Friday, December 31, 2010


My computer seems to have a mind of its own today so, rather than try to type when it doesn't want me to, I'll just leave you with a couple pics and some recipe links.

Happy New Year and Happy Eating!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stacking Functions

In Permaculture there is a principle of stacking functions--getting the most out of one element. This might be keeping chickens for both eggs and manure (and entertainment!) or planting something that is edible and a natural mulch. I was looking at our property (all .07 acres of it) and thought of our front fence.

In its own ramshackle way it serves a few purposes. One, it is our firewood for the winter. With southern exposure the green wood gets plenty of sun to dry it. It is also conveniently placed so we can easily traipse out to retrieve it. (Of course just about anything would be considered convenient given our small lot.)

Second, the woodpile provides a privacy screen. Eventually we would like to have a latilla fence, but in the meantime, this woodpile will do just fine, thank you. We are situated right on a corner and, although our street is not busy, I like having just a touch of privacy. I also like the idea of our view changing as winter progresses and the wood pile dwindles.  The neighborhood kids might find that intriguing once we get the front garden growing. Little by little the veggies and fruit trees will be revealed, not to mention a glimpse of the chickens out back! Makes gardening sound fun, almost magical, even.

Third, I think some wildlife is also finding the pile a cozy place to spend the winter. My hope is that snakes and black widows will find it utterly inhospitable. I realize that  I am in total denial and, when I have to collect wood, I will be sure to wear gloves and carry osha root.

Fourth, it looks pretty cool if you ask me. How many woodpile fences have you seen?

And, lastly, where else could we put 2+ cords of wood on our postage stamp of land?!

Of course our wood stove is still waiting for a chimney and a hole in the roof to accommodate said chimney. Until then the "fence" will maintain its current height and continue to season in the sun harboring who knows what from the animal kingdom. Here's to stacking functions!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nothing Says Winter Like Soup

With the Voluptuous Vegan in hand, I made homemade stock and her Cream of the Harvest soup. Full of butternut squash, sweet potatoes and a garlic/ginger spice puree it was sweet yet warming. I mostly followed the recipe, but left out the parsnip (I was out) and substituted chile powder for chile paste (I was too lazy to make it.). Homemade peasant bread rounded out this perfect lunch. This loaf was made with a combination of wheat and rye flours. Hearty and delicious. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Just a Couple of Chickens

Photo courtesy of Corinne Tippet and The Free Rooster

I have had the good fortune to spend part of my break reading Just a Couple of Chickens:Raising Poultry and a Family in Hard Times by Corinne Tippet. Corinne and her family embarked on a poultry-raising adventure that rivals anything that Lane and I have set out to do in our own haphazard way. Living on 2 acres in northern New Mexico, Corinne decided to raise about 100 birds (pheasant, chickens, ducks, quail, geese and partridge) for eggs and feathers in one fail swoop. Her book is a memoir of that time as well as the impact the economic meltdown had on her family. Additionally, there is a bevy of information on raising poultry at the back of the book, which I found very helpful.

Written with humor and wit, Corinne details this chapter in her life in a way where I felt I was hearing the story of a good friend over tea. Her writing style is full of self-deprecating humor and told with hysterical recreations of dialogue. I could hardly put the book down and laughed out loud on more than one occasion. (If you've ever been stuck in the mud or spent time with poultry, you'll laugh too!) Corinne's entrance into the world of poultry reminded me of the many projects Lane and I have accomplished that usually turn out alright in the end but have a lot of missteps and mayhem along the way (ie buying our house sight unseen and then navigating the system to get it liveable). I feel as though we are kindred spirits.

Corinne and her family now live in Portland, OR and hope to have chickens again someday. She blogs about her life at The Free Rooster and has a new book (or two) in the works. Albuquerque Public Library carries Just a Couple of Chickens and I've spotted it at Miller's Feed in Los Ranchos, too. Oh, I failed to mention that she self-published this book. She's got spunk, I tell 'ya!

Busy in the Kitchen

Wearing my Arizmendi  tee I baked away Christmas Eve day. Arizmendi is a bakery cooperative located in San Fransisco where our good buddy Diane is part owner. If you click on the About Us page, she's the one standing in front of the door. She's a really cool gal and even makes trips to New Mexico to go cycling with us!

But I digress...

In preparation for a dinner gathering  I made roasted chickpea "nuts" from the Voluptuous Vegan cookbook, kale chips from Smitten Kitchen, and this ancho chile pumpkin pie. This was my first time making all of these things and they turned out pretty well. The nuts are a touch chewy and the kale is oh-so delicate (but delicious!). The pie was done entirely from scratch (crust and pumpkin puree included) and we'll see how the whole thing tastes in a few hours. Here is a picture of my first pie:

I could use a little work on the crust, but I think it will be the right balance of sweet and spicy. The dinner is Indian-themed so it should fit right in.

I also baked another loaf of peasant-style bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I was wary of the wet, unkneaded dough, but I think the breads turned out pretty good. I'll have to work on my boule-shaping technique.

I tested the sauerkraut and I think it's ready. Out of the crock and into the fridge it went. I think I overdid the salt in the brine but we'll give it a real shot sometime next week. Speaking of brine, I also made two pickles--beet and daikon radish. Delish, delish, delish.

Note: The pie turned out pretty darn good, if I may say so myself. It wasn't spicy enough, though, so I think next time I'll add more ground chile.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Communing with Nature

So, the title of this post may be a tad misleading. Going to a ski resort is not exactly communing with Nature. We drove there, rode a chairlift (albeit wind powered) and skied down on fiberglass boards strapped to our feet. John Muir and Thoreau would not be impressed.

Being up in Pagosa Springs/Wolf Creek, however, is stunning. The views from the top of the mountain were spectacular: the sky was wide and blue and snow-capped peaks stretched all the way to the horizon. I could almost understand people who risk their lives to mountaineer. I don't have any photographic evidence of this landscape because the camera was left in the car. It's pretty hard to operate when your fingers are frozen and/or in gore-tex mittens.

Despite the chairlift and madness at the base, the fresh snow and glimpses of green peeking out from the snow-laden conifers were refreshing. We usually ride the side of the mountain that is devoid of people. The terrain can be steep and the snow deep, but the serenity is well worth it. As we carved in and out of the trees and over squirrel tracks I realized we were in nature. There were times where we thought we might have even been outside of the ski boundary, it was that quiet.

Unlike last time we were up there, we didn't stay in a hotel. Sure there were lots of options--the spot we called home last weekend or the green-built, hot-springs heated, wind-powered fancy hotel. No, we communed with nature a bit more--from the inside of our station wagon. With poorly cut curtains and our camping pads stuffed in the back, we snuggled under our down comforter while also wearing fleece pants, down jackets and beanies. I wasn't cold during the night, but the frost on the inside of the car indicated how cold it was outside. Luckily Pagosa Springs had decent coffee and a great bakery to warm us up after we broke down "camp."

The drive home was through fields of  sage and cholla cactus with incredible rock formations as a backdrop. Although observed from a speeding car, the beauty of northern New Mexico was not lost on us. There's talk of heading back up there again next weekend, depending on the next storm system to come through. You can bet we'll be glad to be back in nature and this time I'll take the camera.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On the Homesteading Front

 Although there's sauerkraut fermenting in the kitchen and chickens scratching out back, not much else is going on at our wee little homestead. Canning has come to an abrupt halt and I've become stingy with putting jam on my toast because I don't want to run out of preserves. Silly, I realize. There are more jars of jam than we should rationally consume in one year, but they seem so precious. I feel like that about the veggies we grow, too. In fact, I still have about a cup's worth of black-eyed peas we grew in Austin that I can't seem to cook up. I think about the time and energy it took to grow them and to simply devour them doesn't do those little legumes justice.

When cooking homegrown veggies I'm conscious of eating every last bite but, the strange thing is,  I rarely feel this way about food that we didn't grow or put up ourselves. While we limit food waste and compost what we can, I don't feel the need to eat every last grain of rice, every last bite of mashed potato or lick the plate clean. I do savor every bite and enjoy the pleasure of eating but without the same elevated feeling as when I've grown it myself.  I'm grateful for the work of the farmers who grow this food for us and I think I need to give it the same reverence as I would my homegrown stuff.

In other homesteading news, it's been gray and overcast for a week, which is a great time for bread baking! So far this week I've made whole wheat pita and pizza. The pita was a great addition to a Greek-inspired menu that included slow-cooked lamb from our CSA, orzo, spinach and green bean Fashoulakia.  The pizza had roasted carnival squash, caramelized onions, walnuts and parm. cheese. Garlicky kale and pickled beets rounded out the meal. Tomorrow I'm going to try my hand at homemade pumpkin pie using a real pie pumpkin and crust from scratch. Keep your fingers crossed!

I picked up Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (Hertzberg & Francois) from the library and can't wait to get some big batches of dough going so we can have homemade bread multiple times a week. I want to get that routine down because my work/class schedule from March-May is totally nuts and we'll need some good food routines in place if I want to cook.

March-May is also planting time around these parts. I hope I can carve out some time between work and classes to really get our garden going for spring. I'm tired of the bare yard--the tufts of vetch and winter wheat are a nice touch, but I would love some veggies!! Patience, I know. And planning--my downfall. I'm notorious for spending months on a plan and then, at the last minute, throwing the plan out the window for something to be happening now. I like results. Usually this ends up in a half-baked attempt and then having to redo it later. (i.e. the raised beds in the parkway garden in Austin that I dug in 100+ degree heat and needed to rebuild a month later. Not my finest moment.)

Lane's been doing his fair share of homesteading projects, too. He's been putting the sewing machine to work mending clothes and sewing curtains for our station wagon--our winter "camper." He's also finished our fence, built a ton of shelves, worked on the cars and preparing for our wood stove chimney installation.

So, I guess things on the home front haven't been that quiet after all.  Many of these things have become such a part of our everyday lives that they don't seem so special or out of the ordinary. If you had asked us 4 years ago while living the urban life in Portland what we'd be doing now, living in Albuquerque with 2 chickens and a 900 square foot house would probably not have been our answer. But, here we are enjoying our little life in the North Valley. We hope life is good for you, too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Break

Friday, at 12:45, officially marked the start of my winter break: a respite from syllabus deadlines and no where in particular to be at 8:15 in the morning. Delightful.

By 2:00 Friday we were on the flanks of Sandia, alpine touring. Lane was on his split board, I on my randonne skis. The powder was about 2 feet deep and we blazed a trail up to some cat tracks. After we passed the jump-building, whooping sledders and snowboarders it was fairly serene.  Two hours of huffing and puffing, with the moon rising and light fading, we were rewarded with a smooth trip down to our car, surfing the powder and laying fresh tracks all the way.

Saturday we tried to make it back to Sandia, but to no avail--the road was impassable and even a snow plow was stuck. (At least this is the version the sheriff shared with us.) After scouting out a few other spots which proved unskiable, we decided to head home and pack up the car for an adventure. Five hours later we were in Pagosa Springs, Colorado soaking in a natural mineral pool. Wolf Creek Ski Area is just 23 miles from Pagosa Springs and has some of the best powder skiing we had ever experienced. Sunday would be no different.

Up at 4:30, we fixed a nice cup of tea and began the slow, snowy ascent to Wolf Creek pass. The pass would be closed from 6:30-8 for avalanche control and we didn't want anything to come between us and the fresh powder. Pulling into the parking lot around 6 am, there were just a few crazies like us and the resort staff. It was still snowing.  By the time the lifts started at 8:30, our car already had a few inches of fresh snow. We couldn't wait to hit the slopes because even the groomed trails would have plenty of  powder. In the trees it was thigh-high and light, my fat skis and Lane's powder board floating on the surface, the first evidence that people had been there.

Our legs burned from working our way down the mountain yet, when the upper part of the mountain opened that is accessible only by hiking, we were game. Our last run of the day involved a brief, but steep, post-holing hike to waist-deep powder. I have never experienced anything like it. Exhausted and elated we cruised back to the lodge, to our waiting Subaru and Pagosa Springs for tacos and a soak in the pool.

We could barely move the next morning, which was a great excuse to get back in the hot spring and spend the morning in the local bakery, eating cinnamon rolls and pumpkin muffins. No matter how many times we tried to get riled up about heading back to Wolf Creek, our bodies protested loudly so we pointed the Subaru south and cruised into the North Valley where the snow had melted and the temperature was unseasonably warm.

Since we left, Wolf Creek has had almost 3 feet of snow and it's still falling. I'm seeing another Colorado adventure in our future....

Thanks Winter Break.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Bosque

It's sandhill crane season again. Standing 4 feet tall, these majestic birds winter in New Mexico, much to our delight. There is something so incredible about these creatures, with their prehistoric calls and imposing frames. Much of the time we spot them in empty fields along the Bosque and in open spaces in the North Valley. When they take off they are truly a sight to behold.  Magnificent. Today I was lucky to have two soar right over my head as I pedaled to the Bosque. It looked something like this:

Not only did I see those beauties, but we were treated to a juvenile Cooper's Hawk and  a porcupine at the Bosque. A porcupine!! It was lounging in the top branches of a cottonwood and was much larger than I had expected. From a distance it looked to be between 1-2 feet long. Incredible. Even though we are technically in the city, the Bosque allows for so much wildlife to thrive and have a place in our bustling town. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's on the Menu

This is for our dear friend who is curious what will be on the menu tonight if he comes to dinner.

  • Sauteed garlicky kale
  • Homemade pickled beets
  • Cumin roasted carrots
And dessert is yet to be determined.

We'll save you a seat!

Storage Solutions

This post is going to be heavy on the pics, light on words. I'd like the photos to speak for themselves. We have been living without some storage solutions for a while and this weekend Lane worked especially hard to build and install various shelves and a closet. He used reclaimed barn wood for everything but the dowels on the closet and towel rack. Hooray!  We have places to put our stuff!

Our "closet" before.--Note the bikes lined up. We need a shed!

Now isn't that better?
Bathroom trim and a towel rack. The trim is from reclaimed barn wood, too.

Our vintage tile shower. This was *not* a project of the weekend. I just didn't think you'd seen it yet.

The new shelves have opened up the counter which is really nice. The clutter can really get to a person. 

Last, but not least, a way to organize our shoes, helmets and the like. This really cleans up our dining area and gives the semblance of organization.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

First Snow

We got our first snowfall last night. It was less than a half inch. Winter is just around the corner!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Where Did It Come From?

What animal produced this? A bear?

We went on a great ride Sunday into the foothills of Sandia. It was pretty remote with lots of signs of mammal life--footprints and evidence of cougars (scat, tracks). Scat like this kept showing up. It looks like berry seeds and was reminiscent of a sketch of bear scat in my scat field guide.

Any ideas?

The Girls In Print

A few months ago I responded to a survey by the lovely folks at Homegrown Evolution regarding urban permaculture. Much to my chagrin, Erik Knudsen from Homegrown thought some of my quotes were worthy for an article he was writing. A bit later I was contacted by an editor from Urban Farm magazine asking for some photos that might go with urban permaculture and my responses to Erik's survey. The only pics I really had on had were of the chickens and this photo was chosen:

So, not only are some of my words going to be in print, but a large, glossy pic of the girls will be too. If you are interested in urban permaculture, or urban farming in general, Urban Farm magazine is a good resource. Erik's article will appear in the Jan/Feb issue. We got an advanced copy and the article is great and the girls look good, too.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Right In Our Backyard

The East side of Sandia Mountain as seen above Otero Canyon.
Every weekend for the last month or so we've been heading North to the Jemez Mountains for some backcountry singletrack. Lane met a former pro rider who created miles of singletrack throughout this part of the Santa Fe National Forest. He doesn't refer to these trails as "rides" but rather, "adventures" and we learned why. With photos of waypoints, a map and a compass we headed off for our "adventure." Luckily we have some orienteering skills because the trails had practically disappeared, rendering the photos useless at times. The next few trips we took a GPS and had much greater success. Hopefully we'll have some photos to share from that area soon. It's quite beautiful and has become a favorite destination of ours.

With all of that traveling, however, we thought this weekend we'd stick closer to home. The village of Tijeras lies just East of Albuquerque and is home to a portion of the Cibola National Forest. The first time we visited Albuquerque we camped in this part of Cibola. In fact, the photo in this blog's title banner was taken on that trip! At 6,300 feet Tijeras has junipers and pines, yucca and prickly pear, cougars and bears. Fortunately, no large mammals were sighted on this trip.

Mountain bikers are allowed on many of the trails in Cibola National Forest and today we tackled a short 8 mile loop from Tunnel Canyon to Otero Canyon. The climb out of Tunnel Canyon was, for the most part, gentle with some loose, rocky sections and offered sneak peeks of Sandia off to the North. It is incredible how different the mountain looks from this side as compared how it appears from the valley. In the valley it looms above the city, rocky and impossibly steep. From the south its flanks rise up gently blanketed in pines.

The climb brought us to the top of a ridge with spectacular views of Sandia and the surrounding area. The picture at the top of this post was from this point as is this photo:

 The temperature hovered around 60 and the autumn light was perfect. I was so glad we got to be in the mountains today.

 I neglected to mention that we've traded in our stiff 80s bikes for 90s models with front suspension. I feel like I can take on almost any terrain without worrying about rattling my brain. Here I am on my "new" bike. The frame is a Soma Groove, for those who have an interest in that kind of thing.

The frame is smaller than my last mountain bike, so I look kind of gigantic on it. I think this is to my advantage on steep, rocky descents, however.

This is Lane's new bike. It's a Voodoo Hoodoo and the color is really spectacular.
This area was so easy to get to that we're already planning another trip for tomorrow. If you're in the Albuquerque area, Two Wheel Drive sells the map for Cedro Peak and Otero Canyon.

Happy trails!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cozying up to Fall

Fall is here.

The mornings hover around freezing and most days the last of the acequia water has turned to ice. Hot tea and oatmeal start the morning. The recent cold nights are causing many trees to suddenly loose their leaves. My ride to work has been in showers of leaves as I ride along the ditch. Some of the leaves are even still green. Fall comes fast here, I suppose.

By lunch the chickens' water has thawed and they are happily pecking about the yard. Temperatures are in the 50s and I can be outdoors in a long sleeved shirt. Packed in my pannier are my winter gloves, hat and coat that were required just a few hours earlier.

As the sun begins it's final descent, the temperature starts its sudden drop. Once the sun is out of site, the mercury plummets and the gloves, hat and coat are resurrected. The kettle is on for endless cups of tea and squash roasts in the oven.

The next day the cycle begins again. I love it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Road Trip

Ruins at Chaco Canyon

A few weeks ago our good friend Diane came into town from San Fransisco. She loves to bike and have adventures more than we do, so we took a week off of work, loaded up the bikes and camping gear and headed north. Our first stop was Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The weather was beautiful and, as you can see by the photos, the sky was an incredible shade of blue. We arrived in the late afternoon and available sunlight restricted our hike to about 4 miles. We saw ruins, petroglyphs and some interesting lizards.

The thing which most surprised me was that the buildings were not made of adobe brick. I had assumed they were because that is what is predominantly found in and around Albuquerque. True, Chaco Canyon is not anywhere near Albuquerque, but I had become accustomed to that building style. The Chaco buildings were, in fact, built of rocks with what resembled an adobe-esque mortar. They were stunning and I wish we had seen some truly great great houses which are present in the park. Our time was limited and we are definitely planning another trip back. Although camping was allowed at the designated campground, it was far busier than we expected so we continued to Durango and made camp in the national forest.

Bright and early the next morning we broke camp and headed out of town. Desintation: Fruita, Colorado. Fruita is renowned for it's miles and miles of singletrack mountain biking. It is in the high desert with incredible scenery and the people who live in Fruita are welcoming to cyclists. The drive took us through golden aspen forests and old mining towns until the landscape began to change. The aspens gave way to red rocks and sage.  Here is our campsite, which was just a few pedal strokes to several trailheads.

This was Diane's first time on a mountain bike and she was fantastic! She even rode clipped in. As would become our routine, we arrived at the trails around 3:30. With daylight running short, we made the most of it, getting in about 10 miles and returning to camp just as the sun set. After a meal of homemade pita bread and commercially made Tasty Bite Indian, we crawled into our sleeping bags and slept soundly, dreaming of more rolling singletrack with sweeping vistas.

The next morning we drove over to the Kokopelli trail system just outside Fruita. This was some of the most incredible riding I have ever done due to both the scenery and the quality of the trails. The Kokopelli trails are right along the Colorado River, atop and within red rock canyons.

My newish digital camera is on the fritz, so I brought along my old camera that has seen better days. Of course a point and shoot can never capture the true beauty of a place. The first few trails we rode were undulating and pretty fast. Pure fun. Diane felt more at ease on the bike and Lane and I could not keep up with her. 

Here she is about to take off toward the canyon wall.

As the hours ticked by, the sun rose higher and we started to cook. This trail system is very exposed and luckily we had enough water to keep us going. Unfortunately, the glaring sun was no match for my point and shoot and all of the gorgeous views became washed-out.

You'll have to use your imagination.

Although we saw several riders and the area is popular with bike tours, the trails were not crowded. We did encounter a few international riders. The cross country team from France were as equally dumbfounded by us on our antique rigid bikes as we were by their matching racing kits. We also brushed shoulders with denizens of the UK, New Zealand and Australia.   With so many trails to choose from, it was rare to run into anyone and, if you did, it was a brief passing.

Although Fruita was fantastic, the road called. We broke camp and headed east. After a few hours' drive we decided to camp at Black Canyon National Park. Never heard of it? Neither had I. It is pretty small, by national park standards, but is packed with beauty. The Black Canyon rises over 2,000 feet off the floor of the Colorado River. The river continues to carve it even deeper each year. Early the next morning we walked the interpretive chasm trail to Painted Rock and the canyon's edge.

Thanks to the interpretive brochure, we learned that the metamorphic rock of the canyon walls was formed by two volcanic events. The first created the black rock. The second was of a thicker lava that squeezed in the cracks like toothpaste. It is pink and crystalline, sort of like granite. We watched the canyon change as the sun rose.

Can you tell that it was cold? Temperatures were forecast to be around freezing.

A birthday kiss
Did I mention that this was the morning of my birthday? After a breakfast of hot coffee and meusli the car was packed up yet again and pointed east. In the early afternoon we arrived in Salida, CO. Salida is a sweet little town. Their economy depends to a degree on tourism from outdoor enthusiasts yet, despite this, the town has a very authentic vibe. Some other Colorado towns that cater to tourists go for the "old west" theme or are covered in gift shops. Not Salida. The downtown is thriving with a variety of businesses that are for locals and tourists alike. For a town this small, they can support 5 cafes and 4 pizza shops! They also have a restaurant that fed us the most delicious meal we had all had in a long time (and I don't mean since the trip started. I'm talking about the best meal in months.)

My birthday dinner was at the Laughing Lady in downtown Salida. Many of the dishes used locally-sourced items and all of it was incredibly delicious. We started with a lightly dressed salad since we were all having nutrient withdraw. Road food tends to be heavy on the carbs, low on the greens. A duck eggroll appetizer with a light and spicy dipping sauce was just the right amount of crispy, spicy and sweet. Diane sweet talked our server into a side of the hot potato and green bean salad that was covered in soft goat cheese and swimming in garlicky butter.  Lane had a buffalo burger with homemade shoestring fries. I had a pork chop with creamy mashed potatoes over an ancho-squash sauce with grilled vegetables and a cranberry apple slaw and Diane had the chicken papparadelle pasta that had a rich, garlicky broth and roasted squash. We felt ok with this meat fest since all of their meat comes from humanely-raised, local farmers who feed their animals the way nature intended.

This meal came after a long day on the road and a great 6 miles of singletrack on part of the rainbow trail. With our bellies full and our down parkas at the ready, we climbed into bed along Bear Creek, hoping the eponymous creature wouldn't make an appearance.

With frost on the ground and a need to warm up we hit Cafe at Dawn, a former auto shop, complete with roll-up garage doors, for a very strong cup of coffee. After consulting the trail guide we decided to take a jaunt north to ride an abandoned rail road track that serviced the silver mines. Most of our rides began after 3pm and this one was no different. The drive to the trail head passed by a ghost town. We were excited to check it out but once we arrived were incredibly disappointed. The "ghost town" was privately owned and in various stages of being renovated. There was a small hotel and an oddly large number of tourists. We had hoped for authentic ruins but would have to find those further up the road. At various points on the drive we passed by what remained of the mining industry, including a building that leaned very precariously into the road. We couldn't figure out what kept it from falling into the canyon.

This was the view that greeted us at the trail head. Note the snow.

This may have been a view of a peak in the Collegiate range. Many of these mountains are over 14,000 ft.

This trail was supposed to be an easy ride complete with interpretive signs describing the railway and the mining industry. What we experienced lived up to those expectations but what we didn't anticipate was that the trail would also be covered in snow. Initially we thought that was because we were in the shade but the snow continued, sometimes obscuring the remains of the wooded railroad ties. The ride was slick and it's never a good idea to ride on wet ground as it can cause ruts. So, feeling slightly defeated, we headed back after 2 miles and had a delightful picnic watching the moon rise.

In desperate need for a shower we thought about hitting one of the many hot springs in the area. The two spots we called were a bit pricey and in a resort-type environment so we headed back to town to give the Salida Hot Springs Community Aquatic Center a try. This was not a disappointment. The Aquatic center pipes in water from a mineral hot springs about 7 miles away and has been in operation since the 1930s. Part of the building originates from that time. Truly a community space, this felt better to us than some touristy resort. The showers were fantastic and the soak in the large pool was even better.

After another cool-night's sleep we started our journey back to Albuquerque. At around 3:00 we started the slog up Aspen Vista and miraculously made it to the car before sunset. I say miraculously because the start of the trail was clogged with leaf-peepers and we stopped near the top to help someone with a flat. His companion was incredulous that we don't have "modern" mountain bikes at home. Truth be told, after 7 miles uphill on a rocky, gravelly road and 2 fast, steep miles down similar terrain, I was starting to think he had a point.

Tired, we piled back into the car for the final stretch back home. While we love camping and a life on the road, it was great to be in our little house-with a kitchen, a shower, and a non-mesh roof over our heads. The next morning we couldn't see our breath after getting out of bed and could make coffee without wearing gloves. 

Life's little pleasures.

Diane, we miss you and hope you'll be back for more adventures this spring!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall's Bounty

I love this time of year--cooler temperatures, the way the light hits the trees and the food. Now is the time for green chile and I can tell it's going to be my harbinger of fall. New Mexico is known for its chile ("Red, green or Christmas?") and for good reason--it's delicious. It also smells divine as it's roasted in large metal drums outside just about every grocery store and market. We live pretty close to a little grocers and when the wind is just right we catch a whiff of roasting chile. The charred skin and warm smell practically cause me to salivate.

This is what is used to roast a huge bag of chile. The drum is connected to propane and is rotated with a crank on the side.
(Photo courtesy of

It's a different feeling than when the General Foods plant a few miles away is making some artificially flavored fruit cereal. That smell is really nauseating, yet it brings back some sort of childhood memory. These kind of cereals were not allowed in my house growing up, so I'm not sure where that memory comes from, but it's definitely there.

Squashes are also flooding the market and it's finally cold enough to feel like I can roast one without sweating to death. Today I made a spaghetti squash "lasagne" with a fresh tomato sauce. It was so delicious with a side of tatsoi and a creamy carrot soup. Kabocha, acorn and delicata squash are filling up the countertop!

Peaches and plums have given way to apples and pomegranates. I spent the morning processing pomegranates into juice for future jam/syrup projects. It's pretty labor-intensive to extract the seeds and juice. I was reminded of saffron and wondered if pomegranates are the fruit equivalent. We now have 2 ice cube trays full of pom juice in the freezer. Maybe a pomegranate-prickly kombucha is in order...
Definitely the tastes of fall.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What We've Been Up To

This is our view of Sandia on the ride home from the co-op.

Blogging was much easier before I started grad school and a new part-time job. While I'm grateful for the education and employment, I miss having the time to tell you about our goings-on. In addition, our  camera is on the fritz and it's just not as fun to write without accompanying pictures.

An update:

We've been getting out on our bikes most weekends and even a time or two mid-week. Our last cycling adventure was both thrilling and chilling (literally and figuratively). More details on that may follow soon. I'm attending New Mexico Highlands University in their Special Education graduate program. After this school year I will have an endorsement in gifted education and be 2/3 finished with my special education certification. All of my courses are online which provides a lot of flexibility and I'm learning quite a bit in this field. My new job is at Mountain Mahogany Community School, a lovely charter school. They are heavily influenced by Waldorf education and the climate/environment is great. They have a gardening teacher who I volunteer with once a week as well as a handworks teacher that does knitting, felting and sewing. I assist in the 5th and 6th grades with two wonderful teachers. In addition I will be doing a science club where I taught last year. They have a beautiful wildlife sanctuary on campus which will serve as the club's outdoor classroom. I may also do some other class trips to the sanctuary depending on budget. I'm looking forward to it!

The weather here is cooling down--crisp nights and warm days. The Balloon Fiesta begins this weekend and I'm looking forward to seeing the sky dotted with bright balloons. One (accidentally?) landed near campus a few days ago and was a very exciting beginning to the school day. We have planted four fruit trees (Green Gauge Plum, Wealthy apple, Garnet Beauty Peach and Chinese Apricot) and our acequia irrigation is up and running. Soon our neighbor's apple tree will be ready to harvest and I'll be putting up a variety of apple goodness. Stay tuned.

Next weekend a good friend of ours is coming in from San Fransisco. We'll take a week off from work to go into Colorado and around New Mexico cycling and camping. All is good in our world and we hope in yours, too!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tesuque Riding

Just north of Santa Fe is the village of Tesuque and Tesuque Pueblo--another beautiful area for cycling. Starting from the village of Tesuque we had a great climb up into the national forest and then through Pacheco Canyon. The views on the way up were vast and sweeping. Truly amazing and impossible to capture with the point and shoot. I think we may have seen a juvenile horned lizard, too! The picture above was snapped while in the canyon and the photo hardly does any justice to the natural beauty.

After  a 12 mile climb (and lots of breaks) we began the descent on the Windsor Trail. Although steep at the beginning it turned into rolling single track that was so delightful. Towards the end there were multiple stream crossings-some a real challenge--and a few hikers to politely pass. Here's Amy on some singletrack:
Can't see her yet...

Getting closer...


 There were quite a few small meadows like this and some very loose, sandy/rocky areas too. It was varied and a ton of fun.

"Is that a fully rigid vintage Raleigh?" you may be asking yourself. Why yes, it is. We both have vintage mountain bikes from the early-mid 80s, before the advent of shocks and suspension forks.  Amy's is a Raleigh Elkhorn that had been kept in a garage for the last 20 years and Lane's is a Ross Mt. Whitney which is also in great, shiny chrome condition. Usually when we go on rides like this we take a trunk and a long flap to hold extra water and supplies. No more sweaty backs from carrying a backpack! Returning to the car my odometer read 21.8 and we headed home. This was a ride I'd definitely like to do again.