Sunday, July 21, 2013

Clouds In New Mexico Skies

It's rained each day in July.  The clouds that serve up our luscious monsoon rains blanket the skies in typical dramatic fashion.  This is why I live here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Monsoon Rains Save the Day

I was awakened just before dawn to the sound of thunder, lightning, and rainfall. We've had rain at my house everyday since the first of July. July is our rainiest month as the Southwest monsoon season brings us rain from the Gulf of Mexico. This morning's total so far is .35 inches (9 mm).  My home is located in Sandia Park on the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains (about 25 miles from Albuquerque and 1500-2000 feet higher) and our average annual precipitation between 1981 and 2010 was 18.93 inches.  But in recent years, we've had reduced snow and rain levels so we are officially in a drought  After months of no rain at all, we have had more than 2 inches of rain since the 1st of July!

Now for you in wetter climes,  you may well scoff at our paltry precipitation levels, but truly the monsoon rains are saving New Mexico this month.  Here in central New Mexico, where half our state population lives, the average annual precipitation for Albuquerque is 9.1 inches (or 240 mm).  Yes, other cities in New Mexico average double digit annual precipitation totals (Clovis to the southeast gets 19.1 inches, and to the north, Santa Fe gets 14.2 inches and Taos gets 12.8 inches, and Ruidoso, our southern skiing paradise, averages 21.8 inches of precipitation each year).  Now some of that annual precipitation comes from snowfall from October through May, but half of our annual precipitation falls in the summer in two and one half months (July to early September).  New Mexico has been in a severe drought so we are very thankful for these daily rains.  As of this morning, Albuquerque's July precipitation has totaled 1.2 inches, twice the average July precipitation to date.  The July rainfall has allowed the Cibola National Forest Sandia District  to once again open our National Forest near Albuquerque. I am hoping to resume Wildflower Walks that were cancelled in June because of the drought and lack of wildflowers.  Here at my house, the trees, shrubs,  flowers and vegetables are drinking up the delicious rainfall.

The distressed pinon trees are beginning to recover.

Most of my plantings are native plants that are xeric

Vegetables in my garden have doubled in size 

My rain barrels fill up in a few minutes
Tomatoes, Chile Peppers and Cucumbers

My Cottonwood tree loves water but sustains itself through long periods of drought

Pinon Pine getting their annual ration of monsoon rainfall

With more rain, perhaps a pinon pine nut crop may come next year

My lower patio is flagstone with Creeping Thyme
planted in between the stones

Upper patio and deck is planted with wildflowers to attract birds

A Lesser Goldfinch stops by at the feeder for breakfast

More rain barrels behind the garage catch rainfall

Yellow Columbine

My xeric garden of Butterfly Bush, Sages, Germander,
Perky Sue, Red Yucca,
and Native grasses (Blue Grama,  Buffalo, and Blue Avena)

Cat Mint, Germander, Butterfly Bush and  Perky Sue

My lawn is composed of Blue Grama and Buffalograss
that need as little as 6 inches of water per year to survive.

Xeric plantings of Red Yucca, Butterfly Bush,
Blue Avena, Texas Sage and Lavender

My Japanese Honeysuckle is not a xeric plant
 and does need regular watering
My front porch is a great place to sit and watch the rain.
Here's hoping we continue the pattern this summer and put a dent into our drought.

Hope you are having a wonderful summer where you live.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rocky Mountain High

We returned home Saturday from our annual vacation to Breckenridge, Colorado.  This annual affair began 10 years ago when by chance I purchased from a private party, sight unseen, a timeshare for use in early September.  I had never even been to Breckenridge but I love mountains and you can't beat the Rocky Mountains for a mountains-themed vacation. 

Main Street, Breckenridge, Colorado

French Ridge Interval Condominiums
Breckenridge is an historic mining town that has grown into a huge tourist resort with marvelous winter skiing and other year-round wonders.  It seemed that half of Denver was there over the 4th of July weekend.  As usual, the picturesque streets and yards of Victorian-style residences were full of summer flowers. 

In the center of town, the Blue River flows alongside shops, restaurants, and walking/biking paths:

I first visited the timeshare I had purchased (a 2-story Victorian-style condominium just off Main Street) in September, 2003.  I was delighted with the accommodations which featured a nice balcony view of the mountains and a private hot-tub on the deck. The little town of Breckenridge in Summit County, Colorado totally captivated me and I took friends, my daughters, and then my husband who I married in 2006 each year for a week's vacation.

View from my vacation condo's deck in September, 2004
 (a dusting of snow is not uncommon in late summer)
My French Ridge Condo  (upper two floors tan unit)
The lovely glow of golden aspen was everywhere
Some years I traded my timeshare week for another place like Branson, Cabo San Lucas, Pagosa Springs, or Blaine,Washington.  But, I hate to miss my week in Breckenridge each year. In 2012, I traded my September week for a February ski week at the same resort and took my daughters and their friends. French Ridge Interval Condominiums has experienced many changes since 2003.  The condos were completely renovated and upgraded and we owners voted to eliminate the hot tubs this year due to rising costs of maintenance.  Last year, we purchased a second unit for $1 that was a July week and on a single level.  It's easy to pick up inexpensive timeshare units these days for a token amount amount or for free because the Timeshare Industry is so depressed.  I "Quit Claimed" the deed for my September week to a friend and now we only have the July week.  This summer week allows children and grandchildren to join us.  This year, we had Ron's daughter, Anne, and grandchildren, Milla and Will share our July vacation.

Will, Anne and Milla with the Collegiate Peaks behind them 
We took them rafting on the Arkansas River, hiking, playing at the Breckenridge Fun Park on Peak 8, and on a tour of the Country Boy Gold Mine.

Rafting the Arkansas River through the town of Salida, CO
This was an easy going :float trip without much "white water"

This mine opened in 1887 and
 produced gold, silver, zinc and lead
 until it was closed in 1945.

We descended 1000 ft. into the mine shaft

We learned a lot about the hard life of miners
An early morning hike on the Tenderfoot Trail with awesome views

and lots of wildflowers like this Blue Flax...
... and here is Yellow Stonecrop  along the trail

Even 5 year old Milla hiked the mile or so scenic trail above Lake Dillon

Anne and the kids had to fly back to Minnesota mid-week, so the rest of the week was a relaxing one for just my husband and I.  Ron and I saw a great local production of the Tony Awarded Avenue Q at the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre. I had seen Avenue Q in NYC in 2004 and this local production was every bit as good!  I took a solo hike to McCullough Gulch on Friday morning. What a beautiful experience!

Indian Paintbrush and Colorado Columbine

Elephant's Head   Pedicularis groenlandica

View from the trail with Mt. Quandary on the left

Colorado Columbine Aquilegia coerulea  v. coerulea
 (Colorado's state flower)
The lower falls

 Friday night, we headed for nearby Frisco for dinner followed by a movie in Dillon.  We saw The Lone Ranger which we thought was great fun and not as bad as the reviews had led us to believe.  Johnny Depp was marvelous as Tonto and much of the film showcased our home state of New Mexico.  Returned home via Hwy 285 on Saturday. With a stop for lunch in Alamosa, we were home in seven hours. Happily, the monsoon rains have arrived and we enjoyed rain for most of our drive through New Mexico.