Owen & the Breaking Bad Tour

Blue “meth” candy from the candy lady in old town

Great excitement for Breaking Bad fans — the New Mexico Film Office announced that a major Sony Studios film will begin production in Albuquerque in a few weeks. Industry leaks indicate that this will be the long awaited big screen presentation of the iconic TV show Breaking Bad.

Owen was tugging on the leash to check out a discarded taco on a street in Albuquerque’s Old Town, recently, when we spotted a sign for a guided tour of important Breaking Bad production sites in and around the city. Owen’s interest waned when this particular tour meant spending three hours in a simulation of the Breaking Bad RV with strangers. Not in his nor the tourists’ best interest.

However, we Googled up several web sites that mapped the sites for key filming locations for those who wanted to drive around the area and find them without a guide. Here’s an example.

Perhaps, after walking in the Bosque, from time to time, we’ll use a shooting location map take in some Breaking Bad sites.

Owen & NM Green Chiles

Owen’s job around the homestead is security, and he takes it seriously. No trash/mail/delivery truck goes unnoticed and un-barked at. The sound of their jaengines arouse him to race through the house to the front gate, grumblings in his basset-derived chest. But, Owen also keeps the ground squirrels from raiding our green chile patch.

We set aside a small part of the backyard for flowers and a few New Mexico green chile plants. The rest is a place for indigenous flora and fauna of the high Chihuahua Desert to play out the roles prescribed by nature. New Mexico is renowned for its green chiles that the locals use to season stews, and add zest to other recipes.

The chiles from the area around the farm town of Hatch in the Mesilla region on the lower Rio Grande River have trademarked their product.

However, Hispanic farm communities throughout the state claim unique properties to their chiles and preserve the seeds that have been passed down since the Spanish introduced chiles into New Mexico centuries ago. LINK

And not just the Hispanics are aficionados of the chile. A Jemez Pueblo friend gave me a chile that had been passed down in his family since the mid-18th century.

Jemez State Monument, preserving the ruins of a 17th century Spanish mission and 13th century Indian pueblo,

The peppers from those seeds rated 10 (maximum hot) on the chile heat scale. Chefs around the state compete for the blue ribbon at the state fair that is awarded to the best green chile cheeseburger. Owen loves green chile cheesburgers.

Locals buy their stash of green chiles at supermarrkets, road side stands, and at the farm. In early fall, the air is filled the scent of chiles being roasted in store parking lots and roadside stands.

Roaster

We harvested a few chiles from the three plants in our garden.

We popped them under the broiler.

Turned them every few minutes, and out they came, ready to be peeled, de-seeded, and ready to be added to home made green chile stew.

Owen finds the chiles uninteresting as a diet item, but the green chile cheeseburgers are a hit with him.

Owen Visits Ft. Union, NM

Owen enjoys riding in the Prius, and he’s on the job — watching for other dogs and for pedestrians who are in his sense of territory, and growling and woofing at them. He instinctively knows that his job is security.

We set out to explore the Fort Union National Monument in northeast New Mexico. The fort served as the major supply depot for the United States Army posts in the Southwest from 1851 to 1891. Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner (later commander of the II Corps in the Army of the Potomac until he died following the Battle at Fredericksburg) supervised the construction of the first of three forts at the site. Supplies for the army in the Southwest came by wagon from Missouri, following the Santa Fe Trail. Ruts of Santa Fe Trail wagons score the fragile high prairie around the fort.

Sumner sited the fort near where the Cimarron Cutoff branch of the Santa Fe Trail rejoined the Raton branch a few miles north of Las Vegas, NM, and near the Mora River. The livestock grazed the lush prairie grasses in the area.

Most of the fort buildings were constructed of adobe bricks, although some buildings were built of logs cut in the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Some masonry was used where appropriate — such as to line the latrines.

The fort comprised barracks for the rank and file, officer quarters, and a vast array of workshops needed to repair wagons, harness, and shoe horses and mules. Warehouses stored the supplies that were distributed to forts to the south and southwest. The munitions were stored apart from the operations and residential areas.

As befitting his role as head of security, Owen kept a keen eye on the fierce antelope he spotted far way on the grounds of the National Monument.

Roadie in Our Habitat

Our approach to our backyard garden was to minimize our toil and, because we live in the high Chihuahua  Desert, water.  Our solution was to establish a backyard habitat populated with plants indigenous to this desert country. Two types of cacti were already thriving — a claret cup and a cholla.

 

We planted a few more specimens. This one is an early bloomer.

This claret cup cactus is nestling with a sage brush plant.

We added small agave of various types, and, over the years, they have flourished and created a fence of agave.

Salutary neglect along with Nature has produced a habitat in which lizards, bugs, birds, pollinators, and the occasional coyote make their living.

One of our favorite visitors is the roadrunner, a member of the cuckoo family.

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Arizona, Perched on cholla cactus branch, With mouth wide open, Large crested terrestrial bird of arid Southwest, Common in scrub desert and mesquite groves, Seldom flies, Eats lizards, snakes and insects

Roadie hunts lizards, bugs, nestlings; an opportunistic feeder. Roadie also hops onto our patio and peers through our sliding glass door. It’s as though he knows he’s safe behind the glass, and it appears he enjoys tormenting the cats and dog. “Roadie” is in Owen’s canine vocabulary, along with “mail truck” and “trash truck.” When we call out “Roadie!” Owen races to the patio door growling.

 

 

Roadie, our name for whatever individual hunts lizards and bugs in the habitat

 

Procuring German Railway Passes Was A Breeze

To simplify the logistics of our upcoming trip to Germany, we decided to stay in one hotel for the week that we’ll be there and make day trips to other locales. We selected Koblenz as our base because it was at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. Link

The German Corner, view from Ehrenbreitstein fortress - Foto: Koblenz Touristik

The German Railroad (Deutsches Bahn or DB hereafter) posts its schedules online. Link We found that the DB  provides direct service from the station at the Frankfurt Airport to the main station in Koblenz. The ride takes a little more than an hour and was much more convenient than renting a car.

Examining the schedules for Koblenz, we learned that DB provides morning departure and afternoon return times to the cities and towns that we wanted to visit. We decided to use DB for our day trips as far as Koeln and Luxembourg and as nearby as the Moselle and  Rhine country wineries.

DB offers several types of railway passes for tourists on its website. We opted for a pass designed for non-Europeans  that provided seven consecutive days of train travel. Moreover, DB was offering a autumn season discount! We  ordered our tickets on the DB website and printed them out at home. When we board the train in Germany, we merely show the passes and our passports to the attendant.

Our Moochers at the Feeder

Birds that live in the neighborhood and those that migrate through find our backyard habitat easy pickings.

All year round, various finches (gold, house, and who knows what) hang out in a desert willow tree and empty the feeder of nijer thistle seed in a day and a half, to the delight of our nearby bird feed storekeeper.

During the winter, we add a feeder with seeds for the canyon wrens and curved bill thrashers who hang out all year.

Image result for curved bill thrasher

Pigeons and doves mop up the seeds that the more interesting (to us) birds dribble onto the ground. As do the ground squirrels. In the spring, a wide variety of hummingbirds migrate to New Mexico, so we put out a feeder with sugar water. We miss them when they migrate south at the end of September.

Image result for hummingbirds

They are aggressive little guys. They buzz one another in aerial combat and even dive bomb us when we’re sitting on the patio. We discovered one of their nests, a tiny cup, on a branch of our apricot tree.

Upon occasion, the multiple birds in the habitat swish away, none to be seen. A hawk, usually a red tail but sometimes a Cooper’s) descends and perches in the desert willow, wondering why it was shunned.

Great horned owls frequent the Ponderosa pines in the front yard. They hoot in the wee hours before dawn and deposit pellets that provide clues to their diet.

Of course, the local cuckoo darts around the habitat during warmer months.

Image result for road runner

During the winter, the road runner descends into the Rio Grande Bosque. But, like the hummingbird, returns to our habitat in the spring.

Coyotes & Folks

Just past dawn, one morning, a coyote hopped over our garden wall and settled in under a bush for a nap. We had heard coyotes yelping from time to time during the night, so perhaps this one was part of that pack. We had seen them while hiking, but having one snoozing just outside the kitchen window was a new one for us. This picture of a coyote was taken in the Rio Grande Bosque.

They are intelligent and curious creatures who shadow hikers apparently to see what humans are up to in their territory.

A coyote’s territory varies widely. In rural areas of the southwest and south, where resources are scant, a coyote might roam over forty square miles. With an urban environment or in the northeast, food sources are more plentiful and the range is much less. Coyotes now encroach upon Central Park in New York City from time to time.

Here is a pack of about nine coyotes trotting along a path in the Bosque. The hind feet of a coyote settles in the print of the front feet. An entire pack might trot along a path and leave only one set of footprints.

Coyotes (canis laprans) are descended from the wolf line of canids, and are cousins of the domestic version, the dog. Like the dog, which adapted to exploit human waste dumps after our species settled down after learning to produce food with in agricultural technologies, the coyote is very adaptable.

Humans evidently encountered coyotes in the American southwest, and the Aztecs referred to Coyotlinauatl as the god whose faithful wore coyote skins. The Aztec moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui, was known as one who bays at the moon. Link

Over the last hundred years or so, coyotes have spread their range to New England and the South. The DNA evidence is murky and still being worked out, but northeastern coyotes are larger (befitting a lusher prey environment) and southern ones are smaller. And, there is evidence of repeated inter-breading with wolves and dogs. Today’s coyote is a mix master slush of canine DNA.

Regardless, listening to coyotes bay at night and glimpsing them observing you in the brush is an exhilarating experience in nature.