Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The End Is Near...the End of Summer That Is

Three weeks of summer remain. The vegetables in the garden keep coming, although we still await chiles and eggplant and red tomatoes.  Here's some of the summer bounty I picked yesterday:

We have had so many veggies and herbs from my tiny little garden that most of it has been given away. 
Corn has been sweet and we shared only a little with the catapillars. I don't spray any of my veggies with insecticide.  Bugs are really not a problem, the lizards and birds seem to take care of them.

  My daughter, Amanda, had fun picking vegetables and "posing" as my little farmer girl in my little mountain garden.

Picking Yellow Squash

I actually harvested corn from my garden this summer

This summer, I led four Wildflower Interpretive Walks as a volunteer for the Forest Service. They were on the Crest Trail (North and South), Tecolote Trail and Tree Spring Trail in the Sandia Mountains.  The people I met were terrific and many complimented me on an informative walk although I was pretty nervous about my knowledge initially. Pearl Burns, my teacher, went along on two of them and provided me with her evaluation.  I went on my last 2010 wildflower walk last Saturday.  Pearl Burns led this one along Juan Tomas Rd. off South 14 in the Manzanita Mountains.  Here are some of the flowers we saw:

Poison Milkweed

Annual Sunflower
Verbena (above) and Many-flowered Gilia (below)
Fringed Sage
False Boneset
Narrow-leaf Four O'Clock
Pearl Burns with Wooly Mullein
Small-flowered Guara
Cota or Rio Grande Greenthread
Blue Flax
Crest-Rib Morning Glory
Flower of Ground Cherry          
Fruit of Ground Cherry
Yellow Ragweed or Bahia
White Heath Aster
Rocky Mountain Sage
Toothed Poinsettia
Wild Licorice
Short-rayed Coneflower
Tall Easter or Townsend's Daisy
Townsend's Daisy bracts
Purple Geranium
Santa Fe Phlox

Spike Verbena

Summer is almost past.  The cool, clear days of Fall will soon be here.  We installed a new wood stove and soon will need to purchase firewood from one of the wood-haulers that line the roads in the Fall.  I'm looking forward to Winter this year with the help of a good wood stove to warm the house.

Our new wood stove in the living room

Friday, August 27, 2010

Republican Support for Tax Cuts...The Fairy Tale

Mark Fiore, political cartoonist of the San Francisco Chronicle, has illustrated what a Fairy Tale the Republicans tell http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/08/25/fioreforest.DTL :

The Republicans are all singing in unison that we need to "fix the economy" by growing jobs through tax cuts. It's a complete myth about keeping tax cuts in order to create jobs and fix the economy.  What happened since 2001 when tax rates were lowered?  In just 6 years we were in two major wars costing billions of dollars per month, a banking crisis, a mortgage melt-down, a growing national deficit, and the worse unemployment in 30 years.

What is the cost (increase in the National Debt) of these tax cuts?  Try $678 billion for 2011 and about $3.1 trillion in the next 10 years...unpaid for unless you want to cut social programs, Medicare and Social Security, military spending, assistance for natural disasters, infrastructure repairs and construction, the Space Program, salaries of all government workers, etc. The Pew Economic Policy Group has done a thorough fiscal analysis of the effects of the Bush Tax cuts here:

As one recent posting from Think Progress put it: "Extending just the cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans will cost $830 billion over ten years. As Center for American Progress Associate Director for Tax Policy Michael Linden wrote, 'to put that figure in perspective, $830 billion is enough to pay for all veterans’ hospitals, doctors, and the rest of the Veteran’s Affairs health system, plus the United States Coast Guard, plus the Food and Drug Administration, plus the operation and maintenance of every single national park for the entire 10-year period — with more than $100 billion left over.' "  http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/08/02/palin-writes-down-cost-of-extending-bushs-tax-cuts-on-her-hand-still-gets-it-wrong/

President Obama says keep the tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 a year and for couples making less than $250,000. According to CBS Evening News article: "If the tax cuts do expire, the top rate for business owners will increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. For a business that brings in about $400,000 a year, that's about $12,000 more in taxes and for a business with income of $2.5 million, taxes would go up about $108,000." http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/08/06/eveningnews/main6750739.shtml 

The Republican Party is proposing an Economic Plan that gives billions of dollars to the wealthiest 2% of America while making the American Middle Class and the Poor suffer.  Indeed, who will continue to pay for these wars with such tax cuts for the very rich....the working class who have been fighting the war all along with their bodies and lives. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Quit Yer Bitching" -- We've Got Problems That Need Our Full Attention and United Effort

I lay awake last night thinking about the demagoguery that parades each day as news and freedom of speech thinking what can I do about it? I was thinking about the demonizing of a good man and his family, Barack Obama, and how some people in our country have made every effort possible to de-legitimize his Presidency since before he even took the oath of office. From the attack upon his religion, his birthright, his effort to reach out to America’s young people by talking to them on the first day of school, his efforts to encourage volunteerism, and on and on. We are at a very low point and I fear it will only get worse as we approach mid-term elections in November, 2010.

The 24/7 news cycle contributes to the anxiety and uncertainty of Americans. Republican Party politicians with a few exceptions march in lock step to block this President on each and every solution he proposes to resolve our immense economic, international and social problems. Now the Right Wing is talking about doing away with the Constitutional 14th Amendment’s right to citizenship by birth . No, it will not happen, but they care little about that. They would fan the flames of prejudice as hard as they might to get their voter base out. America is the shining light of liberty that so many people have struggled to come to and, yes, have their children be born here as free people with opportunity unknown in their own countries. Because many voters are massively in debt, under-employed or unemployed, trying valiantly each day to maintain family, home and a life, so few have time to look deeply into daily news stories and only hear the endless chatter and repeated snippets of one scandal or depressing fact after another.

Americans are faced with enormous problems that grew uncontrolled in the first 8 years of this century brought about by the greed of Wall Street, and many banks and corporations. We still have a very weak economy and a war against radical terrorists who think nothing of killing innocents in the name of religion. We face the spectre of  world war among nuclear-armed countries like North Korea, Iran, Israel and Pakistan. We face a world-wide environmental disaster due to global climate change with little to no control over its consequences. Still, these tiny-minded demagogues would continue to fracture our country with their snarkiness, their hate-speech and xenophobia. Now Fox News and the political Right are fanning hysteria over the building of an Islamic religious center near the World Trade Center site  that continues to fracture our country. It is a battle of ideas, and ultimately for the soul and preservation of our nation, that we are in.

We elected a President in 2008 who has stepped forward to lead during these dire times.  He has vision and fortitude and humility. He cannot please everyone nor fix all of America's ills in one sweep, but he has tried to live up to his campaign promises and he has achieved a hell of a lot in 18 months.   Now is the time to row together putting America first and Party second.  We have much more in common than the politcal pundits will admit to. Self-promoting political commentators/entertainers have an interest in keeping the American people stirred up and angry all the time.  They take advantage of the people's distrust in government and politicians because it makes them very rich selling books and TV shows.  They really have no interest in solving problems and creating unity in our country.

When the going gets tough, America has always come together and got the job done. I believe the majority of Americans don't agree with the demogoguery being spread by hate-mongerers in our country.  They will go to the polls in November and elect leaders who are working with our President for unity and progress, not tiny-minded demogogues.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Camping Trip to Northeast New Mexico and the Sad Story of Murder Along Old Route 66

Conchas Lake

Last Friday, we headed east on I-40 for a weekend camping trip to Conchas Lake State Park.  My husband and I had a new tent to try out and we'd never been to Conchas Lake which is east of Santa Rosa and about 34 miles northwest of Tucumcari.  Getting away for little weekend exporations around New Mexico is a favorite activity for us.  We relax, see new places, and learn a little history with each trip.  Northeastern New Mexico seems pretty barren, but there are a lot of lakes and rivers, historic Route 66 towns, and dirt roads through small historic villages and ranches amid beautiful mesas and gorges.  The skies are big and filled with monsoon clouds during the day and with little ambient light from development, the stars are bright at night.  

View from our Campsite at Bell Point, Site B-30
We arrived Friday evening about 630PM at our campsite next to the lake.  The lake was formed by damming the Canadian River in the 1930's.  A depression-era WPA project built the dam to assist farmers and ranchers in Northeast New Mexico with irrigation.  We didn't see much ranching or farming in this area these days.  Today, the lake is a popular recreational boating and fishing destination for water-starved New Mexicans.  There is a very nice Army Corps of Engineers operations base there, with beautiful green lawns and shady trees with BBQ's, playground equipment, and a sand volleyball court.  At Lake Conchas State Park, there is camping and swimming along the southern shore of the Lake, boat ramps and a small marina, a lounge, cafe, store, and a boat repair shop.  Just north of this are nice campgrounds along the northern shore. 

Each site has a shelter, a BBQ grill, and a tree or two for shade.  The views are lovely. The sunsets to the west of the very blue lake were amazing. The weather was hot in the 90's during the day, upper 60's at night.

On Sunday, we packed up early and headed for the town of Santa Rosa on old Route 66 for a green chile and cheese omlette and a breakfast burrito at Joseph's.  We decided to explore the area which has experienced quite a bit of civic and commercial development in recent years. The local park with it's city lake is a nice paradise with water slides, swimming beach, and paddleboats with shady picnicking areas and sports facilities.  Next to the park is the nearly finished new dive facility adjacent to the Blue Hole. The Blue Hole  is a natural limestone sink hole (about 81 ft. deep) full of constantly refreshing artesian spring water that remains clear and blue for scuba divers, snorklers and swimmers to enjoy.

Wanting to check out another lake and State Park, we headed north about 5 miles to Santa Rosa Lake State Park. This is a beautiful remote State Park with fairly new campgrounds, lots of green grass and trees and lake views. Again, this is primarily a boating and fishing destination like Conchas, but it also has equesterian trails, hiking trails, and nature walks, and an access road to the Pecos River below the dam.  We were impressed with the high quality of this State Park and resolved to return  here in the fall or spring for another camping trip.

Santa Rosa Lake
We decided to explore Guadalupe County's Mesalands and headed to the historic village of Colonias within the Anton Chico Spanish Land Grant northwest of Santa Rosa .  We pulled off I-40 at exit 267 where a Stuckey's restaurant and gas station sit remotely alone along the Interstate.  The road north to Colonias had a sign posted:  "Dead End".  As we took the narrow, roughly paved road north, we noticed the desolation of the place. We never saw another car on this narrow road, only a few cows, an occasional windmill or water trough.  No houses for miles, only an abandoned building, a corral or ranch gate here or there. Then it ocurred to us that this was the Killing Place.  About 3 weeks earlier, a horrible double murder took place nearby. A couple on vacation were brutally murdered and their burned-out trailer was found by ranch hands here about 5 miles north of the Interstate and the remains of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Oklahoma were inside. Two of their three dogs were found alive nearby and a dog tag helped to ID the couple.

Gary and Linda Haas
Their truck had been stolen and was found in Albuquerque some 100 miles to the west.  Two of the murder suspects were arrested at a remote Arizona campround and another was arrested a week earlier in Wyoming.  Two suspects are escapees from an Arizona prison, and the third is a woman who helped them to escape from the prison.  I was very sad for this innocent couple who were most likely in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I suspect they were overcome, perhaps during a stop along I-40 (old Rt. 66). I shudder at the thought of how quickly lovely life can be snuffed out by desperate and callous killers.  This harsh country has seen its share of callous murderers.             

The infamous outlaw Billy the Kid  lived and operated in this area of New Mexico in the 1870's until he was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881.  A Billy the Kid Pageant is held in Lincoln, NM in August of each year, and a Billy the Kid Museum is in nearby Ft. Sumner.  It's a shame that these losers often are remembered long after their victims.

We traveled on to Colonias. The Spanish village built in 1821 on the Pecos River had few residents left.  The church was badly disintergrated. The small playground and basketball court in the village center was overgrown and unused.  Only the gravesites looked tended. We saw no one walking or sitting around anywhere.
The Church in Colonias
Finally, we came across some residents hard at work rebuilding a beautiful old stone and adobe home.  We asked them how we might get to Anton Chico from Colonias rather than returning to I-40.  They directed us to a ranch road that would take us to NM-84 (Old Las Vegas Hwy).  Although a grisly murder had taken place nearby, people in this area are still generally friendly and trusting even of strangers who happen by randomly. This friendliness is both the strength of New Mexico's people and also the downfall of those hapless victims of criminals who offer a helping hand.  The randomness of crime..."There but for fortune go you or I..."    

Update 10/8/203:
Justice for Gary and Linda Haas. John McCluskey found guilty of murder on all counts!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Charlotte's Progeny

Last winter, I lamented the demise of my Cat Face Spider (Araneus gemmoides) when a hard freeze arrived.

My Cat Face Spider last October

But, like Charlotte in Charlotte's Web http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte's_Web, her baby spiderlings hatched last Spring and a couple of the surviving spiders have been spinning webs and getting fat.  Here is one of them this August.

In another month, her distinctive "cat-face" markings and abdomenal protrusions that form the "cat ears" will be totally recognizable.

These spiders are very beneficial to the garden: http://entomology.wsu.edu/insectoftheweek/CatFaceSpider.html 

Here is a video of a cat-faced spider wrapping a grass hopper up to dine on later: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8VC0s2kDHM