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

 

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.

Cranes Return to the Rio Grande Bosque

This morning we took Owen, the namesake dog for this blog, for a walk in the Los Poblanos (the village) farm. Albuquerque sensibly protected crop fields along the Rio Grande Bosque from being transformed into residential real estate tracts.Los Poblanos combines working commercial fields (corn, alfalfa, and millet) with community plots where individuals can grow their own veggies and flowers. They also have a wonderful inn.

In Los Poblanos, we’ve observed road runners, a wide variety of birds, and coyotes in this diverse environment. And, during the winter, sandhill cranes.

The western flock of sandhill cranes spend most of the year in Northern Canada and even as far away as Siberia. But like many of our Canadian friends, they flee the frozen north to vacation further south in the United States.

The eastern sub-flock use the Platte River valley as a resting point before settling in for the winter in Texas. They are hypnotic to watch.

The western sub-flock follow the Rio Grande flyway into central and southern New Mexico where they settle in the river bottoms from Albuquerque south to the Bosque del Apache. We are fortunate to co-habit the bosque with the cranes from their arrival in mid-October to their departure to the north country in February-March.

Snow geese share the New Mexico flyways with the cranes, migrating at the same time.
Canadian geese also hang out in the area with the cranes and snow geese

In Albuquerque, the cranes graze in the farm fields along the river and move further afield into city park land and drainage arroyos. Everywhere, they make one or another of their distinctive clicks and clack calls.

Metro-complex at Mesa Verde

In the mid-13th century, Native American corn growers and their families fled their drought stricken farms  south and west of their cultural center at Chaco in what is now New Mexico.

Image Credit: National Park Service: Pueblo Bonito, Chaco National Park

These ancestral pueblo peoples had endured year after year of drought. The religion and agronomy promoted by the Chaco elite had failed to induce the rain gods to nurture their crops. Famine destroyed their faith and led them to seek territory with more rain. Some fled north to the higher altitudes of southwestern Colorado and southern Utah. They built many pueblos on the mesas drained by McElmo’s Creek and farmed the mesa tops and stream bottoms. Canyons of the Ancients.

The crops thrived with more rain, but at the higher altitudes, the growing season was shorter and variable. A late planting or an early frost severely cut into the yields of corn, beans, and squash. Moreover, they competed for arable land with peoples who had been farming in the region for centuries.

Facing starvation, the men of a stricken pueblo would attack a town that had more ample food. The warfare destroyed vulnerable pueblos and led others to settle in defensible sites. For example, the Hovenweep settlement.

Perhaps, most dramatically, were the many defensive pueblos built below the southern rim of Mesa Verde.

Ancestral pueblo peoples had lived on top of the mesa for about three centuries. The arrival of immigrants from the south along with  drought led to conflict. For safety, they built the spectacular pueblos below the mesa top that are now preserved at Mesa Verde National Park.

 

 

However, the drought and the social chaos it generated forced the peoples to abandon the metro-complex that they had built at Mesa Verde and the Canyon lands. Most of them re-settled in the upper Rio Grande Valley and developed the various Pueblo societies and cultures that now reside there. Link

Albuquerque Rainbows

Albuquerque is on the high Chihuahua desert, about a mile above sea level, so rain is scarce. In the hot summer, some rainfall does not make it to the ground, because the drops of water evaporate on the way down. This phenomenon is called vigra. Link 

However, during the summer, warm spots in the eastern Pacific off the coast of Mexico, called El Nino and La Nina, generate water laden air masses that bring afternoon scattered showers to the southwest. New Mexicans refer to these predictable showers as the monsoon season.

Rainbows are created by the interaction of sunlight striking rain drops when the sun is at about 42 degrees above the horizon, or during the latter part of the afternoon and early evening. Link  Fortunate for New Mexicans, the presence of monsoon showers at that time of day produces beautiful rainbows.

Sometimes, they enjoy double rainbows.

But even a single rainbow colors the sky and reminds us of how essential rain, however scarce, is to life.

 

 

Paper Gods’ Shrine and Paper Adventure.

In Echizan, Japan, they honor the paper gods as it is a revered paper making village. Unfortunately, many of the talented papermakers are aging out of the business without young apprentices to teach the art. The Japanese government is funding stipends to encourage young artisans to move to the rural areas where the crafts are situated. They are also funding cross cultural programs with other countries to bring artisans to these areas. This is a U.S./Japan cultural exchange, for example.

The horse represents the area. clan and helps protect the shrine.

The horse plays an important role in Japanese culture and history, and hence also the history of papermaking.

We had a papermaking experience of our own in the papyrus papermaking studio in Echizan. We each made 4 postcards using tubs of prepared mulberry pulp and decorative natural elements.

Natural elements for inclusion in paper
The prepared paper pulp, with a color station in the background.

We could also “dye” the paper with watercolor paints. The lid fell off one if the colors I used, so it got more dye than I intended, but it still created a nice effect.

We also went to a great museum and papermaking studio where masters of the papermaking craft still work.

Making the large thin sheets of paper the area is known for.
Super fine, thin paper being manipulated
Paper sculptures by local artisans
A collect the stamp program to encourage young people’s interest in paper

Clean Clothes Adventure

We pack light so were thrilled to see that our hotel had laundry facilities for guests. One of the most interesting aspects was that the machines automatically add soap so you don’t need to bring it. Obviously, there aren’t a lot of adjustments one can make to the machines, other than emptying the dryer filters.

It gets pretty steamy in the laundry room so there are several signs telling guests that propping open the door is prohibited.