Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Weekend on The Rails

What a guy!

My sweetie asked me away for a weekend, and let me pick the spot.

I chose Durango, Colorado,where we had one of the best get-aways I have enjoyed since our honeymoon.

Durango is the starting point and home of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad, so we booked some seats and simply had a wonderful day.

Brian stands on the back end of the Parlour Car, where we were seated.

Everyone was super-friendly, and happy to talk about the train they work on. A wonderful piece of history and beauty. The train winds it way up through the mountains toward Silverton.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

For the Love of Poultry

I love chickens. I never intended for this love affair to develop, it was a by-product of my love of photography. One afternoon a few years ago I was on my way home, just before Easter, and I passed one of the local feed 'n seed stores. The sign by the road proclaimed "We have Chicks!" and my foot hit the brake.

I tell myself it was because I wanted to take photos of baby chicks, I enjoy stock photography and I had the idea that what could be cuter than a couple of baby chicks, how fun would that be to shoot? The truth is I love animals of all kinds. And my camera that day was an excuse to indulge in my desire to have a farm... to be Doctor Doolittle. To have just a little taste of what Noah might have felt like.

I didn't ask Brian what he'd think that day, I know he despairs whenever I bring home a new "pet". But he loves me, and he always accepts my adoptees. So, as my two initial baby chicks turned into over a dozen chicks and another ten or so ducks, he helped me on my trek and built me two very nice pens, and converted his well-loved shed into a hen house.

I have had my fair share of predators, everything from coyotes to owls and cats and dogs, but I have mostly figured out how to keep them safe and healthy, (as safe as any poor being can be when you are bottom of the food chain and anything bigger than you thinks you look yummy,) I lose a few now and then. Often to neighborhood dogs whom I rage against, all the while knowing it is really their owners I am angry at. Owners who don't care if their dogs run free in the streets to kill chickens or get run over by cars. Those days make me so sad.

Bu then there are days like my last few, where I go outside to check for eggs. (I don't eat my birdies, but we collect eggs) and find my hens their nests with newly hatched babies. Awww... cutes little fuzzies that chirp and peep and huddle close to mom. Gotta love 'em.

Sometimes I get asked why I keep these guys. Why I spend my money feeding chickens I don't eat, for the few eggs we collect. I don't have a great answer, watching them just makes me feel good. Watching them live and interact day to day. It's soothing, kind of like gardening. Makes me smile. :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A View of Changing Seasons in the 505

So, if you have ever been to Albuquerque, you'll know that one of the most noticeable landmarks is the Mountains, the "Sandias". I grew up under this gorgeous palisade.

It It is, on some very essential level, as much a part of me as my family. I could take 1000 photographs of her throughout the year, and you'd see she looks different every time.

Sandia means "watermelon", and I have heard this range was named so because often in the evenings as the sun goes down the mountain takes on reddish and pinkish hues.

I took this photo last week, right after one of our snow storms (a very mild one). The peak and surrounding crags are dusted with snow, and the radio and television towers almost look like some lofty city looking down on the world below. These towers are not as obvious when there isn't snow, at least not from down below. I loved this view, so I thought I'd share it with you. ::

The snows seem to have surprised everyone, I have heard lots of peeps saying how they can't believe it is snowing in March or April, but it's that unusual this time of year to have some snowfall, even sometimes in the first week of May. Not a lot of it, mind you, but we see it now and again.

What I find odd are the warm days reaching the high 70's, and the following day or two where we have snow and cold enough weather for coats, and then the next week we are back on the 60's and 70's degree range again.

This is more extreme if you take into account the weather differences from Albuquerque, to where I live in the East Mountains, just 20 miles east of where the photo below was taken. The photo to the left is a snowfall we had last week, Saturday April 11th, at my house. This was just three days after the photo below was taken on Wednesday April 8th.

On Wednesday temperatures were in the high 70's (78 at the

airport at one point), by Saturday we had pouring rain in Albuquerque, and wintry weather by any standard at home.

I am by no means complaining, I enjoy variety, even when variety means I'll have no idea how to dress for the weather from one moment to the next.

Today it is warm outside, both at home and here in Albuquerque where I sit at my desk at work. The wind is blowing (creating hell for those of us who have pollen allergies) and is supposed to have gusts up to 45 mph, which is normal with our changing seasons this time of year. I have my office door open, watching the feral kitties outside play beneath my car.

And I bet they too, are enjoying the prettier warm days that April is bringing. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In Praise of the Dandelion

I love dandelions.

I seem to be one of the few in this category, for most people, it is a weed, to be scorned and destroyed at every opportunity. I can see why, if what you are seeking is a wide expanse of lawn that is unmarred by anything other than long pristine shafts of green grass.

The dandelion is a singularly determined species, hard to eradicate under the best of circumstances. The more you try to make it disappear, the more of them you'll see. ("What's a dandelion digger for?" a dandelion asked. "It’s a human invention to help us reproduce," another dandelion replied.)

I don't have a lawn, I have considered one, but the earth friendly person in me who hates to waste water just can't see trying to grow a lawn in the desert. It feels wasteful.

So I admire the dandelion, with all it's wonderful beauty and uses.

What uses? yeah, there a a ton of great things to do with dandelions, (if you haven't fertialized or poisoned them, mind you):

According to the UNM dandelion's are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc, and in traditional medicine people have used dandelion roots and leaves to treat liver problems. Also, Native Americans have used dandelion's to make liquid concoctions to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset. UNM also mentions that Chinese medicinal practitioners have traditionally used dandelion to treat digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems (such as inflammation or lack of milk flow), and in Europe, herbalists incorporated it into remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.

Prodigal Gardens a website that specializes in medicinal herbs and wild foods, has some great recipes, including:

Cream of Dandelion Soup
Pumpkin-Dandelion Soup
Dandelion Egg Salad
Dandelion Pasta Salad
Split Pea-Dandelion Bud Soup
Dandelion Blossom Syrup
Dandelion Baklava
Dandelion Blossom Cake
Dandelion Blossom Pancake
Dandelion Cornbread
Dandelion Mustard
Dandelion Vinaigrette
Dandelion Chai
Roasted Dandelion Root Coffee Ice Cream

And if you are a wine connoisseur, you can't forget Dandelion Wines.

So, up with the dandelion, I say. Healthy, useful, and always pretty as a bouquet in a tiny vase on my kitchen bar, it is less a weed to me than the grass I won't have because of water conservation issues.

Dandelion Tea, anyone?