Scene from Wednesday morning’s daily dawntime run thru the local wash. All the fall/winter rain has given us a spring superbloom: wildflowers and other vegetation are in an abundance I haven’t seen since moving here in 2010. Prairie-like.

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Starting to see this hyperviolet desert wildflower — Nama demissum, or “purple mat” — up around here. So pretty.

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You go for a walk right now and this is what you get: wildflower pollen shoe.

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Sorry to get out of order, date-wise. Here’s some photos from Feb. 21-22, 2019, when we experienced our first substantial snow storm since we started living here full-time in 2010. Oldtimers say the last time it snowed like this was in 2008.


Snow falling in our front ‘yard,’ Feb. 21.


The view out the window, westward down Sonora Road, later in the day.


The view to the east, from inside the house.


Next day (Feb. 22), looking south towards the Park: snow has finally started to melt. Almost all of the plants in our backyard vegetable garden were undamaged. Chard endures!

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First wild desert tortoise sighting of the season! Probably dazed and enthused over all the vegetation — it’s the most verdant spring we’ve experienced since we started living here full-time in 2010. Chomp chomp.

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Hummingbird in her nest in one of our olive trees.

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screen shot 2019-01-28 at 6.50.45 pm

Behold! Rush Milkweed (Asclepias subulata; verified on iNaturalist), uncultivated, growing in our ‘yard’ near the house, fed by greywater.

In this region, this variety of milkweed is of prime benefit to the stupendously gorgeous Western Monarch butterfly; monarch caterpillars can only grow to adulthood when feeding on it.

According to scientists and advocates, the Western Monarch species has probably entered an extinction spiral, probably due to the usual villains: habitat destruction, poisons, climate breakdown, etc.

Well. We see Monarchs from time to time around here, and this plant is probably why.

So we’ve extracted seed from the exploded pod (see above photo) and are now attempting to propagate more milkweed plants. Then we’ll transplant them to our various JT Homesteader and Sunever Farms properties (and maybe interested neighbors’ as well?) and protect/monitor them to make sure they reach maturity.

Butterfly oasis. Worth a shot. Anything for the Monarchs.

For more info on saving the Monarch: Xerces Society

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Park Superintendent David Smith: “The campgrounds and park will stay open per directions from the Administration, but no staff will be available to check visitors in or charge fees. … All visitor centers and restrooms will be closed and all staff will be furloughed. We will have a skeleton crew of Law Enforcement rangers available to respond to illegal activities or emergencies. Similarly, fire will be available to respond to emergency events.”

Additional clarification just in: “Campgrounds remain open, but as National Park Service personnel are furloughed, reservations will not be observed. Vault toilets throughout the park will remain open. Park visitor centers, flush toilets, water filling stations, and dump stations will be closed.

So: this precious 1,250-square mile National Park is now open and staffed, according to word on the street, by 3 to 4 law enforcement officers.

The Winter Holiday season is one of the busiest periods of the year for the Park — if not the busiest. The Park now sees 3.5 million guests per year. Campgrounds are full, or close to it.

Because there is no staff, no entrance fees will be collected. Thus, there will be no revenue from one of the busiest times of the year, which will create a budget deficit.

Because there is no staff, no trash will be collected.

What do people do in Joshua Tree National Park when there is no law enforcement presence?

Chris Clarke on Twitter comments: “[During last year’s shutdown] there were off-road vehicles trespassing and cutting new two-ruts near Geology Tour Road, among other places.”

What do people do in the Joshua Tree area when there is no law enforcement presence?

Jaysa Burros on Facebook comments: “The mess that is Giant Rock, once a sacred place is a good example of what to expect. Spray paint all over the rocks, trash, people blowing off fireworks and running over all of the vegetation with off road vehicles, destroying a fragile ecosystem the wildlife relies upon for their survival, and making a beautiful place hideous. I don’t understand why people are excited for nature and outdoors only to party like it’s the end of the world and respect nothing about the land. That’s what cheap Vegas hotel rooms are for.”

This is madness. The Park is going to be trashed.

The Trump Administration needs to do the right thing and order the Park closed until the government shutdown ends.

Congressman Paul Cook needs to step up for the Park, and for his local constituents who will now be burdened with inevitable trash/restroom overflow from the Park, and urge the Administration to close the Park.

Do it now, before irreversible damage is done.

Congressman Paul Cook in DC: 202.225.5861

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Takes some doing to get set up but yeah it is totally possible to grow vegetables in the desert in the wintertime. Whole lotta arugula. Plus carrots, beets, pole beans, speckled lettuce, potatoes, mugwort (!) and other stuff. Radishes have already been harvested. Handmade soil from compost and sand. Thanks again to Roger Smith for all the good advices…

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This Texas sage by our house went into full Rose Parade float mode as a direct consequence of a late October rainstorm. Nothing beats natural water.

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