Arroyo Seco Y Mas

The main street of Arroyo Seco, located about 8 miles from Taos, and on the route to the Taos ski mountain, is lined with small shops. Some are practical and serve delicious food and/or drink. The Cow is famous for its ice cream for example, but is a good spot to bring your laptop and drink a latte or have a bit of lunch. And it’s a small town that seems to welcome you with that down-home kind of energy.

Last fall I took a visiting friend there. We were taking photos of the bright yellow leaves on the aspens up in the mountains and could get closer from Arroyo Seco. We had some delicious tamales as I recall. Just as we were leaving I spotted this shop in the photo above. I had read about its opening a month earlier in the newspaper. Since I was up to my ears making Goddess altars for the Christmas crafts fair in Taos I was interested in the name. Would they be interested in what I was making? So I made a brief tour of the store, talked to Ray Romero, half of the brother & sister owners, and left thinking they just might like to offer what I was making. Five months later I finally got around to taking in two of my altars for Ray’s sister, Patty, to see, and the response was positive.

This photo shows one of those altars, the Corn Mother. So after that great reception I was encouraged to bring in other craft items that would fit the store, including cards. The day this was taken I was delivering a box of my items and Patty was thinking about a spot for my products in the store. So, for now, I have my own tiny bit of real estate in Arroyo Seco and can only encourage my blog readers to visit Santos Y Mas and give things a look. Oh, and mention I sent you.

Later that same day I went over to the hot springs (Ojo Caliente) for a soak. On my way home I decided to take the route down through the Rio Grande gorge to Pilar and up from there on the main highway to Taos (68). Since I live on the side of town where this highway comes in, this is a real shortcut. It was 7:15 PM when I made the turn onto this gravel road which , as you can see, is a steep curving downward adventure. The lighting was not great, but hopefully you can enjoy the sensation suggested by the photo.

Here you can see the road coming toward the bridge over the Rio Grande from the left. Beyond the bridge to Pilar is several miles of road that closely follows the river and there are many camping areas with easy parking and access to the river along it. As you can imagine it’s a popular place in the summer with lots of people fishing and even boating in canoes and kayaks.

One of the surprises along the side of the road opposite the river is this mysterious water which comes out of a pipe stuck in the rocky side of the hill. Apparently it’s been there for a very long time and locals used to favor it for drinking water. You can just drive up with a truck and a large container and take as much as you want. I am personally fascinated by these long-held fountains of water known mostly just to locals. I would like to know how it would fare in a comparison to acequia water in terms of its mineral content and over-all life force energy. When you put some in a jar it looks very pure and clean. Just a few yards downstream of this flow there is watercress growing and that is also free for the harvesting. It is plentiful and if eaten would deliver much of the nutrition carried by this water.

7:40 PM

April in Taos

This is the closest thing I have to an April shower photo. Taken at dusk it demonstrates how that lovely late sun can sometimes find a highly contrasting dark sky. It happens and always makes me want to run outside and take photos.

I was talking to my landlord this morning about the drought concerns of the area and he said that by watering as much as possible now, early, with the acequia he is hoping to insure at least one good early crop of his alfalfa. Generally alfalfa is mowed twice. He said that the trees in the orchard have the most need for water now, which they are getting, so they will fare OK.

Took this photo of Eric and his dog Buster this morning. Yes, it’s a Sunday again and two weeks since the previous (and first) acequia watering. One topic that Eric likes to go back to when talking “water” is the precious high mineral content and vitality of the acequia water. Obviously if you can use it for growing food it adds value to your produce. In our case I guess the fruit from the orchard is our “produce.” I know that the Talpa Gardens growers up on Morada have access to it for their garden. They are popular vendors at the Taos farm market, both Saturdays and Sundays.

Speaking of farms, I visited Squash Blossom farm on Este Es last week for the first time. Gael Minton was kind to show me around. She and her husband bought their two acres some time ago, when it was all grazing pasture. They have made themselves very comfortable and self-reliant there. They are a CSA farm and have earned a CNG (Certified Naturally Grown) certificate. At this early time of year the most spectacular thing to see was this mature Tom turkey. There were others, male and female that didn’t make the photo. The breed is native to New Mexico. I told Eric, the water man, about seeing these turkeys and he said that at one time they were endangered but have made a good enough recovery to be hunted legally again. I think Gael said she has been keeping them for 7 years now and is now considering switching to chickens, but admits she has loved the turkeys. I plan to return to Squash Blossom farm in a couple of months and take photos for a blog focused on just that.

The prize for most lovely early blossom in the orchard today goes to the pear trees. I was also able to photograph blooms from my favorite plums and the cherry tree which is fairly near my house (so I can keep an eye on the progress of that flashy and delicious early fruit). The apples are thinking about blooming but the apricots are holding back, perhaps wisely so? I realize there is always tension in an orchard this time of year, especially at our high elevation. One really cold night can end the hopes of an entire tree’s worth of fruit. This orchard has a lot of apple trees and a lot of varieties so one way or another there are always apples, but maybe not from your favorite tree.

This unnamed wild flowering shrub was attracting a lot of bees and made a nice contrast with the very blue sky we often see here at 7,200 feet. If the wind is fierce the dust will create a haze. I read that there is high danger of forest fires already in New Mexico. A little smoke will create haze as well.

The places where my friends and family members live, Southern California, the mountains of Idaho and the East Coast, have all had lots of moisture this winter. Not here, and that is not unusual in the Southwest. There will be a ritual blessing of the corn fields at the Taos Pueblo May 3. I’m planning to attend. Could be some prayers for rain also?

Last photo is a budding out cluster of apple blossoms…


Spring Acequia Water Arrives

Green grass and acequia water in abundance! What a balm to the senses longing for the resurgence of nature. Soon I will have lived in my house here in Talpa for a year. The best part for me has been the childlike excitement I feel every time I get a chance to see the property expertly flooded by Eric, the water man who comes each time.

I have blogged about the acequia before and no doubt this will not be the last time either. Too wonderful and beautiful. These photos were taken a week ago today. Our acequia water always comes on a Sunday for some good reason I don’t need to know. Water was already flowing through the orchard by the time I got up and out of the house with my camera. It was a cloudy and windy day so I bundled up.

This photo illustrates the simplicity of the delivery system devised by the property owners to direct the water once it leaves the main ditch. This is the route taken by the water in the previous photo. It is the main channel that feeds the orchard. The orchard, as I’ve mentioned before is OLD. I forget just how old, somewhere in the range of 30 – 40 years. The present owner has been here for over 25 years and has been tending it since she arrived. The other day she told me she once directed the water on the property herself. The pruners were here a month ago. There is always a lot of fruit to go around, especially the apples. There are also plums, apricots and pears.

This photo looks toward the north. The two large trees in the center are apricots. Interesting how the shapes the water makes mirror the tree branches above. This view reminds me of Provence. It really could be anywhere there are old orchards. Maybe that’s the feeling of it that I mean, the timelessness that it evokes. And in so many ways Taos will trick you that way. You feel a sense of human history here that goes WAY back and you sense a memory of that encoded in the natural world. The Annasazi and then the Pueblo people made their home in these parts long ago. They found ways to use the water and the sun to shape a sustainable tribal life.

These look to me like the first eruption of leaves on one of the many and varied apple trees. I am already resolving to do better this season to preserve some of the precious fruit to carry over into the winter as sauces and jams. It would have tasted so good once the abundance of summer was only a memory. I think I should try involving some friends in the preserving process.

These are, of course, last season’s apples, their color lit up by the presence of water. What’s really amazing about this shot though is the sprouting apple seed at the top center. I wasn’t even imagining such a thing, but there it was bravely shouting out its birth, a sprout with the potential, the intelligence, to become a new apple tree. I was recently reading something that said orchards here in New Mexico were a contribution of the Spanish. They became an important feature in the landscape of fields and crops designed around villages settled where acequia water was available.

Taos Waldorf School

The newly designated Taos Waldorf School was having a 2-hour open house today. I’ve been curious about this school, formerly called Taos Country Day School, so I attended the open house and was encouraged to take photos and blog away about my impressions. The school is proud of the fact that they are now able to meet the strict requirements that go with using the name, Waldorf. This first photo, with the budding lilacs on the left, houses the Middle School grades 5 – 8.

Back in my 20s I was impressed by the ideas of Rudolph Steiner and read several books about his concepts, especially regarding gardening and early childhood education.

Set out on a table in one of the Middle School classrooms were individual books created by the students. This is how they address a particular field of study, they create their own books full of illustrations, compositions and diagrams. You can see the different ways two students addressed the same task in these bits of moon phase charts. I took several photos of these books as I found them delightful. Better to make your own book than digest someone else’s presentation of the information. But then I have always been a very hands-on type. My kind of school.

I couldn’t resist sharing this shot of various illustrations of handwritten text. I have an 11 year old granddaughter, as many of you have heard, and so I was mostly interested in what was going on at the school for this age group. My tour guide addressed this. She mentioned that the older children are working on developing archery skills this year and showed me the outdoor area where sports and such activities take place.

Somewhat recently the school was able to annex three acres abutting the Taos Pueblo land and part of this provides the sports field. Just to the west of it as you walk towards the mountains you come to this willow tree on the right. It was once struck by lightening but survived, with its branches easy for children to climb and play on. My guide said that this is a favorite hike destination for them.

Just on the other side of the fence, marked by a row of trees, is a fairly large herd of buffalo. They are on the Pueblo land and roam around freely, so it was special that they were in the right spot for me (and you) to see them today.

I doubt you could run a Waldorf school without gardening classes. I hear that things are coming together now to get started planting up this greenhouse with future edibles. I mentioned that I am a passionate gardener and my guide said that they welcome volunteers from the community to come and participate in tending the gardens. The campus felt like a very warm and friendly place and would be a great place to volunteer if one had the spare time and the knowhow.

There were lots of chickens cruising around and such a variety of colors and sizes! Apparently it is the job of the younger children to tend to the egg gathering. Next to the chickens were goats and they were not just for petting. The older children actually milk them. I was pretty impressed by that. I liked everything I saw and had fun imagining my granddaughter attending the school. I had always wanted my own daughter to go to a Waldorf school but it never came together. So I guess I can dream on. I might apply for a substitute teacher job, or teacher assistant–a way to make friends with this lively and inspiring Taos institution.