Monsoons have arrived

Written by karen on June 27th, 2015

The eagerly anticipated monsoons have arrived here this week. (Did you know there was a monsoon season anywhere in America? I didn’t before I moved here.) This is big fun for us. Billowy clouds build up over the mountains during the hot, sunny days, gradually darkening and getting more ominous, and then bursting into violent thunderstorms in the evenings. Sometimes drenching us with torrential rains; other times surrounding us with downpours that seems to be everywhere but on our little piece of land. It’s an adventure every day to see what happens. One of my favorite times of year here.



Variety, volume, and resilience

Written by karen on June 7th, 2015

One thing about growing as many different things as we do here is that for all the crushing disappointments (which I mostly don’t write about here), there are just as many stunning victories. Sometimes both wrapped up together.

Last year, we bought a small fig tree. It’s one of the few things we’ve bought, since we get most of our starts from friends or grow from seeds, and it cost a fair amount. Last year, it seemed to adapt well and even produced a few figs. Then this spring, it looked dead. In fact, you could see where birds had pecked holes in it, and the branches were dry and  brittle. Big disappointment. After several months, I emailed someone I knew, and they said, “Just wait. They often die back and come back up from the ground.”

Indeed, a couple weeks ago, fig leaves could be seen at the base. It’s looking pretty healthy now. (I’m not sure whether to cut back the dead tree or just leave it. When in doubt, I generally opt to leave things as is.)


Nature is resilient, though sometimes things are successful and sometimes not. Trying lots of things seems to increase the odds that something will go right. Not just in gardening, but in life in general.




Written by karen on May 25th, 2015

This weekend, we took an excursion south of Animas to an old (ghost?) town called Cloverdale. (Spoiler: There isn’t much town left.)

It was a beautiful drive with amazing landscapes. Most of the land down there was bought up some time back by the Diamond A Ranch, which is 321,000 acres and is connected with the Nature Conservancy. Despite that, there were “no trespassing” signs posted everywhere.

On the whole drive, we only saw two other vehicles, one Border Patrol and one rancher, both pretty close to Animas. We did see several pronghorn as well.

In the southern part of this land, we found an old abandoned homestead house. We also had directions to the old Cloverdale cemetery. It turned out that there wasn’t a road to it any more, but we walked a mile or so and found it.

Near there, the ranch is bordered by large amounts of national forest and BLM land which you can access by road. We are definitely going to return and do some camping down there.

Being there felt like being in a place no one else had been in a very long time.


Magic beans

Written by karen on May 24th, 2015

A few weeks ago, I went to the International Seed Library Forum. It was a great gathering, and I met some amazing people, including a guy from Silver City.

When we met, he hold me about some multicolored “Legendary Beauty Way Beans”  that he originally got from a friend in Snowflake, AZ, who says they were originally from an archaeological site in the southwest. After the event, he followed up by email and told me he’d send me some.

I got them and was astounded by how beautiful they are.


I’m planting them this weekend and will post updates on how it goes.



Written by karen on May 23rd, 2015

This morning, I was brushing my teeth, looking out the window as I often do, and saw something unusual out toward the back. It was a large mammal, dark brown, stout, low to the ground. My still half-asleep mind searched to figure out what this might be. A large dog? A small bear?

Yes, you guessed it, it was the evil javelina. It lumbered off into the brush as I was calling Brad, but fortunately he got there in time to see its partner following behind. They were running off from having a drink at the water hole we put in for the animals. Silly us.

While we’ve seen plenty of damage from javelinas in the last two years, this was the first ones I’ve actually seen on our property. They were surprisingly large. All morning, I shook my head in amazement at having actually seen them.

As you may remember, last year, the unseen javelinas did quite a lot of damage to our garden. They ate tomatoes, watermelon, and sweet potato greens, as well as ripping up a lot of expensive insect netting.

Two weeks or so again, we had another visit; it was too depressing to write about at the time. They ate all my tomato starts. After nursing these along from seed for five months and just getting them outside, it was pretty awful. (The good news is that a few have come back, and I still have some starts in the house as well.)

After that, I did some more serious research on the problem and determined that an electric fence was the best solution. So last week, we put one in. It’s only about 10 inches high, and since we’ve put it in, we haven’t had any problems.

In the course of my research, I also found that javelinas are drawn by food outside (especially dog food or bird seed) and by water. Ok, affirmative on that.



Rogue plants

Written by karen on May 17th, 2015

This is the third or fourth year we’ve planted in most of our beds. As such, we often have odd rogue plants come up from previous year’s ungerminated seeds. I always hate to pull these up, and so our beds sometimes end up to be an odd mix of things.

Last year, we had several random garlics coming up all over, and so I transplanted them all into one “rogue garlic” bed. We’ve been harvesting our regular garlic this week and so I decided to dig up a few of the rogue ones to see how they were. The greens didn’t look very robust, but the garlics looks great. We will have a bigger store of garlic this year thanks to these.



Written by karen on March 29th, 2015

I don’t often grow head lettuce, but this is so beautiful.

Spring has fully arrived here, and everything is growing like wild.




Written by karen on March 12th, 2015

The weather is harsh here, and it really tears apart things that are outside for extended periods. This results in lots of maintenance work, such as thing week’s project of reconstructing the platform that our water tower sits on.


Brad noticed a couple weeks ago that the wood planks that sit on the metal frame and hold up the tank were looking pretty bad.

So we started by investigating possible materials to use. I at first thought plastic beams like the ones used for decking, but apparently they aren’t structurally suitable. We then thought about steel plating, but it is very expensive and there were concerns about rust. In the end, we just decided to stay with wood, but to use treated lumber and to coat it first with roofing sealer. (The 2×6’s that were used previously were raw, untreated wood.)


boards painted

After we got the boards and got them painted, Brad figured out a process to replace the boards without removing the tank. Basically, it involved first emptying the tank as much as possible. Then he tilted the tank a bit, slid out each old board, and slid in new ones. It was lots of trips up and down two levels of ladders.


halfway done

At first, I wasn’t sure this really needed to be done, but once we started on it, I could see how bad the old wood really was. It was probably just a matter of time before the whole thing collapsed, and what a mess that would have been.


warped, cracked, and breaking wood


scraps of wood after removal

And here’s the final result:


PS If you’re wondering if all this moving of the tank affected any of the plumbing, it did. Small crack in a pipe meant we had to turn off all the water, drain the tank and fix it. It’s always something!


Feb. 26 – First asparagus

Written by karen on March 1st, 2015

Last Thursday, the year’s first asparagus came up, and this post is to document that.


It won’t be long before strawberries and artichokes are here. And then everything else. Yay for spring!


linen closet

Written by brad on February 25th, 2015

The linen closet is finished and I took some pictures as it progressed.


First the inside fit as best we could into the existing space.


Then we added the facing on the edges and the shelves


More facing on the shelves

Fitting the doors

Fitting the doors


Ready to finish


Installing the finished doors

Installing the finished doors




The big view