Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Day of Celebration

Readers of this blog may have noticed the gadget down there on the right that has been counting down days to "a special Zee celebration" for the last few months. It finally made it down to zero, and today is the day, at last!

My Beez will do the last few tasks at his office in Clovis, New Mexico, five hours away on the other side of the state. He'll close up our other house over there, hang up the For Sale sign, climb into the U-Haul truck, and drive the last leg of a year-long commute of many thousands of miles. Today, some time around 10 AM Mountain Time, he will be officially retired and the celebrations will begin when he arrives here at home at last to stay.

It's been a long year. Because Beez was far away during most of the time, I have had to deal with things here at the adobe house in the pecan orchard all by myself, just as he has had to re-learn old bachelor ways of cooking and cleaning. 

When the big storm came in July and the tree tore off the gas meter, making a big and very scary gas leak, it was just me and the dogs (and some very heroic repairmen) against the elements.

Aftermath of the July storm. There was a lot more stuff down on the other side of the house.

The first of a series of work crews cleaning up and repairing damage; the work went on for several months. Yes, they look pretty relaxed, I know. That's the way we do it here in the Land of Manana.

When our dear little Bertie Pierre breathed his last, he was in my arms alone and without his beloved Beez.

Much loved little Bert, in happier days

More recently and way more comically, when the many-legged centipede was scuttling around the kitchen in the middle of the night I had to do battle on my own, get him into a container, and release him out in the orchard in the dark. Perhaps it was a good thing that there were no humans nearby to witness that spectacle. (I'll bet Linda, over at the 7MSN blog, is snickering at this point--she singlehandedly wrassles rattlesnakes quite regularly and makes it look easy!).

On the other hand, I've had the pleasure of learning how to do some handy things on my own, like online banking and remembering where I parked the car. Back when she was staying with me, my sister and I made it through a whole winter building some darned efficient fireplace fires in the kivas every day before we got some heating systems installed in this old adobe house. 

Bread dough rising in front of a pretty good fire

I've met some wonderful people along the way. After the storm, when the first of a parade of scary-looking tattooed men stopped by to offer help, and I learned that big guys on motorcycles with skulls and crosses all over their arms could be my friends.

I met the tallest men with the biggest tattoos

I learned a bit of Spanish, helped by patient workmen on ladders who didn't mind waiting while I waved my arms around and searched for the right palabra (word). I met neighbors and made new friends, and found that I was building a network of good people I could always turn to for help and advice.

But now, I can settle back into the warmth and companionship of a long marriage, with an actual visible and onsite husband! I can stop trying to explain to our dog Leny why her best friend keeps driving away to disappear for yet another lonely week. 

Now we embark on a whole new set of adventures. I can't wait.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I'm not sure if you can say Happy Day of the Dead! It doesn't sound right, somehow. I wanted to be sure to pass on my greetings to you all and my wishes for a soulful celebration. This year, I plan to go down to the Mesilla Plaza for the Dia de los Muertos celebration to get some photos of altars that will be displayed there, and after that, we want to build an altar in memory of our little Bertie Pierre.

Our little cabinet of the dead in the early light of an October morning

The photos I take this weekend will appear on the blog over the next week or so, along with news about the great contest that I just won. I can't wait to show you all my prize, but I will have to be patient until its arrival. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are a couple of photos from our own little Dia de los Muertos cabinet. Before moving to New Mexico, I'm sure that i would have found this quite grisly, but things are different now!

Dia de los Muertos storyteller doll. We have a few storyteller figures around the place in honor of my days spent in school libraries telling stories. They used to pay me to do that, can you believe it?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Storm That Didn't, for Skywatch

We were warned about this storm, which passed through last week. It had the potential for some real damage, with high winds up to 60 mph, large hail, and possible tornadoes. I felt very brave going out to photograph it and at times didn't know whether I should keep on shooting or run home and crawl under the bed.

However, despite some dramatic flashes of lightning deep down in the belly of those monstrous clouds, there was always clear sky above my head. The moon looked down on the boiling storm a-borning, and all seemed pretty calm from where I stood.

Then the clouds moved away toward the east and I never heard anything about storm damage, just reports of some October snowfall on Sierra Blanca Peak, over near Ruidoso. It was the really, really big storm that just... didn't!

Please be sure that you click on the photos to enlarge them.

For stormy skies and calm ones, be sure to visit Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An October Walk in the Bosque

As you may already know, the Bosque (Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park) is one of my favorite places for a walk. Bosque means "trees along a river or stream," and this place packs a lots of different habitats into a short stroll: Desert, wetlands, ponds, a tiny forest, open fields, irrigation ditch, and river; all with views of the distant Organ Mountains.

I know I've been using this word a lot lately--lush--but that is what I keep thinking when I see the results of our monsoon rains on the local plants. There were parts of trails that looked completely unfamiliar to me because things have grown up so much over the summer. 

Flowing water, a real delight in the desert, is tucked in between the rows of plants on the far side of the trail. We often see a roadrunner along this trail. Other recent sitings listed in the Visitor's Center: Javelina, bobcat, and various types of rattlesnakes

One of the ponds, where you can see cranes, migratory ducks, beaver, and muskrats

Delicate wildflowers in two colors

Yep, I call this lush

A colorful hillside

This is part of the Picacho Drain, built to carry off excess irrigation water from local fields

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Las Cruces Report: Late October

We moved into our adobe house in the pecan orchard last November, so we have been here almost a year now. I think that this must be my favorite time of year. The nights are cool, and the days warm up quickly so that the air is hot in the sun, while still cool in the shade. The flies and mosquitoes have gone away; even unscreened doors and windows can stand open to the fresh air, allowing the dogs and cats to come into the house and out onto the patios at will. We often get clouds that seem to be sent especially to make the sunrises and sunsets absolutely breathtaking.

SOOC--straight out of the camera--with telephone wires intact. This was the sunrise from our patio a few days ago. 

The harvest is going on in the fields--cotton, red chiles, and pumpkins. The pecan orchard keepers are watching their trees carefully and spraying for weeds. They send out tractors that pull big rollers to tamp down the grass beneath the trees, which will make it easier to gather the pecans when they are shaken off a bit later in the season.

It is fiesta time in southern New Mexico. There is something going on every weekend--wine festivals, parades, special events at museums and art galleries--the possibilities for entertainment are endless. Next weekend on the plaza in Mesilla, people will be displaying altars dedicated to their loved ones for the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), followed on Tuesday by a candlelight procession to honor the dead.  We have some plans for an altar of our own, here in the adobe house.

The summer's monsoon rains have given the desert vegetation an almost lush look, as you can see.

Taken near the Visitor's Center at Dripping Springs

Banana yucca in fruit, Organ Mountains, NM

Monday, October 25, 2010

In the October Garden

I have spent the summer planting--small trees, flowering shrubs, and perennial plants. I love anything that blooms and gives color, so by choosing new plants based on the flowers I have admired in other people's gardens around town I have been rewarded with a summer of color that has continued on into fall. I can't wait to see these plants next spring, after they've had some time to really take hold.

Right now, with our chilly nights in the high forties and our sunny days in the high seventies, the garden is hanging on and filling me with delight.

My pretty geranium, purchased at the Farmers Market. I will take the pot inside to winter over

Just as in my New England garden, the green tomatoes are trying to ripen before the first frost. This plant took forever to flower, but we have been harvesting ripe tomatoes for fresh salsa and there are still green ones aplenty

A chrysanthemum plant bought several years ago and transplanted here from a planter in Clovis is really taking off

I am such a fan of blue flowers, and these salvia blossoms, newly planted, please me no end. They are attracting a lot of butterflies, too.

Opuntia and hens & chicks. This cactus was the very devil to transplant and we worked at getting cactus spines out of our skin for days in spite of all our careful precautions (heavy gloves and layers of newspaper wrapped around the plant, which worked just fine with the other cacti). This tricky cactus has two kinds of spines: The big, easily seen ones at the top of this plant; and tiny glochids with backward-facing barbs that you can see in this picture as part of the polka dots. If you ever get stuck with these, here are some methods for removal. You can see just the tiniest blush of lavender at the top of the pad. When we move into winter the entire pad will turn this wonderful color.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cotton Fields in October

Here is something that I didn't know about growing cotton, but have started to figure out by observation of the fields that are across the road: Cotton plants get defoliated before harvesting, either naturally by the weather, or with chemical defoliants.

I knew nothing about the life cycle of the cotton plant, but this page on helped me learn a bit. A cotton plant needs 160 frost-free days, lots of heat, and fertile soil to reach maturity. It first produces white flowers, which then turn pink and fall off. That's when the familiar boll (or pod) starts forming, with the cotton fibers growing from the seeds within.

Although harvest has begun on some fields where the plants have already lost their leaves, "our" fields across the road are still producing and aren't quite ready to be picked. I tried to get a field photo, a plant photo, and a close-up of the bolls.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Dripping Springs and Back Again, for Skywatch

Dripping Springs Natural Area is just 10 miles from Las Cruces, and is a place to go for peace and birdsong and some pretty nice views. 

Driving up

In the shady native plant garden at the Visitor's Center

Looking back at the city

Be sure to check out Skywatch for photos of skies all over the world. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mañana is Soon Enough for Me

The window it is busted and the rain is coming in
If someone doesn't fix it I'll be soaking to my skin
But if we wait a day or two the rain may go away
And we don't need a window on such a lovely day
Mañana, mañana, mañana is soon enough for me
Mañana, mañana, mañana is soon enough for me
~Lyrics by Peggy Lee and Dave Barbour

The tile job on the living room and study floors (see this post and this one) took longer than anyone thought it would, but the results were worth it. I hope you agree. We waved good-bye to the tile ninjas a couple of days ago and it was like sending family members off into the great unknown. They knew a lot about us by the time they left and we knew a lot about them. We will be seeing them again in the future, because I bought way too many tiles and we want to use them in a couple of other places in the house. 

This is the "before" shot of the living room, when things were shoved around and the carpet was suddenly being pulled up (after many mañanas when nothing happened at all). In all fairness, it turned out that the tile boys were employed elsewhere sweeping chimneys, something we didn't understand at the beginning.  The existence of the other job explained a lot about sudden disappearances and reappearances.

Believe me, the old carpet never looked this good in real life. It was spotty and harboring heaven-knows-what down in its depths. It was less than fragrant, I'll tell you, though you probably didn't want to know that. 

Here is the living room after we apparently traded the old carpet for new tile and a sheepdog. Actually, that is our Canadian visitor, who was happy to experience the feel of the cool tile down here in the desert.  

A little tile detail, which is being appreciated by our newest addition, Little Pete. His name has somehow begun to morph into Paulie Beans (aka Pablo Frijoles). He always has a dirty face and a madly wagging tail. 

This is the new floor in the study, with everything the same as in the next room except for the green tiles in the trim. Beez has some big plans for this room and has a desk set up looking out the window, through the orchard, and up to the mountains. It will either be a great place for writing or a lovely place to sit by the fire and admire the view. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Drawn to Water, for Blog Action Day

This year's Blog Action Day, an annual event held every October 15th, is focused on water issues. When I looked on Thursday, there were 4157 blogs signed up to write about the same issue--water. This year, 131 countries are represented, with an estimated 31,949,913 daily readers of those blogs.

Be sure to visit Blog Action Day 2010 and click on "participants" to see other blog entries. I am sure that many of them will be about technical or environmental issues regarding water. The last time I wrote on water for a blog action day (Ogallala Aquifer in 2007) I had to do a lot of research and felt a bit outside of my comfort zone. This time I just want to write about how I feel about water, living in the desert as I do.


When I first came to live in this part of the Chihuahuan Desert, I brought with me lots of warnings that I had read in books and on the Internet: Carry water with you wherever you go, bring two Chapsticks (one for your lips and one for inside your nose--yes, it's true, those nose goblins can be painful), and remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Even so, I wasn't used to the constant need for water in the dry climate of New Mexico when we arrived here from New Hampshire. On our first trip here, Beez and I went out for a morning of exploration in Albuquerque's Old Town. We forgot to carry water that day and found ourselves begging shopkeepers to sell us just a drink of water. We just couldn't get enough water inside of ourselves. They say if you are already feeling thirsty, you are too late and are dehydrated. I know what "they" mean now.

Over the years, we have learned to keep ourselves hydrated by constantly chugging water. We bought a nice big refrigerated cooler for the kitchen. We have recycled bottles of home-filtered water in the fridge all the time. It is second nature to bring along water wherever we go, both for us and for our dogs. When in a restaurant, we order a big glass of iced tea and a big glass of ice water.

I am not a mall shopper, but when we first visited New Mexico we wanted to see everything. We went through the doors of a big mall, heard the sound of trickling water, and were immediately drawn to the fountain. It was a funny experience. We felt a little dazed and almost that we had arrived there without a conscious decision. Such is the magic of water--any water--here in the desert.

One of my favorite places to visit is Dripping Springs, located in the Organ Mountains above Las Cruces. It is an incredible spot--rugged igneous mountains, lush meadows (at least they are lush this year because of abundant summer rains) with antelope and deer scampering about, and a panoramic view back toward the city and the Mesilla Valley.

At the Dripping Springs Visitor Center, there is a garden that highlights native flowering plants and trees. It also features a tiny pond with a recirculating waterfall. You guessed it--that is what draws us in, every time. Without even realizing what is happening, we find ourselves moving closer and closer to that sound of trickling water.

And once we are standing near our heart's desire--the sight and sound of that wonderful water, so rare in a dry climate--we read the sign that has been put there for our benefit. That is the moment when we remember that humans are not the only ones drawn to the sound of that cool, trickling, refreshing water.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Prairie Remembered, for Skywatch

It's almost been a year since we moved to the desert from the prairie. Here are some of my favorite photos from our time in eastern New Mexico, plus a photo from a road trip to California. Can you spot it?

Left to right
Top row: Portales, New Mexico (just south of Clovis), and our old Clovis neighborhood with rooftops
Bottom row: Our old Clovis neighborhood again with rooftops, and Mojave Desert, California rest stop

For more sky photos from all around the world, be sure to visit Skywatch.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oh, and Did I Mention... or, Dogs Who Love Too Much

In yesterday's post, Living in the Land of Mañana, I was carrying on about the household chaos caused by clearing out two rooms for the Tile Ninjas and living with the resulting mess as the new floor job stretched on and on and on in a typically timeless New Mexico fashion.

However, I forgot to tell you that I also have a couple of house guests; both brought along their dogs. As you know, I have (um, several) dogs. My sister brought her dogs over, too; our guest from Canada brought his Old English Sheepdog; and the Tile Circus boys brought along a boxer named Pretty Boy Floyd.

Some of these dogs loved each other at first sight; some of these dogs loved each other too much; some of these dogs just didn't get along. Some are housebroken; some are striving to be so. Some are youthful and bouncy and chewy; some are elderly and unable to negotiate slippery floors. The answer to all these many potential combinations is, naturally, a series of baby gates strewn throughout the last useable bits of the house. 

Now, I would like you to picture moving from one room to another in our now-abbreviated house. There is a freezer in the dining room, for reasons we have never been able to reveal. There are computers on the kitchen counters. There are baby gates in every doorway, propped up by anything found nearby. 

Oh, no, now there is a sheepdog splayed out like Bambi on the kitchen floor because somebody left a baby gate ajar! He's fallen and he can't get up! 

We haven't seen the sofa for days. There are dog dishes everywhere. The shower is now somewhere outside, I think.   The TV is in the bedroom, where no TV has gone before. There is an Auntie in my bed who tells me that I snore. I've lost my deodorant, and I really, really need it. 

OE sheepdog, resting on the porch after a nimble portrayal of Bambi

The good news is that the Mañana Tiler Hombres have cheerfully made some progress today, in their relaxed and poco tiempo way. We now have some drying cement for the cats to get into, and some trim tiles which look gorgeous, by the way, set around the hearth of the big kiva. 

Will it all be done in time for the party coming up on Saturday night (surprise, Beez!)? Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Living in the Land of Mañana

"I wonder what clock sales are like around here," my sister mused this morning, in a wry tone of voice. That made me laugh and laugh, and if you lived here you would understand why.

Last Friday, I left you with a blog post, It's Tile Time, in which I said I'd be back Monday with the before and after pictures of the transformation of our old carpeted floors to new tile ones. Ha!

This whole tile job has been an object lesson in "poco tiempo" for us frenetically hard-wired former Easterners.

Here we are on Tuesday, five days into the project: The house is in chaos, with the furniture from the living room and study crammed into other rooms. The computers are on the kitchen counters, limiting the usual kitchen action. There's no place to sit but outside, because the sofa is now in an off-limits room. To take a shower, we have to avoid walking on the floors-that-will-someday-be-tiled by going outside through the patio to get to the big bathroom.

We are learning that it is useless to start any sentence with the words "how long..." or "when will..." or "where were you all morning when you said yesterday you would start work today first thing..."

We are learning to relax and smile, and to shake off our expectations. We are learning to appreciate the slower pace without grinding our teeth. Here is a quote that might sum it all up:

Charles F. Lummis's The Land of Poco Tiempo is the story of New Mexico as Lummis found it when he moved to the territory in 1888 to recover his health. As Lummis translates the Spanish title, “poco tiempo” means “pretty soon” and the phrase expresses the lack of haste in the lives of the area's inhabitants. Lummis, who had suffered a stroke because of his high-pressure job in Los Angeles, appreciated this attitude.

We are learning to appreciate the attitude, and I hope you will to, because I'm not sure when we'll be taking any "after" photos of this project...

(All images from Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Tile Time!

Over the next few days, I'm expecting a bit of chaos around here as furniture will be moved, carpets torn out, and new tile floors installed. I'm not sure what will be happening to my Internet connection, so I will plan to post with before and after pictures of the project next Monday.

In the meantime, I hope that you all have a wonderful autumn weekend!

It's punkin' time, too!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Yes, It Did! For Skywatch

Did the sky really look like this the other morning?

Yes, it did!

For more skies, some improbable and beyond imagining, see Skywatch

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Little Pete Comes Home

If you have been reading this blog lately, you will know that we have been grieving the loss of Bertie Pierre (see Gone Away), a tiny pup with a huge personality packed into five pounds of love and good humor. Bertie is the reason that the blog itself is in a kind of mourning with those dark gray edges.

Last Saturday Beez and I went to the Farmer's Market and saw one of the animal shelter dog walker volunteers carrying a small pup who was too shy to go for a walk in the busy, noisy market. We stopped to chat and she turned so we could see his face.

I believe that time actually stopped there, for a moment. We each took a deep, shaky breath because the little guy's eyes were so much like Bertie's.

Long story short, Little Pete has come home:

No more noisy, overcrowded shelter (The staff and volunteers try so hard but the city needs to reorder some of its priorities, really). 

No more sense of impending doom (a very large percentage of the dogs in the shelter go unadopted and are put down).

No more loneliness for the little guy, because he is already getting integrated into our pack of rescue dogs. He snuggles, he plays, and he romps in spite of what looks to be a previously injured and poorly healed leg. 

Did we really need another dog? No. Did we really need to have Little Pete to join our family? Yes. 

Little Pete (full name: Pedro Martinez "Little Pete" Zee). I had a hard time getting him in focus because he was romping and had just paused for a second

Exploring the yard with big Leny

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Saturday Night Football

Last Saturday night, Beez and I went with friends to the New Mexico State University vs. Boise State football game, held at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces. 

We had great seats and arrived in plenty of time to see all the pre-game drills.

The view--of both the field and the Organ Mountains--was absolutely wonderful.

Look at those mountains! We got to watch the sunset.

If I were still living in New Hampshire I would think, Hmm, game in October, seats in the shade, brr... But here in New Mexico it was a hot afternoon and the shade was very welcome. When the sun went down the air temperature was warm and balmy. Just perfect for shirt sleeves.

Boise State had no trouble with the poor Aggies. The final score was 59-0, but that was almost beside the point. We had so much fun with the folks sitting around us that we almost hated to leave, although sitting on a hard bench for several hours isn't exactly my idea of fun. Next time I'll watch the game on TV at home, comfortably sitting much closer than we were to the rest rooms and snack bar. There will be no steep stairs, and I'll be able to knit as I watch. 

Besides, I'm a baseball fan. I don't ever remember noticing any hard seats at the Red Sox games we went to in Boston!

P.S. If you would like to hear the New Mexico State University "Pride of New Mexico" Marching Band performing before the game, I've posted the video that I made of them on YouTube, so you can watch and listen. It was taking way too long to load here.