Blooms & Light

That’s Cerro Pedernal Mountain in the center horizon, the sacred mountain near Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch so loved and painted by Georgia O’Keefe. Earlier that evening a group of women (and their workshop leader) staying at the Mable Dodge campus met me at the St. Francis Church to photograph it around dusk. I eventually had urged them to follow me up to the last rest stop on 68 as you’re heading into Taos for a fuller view of the sky as shown in this photo.

Earlier I was able to record this lovely light with tree shadows on the St. Francis Church. I want to mention how I met the instructor of this journal sketching workshop. Her best friend goggled “Taos bloggers,” or something close, and found my Taos blog. Since she was looking forward to a trip to Taos for the class she found the blog interesting and forwarded it to Amy Bogard, the leader and planner of the group. Amy was about to experience her first time teaching/staying at the Mable Dodge. She emailed me with enthusiasm and praise for my blog and offered a link to her blog, which is more about her process as an artist. I really liked her blog and we began to talk about meeting when she got to Taos with her group.

She and her best friend had arrived two days before the group to get acclimated and ended up coming over to my house, among other things, on their first non-travel day. Amy bought this small Goddess altar from me and put it to good use as the centerpiece of a personal altar she set up in her room. There are now three other similar altar pieces available for sale at Wabi Sabi, along with a large group of my cards. Amy took this shot with her iPhone and I felt it spoke volumes about how I’m anticipating people will use my new approach to altars. It’s only 4″ across and made of paper mache, so neither large nor heavy.

This remarkable piece of textile art I found hanging on the fence next to Two Graces, a curio shop in the plaza of St. Francis Church. I had to include it in this blog out of total admiration for its brilliant and patient creator. I’d say the figures are Hopi or Zuni kachinas. As you can see it could use some repair, but mostly it’s in excellent condition. Just something unexpected to admire…

To end this week’s blog I’ll share some photos I took last week in the historic district of Taos. This type of rose must like the mountains because they were also common in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I last lived. They bloom early and so their beauty is most welcome and appreciated. I wish I knew the proper name for it, but nothing is coming to mind. I’m sure nurseries sell them. They have a wildish sprawling habit, most charming for landscaping that intends a casual look.

In case you haven’t guessed this is a peony bud. Found this along the north side of Bent Street. I’ll be sure to check back and photograph the flower in full bloom. When I was a young child growing up in Oklahoma I lived next door to a couple who had a large and varied collection of peony plants in their back yard and it was a special treat in late spring to be welcomed over to look at the flowers when they were in bloom. They seemed very exotic to me, hinted at wonders beyond my normal experience, promises of future revelations.

Week in May

Perennials are the ticket when it comes to feeding the hunger for early flowers in spring. It’s worth anyone’s time to figure out which flowers will overwinter well and can handle the hot-then-cold vagaries of the Taos springtime climate. This is blue flax, basically a wild flower, but it can be showy, like in this photo, and has captured my heart by coming back strong from seed last spring. Each year it will just expand its growing territory.

Last week I had a welcome visitor, my former husband, Mr. Cartwright, whom I met and fell in love with 34 years ago. This is a common thing for us. In time potential projects that call for a patient, helpful man pile up and I eventually reach out and invite him for a week’s visit. This time he took the train from southern California and slept outside in the back yard in my 3-man tent (on an air mattress). I was noticing how nice the tent looked one afternoon just after we had hung the hummingbird feeder (repaired). I got my camera and took this photo. Some people will be able to see the hummingbird that flew up almost immediately, the first one I’d seen this season. A magic moment.

Went to the farm market yesterday and it was not a perfect day for it like last week. It was cold and breezy. What I really zeroed in on were seeds and dried food from last falls harvest juxtaposed with early edibles. In this photo courtesy of Ladybug Farms we see coriander, beans and safflower. I am really starting to perk up at the idea of saving seeds and finding ways to carry the bounty of summer into winter. I talked to one woman who said they freeze some of their peppers and tomatoes to add to soups in winter. She said when her young son started school he complained about the taste of canned vegetables he was served there at lunch. A new taste for him.

Here’s a nice selection of salad type plants that will show up early and deal with the cooler spring weather. These were likely grown in a greenhouse for some protection: cilantro leaves, parsley and chives. This display was on the Ladybug Farms table so I would guess they let their cilantro mature and then collect the seeds. Looks like turnip greens on the left. That’s an early crop. Beets would be too. I planted some a week ago but they haven’t come up yet.

But the people with the goods in the SEEDS category were Ron and Debora of Mergirl Gardens (& Bee Sanctuary) from Alcade. They will sell you seeds they’ve saved by the spoonful. I really like this concept and plan to give their offerings a careful look next week. I had just met up with some friends from out of town before taking this photo and was a bit distracted. They also sell feathers from their own fowl. I was especially excited about their turkey feathers.

Couldn’t resist this lovely display of dried tomatoes. Debora had a bag for sale that was $10, which seemed expensive until she said it took 10 pounds of tomatoes to make it.

I was able to get to the Talpa Gardens booth before all the chard and spinach was gone (like last week). Since it was not great weather there was less competition for sure at 9:30 in the morning. Let’s hope the customers were just waiting for things to warm up outside before venturing out.

One of my companions (fellow artist and a blog fan from Cincinnati) pointed out that I never included any photos of myself, so she took this one of me at my favorite spot, right next to the sunflower sprouts. I was eagerly waiting in line to make my purchase. The ones I bought the previous week kept well and I will keep buying them to supplement the salad plants I can grow at home. Today I harvested my first dozen or so leaves, mostly arugula and Russian kale.


First Farm Market Day

Today was a perfect day for the opening of the farm market season here in Taos. I got there later than was ideal and missed out completely on the greens that the folks from Talpa Gardens had for sale. They were just standing around visiting with friends and congratulating themselves on selling out their produce by 10 AM. The market opens at 9 AM, so that took no time. Looking around I noticed they did have much competition. There were few vendors offering produce. It’s early.

I also had in mind to look for some nice heirloom tomatoes and found these in the photo above. They were grown at Rancho Arco Iris farm in Dixon. I apologize to the woman in the photo for not catching her first name, but I’m offering a link to the farm’s site. I bought two of her tomato plants, a cherry type and a regular sized red one. Seeing it’s half way through the month of May it would be early to set them out now. Most garden types here seem to agree that for tender plants and seeds it’s wise to wait for June 1st. But I have “walls of water” to put them inside, so I think I’ll be OK. Also I’m a computer weather junkie so I usually am aware if there’s going to be a night time freeze so I’ll have a chance to cover them, which is easy to do. Last year this time I believe I waited and that worked out great. I had tomatoes in early August.

These tomato starts from Living Light Farm in Arroyo Seco were a little bit more expensive, $3.50 each, but there was a lot of variety and they also had little flats of lettuce mix and other things to get your garden started early. Their booth was very popular.

My favorite vendor of the day was this woman selling her sprouts. I LOVE sunflower sprouts and hers were very fresh and inviting. I got a small bag, a mix of what she was offering just because it all looked so wonderful. I will definitely plan to buy my sunflower sprouts from her every week. Didn’t get her name but I will be checking back with her and will correct that in an upcoming blog.

Everyone loves lilacs and there was some tension around Taos when we had our cold weather recently, that it might have killed the lilac buds. Perhaps it did in some places but I took this photo in the historic district last Sunday. Stopped to take in the smell and figured a photo was in order.

Also on Sunday I had lunch at the Hanuman temple and ran into my good friend, Fred Bloomfield, also known as Ram to me. Some people were addressing him as Swami, so I’ll mention that as well. He likes to spend time in India in the ashram where the spiritual teacher of Ram Das and others found enlightenment. I first met him in Ketchum, Idaho, the town I moved here from. I think he was taking a break from Taos at the time and also likely doing some driving back and forth. He was very welcoming to me when I first moved here and his friendship the past year has helped me feel at home. Yeah Ram!


May=Garden Time

No, this is not my garden today, but last fall. Back a year ago now when I first moved into this small house I envisioned it surrounded by flowers. I had to work hard initially to ensure that happened and I blogged about my method, calling it “pioneer gardening.” That’s what you do when the previous tenants of a rental house have little or no interest or enthusiasm for growing flowers and vegetables like I do. Thankfully I did the hard work last May so now I can just improve the soil a bit and rearrange some planting areas, pull some weeds and I’m pretty much good to go.

Back in Ketchum, ID, the first thing I’d plant were peas. They seem to like the cold and would shrug off a little late snow or a frosty night here and there. Last May I skipped the peas entirely as I was very worried about the wild rabbits eating the seedlings before they even had a chance. But that was last May and now I’ve had time to live with the rabbits a season and rabbit-proof my fenced back yard. The photo above is one of three planting areas for peas, each small and offering vertical support. Around the front of the peas will be sunny so I’ll probably wait for the end of the month and drop in some heat-loving food plants like eggplants and peppers.

This is the way I start my salad plants, I sprinkle a few seeds (then cover with fine soil) of maybe half a dozen different edible salad-type varieties for what’s called a “cutting” mix. You keep cutting the leaves while they’re small (2 or 3 inches) until the plant starts to go to seed. Then you pull it out. Here I can discern arugula, spinach and some Russian kale. These were planted before that last cold spell and snow event we had a week ago and they survived.

To prepare the ground I add fresh soil amendments, for example from Ace I bought a product called “peat and sheep” and some organic compost. The soil here tends to be too alkaline so a little acid, as found in peat, is balancing. I hoping the sheep means sheep manure. Anyway, I apply maybe an inch layer of a combination of the two and then turn the soil with a trowel mixing the new with the old. I cheer every time I see an earthworm and treat them kindly. They are indicators of decent soil and if you can keep them around they will continue to make it better with their “castings.”

Here you can see all three of the pea planting areas. The one on the far right is new and there are mixed salad plantings on either side of it. This bed gets morning shade. Figured the salad plants might appreciate that. Last summer I underestimated the intensity of the New Mexico sun here at 7,200 feet and closer to the equator than Idaho. I thought my salad plants wanted sun. Got that wrong. The bed just to the left will be home to something that likes it hotter. Mediterranean herbs would work, sweet basil, peppers. I’ve planted chard in that back bed just in front of those onions (with sun and shade).

Now the front area, which faces south and is backed up by the structure of the house I reserve for the plants that really like the heat, such as tomatoes. Last year I grew zucchini, potatoes and lemon cucumbers there and the rabbits were not interested in any of those crops.

Here’s how the front garden looks now. I’ve pulled the weeds, added the soil amendments and am starting to water periodically just as though there were flower seeds planted. I do this for two reasons: one, there might be seeds in the soil from last year’s flowers and I want them to germinate and, two, the soil needs a degree of moisture in order to keep all the life there thriving, all the micro-organisms and the worms. Despite my amendments this soil is sandy and doesn’t hold moisture well so I have to pay attention to watering it.

If you look closely you can see a few mounds of green here and there. Those are blue flax, a wild flower that I’ve had success with in Idaho. I introduced it here with seed last May and it seems to have overwintered well. A few plants have started blooming in the morning with simple 1″ blue flowers that fade by afternoon. Best of luck with your garden.

Arroyo Seco #2–Tour

This was taken a mile or so before you arrive in the small town of Arroyo Seco, looking to your right as you drive along. I did stop to take this photo and the dirt road into the Taos Pueblo has a name but I didn’t write it down. Yes, we’ve been having some rain/snow here and there lately. We’ll take the moisture any way we can and the snow does show off the Sangre de Christo mountains nicely. Once you get to Arroyo Seco you really feel the nearness of the mountains and you are in a zone that is no longer flat open mesa. There are creeks and trees.

Here I’m standing behind Santos Y Mas, the store that is now carrying some of my altars, cards and tree ornaments. You can see the relationship between the mountains and the middle of downtown. The famous Taos Cow is just across the street from Santos Y Mas and the place that sells the great tamales is there on the far right of the photo, Abe’s. The restaurant takes up the right side of the building.

Just a skip and a jump over and upwards from the main street to your left is a tempting stroll up to this church. And just about where I stood to take this photo there is a dirt road heading left that goes around the back of the buildings on main street and over to a little neighborhood that leads to the famous Seco Pearl and the newly relocated market, Sol Food.

I talked briefly a couple of weeks ago to the young owner of Sol Food, Cris. He said he grew up in Arroyo Seco. He was very up on all things Arroyo Seco and noted that there was a trend toward economic growth there, not to mention that through the past three years of hard times in the region Arroyo Seco has held steady. He mentioned that it’s a more expensive area to live in, generally, than Taos, so holds up the “high end” of the valley. He feels visitors seem to enjoy the scale and slower pace of the town, find it relaxing and refreshing.

As you can see Seco Pearl is a large place. I understand it wears many hats. Sometimes it’s a community center/dance hall, other times a place to display local wares and also a cafe. Definitely community events happen here and the people of the town feel very affectionate toward it. I read in the paper several weeks ago that it just changed owners. I pledge to visit it on one of my next visits to town and give a report on the latest incarnation.

Here’s one of my tree ornaments on display at Santos Y Mas. They keep a year-round area set up for ornaments. You can’t miss it. The Garden & Soul store in Taos also is keeping a small display of my ornaments year round. I was surprised but some have sold since the winter holiday season.