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

 

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: www.jaguarmoonsewshop.com. 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…

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.