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Posts tagged Nature

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.


New Season In My Life

Hello Folks!….Well, here it is!….My very first blog in the very first blogging site.  Whew…a bit scary and exciting as well.  I am entering a new season in my life; a time when life seems to speed up and fly by too  fast.  I always wanted to write and explore that creative side of myself and now I am!  Isn’t Fall the greatest.  Call it what you will:  Fall, Autumn, leaf-raking time, fireplace using, crispy, delicious time of year.  That exciting blood-quickening time of the year that precedes Hallo’ween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  That time that you break out the extra blankets or start putting up the storm windows, if you are in the North East.  This  is a breather before the frantic rush of Christmas time; a pumpkiny, spicy, lovely time of year.  My favorite, as you can tell.

In this “gap”  time of year, as in my life, I am reflecting back upon all the crazy and stupid things I may have done in my past so that I can move forward with a fresh spin, so to speak.  The 3 month trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina this past Summer is over with its share of adventure, which I will save for another day.  Some old friends going and new friends coming in.  Who knows for how long.  The promises of a new year just around the corner with new possibilities and excitement all its own.  The left-over memories, figurative and literal flotsam and jetsam crammed in the corner of the “den” in the apartment.  The housecleaning– mental and physical that needs to be done to make room for new experiences, new adventures, a new life.

What is it that makes us pause a moment like the almost endless moment at the top of the roller-coaster before you start your perilous descent?  Isn’t that an exciting limitless-possibility moment before you actually enter time-space again.  A sort of  catch-your-breath time before the screaming starts again and you are rushing pell-mell into the abyss.  This is a time where you must develop total trust in the goodness of the Universe.  For, without that trust, you would be grabbing on to the scaffolding of that proverbial  ride and possibly cause irreparable harm to yourself and others.  So, I say to you, Universe:  I have fear but I also have trust and I have love…to give and to receive…I have yet these to sustain me…so start this journey again, start this ride….may I profit by this lesson.  I am grateful for this time.

New Season--Autumn

Stalker of the High Desert… Under Your Sheets

Have you ever awakened in the night with a horrendous itchy bite? Summer time is the worst time for invading insects. It probably wasn’t a bedbug, even though most people think it could be. What is was could have been the stalker of the High Desert — the Conenose Beetle.
Assassin Beetle

The conenose is a slim, flat, red and black beetle that has a long pointy nose. They live outside in packrat piles and undercover in piles of wood debris. But when they get hot and dry in the summer they seek shelter where they can find moisture and a host to suck.

Last Wednesday, I was a host to a stalking blood sucker. If you are allergic to the bite, it can cause any of degree of swelling, hives, and even anaphylactic shock. If the swelling reaches your throat quickly, you need a hospital NOW. Some allergic reactions can be quelled by an “Epi-Pen” loaded with epinephrine. If you already know about your allergies to its potentially deadly bite, you know what they do to your skin, your general health, and the lasting effects until the poison leaves your system.

These beetles are also known by other names: assassin beetle, kissing bug, Mexican bedbug, and sleeping stalker. Whatever the name, be very careful to learn what it looks like and to kill it before your health is compromised.

It’s best to be aware of the bite’s destructive nature. The bite site is large, red rashy, and itchy, as much as a silver dollar in size, and won’t heal very fast, in most cases. Use insect spray around your bedroom walls, window sills, and around the base of your bed and mattress. There’s no guarantee that this will kill them but they seem to stay away. Spray once a week to keep them away.

For more information see a Wikipedia article about this bug.

 Rusty LaGrange

High Desert Seasons

People who like the different seasons could become accustomed to living in the High Desert. Of course, you’re going to have summer. It’s desert. But the High Desert also has autumn, winter, and spring – sometimes all in one week. Like this week. You like snow? We’ve had snow this week.

A High Desert Farm with Snow

How about beautiful days when the sun shines, and the weather is just right? Not too hot. Not too cold. That’s perfect weather. California weather. Then there is rain, like today. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the wind (which is on its way by tomorrow I hear).

I can’t resist taking pictures of nature. You have to be quick with those kind of photos, however. For instance, one morning this week my husband and I were going down the hill. He said, “Look at the sun.” He was driving, and I was half asleep. Barely opening my eyes, I looked at the sunrise. Neither of us had seen a sunrise exactly like that one. Snapping out of my sleepiness, I dug for my camera in my tote bag. I tried different settings, but none captured the sunrise exactly as we saw it. The camera settings made it look hazy. The sunrise didn’t look hazy. The color looked vibrantly red-orange. When you have moments, barely seconds, and certainly not minutes to capture nature settings on a simple digital camera, it’s a miracle if the results turn out good. My camera is equipped with several settings that work well most of the time. But quick mode wasn’t included in the settings. I took the pictures anyway. Check out the results. Like we sometimes say, it is what it is.

Thank you for visiting High Desert Blogging. Happy Holidays!

Riding the Range with The Keys

Desert Cowboys never made the  desert; the desert made them. Among the notable desert ranchers is William Keys. I had the privilege of riding with his great grandkids.

Bill Keys came to this area in  1910 to work as an assayer and watchman at the Desert Queen Mine. When its owner died, he received the mine and its 5-acre millsite in payment for back  wages. His five acres grew to 160 when he homesteaded adjacent property to  become his Desert Queen Ranch.

I consider him a “desert  rat”: one of those characters who strive on surviving and creating a code of ethics in an  inhospitable land. In this rock-rimmed canyon using ingenuity, patience, and  hard work, Bill built a life for himself. He soon married Frances May Lawton,  who left the comforts of the city to move to the Mojave Desert ranch and start  a family. The couple had seven children between 1919 and 1931, three who died during childhood.

Together the Keys family tackled the hardships of isolated desert life. Eventually, the Keys’ homestead included a ranch house, store, two school houses, a home for a teacher, outhouses, sheds, a stamp mill, a corral, supply yard, orchard, cement dam and lake, windmill, irrigation systems, rock retaining walls, and a cemetery. He raised a family and coped with the harsh realities of the desert. To the ranch, miners brought ore to be assayed, neighboring homesteaders brought their children to be educated, and countless visitors came to enjoy the family’s hospitality. Their old wooded-wheeled mining truck was frequently seen in 29 Palms at Pioneer day parades.

Keys’ ability to repair machines and household items often came in handy. Since the ranch site was far from town, the family rarely threw anything away that they might use to fix a broken item. Keys scavenged abandoned ranches and mines for rails, wire, pipes, household items, old cars, and tires left behind by less
successful people. He even purchased an entire junk yard and organized it into neat piles on the ranch to use as a supply yard.

Most of the surrounding homesteaders and miners viewed Keys’ ranch as the center of their desert network and its owner as a helpful friend. Miners appreciated his knowledge of mines in the area and his milling capabilities. Keys built a one-room school house for his children and others in the area to ensure they received a proper education despite their isolation. He provided the teacher with a cabin on the ranch. The family also hosted many visitors at the ranch including well-known writer Erle Stanley Gardner, and famous botanists Phillip Munz and Edmund Jaeger. Jaeger, while identifying new desert plant species, named a flower “Keysia” (Glyptopleura setulosa) in honor of the kindness the Keys family showed to so many desert travelers.

After Frances death in 1963, Bill sold the ranch to eventually become part of the Joshua Tree National Park. He remained on the ranch until his death on June 28, 1969. While the world outside the ranch had changed dramatically, Keys’ way of life had remained remarkably constant. He was buried beside his wife in the family cemetery to become part of the canyon he loved and labored for during 60 years of residence.

When I lived on the mesa in Pioneertown, the Keys extended family had settled in a deep canyon near Pipes Canyon. The ranch was earthy, low-slung and wood-heated most of the year. There were several out buildings and horse corrals near the main driveway. Once you got past the main wooden gate that was usually standing open, several dogs with Mrs. Keys came out and greeted you. Johnny Keys, up in his 60s at that time, was always a busy man.

His two daughters, Johnna and Debbie, were close enough to my age that we often went horseback riding up into the boulder-lined ravines. Up canyon, the piñon and juniper grew rich with their nuts and the scrub jays and quail often ran underbrush just ahead of us.

It was a great time to be out in the wild. Sometimes we’d go scout out new trails, other times when the heat got unbearable, we’d jump in a natural spring and soak our clothes to stay cool for the ride home. Johnna was the hell-raiser of our group, and loved to go skinny-dipping.

One time after a spring rain, we  had trailed a set of cougar prints into the upper ravine, and being adventurous, thought we might spook it out of the timberline. The desert holds traps for young adventurers. Debbie soon found out that the sandy arroyo near the rocks was not solid. Her horse panicked and began post-holing, leaping and bounding in the quicksand, eyes fearful, head flailing. It was a disastrous

I tossed a rope to her while  staying on my saddle. That rope provided just enough tension to help her horse seek a route out of the mire. She stayed on and coaxed him to the edge where he finally got solid footing.

We were all waiting, shaking, and watching the poor fellow shiver from the adrenaline rush. We all felt done in. Deb got off and wiped her mount down with her shirt to let him relax and cool off. It was awhile before we decided to head back and leave that cougar for another time.


Note: 1917 Keys Cattle Brand is Capital B with stylized horizontal F sticking out of the center like a key in a lock.

Partial info retrieved from mural series in 29 Palms

Desert Fog and Clouds

Fog and clouds in the High Desert intrigue me. I’ve been an observant fan of the two science subjects since I was a young student in school and would do reports on them. I’m fascinated by the movement of the fog and how it appears as a wall. One one side of the wall the sky can be clear and blue; on the other side there’s a dense fog. You can drive down the hill from the High Desert where it was clear at 3500 ft. or above and see a thick  fog hovering over the Riverside and San Bernardino cities like in this recent sunrise photo that I took. You can see the sunrise layer just above the white fog covering the cities.

Clouds of the High Desert are sometimes unusual like the flying saucer clouds shown in this photo:

Flying saucer clouds are called lenticular clouds that are lens-shaped and that form at high altitudes where there are mountains. I’m always amazed by the uniqueness of these lenticular formations. When one sees such nature’s attraction, a camera is a good thing to have on hand.



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