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A little late

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

We planted garlic this weekend. A little late, but “a little late” has been the trend this summer.

The monsoons, which started right on time, are just now finishing up. (They usually end in late August or early September.)

Everything was late in the garden this year as well. Green beans in September, watermelons and tomatoes just coming ripe now. I hope that the first frost is late as well so that we can continue to harvest for a while.

The weather the last few weeks has been near perfect. Daytime temperatures have been very pleasant in the mid-80s, while the nights have been cool in the 50s. The sunsets have been nothing short of spectacular, and we have been enjoying fires in the evening and sleeping out under the star-filled skies.


Thursday, 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.

Changing weather patterns

Tuesday, 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.)

It’s that time of year

Thursday, 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.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Monsoons have been going strong for about a month now. The garden is now in a state at which I’m afraid to walk around it. The rains have led to waist-high grass and beds with viney crops growing a foot or more every day and weeds that are impossible to keep up with.

Along with the crazy plant growth, this time of year brings an explosion of bugs. As in my youth, I am bug-bitten and riddled with allergies, but still love the monsoons.

This morning, I went into the greenhouse to find about 20 of these caterpillars on one plant. There were none yesterday. Are they good or bad? I don’t know (but have since determined that they are eastern swallowtail butterfly larva and are not harmful but are partial to dill, which perhaps they mistook my parsley for…now that I think about it, I may know just the butterfly that laid these eggs. It was stuck in the greenhouse one night, and I freed it the next morning.). I didn’t want to kill them if they weren’t harmful, but didn’t want to leave them to continue to multiply, so decided to cut the plant (it was an herb going to seed anyway) and heave it over the fence.

It’s a good day to be solar

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

(written on 8/10/17)

This morning I woke up and as usual, I checked my tablet for notifications. I found no Internet access. I checked the wireless, which seemed fine, and so went over to the office to check my desktop computer. No Internet access there either.

I spent a half hour or so resetting the router and trying all the things we do when we have Internet problems, but to no avail. Finally, I realized that we had no phone service either. That explained the Internet outage.

That isn’t completely unusual, but with no cell access here, I’d have to drive somewhere to call our local phone co-op to put in a service request.

In the spirit of mindfulness, I decided to do my morning yoga first. (Fortunately, I have a few yoga sessions saved offline for just this kind of times.)

After yoga, I hopped in the truck and drove off to Rodeo. I can usually get a cell signal there, but not today. I saw a few people congregated in front of the local café and so asked them if they had phone service. (Often phone outages here are very localized to a small area.)

“No phone. No power. Not here or in Portal or in Animas.”

Oh, that’s not good.

I had a couple work calls scheduled for this morning, so I decided to drive towards Animas until I could get a signal to at least text people to reschedule.

Once I got a signal and sent the texts, I called a friend of mine here to see how she was doing and to tell her what I knew about the scope of the problem.

“Forty-eight hours is what we hear.”

Oh, that’s worse.

On the way home, I stopped by the local post office, which is a hub of our community. Several people were there exchanging news, and I was able to confirm that 48 hours was the expected outage and that it was widespread. There had been a big storm north of us (ironically, we got no rain at all at our house), and 25 poles had been knocked out.

I let our postmaster know that if anyone had a “power emergency,” she could send them our way since we have solar. Yes, with solar, we have power, even though the rest of area is out. (This has saved us several fridge/freezers full of food as well as other inconveniences.)

Listening to everyone talk, it seemed like it could have been a hundred years ago. People gathering at a central spot to share news, tell stories, offer help, and laugh together.

One thing I learned is that even cell service would be ending soon, since the towers use power and apparently only have a limited power backup. (Imaging end times is a popular pastime here so this got my mind going.)

With big storms supposed to be rolling in this weekend (though I now have no access to a weather forecast), I wonder if it might be longer than 48 hours.

There isn’t a lot of work I can get done with no email or Internet, so today will be spent doing some offline projects and baking for the market tomorrow. (I already had the dough ready before this happened, so I might as well bake.) I’m also going to do some writing, send some postcards, edit some video, and of course, work in the garden. With no baseball or movies tonight, I’ll curl up with a good book, which I have several in a stack waiting for me.

This makes me reflect on how dependent we are on the Internet and more broadly on other infrastructure that we have little control over. It is simultaneously a little worrying and kind of quaint. For the next few days, I will hunker down here and live like everyone did not so long ago, glad for my solar power, for offline pleasures, and for my large stores of food and comfortable house.

(written the evening of 8/11/17…the end of day 2)

I had a lovely day yesterday, enjoying a relaxing and guiltless day of non-work. I finished two books I had been mid-way with and then read another whole book that was very enjoyable. (If the Internet doesn’t come back soon, I may catch up on my Goodreads goal.) I also baked for market, edited a video I’d been putting off, and organized some things.

I often imagine a dream life (“When I win the lottery…”) of no email and no phone, and this day of that lived up to my expectation.

I didn’t realize though how many times a day I consult the Internet for other things, especially living where we do. Checking the weather, reading the news, listening to music, looking up a new word or idea, chatting with friends. And I did miss all of that.

This morning, I got up and checked the phone, which was still out. I got ready for the market as I normally do on Fridays and drove into town. Going through Rodeo, I noticed lights were on, meaning power was back there. When I got to Portal, there were sporadic reports of phone service returning. By the time I left at 1:00, the library had Internet again.

When I returned home, phone service had returned but still no Internet. I reset the router again and tried to be patient. Finally, after a few hours, I called our local phone co-op and Internet provider. They said there were no known issues and passed me on to technical support hell. That began a cycle of troubleshooting questions and “escalations” that has as of yet not resulted in Internet service being restored.

What was quaint and enjoyable yesterday has now grown old.

Eventually, I imagine that our tall cowboy service guy will come out to the house and fix things. He seems to be the only competent person at our phone co-op, and we are fortunate that he is the one we interact with face-to-face when it comes to that.

Stay tuned….

(written afternoon of 8/12/17… day 3)

Frustration set in today.

No word from our co-op and no success after resetting the router every hour or so…until about 2pm when the Internet mysteriously came back on. There was no visit for our service guy, so the problem was something out of our area, as I suspected.

It’s good to be online again.

Now to catch up on the long list of things that has accumulated.

Green grasslands

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

The monsoons have stretched out this year and have provided good, solid rains for two months now. They could end any day now, and we are enjoying them while they last.

The grass is tall and green, and we have actually had to cut the grass in the courtyard between the houses a couple times now.

On a walk the other day, we surprised a few javelinas, which looked rather like dolphins on the ocean as they lept through the tall grass.

This morning, looking out at the cows, they appeared to be floating in the field.


Monsoons have arrived

Saturday, 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.