Thursday, April 30, 2009

Laura Goes to Lowe's

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"X" Rocks

"X" Rock #1, 1979.

"X" Rock #2, 1979.

Monday, April 27, 2009


This is the other sign. Tucson, AZ. 1977.

Mud Tracks

1974. Rio Grande mud, as usual. Raccoon and dog.

Film Buddies

Achtung! Neil and Devon are making a movie together for a film class. Sheila joins in the excitement.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Last week Laura got this shot of a vulture sunning itself on the power pole at the corner of our property. This has never happened before. Maybe it's a good omen.

Gardening News

Spring continues apace in our neck of the desert. There's been a lot of wind, but nothing out of the ordinary. Some springs are windier than others, and this one definitely counts as a windy one. Our last hard freezes were 24 degrees on April 7, and 25 deg. on April 17. The probability of frost is dropping significantly day-by-day. Once again, summer has gained the upper hand, and it's just a matter of time till we have triple-digit temperatures. We rarely have frost after May 1 here, and what freezes we do have don't cause any damage.

Here's my broccoli coldframe. For comparison, check my March 23 post, when these plants had just been planted. One of them has a broc on it already. We'll start cutting the main heads in 2-3 weeks, and then they'll put out side shoots until heat and insects finally put an end to them in late June. These plants are a bit crowded, but I wanted to get 9 in a coldframe. They do well this way, though.

Here's the lettuce coldframe. I bought a 9-pack of lettuce at a big box store to give me an early crop, and I planted lettuce seeds at the same time. We've been picking the outside leaves off the big plants for the past week, and have just started thinning and eating the small plants.

The tomato plants are emerging from their wall-o-waters. In case of late frost, I drape a towel or undershirt over each one at night. I leave the wall-o-waters in place till the middle of May, when frost danger is long past, because tropical plants like tomatoes prefer warm temperatures at night. The plants are covered with blooms now, and we usually get our first tomatoes by the first of June.
One big thing I've learned about gardening over the years is to till manure, hay, and any available organic matter into the soil every year. In our hot climate, organic matter quickly oxidizes away, and must be replaced every year. I like hay because it's cost-effective, readily available, and is odor-free.
I tried no-till gardening, but it didn't work well for me. If you dump hay or manure on the surface, a certain percentage of the nutrients will leach down with the irrigation water, but most of the organic matter just oxidizes away without providing much benefit. I've learned that it's necessary to incorporate the organic matter and nutrients into the root zone so the plants can make the most effective use of it.
I never tried double digging. It seems like a lot of extra trouble, and I've never seen any research comparing single and double digging. Do the extra yields (if any) provided by double digging compensate for the extra time and labor involved? Inquiring minds want to know. My single-digging method works just fine for me. I have always used a rototiller to do the heavy labor; I already have a sufficiency of heavy labor in my life. I can do all the rototilling for an entire year with 1 or 2 gallons of gasoline -- the equivalent of 2 trips into town. That's a lot of veggies for such a small amount of gasoline. I think we'd all be well advised to spend more time at home, digging in the dirt and eating the fruits of our labor, rather than being such good consumers all the time.

How to Leave a Comment

I’ve had a couple of people request how to leave a comment, so here goes:

1. There’s a line at the bottom of each post that says "0 comments," or however many comments the post has received. Click on the number of comments. Don’t click on the little envelope right next to it.

2. The post will load again, with the comments, if any, at the bottom. At the very bottom is a link saying, "post a comment." Click on this.

3. This will bring you to another page. On the left side will be any comments the post has already received. On the right side is a box entitled "Leave your comment," in which you can write your comment. When you’re through, type in the anti-spam word verification, and choose your identity – if you have a Google account, use that; or post anonymously. Then click the "publish your comment" button, and your comment will be immortalized.

Try it.. it’s not hard, and Jacques could use some company!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Shrine Pictures

Yesterday's post sets the stage for today's selection.

When they rebuilt the shrine, they also built a sidewalk between the road and the shrine. Each concrete slab commemorates a family that helped with the project.

This is what happens when you drive vehicles across an unreinforced concrete slab. It's only six years old, and this is how it looks already. Note to concrete workers everywhere: rebar is your friend. Anything metal will do -- old rusty pipes, pieces of fence wire, etc.

Sheila leads the way to the top. They hauled hundreds of heavy tires up the hill to build the retaining wall.

More sidewalk slabs.

Laura at the doorway.

Virgen de Guadalupe statue.

Silk flowers and family photographs on the altar.

Laura waving through the window. Notice the Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling.

Storage corner. Notice the bags of cement -- there's a lot of concrete work still to do. Being in the line of work I'm in, I'm always attuned to the interface between exaltation and heavy lifting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

La Capilla de Don Silvestro

Back in the 70s, Judy and I had every topo map for our area. One of my hobbies was reading topo maps in search of interesting hiking destinations. On one of my topo maps was the cryptic notation, "La Capilla de Don Silvestro," which in English means "The Chapel of Don Silvestro." Or, "Sly's Shrine." Since the map showed a dirt road leading to it, we inevitably drove there one afternoon, and found a little hilltop shrine, about the size of a large outhouse -- 6x6 feet or so. We liked shrines, still do -- they appeal to the primitive within us. So I've gone up there every few years ever since.

When Laura and I were first married, we went there every year for a while, but eventually fell out of the habit. Monday afternoon we decided to take a little drive to the shrine, since it had been several years since we had been there. Imagine our surprise when we saw a small building on the hilltop where the little shrine used to be!

Here's the view from the road. That's the Black Range in the distance. Everything in the foreground is new -- what used to be a narrow footpath is now a driveway, stabilized by a tire retaining wall. We did a quick calculation and figured out that we hadn't been to the shrine in 10 years! My, how the time has flown... which gives us fair warning of what to expect from the future. Grab it while you can, kids, life gets shorter by the second!

We climbed up to the shrine and went inside. The centerpiece of the shine is a statue of the Santo Nino de Atocha, a popular saint in these parts. Notice how people have left jewelry and other mementos for the saint to hold, and have decorated the statue with silk flowers.

This is my favorite piece of folk art in the shrine, made with glitter glue.

Laura meditating on the floor. There were several lit candles when we arrived, so the shrine receives visitors on a regular basis. The building is about 16x16 feet, with a tile floor. The walls are painted a beautiful shade of sky blue. There are about 15 chairs along one wall, so services are held here. Like all shrines of this type, the walls and altar are covered with religious paintings and statues, flowers, candles, Christmas decorations, family photographs, and handwritten requests for healing and notes of thanks.

The Virgin of Guadalupe was painted on the outside wall earlier this spring.

The view from the top. Those are the Caballo Mountains in the background. The concrete slab in the foreground looks like it was poured by a cement truck; we could not discern its purpose. The concrete retaining walls look like they were poured by crews using a cement mixer. People have gone to a lot of trouble to stabilize the hilltop with concrete and tire retaining walls.
We feel grateful to have discovered such a wonderful example of folk authenticity such a short distance from our home. It seems like the world is drowning in media bullshit, so it's refreshing to encounter such a down-home example of people working together to express their faith.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Our Gift to the Future

2009. North of Hatch, NM

Monday, April 20, 2009


1988. This one looks like hackberry.


Here are a couple of specimens we found along the highway north of our house. This one is a more vivid pink than most saltcedars.

This is a very rare white one. Most saltcedars have light pink flowers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Two Clowns

1983. Truth or Consequences, NM. Jocko (left) and Drano. Another little-known part of my checkered career.

More River Foam

1978. Another good 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. I don't understand why I haven't seen this in recent years. Maybe they're not dumping this particular chemical upstream anymore.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red Lichens

Saltcedars in the Fall

The color of flaming pumpkins.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Plowed Field

1976. Such perfect seed beds! Industrial agriculture loves straight lines.

Another Lichen Rock


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Nature's palette. I've always had a likin' for lichens.

Another Rio Grande Sunrise

Endless variations on the theme.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dried Grasses


Another Mystery Pattern

1978. Scum floating in an oil drum.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thought for Today

It was an aide to President George W. Bush who reportedly coined the phrase “reality-based community,” and he meant it as a disparaging description of sissy liberals who deal with reality on its own terms instead of molding new realities with manly action.

Here’s the thing about redefining reality: you can’t do it. Reality is reality, baby. And all your brilliant ideas and manly sweat and smug self-confidence are plankton to reality’s big Blue Whale.
Reality is that ache in your joints, that sag in your jowls, that crease in your face, that blur in your vision, and that grave in your future.

You can fight it - baby, you can fight it tooth and nail - with aerobics, surgery, and vitamin C, and you can even hold it back for a moment if you’re willing to put out the energy, but it will win in the end. Reality always wins. That’s why we call it reality.

Most people understand this. We have a word for that minority of people who don’t. We call them “crazy.” In fact, a pretty common definition of crazy is “refusing to accept reality.”

-- Max Udargo
Daily Kos
Apr. 14, 2009

Aztec Wall

1999. Aztec Ruins National Monument, NM. This is a very nice section of wall, with its symmetrical vigas and tasty blue accent strip. I'd hire these people to build a wall for me any day.

Rock with Embedded Crystals


Monday, April 13, 2009

Four Corners

1999. Four Corners NM, AZ, UT, CO. A fun concept: the camera, the film, and my head were in four different states when I took this picture.

Cotton Field


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Working the Bees

Taking the hive apart, looking for the queen. She's in there somewhere. The frame grips in my right hand are optional, but the hive tool in my left hand is the one tool all beekeepers use. I carry one in my hand at all times. Everything in a beehive is stuck together with propolis or burr comb, and has to be pried apart, which is what the hive tool is used for. I've noticed that beekeepers in Holly-bee movies, such as Ulee's Gold or The Secret Life of Bees, don't carry hive tools, which is an inauthentic touch. A beekeeper without a hive tool is like a carpenter without a hammer or a plumber without a monkeywrench. But surely we don't depend on Hollywood for our understanding of reality, do we?

Here's a nice pattern picture: "Bees on Frame." Notice the cells full of yellow pollen at the very bottom. Bees have no sense of personal distance -- they are always touching each other. A strong bee colony is a solid mass of bees. This makes it difficult for pests such as wax moths to gain a foothold, except in weak colonies which have dwindled to the point that the bees can no longer cover all the frames.

Blooming Saltcedar

While driving home the other day, we saw this spectacular saltcedar in bloom. So we stopped the car and took a few pictures. Saltcedars are widely variable in their blooming pattern -- some are deep pink, as this one is. Most are light pink, and rarely they can be almost white. Some flower spikes are upright, some are pendulous. This specimen could be propagated and sold as an ornamental.

Here's a bee working the saltcedar flowers. Each flower spike contains dozens of florets, just the right size for a bee. Bees don't store much of a surplus from the early (April) bloom, since the colonies are still building up to full strength, and use the honey for brood-rearing. But they can store quite a bit of surplus from the main bloom, which happens in May-June. The saltcedars continue to bloom sporadically throughout the summer, and hives in favored locations can store saltcedar honey until the end of August. Saltcedar honey has a strong flavor that has its aficionados, although most people prefer milder honeys such as mesquite.

Here's another close-up, minus the bee.