Fire & Flood: Finding Balance in the Extremes

Every afternoon the clouds roll in, and every evening the smoke fills the air. It’s a thick haze that smells like charred Juniper and melted Pine sap, and turns the sunset a rusty gold. There are fires burning fiercely a hundred miles away in several different directions, and the late afternoon winds bring us a visceral reminder of how close one hundred miles really is. The rains may come any day, and the old people in the village anxiously scan the skies every so often, praying the clouds thicker and darker. Willing rain to wet the dusty ground. Welcome to New Mexico: land of enchantment and wellspring of both fire and flood. There’s no gentle in between here, no “it’s all good” drone of mediocrity or absent minded mercy from place...

On the Wings of the Solstice: Monsoon Season

There are fat, dark rainclouds crowding the sky and laying out shadows of birds and junipers and Rhiannon on the swing, long legs pumping the air. Monsoons are coming, and in spite of the work it means, I pray for a wide river and sweet, muddy ground. Thunder rumbles and shakes the air, and tells the stories of this place — tells of the rhythm and ways of cliff-face, thorns and forest. Part of my morning has been spent chipping old caulk from the frames of broken windows. They need to be stripped clean so that new glass can be put in before the rains fall. A village friend came in to help us with chainsawing up some deadwood and brought us some delicious local sirloin steaks. And now I’m working away at the surprisingly large pile of emails in the...

The Sweetness of Summer

The Sweetness of Summer

The Comfrey is in full bloom, the sand is too hot to walk barefoot on and the birds start serenading at about five in the morning – it must be summer! One benefit of the long days and scathing heat is the ability to cook many of our foods in the solar oven. Ours was a gift, in a model I haven’t seen in forever. It’s all heavy wood and brilliant mirrors. It’s awkward¬† to move in order to properly align it with the sun through the afternoon, but its high quality and energy efficiency is well worth it. This is especially true on days when it’s too windy to have an open fire outside and too hot to have the wood stove going inside. Just this afternoon, Loba was baking delicious rye bread and chicken thighs in it! Rhiannon’s been...

The Scent of Late Spring – Inhabiting the Season

The weather has finally turned truly hot, and in the late afternoon the air hangs heavy and dense inside the cabins. This is the time of year when we take all our eating out of doors. Early in the morning Loba starts a small fire out in the stone circle to cook breakfast on and we gather in the shade of Junipers and Oaks to eat eggs, wild greens and rainwater. Even the dishes are often done outside in this season, and all hot baths are taken late at night under the cool glance of starlight. Riverside, the Willows and Maples have grown thick and lush, and we make tunnels through the greenery to reach the water. The dragonflies have arrived and flirt on the long thin reeds while Elk stomp through the current. I lay under the Alders and stare up at the sky,...

The Forager’s Song

The Forager’s Song

  As much as I love all local foods, there’s something truly special about wild, totally uncultivated food growing right at my feet, and in the case of the Wild Grapes, dangling right above my head. There’s a vitality to be had in wild river-grown Watercress that the best cultivated varieties can’t even compete with. The sharp bite of Mustard, the sweet crunch of Wild Lima flowers and the fine flavor of fresh Cottontail brings me back to my body, and closer to this particular stretch of enlivened land. Late afternoon often finds me waiting out the heat down by the river. After floating on my back down the cool current I usually gather greens for dinner in the shade of the Cottonwoods and Alders. Come summer, I’ll be able to curl up in...

The Greening of the Canyon

The Greening of the Canyon

The snow and rain earlier in the week have made for rapid green growth throughout the canyon bottom. I was down by the river this evening playing in the plants and gathering Horsetail and couldn’t help but snap a few pictures of the absolute glory of spring in the Gila. It’s just the beginning too, the Cottonwood leaves are still little, the Smartweed just emerging and the Cockleburs growing like the crazy weeds they are. I also gathered up some of the invasive Russian Thistle, roots and all, to bring back up to the cabin for an evening snack. I just cut the roots off, chopped up the greens, and through them in a pan with brown rice vinegar, a pinch of brown sugar and butter. Cooked for about fifteen minutes, they were tender, crunchy and truly tasty....