Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sweet Load

Last Saturday we took honey to Farmer's Market, Mountain View Market, Toucan Market, and Lowe's Fiesta Foods. We try not to stock all three grocery stores on the same day but last week the Great Karmic Slot Machine bingoed all at once, so we had to bring a ridiculous amount of honey into town with us. Laura provides a touch of friendly beekeeper vibe.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rattler Runner Revisited

Okay, okay, okay!! Due to an extraordinary response to my post, "She Who Runs With Rattlesnakes," I have consented to revisit the subject and the location. I was sorry that I didn't happen to run across (pun intended) a rattlesnake on that particular run when I was compiling pictures for that post. It seems as if everyone wants to know more about the rattlesnake which I have seen on other runs, but did not see on this run. So, I ventured entrepidly forth unto the Marble Mine Road with my CoolPix determined to document the evidence of snakitude. Well, as snakes are known to be very independent and free thinking, no rattlesnake showed so much as a scale. However, to calm the masses of blog reading fans, I did find a spectacular and harmless big snake draped serenely across the middle of the road.
So, New Earth Timesers, this one's for you!
-- Laura Solberg

Tonuco Wheat Fields

South of Hatch, NM, 1978.

Ripe fields of wheat with Tonuco Peak in the background. Shot in deep twilight.

Another Outrageous Sunrise


Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Creative Use of Plumbing Fixtures


Scorpio Rising

Organ Pipe National Monument, AZ, 1978.

The scoprion snakes its way up the saguaro. Antares, heart of the scorpion, is the bright star nestled in the arms of the saguaro.

Actually, the constellation is named Scorpius, but I called it Scorpio in honor of the 60s cult movie, Scorpio Rising.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Moonset Behind Apache Lake (with duck)


This duck swam by, shattering the reflection of the Moon, right as I snapped the shutter.

Rattlesnake in Tree

Sierra de las Uvas, NM, 1997.

The recent post by She Who Runs With Rattlesnakes reminded me of this photograph I encountered last week while sorting through my archives. This rattlesnake was coiled up in the branches of a mulberry tree in upper Broad Canyon. Notice the rattles and the "coon tail" stripes. I've never seen a rattlesnake in a tree before or since. Since the tree was loaded with ripe fruit, I suspect the snake was there to hunt birds, though I can't imagine how it would be able to strike from so precarious a position. So... a word to the wise -- just because you don't see a rattlesnake on the ground in front of you, don't assume you're safe! Be alert at all times while hiking in the desert!

Thursday, June 25, 2009



Cotton Field

1984. After the fields are harvested, they cut the stalks off at ground level, leaving the unharvested cotton fluff behind.

Monday, June 22, 2009

She Who Runs with Rattlesnakes

This is Laura's picture tour of the Marble Mine Road. Across the road from our house is what we fondly call our back yard, hundreds of square miles of BLM land with a rough gravel, poorly maintained road winding its way up into the desert mountains. Many miles back it runs through an old marble mine. Shelah and I go several miles up and back most every day as a treat to oursouls. I thought I would attempt to recreate it visually.

This is the view looking back towards our house a short way up the road. On the left is the road. On the right is a huge erosion caused arroyo. In the middle background is the shining river with its surrounding green belt and Lonely Mountain.

Here is a swell rock by the road that I call the "cow rock" because it looks like a cow napping in the semi-shade.

These are "useful rocks" anchoring the wire fence. Dig those New Mexico fence posts!

Here is more of the erosion arroyo with tenacious creosote roots showing. Their roots "walk" them to new footholds, usually underground.

Sadly, here is what is at the bottom of the arroyo. Folks use it as a dump for their dead goat carcasses. No telling why they are dead, they look like perfectly good goats when they first show up.

Two more carcasses, one of them got a burial shroud.

This is the view looking up the road at the "Joel Spot." When my son was an ooch and I wanted him to nap I put him in his car seat and drove us up here where he slept peacefully and I tanked up on gumption and grit by reading Joel Goldsmith, The Infinite Way. I love how the bend in the road seems to beckon one on, come hither, it seems to call.

This is the view looking back down towards home from the Joel Spot. The campfire, left by some modern peace seeker, is the exact spot where I parked the car to draw peace from the vista spread out before me.

A sideways view from the road, the mountains are the Robledos. The bushes are creosote, also known as chapparal. They smell like asphalt pavement when they get wet and are very therapeutic.

Pyramid Peak is obvious. Next to it, to the left is Grape Mountain. Not so obviously named for the grapes G and I ate there once when we had hiked them and us all the way up to the top! On the flat top mesa to the left of Pyramid is a miniscule white dot. That is an immigration monitoring electronic device to deter illegals from coming along.

These are soap tree yuccas. The dark flowers on top are last years seed pods. These will get beautiful white bell-like blooms soon.

This is the view into the bottom part of the soap tree yucca. This is the part that gives it its name. Those white curly fibers can be gathered with extreme care (very sharp prickles) and rubbed into a soapy lather good for body, hair or anything else that is dirty. Or so they say......

Remember the name of this epic journey? Did you think I forgot the rattlesnakes? Wasn't that the main reason you stuck with me so far? Yes, there are frequently rattlesnakes up here on the road. They are mostly neutral to Shelah and me, we say hello and ask politely to pass. They go their way and we go ours. As I run or walk I am constantly scanning the road ahead for deviations in the gravel/dirt patterns, which would be a rattler or sometimes harmless but impressive bull snakes. These sticks made me slow down until I saw they were "snakeoids!" I did not see any rattlers this trip, but stay tuned.

This is the fond farewell bird that ushered me off of the Marble Mine Road and back into the personality known as Laura. When I go up I frequently become aware of being able to leave Laura behind with each step I take into wildnerness and away from life as I have created it. Shelah and I always come back restored, refreshed and renewed. In a pinch, G has been known to say to me, "Laura, you just need to go for a run."

-- Laura Solberg

Serene Buddha Dog

Cow Skulls

Cow Skull #1
Sierra de las Uvas, NM, 1978.

Cow Skull #2
Sierra de las Uvas, NM, 1978.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dead Animals




Friday, June 19, 2009

Broken Gravestones

Somehow nothing says "ashes to ashes and dust to dust" quite like a broken gravestone.

Rincon, NM, 1976.

Rodey, NM, 1987.

Moon Goddess

Judy with Full Moon #1. 1975.

Judy with Full Moon #2. 1975.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Lizards Fucking

I know, I should be posting a picture of this, but didn't have my camera with me. I was out in the garden picking a pepper, and I encountered two lizards fucking. The smaller male was riding on top of the female, sort of over to one side. The female remained mobile; she was capable of great speed. This is no doubt a tremendous evolutionary advantage -- stationary fucking lizards are more vulnerable to predators. It made me happy to see an activity that had nothing to do with human reality whatsoever.


A reader of the Gila Sustainability Forum emailed me and requested that I post a bio as part of my column. So I wrote a 600-word synopsis of my saga. (We all have a saga; what's yours?) I'm sure he wanted only a sentence or two, but you know me... everything I write has that mythological quality, and I've got to tell the whole story. I guess I read too much Joseph Campbell at an impressionable age.

Without further fanfare, here it is:

I received a request to explain myself, so here goes:

I have long thought that it would be a nice touch if people would develop the custom of handing out a little bio whenever they met each other. Like a calling card but more extensive. It would speed up the "getting to know you" process. For example, last year a close acquaintance of mine died suddenly. Upon reading his obituary, I realized that we had shared several interests in common that I never knew about. We could have had some great conversations if only we’d known about our mutual interests.

My name is Gordon Solberg. If you say this real fast and slur it a little, it comes out as "Golden Soarbird." This has become an ongoing joke in my family, and I find that "soarbird" makes a good username for a wide variety of applications, including this forum.

My "sustainability saga" began when I was a fledgling planetary astronomer working for Clyde Tombaugh at NMSU. I was doing research on the atmospheric dynamics of the planet Jupiter. But I was also of the age group where I partook of the "sex, drugs, rock and roll" ethos of the era, as well as anti-war protests. I must have gotten a little carried away, because in 1969 the university administration fired me for putting out the campus underground newspaper, The Conscience. The ACLU sued the university on my behalf because my First Amendment rights had been infringed upon, and eventually the university settled out-of-court.

I took my loot and bought my first homestead in the Ozarks, where I lived for 3 years. I missed New Mexico, and moved back to my present microfarm on the bank of the Rio Grande near Radium Springs in 1973, where I have lived ever since.

I am married to Laura Solberg. We support ourselves as beekeepers. We are well-known in the Las Cruces area as the "honey people." Laura is known as the "honey lady" at the Las Cruces Farmer’s Market. I have sold my honey at Organ Mountain Food Co-op since 1977, and have served on the Board of Directors twice.

In addition to beekeeping, I am a serious gardener, orchardist, and builder. I realize that "back to the land" has been considered quaint for many years now; we shall soon see how that turns out. I have always considered myself a pretty hardcore homesteader -- it’s the only way of life that has made sense to me.

Some of you old-timers might remember Dry Country News. I put that out. I also put out Earth Quarterly and Papercrete News. I always got a fair amount of enthusiastic feedback, but always lost too much money to continue. Publishing is a hard business.

Laura and I and another friend started the Las Cruces Peace Vigil in 2002. People are still vigiling today. Later we started a sustainability group, "Living Locally with Less Oil (LLLO) in 2005. I have written many articles for Grassroots Press over the years. I am way to the left of liberal, and a treehugger to boot.

I don’t know if I should even be posting on this forum. I don’t live in the Silver/Mimbres/Gila area, and never will. (It’s a wonderful area, BTW.) I do know a few people in that area, but I’m much more LC oriented, as one would expect. But this forum is the only online sustainability action in the area that I know of, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Why did I start this column? I just wanted to post some of my more soul-oriented stuff. It’s so easy for me to be a hardheaded scientist and businessman. But these writings from the soul have always meant a lot to me, and various people have really liked them over the years. I could just as well post material about various aspects of sustainable living, or about the climate/financial/political/spiritual breakdown that has just barely begin. I could just as well do a column entitled "The Ecopeasant Chronicle" or "Coping with the Crash." But for some reason I felt moved to post my more soul-oriented writings first.

A Sickening Spectacle

Gosh, could it be that the healthcare "debate" in Congress is designed to make us sick, so that we will need expensive, for-profit healthcare?

At any rate, it takes a lot to get me off my ass and communicate with my congresspeople. I assume that, at best, my emails are read by an intern who checks "pro" or "con" on a clipboard.

Of our three congresspeople:

Udall had a liberal voting record in the House, so I hope he'll vote our way.

Teague is an unknown quantity, though he talked a good talk during the campaign.

Bingaman is a corporate hack. I didn't vote for him last time; I voted for nobody. He'll back some mealy-mouthed "compromise."

Without further ado, here's my email to Teague. The others are similar:

Dear Congressman Teague:

I voted for you because you said you would stand up for the "little guy."

I want Single Payer health care, but realize this is off the table because the process is fundamentally corrupt.

What I want is Public Option -- a strong, robust, no-nonsense Public Option that really provides strong coverage. Like the coverage congresspeople get.

People out here are suffering under the domination of the corrupt for-profit insurance companies. It's time for their domination to end.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you're really made of.

Thank you,

Gordon Solberg

With that stiff challenge at the end, I'm sure they're quaking in their boots! But I'm serious about wanting the same "gold plated" health insurance they get.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grape Cage

1982. In order to protect my grapes from birds, I built this grape cage. I used saltcedar uprights, horizontal willow poles, and covered it all with 1" chickenwire. As I smugly awaited my assured harvest, the cage was penetrated by flocks of the smallest birds I have ever seen -- much smaller than sparrows -- who flew right through the wire and devastated my crop. I was so frustrated, I shot dozens of .22 rounds at them with murderous intent. I didn't kill a single bird -- they were so small and moved around constantly.

The next year I gave up, removed the wire, and covered each individual cluster with cloth bags. I have never seen these birds since. I assume they're still here, but they're so small, they never catch my eye.

The grape cage was located where my papercrete office is right now, with me in it, typing on my keyboard.

Orion and Cliff

1979. Somewhere in Arizona. Orion is a good subject because it's a recognizable constellation that rises at a convenient time during the winter.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Greater Depression

Stoneleigh of Automatic Earth says:

"We are headed straight into the teeth of the Greater Depression, which should last many years and should see many of our complex social structures collapse. We will have neither the capital nor the energy to maintain anything like our current standard of living. Credit will be a thing of the past for most people, and access to actual money will be very much diminished as unemployment skyrockets and savings, investments and entitlements are abruptly lost. The effect will be devastating for those with so far to fall."

Sounds a lot of James Howard Kunstler, doesn't it?

It's also what I believe. We will, soon enough, be living in a country with no Social Security, no pensions, no Medicaid, no help from Big Brother of any kind. Because Big Brother (who is owned by the parasite class) will be too broke to help. Which was the intention all along, as we stood idly by.

I concluded some time ago that I was wasting my time sounding any kind of warning, giving financial advice, or posting how-to survival information, because people would simply ignore whatever I had to say. This is why I post mostly pretty pictures with whimsical little captions.

Dove Drama

This pair of White-Winged Doves was waiting for us when we got to Farmer's Market Saturday morning. We assumed it was Mama and baby, but maybe it was Daddy Dove. Evidently the baby had left the nest, and at least one of the parents was still taking care of it. We wondered what was going to happen when the crowds showed up, but before long the baby flew over to a nearby planter filled with vegetation, and the parent soon joined it. Hunkered down, they were nearly invisible. As the morning progressed, thousands of people walked by within a few feet of them.

Five hours later, here they were, still hunkered down. The baby is nearly invisible in the shadow to the left of Mama Dove. Hopefully after everybody was gone they were able to get a nice meal of popcorn and other Farmer's Market leftovers.

Nighthawks on the River

This picture didn't come out as well as I had hoped. The most visible nighthawk looks like a speck of dust above the mountains.

As dusk starts to fall, hundreds of nighthawks congregate over the river, feasting on insects. They swoop hither and thither, and can even hover for a split-second as they snatch a tasty morsel out of the air. They spend most of their time within 3 feet of the water, and sometimes they fly so close to the surface, I don't see how they keep from getting their wings wet.

This is an early-summer "Sign of the Season" for us. It happens every year at this time.

Territorial Mockingbirds

A pair of mockingbirds have a nest somewhere near our house, and for the past week they've been terrorizing our dog Sheila and cat Pearl. It's gotten to the point that Pearl won't even go outside during the daytime. The mockingbirds divebomb her, and taunt her by hopping up and down on the ground right in front of her face, while chirping their alarm call all the while. Even Sheila, who is considerably larger than Pearl, is intimidated. If this is what it takes for them to defend their nest, so be it. I keep telling Sheila and Pearl that it won't last too much longer.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Church at San Lorenzo

The Black Range is the closest bunch of "real mountains," located about 80 highway miles from our home. We've always enjoyed visiting the pine trees and sparkling mountain streams for a change of pace, and have gone there many times over the years. The first town on the other side of the Black Range is San Lorenzo, which has a wonderful little church that's always open during the daytime. Whenever we go over there, we stop in, meditate on a pew for a few minutes, and light a candle. It's a nice little ritual.

Here's the altar, flanked by Jesus and San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence).

Here's the candle room, filled with statues of different saints, the Virgin Mary, etc. You pay your $2.50, light a candle, and put it in front of your favorite statue. There are wooden stands so you can kneel and pray if you want. The candles put out a lot of heat; the room is very warm during the summertime.

Here's a close-up of an icon in the candle room.
BTW I'm not Catholic, don't believe the ideology, and consider the Catholic Church as an institution, like most large institutions, to be irredeemably corrupt. With its anti-birth control policy, it is helping to destroy the planet, and consigning its peasant faithful to miserable lives of poverty.
I relate to the more primitive aspect: the little old ladies praying in the pews with their rosaries; the mothers lighting candles for their soldier sons or sick relatives. This is behavior I can relate to. I may be different from them, but I'm still a primitive myself.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Adobe Water Tower

An adobe water tower?!? I've never heard of such a thing. I've been in Hillsboro countless times, but have never seen this before. I wish I could inspect it up close, and maybe go inside. Even though I have a picture of it, it's hard to believe it really exists. Surely there's a wooden framework inside the adobe? I mean, most large adobe structures require buttresses to keep them from cracking. Adobe can easily support the weight of the water (8000 pounds or so), but if the tower was even slightly out of plumb, the adobe would crack.

The tower is evidently pretty old -- most of the original plaster has fallen off, the wooden beams at the top are rotting, and water is eating into the adobe in a couple of spots. This tower deserves to be placed on a register of historical structures.

Cholla Flower and Bee

Near Berrenda Creek. That's not a honeybee.

Blooming Agave

On the road to Berrenda Creek. Laura scrambled down a hillside to get some pictures of this magnificent specimen.


We encountered these flowers in the Uvas Valley yesterday on our drive to the Black Range and San Lorenzo. They're growing in a dry lake bed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


1987. In 1983 I built a couple of deluxe coldframes, that worked very well. The one in front was 16 feet long, and the one in back, which is still there, is 8 feet long. Notice how I painted the inside white to reflect the light back onto the plants. The lids are covered with corrugated fiberglass, and were propped open during the day to keep the plants from overheating.

In southern NM and wherever daytime winter temperatures usually get above freezing, a transparent cover is not necessary. An opaque lid is stronger and cheaper. Merely open the lid during the daytime and let the sun shine directly onto the plants. A well-designed coldframe is inexpensive, will last for years, and will quickly pay for itself with the winter veggies it produces. I highly recommend coldframes for gardeners who want year-round food production.

Excess Enthusiasm

1984. At age 38, I was still very much the young immortal, and could work all day long without getting tired. This picture shows a little of what I used to do with all that time and energy. I would shred bales of alfalfa hay in my electric shredder, and dump 5-gallon buckets of shredded hay evenly across the garden before tilling it in. I had a wonderful garden, that's for sure! These days, I just walk back and forth across the garden, crumbling the hay as I go. This is a lot easier and faster, and works just as well.