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Birthday Flowers

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My mother, Emily, in her prime

 

Today is my mother’s birthday.  She would have been 99.  No one in our family has lived to such an age; it’s apparently not in our genetic code.

If church were meeting, I would be bringing flowers this week.  The last job my mother had was as church secretary for her Unitarian church.  Among her duties was bringing flowers if no one had signed up to do so.  And so I honor her with flowers.

 

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This year, not needing a large bouquet, I picked a few from my garden.  Snapdragons don’t last long as cut flowers, but they offer a cheerful mix of colors, appropriate to the Easter season.

Spring Photos

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Many plants are blooming now.  There are still poppies.poppies10230I expect this area to have more poppies next year.  The seeds have no place to go now that the plants have reached the wall.

pink10229This plant, whose name I cannot remember although I bought it, has dutifully bloomed all winter, but not so energetically as it is doing now.

Apache Plume0236The apache plume has begun to come out.  It’s named for its feathery seed heads, but the white flowers are much more visible.

Most of my gardening is in the back yard, where no one but me has much chance to see it, but this indian hawthorn that came with the house puts on a show for a brief time in spring.Front bush10233

And for an extra touch in the front yard I took the palm branch (it’s plastic) which was delivered from church with other materials to use for worship in holy week, and tied it to my front gate.palm0234

It blows nicely in the wind, but it may not be fit to return for reuse next year.

GUMO?

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In the National Park Service shop I was puzzled by black tee shirts with GUMO in large letters on the front.  Goo-moh?  How was I supposed to know it should be pronounced Gwa-moh?  It took me a moment or two to make the translation.  The Park Service’s standard use of two letters of two words coding for the parks does not work when U is functioning as a consonant.  I was at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.Peak0219

 

The park was crowded.  The clerk said it was spring break, but I saw many older couples too.  The date was March 9, just before the reality of the coronavirus epidemic hit us all.  That morning in the busy little shop will remain my “before” image; so much we did not know.

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Fortunately, our national monuments, landscapes and parks will be here to come back to.  This park has one unusual historical landmark, the remains of buildings from a stop on the Butterfield Stage Route.

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The Butterfield mail route ran through these mountains from 1851 to 1859, when a safer route was chosen.  Then in 1861 the Civil War interrupted it.  For a business that only lasted ten years, the Butterfield Stage has a big place in southwestern lore.  Since they needed to change horses every twenty miles there are many ruins across the southwest, but few are as easy to get to as this one.

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February Snow Times 2

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Snow is a rare thing here, although we often see it up on the mountain.  Even more unusual, this year we’ve had two snows in two weeks.

P1010199The first made a lovely covering, for the short time it lasted.  Here is the view through my study window.P1010203

The second week’s snow was a heavy wet one, giving a different effect.  It even covered the bonsai that sits at the edge of my patio.P1010205

 

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I wrote this poem for a friend who used snow falling as a symbol of depression.  That seems unlikely in the desert southwest.

February Morning
for John

He tells me snow
is a product of the air’s
despair.  Perhaps

he’s right: seedheads
of the tall grass are weighed
down, shawled in white.

But each twig on the tree
is highlighted, while the earth
sleeps cozy under its blanket

and every thirsty plant
will drink the melt; the birds
can feed again.

 

I think we’ve had our winter.  Spring winds should be here soon.

 

First Spring Blooms

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It’s March and the wind is blowing.  That’s how you know it is spring in Las Cruces.  And yes, things are beginning to bloom.

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The first flowers to appear in my yard are volunteers.  My neighbor across the cul-de-sac is a very diligent and experienced gardener.  Last summer he planted these bright orange flowers in the section between sidewalk and road.   He pulled them out when they began to get shaggy, but they had sent out seed.

Orange 2This spring I have one between sidewalk and wall, and two tiny ones between sidewalk and road.  My next-door neighbor has a few in what used to be his lawn.  The neighbor across the way has several.  I’m waiting to see if he pulls them out.  As I’ve noted before, I like volunteers and won’t pull these.  But they won’t last long.Orange0112

 

 

Two days later I find the first poppies in my back yard.  Spring has definitely arrived.

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Late Summer in the Garden

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Something finally brought me back to the blog after a rather frantic summer.  A picture of a weed.

velcro plantWell, most people call it a weed, but I consider it a wildflower.  It’s current popular name is velcro plant; it was formerly called stickleaf.  If you pull it up you will find out why.  It’s proper name is said to be Mentzelia.  This particularly fine specimen is growing at the edge of our pool deck.

Since I had the camera out, I looked around to see what else is currently showing off.  Here is my hummingbird bush.

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Like most of my garden, it is doing just fine being neglected.  Across the yard from this is my tallest grass plant.

p1010093.jpgWhat you see is the top half of the high wall that holds up the ground of the house behind us and a very little of the great mound of leaves which supports these feathery spikes of seed.  In the mornings small birds land on the seed heads and weigh them down.

I have never learned the proper name of this giant grass.  As for the hummingbird bush I have looked it up more than once, but don’t remember.  So much to learn, so much else to occupy the mind.

 

Weaving the Terrain: Southwestern Poems

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Weaving the Terrain0001Weaving the Terrain is a large collection edited by David Meischen and Scott Wiggerman.  It contains 211 poems, by many poets—a minority of the contributors have supplied more than one poem.  The subject matter ranges across the southwestern states and over many themes.  There are plenty of roadrunners, vultures and coyotes, historical moments both familiar and lesser known, and a lot of sand.  There are personal stories as well, events that “just happen” to take place in a southwestern locale.

The full subtitle is 100-word southwestern poems.  This challenge, it turns out, can be met in many ways, by many shapes and styles.  Instead of the usual blurbs on the back cover, the comments are about the interesting project of fitting poems to this measure.  Every hyphen or article changed the word count.  That effort, however, rarely is visible in the finished product.P1010054

I have a poem in this collection.  It’s in the section called “Half-Lives Slowly Ticking” but is primarily about one of those lesser known historical moments, the feud between cattleman Oliver Lee and lawyer Albert Fountain.

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This book seems to me primarily a book for poets, those who will explore the shapes and guess at the choices of various poems.  But I think it might provide much interest to those who imagine the southwest but have never been there.  A gift for prospective visitors?  Dos Gatos Press managed to keep the price for 235 pages of poetry to a reasonable $19.95.P1010059

I’ve illustrated this report with a few native plants from my garden: apache plume, a cactus, and my mesquite tree.  The tree is just leafing out and that is considered a trustworthy sign that it is safe to put out tender annuals.  Frost is over.

Turn, turn, turn

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Another cross-quarter day, better known as Halloween.  I read somewhere that this is the third harvest, the others coming at Lammas (early August) and the equinox.  Maybe in Europe?  I don’t seem to have much to harvest this year.  In fact it is planting season for Swiss chard, the one vegetable I’ve succeeded in growing here.  But I do have flowers:

P1000985The chamisa and the butterfly bush are flaunting their yellow and red, and yes, fighting for space.  In the side yard the volunteer autumn sage is blooming again:

P1000987Fortunately, it doesn’t mind in the least that I never got around to deadheading the last set of blooms.  As the weather cools I hope to give the garden more attention.

In the summer I was fighting weeds with early morning forays with vinegar and salt.  It seems to work.  My front walk is quite well behaved.  Time to spend more energy on the other sides of the house.  Who was it who commented that something is always happening in a garden?

One Day in Spring

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Not just on one day, but on one trip into the yard with the camera this past week, these different flowers all smiled at me, asking to have their picture taken.

P1000957Purple mat is a small flower which, this year, is here, there and everywhere in my yard, after some years of scarcity.

P1000954The iris came with the house.  That is, a few flat leaves showed up in unexpected places.  I’ve transplanted and fed them.  They seem to like being against the wall.  They take much more work than native flowers, and don’t last as long, but they were an accidental gift, so I keep caring for them.

P1000955No, these are not the same poppies I’ve shown before.  It’s a good year for them, they keep appearing in new spots.

With so little to smile at on the news these days, it’s a good thing we still have flowers.

Happy Equinox

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A few photos to celebrate the arrival of spring.

P1000949I tried to plant something else for the winter in this pot.  It didn’t make it.  These violas don’t care whether it is winter or spring.

 

 

 

The iris came through very well this year:

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They have a cozy corner which gives them a good head start on the season.

This volunteer jumped into bloom when I wasn’t looking.  Another case of the comfort of a wall.  P951 volunteer

And then the poppies.  They turn up wherever they please.

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It’s a new year, astrologically.  A more sensible time for new beginnings, I think, than January 1.   In this spring quarter of the year I hope to have more than photos to put on this blog.  I also hope  these photos make you smile.

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