Rescuing an Agave

I found this Agave (ah GAH vay) tossed into some shrubs near my apartment. I’m planning to plant it in a pot, and I’m confident that it will grow there. It already has a fleshy root with rootlets. Even though they are desiccated, water will revive the plant.

This isn’t the first plant that I’ve rescued. More on this later.

Two Agave pups that have since died

These two Agaves were from bulbils that had been attached to the mother plant. Natural clones of plants such as these are called pups.

The bulbils of these two Agaves had fallen to the ground, and that’s where I found them. The mother plant has since been cut down. Any way that you look at it, this was a plant rescue.

Unfortunately, these two Agaves have died. I may not have given them enough water during the summer.

Late winter flowering plants

In Phoenix, late winter on the calendar is more like early spring elsewhere. These pictures are from early February through mid-March.

The plants in the upper tier of the picture have minuscule flowers and short, delicate leaves. The plants in the foreground have larger leaves and flowers that are more visible. The silvery green leaves belong to Brittlebushes (see below).

White flowers are rare in Phoenix’s desert.

Lupines — blue is a rare color in Phoenix’s desert, also.

Looks like a Dandelion but it’s not

Desert Marigold. I can’t be sure of its identity since I have yet to find a wildflower with leaves like this. It flowers most of the year.

Close-up of a Desert Marigold

Green Feathery Senna

Close-up of Green Feathery Senna flowers

This Brittlebush is larger than ones in the wild because it’s being irrigated. It’s growing outside my apartment’s patio.

Close-up of a Brittlebush flower at Sabino Canyon. From Wikipedia.

Creosote bush

This Sweet Acacia tree needs to have the dead wood cut out and to be shaped.

Sweet Acacia flowers

Unless otherwise attributed, photos are mine from a Sony point-and-shoot camera.

How do you pronounce ‘route’ and ‘root’?

Recently, I wrote a post about Historic US Route 66. So …

How do you pronounce the word ‘route’? The nationally accepted way in the U.S. is to say it the same way as the nationally accepted pronunciation of ‘root’ which both rhyme with ‘boot’.

Growing up in Chicago, though, we said the word ‘route’ the same way people say ‘military rout’ to rhyme with ‘out.’

The fashion that we Chicagoans say ‘root’ is also at variance with national usage. We pronounce ‘root’ to rhyme with ‘foot’. For Chicagoans, this is the same vowel that occurs the word ‘roof’. This word rhymes with the sound that dogs make: ‘woof.’

I’ve heard these pronunciations from people who come from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve also heard these pronunciation from residents of Kansas City.

I don’t have anyone from Southern Illinois in my informal survey or from elsewhere in the Midwest besides the locations that I mentioned. My informants are older people who were born in these Midwestern states and who have not spent much time elsewhere in the country.

My own pronunciation changed to the nationally accepted way sometime during my life, but I don’t know why or when. I studied in Brooklyn for four years, but I don’t speak like a Brooklyner. Other than that, I’ve lived mostly in the Chicago area, except for ten years in Kansas City, until four years ago.

My impression is that the way we spoke in Chicago is the way people speak in the entire middle of the country. I’ve heard that some localisms came along with the railroads. Chicago is the railroad hub of the nation. It stands to reason that people who left Chicago for opportunities outward bound brought their local, Chicago speech with them.

While I’m at it, how do you pronounce ‘Chicago’, the city’s name? The people of the Chicago region and elsewhere in the Midwest pronounce the name of the city as shih KAW go, not like elsewhere in the country where they say the city’s name as shih KAH go. As far as I’m concerned, shih KAW go is the authentic name of the city.

Early on, when Frank Sinatra sang the song “Chicago, Chicago — My Home Town,” he gave it away that he’s from elsewhere. He sang, “shih KAH go, shih KAH go.” On the other hand, when Sinatra sang the song “My Kind of Town, Chicago Is” before a live crowd in 1982, he sang, “shih CAW go.”

Go figure.

Nature at my doorstep II — Day 3

Day 3 | March 14, 2023 | Phoenix, Arizona
Mourning Dove on her nest next to my front door

Mourning Dove on her nest on a plant stand on my patio

Last year in late April, Mourning Doves made nests near my front door and on a plant stand on my patio. They came back this year a month earlier and made nests in the same places. I have pictures from last year that I never posted. This year I’d like to post the new pictures as I take them.

Last year, the bird in the front abandoned her nest not long after laying two eggs. The bird on the patio hatched two eggs, fed the chicks as they grew, and saw them off into adulthood. She or another Mourning Dove came back and reused the nest to hatch a brood of two more chicks. Somewhere there are four young birds who were born on my patio.

The habit of Mourning Doves is to make shallow platform nests made of twigs as you can see. The nests are high enough above the ground to be safe from predators. They are not very secure, though. It seems that a heavy storm wind could blow the nests away.

Nesting birds make messes, and they don’t clean up after themselves. There’s a lesson here.

‘Sky islands’ in southeastern Arizona

The Coronado National Forest spans sixteen scattered mountain ranges or “sky islands” rising dramatically from the desert floor, supporting plant communities as biologically diverse as those encountered on a trip from Mexico to Canada.

Experience all four seasons during a single day’s journey. Enjoy spectacular views from the mountains, wander through the desert among the giant saguaro cactus and colorful wildflowers in the morning, linger over lunch beside a mountain stream or lake, and play in the snow all before the day’s end.

I recently attended a conference in Oracle, Arizona. Oracle lies on the desert floor at the foot of Mount Lemmon, the highest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains, just to the east of Tucson, Arizona.

Oracle is about 3,100 feet higher than Phoenix, where I live, so its climate is different, a little cooler. Snow actually fell in Oracle during the conference, but it started melting by midday. The peak of Mt. Lemmon is another 4,600 feet even higher. The peak of Mt. Lemmon is covered with snow during the winter when I visited. From some views of the mountain from the north, one can literally see a snow line.

I took some pictures along the road from Phoenix to the Oracle area on Arizona State Route 79 (SR 79). These are illustrations of sky islands rising above the Arizona desert.

From the Tom Mix Memorial looking west from the west side of SR79

In this picture, a sky island rises up from the desert floor (background left). I don’t know the name of these mountains.

Three species appear here on the desert floor. What looks like poles in the background are Saguaro Cactuses (SWAH ro). The shrubs in the foreground and scattered elsewhere are Creosote Bushes. They give off the smell of creosote, especially when it rains. Hence their name. Scattered around the landscape are Teddy Bear Cholla (CHOY ah). Farther to the north, along SR 79, the landscape is crowded with Teddy Bear Cholla. They looked like a forest or plantation in the desert. It wasn’t safe for me to pull off the road to take a picture, though.

The memorial to the actor Tom Mix (1880-1940), about 18 miles south of Florence, Arizona, is located along SR 79 where he was killed in a car crash. His car went off the road and landed in a wash (what Wikipedia calls a gully) killing him.

The next two pictures are from a roadside picnic table 23 miles south of the Tom Mix Memorial and not much more than a mile from Oracle Junction and the end of SR 79.

Snowy Mt. Lemmon towering above the desert floor, looking south

Cholla and Prickly Pear cactuses still grow at this elevation. I don’t know the identity of the tree to the left in the mid-ground or the shrub in the lower left foreground. There are no Saguaros or Creosote Bushes here.

A continuation of the panorama

Prickly Pears grow at even higher elevations. Cholla’s range has ended, somewhere between here and Oracle, though.

Farther north along SR 79, around Florence and northward, the roadside looks like a wild roadside in Phoenix. Flowering Lupines (LOO pinz) line the road, and a few Brittlebushes appear along the roadside. The following pictures are not from my trip. It was unsafe to stop to take pictures.

Blossoming Lupines along a sidewalk near my apartment.

A close-up

Brittlebush in the wild

Brittlebushes have been flowering for a little while, since late February. If you drove Interstate 10 between Phoenix to an exit for Oracle at this time of year, you would see flowering Brittlebushes lining the shoulders of the highway and peeking out from under guardrails.

I recently transplanted a wild Brittlebush into a decorative flower pot. The third try is doing well. I used soil that was “seasoned” in my complex’s landscape dump. As common as Brittlebush is, it is still lovely. It has silvery-green leaves. It fills my pot. It’s unlikely to grow much larger than it currently is, though. I doubt that it will ever flower.

One peculiarity of both Lupines and Brittlebushes is that they grow in disturbed soil. Both are native plants, and I’m under the impression that native plants don’t grow in anything but relatively pristine soils. In Northeastern Illinois where I’m from, native seeds rarely germinated in disturbed soil. Once a prairie has been plowed, it doesn’t grow back without massive human intervention.

Dandelions, weed grasses, and invasive Buckthorns colonize disturbed soil in Northeastern Illinois. A succession of some tree seeds takes root. Ashes, Silver Maples, and Honey Locusts are relatively quick to sprout when the soil has begun to heal if the immediate environment is suitable. By heal I mean acquire a range of microbes that native seeds need to germinate and grow. Generally, plants, even native ones, have to be grown in nurseries before they are transplanted into new landscapes.

My parents’ landscapers in the middle 1950s planted inexpensive native shrubs in the backyard as hedges. Two kinds failed to grow, one sooner and one later. The ones that failed were never replaced. The area of one clump was taken over by invasive Buckthorns. I planted invasive Wintercreeper slips as a ground cover where the other clump of shrubs had been. These thrived. As wild native seeds blew in, they germinated and grew to their natural heights. The Wintercreeper had healed the soil. All these plants, including the Wintercreeper, lived well together. I didn’t touch the area other than to cut back and thin the Wintercreeper. Fifty years later, the native shrubs were doing well if a little misshapen. Then in 2004, we siblings sold the house on behalf of Dad.

Historic U.S. Route 80

Sign in Florence, Arizona

Mount Lemmon from the north. Notice remnants of snow in the foreground from the snowstorm 24 hours before. Picture taken from SR 77 between Oracle and Oracle Junction.

At one time, U.S. Route 80 ran across the southern tier of the country from coast to coast. The western terminus was San Diego, California, and the eastern terminus then and now is just east of Savannah, Georgia. The western course of U.S. 80 was decommissioned, so the route now terminates in Dallas, Texas. Portions of the route west of Dallas still exist and in Arizona have been designated as Historic U.S. 80 as the sign above shows.

Recently, I was driving from Phoenix to Oracle, Arizona, for a conference. Somewhat east of Phoenix, signed Historic 80 veers off from U.S. Route 60 to become Historic 80’s northernmost point of the section that I drove down. This interchange is called Florence Junction. The official designation of the road is Arizona State Route 79 (SR 79). Florence, Arizona, is the first town south of Florence Junction, about 14 miles distant. I would like to spend a couple hours in Florence to get a feel for the town.

Historic 80 then continues southward toward Tucson, Arizona, over SR 79 until this numbered road reaches SR 77 and terminates. This location is called Oracle Junction. The original U.S. 80 proceeded from here to Tucson and beyond.

See where SR 79 is on Google maps:

The distance between Florence Junction and Oracle Junction — the length of SR 79 — is about 42 miles. That’s about the same distance as between downtown Phoenix and Florence Junction! Metropolitan Phoenix has spread out along this entire corridor. This is a perfect example of urban sprawl. In contrast, the land south of Florence Junction is undeveloped grazing range land, and I hope that it stays that way.

On this trip, I was interested in reaching Oracle, east of what is aptly called Oracle Junction. The way from Oracle Junction to the town of Oracle, Arizona, is over SR 77 eastward. The most prominent landmark here is towering Mt. Lemmon. Mt. Lemmon is the highest peak in the Santa Catalina mountain range. This mountain range is in the Coronado National Forest which spans southeastern Arizona.

I like this description of this national forest: “The Coronado National Forest spans sixteen scattered mountain ranges or ‘sky islands’ rising dramatically from the desert floor….” (This quote is attributed to the Home page of the Coronado National Forest, but I can’t find it there.) You can see Mt. Lemmon as a sky island in my photo above. The drive from Phoenix to the foot of Mt. Lemmon is entirely a desert floor. As you drive, the elevation gradually rises. Oracle, Arizona, is actually about 3,100 feet higher than Phoenix. It lies northeast of the foot of Mt. Lemmon in a transition zone between the desert floor to the north and the sky island of the national forest. This transition zone is narrow.

All along the trip from Phoenix to Oracle one sees subtle changes in the plant ecology. For example, Saguaro cactuses grow in the lower elevations where there are no freezes during the winter. At some point in the trip, the weather brings freezing temperatures to the desert floor, and Saguaros can’t survive a freeze. One also sees this on a trip north from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona. At first, there are Saguaros everywhere. Then they grow only on the south side of mountains, the warmer side. Then they disappear. The temperature freezes over at night in the depth of winter.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has a web page describing the history of U.S. 80 in Arizona.

Also see the Arizona Daily Star, Photos of U.S. Route 80 through Arizona,

and AARoads, Photos of Historic U.S. 80

A conference in Oracle, Arizona

A postcard from Sue & Jerry’s Trading Post in the center of Oracle

From Oracle’s Visitor’s Center

El Rancho Robles — the ranch where I stayed during the conference. Robles in Spanish means oaks.

The ranch’s office

The Stables — cosy rooms

I recently attended a weekend interfaith conference in Oracle, Arizona. The postcard at the top is apt since it snowed on the Sunday morning of the conference. About an inch accumulated but began to melt at midday. This is the first snow that I’ve touched in four years. Besides walking on it, I held some in my hands. The last time that I was in a snowy and icy storm was in Oklahoma City in early March 2019 when I was in the process of moving from Kansas City to Phoenix.

Oracle is not too far northeast of central Tucson — 33 miles or so. It lies along the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains of Arizona. Biosphere 2 is just outside Oracle to the west. To the east lies Oracle State Park.

The Triangle Y Ranch Camp was where the conference was held. Only several miles from Oracle, it’s already in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon, the highest peak in the Catalina mountain range. The Triangle Y is either in the Coronado National Forest or just adjacent. This part of the national forest is in the Santa Catalina District.

The center’s main building. Sleeping facilities are scattered around the ranch.

The Triangle Y is primarily a summer camp for young people. Sleeping facilities for the men who came alone to the conference included all-year cabins, each with bunk beds, where you bring your own bedroll. Six men shared one washroom. This for grown men on a budget! (We all paid a fee to cover the expenses of the conference including three meals a day. I brought my own kosher food, as did another Jewish attendee.)

It’s a far cry from the summer camp in Wisconsin that I attended in the mid 60s. Same bunk beds. Bedding was supplied, though, at my Wisconsin camp. Washing and toilet facilities were in a separate cabin. The cabins weren’t heated, so when counselors came before the campers came, a rough wool blanket didn’t serve to dispel the Wisconsin early morning chill.

A gushing mountain stream ran alongside the Triangle Y’s parking lot. At this time of year, the water is snow melt from Mt. Lemmon and its rain runoff. It had rained not long before the conference.

From the parking lot

Looking upstream, but downstream from the previous picture. Against the sky toward the left you can barely see a flag pole. The flag marks the ranch’s entrance.

Further downstream, looking out from the ranch’s entrance road

You see that most of the trees and shrubs have shed their leaves for the winter. No so in Phoenix. Some do, some don’t. At the same time, trees and shrubs that grow in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon don’t necessarily grow in Phoenix.

In two of these pictures, you can see Prickly Pear cactuses. I thought that they would grow in a colder climate so long as the freezes are not too long, only overnight for example. Someone I met in the Chicago area, though, had a Prickly Pear in his front yard where it would catch the sun all day long! He created a microclimate with flagstones around the plant to capture the heat of the sun. Even so, the temperature in Chicago gets bitterly cold, and the sun doesn’t shine for days on end. However, according to Wikipedia, the Prickly Pear “also occurs naturally in … sandy or rocky areas of northern Illinois.” But there are a number of species and varieties of Prickly Pear according to Wikipedia. What was growing in this man’s yard wasn’t necessarily the same variety that you see in the picture.

By the way, the Triangle Y served brewed tea in an urn on Shabbat morning. I sweetened it with sugar. So, I had a cup of hot tea with sugar to begin my morning!

My 3 slide-rules

Two of the three slide-rules

You see here only two of my slide-rules. I had three, but I needed none. I’ve forgotten how to use them.

When I opened a drawer, I noticed that the three were tucked away there and I asked myself what would my heirs do with them? The top slide-rule, from Post, was one that I got when I was taking science and/or math in high school. It has sentimental value, so I’ll keep it. I don’t know where the other two came from. Perhaps I inherited a slid-rule from my father. But the third?

So, I resolved to give two away. I already gave away one to Goodwill before I took a picture of it. Now that I’ve taken a picture of the lower one in the picture, I plan to give it to Goodwill also.

Goodwill has a store and donation center about a mile away from where I live. It’s near a Safeway grocery store, so there’s no hardship in dropping anything off.

I did a lot of downsizing of big things in Kansas City before moving to Phoenix. Some furniture I sent to my sister in Atlanta. I took one large item to Phoenix for my other sister. I donated small things to Catholic Charities. I also threw some things away that I should have also given to Catholic Charities. Among them was a vintage 1950’s Electrolux canister vacuum cleaner in working condition. Unlike today’s vacuums, it had a cloth bag to collect the dirt. In other words, it never required a trip to a store to find a replacement. It was a bit of a messy arrangement to empty it, but the cloth bag feature endeared itself to me.

The other thing that I discarded was a set of four wooden folding chairs that were early acquisitions by my parents. I took them from Chicago to Kansas City, thinking that I might need extra chairs. Really, I already was taking four metal folding chairs that go with a bridge table. I also took those chairs from Chicago to Kansas City and then to Phoenix.

Eight chairs were more than enough. But why did I throw away the vintage chairs? I didn’t actually put them in a dumpster. I left them out in the off chance that some Latinos (or anybody else) would take them. I had noticed some Latinos cruise the neighborhood for such finds. I had seen what looked like families drive around the parking lot in the complex where I lived in Kansas City.

As much as I downsized in Kansas City, my sister and I found some more items, mostly small. For the most part, she offered to take them to Goodwill with some things that she had collected. Since then, I make my own donations.

One of a set of chairs that I remember from my childhood.

I never replaced this vacuum cleaner since it was so versatile. When I disposed of it in early 2019, it was roughly 60 years old. I last used it to clean up my apartment in Kansas City before my move.

Card table and folding chair from my parents.

I now have only four extra chairs instead of eight. I’m actually sitting on one now as I write this post. My computer desk is still occupied by my old Windows 7 desktop computer, and I left the office chair by the desk. In early December, I got a new Windows 11 which I set up temporarily on a patio table that I brought in from outside. I left the office chair by the old computer while I was copying data to port over to the new computer.

I’m now confident that I copied all my data from the old computer to the new one, so it’s time to recycle my old computer and move the new one to the computer desk. In fact, I haven’t even powered up the old computer in a week.

The Windows 7 computer has no sentimental value for me. No need to take a picture of it or of its monitor.

I’m also ready to recycle my Windows 7 laptop. With a smart phone on hand, I don’t need a portable computer to receive or send email or to surf the net. A laptop, though, comes in handy to store and create data. So far, I visited my son in Florida and used the old technology of pen and paper to collect my thoughts and other data.

If someone wants my old PC or laptop, they can come and take them off my hands. Keep in mind, though, that I live in Phoenix, Arizona …