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I take notice of plant groupings growing in the same spot with identical conditions. Yet when it’s time to design, I rarely apply any of that.

Architecture, busy-ness, and dealing with client realities / curveballs take over.

I wish that wasn’t so. This is from a 9/2017 trip to the Big Bend, between Lobo and Valentine in Texas.

Another rest area in the middle of nowhere with a large yucca…

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Yucca faxoniana / Palm or Faxon Yucca, at least 20′ tall.

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And what else?

And a gentle reminder, this won’t look 50% as good without the yucca.

 

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Do you ever take advantage of groupings in the wild, then create areas in your garden around those groupings? How successful are they?

I’m already thinking of a simple way to use the above plants in a purposed design for a typical space, where we can’t rely on miles of expansive scenery. I might share a sketch or two of that soon.

Far Out West TX: Havard, not Harvard

I agreed to an online friend’s invitation to meet other plant nerds, and hike Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park.

That we did – about 14 miles and 1,800′ in elevation / up-down.

The trip there and back was almost as good. Photos 9/10/2016-ish. Many, many photos, not much text, and I added a number of plant names as you rifle through.

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moonrise, the whoosh of a speeding car

A weak cool front reinforced the moist air from the east, and cool and damp was much different than back home just 4 hours NW.

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See you on the back side, Marfa!

Light was getting low, so to meet the next day’s hiking buddies, I quickly wound through the hills to Alpine for the night – no photos there. Those hills were dripping wet, all shades of green in the mists and clouds. Agave spp., Dasylirion leiophyllum, Quercus grisea, and waist-high grama grasses…surreal.

We drove in a caravan of 4 vehicles from Alpine to Study Butte, then through the park gates up to Chisos Basin. I think that alone was another 2 hours or more.

Since the lower desert areas around Terlingua and Study Butte are often hotter than Phoenix, this was relief. Like many an early August morning back home, heavy and humid air, but with plenty of coolness to feel fresh.

Everyone but me, since I held my camera.

This group of images looks like Christy Ten Eyck has hiked here for inspiration, or just got inspiration when all she wanted was a hike. Many plants growing in cracks of boulders.

Remember “Havard, not Harvard”? With few exceptions, about the only agave I saw on the trail was Agave havardiana. They were everywhere!

Plenty of other plants, even oaks putting out a 2nd and 3rd flush of growth with the abundant moisture. Flowers, colors, even the bark…find the Arbutus xalapensis.

Bugs everywhere, though I was uneaten. Thanks in part to persistent cloud cover instead of sun.

Did I say green and moist? While the oaks had no acorns on them, the Pinus cembroides were loaded with seed, and here we stood in awe of the top of the food chain having lunch…

Water, green, more water

I wasn’t the only one taking too many photos, so we had to hustle back. That was the longest downhill I remember, since years ago on a fall day, from firs into cacti and oaks about 4000′ below, each step down in elevation warming into heat by the bottom, knees feeling the pain.

This was just greener and cooler, plus my suspicion was confirmed about my hiking boots being too used over the years.

I got shin splints, so it took me a while to join my compadres at the dinner table, but I made it. Then we said our byes, and I drove on while they stayed in Study Butte.

A 90 minute power nap off the long highway to Alpine, and my long streak of luck at Border Patrol stations ran out. I was detained for an hour, but then let go.

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it took some vacuuming to get the fur out

At least their German Shepard didn’t scratch my paint clawing on all of my car…

A new day…back in Marfa, where I got a room nearing 1 am, then a night sleeping soundly and far from La Migra.

Exploring town, enjoying being away from some bad things at work, knowing I had to leave. I milked out being in Marfa all day!

Then the last 4 hours of driving, and a desert sunset.

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the shafts of rain at dusk are called “purple rain” by some

After a few days in reality, back to the illusion that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head. I was now ready for the coming weeks, and richer in Agave havardiana sightings.

Still Here, on Pause

A quick update, as some have asked, “what happened to you?” – my last blog post shows as “09.28.15”!

I’m taking an indefinite break from my blog and other non-paying pursuits for good reasons. One – I’m in the midst of completing all the design work which I’m behind on – it’s all behind. 2014-15 brought a few horrid project / people experiences, robbing months from better work and pursuits.

I’m running on fewer cylinders than my engine requires!

Until it’s time to add back other things, here’s one last bit since 09.28 –

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The Guadalupe Mountains, namely McKittrick Canyon. I finally made it, each year unable to go, not that I was really able this year –

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Resuming plenty of design work, awaiting my mind and soul. At least 15 projects in design or construction, including an unusual-for-my-last-decade number of residences, and even an unusual project for most anyone (new buildings within an oil refinery) –

You see, I don’t look for work, as it comes to me, given my desert-centric convictions and experience.

Much of what I do is screen out the >90% who don’t really want what they claim to, so I’m able to do solid design work for the <10% who value and get it. Only giving presentations has netted worse odds.

I mostly need those universals of time and cash flow (always on it), plus a like-minded assistant versed in CAD and outdoor living design – and that’s who I’ll find, or I’ll move on. We’ll help each other, while helping the few. Moving past poor timing or so many who don’t have it going on – I’ll know!

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Nothing like seeing trees and other large plants with (3) arborists on a chilly fall afternoon. Or seeing a few sights out of town, while measuring another residential site / landscape renovation –

Before I finished college, I learned most people – even family and friends – get little about what I do, all that goes into it while hoping for the best, and that for 27 years. Even with clear answers when asked. Today, that’s even more obvious.

Yet, anyone honest knows I smile far more than not. Some even know why, and those are who I value the most.

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Finishing a conference, the lunch speaker toured attendees around her office’s work at UTEP (I forgot to get a picture of her and the others). I’ve kept up some of my indoor and outdoor workouts, too –

Hopefully, I’ll return to posting on my blog. The sooner I complete first things first, the more likely that will be. Yes, I’m doing just fine – maybe better than most?

In the spirit of these last few days, thank you!

Yes, This is How It Really Looks

Many westerners brag about the sunsets; we get so many.  And more iPhone photos from my quick work trip to Las Cruces.

From just NW of Austin…..625 miles, or so :-)

Looking S and E – 

Sierra Vista trail looking S towards El Paso

I’ve mountain biked part of this trail a few times, though it’s a bit chunky and crosses many arroyos…but the 360 degree view is great, so is that I’ve seen few others riding there.

those watermelon reds on the foothills & mountains

The blue-green foliage and golden stalks of Sotol / Dasylirion wheeleri make this even better. See the young Fishhook Barrel Cactus / Ferocactus wislizenii at the bases of a pair of sotols?

There’s also no El Paso heat island! Following a 97F high hours earlier, it was already below 80 at 7:30 pm. I think that spot is 5000′ elevation, so that cooled it several degrees from in town, 1000′ lower.  Oh yeah!

plants aren’t icing on the cake, they’re part of the cake

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Looking west –

about to set

Ocotillo / Fouquieria splendens all on fire

The calm was a rarity in that spot. When I would come down for work and stay overnight, I often drove up the road nearby with a cup of coffee, and just watch the stars or moon and feel the cool breeze. I sometimes take a drive to my nearby trailhead, before bed, and do the same.

A bit of solace during late nights working in my motel room, and like home away from home.

Do you have a favorite place outside for solitude?

Las Vegas Oasis

Would you guess this post is from a city’s metro area of 2.1 million people, with 44+ million visitors each year?

I would. And given which city, I also guessed right how it would be vacant at dawn, even with the coolest morning lows in the valley.

Clark County Wetlands Park, on the Las Vegas Wash, from 6/25/2015. Musical pairing from the Chairman of the Board – here

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entry ramada reflects Frenchman Mountain

Saline irrigation water and low areas with saline soils can be tough on plants, so desert riparian species are all that’s used here – including halophytes.

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Quailbush / Atriplex lentiformis, California wildfire smoke above

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Fourwing Saltbush / Atriplex canescens

MesoWest showed some highs the day before at 116F in nearby Henderson and along this wash. 116 high – 73 low = a 43F temperature swing in one day. Sign me up…for the low!

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boulders and drops in water elevation used to create sound

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Tornillo / Prosopis pubescens there, like Bernalillo to the Big Bend

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visitor’s center and overlook

Funding met savvy in ecoregion and design there.

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controlled burns to rid overgrowth of exotics and aggressive natives

Exotics that replace native species disturbed or removed include salt cedar / Tamarisk spp. and fountain grass / Pennisetum sactaceum. Natives that take over when the balance of natural controls are removed include Western Honey Mesquite / Prosopis torreyana and Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis.

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too many concrete walks for my taste

An alternate to concrete would be stabilized aggregate, like decomposed granite (DG): that material provides just as much accessibility for developed trails and paths…plus, its crunching sound and visuals support a more wild effect.

Much better!

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DG paths further back…miles of trails here

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appealing bench arrangement, shade from Western Cottonwood / Populus fremontii

Finally, a good use of cottonwoods – a riparian area with much room for rapid growth, aggressive roots, weak wood and extreme thirst, as opposed to a garden or most any urban setting.

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more seating for classes…native sandstone

Clark County Wetlands Park is not a natural area, but it’s close by.

Someone figured out the connections and patterns allowing human-made riparian zones to better emulate the beauty of the wilds – the few places we can find wild riparian areas in the southwest.

(update…turns out this was designed by a collaboration between my former employer and a civil engineer I’ve worked with…and even another firm before them who did the master plan, who some I worked with worked for…ha!)

Do you have any areas in your area to visit, developed for both sedentary people and those who get out on the trail?

Purple Rain, Warm August Night

Proof positive not only “northern and central New Mexico” get purple rain. What an incredible decompression my latest drive to Marfa was, once off I-10. Photos from below Valentine TX, 8/10/2015 –

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distant storms, dry on US-90

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Texas…far west Texas

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the state grass, Bouteloua curtipendula

Chihuahuan desert grassland in one of its many forms. Too bad the Verbena bipinnitifida in rich, purple bloom by my eyes, was washed out in the photo, no matter what I did. Trust me.

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restful is my room at the Hotel Paisano…airbnb fail for tonight, at least

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and I got this room

A neighbor 10+ years ago was OK and had a Mustang with the front plate saying “Live Fast, James Dean” on it. I’ve never forgotten about that plate, or how few live fast and live.

His wife and cottonwood tree were not OK. The canyon winds obliterated that valley tree, and his wife must have disliked the place. Try being real, and having a real garden…that’s how one can be civil in an uncivil place :-)

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a great end to a stressful day, a drink out in the courtyard

Everything here is like where I lived, except it gets 2x the rain. Never mind, Marfa mornings are cooler yet. I’m the place with 61F :-)

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It’s so mellow here Mon – Wed., like purple is.

Roadtrip! Big Bend Towns

Having lived in the high desert for over two decades, there’s romantic appeal to be surrounded by what’s also termed “high lonesome”, then to travel out into it.

The good, the bad; the feel to the air, the blight many do to the land. Truly, the last frontier.

The few towns in the Big Bend region give context to the miles between and beyond them; I picked even fewer and another place that may as well be a town.

Van Horn TX (4,042′ elev) –

As I write this, our monsoon season is bringing El Paso some soaking rains, then the scent of creosote bush and a warm wind. Quite a contrast from dry May and June of 2014, especially to our east.

Alpine TX (4,475′ elev) –

Sorry Marathon, Marfa, Fort Davis, Sanderson, and Shafter – another time. Even Pinto Canyon Road (I have your number, Gary N.).

Chisos Basin (5,400′ elev)  –

Once again, I’m hearing many of those thrashers around where I live and on the trails. Quite a unique call!

Lobo TX (4,010′ elev) –

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quite different without the Germans and their hospitality during their periodic film festivals…today, desert grassland reclaiming territory

A soundtrack to read this post by – here.