Monday, April 30, 2012

Last Monday in April

Shadows on the barn door by J. Binford-Bell

Tomorrow is May 1st. We used to do May baskets when I was a kid. We worked for days doing them for all the neighbors and then took off early May Day morning to deposit one on each stoop or porch or door knob.

Per Wiki: May Day is  related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls exactly half a year from November q, another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various Northern European pagan traditions.

The end of April seems to be officially the end of the doldrums of winter and the Mud and Flood season of the highlands here. Many of the locals escape if they can and I end up with a lot of pet sitting and property watching jobs. May the locals begin to return from extended vacations. And those that own second homes here come back from Mexico or Phoenix to get their homes cleaned up and prepared for the Memorial Day weekend and the summer rental season. 

May is when you are likely to run into old friends at the market and the post office; friends you have not seen all winter. Not all of them have been away. I do think winter brings out the bear in some of us. Now is when we poke out a nose and test the air. Yard and garage sales erupt, ads for summer employment appear, trucks for window washing services dot the back roads.

Magique by the Magic Pond by J. Binford-Bell

The ice is off the local lakes and boats are being hauled to Eagle Nest Lake to test the fishing. Hope springs eternal like spring. The weather is warm enough for a good hike but not so warm that you can leave the hoodie home. Layering is more than a fashion statement. And keep the camera near because the elk are down from the high meadows and looking for the first tender green grass to fatten up on before calving.

What did you say?

They are not exactly pretty just now as they are getting ready to shed the winter hair. But they don't seem too concerned about cameras either, so they almost seem to pose.

Happy May Day everyone.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Photography with Dogs

Magique playing peek-a-boo

Which figures first: the dogs or the camera? We are getting into some very beautiful weather and both the dogs and the camera are an excuse to be out and about instead of in my studio or cleaning up my kitchen. When they were younger my attention had to be more focused on them but now I can be so absorbed in focusing the view before me that I miss the presence of a dog in the scene like above.

Rainbow Magique
Or sometimes after I get home with a bunch of "cast offs" I fully intend to trash I realize the dog in the foreground made the shot. Certainly gave it scale. The goal that day was to photograph reflections.

Quite accidentally, Magique spooked these geese that added ripples to all my subsequent photos of reflections. That can be one of the biggest problems taking photographs with dogs - getting them to not chase your subjects. Mine are pretty good 90% of the time. But they don't understand not rippling the water. They think that is what the walk is for. And when I have to have them on leads they will allow me to stand on the leash while I take my photos. Wise to take a bunch on fast shutter but sometimes this really works for me.

The still don't quite understand tripod and I am a very nervous cat when I have my digital camera perched on one was they romp about.

Mardi Gras and stump

And sometimes I know they know that I really wanted a picture of them instead of the old rotten stump. And in this case I discovered after I got home I really did. Though after I shooed her away I did get a couple nice ones of the stump too.

In conclusion let me say, that anyone that takes their dogs with them and the camera needs to be well versed not only in digital photography manuals but in all the episodes of The Dog Whisperer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Airports of my youth

SEA-TAC circa 1952

A group of us now senior citizens got tripping down memory lane recently about airports -- as they once were. My memories were of the Albuquerque and Kansas City airports mostly.

And one of the earliest was when my father came back from Korea. He was an US Air Force officer. Military flew free in uniform then. It would have been just about the same time this picture post card of the Seattle airport was taken. Passengers walked off the plane on a rolling set of stairs and across the tarmac to people that waited just behind a railing outside. See if that would ever happen in these high security times.

Anyway Dad was one of the first passengers off. I was sure it was my daddy but Mother assured me Dad was almost always last to deplane because as a pilot he felt the tail seats were the safest. But Dad got off first that day because he had flown the commercial prop plane from somewhere outside San Francisco when the pilot and co-pilot came down sick from food poisoning: "Is there a pilot on the plane?" Actually it was done a bit more quietly than that, "Major Binford," the stewardess said quietly, "our manifest shows you are a pilot and our captain has invited you to the cockpit." I broke through the rail and ran to embrace my dad home from war. Do that today and you would be hauled off to jail even if you were just seven.

Yes, Dad was a pilot and for years I thought that was why a Sunday outing often included the observation deck of the Albuquerque Airport as I was growing up. Yes, Virginia, airports used to have open observation decks often crowded with people in their Sunday best waiting for planes. Nobody flew in anything but good clothes in those days. And airports had some of the best restaurants. Until 1968 they were likely operated by the Fred Harvey House.  The one at the Albuquerque airport was the best place to get seafood because it was flown in daily.

My old high school friend remembers that restaurant for their French Toast. I had forgotten it till she mentioned it on a comment in Facebook. There has never been French Toast quite like it. Meals out when I was young was not McDonalds. It was the Hacienda Restaurant in Old Town or Fred Harvey's at the airport. And Dad always got us a window seat that overlooked the planes coming and going. Dad took us to the airport for the landing of one of the first ever jet planes. It landed close to sunset with the loudest roar I can remember. But the take off after dark with the red coming out of the propless engines was awesome.

I hate airports these days. They are like maximum security prisons. You never even get close to the planes unless you are taking off in one and then you are more likely to see just the inside of them. The outsides when they are connected up to those sucking jet ways. If you meet an arriving passenger you cannot even get close. I don't even park any more but pick up my friends outside the baggage pick up area. Rather like picking up a released prisoner outside the prison walls.

NOTES: I actually did fly through SEA-TAC in the early 1970's on my way to Alaska. They still had the observation deck. There had been a few hijackings before then but nobody had flown a plane into a building deliberately so once by the metal detectors you were adjudged safe. I got to fly a lot before metal detectors. That is probably another blog.

And I even met Fred Harvey's Son before his suicide and the death of the Fred Harvey company. He was managing the La Fonda Hotel, one of the companies last great flagships, in Santa Fe at the time. We seldom recognize the significance of the passage of events when they happen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gardening 2012 Edition

New location for raised beds

When I moved from Questa to Black Lake I abandoned the large garden plot and three great 4 x 8 foot raised beds. I did not miss the garden plot but the first spring I erected two 8 x 4 raised beds. And quickly found that I could grow more than I could eat in them. Number one I could grow fewer things at the higher altitude and shorter growing season. Lettuce, spinach, kale and mustard greens thrived. Squash was very risky.

So when I had to move the old beds for the studio addition and found them rotted out after eight years I decided on 4 x 4 foot raised beds. But I had one summer of container gardening in the back yard in between. When the construction crew was gone I built the new smaller beds and located them in a scattered pattern toward the front of the studio. Mistake. They were not as protected as I thought they would be and didn't get enough sun.

Last summer I toyed with beds at the base of the studio window for squash. I covered them with plastic on chilly nights and kept them from freezing but they didn't get enough sun.

Onion and garlic beds

Yesterday I planted the studio wall beds with early salad bowl lettuce, onions and garlic from the beds I moved. A couple weeks early but the black water jugs which absorb the heat of the sun keep the soil very warm even this early in April.

Since the plastic seemed to work on keeping the squash plants from freezing I figured I would put a low tunnel green house over the now aligned raised beds. I have been toying with with a grand walk in one but know that gardening is iffy at best in my rarefied air so am contenting myself with starting small. If I get good results I can use the smaller design as an under bubble and build a larger tunnel over the top.

This will be the first summer I will have no art fairs and so one problem with gardening will be solved - time. I will be captive in my studio during posted studio hours and I can always work the gardens outside. Hopefully I can rescue the herb/flower garden which I lost total control of last summer while I worked to prepare for fairs. And do a decent job with the new raised beds. Dole having to recall bagged lettuce makes the lettuce I can grow all season long that much more desirable.

Raised beds get planted the 1st of May and the low tunnel installed then by the 1st of June my first experiment with squash and pepper plants.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Time and Money

Chairs at Monet's Pond by J. Binford-Bell

It has been one of those weeks. One of those weeks when I would like to be lounging by a pond just spending time doing nothing. But I have been busy. Busy can be good especially when their is money attached to it. I have this "day job" I do in the "slow times." I pet and property sit. And even work as an odds job woman.

April, which is a dead time for art and tourism, is a a busy time for pet sitting and property watching. Those that can afford it leave town. April can be a rather dismal month in the mountains. Not warm enough to do summer projects and not cold enough to enjoy winter sports. Us locals call it mud and flood season only this year there has not been much of that. But there have been spring snows putting a kabash on spring projects for gardening.

But all those little jobs that have been preventing me from just sitting in a chair and being lazy are going to make it possible to build myself a tunnel green house and stash away some money for leaner times. Or just higher gas prices. Or more art supplies. But when you are so tired you just want to go back to bed and curl up in a ball it can be hard to focus on why you are working this hard.

You find yourself wishing for a different pacing. Spread things out just a bit. But that is one of the things that is so different about life in the high country. It seems to come in spurts. You work yourself to a frazzle and then sit around and wait until the snow melts. Then jump to your list of to do's to take advantage of the short growing season, or art tourism season, then wait till the snow comes and . . .

You take it when you can get it. Try to save it for when you don't have it. Horde for the lean times. Make hay while the sun shines.

Never a dull moment. Though I admit to wishing for a day or two of totally dull with sunshine so I can sit in a lawn chair and watch the grass grow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Escaping the Cyber Gang

Spring runoff by J. Binford-Bell

The cyber stalking by the gang of five plus one has made me take a long look at how I spend my time in cyber space. As a result I will be spending more time blogging and less time interfacing on Facebook. And that interface will be limited to trusted friends.

More blogs means more time off the computer and out in the world gathering fodder for those blogs. And given that I am a photographer there will be more photo blogs no doubt.

Forensic evidence

While accompanying my dogs they located this fragment of bone. It is a large bone, not human but I do not know if cow or elk. But notice the tiny teeth marks near the pine need on the upper shaft. Rodent no doubt. But an even bigger mystery is the animal with the big enough jaws that it fractured the shaft to extract the marrow. Well, moving along quickly . . . I was after all seeking tranquility away from bullies.

Tranquility Base New Mexico

It was a beautiful morning for a pleasant stroll with the fur kids. And not a single cyber bully in evidence. When the internet gets you all upset just return here and meditate.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Becoming Buddha

On the edge by J. Binford-Bell

Anne Frank wrote in her diary that in spite of all that happened in her short life that she continued to believe that people were basically good. I don't agree with her.

I think People, seen as a large faceless mass, are basically mean spirited and bad. Our goal in this short life is to rise above that base me-above-all-elseness.

I was watching a documentary about Buddha last night and how he believed we could all be the Buddha. At the same time I was being attacked on a social media for absolutely no reason by people that were clearly not the Buddha. It was reminding me of the rock wars we had as kids. It was our side of the street against the other side. How alien and scary the people on the north side seemed. We must protect ourselves, so we gathered rocks and headed to the high ground, a low hill that overlooked the road and down upon Judy and her minions.

We were ready until we began to itch. Our fortress was teeming with poison oak. We spend days in the prison camps of our bedrooms being tortured by vile smelling salves. Judy's gang declared victory. I was I believe 6 at the time. And I knew at that moment beyond all shadow of doubt that without serious training my bad side would always win. And when I returned to school with scabs all over my body and the brutal teasing of the north side group I knew that some people do not want to undergo any training at all.

I love my dogs. Dad taught me how wonderful dogs were. When I was "sick" for days on end to avoid going to school and being teased Dad would take me out on long hikes with the dogs. He raised field champion hunters and I would help him train them. Dogs are easier to train than humans. Dogs become Buddha very easily. And it is very easy to be Buddha in the company of dogs.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It Snowed Monday - and Tuesday

Calm before the storm by J. Binford-Bell

Monday morning, April 2nd, 2012, was a glorious dawn. The day began with a wonderful walk with the fur kids and camera. Then it was off to the Angel Fire Visitor's center with my sister's and my photographs to hang for the Binfords' Back Country Photography show April and May. I had worn a light hoodie for the walk and just shirt sleeves to hang the exhibit.

But the minute I stepped out of the Angel Fire Visitors Center I realized that was a mistake. Clouds had rolled in and by the time I got home it was spitting snow.

The Bell by J. Binford-Bell

It was April and I know we can get some heavy snows in April but I frankly was not taking this one seriously. I was playing with my camera and the photo opportunities instead of locating the snow shovels, bringing firewood into the house, finding and having ready all lanterns and flash lights. Big mistake.

Lawn Chairs by J. Binford-Bell

Forecasts were now saying a foot to 20 inches but the weather service has been wrong all winter. I continued to play with my camera until the light failed. Then I waded out through the 10 inches of snow to get wood for the fire. A couple winks of the power and I located flashlights before heading upstairs to bed.

No Picnic today by J. Binford-Bell

It was light enough to get the picture above I realized we were getting closer to the 20 inches. It was still snowing. Time to find the snow shovel. That meant trekking through 18 inches of snow to where I had leaned it against the bird feeder. The birds liked that because it meant I was going to put out food. Then it was did myself out of front door to trudge with dogs to the neighbor's for coffee of course. The snow plows had not been down the roads, the school district had closed the schools, neighbors with jobs were on a two hour delay. What better to do than have coffee and watch it snow some more. Oh, and take pictures.

Magique with snow balls from walk

Roof Glaciers

And shovel the driveway. I did that in spurts. Twenty inches of wet spring snow is heavy. New renters helped and by late afternoon the driveway was clear. It will be 51 F today so no doubt a lot of this will melt. Expect pictures of swollen Little Coyote soon.