Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fall weather

OK, I guess I have to admit that we are moving into Fall now. The revised weather forecast in our paper this morning predicted the high for today to only be 103, with the highs for the next week only expected to be around 101. Nighttime temps go down to the mid 70s, which is rather cool after our summer temps. It is rather pleasant to sit out in the afternoon when I get home from work now, I usually have a cup of iced coffee and sit out and read the newspaper, watching the birds in the fountain.

The sage we have planted around the yard are also noticing the drops in temperature and are in bloom again.

When we pulled up the grass and moved to desert landscaping we put in a variety of low water plants. The conversion effort pushed by our water department required us to submit a planting plan, with at least 50% of the area we converted from grass to be shaded by trees and shrubs. They have a large chart of approved low water trees, shrubs and groundcover, with the plant size when full grown. We put in a lot more than required, with quite a few big trees, resulting in a calculated shade coverage of 110%, because of overlapping trees and shrubs. We planted about twenty different sage bushes, mostly in two areas; a strip along the front and another strip down the side outside of our kitchen, with a few more scattered randomly. Several varieties were used, all have purple flowers but the colors vary from deep dark purple to a very light, almost white, shade. The different varieties have a slightly offset bloom schedule, resulting in flowers over a longer period of time.

All bloom profusely in the spring, and then again at assorted times during summer and fall, usually right after any rain. The dozen shown above are the ones outside the kitchen window, and after four years are now about seven feet tall. B likes the ‘natural’ look, rather than pruning them into shapes or smooth balls as most people do. Pruning recommendations suggest cutting back about a quarter of the stems down to the ground each year, still leaving a large plant but always having some new growth coming up. B would rather wait and see how big these things will eventually get. They are fairly well watered from the drip system that I put in and so are growing faster than if they were not watered. Periodically a flock of tiny chirpy birds fly through and fill the bushes; they seem to be eating the flower buds as I don’t see any insects for them to be feasting on, but they leave enough flowers for us to enjoy so we don’t chase them away.

We don’t have any cats, and the two that our neighbors across the street have don’t wander over into our yard any more. Our dogs are not much of a threat to the birds, and as a result we usually have a yard that is filled with birds. The grass area out back under the trees attracts robins and mockingbirds looking for worms and insects in the grass. We have fountains in the front courtyard and out back, which both pull in birds looking for a quick drink. Hummingbird feeders front and back are busy year ‘round, with two or three always fighting each other over who controls the sugar water. Finches and house sparrows are always around, and when I remember to put seed in the feeder out back even more gather, chasing each other off the perches and making quite a racket arguing over who should be eating.

There are usually mocking bird nests in the big palm out front and in the tall palm by the pool. The hummingbirds and finches like to nest in the olive trees, and usually there are grackles in the ash trees out back. Most of the young birds usually are around in the Spring, but last week there was a young yellow finch hoping around the pool area, with mom overhead squawking at us and swooping down periodically. It probably jumped out of the nest just a little early, before it fully learned to fly. It was gone the next day, either finally getting enough altitude to make it into the trees, or it went into somebody else’s yard, or one of the few cats around found it. There are a group of young ones in the fall, when the weather is still warm and there are fruits and berries on the trees and bushes for food.

The pool water temp is still up around 90, so we can still float around in the evening. It should start cooling down soon. September and October are usually the nicest months for weather, as it was in San Diego as well. Kids are back in school and the tourist crowd usually slows down, but it seems that Vegas is packed almost all year around. December is usually the lightest, probably because people are getting ready for the holidays.

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