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UGH! It’s a Bug!! The Scorpion That Isn’t

High Desert Insects Challenge Your Sanity

It’s a buggy world. If you stop and consider there are more insects hatched daily than there are people living around the world, you wonder why we aren’t up to our ears in bugs.

That buggy world we live in  — especially in the Southwest — keeps us ever watchful to know which bug is a friend and which one is out to get us!

Sun Scorpion 

Sun Scorpion

Long Legs and Scary Looking Mouth Makes Sun Scorpions Similar to Scorpions

 One of the ugliest insects is a night traveler that looks a lot like a scorpion but doesn’t have a stinger or a tail. Light yellow honey-colored  is the “Sun Scorpion” also known as “Wind Scorpion” or “Sun Spider” even “Nina de la Tierra” or “Child of the Earth.” Its more scientific name is a solpugid and solfugid, depending on the books I looked into.

Its head is large and looks like it shouldn’t be able to walk let along race across the ground. When you find it in your home, it’s usually in your bathtub or crawling up a wall. They sneak around at night, falling into tubs and sinks, then can’t climb out. They can grow as large as two inches (5 cm).

The good thing — if there is good thing about weird-looking bugs — is that it’s fragile, more fragile than any scorpion, beetle, or spider. Just swat it with a rolled up paper or a flyswatter and it’s dead.

Sci-Fi Alien Mouth

Mandibles in a Large HEad

Ugly Bug

Before you annihilate it, take a look at its strange head and large mouth parts. Its sci-fi alien looking mouth comes right out of a nightmare. It has four pointy jaws that open and close like a grappling hook in those stuffed toy coin-operated vending machines. Their bald head is actually covered in fine hairs — always on the alert. It helps them feel their surrounding due to their lack of good eyesight. But that’s typical with nigh bugs.

They also have giant fake pincers called pedipalps that look like they could hurt you but they aren’t harmful or even poisonous. They use these strong front arms with the next pair behind to control their prey. When they feel threatened they raise their front arms up defensively like scorpions or tarantulas do. This can make them look more dangerous to predators or even humans. Most solpugids live less than a year so they need to live on the defensive or die early.

Glow in the Dark

The closest bug that looks like a Sun Scorpion is a large, caramel-colored Jerusalem Cricket it sometimes shares its name “Nina de la Tierra” with the sun spider, also found in the Southwest deserts. It has a large head, long legs, moves slower, but is active at night. I’ve only seen two of these in 40 years so they may be more rare today.

 Jerusalem cricket

It’s not from Jerusalem or a cricket

Another way you can tell differences between true scorpions and pseudo-types is to use a black-light and hunt at night. A scorpion will “glow in the dark” while a Sun or Wind Scorpion  will not.

So keep an eye open for those creepy-looking bugs but also take the time to see what they are and how they share the desert with you. Most are beneficial and eat other bugs, so they’re doing you a favor. Really.


Unofficial “Bugologist”

High Desert’s Heat Can Make You Wish You Had a Jacket?






Can you recall the strange warm weather we had in February this year? I was so frustrated that the High Desert didn’t really enjoy a winter. Sure if you call two weeks of temps dipping into 20s and 30s fulfilling the  required Winter season, then you’re right. Let’s just say it was disappointing.

My closet, especially my coat closet, is full of new coats for the season. Two still have tags on them. I live in So Calif and we’re breaking heat temps for this month!! 93 degrees in Riverside! 78 on my patio in the Mojave Desert, for crissakes!! Talk about the weather never changing… I’d love to see some snow, sleet, rain, even a seagull fly over… anything white so I can wear my new coats!!

Sound a little crazy? Daffy even?  That’s what I wrote about in my blog notes for February. I wanted cold weather; I needed to know the seasons were changing as they were expected to.

No change.

Big Bear flowers

Summer yellow goldenrod in Big Bear

 Now I figure if reverse psychology works so well on children, that maybe, just maybe, I can use reverse meteorology on the Weather.

Who said it can’t be done.

American Indian tribes believed and Rainmakers driving their wagons across the plains believed the weather could be changed. I don’t know what the magic words are or what dance to do, but if I put on a nice parka, and shuffle around the yard a few times, I might attract a quizzical cloud or two.

I know for a fact that hail often falls in summer months due to the disturbance of upper ice-filled clouds colliding with warm updraughts from the desert. I’m seeing a few gather now.

As the summer gets hotter and we’re just now entering the hottest month of August, I’m wearing my poncho and a sweater underneath. The clouds have been building every afternoon. I heard the monsoon weather from Arizona is reaching far into California’s High Desert. Storm warnings are now on the evening news. Do you think it might?

I just came in from wearing my floor-length quilted coat; it’s the one still sporting a store tag. I figure if I keep this up I’ll have snow by September! And even if I don’t get that cold Arctic Blast, we might just get a cold front in two weeks. So mark your calendars.

Now the downside to wearing heavy coats in summer is the amount of profuse sweating that I’m doing. I did plan to lose weight but not this way. And I just noticed the shadows crossing the valley are the type of clouds that will carry ice: I’m sure of it. The upside of wearing coats in summer is that you have “broken them in” — is there a break in time for coats?

storm clouds coming

Dark Clouds over Big Bear

Now that I think of it, rain on my best coat would not be good. I don’t want to ruin it. And I don’t want to send it to the cleaners in summer, that would just be too weird. However, those storm clouds are brewing. Did I hear a rumble?

If you want an icy storm to lead winter into So Cal now, just go put on your newest coat and dance around; it has to be outside, silly. Think of it as a Flash Mob. We can do it!

 Oh, no. I just thought of something I hadn’t considered. By the time winter does officially return to the High Desert, the newest styles will be on the racks. I’ll be wearing the blase last-year styles. My coats will become has-beens, passe, even dare I say, ready for Goodwill.

I’m changing my mind, I’m allowed. I’ll need to write a classified ad: High Fashion Coats & Jackets. Need new homes. Slightly sweaty but still worth wearing to a NASCAR race. If someone spills icy soda on you, the coat won’t mind at all.

shoppers in rain storm

And getting caught in a downpour of icy rain will feel refreshing, right? To the coat and to you.


Rusty LaGrange

If you like what you read here, go to A Flair For Words and see my other blogs.

Hiking for the Couch Potato (Part 2)

Ridge of Inselbergs in High desertMarch has come to an end. The theme this month for the High Desert Bloggers was inspiring change. Have you been inspired to change your activity level? Are you inspired to discover new territory? I know it can be difficult, but you can do it.

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. On the flip-side….it also takes 21 days to create a habit. Have you created a habit of walking, now that you’ve been at it for a month? Are you reading blogs about it? Or are you blogging about it? Habits are interesting behaviors. For example, you might be in the habit of drinking only 8 cups of water a day. However, as you become more active, particularly as you plan to hike in the High Desert, your body demands that you drink more water, even at this point in the game.


It can be argued that water is essential to living.  It helps us process food, move nutrients, keep our electrical impulses flowing and, of course it cools us off when it is hot outside.  The high desert presents a unique challenge to individuals participating in physical activity.  It is both hot AND dry. Both of these conditions increases our water needs by a factor of 2.  Think of it like this, if you are walking or hiking in the desert in full sun, at the hottest time of the year, you will lose 2 quarts of water in 1 hour – that is just walking!

If you are RUNNING or jogging at a reasonable temperature, your body averages this same usage. Thank goodness we have the sense to stay indoors during full sun. But that does not change the fact that it is dry. As a general rule, most hikers will bring at least 1 liter of water per each hour they hike. I say, that is a pretty good rule of thumb even just walking around the neighborhood. Most hikers will NOT walk during the hottest part of the day.

The PLAN (Month 2)
You have been walking three times a week for 4 weeks now. You might have added a day if you were feeling great, and hopefully you have been consistent with paying attention to how your body feels after a walk and even the day after a walk.

You may have been walking for about 20 minutes, and if you have been feeling good, you may have been going up in duration to about 30 or 45 minutes.That is great. This duration is somewhere between 3/4 mile to 1.5 miles – depending on how long you are walking and how fast you are walking. Let’s add some frosting to this cake.

For the most part, we will walk the same 3-day per week, but we will add a 4th day. This day will be the day that you will increase EITHER your duration OR your distance. Since the high desert is relatively flat, we don’t really have to worry about elevation gain or challenging terrain – for the most part. If you lived elsewhere, you would consider this as a third factor. We will call this extra day, your “Long Day”.

Here is how this will work:
Again, you choose you schedule. If you choose MWF, your 4th day would be Saturday and your rest day would be Sunday. If you choose T-Th-Sat, your 4th day would be Sunday, and your rest day would be Monday. We are resting on the day after so that your muscles can recuperate. Then back to the first day (Monday or Tuesday depending on your schedule). On this first day, you should take it easy. Walk a little slower and see how your body reacted to the increase of time or distance.

Week 1:
If you are walking 45 minutes on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s, on Saturday or Sunday and you are walking about 2 miles in that 45 minutes

  • if you increase your duration, you would add 15-20 min during this week.
  • if you increase your distance you could add on another 1/2 to 2/3 mile.

Week 2:
You are already walking 45 minutes. Take an easy walk for 45 minutes on your Day 1 (Monday or Tuesday). How do you feel?
On Day 2 of the week (Wednesday or Thursday), increase your 45 minutes ONLY if you are feeling energetic. I would only increase about 10 or 15 minutes, or if you did distance, maybe 1/4 mile. The rule is that you do NOT want to increase your time or distance on this middle day by the same distance or duration you did on your “long day”. By the third day of the week (Friday or Saturday), you will do your regular distance or time but at your normal pace. As a matter of fact, your body should feel back to normal. If it does, let’s increase our time or distance on the long day. If not, let’s repeat what we did for week 1 in time and distance.

On the long day, if we walked for an hour the previous week, we should increase by 1/4. So if you walked for an hour on your last long day, you will walk 75 minutes. If you walked a mile (distance as opposed to duration) you will walk 1 1/4 mile.

Week 3:
Again, rest the day immediately following your long day.
Day 1: Moderate walk
Day 2: Regular pace/distance
Day 3: Regular pace/distance
Long day: Increase previous long day duration or distance by 1/4

Week 4:
This is the week we call a rest week. Again, we will rest the day immediately following your long day.

Day 1: Moderate walk
Day 2: Regular pace/distance
Day 3: Regular pace/distance

Long day of the 4th week we will cut our distance or duration in half and just walk that. This is called cycling and it allows your body to rest and repair itself. It helps to prevent injury. By the time you reach the next long day, you will be READY to and well rested to increase the duration or distance.

What are the benefits of following this plan?

  1. It let’s your body recover. Any running or activity article that your read these days stresses that rest period are just as important as periods of activity. We must allow our bodies to rest. That is why we sleep every day. It is a rejuvenating and replenishing process. In this plan, the first cycle is weekly. We stress our bodies one day out of the week, to increase our stamina. The remaining days, we allow our bodies to recover from the stress. On a monthly basis, we all our bodies to fully recover for one full week after 3 weeks of stress.
  2. Allowing your body to recover prevents injury. Rest days does NOT mean go to the gym and work out on weights in order to make up for the reduced mileage – especially if you are not in the habit of going to the gym. That will just lead to muscle fatigue and injury. We need to patient with ourselves and learn to respect our bodies and not punish ourselves.
  3. Less muscle fatigue means more energy to do other things. Like encourage your friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow commuters to walk with you. Having more energy means being able to focus on other things instead of putting one foot in front of the other.

When you put a plan on a longer scale like this, you will be more likely to keep going with the program, because you won’t use the excuse that you’re too tired.
You’ve got the baseline on building mileage. Next time we will talk about choosing a trail.

Beverly Familar is a blogger and hiker dedicated to encouraging and supporting well-balanced dogs through mental and physical activities. She shares her love of nature and dogs with others through her hiking group: Hiking with Fido. If you are in the Southern California, consider joining a pack hike. You can follow the pack’s furry adventures on the Hiking with Fido Google+ Page; via Twitter @hikingwithfido; via Hiking with Fido on Instagram; and on the Hiking with Fido Facebook page. Visit the pack page at

Race Across the High Desert … on Foot

racers support   runners at stage 01    It takes nearly 10,000 volunteers to make the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay a real challenge, and yet not many people even know about it. To cover the grueling 120-mile foot race through some of the most desolate stretches of high desert, runners must create their 20-member teams with physical endurance, perseverance, and ability to support their participants within a 24-hour time frame.signin volunteers

The Challenge Cup is a relay pitting runners not against each other as much as against the worst the desert can toss at them. Scores are based on times for the legs of each section — some only four to five miles in length and the toughest  with 10.7 miles — but must be completed by the 24-hour maximum deadline. In the past some teams were disqualified because they couldn’t keep up. Extreme weather, heat strokes, and blisters take out many.timing table recorder

What makes this race unique is the fact that only law enforcement personnel can race and you must be invited to help in the support roles. Not everyone can enter; not all can help. LA Police Officers Chuck Foote and Larry Moore created this crazy race 30 years ago, based on the format laid by LAPD Metro Division´s “Death Valley Relay” ending in 1985 — a seven-year stint of running through the Devil´s Graveyard.

Strong interest has grown each year to include not only California and Nevada divisions but other states and even other countries. Japan, Sweden, Germany, UK, and Canada coordinated their teams and flew in for the honor of racing. For more details visit:

The foot race begins in Baker, California, at 8 am, climbs through the higher elevations to Shoshone, the Gateway to Death Valley, then veers right through a narrow canyon, across Chicago Valley, and into Pahrump, Nevada. Once passing through town, racers then begin the long climb up the grade toward Las Vegas. In this section,Volunteer Sandee in Comm Center all runners are in the dark wearing flashing vests to warn motorists that they are sharing the road, their added protection is provided by their follow support vehicles. As they clear the crest of Mountain Springs Pass, the lights of Las Vegas prod them on to the finish line at the Las Vegas Hotel Convention Room.

Just looking at one Stage, where a baton is handed off to the next team runner, as many as 200 people can swarm there. They stand in excitement waiting for their runner to arrive, prompted by a trained team of Amateur Radio communicator volunteers who announce each runner coming in. The support teams also include the registration of current teams, a medical contingency, race officials, and the growing numbers of team race supporters and their families. Once the current racers have moved on, all of the support volunteers move on to the next Stage. Volunteer Virginia in Comm Center

Volunteers who are assigned to man one stage for the complete 24 hours, will have been awake throughout the evening, well into the early hours of the next morning. My husband and I have helped in several of the assignment teams, whether it was in Shoshone, or race headquarters, or camped long the highway offering our radio support. We are now Lead Ham Radio assigned support for Stage 14. We’ve be involved for more than 17 years.

As old-timers we still find it fun, tiring, exciting, and enthusiastic to see all the teams milling around waiting for their teammates to break through the chute and hand over their batons. We even recruit new volunteers to invest their time so others can take breaks or even skip a year of service. The race officials also make it more efficient at stages by promoting the newest timing gear and computer-assisted scoring to make our jobs much easier.Friends at dinner

Although the dates of the race tend to shuffle from March to April, next year’s race is now set for March 28th. Reservations in motels and camping resorts are already filling, and surely the teams are gearing up for the 31st year. It’s just another one of those strange desert traditions — one in which we are honored to assist.

Rusty LaGrange

Hiking for the Couch Potato (Part 1)

Ridge of Inselbergs in High desert

A couple of weeks ago I was with some newly found and absolutely fabulous friends in the High Desert. They are all bloggers, so it goes without saying that they pretty much write all the time, if they are not working. One person asked me if it was possible and what I would recommend, as far as training, for a blogger with a couch potato status to get into hiking. So, I am here to tell you that it is possible and I have a plan for you! This will be a monthly series of blog entries to get you to the next level. You might take longer or shorter time. You might want to add more distance initially. The point is, go at YOUR pace, and don’t hurt yourself. This should be FUN!

First I want to premise this by saying that I wasn’t always a hiker. I didn’t always visit or live near in the higher elevations, a.k.a. the high desert. I lived near the beach and practiced yoga about 3 times a week. But my search for more elbow-room and the ever-elusive idea of privacy in an urban setting, took me east towards the Inland Empire.

Living in the foothills, there is a lot of country to wander around near me. Slowly but surely I got into hiking because I wanted to experience the nature around me. I didn’t want to go alone, so I got a dog. I had to train my dog to walk next to me, so we started going on daily walks. First it was just around the block. But by the second week, we were going 3 to 4 blocks. after 6 weeks, we were walking at least 1.5 miles every day (that is approximately 30 minutes walking at a relative relaxed pace). Once a week on Saturdays, I would challenge by myself either by increasing the mileage OR increasing the difficulty of the terrain (for example, more uphill).

Nowadays I do between a 7-10 mile hike twice a month. You can get to this point too. It just takes patience, consistency and a desire to relax and enjoy the area around you. And…maybe blog about it, or at least keep a diary about how it made you feel. By the way, if your dog is not used to walking long distances, believe it or not, they need training too. This would be an excellent way to get Fido in shape!

So… Potato-heads! Are you listening? It’s time to shake off those cobwebs, grab your closest pair of shoes and get ready to take a hike around the block.

Assess your physical condition

It doesn’t matter if you have been walking for a day, a month or a year, if you are getting up from a day’s work at a desk, you need to assess how your body feels. This is a good point to stretch, especially if you feel tight. Before getting up from your chair:

  1. Rotate each foot to loosen you ankle joint;
  2. Sit up straight in your chair. Do head circles, slowly. Don’t force this. Go only as far as you feel comfortable, without feeling like you’re pulling your muscles. Tilt your head to the left, count to 20. Then do the same to the right, count to 20.
  3. Sit up straight in your chair. Extend your hand above your head and reach to the ceiling. Try to keep your shoulders relaxes. Don’t let them scrunch up next to your ears. If that means that your arms are extended out towards the sides so that you are making a wide “v”, that is fine. Just reach your arms to the ceiling. Breath in and out slowly, count to 20.
  4. With each exhale, bring your arms straight down in front of you, so you are pointing forward with straight arms. With each inhale, raise them slowly toward the ceiling again. Breath slowly, making sure that your movement does not finish before you terminate your breath. What does this mean? As you finish your exhale, you are finishing your movement of bring your arms down in front of you. And as you finish your inhale your arms are completing the movement of being raised overhead.
  5. With your arms reaching overhead, stand up while you inhale. As you exhale, extend your arms out to the sides, then down onto your thighs. As you complete your exhale, bend forward at the waist in a forward bend, but keep supporting yourself with your hands on your thighs. Be careful to only go as far as you are comfortable. do not push your limit. You should feel a slight stretch in the back of the legs. Your hands on your thighs support your back. This is important. Take three slow breathes in and out in this position. You may feel your body relax a little.

This is just getting your blood flowing after a long day of sitting. On an inhale, stand up. How do you feel? With all that slow breathing, you should feel a little more lively. We did just oxygenate your body, after all.

Grab a pair of walking shoes. Make sure they are comfortable rubber soled shoes. Grab a dog (optional). Open the door and walk. Actually that’s all a given.

The PLAN (this month)

We will only walk for duration. The first week is an experiment, because no one really knows how far they can go if they are just starting a program. I call it base-building. The days listed could be Monday-Wednesday-Friday, or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. Just take a break in between so you can evaluate what effect this walk had on you.

Day 1: So for this first day, let’s just stroll for 20 minutes. We’re not going for distance, we are just going for time. We are not trying to win a speed-walking competition, so just take your time. When you get home, assess how you feel. Write it down.

Day 2: Did you stretch? How do you feel after that 20 minute walk? Was it well within your limits? Increase by 5 to 10 min. Do you feel like you just want to keep walking? Go for another 20 minute walk and this time take your time and look around. You might notice something really cool, which will take your mind off of the time. Maybe invite your neighbor. Maybe invite their dog (if the dog is nice to you and others that you might pass on the street). How did you feel today? See anything interesting on your walk? Feel crummy? Feet hurt?

Day 3: Don’t forget to stretch! Assess how you feel. Don’t worry, if you feel a little muscle tension. It gets better. How did your body react to the extra time, if you added it. If it was well within your mean, you can add another 5 -10 minutes. Don’t push yourself, especially if you have never walked in successive days before. If you were at 20 min yesterday, let’s do 20 min again today, but let’s change the venue. Walk the reverse way around the block, or walk around the mall and window shop. The bottom line is, if you were a true couch potato, just getting out and moving is good for you. No doubt about that!

Self Evaluation Time

Part of physically participating in an activity like this, is also assessing where your are. Do you feel better? Or do you feel worse? If you don’t take a self-assessment, it could lead to injury. At this point, you should feel something – good or bad. Let me address how to alleviate a physical ailment.

So, assess how you feel. You have walked for 3 days. If at any point you are feeling pressure on the knees, swelling in the ankles, etc, apply RICE (no, not the food). This is what athletes do. If you have ever heard of an athlete in an ice bath, they are actually soaking their entire body in ice. COOOOOLD! As laypeople, we don’t have to be so dramatic.

RICE is:
Rest: sit on the couch. Remember you are also taking a day off in-between walking days.
Ice: Put ice n the affected area. You can get a reusable ice bag at Walgreens for $10. Just refill it with ice cubes. The ice will reduce circulation to the affected area, thus decrease the swelling.
Compression: Wrap your affected area to keep the swelling down. The system should look like this: Keep the ice on for 20 minutes. Take it off for 20 minutes. Then put it back on for 20 minutes.
ELEVATE your affected area. The idea is to elevate it above the level of your heart initially. So if you are lying down, put a pillow under your leg or arm.

NOTE: After taking ice off the 2nd time, do not walk on your leg for another 20 minutes or more. This area has to warm up again, and it is best if it is done gradually. If you notice the same reaction later on in the day, ice it again. How do you feel?

Now what do you do?

Do it all over again. Don’t forget to stretch! Assess yourself. Can you do 20 minutes again? Or were you in the 30 minute group? Do it again today. Try a different route, for more variety. Compare this route to the previous routes. What did you notice? What bored you? Want to share it? Post a comment and tell me. I’d love to hear what you have been up to!

Beverly Familar is a blogger and hiker dedicated to encouraging and supporting well-balanced dogs through mental and physical activities. She shares her love of nature and dogs with others through her hiking group: Hiking with Fido. If you are in the Southern California, consider joining a pack hike. You can follow the pack’s furry adventures via Twitter @hikingwithfido; via the Hiking with Fido Facebook page and at

High Desert’s Vultures Return on Icy Winds

Some traditional events are founded on the return of animals and birds to their home range after a cold winter. This year we didn’t really have Winter in the winter months of December of January. It was disappointing to people hoping for a snow-ski season as well as plants and trees ready to replenish their stores of water for a summer that’s sure to be a scorcher.

Lucerne Valley Sunrise

Lucerne Valley Sunrise

Today came the first signs of the first returns of a bird that no one really pays much attention to. They don’t flash a colorful wing, or come down to frolic around the bird feeders; in fact, most folks ignore them.

The California Vulture sets his timer to return about mid-March after the worst of the weather is over.

Then why are they showing up a month early? We can only speculate  that they felt it was time to return. The short rain season, snow season, cold snap, then followed by a crazy warming trend, would confuse any of us. The vultures are just now returning from Mexico because they think it’s time.

California Vulture

California Vulture


We surely can’t shoo them back south and tell them their timing is off. We can only enjoy watching them soar and wheel in the cold skies, enjoy their awkward hop-jump and limp when they attempt to be ground birds, and revel in their displays as the first rays of sun warm their cold backs. Many can be seen roosting on ranches around the valley, perched on teetering treetops, fences or rock ledges, hoping that any kind of warmth will soak into their black backs.

They’re no swallows like those returning to Mission Capistrano. Just buzzards back from the barranca.

 Rusty LaGrange

If you like what you see here, you can find more stories at . Rusty is a freelance writer, poet, editor, and spends her days staring at the skies when the buzzards return.


In Doubt With Our Drought?

Just how much water should we be putting on our trees during the winter?

That thought came to me last night when the wind whipped up and the next day was another sunny warm one. This is our Winter? The rain hasn’t been offering much over the last few months, so even though the trees are dormant for now, they still are expecting Mother Nature to rain on them.

Does that mean that I have to be a nurturing “Mom Nature” for them?

We’re down nearly 12 inches of rain here and in LA basin they reported a lack of 20 inches. So that means that the roots in our desert soil — clay to sandy to loamy — depending on the region, will dry out and stay dry unless we supplement with some watering days.

But there again, how much?

The Sacramento Bee newspaper is reporting a drought year, and making plans: A state official referred to a dismal first regular snow survey of the winter season, conducted by DWR on Jan. 3 at locations throughout the Sierra Nevada. It found the snowpack at 19 percent of average on that date. In the five days since, the snowpack has shrunk to 17 percent.

This comes after two dry years, which left many reservoirs in the state depleted. Folsom Reservoir in the Sacramento area was at 18 percent of capacity on Tuesday. Water agencies that depend on the reservoir have begun enacting water conservation orders. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has cut flows into the American River to levels not seen in 20 years, the paper reports.

How can I tell if my tree is under drought stress?

Symptoms of drought injury to trees can be sudden or may take up to two years to be revealed. Drought injury symptoms on tree leaves include wilting, curling at the edges, and yellowing. Deciduous leaves may develop scorch, brown outside edges or browning between veins.

Evergreen needles may turn yellow, red or purple. They may also turn brown at the tips of the needles and browning may progress through the needle towards the twig. In early summer conifers under drought may exhibit wilted or drooping leaders. 

Often times, drought stress may not kill a tree outright, but set it up for more serious secondary insect and disease infestations in following years. And that’s what happened to one of my biggest pines last year. 

How much water your tree should receive depends upon the tree size. A general rule of thumb is to use approximately 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for each watering.

You can easily determine trunk diameter by measuring the circumference of the tree at knee height and dividing by 3. (It can get complicated but it’s worth knowing)

Remember, water should be distributed evenly out under the natural drip line of the tree.

The best watering method depends upon whether you have a small (1-7″ diameter), medium (8-15″ diameter) or large sized (16″+ diameter) tree.

Small Trees

Newly planted and smaller trees can get adequate water within the existing watering restrictions by hand watering with a soft spray hose attachment as a separate zone on your designated day.

Small trees are best watered using the following methods:

• Automated drip irrigation system/soaker hose.

• End of the hose using a soft spray attachment at medium pressure 5-gallon bucket (with ¼” holes

drilled in bottom) or watering bags – filled and set under the drip line.

Medium Trees

Medium sized trees are best watered using the following methods:

• Soaker hose coiled several times under the drip line of the tree.

• End of the hose with a soft spray attachment to disperse the flow – use a medium pressure.

Large Trees

Healthy mature trees should be able to withstand a short-term drought. Large trees are best watered using the following method:

• End of the hose with a shower like hose attachment to disperse the flow, use medium pressure.

Here’s the clincher: It’s recommended to water for 12″ of depth to saturate the root system for a minimum of one a week. Yikes! I may not be watering my trees enough even in a good year!

Are You in a Drought Restricted Area?

Be sure to check ahead of time to see if you are restricted by the amount of water you can use. High Desert residents may not be facing any restrictions yet. But don’t be surprised if the warnings go out soon.

Avoid Light Watering — Too Little Causes Problems, too

Don’t dig holes in the ground in an effort to water deeply. This dries out roots even more. I used to think that was an easy method. Wrong.

Don’t spray overhead on the trees because that will just dry it out move due to fast evaporation, and should be avoided during drought conditions even more.

Small- to medium-size trees can be irrigated economically with slow-release watering bags, even gallon milk jugs with small holes punched in the base, or with inline emitters, or a soaker hose attached to your faucet and controlled with a simple battery-operated timer.

More Info is Coming As I Learn the Best Practices For Watering in the Desert

Rusty LaGrange

Strangest Stray Visited the Rusty Bucket Ranch

It was a dark and stormy morning… No, Really! And my dogs howled and barked and carried on so loudly that at 5:15 it seemed like the end of the world would happen any second. Something prowled outside the fence, and it was frightening my dogs. I wandered to the dark kitchen, watching the rain beat against the window. It couldn’t be coyotes. Even they didn’t like hunting in the rain at 5 a.m.

Not a Bunny-In-The-Yard Bark

As I got a better idea what was happening, the dogs continued their constant barking. This was not their typical “bunny-in-the-yard” bark. They sounded scared and defensive. I peered through the kitchen window and a large, white body glistened in the half hazy dawn. I stared at it for a long moment until my eyes focused on two beady eyes.

I even backed away. Then a huge pink snout poked through the cat door in the wall next to me. That was a clincher — I realized an escapee had come to The Rusty Bucket Ranch. It wasn’t my hog; I don’t own one. So I called my next door neighbor, apologized for calling so early, and  asked if they knew anyone raising a hog. Yes! His son down the road was fattening up a white Duroc. Aha! Mystery solved.

How Do You Get  a Hog to Follow You? white Duroc Hog_11222013

First, you get dressed warmly because the early morning rain was nearly sleet and driving hard from the north. I bundled up, grabbed a few handfuls of dog cereal and tossed them into a metal bowl. Any pig worth his weight would come running to a promise of food in a rattle-rattle bowl. I was right. On the first rattle, the 100+ pound hog was at my front door snuffling and waiting for food.

He seemed nice enough. He followed me out across the yard and back to the empty horse corrals. I knew these old pens would come in handy again. “Piggy” followed me like dog. By the time I reached the corral gate, the owner and his daughter arrived with their own rattle-rattle bowl. I told them the hog would be safe until daylight. They promised to be back soon. They also promised a BBQ pork sandwich when the time came.

Once the storm dissipated, they returned in their pickup truck to escort the escapee back to his own pen. “Miss Pinky” followed faithfully the promise of food, and I watched from my window as a little girl, bundled up and sitting on the tailgate, rattled her bowl all the way home. Not quite the nursery rhyme… but you get the idea.

I perked some coffee and sat bundled up in my recliner letting the steam warm up my still chilly nose. The storm continued as the sun rose higher but, it came to me that so many strays arrive at the ranch … and I’m warmly encouraged and greatly entertained to know I have “the beacon” flashing above my roof. All strays are welcome here.

Rusty LaGrange


Hesperia Days Brings Humanitarian Projects to Light

In the celebration of Hesperia’s 25th Year as a City, a colorful assortment of vendors filled the Hesperia Lakes and Park Saturday and Sunday. Food vendors and carnival games entertained the large number of young families with children. If you strolled through the entire Park, you would have seen many small businesses shoulder-to-shoulder with non-profit and humanitarian groups.

One that caught my eye was the Wagon Wheel Ranch Foundation. These folks are working to bring awareness to children who are challenged by not being fully aware of their environment. With training at the ranch, the organization enhances the children’s ability to understand and work with nature. They are combating a condition called Nature Deficit Disorder.

Wagon Wheel horse 1

Help children learn how they can work in their environment

Children join a horse camp there and learn not only to ride, but care for the animals and accomplish tasks as a team. They  have numerous activities that help strengthen their goal to interact with their environment and their community.

In keeping with these activities, Wagon Wheel Ranch is hosting a special event — Hands, Hearts & Horses — with animal chiropractor Dr. Rod Block. Block is a famous chiropractor to the animal stars and human celebrities of Hollywood. With 42 years of experience, he is offering class time with those who wish to understand animals, their energy, and how to understand them better.

 Ever wanted to figure out the emotional and psychological components of your horse? Here’s a chance to do that. A portion of proceeds from this one-day clinic will go to the Wagon Wheel Ranch Foundation to help them develop their programs. The date is this Saturday, Sept. 28th beginning at 9 am. Entry fee is $10 with additional fees for specific elements of the clinic. Call for clinic reservations if you wish to bring your horse for a session, too.

Opportunity Drawings will be held all day, and food

Child & Horse Therapy at Wagon Wheel Ranch

Child & Horse Therapy at Wagon Wheel Ranch

 is available from Triple S Concessions. Call for directions to Wagon Wheel Ranch 760-389-2002, or email to, or go on line to The ranch is 3 miles south of Hesperia airport at 5676 Telephone Canyon Rd.





Rusty LaGrange

if you like what you see here, contact me at

Scanning the High Desert Skies: The Space Station

Many people forget to look up. Some think of looking up at the night skies during lazy summer nights because they know we have meteor showers … some years more showy than others. Yet others spend hours gazing into the night sky.

Those flashing bright lights are usually airplanes or passenger jets. But occasionally you can see the International Space Station clipping across the vast dark skies.

Did you forget that the International Space Station (ISS) is still in a sustained Earth orbit since its first launch in 1998? Two modules became the basic form, then a few more additions extended the structure in follow-up flights. The first crew arrived in 2000. Many nations support the continuing project and each mission houses science labs and experiments. Some discoveries help people on Earth with new inventions, new medical procedures, and new medicines to tactic deadly diseases. It’s all in a day’s work for the crew.

Want to learn more? You can track the Space Station, follow its orbit patterns, and even talk directly to the crew with a specific amateur radio antenna and frequency. The only problem with direct audience with a crew member? The ISS flies by overhead for only about four minutes. You won’t have much time to gab.

However, you can track the path of this high velocity space vehicle as it crosses the skies over your head. You can also Tweet and Facebook questions for the crew, and even see daily videos of life in space. Just check out these web sites for extensive info directly from NASA.

Go to to track the ISS.

For the basic introduction to all things ISS:


Space Station_2013

International Space Station 

Go to and find more instant facts about the current mission and its crew.

Make tracking the ISS a family-night event. And see if you can spot the ISS as it zooms silently 220 miles above you. There’s a lot going on over your head.

Rusty LaGrange


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