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.

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