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Pesky Snakes in Your High Desert Garden

Know Which Snake is Intruding

Most gardeners will have a basic skill in identifying bugs and unwanted critters in their gardens, but sometimes the intruder just scares you into leaving first  — then wondering what to do. It helps to know that the skin patterns on snakes are helpful in identifying them. If you stop and get a quick look before you run, you’ll have a better chance of knowing what your next steps are.

Good Snake Versus Bad Snake

A “good” garden snake like the “Gopher Snake” has a splotchy pattern of cream and brown but with a distinct narrow pattern of aligned squares running down its back.

snake in the garden by PestKill.org

Gopher Sanke pattern

Pattern is more square for a gopher snake

 

 

 

 

 

 

A “bad” snake like the Diamondback and Mojave Green Rattlesnake have patterns that look more exotic, wider, and in a diamond-styled pattern. Some have a green or pink tinge to them.

Diamond pattern for Rattlers

The distinct diamond pattern is most common for Rattlers

Also, if you happen to be close enough to see a snake’s head, the good snakes appear more pointed, narrow, and shiny. In general their bodies are slimmer than rattlers. here’s a photo of comparing their two heads.

two heads

Rattler on left, Gopher snake on right

The bad snake’s head appears much wider, eyes are narrower, and they have “fat cheeks” — their glands and jaws fill their heads — making them look more aggressive.

Knowing these identifiers will help you be more aware of good snakes that your garden can benefit from to keep away other pesky visitors. However, if you see a rattler, back away carefully and call for help. Your local fire department can be called in most cases or phone a friend with a stronger constitution than yours.

Exterminators at “PestKill.org” recommend these methods to reduce snake intrusions:

 Find the nest. To chase any type of reptile away and to get rid of all garden snakes once and for all, you should find their nest and destroy it. Start inspecting the area around to look for shelters. Normally, they give their preference to well-hidden nooks and secluded corners, piles of wood, and compost holes. Even if there are no creatures inside, level the ground.

(Note: leveling your whole property will not stop snakes from crossing it.)

No garbage. Stop accumulating garbage outside. Do you know that such places are just perfect hiding and feeding areas for many types of these nasty reptiles?

No debris. Keep your backyard clean and remove debris, branches of trees and dried leaves regularly. Make some landscape changes in the area to modify the environment.

Keep grass low. If you have the luxury of growing a lawn, it is not a secret that snakes adore tall grass as this is a hiding place of mice, rats, squirrels, crickets and grasshoppers – their main food. To get rid of rattlesnakes, mow the lawn weekly!

Eliminating compost heaps. Gardeners need composts but they should be removed at some safe distance from your home. They are perfect hiding and leaving places in your backyard, attracting reptiles and their food sources right to you.

Erecting snake proof fencing is another alternative of how to get rid of snakes in backyard fast. A fence only 2-3 feet high made of fine wire mesh helps to prevent them from entering your yard and eventually your house. Be aware that snakes do climb — this is only a deterrent.

Use mothballs. Practically all types of snakes hate the smell of mothballs. So why not use this option in your garden right away? Don’t scatter the balls here and there. Just bury them into the soil in different parts of the yard instead. Though they may be toxic to their nature — when used carefully — they help to keep snakes at a bay.

No cool places. Sacks, bricks, and wood attract them as much as tall grass. Keep them far from your property and dealing with snakes won’t be your problem anymore. Also consider where you have water buckets and water feeders for your outdoor pets. Water containers stay cooler and will attract mice and snakes.
Read more: http://pestkill.org/other/snakes/

Rusty

Thanx goes to PestKill for posting their recommendations online

Iconic Wagon Wheels of the Old West

Collecting the West — Wagon Wheels Still Tie Us to the Spirit of the West

By Rusty LaGrange, president of Lucerne Valley Museum Assoc.

A wagon wheel is notably an icon of the Old West. You can still find them in antique shops and salvage yards across America. It ties us to the heritage of our early years as the United States opened its doors to go westward. Wagon wheels took us on our journey. The best ones are strong with thick spokes and an iron tire. Even these are getting harder to find today.

Wagon wheels

Hansen Wagon Wheels

 

 

 

 

Nearly every museum with a theme of natural history is bound to have several of these on display — on a vehicle or leaning up against a fence. Out in Lucerne Valley many ranches have several Old West wagons in their yards as honorable piece of history worthy of a glance as friends drive in through the gate.

Museums and Ranches Preserve the Past

Museum logo

Lucerne Valley Museum logo

Our Lucerne Valley Museum logo utilizes two icons – the wagon wheel signifying mine ore hauling and the plow to signify the agricultural roots of our valley – and defines our basic heritage. Without wagons to haul ore, alfalfa, and logs down from Big Bear, most industrial ranches would have had to rely on railroad for commerce.

 

Wagon wheels were designed for every conceivable rolling convenience. Each had specific need and sizes. Hundreds of companies built wagon wheels for hauling heavy loads and spindly ones for fast moving surreys.

The stagecoach set the standard for many travelers because they were built for long distances, larger cargo, and places for the public to sit. It wasn’t the easiest ride but for its time, it was good enough. Some bench seats were padded, some not. Some stages had open sides to allow more air flow during hot rides through even hotter territories. Often times, riders would opt to ride on top to get a breeze and take advantage of the vistas.

Catching a Breeze

The open air for passengers

Riding atop of a stagecoach provided a longer swinging action to the rough ride. Like getting in the back of a bus, the farther you sat from the axles the more energy was disbursed. The ride was cushioned by the leather straps or sling system that held the body to the framework.

Looking at the Details

Next time you look at a stagecoach up close, at a museum or special event, notice the difference in size of the front wheels at 39” tall and 43” for the rear. The differences allowed the tracking of the wheels to run smoother around corners.

Old work wagon

Very old utility wagon in Daggett CA

Farm wagons and drays were the working equipment for a busy ranch. They had to be durable. Most were painted a typical dark blue-green, similar to the hunter green we are familiar with today. The paint on the box, using an oil-base consisting of pigments ground in linseed oil, provided protection and style. Most all farm wagons were painted with bright-colored gears, red, orange, or yellow. The bright colors of the gear and wheels hid dirt better than a dark color, and the style of the day was for work vehicles to be brightly colored. The brilliantly striped gears and bodies of the farm wagon seemed to be on the verge of gaudy or a competition among the many makers to produce the most marketable look. This fact helps collectors today identify the companies that made them. Very few makers marked their names on axles and boxes.

Stagecoaches in films

Our love with the Old West and wagon wheels began long ago

Hollywood film industry continues to be as authentic as possible with historic Westerns, even down to the type and construction of stagecoaches as in the Lonesome Dove series and others like the movie Hidalgo, and the Wells, Fargo Company who regularly takes replicas out to the public for historical events nationally.

Whether the wheels are found on wagons, stagecoaches, buckboard, spring buggy, or Black Moriah funeral coach, they all hold a long and deserving place in our Old West history.

Rusty

Thanx goes to Hansen Wheel and Wagon for keeping these horse-drawn transports still on the ground

Desert Camp Oasis in Pahrump Nevada

Just 120 miles to go

Some folks know about the Lakeside RV Resort south of Pahrump. For the hundreds of volunteers who help during the annual Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay a foot race, many find the “oasis” just what they need after the race has moved on through. Even though I’ve mentioned this event before, it’s not one that is open to the public due to the runners, support teams, and stage personnel are all police and public service employees.

Cool shoreline

An oasis in the desert — a man-made lake to keep you cool

It is an accumulation of over 3000 dedicated folks helping to make the race safe and fun. And you must be invited and pay a hefty registration fee to run.

I never could understand how running through any terrain during a 103 temperature desert course for 6 miles would be fun. But they have for 32 years.

Team Work Gets the Job Done

You see, even though I’ve been volunteering for this race for 10+years and my husband for 15+, I don’t run. We just use our amateur radio skills to assist with the communications needed for a race covering 120 miles and elevations from 250 to 5000 feet. I’m on a team that monitors the runners. It’s exciting, rewarding and worth coming back because without enough help, the race would be cancelled.

fountain

Cool water fountain attracts children and birds

Suffering is not my plan. After the race, we travel over  to Lakeside RV Park and Casino to kick back and relax. The complex is dog-friendly with shady grounds, a lake in the middle with simple amenities: pool, beach, laundry, restaurant, and gas with convenience store. It’s a quiet refreshing place to be. Even with grackles and migratory bird visitors, the noise can be unnerving. By evening every bird visitor has settled down. The grassy knolls that surround the park help to deaden any loud noises from outside the complex.

grassy knolls

Grassy Knolls offer campers a quiet place

Take a look at their photos and list of amenities, and I bet if you’re in the area northwest of Las Vegas, you’ll be curious to see what the buzz is about.

You’ll enjoy it.

Rusty

Heir Today — Gone Tomorrow: Tracing Your Family

Genealogy is a growing trend

Years ago trying to trace relatives was like digging for King Tut. You knew he was there but the cost to trace him was way beyond your means. Lower costs and the Internet have changed all that — you can afford it now. Look for free networks and resources.

Geneaology

Some of the research is free compared to just a few years ago

You can even submit your DNA tests for under $100 to find out if you’re on the right track. It used to cost several hundred dollars without a guarantee that it would help you in your quest to find a base for your heritage hunt.

With the advent of the video blogs and online YouTube Channels, you can find free help and advice from professionals right from the comfort of your home.

Ready to figure out your Family Tree without hefty membership fees? Then you can visit two ladies that are full-time researchers:

Gena and Jean Genealogy Journeys activities

Have you been listening to the podcasts? They are posting these every 2nd and 4th Sundays (they are pre-recorded), 4pm (Pacific time). You can listen to them from their blog: http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and each podcast is accompanied by a blog that includes additional information on resources for research. Some of the topics coming up deal with Irish Immigration (on 27 March); Frozen Foods and Refrigeration, a tribute to Mothers (on Mother’s Day) from their listeners; Ocean Travel (from the earliest days up to 1912); Advertising and how it has evolved and affected our ancestors . . . well, there’s a lot of stuff coming up. But you can also listen to the recent ones from that blogspot’s archive, too. The primary topic is “Social History” and how it is important to family history research.

Join a Club

Some Internet searches allow you to find data for free

Some Internet searches allow you to find data for free

If you do join a Genealogy website or visit a local genealogy club, make sure that your online trail of sources is redirected to your own home folder and not to the “Clubs” folder. Collecting the data is half the fun, but finding everyone’s relatives in your folder is horrible. Remember to direct all your research to your private email. Ask for help if you need it.

You can also check out: http://www.scgsgenealogy.com and see if they have some free downloads for beginners. We all have to start somewhere.

How else will you be able to know if Uncle Tim was really in the military or ran off with your Mom’s sister on your Dad’s side? Hhmmm?

Rusty

Not Every Gardener Has a Green Thumb

Growing a Garden in High Desert Soil is Tough

Years ago, I made a plan for my first garden bed. I fenced out rabbits from my plot of land. I dug up the heavier rocks and raked and turned until thought I had a decent bed to start. I then made a deal with the groundskeepers at the local park that I could collect their lawn and leaf trimmings. I hauled home a small trailer full of rich composting material.

It pays to talk to other gardeners in your community. They may have the background you don’t. Why work so hard?

Garlic Bulb

A fresh garlic I never raised

Use Gardening Magazines but Don’t be Beguiled

I raked and tilled, mulched and watered. I knew that in this virgin soil, nothing would grow for the first year. So I tended the plot and added some amendments that I had read about. Pored over the organic magazines all Summer. True to their word, they recommended that planting in the Fall would be better for a sound crop; I only planted two rows of potatoes starters. The bitter winds of Winter made gardening brutal. I was on a water tank system, still am, so each time I watered, I paid more attention to how much absorbed into the ground.

Dirt Farmer

Without water and good soil your garden is nothing

Garden magazines are helpful but they can draw you into false security, thinking that everything is just fine. They don’t know your climate or soil health. I watered and tested my young spud plants until early Spring.

Seduced by January Garden Dreams

You know all of those gardening magazines arrive in your mail boxes in January just to whet your keen edge for a voluptuous garden … the dream garden. I devoured each page. i was seduced by promises and beautiful pictures.

By early February, after the frost, I planted several rows of green onions, yellow onions, garlic and some pepper plants. I even planted marigold plants between rows to discourage bugs and worms. Master Gardeners suggested that. I was on my way to having a “green thumb”, or so I thought. But the High Desert had different ideas.

It seems that while I was developing the soil and strengthening the PH balance, diligently following the master gardeners’ insider hints, the desert was killing off my dreams.

The first early shoots of my potato plants withered. The onion rows sprouted a feet high but when I pulled a few, no onions! Even my “anyone can grow” marigolds refused to send out roots. The first wind that came along blew them right out of the ground! And the horn worms that can attack tomato plants like an army on the move had made a night raid and wiped out my two feeble pepper seedlings.

Find Out What Your Garden’s Enemies Are

Horm Worms can devour a whole plant

Tomato Horn Worms look healthier than my pepper plants

You’ll need to study who your enemies are: underground, under leaf, in the stems or on the stems. Consult your local gardening department in a building and housewares store. They always have a gardener on hand. Take their advice.

It seems that the lack of humidity in the ground, even with my diligent watering, was not enough to grow a garden. The rodents conspired to burrow under my rows and finish off my harvest long before it showed above ground. And, for all of my watering, it seems that it all percolated down and away from my baby garden roots. I didn’t have the soil primed for holding the moisture.

By the time I expected to harvest early onions, potatoes, and garlic… I found two … yes, two onions. No Garlic. My potato starters were still small, laughing at me, I’m sure.

So I am the Brown Thumb gardener. I still buy my produce from the store. I still have my garden outside my window. Now I grow rustic antique cultivators, harrow row rakes, steel wheels, and antique hand plows … the basic elements of a gardener’s tool collection when the tools brought great harvests to more fortunate gardeners.

Rusty, no dirt under my fingernails …

 

Farmers Market Fresh Vegetables

Shopping at the Farmers Market

farmers markets

High Desert Farmers Market

Fresh Berries

The best place to go shopping for produce, fresh from farmers’ gardens, in the Victor Valley of the High Desert is at High Desert Farmer’s Market. The market is open every Thursday from 8 am until 12 noon. Beautiful blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are already available, and spring hasn’t even arrived yet. You wouldn’t know it by the gorgeous weather last Thursday at this Certified Farmers Market. It was sunny, and there were fruits and vegetables galore.

farmers markets

Fresh Berries

Fresh Raw Veggies

The tables set up at Angelo’s Farm High Desert Produce especially attracted my eyes to it. There were leafy greens with yellow and orange stems. I walked over to see what these beauties were, picked up the green-leaf vegetable with the colorful stems, and admired them. While I was trying to figure out what they were, a lady came up and asked, “What are those?”

farmers markets

Leafy and Colorful Veggies

“I don’t know. That’s what I was wondering,” I said when a younger lady answered, “That’s Swiss chard.”

The first lady, Marian, laughed because she said the younger woman, who knew what the vegetable was, was her daughter.

I’m sure that I’ve eaten Swiss chard before, probably at a Chinese restaurant with mixed veggies or a meat entree. But I don’t recall ever cooking it at home. I bought the pretty vegetable and have cooked it already, stir-fried with other vegetables – and I like it.

Marian’s daughter, Heather, tries different recipes every week. That got my attention because I am a food blogger and come up with various recipes to share on my blog. I asked her to submit an article about her recipes for High Desert Blogging. So, Heather, if you’re reading this, I can’t wait to hear from you and see what new recipes you’ve tried this week.

Heather pointed me in the direction of another vendor who was selling different colors of cauliflower. I’ve seen BroccoliFlower before but not orange cauliflower. One of my favorite cauliflower recipes is Mac & Cheese Cauliflower.

cauliflower

Cauliflower Colors

It’s exciting to go to the farmers market and see so much fresh produce. Meeting other like-minded individuals like Heather and Marian that love trying out new vegetables and creating recipes is so much fun.

Pets at the Farmers Market

Pets and animals show up at farmers markets, too. I noticed an area that appeared to be either an animal-petting section or where you could pay to ride one around a small sectioned-off place. Though I didn’t walk over to observe closer, I think I noticed a camel ready to give someone a ride. Next time I go, I’ll pay closer attention and tell you more the next time I see the animals. I met this little dog, Kisses, and owner, Anthony, and Anthony’s Aunt Linda. The adorable Kisses is believed to be a terrier and teacup chihuahua mix.

On my way out of the Farmers Market, I met Anthony, who was carrying his pet dog, and Anthony’s Aunt Linda. Anthony introduced me to his little adorable pet, Kisses, who is believed to be a terrier and teacup chihuahua mix.

terrier and teacup chihuahua mix

Anthony and Kisses

I left the market smiling. Who could not smile at getting to meet a friendly little terrier-teacup chihuahua, a mother and daughter who love to create fresh veggie recipes like me, and bags filled with fresh raw vegetables and fruits to boot?

Thank You For Visiting High Desert Blogging!

Blueberry Gardening in the High Desert

Grow a Blueberry Bush in Your Backyard

Blueberry Gardening

Blueberry Bush Photo Credits by Angie Horn

 

Did you know that you can grow blueberries in the high desert? They need acidic soil to be successful, and it helps if they are planted in pots.

Planting Tips

Helpful hints from these three websites will help you get started: READ MORE »

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.

Rusty

Unofficial “Bugologist”

March Flowers to Plant in High Desert Gardens

Spring Garden Planting

Pansies

Spring Pansies

The high desert has seen gorgeous spring days already in February and the first few days of March. Like we always read on many packets of flower seeds, “Sow…after danger of heavy frost.” Victor Valley’s weather report indicates that by tomorrow, temperatures are going to dip down into the low 30’s – heavy frost kind of weather to consider (although frost can happen in April, too) when planting flower seeds.

Pansies may be the answer to your March flower garden. You can find them at nurseries and even WalMart right now. But you have to decide if you want to plant pansies now or wait a little longer to plant spring and summer flowers that can endure the desert heat. Pansies do best with temperatures between 40 degrees at night and 60 degrees during the day. Hesperia only had about five days last month that didn’t go over 60 degrees during the day and fifteen days that were in the 70’s. If you do plant pansies, they can add vivid color to your garden through the spring.

Bulbs and Flowers to Plant in March

Plant flowering bulbs such as dahlias and gladiolas.

summer flower bulbs

Gladiolas (photo from morguefile.com)

Choose from drought-tolerant marigolds and zinnias when beginning your spring gardening. Both are colorful, although zinnias provide a wider variety of colors than marigolds including pink and white.

marigolds

Marigolds (photo from morguefile.com)

Marigolds are believed to have pest-controlling benefits for vegetable gardens. That could be true if you plant them in abundance, but they may not keep out the neon-green tomato hornworm.

Learn how to use the right amount of irrigation to encourage a deeper root system, and you’ll enhance the beauty of zinnias. Zinnias can grow up to 3 feet tall or more and attract birds and butterflies.

zinnias

Zinnias Attract Butterflies (photo from morguefile.com)

Children’s Craft Mother’s Day Card

A Mother’s Day Gift

flowers in a vase

Mother’s Day Vase of Flowers

School teachers, Sunday School teachers, and daycare teachers have something in common. They plan crafts ahead of time. Teachers have the opportunity to make a huge difference in children’s lives. READ MORE »

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