Sunday, February 9, 2014

Water the Bales and Give Them Sun

How Phoenix Rolls on a February Saturday afternoon: down the canal, to OHSO

I had a lot of thoughts or themes at least that I wished to explore in a blog post. They've been bottled up for a while, itching to get out. Finally a conjunction of a delicious warm Saturday afternoon and some time to ride popped up to offer the possibility of setting them free. During the ride, however, all that my mind would do was empty out and enjoy it. No words were coming together, only laughter.

I don't think I've ever seen so many other people out riding bicycles at the same time. Hundreds, at least, and most of them were doing silly, easy things like I was: riding to the coffee shop or bar, or taking the kids out on their tiny bikes and scooters, or being walked by the dog, or slowing down for their significant other who doesn't ride as much. This last situation was very even between males and females, I saw many of both waiting for the other and in no particular hurry. I saw some guys all kitted up in racing colors struggling up a minor hill (minor in the worldwide sense, sort of steep and fun in the Phoenix sense since we don't have many hills to speak of) on lightweight bikes, actually stopping in the middle to walk the rest of the way, while I just dropped Bip the purple springy steel old Trek mountain bike with skinny tires down to granny gear and spun on up. I could sense some of the erstwhile triathletes struggling a bit with the concept of a slow and easy Saturday ride, but even they seemed to be warmed and melted by the ideal weather and easy spirit.

This egret, who is in effect emperor of this particular park in Scottsdale, kept his eye on me, while permitting me to get within a few feet for a shot of his lovely snow white plumage. Again in this area I also heard the call of red-winged blackbirds in the slightly marshy section, a sound which touches childhood memories of the marshes and sloughs in the wetlands of the midwest, visited on my blue Schwinn Stingray three speed. I was lucky enough to spend my early childhood near an undrained marsh off one of the tributaries of the Mississippi River where muskrats and crawdads were plentiful. The warble of the blackbirds was all around us. Sounds of the river, too. But I don't think we had egrets. We played in the sand blows which local legend held erupted from the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12. There were painted box turtles and robin red breasts and menacing old snapping turtles that seemed to have been sustainably harvested by locals--I both saw the snappers all the time, and also the locals catching one or two on occasion for soup or whatever they made. 

Memories of Hohokam memories of Salt River turtles

Perfectly logical and normal I guess, but really grabbed my attention

The straw bales in the section of the path which doubles as storm runoff channel have received the right combination of water and sun to cause them to sprout. I know sometimes people use straw bales to grow micro gardens of strawberries or whatever, but this sneaky sprouting of hay from straw spoke to me of life and water and sunshine. and slight subversion of purpose and plan, since straw bales under normal circumstances are probably not intended to behave like this.

Curiosity got the better of me. What was happening here? What's the usual terminology among ranchers and farmers when this sort of thing occurs; do they speak of the straw going green? Hairy bales? Spoiled straw? It may perhaps demonstrate some flaw of process, or error in assembling the bales, if by watering them and giving them warm sun they turn into compact hay gardens. Maybe the optimal baling process is supposed to remove the seeds so this doesn't happen? Otherwise why don't all bales do this eventually? Why don't the big round bales eventually come to resemble hairy green elephants marching across the fields, as water and warmth and sunshine work their machinations on the seeds within? Will my straw bale constructed bicycle rectory eventually meet this same fate?

Straw baling experts who read this blog: please elaborate.

Egret and cormorants keeping their distance, fueled by hope of little fishies washing through the gates

Bip next to Tempe Town Lake, sporting new comfy pedals

I did mount a pair of my favorite easy riding and commuting pedals on Bip, which made this a break-in ride for them. MKS RMX sneaker pedals are in all respects my preferred platform for this usage, and I thank Rivendell bikes for bringing them to my attention.

New pedal with Words Over Water tile at Tempe Town Lake

I was struck by the apparently varied moods by neighborhood on this particular Tri-City Tour. In Arcadia in the vicinity of OHSO I felt mirth and laughter all around. In Phoenix near the Scottsdale border, and then from there over to the civic center, much smiling and laughing. But then, for some reason, for several miles inside Scottsdale, stern, stolid, determined, no-nonsense, no Hellos, no waves, almost pissed-off faces. Don't know why. By the time of reaching Tempe Town Lake, it was back to enjoy the day, ride the ride, happy people goofing off in the sunshine. I don't know what was up in Central Scottsdale that took all the fun out of it. But on the ride I did learn or get reminded that if you water and warm the bales, and give them sun, sometimes they go green and exhuberant, and grow along the path.


  1. That emperor-egret certainly does look regal in that pose. I've not had the fortune to see one doing that. And the only cormorants I've seen locally were at Gilbert Riparian Preserve, I have to figure out where these are. I love water birds.

    It certainly is a glorious time of year here and your words capture it all so well. You're the best blog writer I know!

    1. Thank you, Candace. I usually see some cormorants along the Arizona Canal in Scottsdale, but they seem to move around quite a bit. I enjoy seeing your photos of wildlife with all the close-up textures and colors you capture.

  2. Resident sprouting bale expert reporting (or something like that)

    The bales in question are not alfalfa hay, they are some sort of small grain (oats most likely, not wheat, rye or flax). Since alfalfa is harvested before seeds are present you don't see hay bales sprouting (though they can self-combust, which is always exciting).
    Like you, I'm a bit puzzled by the explosion of sprouting. Ordinarily, oats would be harvested for the grain for feed, then the leftover straw would be baled for bedding (dinner and board in one plant, handy). From a farming standpoint, leaving that much grain behind would be viewed as a waste, most likely caused by a very poorly set up combine. Maybe they ended up as runoff control bales precisely because they were too lousy for anything else?

    It does look pretty in a surprising sort of way.

    1. Thanks Nathan! Maybe this hay was harvested late in the season, and had a lot of seeds, or was just mowed up from a rough field since they knew it was going to be used in the flood zone. Joe's Lousy Flood Control Bales: Now with More Seeds!

  3. Sort of reminds me of a chiapet.
    The hay bales I mean.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.