended up with a little pot of a mixed variety of succulents, and one tiny standalone pot containing a teeny little “ponytail palm.” And 20 years later, that palm is still around, as is one of the original selections — a haworthia that has since produced 3 full pots of propagated offshoots, and dozens more random ones.

Last spring, a family trip to one of the Phoenix garden nurseries netted another round of succulent buying. By the end of the summer, I hadn’t had the best of luck with my selections all making it through, but I had a small pot with a few different varieties that had survived.

What I started with last summer, around Memorial Day

Winter 2019-2020 start

Late 2019/Early 2020: What survived. The only thing that survived from the original selections above is the few scraps of crassula/jade plant (bright green). The silvery-blue and the small spiky green got added in later in the summer. This is what I started the year with.

This spring, my parents gave me an adorable “Donkey Tail” sedum for Valentine’s Day.

Sedum morganianum -- Donkey's Tail

Sedum morganianum — Donkey’s Tail

This adorable plant really perked me up — I was still in a funk regarding endurance, and a funny little cheerful plant was exactly what I needed. Looking up info about it sent me spiraling down a rabbit-hole of interesting and unusual succulent varieties, and the next thing I knew, my mom and I were packing into my truck and hopping over to one of our local nurseries for a bit of combination garden and retail therapy. (Which also involved the addition of a very unique Australian Finger Lime tree to the yard as well.)

That trip netted me one of my favorites in my collection, a “string of dolphins.”

Senecio peregrinus -- String of Dolphins

Senecio peregrinus — String of Dolphins

As I briefly mentioned in covering my trip to Florida for the AERC convention, I love the ocean, and I love marine life. Little known fact: In elementary school, I wanted to be a marine biologist. In 5th grade, I was even part of the school’s “Oceanography” club. Unfortunately for me, I have a rather strong aversion to going underwater, so that kind of derailed that idea.

Anyway, moving on…since that trip, it’s turned into a spring of succulent collecting, to where I have the entire garden cart shelf at the top pic of this post pretty much totally filled, and another smaller pot as the centerpiece of the patio table.

88108713_10112091835786051_967320681958080512_n

I’ve had very good luck with two local nurseries — Summer Winds and Whitfill, for anyone in the East Valley area. I’ve also snagged a couple from Trader Joe’s, of all places — they usually have a display of mixed succulent/cactus varieties in the late spring/early summer.

Online, my sources have been:

Mountain Crest Gardens
Succulents Box
Leaf & Clay

I’ve ordered the most from MCG, but have multiple plants from each source, and have thus far been very happy with all of them. All of them have sent healthy plants, have been packaged well (I think MCG wins for the best packaging jobs, though), everything has survived shipping, turnaround has been quick, and all have a good variety and selection.

I’m not an expert — I pick stuff out based on the highly scientific “oh, that’s pretty!” or “oh, look how funky that one is!” methods. As a rule, I avoid anything that’s a hardcore spiky cactus (I have one spiky cactus, and it lives over by the fishpond, completely out of anyone’s travel path), mostly because I hate picking cactus spines out of my clothing/skin. Some of these, I have no idea how they’ll survive the summer. I’m hoping because I got them in much earlier this year, they’ll have several months to establish themselves before the hot weather really hits.

This is my current line-up as of the end of March 2020, put together mostly as a reference for myself and a reminder of what exactly I’ve got out in my garden. There’s a few mystery varieties in there as well, so if anyone knows specifics, please let me know!

Hope everyone enjoyed my little detour away from all things equine-related, and a peek at one non-horsey element of my life. I’ll update later this summer as to what has survived/thrived…as well as what other new additions may have shown up.

Gardens and Seahorses

With two days left to go in the month, I was thisclose to breaking my “at least one post a month” streak that I’ve had going since August 2011. It was tempting. My blog content is decidedly ‘endurance lite’ right now, at least as far as the actual riding part. I’m still managing to stay involved with endurance, via the AZ Endurance Riders Club activities (and running the website and social media), and I’ll be volunteering at the Wickenburg ride this weekend.

86970887_10112017101743671_3179283845044240384_n

Getting more and more official all the time: We have club shirts now.

But there’s an aspect there that is a bit of a dual-edged sword. It’s great to have ways to stay involved and active…but it also stings to be involved, but not on the riding front. I keep reminding myself that this is nothing new for me — I don’t think “consistency” can be applied in any way, shape, form, or definition to describing my endurance “career,” such as it is, over the years.

So right now, I’m just not thinking about endurance a ton.

Earlier in the month, I went up to the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. It’s been an almost-annual tradition ever since I was little, and it made an early impression on me in terms of the beauty and spirit of Arabians. It also left a lingering dream and desire to some day show at Scottsdale. Never mind I don’t have an Arabian. But being up there this year really re-ignited that particular dream, and I realized I actually miss showing. I miss the fuss and the bother, the ritual and routine. I don’t miss my tall English field boots, though.

But my dime store psychology, combined with some peanut butter whiskey, netted me the epiphany that I think what I really miss is being that good at something, that successful. Mimi and I put in the work, and there’s boxes of trophies and ribbons stacked up in my closet to prove it.

Right now, endurance just has me feeling a bit defeated.

86468805_10112020682602601_3821507762194481152_n

Watching the Western Dressage classes. This handsome guy is VA Ralvon Crusader. I’ve followed him with some interest on Facebook for a while now, and it was delightful to meet him in person. He is sweet, kind, and has knock-your-socks-off good conformation. Wouldn’t mind owning one of his offspring.

So I spent a couple days at the Arab Show, admiring the sleek and shiny show ponies…and then I got to go groom my yak.

thumbnail_IMG_1394

Seriously. The shedding. It’s epic.

No worries about this one retaining her coat or anything like that…she might have grown an impressive coat this year, but she’s dumping it by the handful and can’t get rid of it fast enough. (My pony is a better forecaster than some old groundhog…I believe her and her shedding patterns as to if we have an early spring or not.)

Last weekend, Saturday featured some major rain.

thumbnail_IMG_1375

Spoiler Alert: It was not delicate.

Despite what my snarky weather app tried to convince me of, it was neither “light” nor “delicate.” Instead, the end result was enough water to leave the arena at the barn almost entirely under standing water.

87776290_10112053277122921_3813262601807200256_n

“I am NOT a seahorse.”

Mimi was not amused by my “water aerobics” exercise session. Princess is not a seahorse, and Princess does not like getting wet or splashed, so doing trot sets through several inches of water was not her idea of fun.

She was also feeling good enough to crowhop under saddle, which she hasn’t done since she was about…I don’t know, maybe 10? Glad that at almost-27, she’s still feeling that sassy. Took me totally by surprise, and all I could do was laugh. By the time I gathered my wits about me enough to realize, “uh, my pony is crowhopping, I should probably address that…” she had desisted her shenanigans on her own, but it still shocked me. It’s no wonder that some of the Arabs I’ve ridden don’t really faze me…at some point, there’s probably been some Pony-equivalent behavior I’ve already survived.

I also spring-cleaned down at the barn, organizing both my tack trunk and my storage cabinet. Everything got sorted, old stuff got tossed, cobwebs got swept out, several black widows got relocated to another plane of existence, shelves got fixed, and I have some semblance of organization happening again.

I’m also very proud of my leg-wrap storage system, set up to allow wraps to hang to dry, as well as have their own storage space that doesn’t involve them being tossed unceremoniously on top of my grooming tote.

I also did a bit of retail therapy. Because what else do you do when you’re beyond frustrated with endurance but buy more endurance gear? (I already know I’m impossible, you don’t have to tell me.)

I have a fondness for laced English reins, due to years of showing huntseat…but leather + endurance don’t mix. Plus, I like cleaning leather saddles…I hate cleaning leather bridles & reins. My plastic tack has me spoiled. But a query to Hought Tack, on whether they could do their beta English reins that were laced with ‘roo leather as endurance reins (snaps on the ends, no center buckle) netted me this gorgeous pair. They look cool, and they feel really good, too. And the ‘roo leather is super durable and holds up to all the sweat and dirt. Yay, best of both worlds.

I’ve also been on a non-stop quest to find the perfect saddle packs, and I just may have found them. Longer review to follow, but after two short rides, I am in love with these True Grit saddle packs. The maker of them doesn’t have a website yet, but I can put you in touch with her if you’re curious. They truly don’t bounce, and attach and sit on the saddle in such a way they sit above the horse’s shoulder.

And finally, I’ve been throwing some of my focus on the backyard at home. 20-something years ago, my parents transformed our suburban postage stamp backyard into a tropical paradise, complete with fishpond for exotic goldfish, and dozens of varieties of different plants. This was before horses totally and completely ruled my life, so most weekends were spent going around to various and sundry plant nurseries around the Valley. I loved getting involved with the fish pond part of things, especially picking out the fish, but my pre-teen self only had so much (very marginal) interest in the gardening part of things. I appreciate how it looked, but tending plants was not my cup of tea, aside from giving benign neglect to the little pot of succulents I decided to grow. (Incidentally, two of which are still alive, and one of which has propagated like crazy and I’m running out of room to stick all of its offspring.)

Well, fast-forward a couple decades later, and I think I’m starting to uncover my latent green thumb. Or at least attempting to. Over the last few years, I’ve started taking more of an interest in some of the garden stuff, like growing our own nasturtiums (and harvesting the seeds, saving them, and planting them the following year), and last year, really got more into it again with another pot of succulents, and helping tend to the veggies Mom planted.

And this year, I’m having a hard time staying out of the yard. I’ve gone a bit succulent crazy, two mail orders of little succulents on their way to me as I type this, in addition to the few new ones I’ve already added.

Playing in the yard is a really good mental distraction, it gives me something to do, and it makes me feel productive. There’s also a combination of instant and delayed gratification at work. Instant gratification that comes from cleaning up a spot that needed work, or the satisfaction of tearing down and pruning things. Delayed gratification in seeing plants grow, and thrive, and the enjoyment of being able to harvest some fresh veggies and fruit.

Keeping my fingers crossed, but it looks like that gardening gene I was skeptical about inheriting actually may not have skipped a generation.

New Years at Picketpost

IMG_0743

“Start as you mean to continue.”

I generally try to avoid being too superstitious…but that is one I try to adhere to every year — the idea that what you do on New Year’s Day is what you’ll do the rest of the year.

So I took my pony on a ride.

And hopefully that translates into “get to go do plenty of endurance rides” for the rest of year. But in the meantime, I enjoyed a beautiful, Arizona winter day, on my spitfire of a pony who was two handfuls’ worth of sass and spirit, acting not at all like her turning-27-years-old-this-year age.

IMG_0730

Still the Most Adorable Endurance Pony (retired), all geared up and sporting our Christmas present — a D-Lua Park saddle pad

IMG_0732

“Come on, let’s gooooo!!!!!” The Patented Pony Side-Eye.

We’ve ridden Arnett Canyon before (shortly after Ney Year’s last year, in fact), and it’s a really fun trail. Some technical stuff, both manmade waterbars/steps in and out of the water crossings, and natural rock ledges and outcroppings to be navigated…and depending on the time of year, lots of water crossings. I lost track of how many water crossings we ended up doing, including a couple that were deep enough to be past Mimi’s knees, and my feet and lower legs got splashed a number of times.

IMG_0740

Such an interesting microclimate back in the canyon. Saguaros and ocotillo collide with cottonwoods, sycamores, and water.

It was a good, 8-mile stretch, and Mimi was still being a fire-breathing dragon at the end. She is still so strong, I forget how much of a workout it is when she’s that on and in bulldozer mode, when I have to really work to not let her plow through on her forehand through all of the technical, tricky bits. I’m pretty sure the catch-ride Arabs are actually an easier ride than her. Love her, though, and she’s certainly made me a better rider and has made me work for it along the way.

IMG_0752

The 2020 offering of my current blog header. I try to capture this particular pic/angle whenever I’m out there, because it looks so different depending on the season and time of day.

Love Arizona

While everyone’s all #HappyValentinesDay, I’m over here like #HappyStatehoodDayAZ. Because I’ve got puppy snuggles and pony kisses, and I love my state.

One big photo spam of state love.

I don’t have a favorite part of this state. (Although I’m tired of suburbia. There’s a reason the photos all feature the great outdoors, and not my surrounding sea of tiles roofs.) I love that I can get everything from cactus to pines, sand to snow.

Sure, the desert bakes your brains out in the summer, but last weekend, I was riding in a tank top. And there’s no snow to shovel. There’s also plenty of location options for those who prefer four distinctive seasons. (What’s that?)

I’ve been to or through every corner of the state, and plenty of time in the middle of it. I’ve ridden, hiked, or run on trails all over; boated, floated or waded in lakes and rivers; summit’d peaks and descended into the depths of canyons. Sunrises and sunsets painted from a palette of imagination and sheer beauty. Cactus hugs. Quaking aspens.

We’re the youngest state in the continental US, and 48th out of the 50 states to be granted statehood, received in 1912. We have a population of approximately 7 million, making us the 14th largest state by population. And Phoenix is the most populated state capital. (Oh yay. Said with much sarcasm and an overabundance of congestion overwhelm, since I live in the Phoenix metro area…where 2/3 of the state’s population also lives.)

We’re the 6th largest state by landmass. And only 18% of it is privately held. State Trust holds just under 13%, while the Fed “manages” about 42% and the remaining 27% is tribal. We also have the largest number of national monuments of the states — 18. (This would be why so much of the population is all crammed into the greater Phx area and any amount of acreage for property is precious and at a premium. <long-suffering annoyed sigh and eyeroll>

State stuff
Flower: saguaro cactus blossom
Gemstone: turquoise
Tree: palo verde
Bird: cactus wren
Fossil: petrified wood
Mammal: ringtail

Happy 106th, Arizona!

 

 

 

May Day Musings

So, it’s been an interesting winter/spring. I don’t know if the fact I still keep attempting to lay out plans, both long and short-term, despite the “plans never survive first contact with reality” adage that is an all-too-frequent reality, is persistence and stubbornness, or bordering on futility.

Running events actually went pretty close to plan, albeit with some major “not according to plan” weather interruptions. You know you’re in Arizona when, in the space of two months, the weather goes from hypothermia to heat stroke.

IMG_7998

“but it hardly ever rains in the desert…”

I’m very pleased with how my running season went this time around. No major injuries, and conquering Crown King/getting that first 50k completion. My two major goals, and I managed both of them.

What I’m finding very interesting is the aftermath.

Trail running is definitely not my all-encompassing joy and passion the way riding is. I don’t actually like to train for running. I get a lot of satisfaction out of finishing a race, and I enjoy the social aspect, but I have a hard time mustering up a ton of enthusiasm for the idea of going out for a long training run by myself. For me, it tends to be more of a “put in the work or you’re not going to enjoy the outcome” type of mentality when it comes to training.

After giving it some thought, I don’t know if the idea of moving beyond the 50k distance really holds a ton of appeal. The idea of having to do way more training above and beyond what I did for CK has very little appeal. Maybe if I had easier access to trails, I would feel differently, but as it is now, it’s a lot of work for me to get to actual trails, and takes a lot of time. Because I do have to drive everywhere (to the barn, to trails), that alone eats into the time allotted for my “play time.” And there are other things in my life that mean more to me than running/moving up in ultra distances.

(However, as long as I have the dogs, I will always be doing some degree of running, because that’s the fastest way to happy terriers.)

17554134_10107682387770221_6972872268075058055_n

Comparing that to riding, there’s been very few times where I haven’t felt like riding. Especially if I’m on a good horse that I really like, the training and conditioning doesn’t feel like a chore or something that “has” to be done. It’s something I truly enjoy. (I always keep in mind Julie Suhr’s advice that “If you don’t enjoy the conditioning process, this is not the sport for you.”)

And it’s a good thing, too, since that tends to be the area in which all attempts at planning completely fall apart. If I didn’t love it so much, this would probably be an exercise in frustration/futility.

To whit: I was supposed to ride Liberty at the Bumble Bee ride two weekends ago. (Normally scheduled for January, but massive amounts of rain pushed it into April.) However, vehicle problems (NOT mine this time) prevented her from making it to the ride. I swear this ride is jinxed for me. Not once have I actually ridden it and finished.

Bumble Bee, A History:

  • Year One: Didn’t have a horse to ride, so volunteered.
  • Year Two: Liberty and I went overtime on the 25.
  • Year Three: My suburban engine blew up a week before the ride and I wasn’t going anywhere.
  • Year Four: Lameness pull after the first loop of the 25 on Liberty.
  • Year Five: Vehicle problems that prevented Liberty from being brought down for me to ride.

So, since I was already there, with all my stuff, I begged a bed off of friends for the night, and volunteered on ride day.

Not what I had planned, but I still had a good time, and felt right at home again with my endurance tribe. I once again landed my “master timer” job, which, aside from vet scribing, is one of the things I really like doing. I’m very organized, so the “keeping track of things” element of it is right up my alley, and apparently I can be quite bossy/direct when it comes to making sure the process runs smoothly.

Meanwhile, with the weather warming up, the pony is quite happy. Winter coat is shed out and she’s working on baldifying herself for the summer. Warm weather also = explosive hoof growth, so never mind that I trimmed her three weeks ago…by the time I got down to the barn this past weekend, it looked like eight weeks had gone by.

So that was a happy couple of hours spent meticulously working on her feet that had really gotten away from me this winter/early spring. Still not 100% where I like to see them, but since the goal is not “lame the pony from a crappy trim,” I’ll keep working at it over the next few weeks. She’s gone from “let me grow stupid-high upright feet and heel” to “let me show you how long my toes can get.” Pony feet = never boring.

And then we rode. God bless my sainted pony for putting up with me while I’m caught in this “ugh, I feel like a hot mess who doesn’t know how to ride” cycle. Apparently 24 years of riding, over 10 of which involved lessons, showing, and instruction, means nothing to my psyche right now, since I’m overthinking and just trying way too hard. However, I had a revelation on Saturday that somewhere along the way I completely forgot I had lower legs, and have been doing way too much upper leg and letting the lower leg just gleefully swing along for the ride.

And I wonder why I tip forward, or most of my ride photos have my lower leg trailing along somewhere back at my horse’s flank. Apparently the idea of the lower leg as your stable base of support isn’t just some radical suggestion.

Arena time = way too much think time. I need more trail time.

In unfortunate other news, fire season already started here with the Sawmill Fire burning approximately 47,000 acres north of Sonoita, including part of the Empire Ranch, base camp to the Old Pueblo ride, and part of the Arizona Trail on the west side of the highway (which is a major section of trail for one of the ride days, and my favorite trail for the ride).

It’s too soon to tell how it will impact the ride. The 2017 ride happened already (March), but I don’t know what will happen for 2018. The fire is at 94% containment right now.

Much closer to home is the Cactus Fire, right along the Salt River…one of my go-to trail locations. 800 acres and 85% containment, but only about 4 miles away from some large residential areas of northeast Mesa. It’s also one of the spots where the Salt River wild horses like to hang out; fortunately it appears that none of the wild horses have been hurt or killed and they are staying clear of the area.

The weather has been hot, dry, and windy for the past week, so decidedly not helpful in fire control. Southern AZ in particular gets very windy; enough so that they had to ground air support several times due to high winds.

Hoping and praying for some spring rain, or early monsoons…all of the lush greenery from the winter rains has turned dry, brown, and crunchy, and we’re currently sitting at “tinderbox” status right now. :/