I planted some cactus this morning — before the heat and wind came up. They say we might get rain but I don’t believe it. At least not enough to make a difference. I live in the desert and you have to expect hot sun and dry conditions. I think you should also expect to have cactus.
I’m the fourth owner of this little “hacienda” and I spend time undoing what the previous owners did or doing what they should have done some years ago. It’s a sturdy little place perched among a few neighbors on the slope above the Rio Grande. One of the previous owners had horses and another had several dogs. Sometime in the past there was an apparent campaign to eradicate all the cactus plants from the property — I guess to protect the dogs and the horses.
I like cactus and I like the way it endures the harsh conditions. We are in a serious drought and even the centuries-old juniper trees are starting to die off. A lot of the Pinon pines have already died off. It’s a shame. I have a juniper that once belonged to the king of Spain — it’s that old. It might have greeted Coronado. It is still holding on but some of its offspring are gone or are looking sickly. That’s the way of the desert.
So today I started my campaign to reintroduce cactus to my habitat. I planted Cholla — they call it “Walking Stick Cholla” because it grows tall and spindly with interesting crooked canes. When it blooms it produces a flower as pretty as a rose and the bees love it. It is even pretty when it dies because it leaves a skeleton of intricate lattice-work that looks like it was engineered by a structural scientist to withstand wind and drying sun. Cholla is a sturdy plant and folks plant hedges of the stuff to serve as a fence because the thorns will stop just about anything.
I have some Prickly Pear cactus that I haven’t planted yet. It is a little more tricky because it is low-growing and you can get tangled in it easily if you don’t watch out. I also notice that the local kangaroo rat population has acquired a taste for Prickly Pear so it might not survive without my protection.
The animals here are hard pressed for food and the rabbit population has spiked at a vary bad time. There isn’t enough food to go around. I have Desert Cottontails and Jack Rabbits looking for food and eating most of what I plant…even plants they are not supposed to eat. That’s in addition to the usual population of Rock Squirrels and rodents. I expect the coyotes to eventually decrease the rabbit population. We have hawks and snakes that will take their share as well.
So, now I have a couple chollas and the prospect of a few prickly pear and my part of the desert seems more complete.