Home in the Mountains: May 23rd Snow Storm in the Gila
Well, this is how I know I’m not in the desert. The desert is indeed nearby, but this canyon is nestled into the Mogollon Mountains, being the southern most extension of the Rockies and the beginning of the Sierra Madres. It started raining last night, cold rain that got me out of the outdoor bed quick when it started splashing against my face. After covering the bed with a tarp, I wandered sleepily around with Loba, transferring water from barrel to barrel, storing the much needed liquid in every available container. Even though we were draped in capes and raincoats we still got soaked and frozen while playing in the rain. It’s worth it though!
Back in a warmer, dryer bed I listened to the wind whip around the corners of the small cabin and the soft swell of the river below. When I woke up this morning, there was huge, fat white flakes of snow falling from the sky. I closed my eyes in disbelief and then slowly opened them again, thinking my vision would clear. Nope, the canyon was covered in a thick blanket of snow.
To fully grasp the strangeness of the situation, you have to understand SWestern seasons. We often get light but soaking rains in late winter and early spring which helps to get the plants up and going but usually from March to July we’re in the dry, hot part of the year, better known as fire season. True to form, the last couple of weeks have been blistering hot, the land dry and brittle and the fire danger building. Usually, come the beginning of July, the monsoons kick in. These are the huge thunderstorms that come up from Tucson, bringing the summer rains and triggering a second spring where every flower in the SW pops up in the span of a week and spends its vitality in a wild show of fertility. These rains usually last from July to mid-September, often causing large amounts of flash flooding and triggering the prolific growth of riverside plants. But like I said, right now is usually dry dry dry. So how strange then, to wake up to mud, snow and pouring rain. I’m not complaining at all, we’ll have more flowers and berries and fewer forest fires this summer. I do hope it doesn’t disrupt the normal flow of the monsoons though, because the plants here need the high temps and several months of rain to properly flourish and reproduce. For now though, I’m enjoying watching the snow sparkling in the still small Cottonwood leaves.
It’s been snowing and raining off and on all morning, giving us lots of clean washing and drinking water, though clouds have severely limited our solar power and ability to be online or on the laptops at all. Our electricity is limited to what we can get from about six solar panels and a similar number of batteries. This is usually enough to run the laptops and the inverter powered satellite, but now always.
Low power and lack of computer work has the wonderful blessing of freeing up my time to do more homey things, like make herbed piima cheese, put away a quart of lacto-fermented veggies, make kefir and piima and do a little bit of baking. All this in between Loba and I dashing out every half hour or so to transfer more cold water from barrel to barrel before rushing back into the cabin to warm ourselves by the roaring woodstove. Loba sipped her Oatstraw infusion while I gratefully brewed up a nice hot mug of roasted dandelion and chicory root with a sprinkle of cardamom and cinnamon on top.
All photos (c)2008 Kiva Rose