Monday, July 31, 2017

go(u)rdian knots

The gourds of Eldorado - the inedible buffalo gourds - have taken up climbing, and some of them are trying to cover some very spiny bushes.  But I wanted to try an experiment - I very rarely, as some of you know, use flash, but seeing this gourd, still damp from last night's rain, I tried to see what it would look like if I used fill flash to illuminate it, to make it pop out from the thorns.  Result - below. Admittedly, I only had on-camera flash with me, so there's a nasty little shiny bit on the gourd's surface.  And I probably need to practice.  But all the same - I prefer all that natural light on the tendrils ...

Sunday, July 30, 2017


There's always something very satisfying about taking lots of cardboard and bottles to the waste transfer unit, or, as one would far more clearly say in England, to the tip.  Never mind the conspicuous consumption behind the empty boxes from Amazon, or the rather more healthy consumption that underlies the presence of lots of green Mountain Valley bottles (though, yes, we could have settled with the slightly dubious taste of the stuff from the tap) - it always feels that one's done something very praiseworthy by taking the trouble to recycle such things (for those of you outside of Eldorado, one can't put glass in one's recycling bin here).  And yes, I know very well the degree of smug self-delusion that I'm indulging in when I treat myself to a feel-good trip to the tip.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

bacterial wetwood

... at least, I think that's what this is: yesterday one of the locust trees in our back yard had sap pouring down it, and the bark looks as though it's been slashed open in numerous places.  Apparently this can be a response to tree stress - and as if it wasn't already badly stressed enough from drought and from gophers chewing its roots, it was stressed when we had it seriously pruned to cope with the effect of of lack of rain and too many sharp yellow tombstone-shaped gopher teeth,  Today, it seems to have stopped weeping, and the sap is forming tight amber-like balls, which are curiously pretty, but don't necessarily signal good tree-health.

Friday, July 28, 2017

stretching out

Early morning shadows.  I seem unable to tame the morning glory plant on the right - I've given it a tripod of stakes to climb up; a smaller stake in its pot; some judiciously tied pieces of string - and yet, it still persists in shooting out tendrils towards the asters in the next-door pot.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

storm clouds

I think that we can safely say that the monsoon season has arrived in Northern New Mexico.  The clouds this afternoon were completely compelling (followed by lightning, thunder and rain).  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

sunset, front and back

Quite possibly the best sunset of the summer so far - so even though this wasn't at all the picture(s) that I'd intended to post, it was hard to resist sharing it in all its golden wildness.  What you can't see here are the tiny flashes of summer lightening close to the horizon, and the thin sliver of the new moon - although that tiny silver dot, near the top of the second image - more to the right than the left - that's no speck of dust on the lens, but the sunlight catching a very, very high airplane (most likely on its way to Chicago from California - at least, that's always when I crane my head to get a glimpse of our house from the air).

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

ready to fly?

This little finch certainly has ambitions.  Will it be today?  Will it be tomorrow?  There's a nest right at the back of the newspaper depository, so it can hop back and feel safe (and it probably is fairly safe there, apart from snakes).  But one false step could be disastrous ... One feels very protective, and anxious, about all the birds (indeed, all the wildlife, though maybe not the Yuge packrat that crossed in front of me some twenty minutes later in my walk) here in this semi-rural, semi-urban - well, ok, mostly rural, with a house every 1.5 acres ... - environment, and there's absolutely nothing that one can do other than trust that they have (and most of them do have) parents who know what they're doing.

Monday, July 24, 2017


Two different types of stake: in the foreground, a tripod of steel-coated-with-plastic strong green stakes, bound together at the top, and providing a home for one of the morning glories (and the good news is that the other one has decided to grow, too); in the background, old fashioned wooden stakes supporting some of the chile farm - four Chimayo chiles on the left hand side; four Santa Fe chile plants on the right.  It's a good growing year, so far.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


I always feel that it's copping out to post a picture of the sky - because it's almost invariably large, and beautiful.  But because it's always changing it's impossible to take for granted, and I think I've rather underrepresented it in its magnificence this summer.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

container gardening

I have no idea why things in pots are doing so well this year, but they are.  (And that's it?  Nothing more interesting to say?  Let's just note that it was a hard-working kind of day).

Friday, July 21, 2017

trompe l'oeil dragon

I've never seen this before!  I guess I don't normally walk from the railyard towards what was the Sanbusco Center - so I didn't see this wonderful mural by John Pugh on the back of the Jean Cocteau Cinema.  The cinema is now owned by George R. R. Martin (we owe him a big debt of thanks for saving it), and he commissioned this work - apparently the woman is a representation of his wife Parris McBride, when young (and that had me looking her up, and I'm please to report that (a) they are cat people and (b) she's into wolf rescue).  There's more to the mural - I'll be back, and taking more shots of it, I'm sure ...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

anyone for bocce?

Bocce balls on the court at Los Poblanos - like pastel colored eggs.  We didn't take up the implicit challenge - too busy sitting in the beautiful gardens for a few minutes before Alice had to go and catch her plane and precipitate herself into the Travel Hell that involved a long-delayed flight change in Atlanta airport.

Here's a gardener raking the gravel paths, and below, the paths themselves ...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

a very small vacation, with lavender

Alice catches a plane to NYC in the morning - so we're taking the opportunity to have a one-night vacation at Los Poblanos, a lavender farm on the outskirts of Albuquerque - a lovely old NM property, with the kind of gardens that make one instantly want to re-do one's own tumbleweed-ridden back yard (although probably not with the water features).

So this is the view across the gardens to our room ...

But.  We've stayed here twice before - and the last time, in particular, Los Poblanos was an idyllic, slightly funky, lavender-full establishment, with great hens and other animals, and a wonderful laid-back, escapist vibe.  Now - they've just finished building a whole lot (maybe 18?) of vacation units over half the lavender fields, and have expanded, expanded ... Sure, there's still lavender growing (and ready for consumption - I had a lavender champagne cocktail and we had peach and lavender gelato for desert) - but all the same, we're anxious that the success of this establishment could have killed the goose that laid the golden - or at least lavender colored - egg.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Keep? Or compost? (and, quietly, a memorial for Torrey Reade).

I was on my way out to the composter with these, when the sun caught them, and they suddenly didn't look so wan, and it looked obvious that they might have a second life as dried flowers ... at least for the rest of the summer.  So in they came again, and they're now part of the dust-catching apparatus in my study.

But this is also a memorial post in honor of Torrey Reade, Alice's old friend and roommate from college, who died two evenings ago.  She was an avid, daily reader of this blog, and so it seems strange not to be writing with at least an eye on her ear and eye - this is the second post that I can be sure that she'll never read.  I thought about waiting for a spectacular sunset, or capturing some quintessentially Santa Fe vista by way of a suitable farewell visual - but then, it was very clear to me that carrying on as I would have done anyway, and posting my daily image and piece of writing that works to capture that day's simultaneous quintessence and ordinariness was surely the only way to go.

As befits her desire not to make a fuss and performance about anything - especially being sick; especially dying - it's a low-key memorial, but at the same time I can hardly let her passing go without a comment (the whole of this last year has been an exercise in saying nothing here about her illness, of course - above all when we went east to visit, and when she was out here in Santa Fe in late January - and hence acts as an exemplary instance of how what's very much on one's mind is very much what one doesn't write about).  So this is to say: I'll miss her.  I'll miss her sharply inquiring mind - about what one's been reading; about what one thinks of what one has read; about what one should read.  I'll miss the passion with which - especially two summers ago - she entered into the culture and history of Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico: she soaked up local knowledge and information and filed it neatly away in her capacious memory.  I'll miss her knowledge about farming and organic food (she ran, until quite recently, an organic farm in Southern New Jersey - a place of great serenity as well as lovely sheep, cows, and proliferating barn cats),  When she and Dick visited me in North Carolina nearly two years ago, and we went out to a local farm-to-mouth Italian restaurant in Durham, with another young couple they'd befriended, the precision and curiosity with which she talked about their interest in charcuterie, and in food writing, and their developing ideas, was spectacular.  When she and Dick flew out to our wedding in 2013, she quietly and tactfully and confidently - not exactly took charge, but kept us sane as we put the day together (and then they stayed and house-and-cat sat for a couple of nights - a wonderful gift).  And I could pile on other memories, from the first time that I met her when she came to a house-warming party we had in Highland Park in 2006, to a meal in Hamilton NJ when she'd just come from some kind of important meeting in Trenton to do with agriculture in the state (and, of course, if the tables were reversed, and she were writing about that evening and I'd just come from a meeting, she would doubtless be able to remember, even after all this time, precisely what it was).  There's no way that isn't trite to end reminiscences: it's just so very sad - writing about her necessarily brings her presence sharply back, and makes one very much the more aware of loss.

Monday, July 17, 2017

morning glory

When we arrived here, I did my normal trip to Agua Fria nurseries to stock up on plants for the containers - something greatly aided this year by the thoughtfulness of the university that gave me a $200 gift card for a writing up a promotion case.  It's always a surprise and a treat to get paid - one doesn't expect it, whatever one's views about remuneration for professional service, etc, but one can't deny that each case takes a lot of care and attention and careful - albeit usually very enjoyable - reading.  But a gift card?  That stops the money just sliding off to pay the bills, and ensures that one buys something - at least in this case - that's a treat: lots of plants.  I bought (among many other things ...) two morning glory plants - one is somewhat sulky; wants to grow outwards not upwards, and seems prone to being eaten by something.  The other one - this one - took one look as some string that I nailed to a post on our portales, and is racing up - I swear it grows an inch a day.  And this morning - a veritable First Flower.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

sweet peas

This was conceived of as a vibrantly colored photo - pink and purple sweet peas from the farmers' market, in a mid-and-dark blue mug, on a black and white mat.  Somehow, it all worked in black and white.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

betanin, carotene

- or: various shades of red and orange in the farmers' market.  I didn't know, however, until I checked, that the orange in carrots doesn't come from the same source as that in beets.  That may be a completely useless factoid.  By coincidence, however, I met carrots in print later in the day, in Michael Pollan's Second Nature, in which he asks (p.118, in my copy), "What does a carrot care about?"  What does it need, in order to fulfill its destiny?  The answer would seem to be shoulder room - don't plant your carrots too close together - and light soil (I knew they preferred sandy soil, but the fact of lightness seems to be key).  However, I wasn't reading for carrot wisdom, but actually for stuff about weeds and, especially, dandelions (just for reference, those are dandelion leaves in the top right-hand corner).  Research takes one down some great strange paths ...

Friday, July 14, 2017

crow on a painted post

Our Eldorado neighbors have a large number of different things in their front yards (besides cactus, tumbleweed, chamisa, and rabbits).  "Front yard" is a bit of a misnomer, when we all have an acre and a half of land, and we're only allowed, by statute, to enclose a very small amount by our houses, so we all look as though we're living on exhausted grazing land.  But there's a life size (and very realistic) metalwork bison, a tin elk, various pieces of Westernalia in the form of real or fake farm carts, bird feeders (of course), bluebird nesting boxes, a paint-fading Kokopelli figure, the occasional beehive, Tibetan prayer flags strung between posts, stacks of wood, and so on.  One particularly decorative-minded household not only has a spruced-up vintage flat bed truck, a tin coyote, and various Western-themed objects, but these painted poles - which, today, functioned as a crow post.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

fake lizard

A fake lizard, peering out of a vase; some fake - or at least paper - flowers; a fake Polaroid (courtesy of the ShakeItPhoto app on my iPhone) - this heap of phoneyness is on a vase on the bookshelf to the right of me in my study.  Suffice it to say that apart from a brisk walk this morning, and a few subsequent trips outside to admire the gathering thunderclouds and then the pouring rain, I've not left my desk all day.  But it was a profitable one.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Moth, at breakfast

This is not, I'm afraid, the first time that you'll have seen Moth with her head in the milk frother.  She seems to think that it's a delicacy prepared solely for her, whereas in reality it's Alice's way of both having a cappuccino and (for she froths it cold), cooling down her coffee.  Admittedly, I could have dissuaded her rather than taking a photograph, but the composition was irresistible.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

a solar-powered fountain

Yay!  This arrived in the mail today - or at least in a FedEx truck - and I assembled it, and it works!  I was inspired by the birds-in-your-back yard talk that we went to in our local library a couple of weeks ago.  Although we have a bird bath, and another plant pot base of water for those who like their water supply on the ground, we were told about how the sound of running water serves to attract birds (and of course, it's great to listen to).  It's almost outside my study window, ideal for avian distraction ... so far, one bemused towhee (are there any other kinds?) has sat on it briefly and flown off, and two house finches did a surveillance fly past.  We'll see what happens tomorrow (and we'll see, too, how much sun it needs to get it up and running again).

Monday, July 10, 2017

yellow tomatoes

When did yellow tomatoes become a Thing?  I mean - they've been around for a while, obviously - but I can't remember when they first rose up in front of me in a supermarket or on a market stall, looking strange and different.  I know that they have their advantages, to some - they are sweeter, less acidic - but I much prefer the acidic bite of the red-colored fruit (the fact that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable, is something that my mother taught me when I was very young, and that I cherished, doubtless with some superiority, as a piece of arcane knowledge).  On the other hand, yellow tomatoes don't have any lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant and is good for heart health (and supposedly is anti-cancer, but who ever knows with such claims?) - that in itself is enough to keep me eating the red ones, even if the yellow ones are pretty ...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

catnip banana

LucyFur's favorite toy.  She looks slightly embarrassed at being caught posing with a catnip banana, but since we won't let her and Moth have a go at the lizards who taunt them outside the screen door, she'll have to be content with this bright yellow trophy.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


Quintessential, archetypal summer image, suitable for stock photo ...but they are very pretty daisies, all the same.  And we had our first real monsoon rain this afternoon, so that signals a kind of shift in the rhythm of the summer ...

Friday, July 7, 2017

nearly a full moon

Tonight was the first evening in an age when it was cool enough for our evening walk to be genuinely enjoyable - and full of people (and a variety of dogs) also out walking and commenting on how temperate it was.  And - for the second time in just over a week, what did we hear but the long mournful hoot of the train on our little local railway track.  It had, indeed, gone down to Lamy earlier, with some carriages, but the engine seemed to be coming back without them.  These are the first trains, so far as I know, to run since the Santa Fe Southern Railway ceased operations back in 2014 - I'm just delighted to see that trains can run on the chamisa-and-tumbleweed overgrown tracks, but I'd love to know who's operating them, and if it presages something good.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

the first sunflower of the season

... as seen on our Eldorado walks, anyway.  And it's rather a dwarfish sunflower - I had to kneel down on the road to celebrate it.  It's the first of many - and whilst the sunflowers here are beautiful, and look quite striking against the sky, it's always bitter-sweet to see them, since it suggests that summer is - well, not exactly over, but certainly galloping along a great deal too fast for my liking.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Eldorado beehives

From this morning's walk - more evidence of environmental friendliness and rural self-sufficiency out here ... I doubt that the bees that are buzzing round our large flowery containers fly all the way back to these hives, but it's good, all the same, to know that we're helping them keep up their role in our local ecosystem ...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

adobe buffalo

Yes, this is a very large - much, much larger than life size - adobe buffalo under construction.  This was something of a surprise (it's nearly finished, and is outside La Tienda, in Eldorado ...).  There's much more about it on this FB page, and I quote the whole of the "about" section below.  I find its presence very endearing - as is the fact that the project manager (and adobe buffalo whisperer) Karen Windchild has started to think of him as Buff the Magic Bison ...

The Adobe Buffalo Project is an art installation, a community building project, an educational vehicle, and a shamanic act of healing and transformation. It is prayer for the Earth and all beings.

Physically, the image is herds of buffalo, larger than life, made of adobe, on the deserts and mountains of New Mexico and eventually throughout western North America. The construction method is adobe mud over a metal framework, with mesh support. They will appear as ghost-like relics, spirits of the earth they stand on.

Symbolically, why buffalo? To honor the spirits of all buffaloes past, of all the creatures once here and now gone or nearly gone, since industrialization. The buffalo symbolizes the North on the Native American sacred medicine wheel: honoring the ancestors, spiritual wisdom and physical strength, and providing for the community. So this project will feed the communities today, visually, energetically and mythically.

Education is a vital part of the project. Information on the history of bison on this continent (an estimated 60 million once roamed here) will be displayed at all sites, and included in presentations. Current efforts to restore buffalo in their wild state, and treating the Earth as sacred, will be emphasized.

Local communities are invited to be involved as much as possible, as the project expands onto public, private and tribal lands. Project creator Karen Windchild will direct all aspects of design and construction, to hold the vision intact. All work will be done in a ceremonial way. It will be beautiful, powerful, and sacred.

As much as it is a cry for the past, it is an act of hope for the future: that we may protect and respect all life forms, our relatives here on Pachamama.

The Adobe Buffalo Project is a nonprofit corporation; all donations of time, materials, and sponsorship are tax deductible. Thank you for your interest and participation, as an act of radical senseless beauty, as a gift to the Earth, as a gift to the community as a whole. 

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin
We Are All Related

Monday, July 3, 2017

buffalo gourd

There are many of these gourds starting to creep down roadsides in Eldorado.  This one turns out to be particularly worthy since it has a bee gathering pollen in it.  I think it's a female flower - this plant has both male and female flowers on the same plant, but the female ones are both ridged and hairy, which this is. Buffalo gourd, cucurbita foetidissima, with, as its name would suggest, a nasty smell, and the fruit are bitter and nasty, even poisonous.  The Apache used ground dried leaves for green paint for sand painting, and to treat boils and sores on both humans and horses.  Both the Sandia and Kewa use cut gourds and leaves for insect repellent (could be useful), and Cochiti and Sandia use fresh gourd chunks for soap.  Really?  I can't imagine using something called foetidissima ...

Sunday, July 2, 2017

soapweed yucca touches the sky

... the state flower of New Mexico, and I, at least, would call this, yucca elata, "soapweed yucca."  Only my trusty new wildflower book thinks that "soapweed yucca" is the smaller yucca intermedia.  Nonetheless ... these grow very tall - indeed, one the other side of this driveway - a far larger clump than these - has collapsed and bent over completely.  "Soapweed," because Native tribes not only have used the leaves for baskets and sandals and so on (and the Apache used the fibers for dental floss) but the white substance inside the trunk and roots was commonly used as shampoo - it's supposed to be good against dandruff and hair loss.  The Zuni used to mix it with ground aster and used it as a soap to stimulate hair growth on the scalp of new borns.  Even not knowing about if efficaciousness, it's very striking.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

at our local library

Isn't she beautiful?  No, unfortunately, our library in Eldorado hasn't started loaning red-tailed hawks, but they did hold their first Bird Day today, and she (and her person) were there representing Santa Fe Raptor Center.   We went to a lecture given by one of the owners of Wild Birds Unlimited, too, about feeding birds in summer (necessary, especially to build up calcium again after so much went into the making of eggshells - we learned a lot.  And all this after, earlier in the day, we'd taken bags and boxes of old books to donate them on the once-a-month book donations morning - so we felt very much part of our little community.