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

 

Cats, Dogs, Wine, and Sushi

Before we travel, we try to eat and drink things that we’ll encounter in the place we’ll be visiting. For Japan, that was sushi and sake.

For Germany, we’ve been trying out wines from Moselland, as that’s where we’ll be traveling and wine tasting.

This cat bottle had to be purchased!

We got an order in from Total Wine. The cat bottle wine was surprisingly good. I bought it for the bottle since I love cats. (I have two. And a dog.)

More wine for testing
We’re still drinking!
One of the cats from our house. Madeline.

As you can tell, I’m crazy for furry animals. I take way too many cat and dog related pictures on our travels.

Cats stencils in a window in Japan

But my own pets are my favorites– with or without wine and sushi.

Owen, our wonder dog
Skye is always smirking

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.

Cost Free Mementos

A very traditional street light

When I was younger and literally traveling on a shoestring budget, traditional souvenirs were too expensive so I came up with some no cost options.

One of my first collections was pictures of streetlights. It seems like every city has its own streetlight style and some of them are really unique and fun.

An attachment to the streetlights in Kyoto. Each light had a different character.

On this trip, I also collected pictures of manholes. The Japanese artistic district manholes were truly stunning.

One of the simpler manholes we saw
More street level art

Another friend collects pictures of doors and doorways. As you might imagine, she has found some beautiful examples.

If you want mementos that can be placed in a scrapbook, train and museum ticket stubs are great.

In Japan, most chopsticks come with beautifully decorated paper chopstick covers that would make great add ins to a scrapbook page.

The only limit to cost free souvenirs is your own imagination. What will you collect?

Taiko drumming, New Mexico style

Ray and I had so much fun trying out Taiko drumming in Tokyo that we decided to find classes in New Mexico. Bushido Kenkyukai is a well-known dojo for taiko drumming and martial arts. We went to an introductory class which included demonstrations by local students and practice drumming.

As usual, New Mexico artists have added their own twist to a traditional Japanese art. The New Mexico version includes more drummers, extra instruments, and special riffs that aren’t heard in Japan. Still, the foundation is traditional so it’s a fascinating fusion of cultures.

Another local group NM Taiko is also seen at local events like the very popular Aki Matsuri, a Japanese fall festival.

For practicing, since taiko drums are expensive, many artists make use of old tires coveted tightly with packing tape.


It doesn’t give the depth of sound that a real drum does but it definitely is good for an active taiko workout.

So, are you tempted to try taiko drumming?

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.