Farm Market Hums Along

There were more incredible flowers this week at the farm market brought by the couple who had those first-in-market sunflowers a month ago. This week they had giant zinnias and an almost purple rose, plus pink Echinaceas. The husband, who’s handling the sales, says it’s all his wife’s doing, that she is the queen of flowers. I’m convinced of that. She is sitting in the back, but enjoying the praise.

This brings back memories of my garden in Ketchum, Idaho, that had a lot of Echinaceas. I do have the cosmos you see in the upper right starting to bloom now. It will eventually dominate my front flower garden.

Jeff and Tanya at Talpa Gardens had these adorable Rhode Island Red chicks for sale, a big attraction at their booth. Of course I wanted to take them home but my landlord has forbidden keeping chickens. Don’t ask me why. I’ll wait for a better situation…but it’s one of my visualizations. I had them when I was living in the California back-woods back in the 70s.

I loved seeing this wild arrangement decorating the Hanuman Temple’s produce booth. The dark red is amaranth I’m pretty sure. The temple property has a huge garden area, not surprising since they focus so much on cooking and feeding people. You can bet this time of year their meals are full of really fresh ingredients, plus their secret ingredient, love and devotion.

The most exciting discovery of the day was meeting a farmer, Juan Sebastian, who’s part of White Mountain Farm in Mosca, CO. He explained that this was his first trip of the season down to the Taos Farm Market. What caught my eye were these 1 lb. bags of quinoa. He also had 5 lb. and 25 lb. bags. He explained that his farm is now specializing in organic quinoa crops and they were the first in the country to grow marketable quantities back in the 80’s. If you visit their website, linked above, you can learn more about the history of this San Luis Valley farm. Interestingly I’ll be passing by Mosca on my way to a family reunion in Colorado tomorrow.

Juan Sebastian also shared that he came here from Huehuetenango, Guatemala. He had a wife and son with him but he seemed to be the only one in the family who was speaking English. The farm also specializes in organic potatoes and is shipping their quinoa and potatoes through the site. If you’re lucky enough to live in Alamosa his farm sells produce weekly there. I’d like to see how the quinoa crop looks in the ground and take photos but not sure I’ll have the time this trip. He showed me some leaves from the plant and they looked very much like lamb’s quarters or the red-leaf orach, which I have growing. The quinoa leaves are edible raw or cooked as you would spinach.

If you haven’t cooked quinoa I highly recommend it. It is one of nature’s most perfect foods. It is not a grain but rather a small round seed, similar to millet. It cooks quickly (15 – 20 minutes) and has a delicious nutty flavor. I eat it now more often than rice and it substitutes well for it. It is amazingly high in protein and is especially helpful for those who do not eat meat, or not much of it. I felt we were very fortunate to have this helpful ancient plant growing so regionally. Sadly they can’t compete with the grocery store per pound price of quinoa, but for those who can pay more it would be a wise thing to do, to support this endeavor.


Acequia Down But Not Out

First off a follow-up topic sparked by a helpful comment left last week from my sister, Linda, with a link to recipes featuring squash blossoms. The author mentioned that there are separate male and female flowers.

As observant as I like to think I am, I had never noticed this. You can bet I made careful inspection of my plants though and there they were, DISTINCTLY different flowers. The clue I noticed is that the females have baby squash at their base, as you can see in the lower left corner of this photo. There’s an example of a male flower just above it in the upper left. I think they’re equally edible but why pick a potential zucchini?

Taken Sunday, this is an acequia ditch on the property where I live in Talpa, not the main ditch but one of the secondary ditches that leads water down to the orchard. This flow is being allowed to branch off towards the trees. The owner was quietly moving the water around by himself. He had a 6-hour window of access to the main ditch that day, from 6 AM until noon. He had already watered the big alfalfa field on the other side of the property and said he would, after all, take a 2nd cutting of it in a couple of weeks. He ventured it would not be as many bales as the first one, but it would be worth his while.

This is a tool used for spreading water. You can see that its top is resting over some rocks to give it height. Those small channels you see in the upper right likely send water over to trees nearby. The owner offered the opinion that the water is continuing to run thanks to rainfall in nearby mountain areas that feed the Rio Chiquito, the source of our particular main ditch. My observations of my own garden support the idea, too, that the more frequent cloud cover and higher humidity levels are giving my plants a respite from earlier conditions with the higher temperatures, very low humidity and the clear skies that allow for more solar radiation. Of course, my garden LOVES the little monsoon showers, however brief and infrequent.

I liked the perspective of this photo taken while standing under a wide-spreading apple tree. The fruit report is pretty much “pears,” and that’s it. You can see a few small apples here and there. No apricots. I asked him about plums and he said there were a few up by his house. He may not want to share them. The lovely little wild plums were all killed in the late frost that did all the damage.

This photo shows the progress on the “Three Sisters” area (corn, squash, beans) that’s growing in the front garden. I took a chance planting those climbing green beans because we do have rabbits in the area, but they took no notice of them when they were seedlings so the risk paid off.

You can see that one of the bean plants is starting to twine up a stick tipi I erected just in case there was some issue between the beans and the corn not growing in sync. I thinned out a couple of the corn plants a couple of days ago but all-in-all the plants look happy. To the right are the two zucchini plants I grew from seed. And yes, if you read the blog last week, I did pick my first zucchini and it was yummy eating. I have been enjoying peas now for weeks but are winding down.

Here come the morning glories!


Monsoon Season

Took this photo mid-day today–my favorites, hollyhocks, next to my favorite Taos cafe/restaurant, El Gamal. Note the monsoon type clouds in the sky. The intermittent clouds provide times of shade or at least filtered sun during the days and this is a great relief now with highs flirting around 90 degrees. A little late afternoon rain can really drop the temperatures and raise the spirits of everyone. I can’t report that we’ve had near the actual amount of rain we need, but it does feel like a blessing when it comes. The smell of moist earth is like an elixir.

My zucchini squash has started blooming but I loved seeing this abundance of squash blossoms at the farm market yesterday. Since we are in the world of the “Three Sisters” here (squash, corn and beans) I know these flowers are integrated into local cooking traditions. I can’t think of that many foods where we eat the flower of the plant, other than those we can add to summer salads.

You are looking at my first zucchini squash to reach edible size. Well, I’ll give it a couple more days. I like the sensation of visually moving into the inner sanctum of a garden plant like this. The large leaves of the zucchini plant usually cover this view. As any gardener knows zucchinis are one of the most expansive and giving of all the food plants. It’s truly one of those “plant the seed and stand back” awesome miracles.

Now my tomatoes are a different story. I have just begun to construct a cage for them that grows upward as they reach higher, to give support to the precious fruits. Last summer in this same location I believe the “cage” reached the height of my shoulders. I admit it developed a gradual lean, a little to the south, but it held up to the end. I’m using what material I have on hand, sticks (and garden twine).

Last summer I planted Heavenly Blue Morning Glories in the place where this year I planted my peas. They were spectacular, with amazing flowers I photographed all summer. This year they are growing on a tipi of sticks I built in the flower bed closest to the front porch–a welcoming public situation. They are eagerly climbing up now as fast as they can, fully committed to their destiny of beauty.

Root vegetables are starting to appear in the market, beets, potatoes, onions, and everyone’s favorite, carrots. These beauties were grown by Isidro Rodrigues on his farm in Chamita, down near Espanola. I was asking his permission to take the photo for my blog when I began to realize he speaks only Spanish. Fortunately his next door neighbor at the market was a fellow farmer and friend from the same area and he was happy to translate. I will send a link to this blog to his friend today. He said he would show it to Isidro on his computer.

Ever vigilant for an opportunity to photograph seeds for the art I will create for the Seed3 show this fall, spied this mandala in the garden at the Hanuman Temple last Sunday. I have some similar images from last summer, but none with quite the perfection of this one.

And on the topic of seeds, some of you loyal readers will recall the early spring photos of a perennial Wild Blue Flax that showed up around my house. For the most part those plants are in the seeding stage now.

Whatever stage plants are in these days I’m sure they, like us humans, are enjoying the monsoon’s moisture and shade, and the occasional rain.

Pow Wow Comes to Taos

A three-day local event, the annual Pow Wow is held on the beautiful lands of the Taos Pueblo. I let this event slip past me last summer and so was determined to attend this time round. I went on the middle day, Saturday. Since I planned to take photos I went in the afternoon, not sure if I would have the light needed in the cooler, evening session. This photo above is one of the first I took and you can see that the usual clear blue skies of Taos are still a little smoky from the surrounding forest fires. And it was a warm day, at least in the high 80s.

My first focus was naturally on the dancing. This photo shows a young girl doing traditional style dancing. Note the arrangements for spectators around the dance circle, with its ramada for shade filled with leafy branches of Siberian Elms. Behind that people have set up their own canopied shelters. The size of the dancing area seemed huge and the sheer number of spectators impressive. I realized that without a telephoto lens my photos of dancers were not going to be that special so I immediately began to look elsewhere for subjects to capture the story of the event.

For instance, this photo shot at close range could stand for all the beautiful regalia offered up to the gods of the Pow Wow and anyone else there lucky to be at this feasting table. I can say today as I write that the best gift I received was seeing the eyes in the faces of the many Native American children there. I found many beautiful souls peering through and understood that their futures would attract more respect and wider possibilities than their people have seen for many generations. And I saw that this change is emerging from a foundation of knowing and embracing their family and tribal heritage, which, by the way, was always aligned with treating the earth and all its life forms as sacred and interrelated.

These enthusiastic men were drumming together to accompany the dancers. I saw that along the sides of the circle were similar groups like this. They would take turns so no one group became tired. As you see in this photo they put their heart and strength into it and at times fiercely so.

This group of men are not drumming but were sitting in a circle like the ones in the previous photo. I assumed they were drummers awaiting their turn. Looking closer I see a couple have numbers attached to their clothing so they must also be participating in the dances.

Eventually I left the arena of the dancing and strolled along the crafts booths lined up in second circle set back from the central one. I discovered the booth for Lynn Wozniak’s local drum company, Sweet Medicine Drums. By now it was probably the hottest part of the day and Lynn was sitting alone having a bite of lunch. I asked if I could sit down with her and she was very welcoming. I had been on my feet for a bit too long in the hot sun and really needed a shady spot. It was that or head for home.

As fortune would have it Lynn and I seemed to really connect and we parted hours later like old friends. I promised to meet her in her drum-making studio soon to talk about applying my artistic talents to drum painting. As it turns out I once worked for a drum maker as a painter and have the photo resume to back up that claim. The longer I stayed around the goings-on in the booth the more respect I came to have for this vibrant and loving elder woman.

As I was leaving Ketchum 14 months ago there was one person in Taos I was advised to keep my eyes and ears open to meet, Grandmother Jean. It tuns out that Lynn is one of her best friends.

I’ll close with a detail from one of two “recycled art” collages I’ve been creating this week for an upcoming Taos show, “Arte De Descartes XI.”

Divine Feminine Yantra

July 4th Weekend

With some imagination this sunflower could stand in for fireworks. I took this photo at the farm market a week ago. It seemed at the time almost miraculous. It certainly was the first of the local sunflowers to appear at the market. It was grown by Ezequiel Martinez at Alcantar Farm in Espanola, a couple thousand feet lower than Taos.

Due to the high fire danger the annual fireworks display in Taos has been cancelled this year. Late this afternoon I was out in the back garden picking peas and I could actually feel humidity in the air. There was a very light sensation of wet sprinkles on my skin. This could be life-saving good news for slowing down New Mexico’s forest fires. Let’s hope the condition continues…

This truck and all the baskets belong to Bob Allalunis, a locally famous red willow basket-maker who’s been practicing this art locally for the past 20 years. He says he learned it from people at the Taos Pueblo originally. Since willows love wet land it’s natural from them to grow along the acequia ditches, but in spring those ditches have to be cleared for access and and good water flow. This situation creates a natural harvest of the basket-making materials.

This is Bob on the left. He told me that he and his wife, Pattie, have been instrumental in encouraging the continuation of traditional red willow basketry in the Taos community. The artistry of their work has been honored over the years by such museums as the Millicent Rogers.

Fresh harvests of garlic is starting to appear around Saturday’s farm market. These braids were offered at the Mergirl Gardens booth. The couple, Ron and Debora, hail from La Vallita, near Espanola. I got my corn seeds from Ron, who enjoys growing valuable historic varieties of it and seed saving.

Here’s the status of my corn now. If you look closely you can see small bean plants sprouting up around the circle of corn and on either side a winter squash plant–a small dark orange variety. I mentioned in a previous blog that this traditional combination is called the “three sisters.” I had a lot more corn come up but a day before taking this photo I thinned it. Bob suggested 5 or 6 ” apart. For my climbing beans I chose Kentucky Wonder, a type I’ve grown before.

I took this looking down into the protective tunnel created by the “walls of water” around three of my tomato plants. As you can see this plant is about to pop out of the top. I’ll have to start figuring out how to support the vertical growth to come. Last summer I was kept busy adding to a support I built out of sticks tied together with twine. I did manage to keep up and was more than pleased with my harvest of the fruits over a three-month period. This year I’ve added two more plants near these, up next to the house.

I hate to toot my own horn but I’ll admit I’ve been getting lots of compliments lately on my flower photography. Just to keep up the reputation I submit this shot of a wild variety of sweet pea blooming today in a flower bed at the Hanuman Temple. Speaking of the temple I noticed they had a booth at the farm market on Saturday. On Friday evening I’d attended a Dark Moon women’s circle and met one of the woman gardeners working there this season, so was able to recognize her the next day at the market.

I really liked the monthly women’s circle, my first time to attend, and plan on going back each New Moon. It was held at the newly opened 2Wolves Center and led by Nicole, one of the 2 partners. They have a website and are ready now to launch their offerings of classes and healing consultations.

Happy Independence Day!

Orange Poppy pod