Chollas Bloom Magenta

I was excited to see examples of these same blooming Cholla Cactus just down the road from my house last week. However I took this more accessible photo last week next to the road along the Rio Grande gorge. I was on my way to Ojo Caliente and decided to take that route since I live near the southwest end of Taos, close to Hwy. 68. I had a hunch I would find these marvels and was I ever delighted.

In this photo you can see the gorge environment of the cactus. I looked up “Cholla Cactus” on Wikipedia and learned that there are 20 species of Cholla. I read down the list of descriptions and chose “Tree Cholla” for these. Says the blooms are deep lavender to red and the range is the “Chihuahuan desert into New Mexico and Texas and the semi-arid southern areas of eastern Colorado and western Oklahoma–2,000 – 7,000 feet.” Plus they do get tall and have branches, thus the “tree” part fits. I remember staying near the Pacific Ocean in Baja, there were Chollas there. You have to be very mindful of them–very painful if you came in contact with even a tiny spine.

I was doing some watering in the garden the other day and this Swallowtail came around not two feet from where I was standing. I focused all my attention on the opportunity to observe her (?) at close range and my presence did not seem to be a problem. Of course my camera was in the house and I started wishing I had it. After several minutes I took the chance and ran into the house and was able, gratefully, to get this one shot before she flew off. This story does illustrate the idea, “build it and they will come.”

And while we’re in the garden, yes, the peas are blooming and forming those pea pods like crazy now. I forget whether I planted edible pod or shelling peas. Guess I’ll soon find out. Smartly I planted another group of peas a couple of weeks later so all my peas won’t come at once. I went ahead and planted climbing beans and they are just coming up. I was a little late on that idea but hopefully they will catch up.

Yes, this flower, some kind of garden thistle but I don’t know the name, was blooming in my garden and yet I don’t feel it’s fair to take much credit for this magical photo. Thank you dear dslr camera for the way you can focus on some areas and blur others. There are some gaillardias blooming behind it, adding mysterious colors to the background. Cosmic! Both plants are perennials that returned from last year. What joy to see flowers like this already. Last summer I planted all my flowers from seed and had to wait at least another month from now for flowers.

And yes, the alfalfa field near my house got mowed and this photo captures the baler spitting out his little bales as he traverses the neat rows left by the mower a few days ago. The “hay” is allowed to sit in the sun a few days before the baler comes. Today while I was creating this blog the owner came in his truck and (likely with some help) picked up the bales and stacked them (four high?) in the truck for the short ride around to the other side of the property where his horse barn is. He earlier predicted that because of the drought and resulting lack of acequia water this summer he will only be able to get one crop out of this field, which usually provides two.

Preview: Black Eyed Susan

Peas & Hollyhocks

Took this photo yesterday. Had to make an unplanned stop when I saw hollyhocks blooming along the main street of Taos. I guess when it comes to certain flowers I am a passionate journalist photographer. I’ll show you one of my small hollyhock paintings at the end of this blog and you’ll see the LOVE in it. My affection for hollyhocks is hardly new but it’s one of those unexpected and endearing things I love about Taos, they’re plentiful in the historic district.

While on the topic of flowers I found this beauty of a peony at the Hanuman Temple last Sunday. They have good perennial landscaping around their main building so lots of early blooms which adds to the charm of going there this time of year.

Here’s another photo of the grounds of the temple with its nice mix of trees, bushes and perennial beds. These great Oriental poppies will be history very soon, but they do make a wondrous statement when they appear. As you see they can thrive in the Taos climate zone, as will peonies.

Ever vigilant on the topic of seeds I offer this photo taken in my garden a few days ago. My peas are starting to make moves toward blooming and the resulting pea pods. It’s not too surprising as peas are the main crop at the farm market this week (and last). It’s a short season and the first big excuse people have for showing up at the market. Here the shelling peas offered for sale are called “sweet peas,” not to be confused with peas as flowers, which is what I’ve always called “sweet peas.” And yes, Virginia, peas are seeds.

Here are the farm market peas that are available now in huge piles and at good prices. If I were the “food saver” type I would buy up a lot of them and freeze them or something. They are very tasty and well selected for ripeness.

And to follow up on the “June grass” topic this is the state of the alfalfa field that is ready to be mowed I’d guess. The grass has jumped over the alfalfa in height, making it look like a field of “just grass.” Everywhere around my house I see different types of grasses, aware that they’re all trying to seed now. Same goes for some of those early weeds that pop up in spring. They’re rushing to reproduce their species before their roots lose access to spring’s moisture.

Toward the end of my camera-in-hand stroll through the market Saturday I spied this arrangement of nature’s beauty and bounty and asked if I could take a photo. I found I was meeting the two women who are Puddin’ Foot Farm and Jaguar Moon Sew Shop, now operating out of Arroyo Seco.

It didn’t take me long to realize these women were the friends of a friend from Boise who moved to New Mexico last year. Well, that makes four of us “called” here from Idaho in 2010. I was so excited to meet them that I forgot to write down their names but I can give you a link to their website: I plan to visit their new farm with my Boise friend soon (she used to belong to their CSA in Boise) and will definitely blog about it and provide actual names of the two adventurous women whose motto is “Know your grow-er, know your sew-er!!”

Manby Hot Springs

Saturday a friend and I met at the farm market and found ourselves thinking of going out to the Manby Hot Springs, something we’d talked about a week before but hadn’t done due to the smoky air. It was my first trip. The photo above shows an early view of the Rio Grande flowing downstream, taken from the path down. A New Mexico hot springs guide book says it’s half a mile down on the path. It seemed longer than that to me, especially coming back up in the middle of the day, in hot sun.

We saw several of these small blooming cactus plants along the trail down. Exotic.

So where exactly is Manby, also known as Stagecoach Hot Springs? Well, if you were standing on the gorge bridge looking north it’s probably 2 miles upriver. It was once (in the 1890’s) a resort and the original way to get there was by stage coach. There was a bridge a little downstream of the springs and there was a switchback road cut into the west side of the canyon for access. From the springs you can see remnants of that road. Those were some brave travelers!

This was my first view of the springs from the trail. That raft on the upper left soon pulled away from the bank. They seemed to be stopping for some re-grouping. I can’t believe they would be launching from there. The pool we used is the one that’s closest to the center of the photo, furtherest to the left. Its water was coming from various sources inland side of the pool so was undisturbed by the muddier water of the river. It was not exactly “hot” but definitely warm and was comfortable for the warm day.

According to the water talk of the day the river has been running fast due to Colorado snow melt, which explains the muddy water. However it’s been dropping dramatically the past few days and will clear up as it slows.

This is a closer view of the pool we chose. We later met this girl and her brother and shared the pool with them for a bit. This is a clothing optional hot springs but I seemed to be the only woman there without a bathing suit. Oh well. A long history of hippy traditions had prepared me for the moment of truth. At one point I was the only woman in the pool with four similarly unclad men. All very nice men of course. I lasted about 45 minutes there in the hot sun with no hat and little sunscreen. There was no shade in sight.

I can tell you the way there from Taos. You head north and turn left (at the “blinking light”) like you’re going to the gorge bridge on Hwy. 64. About 4 miles down look for Tune Drive on your right. That turn is less than a mile past the Airport on the left. There are some possible turns off Tune Drive but I felt like it was clear enough which way to go forward to the eventual large parking lot at the end. The guide book says it’s about 5 miles, but I think it was more like 7 or 8, and it was not smooth sailing–not dangerous, but bumpy washboard for sure.

I kept my promise of a couple of weeks ago and went back where I took the photo of the peony bud and shot this fully opened peony. It is not the exact same flower, but the prettiest one of the bunch. More of the perennials that over-wintered around my house are starting to show their first blooms. This photo below is one. Can’t think of the name at the moment…

June Grass is Greener

This is my pick for photo of the week. These are wild sweet peas growing along with the grass in the alfalfa field back behind my house. The idea was pestering my mind last week to walk over to the orchard to discover if I could find any baby fruits, hopefully to photograph, so took off in good light late one day. First I became enchanted by these flowers along the path and took several shots, even picked a few on the way back.

I found little indication there will be any fruit to speak of in the orchard this year. Not a surprise really, but surely a disappointment. As I walked around inspecting the trees I flashed back on memories of the abundance of last year, the colors and the tastes of things. These babies above will become apples if they don’t run into any more big obstacles. The month of June should usher them into the safe zone, at least safe from cold temps, but after what we’ve seen here this spring nobody would bet on it. I found some young pears as well but those shots were out of focus.

Here’s that “greener grass” I was talking about. There’s something universal in the old memory bank about walking through tall grass about to seed itself. I was feeling it when I took this while appreciating the form of the apple tree in the background. Speaking of seeds, there is an annual art show by that name, SEED2, that I blogged about last October. I found it so beautiful a focus for art. Dear to my heart. It even has an educational component. School kids are brought around to visit the show and try their hand at some seed artwork. Anyway, I was accepted into this year’s show, SEED3, which opens October 8th so expect more photos and chat about seeds being the most important thing on the planet.

I planted my corn yesterday using seeds saved by corn seed expert Ron Boyd. He and his wife (Mergirl Gardens in Alcalde) have a booth at the Saturday farm market. So Saturday we had a long discussion about growing corn and my various choices from what he could offer. I’ll keep you updated on that project. I’m going to see if I can also get some seeds from him next week for a climbing bean and a couple of squash so I’ll be planting the Three Sisters together.

Not exactly news but these extravagant orange poppies are staring to bloom all over town. These are also a local favorite in the mountains of Idaho thus nostalgic for me. I took this in front of a charming adobe house along my road, Maestas, that is often vacant for periods of time. The owners should hurry to get here before the blooms are finished. Think I can picture a poppy seed in my future.

To back up my story about paying attention to all things “seedly” I’ll toss in a couple of seed photos here at the end of my blog. When I noticed these seeds I really got it how flowers and fruits are delivery systems for seeds. Really! Somehow this small demonstration was suspended in time from last fall, or whenever those seed matured but then stayed with the flower shapes all winter. As you can see from the size of my thumb this is the kind of thing that could easily be overlooked, except by fairies of course.