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I apologize, but life is kind of crazy this week, so I promise that I will get to back to my ‘Tree Planting’ posts soon.  In the meantime, I would like to share with you one of my favorite posts that I wrote about 1 1/2 years ago.  I was rather new at blogging at the time so most of you probably have not read it.  I hope you enjoy it 🙂

When people think of a desert, most envision a place of intense heat, sparse plants, snakes and lots of sand.  Well, some of that is true, but there is much, much more which I have discovered.  I am not a native desert dweller.  In fact, I was born and raised near the beach in Southern California and I never thought that I would live in the desert.  However, here I am, having lived in Arizona for over 23 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way….

All of the photos were taken in an area about 30 minutes northeast of Phoenix.

The desert that I live in is called the Sonoran Desert and it occupies over 120,000 sq. miles covering parts of Arizona, California and Mexico.  Although deserts around the world do not receive much rainfall, the Sonoran Desert receives more then any other desert in the world.  We have two seasons of rain.  In the winter our storms come from the west from the Pacific coast and the rains are usually gentle.  In the summer our rains come up from Mexico and are called “monsoons”, which means “wind shift”.  These summer storms are sporadic and result in torrential rainfall and high winds.  Often, when we receive these torrential downpours, my kids and I just stand inside our front door, just watching the rain.

By the way…..you know you are an ‘official’ desert dweller when you rejoice whenever it rains.

Because of our dual rainy seasons, the Sonoran Desert has the most animal and plant species of any North American desert.  We have over 2,000 native plant species alone.  In the spring, the desert is awash in wildflowers and cactus blooms.  The rain brings out the distinct, yet pleasing, scent of the Creosote bush (if you rub the leaves in your fingers, it smells like the rain).  I live in zone 8b and we do experience occasional freezing conditions during the winter. 

Interestingly, the western part of the Sonoran Desert, located in California (Palm Springs and surrounding area), is regarded as a sub-desert called the Colorado Desert.  It differs in appearance and in that the soils are sandy, there is less rainfall in the summer and as a result there is less plant density and native plant species.  The Saguaro cactus does not grow naturally in the Colorado Desert.  If you have a chance to drive across the California – Arizona border, you can see the difference as you cross over the Colorado River.  This sub-desert has a beauty of it’s own and I enjoy visiting this part of the Sonoran Desert.
The Sonoran Desert is a fascinating place with cactus and snakes  (I rarely see them), but is also filled with trees, shrubs, flowers and wildlife.  Far from being a barren wasteland, this desert is full of life and beauty.


It is my home….

 Many of you have visited Double S Farms with me where my mother (Pastor Mom), youngest sister (Chicken Farmer) and family reside. Well, I have more family for you to meet along with their desert gardens.

I would like to introduce you to ‘The Refuge’ along with it’s residents, their gardens and the beautiful desert surrounding them.  The Refuge is located in the California desert, in the Coachella Valley, and is the home of my younger sister and her family.

 
The desert drinks up all the rain as it runs through the wash, by The Refuge.
My entire family and I are all native Californians who grew up minutes from the ocean.  Much of our time was spent at the beach.  Some of us were surfers, while others, (my sisters and I), would lay on the beach working on our tans, or lack of – we are fair-skinned.  
*Disclaimer – we always wear sunscreen, now that we know better.  Back then, we were young and stupid ;0)
   As time passed by, we all eventually found our way to the desert and have made our homes here.  My younger sister and her family live in the California desert, near Palm Springs –  while my mother, brother and youngest sister (and families) live in the Arizona desert as I do.

 
Washes in the desert fill quickly with rushing water when it rains.
Often, when people think of the desert, they picture barren, sandy hills with small scrubby shrubs and believe that all deserts look the same.  However, there are differences in all deserts.  The California desert around the Palm Springs area is part of the Sonoran Desert as is the larger Phoenix area where I live.  
However, there are some differences between the California  and the Arizona Sonoran Desert, which caused the California desert area around the Palm Springs area to be sub-classified as the Colorado Desert.  You can read more about the differences in an earlier post Journey Into My Backyard – The Sonoran Desert.


 
Small pools like this will quickly disappear as the soil drinks up the rain water.
A Creosote (Larrea tridentata) shrub is reflected in the water.
As a child, I would look forward to visits with my grandparents who lived in Palm Desert.  The beautiful barrenness of the mountains against the deep blue sky just transfixed me.  My sister has a beautiful view of the tallest mountain, Mount San Jacinto, from her kitchen and it is often covered in snow in the winter.
As we drive through the California desert towards my sister’s home, you are surrounded by the stark beauty of the desert.  As we turn down the street towards her home, it is easy to see why it is called ‘The Refuge’.  A beautiful garden surrounds their home, creating a green oasis with colorful, flowering plants and trees.

My nephew, Mr. Green Jeans, who is the resident photographer at ‘The Refuge’.
In future posts, we will have more glimpses of the gardens at ‘The Refuge’ and meet it’s residents.  My nephew, Mr. Green Jeans, is not only the resident photographer, but also grows beautiful vegetables.  My brother-in-law, Mr. Compost, is passionate about composting and will perhaps do a guest posting about how he composts.  My sister, Daisy Mom, grows beautiful container plants as well as houseplants.  

We will soon return to ‘The Refuge’ and meet more of it’s residents, view their gardens and the beautiful desert that surrounds them.