Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Scenes from the Canal Ride


Here are a few more pictures from our early morning bike ride along the canal last weekend. You can really tell that we live in an agricultural area. Things are growing everywhere...

Some newly planted chiles


I think this is a field of alfalfa

Pecan orchard


Horse corral

A lovely rose bush planted far from any house


The couple who owns this garden is always out tending to it by 6AM in the cool of the dawn

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day of Enchantment

Here is a different view of the camel who was in one of my photo entries


The New Mexico Day of Enchantment Photo Contest has come to an end and you can see all the photos here. When viewing the pictures, you can just wander around randomly, or you can pick a certain hour of the day and check out views during that time from all over the state. You can find my photos (or anyone else's) by using the search feature; mine are under "clairz."

Thank you all for taking the time to vote. It was my first time to enter a contest as a very beginning amateur. When you look around at the pictures, you will see what I mean!

All the winners, the top vote getters, and the prizes are shown on this page.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Biking Along the Canal

Whether you call it the acequia or the ditch or the canal, it is the lifeline that brings water to the fields of the Mesilla Valley and makes the place an oasis in the midst of the Chihuahuan Desert. I tend to call it whatever I have last heard it named; I spoke the other day with a native of the area who has lived here for 85 years--he was charming and he called it the canal, and so I call it that now.


Early, early on Saturday morning, just as the sun was coming up over the Organ Mountains, Beez and I climbed into our saddles and took off for a lovely ride up the canal. The skies were an unusual overcast gray that made the light, together with the low angle of the rising sun, just perfect for photography.

We passed chile fields, alfalfa and onion fields, and maybe even some cotton fields, although we don't know how to recognize young cotton plants just yet. The mother ducks herded their babies along the water banks, the air was cool and smelled like water and soil, and everyone we met along the footpath called out, "Beautiful morning, isn't it?"

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bosque Gardens

Beez is a good, good man. Even though there are games on (basketball? soccer? I really don't pay much attention) he will take the time to go for a walk with me through the hummingbird and butterfly gardens down at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park.

These are fairly new gardens and the plants are just getting started. The butterflies and hummingbirds act like they don't mind at all, and were just waiting for this special place to be built for them.

Eventually, this arch will be covered with honeysuckle


The little orange flags show where more new plants will be going in (planted by volunteers)


One of my favorites, the desert willow tree, with its lovely orchid flowers


I've been seeing these red yuccas in bloom all over town; they are so striking we just bought one down at the Farmers Market for our own garden

Red yucca blossom detail--no wonder the hummingbirds love them

There are just a few more days to vote in the New Mexico Days of Enchantment Photo Contest. You can vote as many times as you want, but only once per photo per day. See my photos here (they are under clairz in case that link doesn't take you to my entries). Your votes are really helping! The response to this contest has been amazing, and the views of New Mexico you will see there are really incredible.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fire in the Canyon: Smoky Skies for Skywatch

There's been a fire up in Soledad Canyon in the mountains above Las Cruces for the last week and a half. It was intentionally started as a live fire training exercise on Fort Bliss (Army) land, got out of control, and the last I heard it had consumed 5000 acres and was 60% under control. Now a second fire has now started and has covered another 1500 acres.

On the first day I could see the smoke from the house and took these photos. The first was taken with my "big" Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, and shows you how far away the fire was.


The second picture was taken with my new little point and shoot Canon PowerShot SD 1300 IS Digital ELPH (how could such a tiny camera have such a big name?) zoomed in to give you a better idea of the spreading smoke:

I had trouble sleeping that night, thinking about the fire and all the tiny animals that might not be able to get away from it. I talked with a ranger from one of the state parks over the weekend and he reminded me that fire is "nature's housekeeper" and is a crucial part of any ecosystem (even though these were clearly started by people). He told me how, after the big Yellowstone fires of 1988, rangers took people into areas that appeared devastated by the fires, yet they scooped up handfuls of burned-over soil and showed that it was filled with seeds that wouldn't have otherwise been dispersed without the fire. Scientists are learning more all the time about the beneficial role of fire in the wild.

To look at skies all over the world, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

There are just a few more days to vote in the New Mexico Days of Enchantment Photo Contest. You can vote as many times as you want, but only once per photo per day. See my photos here. Your votes are really helping! The response to this contest has been amazing, and the views of New Mexico you will see there are really incredible.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Evening on the Rio

Watching the river drift down toward Mexico

The other evening we had supper at a restaurant with friends and wanted to continue our conversation in a quieter place, so went down to La Llorona Park along the Rio Grande to watch the sun go down. It was hot and still; perfectly beautiful and peaceful.

Looking into the setting sun

Having a little fun with the previous picture
There are just a few more days to vote in the New Mexico Days of Enchantment Photo Contest. You can vote as many times as you want, but only once per photo per day. See my photos here. Your votes are really helping! The response to this contest has been amazing, and the views of New Mexico you will see there are really incredible.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hummingbirds

It turns out that it isn't so easy to photograph hummingbirds. Oh, they are very cooperative, casually feeding just a couple of feet from where I was balanced on a step stool. The trick is to get them into focus. I tried focusing the camera on the spot where I figured they would show up, but you know hummingbirds--all that darting and moving around at an incomprehensible speed.

I took almost 60 photos the other morning, standing on tiptoe and trying not to move. After downloading the pictures, I tossed out at least half right away because the birds were a blur, or were behind the feeder, or had left the frame by the time I pressed the shutter.

I plan to practice a lot more.

The background music for these photos features an African drum called a ngungu that mimics the sound of a wild pig. It also reminds me of the hum of hummingbird wings.



Just a few more days to vote (every day, as many photos as you want to vote for) in the New Mexico Day of Enchantment photo contest. Thank you for your support--the vote count is going up and up!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gracie

This post is especially for my Pacific Northwest blogger friend, JC, whose blog is called Lilacs & Cats. We are cat fans, JC and I, and both of us have had lynx point Siamese--very beautiful cats. Although JC is off in Hawaii at the moment, I hope she'll come across this post sooner or later.

Our Gracie, a rescue who we got last year in June, is shown here "playing" with Bertie Pierre. You can see the rest of the story, if you wish, at Gracie Under Fire. Back in those days, Gracie was a pale silvery color with some faint markings along her back and dark striping on her head, tail, and legs.



Now, here she is a year later. She is developing all kinds of spots and generally getting darker all over, as do most Siamese. She is a beautiful cat and really likes her life here with us.



Friday, June 18, 2010

Surprise Sunset for Skywatch

It was an unusual evening the other night, with dark charcoal gray skies and distant lightning. I was watching the lightning strikes from the dark porch when the Organ Mountains were suddenly lit with a long strip of red light, reflected from the sun just below the horizon. I ran for my camera and watched what happened next.


I had been sure that we were long past any sunset activity, but the stormy skies had made it difficult to know just the moment that the sun went down. The sun wasn't through with us for that day, however. Everything turned this wonderful rosy color.


To finish up the amazing show, the gray skies did their best for a comeback, giving this sky-blue-pink effect as the city lights were slowly coming on.



For sky shows from around the world, go to Skywatch Friday.

Don't forget to keep voting every day in the New Mexico Day of Enchantment Photo Contest, which is continuing to the end of June.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Morning Mile Gets Earlier and Earlier

On these warm pre-summer mornings I'm finding that I need to start out for my walk earlier and earlier. As soon as it is light enough to see and be seen, I take off. That means that while I'm doing the first half of the walk, heading west, the sun isn't up yet. When I head back home, it's into the glare of the rising sun, which is just coming up over the mountains and behind the trees in this photo.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rafting on the Rio

On Saturday, June 12, the coolest people in town were those who were rafting, laughing, and paddling their way down the Rio Grande. Next year, Beez and I have promised ourselves, we'll be floating down the river with them.


video


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Digital Challenge: The Results

Last week I told you that Linda from the 7MSN Ranch blog had offered to edit one photo each for a group of her readers. In that post, I offered Linda a choice of either of these:



Linda chose, instead, the photo that I have been using as the header. Those poles and wires really bothered her. I deal with them every day, because they are situated squarely between me and the view I love to photograph. When the shot comes so early in the morning that I haven't even gotten dressed, I just shoot away from the patio in my nightie--otherwise, if I'm dressed I just run past the pole before taking the shot. But I'm not so great at photo editing and end up with distracting details that clutter up the picture, including the reflection of the stop sign in the water.

First, the photo as it came out of the camera...



... and after I had added a bit of the color that I actually saw when taking the photo--but still cluttered with the wires and poles and reflected stop sign:



Now, ta-dah! Just take a look at what Linda has achieved with her magic:


She is an inspiration--I want to learn more about photo editing so I can work some magic, too! I'll let you know as soon as Linda starts posting the other photos she has been working on. In the meantime, you will learn lots about photography, editing, ranch life, and will get to meet her wonderful companions if you visit the 7 MSN Ranch every day.

Later note: The first of Linda's Touch-it-up-Thursday (later changed to Touch-it-up-Tuesday) posts can be seen here.

***
Don't forget to keep voting every day in the New Mexico Day of Enchantment Photo Contest, which is continuing to the end of June.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Intrepid Naturalist and Insinuations of Irrationality


Staring into the very heart of imponderables

You wouldn't just start out running a marathon without lots of preparation and practice. Bear with me, because I personally have no idea of how one might run a marathon. My point is, you start small and work your way up to a challenge, right?

I've been exercising my brain with lots and lots of sudoku, which is popularly supposed to help out the function of aging brains. Just so you don't think I'm making this stuff up, I checked out an Newsweek article on a study in The American Journal Geriatric Psychiatry, which suggests that "Sudoku, a logic puzzle, along with regular exercise and a low-fat diet are good for your mind and body. Those individuals who combined exercise and a healthy diet with mental exercises and stress reduction techniques showed significant improvements in both their brain functions and metabolism. (Newsweek; 6/12/2006, Vol. 147 Issue 24, p78-79).

With my brain all exercised, many morning miles behind me, and the occasional stab at a low-fat diet (as long as no one counts those M & Ms), I figured that I was ready for a much bigger challenge. So....

I'm starting out with physics, astronomy, and the mysteries of the universe; and I am finding these subjects that I never imagined learning about are surprisingly elegant, fascinating, and absolutely riveting. I'm serious!

Naturally, I am not prepared to read about these things at a college textbook level--I need physics "lite" as intended for more general consumption. I started with Bill Bryson's book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, a general science book that serves as an introduction to some aspects of chemistry, paleontology, physics, evolution, and geology.

That was a wonderful beginning, but I wanted to read a bit more about quantum mechanics (can't believe I'm saying this), so now I'm reading Charles Flowers' A Science Odyssey; 100 Years of Discovery. I can't resist his lovely sentences containing phrases like "insinuations of irrationality and the imponderable," and his descriptions of the search for a unified theory ("an elegant single explanation of the complex behaviors of all matter and all forces that exist in the universe"), together with the convoluted and nearly impenetrable possibilities of string theory.

I have to admit, at times I have to stop reading and pace around the room, muttering to myself. Sometimes I fall asleep in the middle of a sentence and dream of quarks that dance with M&Ms. And I often have to read whole sentences aloud, over and over ("In theory it should be possible to measure the degree to which space is curved by comparing the brightness of a supernova with its distances as indicated by the red shift in its spectrum...") so that I can gather some sort of sense from the words.

But I'm having a lovely time.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Digital Challenge

Linda, over at the 7MSN Ranch blog, has offered to fix some photos for her loyal readers. Since I have little understanding of the possibilities of what can be done with Photoshop, I am posting two photos here so she can choose whichever seems to be appropriate.

These pictures were taken on one of those winter mornings when I realized that the sky colors, just glimpsed from my pillow when I first opened my eyes, were going to be fleeting. I rushed out in bare feet and nightgown (no photos of that!) to brave the frightened glances of the morning commuters. No glasses--no fiddling with the camera.

I don't ever think that any of my photos are in focus. We'll just let Linda choose one of these and see what she can do with it, if anything...


Don't forget to keep voting every day in the New Mexico Day of Enchantment Photo Contest, which is continuing to the end of June.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Breakfast, Lunch, or Supper at the International Delights Café

It took me a while to get around to going to the International Delights Café. For one thing--and I know this is strange--but the name did nothing for me. More importantly, I couldn't imagine how a place stuck in the corner of a supermarket parking lot could be any good. Was I ever wrong!

The first time I went to this indoor/outdoor café, I wanted to stay and stay. When I finally tore myself away, it was as though I had been on a little vacation. The patio entrance is cleverly constructed so that you feel that you are immediately very far away from the supermarket parking lot you just walked through. There is a fountain (of course, my favorite feature anyplace!), marvelous music that makes you want to break into a belly dance, lovely vegetation, a shady patio, and an atmosphere that isn't like any other place I've been to around Las Cruces.

Birds drop by the fountain from time to time to bathe and drink
Once seated, you just feel like you could stay forever. Groups gather around the tables; people come and go; they eat, talk, argue, laugh, listen to the music, read newspapers, play backgammon or chess, and just generally kick back. Dogs are welcome, and the regulars curl up under the tables with their own private water dishes nearby.

The patio offers lots of protection and privacy from the hustle and bustle of the nearby shops

You can see the complete menu on the cafe website. We have had breakfast, lunch, supper, evening drinks, and morning lemonade there, while stretched out in the comfy chairs, listening to the trickle of water and the songs of birds. The lamb kabob is delicious; I can also recommend anything with grilled chicken--the sandwich, the salad, or the kebab. Spend some time on the website and check out the photos from both the restaurant and the fine little grocery store. One last thing--don't miss the great selection of coffees, teas, and Italian sodas. Oops--and how could I forget the amazing selection of pastries?

Part of a Middle Eastern breakfast--falafel, hummus, feta cheese, and lots of olives
Don't forget to keep voting every day in the New Mexico Day of Enchantment Photo Contest, which is continuing to the end of June.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Breakfast at the Paisano Café

Gateway to the Calle

Looking toward the café entrance

I liked the Paisano Café down in Mesilla for several reasons. Although the decor was nothing special, the place is new, attractive, and has patio seating--always a good thing--with wonderful views of the Organ Mountains. The menu was a little pricey, but everything is homemade and the breakfast choices were nicely done. I'd like to go back to try out the lunch and supper menus, as well as that patio seating. If you go to their website you can see all the menus and prices.

I especially liked finding this new (to me) little out-of-the-way street, the Calle de Mercado, which had a beautiful fountain at its center. As you probably know, anything with water, especially moving water, is a big attraction in this part of the world.

Neighbors of the café include a kitchen supply store/cooking school, Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe; Lorenzo's de Mesilla (Italian restaurant); the Luna Rossa Winery, which had some gorgeous landscaping; and the Preston Contemporary Art Center, which I have wanted to visit. Since we were there early on a Sunday morning before the shops were open, we'll have to go back some other time to check out the winery and the gallery.

Calle de Mercado fountain with the Luna Rossa Winery in the background
Don't forget to keep voting every day in the New Mexico Day of Enchantment Photo Contest, which is continuing to the end of June.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's Blooming?

We see these little trees everywhere. I finally asked one of the profs down at a New Mexico State University garden what they are. Oddly enough, they are called desert bird of paradise, not to be confused with the exotic-looking bird of paradise flower that one sees in California. Apparently, these come in either red or yellow; I've only seen the yellow ones so far.


The creamy blossoms of the yucca have just about gone by.



This is a happy little weed growing by the side of the road.


These oleander bushes were completely loaded with blossoms. I've seen them everywhere in white, dark pink, and a kind of murky-looking lighter pink. I'd really love to get one in a butter-cream color that I saw at a nursery.



Here is a close-up of the oleander flowers (poisonous if eaten--I've never been tempted!).

Don't forget to keep voting every day in the New Mexico Day of Enchantment Photo Contest, which is continuing to the end of June.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Early June Crops

Here we are in the first part of June, and the local farmers have already made their second cutting of hay. They have perfect weather this week for drying it.


We always used to say that corn should be knee high by the 4th [of July]. As a home gardener in both Washington state and New Hampshire, I used to despair when looking at my straggly corn rows in late June. Here they are well over knee high, and we still have almost a month to go until the 4th.

The onion harvest has begun, and will last into late July or early August. You can see some photos and read about the harvest here. Doña Ana County is a great onion producer, one of the leading counties in the state. It harvested 180 million pounds of red, white, and yellow onions in 2008.

Across the road from our house, there is a huge field of some kind of cabbage. I checked out the growth on my morning walk and it looks like there should be a harvest coming soon.