Friday, July 31, 2009

Steve & Jen at Rattlesnake Spring, NM

Here's a few photos of us exploring Rattlesnake Springs!

Remember the butterflies from this post? Jennifer HAD to go see them too. :)

See why we LOVE milkweed?

Near Rattlesnake Spring there is a public access to the Black River. Check out that clear & cool. The scene was complete with a soaring Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier) overhead.

After exploring in 100+ temps we needed a refresh. Yep - we jumped in and it felt as good as it looks. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another First !!!

The other day we were in search of butterflies and caterpillars at Rattlesnake Springs and, holy mackerel, did we get lucky and bumble across a momma hummingbird on her nest - a first for both of us!

We are not exactly sure what species (we could not see all her markings) but we would say she's a Black-Chinned Hummingbird if we were forced to guess.

Check out that nest. Here's an excerpt from The Birder's Handbook (Ehrlich, Paul R.) describing hummingbird nest construction:

"...of plant fibers, plant down, covered with lichens, bound with spider's silk, oft with streamer of grass blades attached to bottom by spider's web, lined probably with plant down."

Seems like the nest in the photo below fits that description fairly well. In any event, what an incredible abode! What an incredible and beautiful and beautifully adapted bird!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A few caterpillars of Rattlesnake Springs

It's that time of year again!


Unexpected Cycnia**...

Saltmarsh Caterpillar**...

Saltmarsh from the front...

Carolina Sphinx**...

Carolina Sphinx feet...check those out!

* = caterpillar becomes a butterfly
** = caterpillar becomes a moth

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tomato-Basil Pizza (& Yeast-free Pizza Crust recipe)

So I had a bunch of extra roma tomatoes and tons of fresh basil - that means pizza!! I decided to take advantage of the pre-heating oven by drying the fresh basil and partially drying the tomatoes (we don't like wet tomatoes on our pizza because it makes the crust wet). The crust recipe I used called for dried basil - hence the oven dried basil. (The Yeast-Free Pizza Crust recipe is from the book "How It All Vegan" by Tonya Barnard & Sarah Kramer and is copied at the end of the post).

I cooked the tomato and basil at 225 degrees F. - the basil for maybe 20 minutes (and turning it a couple times) and the tomatoes for maybe 40 minutes (turning them once).

I simply prepared and pre-baked the crust and then added sauce, cheese and the tomatoes/basil then baked some more. Pizza is certainly not complex. As you can see, this pizza is going to be delicious and nutritious!!!

Yeast-Free Pizza Crust
2 cups flour
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
4 tbsp margarine or butter
5 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor or with your hands, mix the flour, Parmesan, salt, oregano, basil, margarine and oil until "just mixed." Spoon the flour mixture into a medium or large bowl and slowly add the water while you knead the dough. Knead only for a few minutes until dough is pliable. Form into a 6-inch disk and let chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Roll out dough onto a pizza pan and prick all over with a fork before adding your goodies. Bake for 20 minutes.

For a Yeasted pizza dough recipe we made in the past see here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Impressive Visitation Statistics

During the week of 7/14-7/19 2009 Carlsbad Caverns National Park was visited by folks from all 50 states and these countries:

Daily visitation numbers have been upwards to 4,500. Wow, those numbers speak for themselves!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rattlesnake Spring - A Very Special Place

Rattlesnake Springs is an important place for birds as the note below (italics, from NPS website) indicates:

Rattlesnake Springs, a rare desert wooded riparian area that has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society, draws birders from around the world to see some of the 300-plus species that have been noted there.

But it provides so much more than bird habitat. Since it is one of our favorite places to explore, we'll be doing a number of posts on Rattlesnake Springs natural history topics. To start off, here's an incredible sighting from just yesterday. Neither one of us had ever seen so many individuals of a single species of butterfly in one small area as in this patch of milkweed (I believe Asclepias subverticillata):

The butterfly is a Queen (Danaus gilippus strigosus):

Truly, this sighting was humbling in so many ways....

More Rattlesnake Springs wonders soon!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mountain, Valley, Explore, Repeat...

Remember that consumer culture slogan, "browse, shop, eat, repeat" - we prefer the "mountain, valley, explore, repeat" version!! Last weekend Steve, being a very lucky feller, got to attend a grass identification workshop with New Mexico State U. Professor, Kelly Allred. This guy is a living legend in the world of grasses but more on that in a later post. For now, here's the "mountain, valley, explore, repeat" route from the trip:

South from Carlsbad, NM across the Delaware Basin...

...into Texas and around the Guadalupe Mountains...

...west across another basin and salt flats...

...up and over the Davis Mountains at El Paso, TX...

...into the Rio Grande Valley and heading back north...

...back into The Land of Enchantment (whew!) at Las Cruces, NM and the Organ Mountains...

...up and over the Organ Mountains and heading E-NM across the Tularosa Basin...

...with more salt flats...

...some of which are managed for migratory birds such as this Avocet...

...into the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains where...'s hard to make a living...

...up and into mixed conifer forest in the Sacramentos...

...where Ponderosa Pine...

...mix with and grade into forest of fir and aspen...

...where alpine grass meadows provide refuge for...


...and caterpillars... forest was intense as we crossed the mountain pass...

...and headed back into yet another weather system on the high plains east of the Sacramentos...

What a topographical and floristic roller coaster ride!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shoe-Shine Gov'na?

In honor of some little shoe-shine kid in some Dickens novel, I decided to shine my shoes today. Actually, I did it because Jennifer has to keep her shoes shined for work and that brought back childhood memories of shining shoes every week for church. No, it was not penance for wrong-doing, it was because we didn't have money to buy new shoes very often. And, since I was the youngest, I received hand-me-down shoes that needed on-going shining or they'd fall apart. So fast-forward about 30 years and here I am shining my shoes again. Why? Two reasons: 1) leather shoes can literally last a life-time if they are cared for and 2) out of respect for the cow that lost its hide for the sake of my feet (his/her hide outta last me awhile or what's the point?).

So here's a shoe-shine quickie:

1) Got scuffed leather shoes?

Get yourself some newspaper so as not to make a mess on the clean carpet, clean the shoes and remove the laces:

Get a can of shoe polish (about the price of a small latte):

Take an old rag and work the shoe polish into the shoe - working the polish into any cracks in the leather (shoe on right below has been polished, the one on the left has not):

Put on some sassy new laces if need be and ya-gotch-yer-self a nice polished pair of shoes gov'na!!:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Unknown Caterpillar - Any ideas?

Hey everyone. It's the weekend for Jennifer - yay! I've been looking, without luck, for a while now for the identification of this caterpillar. Steve and I found this gal wandering around the work lunchroom, moved her outside and hurriedly took a photo before heading back for our afternoon shifts. I wish now we had some better photos. Anyone have any identification ideas? I am pretty sure this is a moth caterpillar, but have no idea what type.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Really really cool plant bug...

I'm not sure yet what type of plant bug this is, but wanted to share anyways. S/he appears to be nectaring on Apache Plume. I put a request into for an ID so I will let you all know when I do. :)

Less than 5 minutes and an answer! See here for the BugGuide post.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


On the far right side of the following picture you get a glimpse of what our side yard looked like prior to our planting efforts. A few seeds, a little water and some love sure make a difference.