Tag Archives: United States

Life is a Ditch: Acequia de Llano San Juan de Nepomuceno

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photograph, J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010)

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

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Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano.  Water rights since 1789 (Photograph by Taos Properties).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Rio Santa Barbara Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph and data by Taos Properties).

(This new post derives from my previous post, “Not mine, not yours, but ours:  Penasco Upper Llano acequias,” October 2011.)

From Amarillo, Texas, I drove to northern New Mexico in 1968.  I traveled by way of Las Vegas, Mora, and Penasco, making camp along the upper watershed of the Rio Santa Barbara for a few days.  I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by residents and survey crews, but the long lots reflected a community, a meshing of rural families alongside a water greenbelt.  In later anthropological field trips, I took my Amarillo College students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who brought laws respecting community water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other long lots of community property.

This particular piece of property with the house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Several good books and narratives have been written about the acequia culture.  Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that attracts me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year for politicians.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I do not romanticize the acequia culture because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits.  Nonetheless, there exists an association of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant needing water that flourishes from the earth.  Having an acequia culture forces upon us the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision, and we will meet again.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.  Water is life, and in this case, Life is a Ditch.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

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Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Taos

Rio de Pueblo

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As I traveled this week from Mingus, Texas, to Taos, New Mexico, I stopped in the Kit Carson National Forest, alongside the Flechado Day Campground that bordered the Rio Pueblo seen above. The water was cold, flowing, gurgling, clear.

Back home today at my ranchita in Texas, I filled water troughs with Barton Creek Coop water so that my last horse of the remuda I once husbanded can have water to drink in addition to the cow tank that is the lowest I have ever seen.

I placed cedar posts in all three of the water troughs–stable, corral, far field round trough–so that squirrels when they fall into the water while slacking their thirst can have something to climb onto and escape a watery grave.  Three squirrels have drowned in the stable water trough and a roadrunner was nearly drowned when I pulled him out several years ago.

Rio Pueblo, Barton Creek, and my water trough in the far field proffer life.  I accept the gift.  When the animals of this semi-arid region accept a gift of water, I can, at least, make sure that it is not their last benefit.

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Filed under Salt Creek, Taos

George Catlin, Prairie Meadows Burning (1832)

George Catlin (1796-1872), Prairie Meadows Burning, 1832, 11 x 14.13 in., Smithsonian

Lately, some of my blogger friends have had fires break out near their cabins, farms and ranches.  George Catlin (1796-1872) in Prairie Meadows Burning (1832), portrays the flight of people on horseback from fire.

Three days ago, fire erupted thirty miles to the north of my place, near Possum Kingdom Lake.  It has been mostly put under control at this time.

(See another post of mine about George Catlin:  ‘The Day I Saw the George Catlins.’)

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Filed under Horses, Wildfire

Flora funeral: Silphium and Liatris

The pews shine with furniture polish as the funeral ceremony approaches all too soon, I am afraid.  We have read the obituary either on the internet or in the strange pulp we call newspaper.  There was an accident, no, that’s not quite correct.  There occurred an intentional erasure of a Silphium and Liatris beside a highway as the road expanded to carry cargo from Cathay to London and places in between.   They had to go, making way for trucks, cars and commerce.  In another county, these two species of wildflowers were literally mowed down to accommodate fields of bermuda grass for cattle grazing.  Man and his machines with an ideology of progress cut these plants from our world.

At the flora funeral, I settle in the pew, way at the back because I want to leave as soon as the sermonizing begins, for I know that in some corner of a county road, a cemetery, an abandoned field, there are survivors and I want to find them and stand guard against their enemies.  The parson begins, “We come here today to honor two beautiful friends, Silphium and Liatris, that unfortunately were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  He continues and I slip out the back….

I shall find Silphium’s relatives, the kin of Liatris, somewhere on the back roads of America.  I know I will discover them, for mankind cannot be so cruel as to grind under every beautiful blossom in the name of progress.  I will, and many others will, stand as sentinel, protecting their existence from unthinking blades of technology.

* * *

For several years, Aldo Leopold monitored a tract of Silphium near a Wisconsin graveyard as mowers came closer and closer, year by year, eventually cutting it down.

Silphium

Every July I watch eagerly a certain country graveyard that I pass in driving to and from my farm. It is time for a prairie birthday, and in one corner of this graveyard lives a surviving celebrant of that once important event.

It is an ordinary graveyard, bordered by the usual spruces, and studded with the usual pink granite or white marble headstones, each with the usual Sunday bouquet of red or pink geraniums. It is extraordinary only in being triangular instead of square, and in harboring, within the sharp angle of its fence, a pin-point remnant of the native prairie on which the graveyard was established in the 1840’s. Heretofore unreachable by sythe or mower, this yard-square relic of original Wisconsin gives birth, each July, to a man-high stalk of compass plant or cutleaf Silphium, spangled with saucer-sized yellow blooms resembling sunflowers. It is the sole remnant of this plant along this highway, and perhaps the sole remnant in the western half of our county. What a thousand acres of Silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered, and perhaps not even asked.

This year I found the Silphium in first bloom on 24 July, a week later than usual; during the last six years the average date was 15 July.

When I passed the graveyard again on 3 August, the fence had been removed by a road crew, and the Silphium cut. It is easy now to predict the future; for a few years my Silphium will try in vain to rise above the mowing machine, and then it will die. With it will die the prairie epoch.

The Highway Department says that 100,000 cars pass yearly over this route during the three summer months when the Silphium is in bloom. In them must ride at least 100,000 people who have ‘taken’ what is called history, and perhaps 25,000 who have ‘taken’ what is called botany. Yet I doubt whether a dozen have seen the Silphium, and of these hardly one will notice its demise. If I were to tell a preacher of the adjoining church that the road crew has been burning history books in his cemetery, under the guise of mowing weeds, he would be amazed and uncomprehending. How could a weed be a book?

This is one little episode in the funeral of the native flora, which in turn is one episode in the funeral of the floras of the world. Mechanized man, oblivious of floras, is proud of his progress in cleaning up the landscape on which, willy-nilly, he must live out his days. It might be wise to prohibit at once all teaching of real botany and real history, lest some future citizen suffer qualms about the floristic price of his good life.

 — Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac (1948).

* * *

Elaine Lee, a friend of mine, wrote me about Liatris, her narrative quite similar to Leopold’s Silphium, as you can read for yourself:

Purple Gayfeather, Liatris

Just this morning as I was driving to work I noticed about 150-100 yards west of the abandoned oil storage tank east of Putnam, there is a field full of purple flower spikes.  I think, just from seeing them while driving eastbound, that they may be purple Gayfeather, or Liatris.  The only other time I have seen Liatris in the wild, it was called to my attention by a Texas Master Gardener and she was doing her best to protect a very small stand in Clyde, near the cemetery.  According to her they are not extremely common in this area.  I had never seen them before, but I think the purple color of these plants, plus the fact that it was after many other wildflowers had bloomed that she made me aware of them and this particular field could be the same.  If so, it is a very large cluster in a good-sized field.  The habitat was very similar to that of the small cluster I saw in Clyde — an open field, not attended, and not plowed or mowed for probably many years.   Just the right amount of sunshine and rain coming at just the right time.

— E-mail of Elaine Lee to Jack Matthews, May 21, 2012.

I will seek out the Liatris as soon as possible, photograph it and write about its presence in west Texas.  I don’t like going to funerals and neither do my friends.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Excerpt of Aldo Leopold from: http://gargravarr.cc.utexas.edu/chrisj/leopold-quotes.html

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Filed under Wild Flowers of Texas

Orange milkweed, not globemallow

Please note the change of identification from 7:00 a.m. to 3:11 p.m.  I thought you might like the changing process of classification.

Composed at ca. 7:00 a.m. this morning, before field trip

The hunt is on again for identifying a wildflower, but this time the plant in question falls outside the ranchito and does not fit into my project of cataloging wildflowers on my land.

Yesterday afternoon at about Mile Marker 352 on the south side of Interstate 20, I saw a bush-clump of brilliant orange-scarlet flowers.  I have never seen such brilliance.  Hurrying to the ranchito and my office, I combed page-by-page my wildflower identification books and at least five websites that classify flowers.  I may have found the answer, but I cannot with a lot of confidence conclude the flowers to be the Caliche globemallow or Scarlet globemallow and I have had to reverse my classifications before — I once identified the Wine Cup as a Desert Mariposa — so, I must go up the hills to my west tomorrow and find the flowers again.  Elaine Lee and her mother have recently seen ‘neon-orange flowers’ near Putnam, Texas, on Interstate 20.

In reflecting on the Scarlet globemallow (?), I may have seen a family’s roadside memorial marker with orange plastic flowers wrapped around a cross?

Composed at ca. 3:11 p.m. after field trip to photograph

I combined a trip to the First National Bank of Santo at Mingus, Texas, with a field excursion up on top of Ranger Hill (Mile Marker 352) to photograph this flower.  I thought I had it down as a Scarlet globemallow even though I flew by the plant at 70 m.p.h.  I made two trips by the flower before I turned into the grass along side Interstate 20.  There was no access road nearby so I turned on my emergency blinkers.  I discovered five clumps of the plant and its blossoms as trucks shot by. 

Of course, I am self-conscious at the side of an Interstate taking pictures of wildflowers:  What the hey am I doing here?  A few truckers blow their horn.

I admit I am so curious about this plant and flower that I spend $8.00 in diesel fuel going up the hill from where I live to get close to this flower and photograph.  That’s ‘What the hey am I doing there.’  Secondly, what the hey is that flower doing there?  Too many questions with not enough answers, so I drive back to the ranchito, eat a ham sandwich and upload the pics and begin to compare the blossoms with Scarlet globemallow.  Totally different blossoms, totally different plants.

This search, I think, is going to go on for a long, long time.  So, I pick up my first manual, and on page 16 of Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller’s Texas Wildflowers is the Orange milkweed also known as Butterflyweed, Butterfly milkweed, Orange milkweed or Pleurisy root.  That was fast.

I have Green milkweed on the ranchito, but no Orange milkweed.  I am curious as to the medicinal properties of the Orange milkweed.  And, what is pleurisy?  I remember hearing it as a boy:  I’ve got some pleurisy this morning, Little Jack.  I think it must be some sort of joint pain?  In any case, I am confident as to the classification and it is a brilliant, showy blossom known as Orange milkweed.

Many county roads meander about my area.  I think my next trip will be up the road for 15 miles or so where my mail carrier habitually sees a bobcat cross the road.  There be things to discover and photograph up the road, up the hill and into nature’s wonders.  I do believe it so.

 

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Filed under Wild Flowers of Texas

Ranchito blossoms: Flowers of Flying Hat (14-19)

In my continuing task of photographing all different species of blossoms for one year on Flying Hat Ranchito (less than 2560 acres in western America), I have six new pictures to post, only two have I identified.  I thought it better to start posting the ranchito blossoms even though identification is lacking because I don’t want to archive these beautiful plants and I think posting the unidentified will stimulate me to do further research, or possibly you-as-reader have a quick classification in mind.

This time last year, my posts focused on the wildfires and drought.  Today, pastures are green — there is some browning already — and county fire bans in my area are lifted.

14. Milkweed

15. Nightshade

16. Texas vervain (Verbena halei)

17. Unknown

18. Unknown

19. Annual Phlox, periwinkle

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Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat, Wild Flowers of Texas, Wildfire

Rain comes, chores follow

For the last two days, rain has fallen, perhaps as much as three inches.  My rain gauge cracked and I estimate the amount cautiously.  Replacing the rain gauge is a task ahead of me.  Weather forecasters — I listen to the Dallas-Fort Worth NBC television station — say the rain will stop by tomorrow.  My water tank appears up by several inches, although it is too muddy to trudge down to verify.

The plow follows the rain.  That’s an old adage.  Here’s another one: Chores follow the rain.  Right at the top of the list of my chores is to perform foundation dirt work on the alleyway and barn area.  Water runs off the barn roof and into the alleyway and horse stall.  In addition, I have to transport my Case DX-55 tractor to the repair shop to fix the linkage to the PTO (power train operation) so that I can do another chore.  I have to shred some sprouting mesquites in the fields with the tractor and shredder.  Until the rain subsides and sun dries the soil a bit, I am at ease in the ranch house.

Here is a photograph of rain puddles in front of the barn.

Here is the rain runoff in front of barn. Notice Star on the right side of the tack room.

The runoff from the barn roof floods the alleyway. This is a chore to follow the rain.  Notice the green trees and grass in the background.

The alleyway and stalls will need more foundation after the area dries.

This next week is Spring Break.  I’ll be marking a few tasks off my list.  My list of chores is not long, so maybe I will put one chore on a page rather than list the whole congregation of tasks on one page.  That way I can see one task at a time, or one task on one page at a time.  Pace myself, as my step-father used to say.  He did not say much, but that was an ‘adage’ I remember he said.

The list:

1. Construct dirt foundation for alleyway and stalls.

2. Change tire on flatbed trailer so I can haul tractor to repair shop.

3. Take tractor to repair shop and return.

4. Shred mesquite sprouts.

5. Replace rain gauge.

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Filed under Rain, Weather

Flowers of Flying Hat (5): Ground plum, not yummy

Yesterday evening as I came back a different path from the barn after feeding Star, I discovered this flowering plant, the Ground plum, milkvetch.  I spent over an hour perusing field books until I identified Ground plum.  I nailed the identification when I corroborated a field book description with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website.  Depending upon the species of Astragalus, some members are poisonous, but this species is not.  Even so, Ground plum is not a yummy plant although its fragrance is lovely — somewhat spicy I believe.

5. Ground plum, milkvetch (Astragalus crassicarpus?). March 3, 2012, southeast second-level terrace. See: http://www.wildflower.org/gallery/result.php?id_image=9002; Wills and Irwin, p. 138, especially.

I discovered a new link for plants: University of Michigan-Dearborn Native American Ethnobotany.  You must check this out for medicinal uses of plants.

This medicinal use of plants starts me thinking.  I may set aside an area in the barn to harvest some of these plants.  I already have a request for bull nettle to be sent up to Wisconsin for an indoor greenhouse.  Don’t let the bull nettle go outside!

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Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat, Wild Flowers of Texas

The 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging

The Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 is given for fine writing, photography and art in the blogosphere.  From my blogroll, I select a post, photograph or art piece from 2010-2011, early 2012.   For each comment that is entered on this ‘The 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging’ post, I will donate a buck ($1.00) to a wildlife corridor in Texas or New Mexico.  I set a limit of $100.00 — not that I am going to have more than fifty comments, but who knows?

I have excerpted portions of these fine writings and art into my post in respect for their blogs and copyright.  Please click on the links to obtain the full text of these really fine bloggers.

Please feel free to copy the Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 design-image and put it on your blog to link back to this post or to one of the blogs below.  (No, I’m not trying to pump up my numbers, just trying to illustrate the high quality of work performed on blogosphere.)

[Wild Bill, Wild Ramblings blog, ‘Conifer Encounter.’…On the way back I asked him, and this was one of the few times I had spoken, how he knew so much about the woods. He answered that he was a biology professor at Springfield College, but had grown up in the pine barrens in New Jersey. He surmised that most of his knowledge he had learned as a boy wandering those Mid-Atlantic swamps, coupled with reading a lot of books about nature. And then he laughed out loud, almost in a boisterous way. “And once I met an old man in the woods,” he declared, and he laughed again, this time even more loudly….

[Grethe, Thyra blog, ‘Goodbye to King Winter.…The next week-end was foggy and raw and the sun seemed so far, far away. It was nice to see that the people at the restaurant of  Skovmøllen (the old Water Mill-restaurant) saw to that the little birds were fed with Danish bread and fat-bowls. There was also morning bread with cinnamon and the birds seemed to like it!  Notice the little blue tit. It is so ruffled. I hope it will cope….

[Photograph: Montucky, Montana Outdoors blog, ‘A visit to an old painting.]

Montucky, 'A visit to an old painting,' January 24, 2011.

[Cirrelda, Color of Sand blog, ‘Ides of January — yard observations.’…I stood for a while looking at my pobrecito pinon tree tilting away from the drooping elm limbs above it. Then those elm limbs were golden – the light was coming at them directly from that western mesa edge (miles away) and the whole damn wild elm tree was shining in its massive shagginess. (I so curse that tree at times since its roots tangle into every vegetable bed.) Smoke on my hands and clothes, I stand and gaze at the afternoon in my yard….

[Martie, Taos Sunflower blog, ‘Photos from my hood.’ …This morning I was down in Arroyo Seco (the nearest village to my home, where my yarn shop used to be) and had a few moments alone with my camera.  I thought I’d go look for beautiful flowers, but alas, in this drought, they were not to be found.  Then I looked up at the beautiful clouds in the sky over the old church behind our building, and thought it has probably been years since I’ve shared photos of it with you.  It was a ready reminder of why so many people come here to study art and paint the local scenery.  I’m sorry there aren’t any flowers for you, but hope you enjoy the rest…

[Shoreacres, The Task at Hand blog, ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept.’…My extraordinary good fortune was to be born into a family more than willing to make and keep promises.  My father took promises especially seriously. The eldest of six children, he was one of those increasingly rare creatures – a man of his word. Whether it was a work colleague, a neighbor, a family member or his tiny daughter coming to him with a request, if he said he would do it, he did….

[Wrensong, Writings from Wild Soul blog, ‘Waiting for the Sun.’  See also the female cardinal photograph associated with this winning post.]  Everything so still/ in this windless dawn/ Ice hangs from every twig/ air cold as stone/ Sun arrives like hope/ and hunger. ~wrensong

[Marie, The Rambling Wren blog, ‘The Red Fox.’…The fox stood stock still in the middle of the lane. We watched each other silently for 10 or 15 seconds, then the fox turned to go. But she paused, then sat down and looked back at me. She seemed unsure how to proceed, and kept looking up the secondary driveway we use for moving trailers and the RV. There’s a large woodpile there, an old barn the previous owners had dismantled elsewhere and brought here, planning to reconstruct. But the project was never finished, and we now have habitat for all sorts of critters–rabbits and woodchucks, chipmunks, feral cats, and now, perhaps, red fox. Had she moved her kits there, I wondered?…

[Kittie Howard, Kittie’s Stories, ‘Shopping at Best Buy.’…Best Buy, that big box store, re-entered my life.  I didn’t want to buy a new computer just yet.  The plan was to limp along with what I had until the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. Last Saturday night, the motherboard died….

[Rebecca, Rebecca in the Woods, ‘On Not Hearing a Boreal Owl.’…Then yesterday GrrlScientist had to go and write a blog post about about Wilson’s Snipe and mention that the “winnowing” sound created by its tail feathers during its courtship display sounds very similar to the call of a Boreal Owl. And that courting males “fly in circles.” And that they do this “long into the evening.” And sometimes even at night, I suppose? Sigh. No one likes deleting a species from their life list…. [Bold added.]

[Photograph and recipe: Karen Rivera, New Mexico Photography, ‘Green Pumpkin and Green Chili Pueblo Stew.’]

Karen Rivera, 'Road between Cimarron and Taos, New Mexico,' March 8, 2011.

[Debra, Find an Outlet blog, ‘Death’s Mementos.’…Every day I am moved by roadside memorials to people who weren’t ready to die. People who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re a constant reminder of how fragile we are—bits of bone wrapped in a flimsy shroud of a ridiculously unsuitable hide. We’re anything but fierce when up against poison, bullet, disease, or 3,000 pounds of steel, glass and chrome….

[Wildstorm, Backroads Photo blog, ‘North Texas Desert.’…There is no such thing–the North Texas desert. Yet it seems like it when you glance across the dry roasted pastures where nothing grows. What is green? The cedar trees. Even the oak trees have burned up leaves….

[Bunnyterry, I Love New Mexico blog, ‘Gardening in New Mexico.’…As I stand here with the garden hose in my hand, I’m reminded of a paper I wrote on personal landscapes for that particular history class.  The instructor’s goal throughout the class was to get us to tie our own personal histories to history in the broader sense, which, if I were teaching history today, would be my goal as well…

[Teresa, Teresa Evangeline blog, ‘At Home in My One Room Schoolhouse.’ …I almost forgot to tell you: when I crossed over into New Mexico from Utah on Sunday, in less than a quarter of a mile there were two crows and a coyote. The crows were standing over their dinner in the ditch, whoever the poor critter had been, and the coyote was trotting away from them, down in a hollow, across a snow-covered field….

[Annie, Anniepickens’s blog, ‘Spring Garlic.’…Sunday I got to the Farmers’ Market later than usual, it was already packed with people but choices were still good. The first thing I wanted to do was find the egg guy and trade in my used cartons. It seems like the only time I remember that I’m going to take them back is when I am at the market buying more eggs. Very happy with myself for finally remembering….

[Photograph: Jeff Lynch, Serious Amateur Photography, ‘Those Spanish Skirts.’]

Jeff Lynch, Palo Duro Canyon, 'Spanish Skirts,' January 2011.

[Photograph: Evangeline Chavez, Evangeline Art Photography blog, ‘Dia de Los Muertos.’]

Evangeline Chavez, 'Dia de Los Muertos,' posted November 6, 2011.

[Poster image and environmental work: Chris Clarke, Coyote Crossing blog, ‘Desert Biodiversity.’]

Desert Biodiversity poster, Chris Clarke, December 2011.

[Bonnie Bardos, Bohemian Artist: Painting and Thought blog, ‘New Sculpture.’]

Bonnie Bardos, 'New Sculpture,' May 2011.

[Photograph: Steven Schwartzman, Portraits of Wildflowers blog, ‘Welcome to the Texas Hill Country.’]

Steven Schwartzman, 'Clammyweed flowering,' June 2011.

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Notes face-down: bipedalism and scanning the savannah

(Contrary to the suggestion proposed by my daughter, Wendy, I will not be making the accompanying photograph in this post my latest profile picture.)

Bipedalism came first, then the large brain among the history of primates.  The upright stance allowed man to scan the savannah, edges of forest and plains, or wherever he had wandered for food and predators.

I haven’t posted since December 27, 2011, mainly because I have had eye problems (really, only the left eye) since December 25th, Christmas morning, and a “Ho, ho, ho,” Christmas gift I desire to return, but can’t!  I woke up that morning with blurred vision caused by a macular hole in my left eye.  This last Tuesday, January 10th, I received a vitrectomy at Arlington Day Surgery Center, under the skilled hands of Dr. David Callanan (Dr. Wu administered the pharmacological agents — much appreciated).

I may still be bipedal, but I have assumed the position of a face-down recovery period lasting five days or more so that I neither can scan the savannah nor see the quacking ducks on my pond.  I cannot have any hard spirits during my ten-day recovery, but that is not as painful as it may seem to some.  I have this nature blog and like to go out into the field, but the only nature I see are house plants, two dogs and trees outside my living room window.  I take a new interest in bugs that infrequently cross the floor.

I took a picture with my iPhone immediately after surgery and this is what I look like.  I spend most of my days face-down in a specially-designed “chair” and a bedside rest for my face that is like those contraptions in massage parlors for your head as you get your massage.  Dr. Callanan predicts a 90-95% recovery of vision in my left eye with another operation for cataracts in about a year (cataracts — Nile River, Egypt). 

So, I will not be hiking the grove or taking photos of juniper any time soon.  Medical technology and habitat adaptations, however, have come a long way since primates first scanned the savannah.  I’m in a safe wikiup, been worked on by medicine men and women, have taken drugs and have nature outside my window.  My hearing and tactile senses are sharpened.  I listen for the Sandhill Crane that may fly overhead.  I brush my canine that barks at strange sounds at the edges of camp.  Although I question that human society has progressed, today with the skills brought to bear in my life I think in some areas we have progressed.

(Note:  please do not show this photo to your children as it may cause nightmares or sleep unrest.  Oh, go ahead, give the little primates a scare and make up a good narrative while you are at it.)

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