August 31, 2012

Weather? Boy do we have weather…

I’ve talked about heat and summer and rain and monsoon since we moved here but today I want to talk about experiencing something I had never seen before, and it was up close and personal.

One thing we see a lot out here is “dust devils.” Wiki defines them as “a strong, well-formed, and relatively long-lived whirlwind, ranging from small (half a meter wide and a few meters tall) to large (more than 10 meters wide and more than 1000 meters tall). The primary vertical motion is upward. Dust devils are usually harmless, but can on rare occasions grow large enough to pose a threat to both people and property.” We saw an occasional whirlwind in Massachusetts but they were neither well formed nor long lasting. I can even remember seeing an occasional one in NY. Here in NM, they are a fairly common sight, especially out in the desert. The last time we picnicked at Dripping Springs, our friend Lou pointed one out in the desert in the distance and we were able to watch it for quite a while.

Well if you add water to the mix, you get something completely different. I used to think that was called a “water spout” but Wiki corrected me saying “A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex (usually appearing as a funnel-shaped cloud) that occurs over a body of water, connected to a cumuliform cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water.” It goes on to say that “A steam devil is a small, weak whirlwind over water (or sometimes wet land) that has drawn fog into the vortex, thus rendering it visible. They form over lakes and oceans during cold air outbreaks while the water is still relatively warm, and can be an important mechanism in vertically transporting moisture. Smaller steam devils and steam whirls can form over geyser basins even in warm weather because of the very high water temperatures. Steam devils are generally quite a rare phenomenon.”

So, now a story. Last Sunday, another beautiful day here in paradise, we went swimming with a couple of our friends, Clair and Auntie. If by swimming you mean, we bob around the pool for a while, talking about everything under the sun. As we are participating in this wonderful form of exercise, clouds begin to thicken a bit and the wind picks up a bit to. I was in the shallower end of the pool, facing the three ladies, when I saw an errant beach ball go flying by. It had been in the pool a few minutes before but when it went over our heads it was 30 feet above the ground and almost went over the fence. I saw it but didn’t think much of it until I began to feel water splashed on my neck. As I began to realize that there was no one else in the pool, I began to hear some splashing sounds behind me, and thought for a second that one of the birds around had fallen in the pool. When I turned 180 degrees, I saw a small, spinning whirlpool about 10 feet away. It was maybe 1.5 to 2 feet across and moved slightly towards us. I called to the others and we all watched it spin for a few seconds and then it started to move to our right, towards the edge of the pool. It seemed to be getting louder, but not bigger as it went. It got to the edge of the pool right where a skimmer is built into the side of the pool and as it passed over it, on to the concrete, it tossed the plastic skimmer cover, that can be removed to take out leaves and other debris from the catch basket, about 5 feet into the air and a few feet away.

We stood there in the pool for a while, mouths agape. We all confirmed to each other what we had just witnessed and then got out of the pool. As we sat in the shade, the sun disappeared and in a few minutes it began to rain. A nice rain, cool and wet. This meant we got to sit there longer because no one wanted to get a swimsuit wet. All in all, an eventful, exciting day.

August 30, 2012

"So what have you been doing?"

This is a question that I am asked fairly frequently nowadays. Usually I say something about volunteering at the state park or creating a newsletter for the Friends of the state park group. I also sometimes say that I joined the Dona Ana Camera Club. In the few months of being a member I have made a couple of friends, been asked to teach a course on beginning digital photography at a November Symposium, learned how to mount, mat and frame photos for exhibits, and most excitedly, had three of my pictures accepted for the September Exhibit at the Branigan Cultural Center. This exhibit is part of New Mexico’s Centennial Celebration and will be here in Las Cruces for a month and then move to the Deming Museum for October. Yea,, you can say I am pretty exited!

This is the description from the Branigan website. And this is the card that the Branigan produced to promote it:

The guidelines for the photos were that they had been taken in New Mexico and that they reflect the theme “This Enchanted Land.” Neither was particularly difficult for me. I have had time to take and process more photographs  than ever before, and I really have fallen in love with this area. Despite its occasional warts, this is the place where I was meant to live. I know that now.  

Now, a look at the photos I submitted and a few words about each:

”Mesilla Valley Takeoff”
This was snapped last January on an absolutely gorgeous day in Dona Ana. I missed the beginning of the first day but returned extra early on the second day. I set up, drank coffee and waited for the launch to begin at about 7 am. Perfect weather, perfect light, perfect background and a pretty fine picture. I only took about 200 pictures but this was my favorite.

“Heritage Museum Reflection”
This was an early spring morning when we went to the museum for the first time with our friends Bill and Clair. After looking at the exhibits there, we grabbed some food and sat out in the courtyard absorbing the wonderful sun warmth. I saw that dead wild grass and figured and snapped off a few pictures but something was clearly missing. As I moved around it, I looked up to see the bright beautiful blue sky reflecting off the museum windows. Two pictures later I was done. This one just says spring to me.

“Only Onions”
I almost did not submit this one but when I brought it to a camera club meeting and got so many positive comments, I just had to. I took this one on a little farm in Mesilla. Pepper plants surrounded it, but there was this huge strip of onions, ready to be picked and photographed. Two days later they were gone so I feel lucky to have not procrastinated that day.

The exhibit opens next Friday, September 7th and continues for the entire month.

August 28, 2012

The most wonderful time of the year…

(With thanks to my friend Beez for the title from his Facebook status and passion for the fruit from which this post sprouts.)

Whenever that phrase is uttered two things come to mind; the Christmas Holidays and that silly Staples commercial where the parents are celebrating the return of their children to school after a bored summer at home. Well now, living in Las Cruces, NM a third option has become available and it is celebrated here with much fervor. Of course, I am talking about the Chile Harvest, more specifically, the Hatch Chile Harvest. Do you think it might be a major event? Check out this article. And also remember that Hatch is the chile capital of the world. Don’t believe me, check out this webpage.

We are talking major, MAJOR, celebration in the area. This makes it almost impossible not to compare holidays so today I bring you the Christmas / New Mexico Chile Fest tale of the tape:

Christmas brings out the store and home decorations, mostly red and green. NM Chile Fest brings out the decorations, ONLY red and green. Slight advantage to NM.

Christmas brings out the sweet holiday music. Unfortunately, it usually starts around October 1st and by the actual holiday, you are sick of the stuff. NM Chile Fest means dancing and music, mainly Mariachi style. You can hear this year round so it is difficult to overdose on it as it is always there. Advantage NM.

Christmas sights? Decorated trees, twinkling lights, presents wrapped in festive paper. This screams holiday time. Chile Fest sights? Large chile roasters in front of every supermarket, behind some restaurants and at places like the Farmers market. Simple yet effective. You see the roasters, you know what time of the year it is. Advantage NM.

Christmas smells? Sure, balsam is big, perhaps turkey or ham in the oven, your favorite aunts perfume. Chile Fest smells? The aroma of chiles being roasted wafting thru the air. Some of our friends have picked up their roasted chiles and closed up the windows of their car on the way home to enjoy the smell. Advantage, NM.

What about specialty foods? Well Christmas has those dang Christmas cookies, piled high on festive trays and covered in plastic wrap to keep them fresh for the next load of visitors to your home. Chile Fest ? Well, nothing, NOTHING tops a good Green Chile Cheese Burger (GCCB). I know for a fact that Beez has traveled 300+ miles in a day to go to San Antonio NM for the Owl Bar’s GCCB. I know because Mrsfabp and I accompanied him and Clairz on a day trip there, and it is reported that that is the BEST GCCB in the state. However, to be fair, Sparky’s in Hatch NM may have the second best GCCB and it is much closer. I know this for a fact because Mrsfabp and I accompanied him and Clairz on a day trip there, on at least 5 occasions. Hey, I’m retired and I don’t mind the drive. Advantage? NM in a landslide here. (Oh, by the way, they put chile on everything here. I have seen it on meatloaf and eggs and ice cream and pizza and, well you get the idea.)

Well, that’s it folks, it is Chile Fest in a landslide. We are going to get our own roasted chiles this weekend but did have the special treat of sitting next to a full bore chile roast at a local supermarket. You can’t live in this town without learning to crave this special treat. Over the first few months here, I perfected my own Green Chile Chicken Enchilada, which we have at least a couple of, times a month. We also go every Saturday morning to a local restaurant, Nellie’s, a hidden gem in the area, for breakfasts which include Huevos Rancheros (fried eggs served on corn tortillas and smothered in green chile sauce), Enchilada with egg, smothered with green chile sauce and Chile Rellenos, a few chiles stuffed with cheese and more. Well, now it’s lunch time and I have to get my green chile on.

August 16, 2012

First Day of School

It is the first week of school here in Las Cruces and it makes a few things come to mind. Please indulge me a bit on this topic.

First, I cannot think about the first day of school without hearing the oh so familiar Little Rascals theme song, and remembering the episode about returning to school after the summer. I looked it up (yea internet and YouTube) and saw that it was named “Bored of Education” and was about the “boys” (Spanky and Alfalfa) hatching a plot to have a fake toothache and get out of school. My favorite line is uttered early by Spanky when he says it is “210 days ‘till our next vacation!) As usual, their plot is foiled, hilarity ensues and we find out that Darla LOVES school (big surprise!)

As you may know, Mrsfabp is a former school teacher, former librarian, and former stay at home mom, so de facto, I consider myself to be an expert in all three fields. Well at least that is my story and I am sticking with it. So, a few comments are in order.

This is the first week of school here in Las Cruces. Mrsfabp has started it with a substitute aid job in a nearby school. Because we have only one car and I had errands to run, I was up early with her and drove her there. I got to see the almost universal first day of school experience. It included freshly scrubbed faces (the kids, not mine), new clothing, new backpacks, piles of school supplies, and according to Mrsfabp, the usual amount of confusion and pandemonium, from the students, the parents and the children. Another universal was the number of parents there, seeing their children off, talking pictures, getting teary eyed, and longingly waving goodbye. There was also a good number of parents cheering and dancing in the crosswalk as their kids finally got out of their hair for a few hours. They are trading their “I’m bored” statements by their kids to “I have a project due for class tomorrow” statements. . The more things change, the more they stay the same. (BTW, I learned this in French originally - Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les memes, from my Aunt Gloria, who I miss very much.)

There is a sense of comfort in seeing the natural rhythms of life continue here since we have moved. I don’t feel homesick for NY or Massachusetts, but at times like this, I feel even a bit more like this is my home.