Saturday, April 27, 2013

Revealed Truth on the Road to Trinidad

Open spaces

Trinidad, Colorado is just 23 miles north of Raton, New Mexico where I go it seems entirely too often. But it seems I do not pop over Raton Pass and the state line very often. I have before because there is a super Walmart. And there used to be a rather fantastic Chinese restaurant under the overpass by the train tracks. It could still be there. If you are from a rural area like Black Lake Trinidad seems a whirl wind of railroad tracks and on and off ramps. I have come a long way since my days of commuting 25 miles across downtown Kansas City.

I was delivering paintings for the Splash Exhibit at the Trinidad Area Arts Council (TAAC) on the suggestion of an artist who has shared wall space with me at the Old Pass Gallery in Raton. I had printed out a Google Map but never had time to consult it because I had just started breathing after going over Raton Pass when I was at exit 13A and B or Main Street. Trinidad has a lot of those cute midwest street names like Main and Elm and Maple. As well as the obligatory 1st, 2nd and I will assume a 3rd. There is a west Main and an East Main. And the freeway is not the dividing line between East and West but a one way street called Commercial.

To make a long story shorter I finally decided to go over to Second Street and park the car near the corner of Walnut, grab the camera  and reconnoiter on foot. I was probably less than three blocks from where I needed to be but it took close to 40 minutes to walk that distance. Remember, I said I had the camera.

In Shreds

I am an urban renewal committee's nightmare. Quite obviously the town of Trinidad has vested a lot in restoring their old buildings built when Trinidad had its hay day of mining and railroad construction with the Denver and Rio Grande heading west and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe going south, circa 1869 to 1910. Obviously a lot of people and companies made a lot of money and built grand old buildings of stone, paved the roads with brick and installed brass doors. And I take pictures of windows needing paint and new curtains. Or closed up garages.

No waiting
I got so involved in pointing my camera I actually walked past my destination when I got involved in this sign?

And I have to apologize but I did not get the name of the business that boasted of its presence with this wonderful sculpture? Or space ship? I do not make the best of tourists. I stop and look in store windows not for the items displayed there but for the reflections of the buildings across the road.

Reflection of the Colorado Hotel
Or I get overly involved with the graffiti which I now understand was done by the Ghost Artist of Trinidad.

Weeping Lady

Somewhere in the middle of this and many more photographs I took I found where I needed to go, retrieved my car, and then delivered my paintings to TAAC. As I vowed to come back to Trinidad I wondered why it is I have not gone there more often. And on the drive back over the pass I had an epiphany.

I went to college in Albuquerque at UNM and my parents lived in Denver, Colorado. It is 499 miles between these two cities on Interstate 25 and Raton Pass is the biggest pass you have to surmount in that distance. School vacations are never at optimal times for mountain weather. I have spent more time at the Raton or Trinidad bus station waiting for the pass to be cleared than I want to admit. It is a wider road these days with nicer guard rails but there are still tell tale signs that the 8925 foot pass closes down. All the on and off ramps seem to have gates that can be locked to keep you from entering. And there are huge pull over places for those trapped on the snow bound road.

Since those days of arranged rides and Greyhound buses I have driven over higher passes and waited in more hotel lobbies for roads to be cleared but just the thought of Raton Pass seems to make my tummy ache. Even on a beautiful spring day at 75 mph. I know how quickly the weather can change. But someday soon I am going back to explore more of downtown Trinidad. And a couple ghost towns that are between Raton and Trinidad.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Who said it was going to be easy?

Choices, choices, choices
When I began this particular blog, Sidetracked Charley, I had come to something of a crossroads in my life - face it, a damn switching yard - and it seemed like an apt title with lots of possibilities. Okay, maybe just a bit too many possibilities. And I began looking for a photo to use as a banner for the blog and Googled Images of sidetracks. Now I am wondering if I should have named the blog derailed.

It has been a rough month with really few choices. It has been rather like the bear in those old arcade games where when shot its only option is to turn around and head the other way. Then of course it is shot again and must again pivot. It keeps moving but does not seem to get anywhere. Seems to always stay in the frame to be shot again. There have been the new tires, and the water pump, the blood test on Mardi. Coming up is the semi-annual business insurance premium, various professional organizational renewals. The progress I had hoped to make in April has been thwarted again.

This morning as my beloved standard poodle had yet another episode tied to liver disease I could not help but wonder if she was being punished for my neglect of not just her but of my late husband. Why is it I persist in believing I am the one at fault when things go wrong? Yes, I was number one child - the family savior - and I clearly failed at that.

I have friends that see my life as next to perfect. Here I sit in the mountains I love surrounded by my fur kids and endless photographic subjects to capture. But at times like this morning before dawn I found myself exhausted by the effort it takes. Either Dad, who informed me countless times that life was not fair, failed to also tell me it was not going to be easy or I failed yet again in not listening.

It all seemed so impossibly difficult this morning, in the midst of hamster wheel thinking, to even make the simple choices presented to me. I was feeling like a shocked rat in a Skinner box experiment. I just wanted to sit and be shocked and cry rather than risk a jump to another box.

Dad, story teller extraordinaire, used to tell the story of the potato chip factory and its problem with keeping a long term employee in the sorting position of the assembly line. They hired an efficiency expert in to review the position and made some "hardware" improvements in lighting and seating. And added more frequent breaks and perks which resulted in employees not quitting or requesting a new job in the factory as quickly but turn over was still higher than it should be. Definitely higher than any other sometimes mind numbing and repetitive job in the process of making potato chips.

One employee finally made it almost 30 days as a sorter before requesting a transfer to another position. He was invited into a meeting with the efficiency expert and his supervisor and the CEO.

"Is there anything we can do to make your job easier?" the efficiency expert asked.

"No," said the employee, "I just have to sort into three sizes, small, medium, and large, for the peeler. Joe, upline, has already sorted out the bad potatoes."

"Is the job too demanding?" the shift supervisor asked. "Would it be better if there were two of you?"

The employee thought for a while, "Probably just get in each other's way."

"A raise?" the CEO asked well aware of how much constant retraining and rehiring was impacting the bottom line. The employee shook his head.

"I just cannot take it any more," he said after some thought. "All day long it is decisions, decisions, decisions."

I feel a bit like the sorter. And have you noticed that the choices change all the time? And ergo the decisions that have to be made? Just when I think I have the budget figured out for the month I need three new tires. Time to reshuffle. And then something else. At least I had the money as mother just to say. But the choices what to spend it on have vanished with the water pump.

I have a friend that it is all about priorities. But isn't that a whole other set of choices? And meanwhile the conveyor belt keeps moving.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Attitude of Gratitude

Gray Days of Gratitude
I don't always keep track of the exact day when something big hits the news but in rather quick sequence there was the pipeline oil spill in Arkansas (or was it Alabama) and the bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the fertilizer plant explosion near Waco, Texas. All while I was bitching and moaning about winter not going away where I live in the mountains of New Mexico. Oh, and trying to find a reduced protein food for my sick dog.

Sometimes I think I want to move. Then I look at a map of all the oil pipelines in the country and see that nobody has built one over my mountain or through my valley. Or it dawns on me there is no statement to be made by placing a pressure cooker bomb within a 100 miles of where I live. Sure I would have to drive clear to Santa Fe (110 miles) to be able to look at the back of every single dry dog food brand Petsmart carries but in that distance there are also no fertilizer mixing plants.

Yes, it is 2/3rds through April and March winds have not stopped, and I have ceased looking at the weather report because I am tired of snowflakes. This has been a horrid spring with lots of breeze and freeze but very little moisture to lessen the forest fire danger this summer. Knowing my senior fur pet has liver disease has not been easy. Nor have I solved all the problems of serving two different meals to two different dogs who have always played musical chairs with their dog dishes.

And then the water pump needs replaced on my Corolla. The good news is it was at the mechanics when I found that out. And I have a great neighbor that has been generous with letting me take her vehicle out to do my pet sitting gigs, and unlike last month at this time I have the money to get it fixed. And then there was the earthquake in China. Did you miss that? Didn't get a lot of coverage with the bombing, the escape of the bombers, the fertilizer plant, and pipe line spills. Actually the last two on that list didn't get a lot of coverage.

I am always really grateful that terrorists (home grown or imported) are stupid. Take the first attempt at bringing down the World Trade center. They were caught because one of them went back to get the deposit back on the rental van which was destroyed because of the bomb in it. And the Oklahoma City bomber was pulled over because he was making a statement about government by not having a license plate on the get-away car. If the FBI had been smarter before 9/11 they would have paid attention to a group of foreigners that were getting flying lessons but did not want to learn how to land. Or less sexist because a female agent in Arizona did send in a report about that. And of course there was a report about these last two bombers. Russia brought the older brother to the attention of the FBI who then dropped the ball.

But the most stupid thing the Boston Marathon Bombers did was wait until the leaders in the event had crossed the finish line. In fact, they waited about 2 1/2 hours. No doubt the crowd and definitely the media had cleared out quite a bit by then. Aren't we thrilled they were that stupid. So stupid they tried to rob a mini-mart so law enforcement would know where they were. And they did all this wearing hoodies without the hoodies up. And evidently they were not smart enough for smart phones so they could see their pictures everywhere.

But I am most grateful I live in a small mountain community with no fertilizer, pipelines, or terrorists. I will spend the extra time and money shipping in the dog food I will have to order on line.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What do we know/And when do we know it?

Casting a shadow

There was about this past week a sense of gloom. I can blame it on the weather which was less than inspiring. And there was the second flat tire in as many weeks. Or that as fast as the money comes in it goes out. Or my senior fur kid's diagnosis with liver failure. Or on a far more trivial but more irritating level that the "A" on my key board wants to be iffy.

It was not Mercury in Retrograde. That has passed and a new round of cosmic torture is not scheduled until June. And it couldn't be spring fever because spring here seemed to want to stay hidden behind threats of snow. There just seemed to be something off about the last week to 10 days. And I was not the only one to suffer from this general malaise. When I first heard of cosmic consciousness I almost immediately accepted it probably based on several experiences in my youth. The women of my family always seemed to have an inside track on events. I dreamed of the tornado that killed my paternal grandmother and her husband. I knew while in the grocery store that someone had stolen my bike parked outside. I could not sleep the night before and was depressed all day of the flood in Denver that did not happen until evening. It never rained but was cloudy and local business in the downtown area said sales were down 10 to 15% even with a captive office building clientele.

The list goes on. I think we are all more connected to each other and to the cosmos than we feel comfortable admitting. And maybe ignoring the signs is bad for us. It is still an open question even among those daring to ask it. No I cannot say their will be an earthquake on the Pacific coast of the US on May the 5th. Or that their would be a bombing in Boston yesterday. However, I did not find that news surprising, which is why I always feel sympathy and empathy for the person charged with murder because they did not show surprise when they heard their husband was found dead. Bad or horrific news is seldom a surprise.

And looking back at the week of photos I took and posted I can see my grey mood in literal black and white. Did you sense something on some obscure level? Would you admit it if you did?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Still April? And Still Winter

Magique and Mardi

I posted a picture in my 365 day challenge this week of Magique. The Fanpages on Facebook keep a count of the people that have viewed a photo and it was by and far the week favorite. No wonder people post pictures of cats on Facebook all the time. I have had one of those weeks where positive attention for posting pictures of adorable pets seems like a good thing.

And because of Mardi Gras diagnosis with liver problems I was in the mood to look up pictures of her and Magique, and store them in my Pet folder. The one below shows them both newly groomed and in show dog stance.

Best of Show
I have been doing research of proper diet to support Mardi's health as well as ordering the milk thistle and vitamin e the vet recommended. So I probably was not in the mood for one of the few TED talks shows I didn't like. The speaker denounced supplements and vitamins and worthless and advocated GMO products because it would solve the world hunger problem. Maybe we have solved too many world hunger problems.

I am at that age that when Mardi dies I am not sure I am replacing her with a puppy. Maybe I will just foster. Or provide a forever home for an older dog. Or maybe Magique and I will be enough.

Magique in pond water

Here is hoping the coming week is ever so much better. I am ready for a long and sustained round of good luck.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Snow Mold

Spring Snow by J. Binford-Bell

I wasted another day on the computer yesterday watching NetFlix stream videos and playing Spider Solitaire. A friend, who does not live here, suggested it could be Spring Fever. No, I told her, it is snow mold.

I learned about snow mold when I was on the golf course maintenance staff. I mowed fairways and greens. I love big machines. But I digress. We were discussing snow mold. Snow mold is something which grows on greens under the snow in the winter. It can kill off a green. Every fall when the course was preparing for closure various methods to prevent it were tried including covering the greens with canvas, spraying with newest anti-fungal preparations, paying someone to shovel off the greens periodically through the winter, etc.

Or there is just replacing the green come spring. Long winters were of course the worst on grass roots. And even if the roots were not destroyed by the mold it just took a long time for the green to recover. There was this race to rush recovery for the first golfers and tournaments and sunny, warm days were essential.

So I have snow mold. My roots are sick. And there is no sunny, warm days to dry out the mold. Yesterday was sunny but with icy winds that lowered the wind chill almost back to sub freezing. And today there is more chance of snow. I just want to go and take a hot bath and crawl back under the covers and rot. Mud and flood season is definitely to be preferred over breeze and freeze any day.

I am ending this diatribe. I am clearly in a moldy mood.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Okay, It is Tuesday

Microburst garden shed 

Yesterday morning I had a perfect idea for a return to my usual That-was-the-week-that-was Monday blog. Then came the NOAA warning about a winter storm. Give me a break. It is April. The winds of Sunday made it clear I did not have the poly tunnel laced down correctly so I dashed out as soon as dawn, and before the winds came up to remedy that. And apply duct tape.

Poly Tunnel before duct tape

The winter storm watch had also upset my neighbor. She wanted her doggie doors replaced before the storm was scheduled and so I was off to do that repair. More to be done at my house but money is always good. I had all my quiche prep done for the order placed for them. I figured I could assemble and bake at lunch so off I went to replace very badly installed dog doors. No wonder they leaked wind and self-destructed under use in record time. And she paid a licensed and bonded handyman to do them.

Dog door one down and I came back to my house for lunch and finishing the quiche. And I happened to glance out the kitchen window as I bustled about. And there was the garden shed of the upper photo. Yes it had been windy but the decade old shed by Rubbermaid had endured worse. Besides it looked as if it had exploded. Time did not allow further inspection at that time. Quiche, second dog door, and by early evening I was finally able to walk outside and see all the damage to shed, contents, fence around the yard, my concrete garden Pan, even the plastic liner for the little pond. Pieces of the modular shed were randomly scattered around the yard and lower 40 and even across the stream. .

My paternal grandparents died in the Ruskin Heights Tornado when I was in the 5th grade. I remember walking about the slab of their former home and not being able to make sense of the force that had taken everything in a helter skelter manner. I numbly put the fence back so my dogs could not escape if they got out from under the computer table. I located both cats. Grabbed a box of Christmas ornaments less lid and who knows how many ornaments. I put a plastic box on top of my ceramic saw in case it rained and snowed before I could get the energy to move it to I have no idea where. Or when. Weather is not going to be conducive to clean up till after this storm system has passed.

It is key here to remember I do not live in tornado alley. Lived there too many years dodging super cells to ever want to move back. This was certainly no tornado but it could have been a microburst or a dust devil with no dust. It is something I have not seen in my neck of the mountains. It did put my struggles with Facebook in the background. I dimly remember that was one of the topics for my TWTWTW blog.

Perspective. Mother Nature can certainly put things in perspective. And April has definitely been a month for reminders that my plans do not have to be taken into consideration.

BTW the polytunnel survived, I did a way better job with the dog doors than the handyman, and two more days of storm. Mardi and Magique are going to vet this morning for shots and to ask about what could have been the cause of Mardi's episode. Taxes are ready to pick up. All the things which seemed so important before the fickle finger of fate hit my backyard shed and graphically illustrated the point of rolling with the punches.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Watery Reflections

Ducks on the pond

The ice has melted off the ponds and streams and the ducks and geese have returned. As a photographer I am thrilled. I love reflections in the still water of a mountain body of water.

Hanging gardens

My dogs, both of a retriever subset, have yet to meet a body of water they did not like even if it is just a shade over freezing. I was going to wash the dog rug in the back seat of my car but think I will wait just a bit. I delude myself into thinking they will get tired of this.

Magique in her element

As fond as they are of wading in water both shun swimming in it and do not chase waterfowl. Which is a major relief for the geese and ducks and for their photographer owner.

Following her across the pond

A pond of their own

I had not intended to do a photo blog today but Facebooboo does not want to load photos and I had just taken a wonderful number in two days time. Had to share them somewhere.

Oriental water feature

Just click on the images to see them larger.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Let the Gardening Begin

Lower Tunnel Modifications

Last year was my first year with the poly-tunnel gardening system. It is suppose to extend your growing season by two weeks on either side of your normal season. Last year, however, when I began the gardening experiment 224 for the high county I started with just the low tunnel on the first of May. Mid May I built the high tunnel so I could expand my plantings. And by June I was experimenting with plants late frosts had always prevented me from enjoying.

One of our latest frosts I can remember was June 21st. It decimated the carefully tended squash plants I had nurtured in my studio until the date of the previous late frost (June 8) had pasted. The double tunnels foiled the late frosts. And in July in protected the garden, which was lush and productive, from inch sized hail. But by the time fall frosts came it was clear my low tunnel was too low for the thriving Swiss Chard, Kale, and several of my herbs. So my goal for this season was to raise the inner tunnel a bit and to add more containers for squash and tomatoes, and to begin planting by April 1st.

Okay, that would have been stretching my season by 4 weeks in front. And sporadic winter storms has shown the folly of that goal which I have now changed to the 15th. And I want a drip irrigation system so watering can be automatic on a timer. Today is suppose to reach the low 60's and so the drip watering will get installed and the planting of lettuce and other cool weather seeds like beets and carrots. Then cover the low tunnel.

I want to develop another inner tunnel to protect tomatoes and squash at the far end where I extended the tunnel by one rib last fall. It is easier to work on such things without the plastic on the high tunnel. I am also still playing around with containers. The two square ones in the middle of my primary raised beds are theoretically for strawberries. I got the concept of stacking containers from an article on African gardening. And I added the low raised bed between the two higher ones for beets and more onions. I am still undecided about potatoes this year. At least under the tunnel. They took up so much room. I have added the beets and I want more carrots. They are crops that I found out on the internet can extend into winter. And a second planting of them can be done in late summer. I never was able to get a second planting of anything but lettuce due to my short growing season.

BTW the green you see in the photo are herbs that wintered over this year with just a sheet of plastic laid on the low beds. Chives, Italian and curly parsley and Greek oregano made it through for the first time in years. So also more garden space allotted to herbs this year.

Another thing to begin this year is a garden journal. I have plenty of blank books to draft into this role. Then I will not have to remember over the long months of winter what worked and what didn't in the gardening season before.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April is the cruelest month

April 3, 2012

April showers bring May flowers, the old saying goes. Obviously that did not originate in the mountain west. My memory of last April was snow and more snow so I went tripping back to my photo files. It began to snow on April 2nd and did not clear until after April 4th. And it was not one of those cute little spring snows that dropped an inch or two and then melted off.

April 3rd, 2012

So this morning when I looked at the NOAA weather report and saw snowflakes from tomorrow through Thursday it felt like deju vu all over again. The bad news is I have taken off my snow tires, washed my down coat so it can be put in the winter closet and have begun to prepare the raised beds so I can put the tunnel up after planting some cool weather seeds. Even put in some onion sets yesterday. And all day I moved the hose around to water bushes and trees. Did you know more trees die in April due to lack of moisture than are killed off due to winter freezes?

Easter, March 31, 2013

I want spring. Unfortunately in the high country spring can be snow. And it has been a dry enough winter I cannot really complain about any added moisture in any form. But Bummer.

April 4th, 2012

But please not 18 inches again. Or make the snow line just 250 feet above me. I will not bitch and moan about rain. I promise.