Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Time of Year: Rain and Terror and Grief and Small Joys

Me to feed store guy this morning: "Got a bit chilly last night, right?"
Feed story guy to me: "Sure did! Almost had to turn off the air conditioning!"

We grinned at each other and had one of those moments where you share nice feelings with someone you hardly know. In this case the feelings were because 1) we've just about made it through another sizzling summer and 2) we're heading into months and months of pleasant weather.

Unlike the guy who runs his a/c all night, I just sleep close to an open window and around 3AM had to get up and rummage around for the light cotton blanket I'd put away last spring. Nice chilly sleeping weather.

We're still making our way through the monsoon season, which means (at least this year) that we have lots of rainfall and everything here in the Mesilla Valley is nice and green. The weeds are outrageous, of course, but I just try to think of them as fresh salad greens for the chickens.

The garden is out of control; all planting plans have been lost in the mists of last spring. It was way too hot all summer to venture out to do any weeding, since there was never a morning early enough to beat the sun. The plants that couldn't stand the heat frizzled up and the plants that made it through to this rainy time of year are romping all over the place.

Take a look at these morning glories--they love everything about this time of year. However, they have embraced and dragged down my poor sunflowers; and I'll bet no one can see the tomato plant that has been completely overtaken. It's somewhere under there on the left, but I lost sight of it last month. No matter--it was my first time to plant a Sweet 100 cherry tomato and it was a whole lot less than successful. Tiny nasty-tasting tomatoes that even the chickens didn't want.

The four o'clocks are still happy, although their brief daily blooming time is more like six o'clock (AM), so for most of the day they are closed up.  All through the garden are the volunteers--giant clumps of marigolds and columbine that just appeared, and a small field of self-seeded zinnias out in front of the house. 

Forgive me. All the babbling about this and that is really my way of whistling in the darkness of a very scary world, full of cruel tragedies--Barcelona terror attack today, Charlottesville Nazi marchers and the death of a young woman a few days ago. The specter of white nationalism in my own country is a nightmare. 

So, I've chosen to talk about flowers and weather and the small joys to be found in my own backyard, where hidden seeds spring up into something beautiful. I really don't know what else to do at this moment. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Zees Go a Little Farther West

We live down in the unseen valley between this mesa and those mountains

The irrigated valley where we live in southern New Mexico is surrounded by mountains. Between the valley and the mountains are flat-topped mesas. The other day we traveled west out of town and up onto the West Mesa to see what we could see. 

We traveled west until we came to the Corralitos Road, a place we had never explored. It was pretty wild west-y out there. The range was open, meaning fences like this one are relatively rare, so the grazing cattle can wander where they will.

The road was silent and empty, like so many roads in New Mexico. But, wait... What are those black spots up ahead?

Look out commuters, there's a bit of a traffic jam and a possible slowdown in the right lane.  No, the left lane.

No, the right lane...

After the traffic cleared we had the road to ourselves again. No sounds but the tires on the dirt, the crickets and the birds. 

The geology was fascinating...

... and so was the botany.

There was even a little astronomy going on, off in the distance. What wonderfully dark skies they must have.

While heading back down to our own peaceful homestead, we paused at the Corralitos Ranch to admire this rustic building...

Just behind that barn are the little corrals that give the road its name

... and to give some thought to the sign we'll remember for the next time the grandchildren visit.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pecans, Chiles, and Mountains All Around

On my pre-sunrise walk this morning, I saw pecan orchards to the right of me with the Organ Mountains in the distance...

 ...and chiles to the left of me with the Dona Ana Mountains in the distance.

The chile plants are almost ready for harvest, and they smelled so good.

There are even a few red chiles peeking out. I'm guessing that this field will be picked for green chiles soon. As my Bill will tell you, there is nothing in the world like a green chile cheeseburger. Other folks will take a green chile right out of the roaster (where the outer skin is burned off), stuff it with some cheese, and eat it out of hand. Mmm, that first green chile of the season!

In some cases, the farmer will wait for all the chiles to turn red. Red chiles can be eaten fresh or dried for future use.

That sky!

Heading home again, this time with a view of the Robledo Mountains.

Monday, August 7, 2017


This is the sort of rustic scene I see on my morning walk. A chicken getting ready to fly the coop. A rusty old truck in the background--so New Mexico. A dead tree. And...wait, a goat? A goat in the tree?

This is the goat who entertained us by teetering on the top of the fence the other day (Morning Glories). I've been waiting for a chance to catch him/her resting in the tree. Forgive the blur--Beany was trying to help me focus by pulling on his leash. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mushroom Hunters, What Do You Think?

Because this is the fourth wettest rainy season on record here, we are seeing things we've never seen before. Weeds are leaping up to the size of small trees within weeks. Our desert world is green--not just in the irrigated valley, but up on the dry mesas as well. 

And we are seeing these fungi all over the place. Can anyone tell me what they are? I don't have any photos to show what they look like one day before these pictures were taken, but the smaller version has a pointier cap shape. The second day they spread out like this. 

Our suspicious-looking chickens can provide some sense of scale in this last photo. Mushroom hunters, what do you think we have growing here?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Morning Glories

This is the sky that greeted me this morning. 

It's monsoon season here in the desert. This is the fourth wettest year on record, so far. That means lots of clouds, which make for interesting photos. 

Yesterday, the sun was just breaking through some gloomy morning clouds. As long as those clouds bring rain, we are happy to have them here. 

The day before that, the morning clouds were echoing the shapes of the mountains again

And this is the friend I see on my morning walks, the little goat who lives on the other side of the orchard from us and who likes to climb trees. I was ready to get a photo of him doing just that, but this time he decided to teeter on top of his fence instead. 

If you peer through the pecan orchard, you can make out a part of our garage roof on the left. Whenever I go out to see the chickens or to tend to the garden, this little goat calls to me and I say hello back to him.