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Thank you/Ta Heaps! and About Me

Folks,

Thank you for the VERY warm welcome I received here. This site is a really good fit for me; I love it here. Already someone has bought my art. That’s awesome!

One of the special features I love is the fact I can add an art work to one of my groups just by checking the box! What a great idea! Hopefully, there will be more connectivity, such as clickable links. I’d like to see the archives of the bubblemail I’ve sent, but I can’t find it. If someone knows, let ME know! Thanks!

I’ll try to tell a little about myself from time to time, and the work I have been doing. Today, it will be about my photography. I first got serious about photography 50 years ago when I joined the photography club at school. I was able to use the darkroom. It was very interesting, and I enjoyed it a lot, though that was the end of my darkroom career, after that year. That’s OK. At that time, it was pretty much just black and white, though my dad started taking color slides before that. But I couldn’t afford that. Somewhere, he scrounged an old reel of unexposed 35mm film, which I sliced and loaded in cans myself. After that, I didn’t do much with photography until about ten years ago, mostly from lack of time. At that point, I suddenly became more free to do stuff like that because the last of my kids had left home, and I had finished taking care of my mother-in-law. That’s about when I got on the internet, too. I spend most of my time on the internet these days, but I also take trips to do photography. Every time I have an occasion to go somewhere else, I pack a pile of camera equipment, though as long as they are groping and X-raying people at security at airports, I won’t be flying at all. But that’s OK, because I can always drive. :) Most of my photography is done in or around Arizona, but I have also been other places. In particular, I was delighted to be able to go to the ocean in Maine and Massachusetts. I need to go back; you don’t do all the ocean photography you want to do in a couple of days. For one thing, you have to wait for the right skies, and that’s not easy, though I did luck out some of the time. I also got to go to an awesome botanical garden and butterfly pavilion there. In Arizona, I have been all over the state, from south to north, west, and so forth. In the south, I have been to Nogales, Sonoita, Parker Canyon Lake, Patagonia Lake, the Catalina Mountains, the Santa Rita Mountains, the Rincon Mountains, the Tucson Mountains, the Silverbell Mountains, Kitt Peak and the Quinlan Mountains, Organpipe Cactus National Monument, Ajo, Yuma, Castle Rock Wilderness (thereby hangs a tale, which I’ll tell sometime), moving north, Phoenix, White Tank Mountains, Globe, Prescott, Sedona, Lake Havasu (and the London Bridge), Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks, Cosanti, Arcosanti, Biosphere II, Sunset Crater, Meteor Crater, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Wupatki Ruins, Toozigoot, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, the Vermilion Cliffs, Antelope Canyon, Jerome and some places within some of these destinations, and probably some places I can’t remember. In Utah, I have been to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Grand Staircase/Escalante. I have been to many famous birding places in southeast Arizona, and have photographed some real rarities. I have more trips into Utah and New Mexico planned. You will get to see some of my photography from all these places.

I have also photographed many animals and plants, and have studied the ethnobotany of the Sonoran Desert. I have been preparing a book on this subject, and I have taken thousands of photographs of plants for it. Some of them are good enough to show you, so I’ll be doing that. I frequently go to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which has plants, birds, insects, animals, and many other creatures of the desert. Arizona has 16 species of hummingbirds, and I have photographed 14 of them. I also was able to photograph birds in their other aviary. About half my wild animal photos were actually taken in the wild, and the rest mostly at the Museum. I also go to the zoo and the botanical gardens less often. The butterfly photos I have taken in southern Arizona were taken in a butterfly garden, so they are technically wild and free. The butterfly pavilion in Phoenix is enclosed, as is the annual tropical butterfly display at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. I have photographed quite a few insects inside my home! It’s interesting sharing my home with all these critters. Most of them are perfectly OK with me. The only ones I don’t like are the ones that bite and sting. At the museum, I have been able to photograph a number of large cats of Arizona, bighorn sheep, jaguarundi, otters, coyotes, bears, deer, iguanas and collared lizards (in the wild, especially), prairie dogs, and many more. We have had javelina (pronounced “have-a-leena”)living here on our property, and they are not the least afraid of us. So I have gotten a number of closeups. They’re supposed to be dangerous, but as long as they are hungry or thirsty and you don’t corner them or threaten their young, they won’t bother you, though they look fierce enough!

Some of the flowers I have photographed are so tiny (1/4" across, for example) you have to get on your belly to see them. We call these “belly flowers” for that reason. To begin with, I didn’t have a decent macro lens, so I reverse-mounted my 55mm with a string of closeup lenses on it, and was able to photograph belly flowers with that setup. Other flowers are spectacular, like the cactus flowers (hedgehog, saguaro, organpipe, claret cups, prickly pear, torch cactus, and cholla), and others are downright peculiar, like the flowers of the Ephedra plant (from which pseudephedrin was developed). It looks like nothing but a bunch of vaguely green stalks, and the flowers have no petals at all! In fact, they’re not even called “flowers,” they’re called “pollen cones.” I got pictures of the flowers at Picacho Peak, another place I’ve been. Picacho Peak was the site of the westernmost battle in the Civil War. Some flowers are edible. I like the petals of prickly pear and cholla, and I eat the whole flower of the palo verde tree. The palo verde (“green trunk” in Spanish) has chlorophyll in the trunk, and during the part of the year when it has no leaves, it makes food for itself in its trunk. The beans are very good when they are not fully developed and still green, but they’re a pain to pick out of the shell, one at a time. They taste like green peas, but sweeter. Another flower I like is the ocotillo flower. I like to pick those, stuff a gallon jar full of them, fill it with water, and leave it in the refrigerator for about 18 hours. It makes a wonderful punch. People like to cut the branches and tie them together to make fences. If you stick the end in the ground, it might take root, and then when it rains, you will have a green fence! Hummingbirds like the flowers, and I like to suck on them like honeysuckle. The bark is used medicinally for female troubles. Maybe sometime I’ll tell you more about the medicinal uses of various plants.

There are a number of stinging insects in the Sonoran Desert. We have several kinds of bees (including killer bees at this point), wasps, yellow jackets, and so forth. Killer bees tend only to sting in massive numbers when you appear to be threatening the hive. If you meet a single one on a flower, he won’t bother you if you leave him alone. We also have more than one size of red and black ants. There is a very unpretentious plant called Sand Spurge which has tiny leaves and lies on the ground, with belly flowers. It is a member of the Euphorbia family, and has a milky juice. If you put that juice on the sting, it will take the pain right out! You can also take the pain out by cutting a chunk of prickly pear and laying the inside on the skin. Be sure and make it large enough, because otherwise you will be pain free in the center, but as the venom spreads outside the area under the chunk, it will hurt! If none of these are available, a paste of water and baking soda works well. I’ll tell you more about the other insects in the future. I do tell people, if you can’t stand the critters, you don’t belong in the desert!

The fruit of all native cactus is edible. I like to juice prickly pear fruit and drink it fresh. I like eating saguaro fruit right off the cactus, IF I can reach it. Hedgehog fruit tastes somewhat like strawberries, and you can also eat the flesh, but don’t eat it when it’s cold, because it will cool you down some more. Also, they are endangered, so don’t eat them much.

I also like some of the berries. Wolfberries and hackberries are wonderful, but very small, so you have to eat a lot of them to get a real meal from them. The seeds are also edible, as are the seeds of the barrel cactus. The fruit of the barrel has the texture of very firm green peppers, and tastes like lime when green and lemon when yellow. One of my favorite foods is chia seeds, but it’s very hard to harvest enough of them. So I buy them. People sometimes plant pyracantha in the city. It’s not native. But the berries are edible. Prickly pear pads can be boiled and eaten; make sure the prickly pear is standing upright. The best are the young pads before the “leaves” form into thorns. They’re called “nopalitos” by the Spanish-speaking people, and they are delicious! You have to cook them about five minutes in lightly salted boiling water three times, changing water in between. Then you can mix it with your favorite meat chili or other good ingredients. Well, I could tell you about all the other edible things, but that will give you an idea. It would be difficult to survive in the desert any time of the year, but not impossible.

See ya!

Journal Comments

  • Chris  Willis