Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

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Tony and Rocky


031010TonyRockyKitten      031110tony1

    Tony and Rocky have grown up into fine looking and healthy young cats. They’ve both been ‘fixed’ so that they are less likely to roam… but they still enjoy roaming the grounds and hunting for mice and gophers.

   They both tend to bring  a live rodent into the house on a weekly basis…. I usually catch them in a drinking mug, and release them outdoors.

   Having cats around keeps the rodent population down…. mice aren’t an issue for our cactus, but gophers are, so having these fellows keeping the numbers down helps a lot…. I wonder if I can deduct food and vet costs since they are integral to our business?

   Tony in particular seems to enjoy having his photos taken.  He tends to hold  a pose long enough to get good photos.  When I’m on the terraces and he sees me, he comes to say hello…. a very friendly little guy he is :-)

thousand miles from nowhere


‘Thousand Miles From Nowhere’
~Dwight Yoakam~

I’m a thousand miles from nowhere,
Time don’t matter to me.
‘Cause I’m a thousand miles from nowhere,
And there’s no place I wanna be.


A really good cover of a Dwight Yoakam classic




As for me, I delight

in the everyday Way,

among mist-wrapped

vines and rocky caves.

Here in the wilderness

I am completely free,

with my friends,

the white clouds, idling forever.


There are roads,

but they do not reach the world;

since I am mindless,

who can rouse my thoughts?


On a bed of stone

I sit, alone in the night,

while the round moon

climbs up Cold Mountain.

~Han Shan~




Cowboy Song

  The neighbor’s cattle have been getting out and onto neighboring properties the last couple of weeks.
  It’s not been an issue for us… our commercially-grown cactus are pretty well fenced in…. and while we have many of our landscape plantings the cattle are walking through, they’re not really doing anything other than eating the grass which I’d have to weed-wack pretty soon anyway (I started weed-wacking this week).   I like cattle… they’re pretty interesting animals, and one of the cows dropped a calf last week… there ain’t nothin’ cuter than a baby creature of any species.     One of the neighbors came by and helped me herd them from our place up onto his spot which has a whole hillside of deep green grass he’d like them to work on. We also moved a livestock water-trough from our place up to his hill so they’d have fresh water (cows drink a HUGE amount of water). The water on his hill will tend to keep them there…. they’ll still wander in here from time to time… that’s OK. Other than some irrigation pipes sticking out of the ground… they’re not likely to cause any real problems, and I’m setting buckets and trashcans over the standpipes that stick out of the ground, so we’ll be pretty safe. We also have a whole hillside of grass that it wouldn’t hurt us none to have it browsed down some too. 

   Browsing animals are part of a natural ecosystem… what they eat they return to the soil….. and they reduce the wildfire danger by browsing the green grasses before they turn into potential fuel-load as summers’ heat hits us.  Their sharp rounded hooves will push into the sloped ground making little tiny mini-terraces that catch rainwater and humus… this encourages tiny plants to grow.   The main thing is to avoid over-grazing… but since we don’t have any domestic livestock, and only deer browse our hillside… we have a lot of browse for these cattle. In a few weeks or so, they may return to their usual fields and they will have the fresh forage there for the summer. These cows are part of a herd of Rodeo bulls bred by Gary Leffew…. so they lead a pretty pampered life roaming a thousand acres of Oak Woodland Chaparral.  We’re glad to host them for a time in return for the browsing they will do. 


‘Cowboy Song’
~Thin Lizzie~

I am just a cowboy lonesome on the trail
A starry night, a campfire light
The coyote call, the howling winds wail
So I ride out to the old sundown



It’s OK Amigo, just let me go….
ridin’ in the Rodeo




February Flowers


Some photos I took along the roadway last month…
just as the wildflowers started blooming.



Wild Native Peonies






Alyssum (a native plant) and Gazanias, naturalized along the roadway by a neighbor.



More gazanias…





Most places have their beauty especially illustrated with rampant color at one time or another.



Down Home California….

Looks like Appalachia… but it’s a house on the Central Coast…. deep in the hills, near us.


The great thing about living remote is you can be yourself….
you don’t have ‘The World’ telling you how you should act or look.
Being so far from the world… it begins to matter less….
and life means so much more….
because you always see it being lost everywhere around you, daily.

The bad thing about living remote is that you can be yourself….
You don’t have those cues from ‘The World’ to keep you in line.
Being so far from the world… it begins to matter less….
and life becomes an object of life….
because you use the lives of others for your own life.

Always do benefit, not harm.

But sadly, every action will likely have repercussions on the lives of others.
When I roto-till I know I kill untold small creatures…
when I mow, small insects and mammals may lose their food source and homes…
Now I try to keep all such intrusions to a minimum…..
scheduling around animal nesting periods,
and considering their prospects for survival if I can delay action.

Most of our actions are done in little ‘swaths’,
nothing is done wholesale here….
we mow a small area while another nearby is being planted.
One spot is being allowed to grow fallow while the next is waxing in a five year growth.
Always, the animals have a spot to retreat to….
just as I do.


Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Psalm 50:10 and :11

   10 For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.


  11     I know all the birds of the hills,

and all that moves in the field is mine.

Green Days in Rivenrock
The neighbor’s cow walks along our driveway… going back home.



Cows at the neighbor’s green field.
Summertime here brings us only dried grasses….
But winter’s rains liven the soil and sprout annual winter grasses.
Spring is the time of plenty for this eco-system.



The green hills lay at the end of our town….
The green hills are our home. We don’t live in the flatlands.
We can’t see too far…. our vision is constrained by high hills and tall trees.



But the green growth extends all through California for this brief period.
Winter and spring are fine times in California.



Here the Santa Maria River has cut through the hills. Continental uplift raises the ground level…
the river level stays about the same…
it just cuts deeper into the ground to maintain its own preferred angle.



This is the best growth of grasses that we have had for years. Grasses is our number one way of improving our soil. We mow and till the spent grasses into the ground…. they add tilth and organic matter making our soil more open to the plant roots and air/water.



  This is a semi-desert area….
water is our most precious and scarce resource…
yet it is being sucked up by myriad wells all around,
lowering the local ground water level
and it will likely impact the trees on these thousand hills.

   Nobody really owns anything on Earth.
We only stay a little time and pass through on our way.
   Anything you have is your duty to maintain.

 To possess is to be possessed.

We are all held to account for the skills we are gifted with,
 and the way we use them.

Would that we would all use our skills for good and regeneration.
To abuse the earth, its animals or people is to hold God in contempt.
You would not treat a rare and precious gift from a celebrity with contempt….
why then treat the greatest gift from the greatest celebrity
with poisons and ill-use for temporary gain?
Any treasures procured in our lifetime
do us no good after we pass on.
Yet the harm we did will echo in eternity….
and one day our plugged ears will be opened,
and we will hear the thunder.


~Garth Brooks~
‘The Thunder Rolls’






Black Oak California

We took a little trip north to Paso Robles.  There are many more Black Oaks growing there than what we have here, in fact the name Paso Robles means ‘Pass of the Oaks’.

Black Oaks are pretty impressive.

Two of the photos are from me playing with the kaleidoscope program with an oak photo.



Here’s Black Oak Arkansas with their rendition of ‘Dixie’ at the California Jam in 1974

wildflowers in California


The wildflowers are starting to bloom in Central California.  The bountiful rains we had this winter loaded the soil with the optimum moisture levels for growth. Fairly much anything that grows here is happy with the extra rain…. so most plants are growing better than they have in years.

Above, left to right… Madia, Annual Lupine, and Indian Paintbrush  The months will each bring a new composition of flower arrangements in the hills and vales…. different soils with varying characteristics will grow different plants that will bloom in their own ways and times.  You never get it all at once from nature…. nature gives you bits here and there…. about all you can do is treasure the little gifts given as the seasons pass… because all of life, every circumstance and occurrence has the potential to be as transitory as the bright colors of the desert flowers which will bloom in a riot for months, then fade quickly as the heat of summer bears on us.

   Nothing stays, everything moves, even mountains.

Month of Tall Grass

   Locally March could be known as ‘The Month of Tall Grass’. This is the month that the winter’s rain brings the season’s growth of grasses to fruition.  The stalks are now some six and seven feet tall…. loaded with small seeds soon to ripen… then I’ll mow them down letting the stalks serve as mulch, covering and protecting the soil, eventually to rot into the topsoil.  I like to wait until the grass seeds are fully matured before I mow them down… I want a good crop of grasses to grow next year naturally. This gives me good protection for the soil… increasing its tilth year by year naturally without any outside amendments.

   Here’s a photo of the grasses right now.



A Tale of Two Potholes

  We live a few miles down a dirt road in California. It is owned and maintained by the county, and we are not supposed to do any work on it. Any work done on the road is supposed to be done under contract using union labor. So any personal attempt to improve or maintain the road is illegal…. and we must accept the condition the county leaves it in.

   Unfortunately, the county probably has hundreds of such roads to maintain, so they only come along to our five-mile road four or five times a year, and we realize (and are told) that we are very lucky they come by that often. At times the road becomes laden with potholes…. so one must often drive at an idle through the worse areas, to go faster is to invite severe damage to your vehicle because the holes cannot be avoided.

   A primary reason for the holes is the people who insist on travelling at high speeds along the road…. each time a tire hits  a wet pothole at speed, it will sink into the hole and splash a bit of mud out, deepening and widening the hole. In time, many of them become several inches deep, and may become a few feet wide.

   Often people will swerve all across the road in their attempts to avoid the potholes… this makes for distracted drivers who are aware of the holes, but not used to seeing another vehicle on the road… they may concentrate more on avoiding holes than other drivers. Also the potholes have disabled vehicles causing them to veer off the roadway or to become stranded immobile in the roadway imperiling the occupants and other vehicles.

   This winter has been one of the wettest we’ve had…. and the road now has more traffic than ever before… so it is seriously the worse I ever recall seeing it. Here’s a few photos of two vehicles that experienced sad consequences for the pocketbooks of the owners…. but luckily no one was injured in either.

   The top three photos are a neighbor who was travelling down the road and encountered a vehicle going the other direction travelling on his side of the road to avoid the large pothole in the road…. he ran off the road to avoid a head-on collision… his vehicle rolled while running down the bank, but luckily he was properly belted-in and had no loose items in the cab to strike him… so no one was physically injured.


  The lower three photos is one of our neighbors who tried to drive around the pothole in the photo. My little truck can slip between the pothole and the edge of the roadway… but this large truck could not fit… as he tried to avoid the pothole the soft moist soil on the bank started to slip downhill…. and the entire truck started slipping sideways…. he tried to climb back up… but each attempt brought the truck closer to a tragic slide downhill… he stopped before things got worse,,, and with two tow trucks it was possible to slide it back onto the roadway where he drove off with the vehicle undamaged… and he didn’t get hurt… but his pocketbook is a bit lighter after he paid the two tow trucks.

  I’ve also seen a couple of vehicles with tires that blew out after hitting a hole at speed, and two that had the shock mounts break in just the last month…. and I only see the tip of the iceberg in vehicular damage as I usually only drive out once a week this time of year. There are likely many incidents I don’t know of.