Chiles of the Field, Onions, and Dirt

The gods of the desert have been threatening precipitation this weekend.  Thunderstorms are forecast both Saturday and Sunday.  So I took advantage of a sun break this morning to go on a short but very entertaining bike ride.

East of the Mud Shack runs Dona Ana Rd.  Parallel to it is a covered EBID drain.  This, together with a large well, provides irrigation for the agricultural land east of the road.  The drain also makes for a nice bike path.   Straight and flat.  I rode a bit along this path then veered off onto the dirt road the farmer uses to access the fields.  And, behold, after a short jaunt,


Behold, the Chiles of the Field

Row upon row of very young chile plants.  I think this fall will be absolutely wondrous when these seedlings mature and bear their capsaicin-laced fruit.   Like those biblical lilies, these plants neither toil nor spin but after they are  harvested,  the smell of roasting chiles permeates the atmosphere and provides for olfactory orgasms……….

Across the access road is an orchard of pecan trees, about two years old.


Young Pecan Trees

This orchard really represents a significant investment as it takes several years before pecan trees produce those flavorful and versatile nuts.

The next crops along the path are onions: red and yellow.


Planted much earlier in the year, these bulbs are much farther along than the chiles which cannot tolerate night-time temperatures below 50F.

I next got to the end of the access trail and crossed into a cul-de-sac, leaving the flat and smooth agricultural land.  The high desert lay before me.  A white-tailed bunny scurried frantically across the trail and I immediately looked for a pursuer like a rattlesnake.  Fortunately, none such appeared.

But the terrain had turned more challenging.  I dropped my bike thanks to some sand that was a little too soft to sand-surf in.  Also had to partake in my “favorite” activity, hike-a-bike, up a steep sandy hill.  The reward was at the top, some single-track and jeep trails:


A Fork in the Trail. Take It!!

I guess I need to invest in a Go-Pro video camera to capture these rides.  These still shots don’t really do it.  This particular trail was a mix of single track and wide jeep roads.  There’s a network of them in this totally undeveloped desert section.  I rode over fast packed banked corners and some nice sections of sandy downhill.  Couldn’t count the white-tail rabbits who scampered across the trail as I passed.  Only put about 7 miles on the bike but what a diverse and lovely ride it was…….


Don’t Hurt the Dirt


So here I sit on a Friday evening.  A good friend’s spouse just got a positive back on a cancer test–now it’s more tests and hoping and praying it’s curable.  There’s all those flowers and prayers for deceased moms on Facebook.  I’m not one prone to depression so I guess it’s just the age we’ve attained when loved ones are gone and some of those left face the shadow of the Grim Reaper.

Then the news feed beeps and there’s a new story about the race to succeed Barack Obama.

Take a sip of wine.  I guess I really need to address this farce.  The presumed Republican nominee is a real estate trader and reality tv star. Likely he’ll name a Kardashian/Jenner to his cabinet (Secretary of Health and Human Services or Education?) if elected.  The Democratic front-runner has already occupied the White House for eight years as first lady.  She made a total hash of health care reform.  She defends her husband’s positions on trade, mass incarceration, de-regulation of the economy.  We all know what that got us, don’t we??

There are alternatives.  Senator Bernie Sanders still has a (very) long-shot at the Democratic nomination.  The cards are stacked against him by the party leaders but…..maybe we voters might win one??  Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party is even further left than Mr. Sanders.  She has my vote if the choice in November is Hildemort or The Rump.

And I am sorry, people.  That is most emphatically NOT throwing away my vote.  I’ve pretty much voted third-party my entire adult life. Obama was the first major party candidate I voted for and, to be honest, I feel he did not live up to all of his promises.  Sure, the other party, for whatever reasons (racism?) did all they could to make him a failure.  And his administration has been a success despite that (don’t believe me, just look at the Dow Jones since 2007, the unemployment figures, job creation numbers, whatever metric you choose).  Add in the Affordable Care Act, and the Obama presidency, on the domestic front, has been a success.  But Gitmo is still open, our young people are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The drone program is too aggressive.  And now we, the people, stand on the brink of trashing our domestic progress with the election of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Either of them would take us back to the good old days of de-regulation at home and intervention abroad.  That’s worked out so well for us, hasn’t it?  Or do you not remember the financial melt-down??  Maybe if you make as much as Trump or Clinton you’ll be okay.  But for the average person—-more economic inequality as the banks prosper and we can’t save enough to retire.  Intervention overseas will lead to another Iraq–ask that veteran sitting by the freeway with his dog who doesn’t get services for his injuries or PTSD how that worked out.

Please, Amerika, wake up before November.  There’s still time to either nominate Bernie Sanders or, failing that, elect a third-party candidate.  I’ll support Jill Stein of the Green Party but Gary Johnson the Libertarian is a good man as well.  Just spare us from four years of Trump or four more of Clinton!  Please!!!!!


A Spring Ride


Onions Gone to Seed

What a great way to start a bike ride.  The morning temp was in the high 40s, very little wind.  I headed out along the Dona Ana lateral, crossed Rte 185/Valley Drive, then travelled down an access trail to some farmland where I saw these wonderful onions, already gone to seed.  I believe the farmer has a commercial contract for growing them.  Most onions aren’t as far advanced:


Onions growing


Onion Field

Now we are in the Chihuahuan Desert and water is a precious resource.  Most of the farmers get some irrigation water from EBID but also supplement that with their own wells:


Irrigation Well pump

The bike ride I took was mostly on the City of Las Cruces paved multi-use path.  This runs a loop around the city about 25 miles in circumference.  From the Mud Shack, I access it by biking about 2 miles on unpaved maintenance trails along the Dona Ana Lateral and the Leasburg Canal.  I end up on what is identified on the map as the Outfall Channel Trail and the N. La Llorona Trail.  I rode about 5.5 miles to La Llorona Park on the Rio Grande then returned home, a total ride of about 11 3/4 miles.

The city has spent to improve the path and provide for preservation of indigenous species like the burrowing owl:



Protection for a Very Cool Bird Species

An idea of a ditch:


An Unimproved Irrigation Ditch with Picacho Peak in the Distance

The owls make their burrows in the banks of unimproved ditches like this one.  The holes are fairly far up the bank so there is almost no danger of flooding.  Irrigation ditches  in the valley would rarely see flows from storms or snow melt that arroyos or flood control structures on the mesa experience.

And this is a river valley.  For several weeks a year, The Rio Grande actually lives up to its name………


The Rio looking Grande

Heading back home on a slightly different route, I came across this guy guarding a small farm with quite a variety of livestock and fowl.


Better watchdog for a Flock than  a Pitbull

There were chicks running down the trail and several fleeces hanging on a fence—-the sheep in the pen looked quite bald and unhappy although once we get back into the 90s later this week they’ll appreciate the loss of their wool coats.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture with the distance from the trail and the position of the sun being limiting factors.

But I did get shot of some guinea fowl searching for food in an improved section of an irrigation ditch:

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    Guineas Scavenging

    Heading closer to home I came upon this sight—-an early alfalfa harvest.  It’s amazing how long those bales can be left sitting in the sun to dry, unlike back east where it seems there’s some form of precipitation every few days…


Alfalfa Hay

Having grown up in Connecticut and having spent most of my adult life on the West Coast or New Hampshire, the variety of agriculture here in the Mesilla Valley is a constant source of pleasure.  And it ain’t even chile season yet!!!!