Friday, July 31, 2009

Tales from the Goat Path

For the past month I've been posting my stories and essays on the Gila Sustainable Community Forum, which is based in Silver City, but also includes outlying areas like the Mimbres River and Gila River valleys. I'm on the fringe (as one would expect), but spiritually I've always been oriented towards the Black Range/Gila Wilderness area, not Las Cruces.

My column is called Tales from the Goat Path, and includes the edited and improved versions of my stories and blog posts. My posts have gotten up to 66 reads, which is probably more than this blog gets. Sometimes the posts even get comments. My favorite one mentions soarbird (my online alias), "whose writings are funny, beautiful, educational, and also uplifiting." Way to stroke my ego, I appreciate it!

You don't have to join the forum to read the posts, but you have to join to comment or make posts of your own. Joining is simple and takes but a couple of minutes. Readers of this blog who live in southwest New Mexico might want to check the Forum out.

Spouting Off

I wrote to my Congressman again. I keep these letters short because Congressmen are very busy, and have short attention spans:

Dear Harry,

Regarding your support of PAYGO:

How come there is always unlimited money for the military: needless war, needless boondoggle weapons systems, etc.?

How come there is always unlimited money for Wall Street bailouts with no oversight whatsoever?

How come everybody else has to pay as they go?

Please let me know about this. I am sick and tired of a Congress that doesn't address the fundamental corruption that is destroying our nation.

Thank you,

Gordon Solberg
Radium Springs, NM

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Is Good To Know About Bees

There are three different kinds of honey bees in a hive of 50,000. There is one queen. She is the mother of every other bee. The queen is "grown" by the hive when the old queen is failing (not laying enough good eggs) or dead. The other bees know when this has happened because of pheromones - the chemical indicators that bees rub on each other when they touch (which they do all the time with 50,000 in one small space, they move like a Rubik's cube, one moves so all the others have to move). The bees surrounding the queen pass along her smell to the waves of bees constantly in motion around her. When a new queen is indicated the workers are stimulated hormonally to produce royal jelly and feed it to a few already-laid worker bee eggs. This turns the egg, which would have hatched out to be a normal infertile worker bee, into a queen bee egg, a bee capable of laying 2,000 eggs a day for two years.

The first queen to hatch out goes to the other queen eggs and stings the others to death. The queen honey bee is the only one who has an unbarbed stinger, allowing her to sting repeatedly without dying. The female workers have barbs like fish hooks on their stingers. When a worker stings, she embeds her hooked stinger which rips out her venom sac and innards, and she dies. The new queen flies out of the hive and mates with every drone (male) she finds. When she is filled with sperm, the queen returns to her hive and remains there for the rest of her life, laying eggs. In this she is well cared for by the second kind of bee, the worker bees.

All worker bees are female. Every single bit of work done in the bee world is done by females - tending the queen, feeding eggs, caring for larvae, producing, cleaning out and repairing honey comb, defending the hive, foraging for nectar and pollen - all done by females.

Which brings us to the third kind of honey bee - the drone. A drone is a smidge bigger than a worker with a squared off end on his abdomen. This is because he has no stinger. Drones can be handled with no possibility of being stung. All a drone can do is walk around in the hive eating honey and pollen, and flying around looking for a queen to mate with. After he mates, he dies. Due to the relative scarcity of flying virgin queens, most drones never find one and die virgins themselves.
Now here is the really cool part about what I just told you. All these kinds of bees are absolutely necessary for the survival of the hive. Any one kind of bee alone or even a group of one kind is dead, unsustainable, can have no hope for survival. They all need each other and the functions they perform to go on living. Any one bee or bee group "knows" that it does not have a life separate and apart from the life force which created, maintains and sustains it. The honey bee, be it queen, worker or drone, experiences itself as its entire hive. A honey bee lives and dies not for him/herself, but for the greater survival of the whole hive.
I find a lesson here for myself. Am I somehow connected to the planet and my fellow sentients by the seemingly miraculous force of life which provides for all my needs to be met? Can I see everyone else's survival as somehow significant for my own?
-Laura Solberg-

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Easily Swallowed Tale of Two Bridges

Once upon a time it was 1933. There was a tiny community consisting of Radium Springs (named for the healing radium in the hot spring waters), Leasburg (famous for the whore house that serviced the Fort Selden soldiers), and Fort Selden (famous as the Indian fighting fort where MacArthur was a little guy dressed in a dress. This community sprawled around the Rio Grande and at one spot, crossed it. A two lane timber and beam bridge was constructed to span the river and served car, foot, bicycle and horse traffic. It made a bee-line (straight) across from one point of the road to the other.

Some time about 75 years later, county engineers came along and declared the old bridge to be inadequate and unsafe and designed a new metal one to replace the old one. The tiny community mustered, research was conducted, papers drawn up. The old bridge officially became an "Historic Bridge," signed and protected. So the new bridge was built next to the old one, with a gentle jog in the bee-line of the road. People can still walk, bicycle and fish on the old bridge.

Here is a view of the Historic Bridge on the left and the new bridge on the right with the river flowing under both of them:

Also from the lower level of the old bridge one can see graceful swallows (upper right of picture), who have constructed mud nests (the brown line in the center of the picture) all along the underside of the bridge. They raise babies and come and go in swooping masses, eating bugs.

Be sure to stay tuned for a pictorial tour of Radium Springs/Leasburg/Fort Selden coming soon to New Earth Times.
-Laura Solberg-

Monday, July 27, 2009

Walking Roots

Creosote is one of the desert survivor plants. The polite name for it is chaparral, but we desert rats call it what it is--creosote. It has a method of living in very dry areas. It lives mostly underground. It has a huge network of roots under the sandy dry soil. Every few feet the roots put up a plant into the open sunlight. It looks like a separate individual plant. What it really is is an outward expression of a deeper root system, the same reality as its brother and sister plants surrounding it. A family of personalities all sharing the same inner truth, the same inner life force. Not separate at all. The outer appearance is deceiving. To reveal the truth one must look below the surface. So, sometimes when conditions erode soil away from the roots, one can see the roots of a creosote moving to populate new territory. Life pressing, life living, life reproducing.
-Laura Solberg-

Why do the Latinos get all the good names?

Homemade concrete gravestone, 1977.

(Posted for the Ascensionites in the audience.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Almost Over the Hump

Years ago, summer used to be my favorite time of year, but no more. These days, winter is my favorite season. Sometimes summer seems to drag on forever, but by the first of August, the sun rises noticeably later than on the solstice. Winter's on its way.

Even so, August is a challenging month. It's hot, humid, mosquito-y, and my work load hits a maximum -- irrigation, harvesting honey, and trying to keep the weeds under control.

I've developed a couple of psychological tricks to convince myself that summer isn't really all that bad. For one, I remember that the last of the residual winter cold doesn't finally burn off until June, which means that dawn remains pleasantly cool until summer is well-established. In addition, I remember that dawn starts to cool off again by early September, when we once again have enough hours of darkness for the temperatures to drop substantially at night.

So really, the worst of summer only lasts from early June till sometime in early September. That's not so bad, is it? Or so I like to tell myself.

Corrugated Graffiti


Friday, July 24, 2009

Elephant Butte at Dawn

Sitting in the middle of Elephant Butte Lake.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Laura at Southwest Sangha, San Lorenzo, NM.


On the inside of a solar collector.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Butterfly on Thistle

It's that time of year: flowers, butterflys, mosquitoes...

Emerging Cicada

After a cicada emerges from the ground, it rests quietly while its wings unfurl.
Then it's ready to fly away and do whatever cidadas do. Probably, mate and die.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sphinx Moth

On a butterfly bush. The wings beat so fast they blur, creating a ghostly effect.

With a Dianthus.


Lurking in a sage plant.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Garden Update

Hot days, warm nights, and plenty of irrigation water make for a bountiful garden. On the left, the tomato plants are 6 feet tall and loaded with tomatoes which we've been freezing and canning. On the right is a cucumber vine that his filled its tower. On the far right is a double row of pepper plants.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Banana Monkey Boy and Banana Monkey Girl

This happened in 1983. I was at Faywood Hot Springs when I met Banana Monkey Girl and her little brother, Banana Monkey Boy. Earlier that afternoon, I had taken some prime cannabis and a minor dose of magic mushrooms, and soaked in the hot pool until I dissolved into a ball of giggles. This lasted for about half an hour. Later I laughed and laughed for a long time. I felt good.

Then I climbed out of the pool and up into a large mulberry tree which was loaded with ripe fruit. I climbed out on various limbs like a monkey and ate wild mulberries. Then I returned to the pool for several more hours. Darkness came, and with the darkness came strange carloads of the kind of people who haunt hot springs at night. One of these carloads contained Banana Monkey Boy and Banana Monkey Girl.

I didn’t really notice them until they were already in the pool beside me. Like mutual magnets, our spheres of interaction tended to merge. Banana Monkey Boy was eating a banana. “I’m a banana monkey,” he said. So that’s how I started calling him Banana Monkey Boy. “I sank down to the bottom of the pool once and they thought I was dead,” he said. Banana Monkey Boy was 7 years old and his sister, Banana Monkey Girl, was 9. They were acting sort of strange. “Are you drunk?” I asked. “Yes,” said Banana Monkey Girl, “our parents let us get drunk sometimes.”

My memory hazes out after that. I fade away. The signal has been lost. All I can remember is that we soaked together in the hot water without saying too much, just sharing a sense of communion. It seemed appropriate somehow -- two drunk kids and a spaced cowboy.

Puff Grass


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nano with Branding Iron

In the cowboy shack at Alamo Well in the Sierra de las Uvas, 1975.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yee Haw!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Bedsprings as Art

Tucson, AZ, 1977.

Dave with his unique wall hanging.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I've grown dozens of kinds of flowers over the years, but for some reason portulaca was never on my radar screen until this year. All of a sudden I noticed their attractive jewel-like colors, and decided to give them a try. They're doing very well:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pollen Orgy

Honeybee in a Mexican Primrose.

Uninvited Guest

Guess what we found in our kitchen sink yesterday morning? We scooped it into a cup and released it next to the pond.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The White Dove of Peace Has Decended

Isn't she a beauty? Honestly, she just showed up here, decended from heaven or someone's wedding. Seeing her leg band and her reluctance to leave and her total vulnerability being on the ground, I called Animal Control and a nice young man came and gently took her to the bird rescue people. You can't see in this picture, but she had a hinkey wing that prevented her from flying home. Good luck and many blessed thanks White Dove!

-Laura Solberg-

Thursday, July 09, 2009

James Lovelock, Optimist

On July 7, posted an article about global heating. The title says it all: "The Dark Side of Climate Change: It's Already Too Late, Cap and Trade Is a Scam, and Only the Few Will Survive." I've reached a similar conclusion in recent years, and the evidence continues to mount. In short, we're fucked. But then again, haven't we always been? (I need to update my "Living Without Hope" post. Because regardless of the outward circumstances, nothing has changed ontologically. Anything existing in the space-time manifold is doomed. It's all temporary, except for whatever lies at the root of all-this. But I digress.)

I've been frustrated about how the climate scientists continue to make projections of future climate without factoring in the gigatons of Arctic methane now being released into the atmosphere. Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, so the obvious conclusion is that -- in due time -- we will experience out-of-control global heating. Just because we can't yet quantify this effect doesn't mean the climate scientists can ignore it. But they do. Our entire global "civilization" suffers from the "don't worry, be happy" delusion, and this evidently includes most of the scientists. If we ignore the future, then maybe it will go away, or so goes the delusion. Nobody wants to step forward and be the first to say that we're screwed. Or almost nobody.

Enter 90-year-old James Lovelock, founder of the Gaia Theory, which holds that the entire planet serves as a vast organism whose function is to maintain an equilibrium favorable to life. He calls this organism "Gaia." I remember reading about this in the 70s and thinking wow, how elegant. Back then it was still possible to believe in Ecotopia, and the Gaia Theory became a key underpinning of our living-in-harmony-with-nature philosophy. So I have always held Lovelock in high regard.

Lately he's been one of the few scientists warning about out-of-control global heating. According to the Alternet article (written by Alexander Zaitchik), "In recent years Lovelock has emerged as the word's leading climate pessimist, raining scorn on the new fashionable environmentalism and arguing that the time is nigh to accept that a massive culling of the human race is around the corner... Lovelock, who has been compared to Copernicus and Darwin, years ago arrived at a disturbingly stark conclusion about Earth's climate future. His prognosis is now starker than ever... Lovelock believes that we have pushed Gaia beyond the point of no return...

"Lovelock examines five dreaded positive feedback loops, those processes now underway that at some point will become ferocious amplifiers of global heating. Lovelock describes how the most important of these feedback loops already in motion -- the loss of reflective ice cover, the death of carbon eating algae as oceans warm, and methane released by thawing permafrost -- will soon accelerate the heating trend underway, leading to sudden and dramatic shifts in global climate."

In my view, there's no way to say at this point what the outcome will be. I think there's a reasonable chance that our planet will become a second Venus -- too hot for life of any kind. Lovelock believes -- or professes to believe -- that a remnant of the human race will survive in the far northern hemisphere. I think he's trying to leave his audience with some small shred of hope... if in fact human survival constitutes "hope." The fact is, nobody, including Lovelock, knows what the final outcome will be. But if we want to indulge in wishful thinking, why not? No harm done. It's gotten us this far, after all.

Madonna and Child

Moody, Mo, 1973.

Judy and Sue; Sue had fallen asleep during a drive through the countryside.

Let's Shake On It

It's a deal then? I really am dead?

Another broken gravestone, 1976.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009



Guess the name of this adorable fellow and become eligible to win fabulous prizes! Prizes will be announced when the winning submissions have been recorded, tallied and verified for accuracy and authenticity. Winners will be notified by email. All persons who knowingly already know the name of this dog are disqualified. Only guesses count. Any attempt to defraud the judges will be met with severe response. This should be fun guys! What do you think this little guy's moniker really is? Come on now, give it your best shot. Generally funny consolation prizes will be awarded to completely wrong or out of line guesses. Everyone wins who plays. Let your imagination run amok. Enter as many times as you wish. All entries will be considered. Deadline for submissions is whenever the judges think the hilarity has gone on long enough.


-Laura Solberg-

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I used to call myself progressive. Now I just call myself fucked."

-- el gallinazo
The Automatic Earth

Green Manure

"Green manuring" is the process of growing cover crops, and plowing them under to add nutrients and tilth to the soil. I don't have to plant cover crops, because the weeds automatically provide that service for me. (A single grass plant can produce hundreds -- and in some cases thousands -- of seeds.)

This is a view of my garden from the Ark. The left third will be this winter's garden (lettuce, spinach, beets, kale, chard, collards, etc.). The middle third, now fallow, will be next summer's garden. The right third is this summer's garden, to be fallow next year. The left third has an amazing amount of arugula, which went to seed this spring and scattered far and wide when I tilled it under. The middle third is mostly grass, with a lot of squash in the foreground.

Here's the "after" picture. The left third tilled pretty well, but the middle third will have to be retilled after the garden dries out a little. (The weather forecast is no rain, and temperatures in the low 100s, so it won't take long.) The grass and squash were too tall, and the soil was too wet for effective tilling. Next cycle I'll till it when the grass is no more than a foot tall. (It was about 2 feet tall this time.)

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Milli Rattler Runner

You New Earth Timesers are a wild bunch! Due to the overwhelming interest in the escapades of She Who Runs with Rattlesnakes and her faithful canine friend Shelah, I ventured forth once again to the Marble Mine Road with my Coolpix camera. This was the day after we had received 1.3 inches of rain, which brings out another snakelike group of Earthhabitants--the millipedes. There are small, medium and large ones. This is a large specimen, about six inches long with a million soft, undulating, non-stop legs. They are very dangerous to attempt to photograph because they are in constant motion and they move fast, making it difficult to get a picture of both front end and back end. They are however, harmless, amusing and tickly to hold.

I am reminded of a song we used to sing to our toddler son many years ago......
"Said the thousand legged worm,
As she began to squirm,
Has anybody seen a leg of mine?
(Leg of mine?)
For if it can't be found,
I shall have to hop around
On the other
Nine hundred ninety nine!"

So that's it for this run up the Marble Mine road. I am sorry to report that I missed the picture of two very large tarantulas (one black, one brown), wrestling. I will respond to private inquiries as to what happened to make me miss that shot.

-- Laura Solberg

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Teapot Pouring Milky Way Into The Rio Grande


This constellation is Sagittarius the Archer, which looks like a teapot. The center of our galaxy is just to the right of the constellation. As it sets, the teapot looks like it's pouring Milky Way onto the horizon. This picture was made after they had turned the river off for the year, so it's mostly sandbar, but you can see a star reflection in the remaining water at bottom-center.

Water Droplets


This is dew that condensed onto a sheet of foil-faced insulating sheathing. It's fascinating how surface tension pulls the moisture into droplets that are almost exactly the same distance apart.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Drink Deeply!

California, 1977.

I can't resist pictures like this.

A Crack Like Lightning


To prevent cracking of concrete slabs, I recommend rebar. Also, it's best to apply a silicone sealer, and renew it as necessary.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hatch Valley Irrigation Ditch


Orion with Clouds


Thin clouds add a feeling of depth.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Goat's Head Soup


Sue used to help me with slaughtering animals. She would grab the bunnys' ears and stretch their necks over the block while I chopped. A close relationship with the death they wreak is beneficial for all carnivores.

Hillbilly Heaven

Moody, Missouri, 1971.

Here we are -- Judy, Sue and I -- after we'd been on our Missouri homestead for nearly a year. We were about to leave for what would turn out to be my last job -- at the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I lasted 5 months. Actually I quit after 2 months, but my boss got me to stay and train my successor.

When we got back, I moved our trailer against the wall on the right side of the photo, and rebuilt the room we're sitting in. This was my first big carpentry job.