2018 reading

Written by karen on January 1st, 2019

As usual, here is the list of books I read in 2018 with my favorites in bold.

Kim Stanley Robinson was a real highlight this year. (The first two Mars books were in 2017.)

  1. Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  2. Tracks by Robyn Davidson
  3. Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez
  4. Mirrors of the Unseen by Jason Elliot
  5. Alburquerque by Rudoldfo Anaya
  6. Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
  7. Good News by Edward Abbey
  8. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
  9. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
  10. Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha
  11. Walking Meditation by Nguyen Anh-Huong and Thich Nhat Hanh
  12. Border Walk by Mark Hainds
  13. Zen Under Fire by Marianne Elliott
  14. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  15. Cutting for Sign by  William Langewiesche
  16. Home by Harlan Coben
  17. The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu
  18. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
  19. Caught by Harlan Coben
  20. Gone for Good by Harlan Coben
  21. The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson
  22.  The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson
  23. Camino Island by John Grisham
  24. Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson
  25. Sellers in the Kitchen by Betsy Foster Breault
  26. A Land of Hard Edges by Peg Bowden
  27. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  28. Seconds Away by Harlan Coben
  29. Living on Wilderness Time by Melissa Walker
  30. The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
  31. Love, Africa by Jeffrey Gettleman
  32. Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan
  33. How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen
  34. Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller
  35. New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
  36. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  37. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
  38. Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
  39. Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson
  40. Dear America by Jose Antonio Vargas
  41. A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  42. Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson
  43. Gathering the Desert by Gary Paul Nabhan
  44. Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson
  45. Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson
  46. Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
  47. Digging to America by Anne Tyler
  48. The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler
  49. Bleachers by John Grisham
  50. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Unrelated bonuses: a bobcat that walked by our front door last week…

and a picture from a hike in Portal last week…(there was snow at the top)

 

Snow

Written by karen on December 29th, 2018

After two years with no snow, this week we had snow two days in a row. Each day we got 2-3 inches, but most of it didn’t last through the day, which is ok with me.

The temperatures are colder now, and there is more snow in the forecast for this week.

 

CDT – Part 1

Written by karen on December 24th, 2018

The Continental Divide Trail is one of the US’s National Scenic Trails, and at 3100 miles is longer than either the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. It is also said to be considerably more difficult, largely because of how remote it is. Many stretches have no settlements, no road access, and no water. (For a good book about this, see Where the Waters Divide: A 3,000 Mile Trek Along America’s Continental Divide by Karen Berger and Daniel R. Smith.)

We are lucky to have access to this trail less than an hour from our house. In fact, its start at the Mexican border isn’t far from here. We also pass a trail crossing on our way to Silver City. We have thought about hiking parts of this many times, but for one reason or another, we hadn’t — until yesterday.

The closest trail access to us is where it crosses Highway 9 east of Animas. We parked there and walked south about 6 miles or so and back. It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed the hike.

One pleasant surprise is that the trail, while not always easy to see itself, is extremely well marked with signs every 100 yards or so. I don’t know if this it true everywhere along the trail, but it made the trail here simple to follow, which is often not the case for trails here.

Hiking this trail made me revisit a long-held fantasy of through-hiking a long trails. A couple years ago, while waiting for a train from Lordsburg, I met a guy who had been hiking the CDT. He was ex-military, in good condition, and thought he was ready for the task. He made it to about Silver City before having to be rescued. This trail is not for the unprepared. Lack of water and extreme heat and cold make it very challenging.

I don’t know if I’ll ever hike a trail like this in its entirety, but I am definitely looking forward to future day hikes here and also some overnight backpack trips.

Future places we plan to hike more of the CDT include the north from highway 9, north from the start at the Mexican border (you can drive to the start though it involves 20 miles or so of unpaved back roads), and several places up toward Silver City.

 

Rats

Written by karen on October 25th, 2018

“You have a serious rat problem.”

That wasn’t what I was hoping to hear from the car mechanic today after he put on my new tires.

He then proceeded to show me a nest that covered about half my engine compartment made of fuzz from the car’s chewed up hood liner, mesquite beans, and various things from our compost pile. I recognized the pomegranate skins and lime peels as my stomach turned.

“Gross.”

“Would you like me to clean it out?”

“Yes, please.”

We do have a rat problem. It’s just part of where we live. Everyone experiences it, and many of our neighbors have had serious engine damage from rats chewing up wiring. They’ve sometimes caused havoc in our garden as well.

To clarify, the rats that live here are not “city rats.” They are pack rats and wood rats, and were it not for the damage they do, you might think they are cute. They look sort of like kitten-sized brown mice.

We’ve live trapped a hundred or more of them, but that seems futile. People we know have tried various things to repel them, including spraying chili sauce around their engine compartments and keeping their car hoods open whenever parked. (The rats apparently like closed in spaces.) None of it really seems to work.

Today, the mechanic suggested something he guaranteed would work — plastic bottles with holes drilled in them, filled with dryer sheets and fabric softener, and then wired into the engine compartment.

“You have to keep them wet though,” he said. “Animals hate the smell of this stuff.”

He claimed that moth balls would also work but that they made your car smell awful.

So my afternoon was spent rigging up these little bottles and wiring them into the car. We’ll see if it works.

 

Wet

Written by karen on September 20th, 2018

It is September 20, and last night we had a long, steady rain that measured in at about .5 inches. The monsoons continue, though we know that any day they will end.

This morning there was low clouds and fog everywhere. No mountains visible to the east or west.

The garden has loved all the moisture. One unfortunate result is that all of my melons split. I caught a few soon enough that we could eat them, but most started to rot before I got to them. The pumpkins and squash are looking good. We had an overabundance of green beans this summer, which we have shared with many friends. We’ve also had a great number of shishito peppers (hundreds) but there never seem to be too many of them for us to eat.

Soon it will be time to plant garlic again. We enjoy the cycles of the garden that overlap and extend through the whole year.

 

Gila monster!

Written by karen on August 8th, 2018

There is one animal here that I had never seen and really wanted to — the gila monster. Yesterday, we saw one right in front of our house. It ran right across the porch and kept on running. It was a juvenile and ran so fast that I didn’t get the greatest pictures. We were so excited!

 

Changing weather patterns

Written by karen on August 7th, 2018

Summer monsoons are our favorite time of year here, but this year, they have been quite a bit different.

For the last ten years, we have seen monsoons always start within a day or two of July 4. This year, they seemed to start much sooner. We got a few good rains in early June and thought “This is the early monsoons!” Then nothing. The folklore here is that early monsoons mean a weak monsoon, and we feared this was the case.

But then in mid July, we started getting good rains. We have had in the neighborhood of 1-2″ in a 24 hour period at least three times in the last month. That’s really good rain for us (and the rains have been strong enough that we’ve had to repair our road a couple times already, and there have also been a few lengthy phone/Internet outages).

However, the pattern of the storms this year has been quite a bit different. In past years, the classic monsoon pattern has been for clouds to build up over the mountains to the west of us, to move from west to east, and to dump rain (somewhere, not necessarily on us) in the later afternoon or early evening.

This year though, storms have come from every direction, and the movement has sometimes been from south to north or north to south or even east to west. There have been several times we’ve watched the radar to see storms making a strange swirling pattern around some random center. Also the timing of the rains has varied. Several times we’ve had rain in the very early morning (2am) or even in the mid-day. In general, I’d say we’ve had less frequent rain here at the house, but in bigger quantities when it comes. The storms have been more violent, and we’ve had hail a couple times.

And as of today, August 6, the monsoons are still going strong. Knock on wood that they have a few more weeks.

All of this has felt rather unusual.

I’m not sure what all this means, but I’m recording it here for posterity and future analysis.

(On an semi-related note, as a part of my local oral history project, I recently listened to a long-time resident here talk about the 1970s and 80s here, before the drought, when the rains here were much more plentiful. Presumably there were still monsoons, but also more rain throughout the year. Perhaps we’ll return to that some day, or perhaps not.)

 

A slice of summer

Written by karen on July 1st, 2018

I sometimes hear people here (and elsewhere) saying that they never get around to finding the _____ (peace, relaxation, you can fill in the blank) they hoped to find once they had time to do so.

I have made an effort to find time to “stop and smell the roses” here, but with work and various other activities, I admit it is not always easy. Now that summer is here, I am done working at the college and in between a few other work projects. This week provides a great snapshot of how life here is when I achieve this.

On Monday, I worked in the garden in the morning, harvested some produce, and prepared some food for a lunch with friends that ended up stretching out to fill the whole afternoon. Most enjoyable!

That evening, I got a call from a neighbor whose apricots were ripe. We often pick for them and then can and split the results. Tuesday was spent doing some office work and laundry and also writing a few postcards to voters (exciting to be working on an Ohio campaign this month) and letters to friends. After that, we went and picked apricots.

Wednesday was a town day with a visit to fill a book box, a trip to the gym, and a tie dye activity at the library with some kids. In the evening, we went to visit a friend who had called to say he had several hundred pounds of onions he’d just harvested. I’m hoping to sell some and preserve some.

By Thursday, those apricots were calling, so I spent the day canning. I also baked for my sales tomorrow. (I’m not doing the farmer’s market this year, but am doing some by-invitation-only sales to a few folks.)

Friday morning was harvest and then off to Portal to sell and do some work at the library. Then more canning of apricots.

We finished off the week by going to Nogales to participate in a Families Belong Together march. We were part of a group who blocked the port of entry in protest of US immigration policy.

Lots of important, gratifying, and meaningful activities. I wish every week were like this!

First of the shishito peppers are appearing

 

It’s that time of year

Written by karen on June 7th, 2018

The monsoons are our favorite time of year here.

When we first moved here, we were told that there used to be an “early monsoon” and a “late monsoon,” but in the ten years we’ve been here, there has only been a late monsoon, typically beginning around July 4 and lasting for a variable number of weeks.

It’s been a hotter than usual spring, and two days ago, afternoon clouds gathered, and we got an (unforecast) downpour. Then yesterday, we had the same. I was driving between Bisbee and Douglas, and the rain was so torrential that I had to pull over. Brad said there was rain at home too. There’s always a debate about the real start of monsoons, but I feel like they’ve started. Could this be the “early monsoon”?!?! I guess we’ll see.

Unfortunately, monsoons also bring lots of lightning. And dry lightning means fire.

Yesterday, there was a fire on the mountains behind our house.

The memory of the really big fire here a few years ago is still fresh in everyone’s mind, and so the fire crews were out super fast to try to prevent this from spreading. Big planes dropped loads of red flame retardant.

The forest service also sent several crews of hotshots. By the time it was getting dark, the fire was greatly diminished.

At night, you could see a bunch of fire spots blazing, but it wasn’t out of control. By morning, it was mostly contained. There are still a couple fire crews today, but it seems like things are fine now.

We are hoping for more rain and less lightning and wind as the monsoons ramp up.

 

Spring garden

Written by karen on May 28th, 2018

Here is the garden map so far this year.

We succeeded again in having lettuce growing all year round, and for the first time, we also had garlic throughout the year. We are still finishing last year’s crop as we harvested the first bed this year. The scapes were great this year, and we made a very delicious pesto and also pickled some.

The fencing has really worked out well, so we are trying a few favorites that we’d given up on in the past couple years like sweet potatoes.

And as the garden is getting more predictable, we are also growing some flowers.