Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Roses Like Weeds! Geraniums in the Ground!

Somebody's geraniums 

We just got back from a quick trip to California to see kids and grandkids. It's so funny for me to visit California and feel cold, but that's what living in the desert has done to us. It's definitely cooler there in northern California than here in southern New Mexico, but the humidity also makes a big difference.

For example, today (I'm writing this on Monday, May 30th) it was 90 degrees F. at noon with 14% humidity here in New Mexico; where we stayed in California, a bit north of Sacramento, it was 68 at noon today with 50% humidity. We are long past needing any sweaters at home--we threw a couple into the suitcases before we left, almost as an afterthought, and wore them constantly. When we went out to the coast (today the temp there is 56 degrees, with 71% humidity) we couldn't have done without long sleeves.

Even though the weather in California is cooler at this time of year than ours, it is much more temperate year round than in our high desert--so we see plants in the ground there that we are used to keeping in pots and taking in during the winter. I had forgotten that in my childhood in San Francisco the geranium bushes in our front yard were almost as tall as my childhood self, so it all came back to me when we admired other people's gardens on our morning walks.

Of course, I had to stop and take some photos of a stranger's house where I saw geraniums growing right there in the ground. And my stepdaughter tells me that the roses in her yard grow like weeds without any special feeding or care.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Las Cruces Report: Late May

When I lived back in New Hampshire, we always put our gardens in on Memorial Day weekend. Oh, we could try to trick Mother Nature by getting plants in the ground before that, but they really wouldn't start to grow until the end of May when the ground warmed up.

Other memories about growing things in the East--we aspired to have corn that was "knee high by the Fourth" (of July); the first haying was done in between rainstorms, also in July, and we always wished for fresh tomatoes from the garden for summer picnics, but didn't really start harvesting them until late July and early August.

Oh, my, things are so different out here in southern New Mexico. First of all, the corn:

 Here is Beez, kindly supplying the knees next to a flourishing field of corn. You can see that it's good and high, and here we are still in the month of May.

Dry soil in the orchard

However, any crop that is flourishing here is doing so because of irrigation. Because the irrigation district is very short of water due to lack of snowmelt, farmers who usually get three to four acre feet per season for their fields are getting 3 acre inches this year. That means that in order to irrigate, they have to pump water from ground wells. This is what the soil looks like in our neighboring pecan orchards. The trees still get flooded, but the water comes from the aquifer, not from the mountains, and the soil dries out a lot in between due to lack of rainfall. We haven't had rain for months now, but there is some rain in the forecast for the week, so keep your fingers crossed for us.

A couple of other notes: The first cutting of alfalfa was done well over a month ago now. That always amazes me. There are probably three more cuttings to come. And our tomato plants are all starting to take off, growth-wise, and are in bud. I'll let you know when we pick the first tomatoes. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reflections on a Reflection, for Skywatch

I love when the farmer floods the pecan orchards surrounding our house. They look like this. 

Or, they can be rotated to look like this. You can hardly tell that this is upside-down, or can you?

Using the same upside-down view and some of the special effects at Picnik, they can also look like this...

HSL (hue, saturation, and lightness) variations

Another HSL

And another
 ... or this...
Heat Map
 ... or even this...
HDR-ish (HDR stands for high dynamic range imaging)
For skies of all hues and degrees of saturation, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where the Mockingbird Sings, for Skywatch

There isn't anything special about this photo of the mockingbird's tree. It would be wonderful if I could present it to you with the sounds I heard that day--the wind in the grass, the mockingbird's song, and the meadowlark answering him from just down the path.

As it is, there is just a photo of a tree surrounded by a lot of open space. I've gotten used to these huge expanses with no people and only the sounds of nature. I don't think I would feel right if I couldn't see these immense blue skies of New Mexico.

To see the skies that other people love, visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

St. Mary's at Hill

We pass this little church on a curve in the back road to Hatch, New Mexico. It always intrigues me because I know it was built during the time of Preacher Hunter Lewis, who used to walk, hitchhike, or ride the train from Mesilla Park up to the little town of Hill to preach here and to minister to his widespread New Mexican flock. 

The church is lovely and built of stone, as so many Anglican/Episcopal churches seem to be.

These are the hills that the little church faces across the road. On the day that we were there a little dark-haired girl was singing and dancing all by herself on the bank of the river that runs along at the foot of these hills.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Something Different

Last Saturday, we carpooled with friends up the back road to Hatch, New Mexico to hear a mini-blues festival at Sparky's.  We heard C.W. Ayon's One Man Blues Band, then C.W. joined with Albuquerque's Back Porch Blues Band for some jamming with Harmonica Slim and a sax player named Larry Blevins.

Looking through the audience toward the stage. That's C.W. in the gray hat; Harmonica Slim with the vest, and Larry the sax guy. The rest were part of the Back Porch Blues Band

We were surprised at the number of older folks (like us) in the audience, but then, Las Cruces is quite a retirement destination. The crowd quickly thinned out when the lively music started, and the oldsters rushed out of the room, madly adjusting their hearing aids.

The music was wonderful. I felt a little sorry that we weren't more demonstrative, but we were enjoying everything about the afternoon in our quiet and conservative way.

I really do love southern blues and southern novels, which seems odd for a desert-dwelling ex-New Englander. Maybe it's time for a little road trip down south. Or, maybe it's just time for me to read another Pat Conroy book while gazing across the desert and up to the mountains.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sky Blue Pink (Macro Monday)


I am linking to Macro Monday for the first time. Check out the wonderful photos over there. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hummingbird Skies for Skywatch

Blurry, but my first time capturing three at once

Because of the drought here, the plants that would normally provide food for our hummingbirds aren't blooming. We have been encouraged to keep our feeders filled up, and my little friends let me know if they are starting to run on empty.

To visit skies around the world, be sure to check out Skywatch Friday.

Chickie TV

We've been considering getting some backyard chickens because chickens are just so much fun, and because they will help us by consuming kitchen and garden scraps which they will kindly turn into nice, fresh eggs. They will eat up bugs around the place, and generally do what chickens do. When the feed store down the road put out a sign the other day saying "Chicks are in!" we really couldn't resist, and came home with four little pullets.

I could sit and watch them for hours--we call it Chickie TV. There's something about little chicks--they are just so admirably suited to be chickens. They seem to be born knowing how to scratch around for food, and how to snuggle together for warmth. They are absolutely perfect in their chickenness, and I hope to be able to explain that statement in the weeks and months to come.

Here are the new girls, from the top: Margaret/Meg, Elizabeth/Lizzie, Albertina/Bertie-Mamma, and Hocky. The first three are so named (and I am assuming you are dying to know) because we just watched The King's Speech; and Hocky is named for the children's book by Lane Smith, The Happy Hocky Family, an old read-aloud favorite from my librarian days. (That's Hocky, not hockey).

Albertina's "Bertie" nickname is also a reference to our late and much beloved Bertie-Pierre.

Of course, Beez calls them by a completely different set of names, starting with Bellatrix LeStrange, but that's just the way he is. We take no notice of it.

Lizzie is a Rhode Island Red and Albertina is a Barred Rock. Meg and Hocky are Americaunas, a breed developed from Araucanas, also known as Easter Egg Chickens because of the green, blue, and pink eggs they lay.

Raising chickens in urban and suburban backyards has been catching on around the country. More about all that later. Right now, I have to go watch some more Chickie TV.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

True Story

True story: I was out on the porch the other day, knitting and looking around at the world, when a hummingbird repeatedly buzzed me. 

He kept going back to the feeder, then flying around my head. 

I checked the feeder, found it was empty. 

When I filled it and came back out, he was sitting on the empty hook, waiting.

I hung the filled feeder where he could reach it. Then he was happy again. 

Here are some hummingbird pictures that I took last summer. I still like them. The music 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. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower (Creative Exchange)

Sunrise through hollyhocks

Every morning lately I've been watching the rising sun shine through the hollyhocks and have tried to capture what I am seeing with my camera. This shot reminded me of the title of Dylan Thomas' poem, The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower.

To see some lovely photos, shot "from the heart," please visit The Creative Exchange.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Tree Grows Through It, for Skywatch

Optical illusion: Do you see it, too?

I was sitting for a moment on our patio a few days ago and noticed that this reflected tree appeared to be growing up through our house, out the roof, and up into the sky.

I've grown very fond of Skywatch; knowing that it's coming every week makes me look everywhere for sky photo possibilities--even when the sky is reflected in windows. To see more skies of all kinds from all around the world, check out Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My First Hollyhocks

I have always wanted to grow hollyhocks and tried to do so in New Hampshire, with no success at all. New Mexico, however, seems to be made for them. The sight of the giant plants flowering against an adobe wall just warms my heart.

Well, here we are: Moved to New Mexico (check); got some adobe walls (check); got some blooming hollyhocks (check).

These flowers, however, are shown against our utilitarian cyclone fencing, the stuff that keeps the dogs in. The plan for someday is to have an adobe wall built across the front of the property. All in good time!

You can click each photo to enlarge it.

My friend Diane gave me the seeds last year. Growing hollyhocks, as you probably know, is a two year deal. They are biennials, growing lots of low foliage the first year, then shooting up to higher than my head and blooming in the second year

The colors shade from palest pink to a dark red. The red ones are coming out soon and I'll take more pictures. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wildfire in the Organ Mountains

Looking southwest from the Visitor's Center

Drive up into the Organ Mountains a little ways from Las Cruces and you will arrive at Dripping Springs, a natural area set aside for the protection of its beauty, its wildlife, and its recreational opportunities.

These photos were taken a month or so ago, before the fires

Right now, Dripping Springs is closed because of a fire that has been burning in the Organs for almost two weeks. The fire was caused by a live-fire training exercise at Fort Bliss. Mind you, we are in the middle of a drought, we have high fire danger warnings (no open fires, etc.), and the springtime windy season is in full force. On the day that the exercises were held we were having wild winds with gusts up to 55 miles per hour.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

At night, we watch the flames from our house in the valley, and think about the animals up there.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Weetzie Love

Blurry Weetzie adoring Beez

There is probably a life lesson here: Wonderful, loving moments may happen too fast for us to focus on them properly.