April Winds of Change

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We were longing for signs of spring and now we’ve reached the high time of encouraging proof. Still we’re contending with the unsettling roar of winds and the occasional day with a high only in the 40s. We’re trying to be patient, and feel grateful for our luck when we compare our weather with Denver’s recent snows.

Took this photo a week ago in the Taos historic district. Nearby, I noticed the big apricot tree on Bent Street was starting to bloom. Surely this starts a season that’s nice for visitors. It’s still relatively quiet but Spring’s charm is bursting out. Expect wind.

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Around the same time I took this photo of apricot blossoms in the orchard where I live. Those eager apricot trees just can’t wait to get started! They are the first of the local fruit trees to blossom and their beauty deserves a close-up shot like this. I don’t know the odds that they’ll bear fruit this year but you can always assume it’s an iffy proposition. Still they’re beautiful trees that will always shine with their early blossoms.

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I took this last Sunday when I noticed that the acequia water was running in the orchard. These are a couple of the old apricot trees I’m very enchanted with. I have of good view from my backyard of ravens sitting up high in their branches.

You can see the ditch that runs alongside them. This was the first time in our neck of the woods to get the acequia water and my landlord said that the flow was pretty good. My camera and I have had a love affair with the orchard landscape when the water flows and this day was special because it may be my last chance to take in the sweet smells and sights. I’ll be moving to the East Coast toward the end of the month.

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This shot exemplifies the patterns and juxtapositions that the flooding water can create. I especially love seeing the way the apples hold their color as they age and their contrast with the new green grass. Certainly this expresses the sentiment of Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese philosophy that values images that reflect on the impermanence of living things.

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This image offers more of a detailed look at the same elements, but gives more information about the water and the apples.

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This is my favorite photo of the day. Monet, the impressionist painter comes to mind. Just proves beauty can be found wherever you are living on this amazing planet. The part of the world I’m moving to will be a new experience for me, and one very much in contrast to the landscape here. My heart is being called there by my daughter and two granddaughters.

So when I continue to blog the scenery will change dramatically. I’ll be living in a more urban environment in Portsmouth, NH, located on the edge of the Atlantic, with a short hop up into Maine and an hour’s drive to Boston. Also I can direct my camera’s eye back to family members, as I have in the past.

Some of you will likely lose interest in this new direction my lens is taking. I hope to make good choices as I make this transition and assume that many Taos acquaintances will prefer to be dropped from the list receiving the links. I’m learning that some friends have past ties to the Northeast and they expect to enjoy the photography as much or more than they have seeing Taos.

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Newly budding willow branches blowing in the wind restoring color to our world. This willow tree is very old and large, still thriving in its location near an acequia ditch.

Thank you Toas for all your dramatic and inspiring beauty, your revelations of truth and the people who choose you for their home and became supportive friends. You know I will miss you.

Flowers of May

This photo could have been taken in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I was living before moving to Taos two years ago. Mountain towns seem to be the perfect home for this extravagant showy poppy. I’ve been noticing the local hollyhocks are starting to reach for the vertical and some are budding already. Won’t be long before they will dominate the Taos historic district with their tall beauty.

I found these perfect Bleeding Hearts in a flower bed in front of Moby Dickens book store in the John Dunn Plaza. I once did an oil painting of Bleeding Hearts, which I think I still have. I’ll see if I can find the file to add here…

I don’t have a date for this painting but it would be somewhere around 2005. I had just started painting in oils on wood panels and was like a kid in a candy store. I was looking for things I loved, pure and simple, and didn’t have much of an identity as a painter or knew what my style might turn out to be. I was all over the place, and it was all just for the pleasure of doing/exploring. I eventually turned away from flowers as subjects and really hadn’t looked back until this fall when the Gallerie Corazon in Santa Fe found my flower paintings on my website. Seems I’m spiraling around back to them for now?

This local scene in the historic district is along the north side of Bent Street.To the left is a local artisan co-op. My focus was on the tree which was dropping little green fruits which turned out to be baby apricots. I was pleased to find this contented old apricot tree flourishing in its location.

I’d be remis if I didn’t include this photo of a bouquet of peonies taken at last Saturday’s farm market. When I was growing up in Oklahoma we lived next door to an older couple who seemed to specialize in peonies. Their backyard would come alive with them for a brief time in May with variations in size, color and types of this showy flower.

The same couple also had many beautiful and large crystal clusters setting out on a wall around their front porch. I loved visiting those crystals. I remember being told they had come from Arkansas. I recently read something far-out online about deeply buried crystals beneath areas of Arkansas starting to re-activate after some very long time (Atlantis?). My family took little vacations to Arkansas when I was very young. When I was older we went to the mountains of Colorado instead.

Meet Daniel Cordova, owner of Cerro Vista Farm, located near Questa (north of Taos a ways). I think of Daniel as the “big daddy” of local “truck” farms in the area. You can see his truck there behind him. Later in the summer you won’t see him much. He has a big contingent of products and a crew of able and affable folks exchanging the farm’s beautiful food for cash. Personally I think they have the best lettuce.

I’m hoping this summer to have my own cutting lettuce. I’m off to a fairly good start thus far, but the wages of high elevation sun, wind and lack of humidity make it a challenge for me to do something here I thought I understood from years of interest and experience elsewhere. I do have pea vines starting to flower now and am cutting a green mix of kale, arugula, parsley, chard and baby lettuces every day.

Stopped along Maestas Road on the way to town the other day to photograph our acequia ditch as it flows northwest toward the property I live on. The source of this water is the Rio Chiquito which comes off the Sangre De Christo mountains and eventually flows into the Rio Pueblo which joins the Rio Grande. A well near this river supplies the drinking water for our neighborhood (tests drinkable without added chemicals).

Taos Farmer’s Market booth

 

Amtrak Train Station–Lamy

If you live in Northern New Mexico long enough eventually someone you know (or yourself?) will want to travel west or northeast on the Amtrak train that stops near Santa Fe. That will take you to Lamy, a small historic village about half an hour from central Santa Fe. It has that lost historic feeling of a place that once was more than it looks and feels now, but without being falsely cute. After all, it still has a very real purpose.

I admire this old adobe house, for instance, right across the street from the train station (and its parking lot). It appears to be currently occupied and well tended. You can imagine that those who choose to live here are enjoying the remoteness, the coming and goings of the train, and the sense of history.

I think it was a year ago that I first drove to Lamy to meet the train and this historic place near the train station was closed. But this time it had recently reopened and I noticed somewhere that they were advertising evening entertainment and dinners by reservation. I believe there is also a museum attached to it. The Legal Tender has a website you can see for more information. Looked interesting for sure. I believe they’re open Thursday through Sunday.

Had to include at least one photo of the train pulling into the station. This is my “all aboard” photo. I liked the fashionably dressed, but thoroughly prepared, girl in the foreground. I didn’t count the number of folks boarding but there could have easily been 20. This train was heading to Los Angeles. My friend’s ticket cost $90. This is an overnight trip. You board mid-afternoon and arrive in the early AM.

Have to make a comment about how sad it is to realize that the big-shots of the oil industry must have had a political hand in the near-extinction of passenger trains at some turning point in US history. I’ve traveled by high-speed train in France and know that when it comes to trains we are just plain backward. Of course France was never an oil-producing country that thought their oil would never end.

A couple of weeks ago the property where I live got it’s first drink of acequia water for the season. In this photo you can see how areas are deliberately flooded. I suspect this is one of the apple trees, which at the time had not begin to bud out (smart!). Just behind it you can get a glimpse of my house. As the water continues from left to right it enters an area that has lots of wild plum bushes. Last year, due to one very cold night about this time, they, and just about every fruit-bearing tree or bush, experience bud freeze and there was no harvest of the native plums. I am not the only one keeping my fingers crossed this year.

This is a closer shot of the previous scene. It has a Monet-like beauty, from my perspective, so I included it.

I want to acknowledge that it’s been awhile since my last Taos Blog. I’m sure all bloggers like me who try to be regular in their postings have times like this when for all kinds of reasons life just doesn’t seem to allow the time to give it the required focus. The mind does suggest that it’s TIME, but the spirit does not arise. I enjoyed putting this one together today and I’m glad I waited for the blogger in me to return to what is a joyful task

Bye,bye, Mr. Cartwright. Thanks for coming.

Aztec Dancing in Taos Plaza

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Taos historic district and a friend and I had just parked in the lot in front of El Gamal. Getting out of the car we heard the sound of drums coming from the Plaza so walked the block away to see what was going on. I took my camera. There was a sign that said “Huitzilopochtli Traditional Aztec Dance Group.”


I searched online but couldn’t find an official website for the local Aztec Dance Group but learned that there is such a thing and that they perform at special events in the region. You can see some YouTube videos of their dancing. They are also part of a collective of groups in this country, all of which serve to connect both the dancers and their audience with the ceremonial roots of Mexican culture.

A week back I took a friend for her initiatory walk around the property I live on. We followed a loop that starts at my house, heads back through the alfalfa field with its view of the three next-door-neighbor llamas, then cuts west across a little bridge over the properties main tributary of the neighborhood acequia ditch. This direction leads to the horse barn and reveals the old orchard to the south.

This is my favorite tree in the orchard, an apricot. These trees have survived long lives thanks to the care of humans who’ve over the years distributed the available acequia water to them. I was once told (and I’m repeating this I know) that they are as old as I am, more or less.

This somehow relates to the fact that I just celebrated my 70th birthday last week. Perhaps this photo symbolizes my honoring of the way these trees have survived and even thrived by the grace of their nurtured location. I seem to have had a similar lucky destiny in life and I feel gratitude to everyone who loved and nurtured me along my way.


And here’s the venerable horse. Wish I could remember his name. He gets to eat the alfalfa that is grown and harvested on the property. As you can see from the way my friend is dressed, it was not a very cold day. This warm winter trend continues. The high today is expected to reach the low 50s. We are starting to have a windy day here and there. Wind is a typical pattern in the spring and it feels like we’ll be entering that territory soon.


My friend and I continued our walk through the orchard and took an easterly direction on Maestas Road after that. Here’s an old postal box. I don’t think they deliver mail to these here anymore. I liked its Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, proud marker of a more trusting time.


A new flower painting delivered to Gallerie Corazon

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!

 

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.

June Full Moon

The garden grows.

The sudden appearance of this zucchini blossom happened right around the Summer Solstice. Well, I’ve been working up to this moment since I arrived back in early May. Pioneer gardening I call it–take the soil situation that comes with the place and build up from there. Seemed like the soil was lacking in humus basically. I found an old compost pile hidden in the bushes and started with that, then added amendments from a nearby hardware store. Looks like I got it mostly right, judging from the results. The tomatoes are looking eager to get huge and are blooming as well. Gotta love the way Mother Nature will come through if you give her a hand.

Another proof that summer has arrived in northern New Mexico is the harvesting of the alfalfa. This field is part of the property I live on and all that’s needed is an annual mow down and bale up. I think you’re looking at 30+ bales. Forget the total. This field, and indeed the entire acreage, is watered by the acequia system. The main ditch is just at the far end of the field. The header photo at the top of this page was taken from the orchard a month or so ago, looking south from our edge of Talpa along the Rio Chiquito.

Ran into these lovely girls in Taos the other day along the main street through town. These are a perfect specimen of Georgia O’Keefe’s favorite variety of hollyhock–Black. There might be a more elaborate name, but anyway I admit I also like them and was able to grow a few in my last garden in Ketchum, Idaho. I will probably make a mental note to pick up some seeds from these plants come fall.

The one thing that came back this spring to greet me here, growing next to the house, was a hollyhock. I asked the one who planted it if it was a double or a single. She thought a double. We’ll be seeing soon, which it turns out to be.

The Taos climate suits the hollyhocks. They are just now starting to bloom all around town. I love to paint them–the singles anyway. You can see the results on my Flower Paintings page (see Gallery).

Took this photo Friday, the day before that June Full Moon. I was in the parking lot where Ranchitos Road meets La Placitas looking northeast toward the traffic, which I cropped out. Shows the big and often interesting cloudy sky that Taos is famous for and, of course, the dramatic nearby mountain range.

As I recall there was a little light rain that evening. Last night there was real rain for a while and this afternoon it’s been spilling down some big drops from time to time. And the temperatures have dropped dramatically for daytime here. Could this be the beginning of the much-longed-for monsoon season?

Since I arrived in May it’s been mostly warm to hot and at the worst, windy in the afternoons. Not much in the way of rain, but I think that’s the normal weather pattern. In Ketchum, they had a very rainy May and June. I was glad to have escaped that. Tried not to feel too guilty, or brag about the weather in Taos, when talking to Ketchumites.