Spring Up

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In February I flew to New Hampshire to celebrate both my birthday and an important first meeting with Charlotte, my second granddaughter. This photo shows her with granddaughter #1, now 13, and mom, my daughter, Katrina. Charlotte is dressed for puddle fun. Even now, mid March, I see on the weather reports that this northeast part of the US is still owned by the winter season. Here in Taos we are getting some good whiffs of days in the 50s and 60s, most with sunny skies.

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Here on the property where I live in Taos I discovered on yesterday’s walk these hopeful buds on a  cherry tree near my house. The first of my three summers here the tree  provided lots of fruit, the second year none at all (due to an early frost) and last summer the fruit was sparse. It’s an early bloomer so the risk is always there…

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While taking a walking tour of the property I got a nice shot of our resident horse, Barney. I think he eats most of the organic, acequia-watered alfalfa grown on the land here. I’ve added some of his aged manure to the garden beds around my house. He is ridden by his longtime owner, one of the landlords, if only occasionally, and gets to eat lots of apples from the orchard in late summer and fall. All in all a pretty nice country life.

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Now that the snow has melted in my back garden I can see a hardy spinach variety I planted last fall has survived the winter as advertised. Sold by “Botanical Interests” seed company out of Colorado, it’s an heirloom variety called Viroflay that can overwinter in sub-zero temperatures. According to the seed packet it can grow quite large as well. Looks like I should thin my plants.

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Upon inspection I found that the blue flax that has generously seeded itself all around my house is starting to come back to life. I have recommended this hardy flowering plant before to those gardening in Taos. It also grew well back in the mountains of Idaho where I gardened in times past. It will both come back like a perennial from last year’s plants and come up from the many seeds the many small blue flowers produce. It is one of the first flowering plants to bloom as the weather warms.

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Here’s another early-blooming flower starting to show its face, the Sweet William. Like the Blue Flax it has advanced itself around my garden beds without any help from me. The plants that have established themselves will bloom early and you’ll continue to find new plants arriving from seed.

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And last but not least is the greening up of the hearty dandelion plants that have thrived here and there in my garden beds. I treat them with a respect they don’t commonly receive by harvesting the tender leaves in spring. They add their green nutrition to my food in a variety of ways: teas, soups, salads and blender-made fruit drinks.

It really is already possible to see early bulb-type flowers blooming but I didn’t have any specimens handy for this spontaneous “photo-shoot.” It was a quiet warm afternoon and I enjoyed walking around the neighborhood without a sweater or a coat imagining the spring joys of flowering plants to come. It is a kind of “awakening of desire” time, both for the plants and the humans.

Enjoy your spring wherever you live!

 

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.