Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Weekend in Pictures

While much of the country suffered from freezing, wintry weather, we were graced with temps in the high 50s and copious sunshine. I managed to remember the camera for much of the weekend and took a few decent pics to give you an idea of our how we spent our days.

First, we rode out to the village of Corrales. Life seems to slow down a bit there and you have to keep an eye out for horse manure while riding along the ditch. From our house we can mostly ride on car-free paths and the ditches for the nearly 10 mile journey to the village. Our destination was Stevie's Happy Bikes, our favorite bike shop in the Albuquerque area. Stevie is a fan of bike touring and he has fond memories of touring the San Juan Islands off the Washington Coast. We'd like to return there for a tour, too. When we pulled up on our touring bikes, Stevie, an aficionado of vintage bikes,  commented on our "real" bikes, which we felt pretty good about.
Here's my touring bike: a Miata 610. The fat tires made riding the sandy trails a cinch.
We hung out at Stevie's for a little while, eating muffins from the market cafe down the road and soaking up the sunshine. The shadow of a tree in winter as it fell across Stevie's adobe building really caught my eye.

After Coralles we headed 15 miles south back into Albuquerque and the Old Town neighborhood. Admittedly, we have only been to Old Town once, and at that time we were lost. As the name suggests, this neighborhood is a historical gem and full of small alley-like streets flanked by thick-walled, low-slung adobe buildings. There are plenty of shops catering to tourists, a plaza to buy jewelry and Native American crafts, and a few restaurants tucked away here and there. We wanted to try a crepe restaurant at the end of an alley next to the Albuquerque Museum but it was closed. We ate on the patio of the Church Street Cafe instead and split a burrito smothered in delicious green chile.

A doorway in Old Town. The asymmetrical framing reminded us of our entry gate.
Needing to get home and get ready for dinner at a friend's, we sped back north to the valley on streets and ditches the 7 miles home.

I thought there was something beautiful in this bit of urban decay.

No energy is wasted with these reflectors that focus light into skylights.

We had a late night with good friends celebrating birthdays, eating South Indian food, and playing Wise...and Otherwise. Laughing with friends is such good medicine. Sunday morning we awoke to the sun streaming in and a hankering for Sophia's breakfast enchiladas. On the way there we saw this roadrunner.

We usually spot it in the same location and occasionally it will run away but not today. It fluffed up its wings and raised its crest while I snapped a few pictures. Although commonplace, I still get a kick out of seeing a roadrunner and the day I spot one with a snake or lizard hanging out of its mouth will be memorable to say the least.

I find the fleck of orange-red behind the eye stunning.

With our bellies full we cruised back home to spend the day on house projects, (another post is in the works on the recent attempts at beautification) baking, and cooking. (As I type this a second loaf of artisan bread is in the oven and a dozen blue-corn blackberry muffins are cooling on the rack.) Our neighbor joined us for a dinner of local sauerkraut (sadly not mine) and brats cooked over our little wood-fired grill.

A pleasant weekend indeed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Something I Don't See Everyday

On  beautiful afternoons we don't see too many people outside in our neighborhood. No one has lawns that need mowing and there aren't many gardens to tend. There are quite a few kids, but they are conspicuously absent from their yards and on the street. Today was an exception, however.

As I rode home from work I saw a handful of boys playing football in my neighbor's backyard. It was so unusual that I almost did a double take. They were having such a good time on this warm winter afternoon and I got to thinking how that sight was so novel. It put a smile on my face.

I remember many afternoons playing outside in our neighborhood: building forts, riding bikes, playing tag. It was just what we did. I wonder if those boys found their game of football so new and different. They certainly seemed to find it fun.

If you're worried about how rarely you see children outside, please read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. His work looks at what little time children spend in the outdoors and why they should be out more often. Of course I'm writing this from inside the house, tied to a laptop.

I'm going outside.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Albuquerque Open Space

On our way to and from the co-op, the cafe, and our friend's house we ride past the Rio Grande Community Farm. One of the beautiful things about the farm is that it is on public land, part of the Poblano Fields Open Space as it is referred to here. Two acres is a Community Garden which has plots for individuals as well as acreage to grow food for Albuquerque Public Schools. Individuals can choose to donate their produce or keep it for their own consumption. Several additional acres are reserved specifically for wildlife. Crops such as corn, sorghum and sunflowers are grown with the diet of birds in mind. I think it is so fantastic that this area, among many others, has been a priority for the city. So often Albuquerque is remembered for its strip malls and poor urban planning. Through my rose-colored glasses I prefer to see the dedication to Open Space throughout the city and an effort to provide habitat for the animals that also call this area home.

This past weekend we rode through the open space and it was teeming with Canada geese and sandhill cranes. We estimated about 300 cranes and more continued to arrive in small flocks. They are a noisy lot but lovely to admire in their immense beauty. I am thankful to have this little bit of nature in the city courtesy of some forward-thinking folks in city planning.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Girls are Laying (Again)!

With the longer days and warmer temps, the girls are back at it with a vengeance. Before winter we were only getting an egg every other day.  On Saturday I found 4 eggs in the coop! Now we're getting an egg a day, and it appears that both Chippy and Buffy are producing.

Maybe they sensed that I was in negotiations with the local feed store to trade them for chicks in the spring. I guess we'll keep them around a bit longer after all!

Monday, January 17, 2011

On Cars and Fate

As some of you know, we love being in Nature. In the winter this tends to mean a trip to the mountains to ride some powder. At only four hours away, Pagosa Springs, Colorado is a favorite destination--Wolf Creek, the nearby ski resort has some of the best snow conditions and Pagosa has natural mineral hot springs, a gift anytime, but especially after skiing all day.

A few weeks ago a storm came through and left about 3 feet of snow in its wake. It also dropped the temperatures to well below zero at night. We recently outfitted our Subaru wagon with curtains so we could camp up there to save money on lodging and for the adventure. With temperatures so low, however, we decided to rent a "camper cabin" that we were assured had adequate heat and insulation. At $25, it was a steal. This cabin was located in an RV park and at around 10'x7' was definitely cozy. Furnished with a queen-sized bed, table, 2 chairs, a lamp and a space heater it really was ideal, with one exception: the provided heater was inadequate and the gap around the door was such that we could see outside. We had been told the heater had been running for a few hours yet the room was still frigid.

Luckily, we had anticipated this. We plugged in our own space heater and layered the bed with a quilt and a down comforter. With our first layer ski gear and our beanies on, we snuggled in for a cold night. And, it was cold! Under the blankets was warm enough but when it came time to wake up, we scurried to get everything packed and warm up the car. Rolling  through town around 8 o'clock, the bank thermometer read -11! Whoa. In our little shack, even with the heater going, it was probably around freezing. The car was also smoking in an unsettling way. Having never driven it in such arctic temps we wondered if we really wanted to go to the mountain where temperatures would be even lower.

After hot tea and a breakfast burrito at the Pagosa Springs Baking Co., we decided no, we were not up for the cold and we surmised that the snow would already be tracked out. This was probably the smartest decision we've made in a long time. After a brief soak in the hot mineral bath and a car fluid check we began our trip home. There are 2 routes to choose from, one goes through the Jicarilla Apache reservation in Dulce, NM and the other goes past Chama, NM. The Dulce route is our preferred way because then we don't have to deal with traffic near Espanola, NM. The Chama route, however, takes us by our friend Ron's place north of Espanola. We hadn't seen Ron in a month or so and thought we'd swing by and pay him a visit. Chama route it was.

Mom, if you are reading this, you may want to skip the next paragraph. 

The car was no longer visibly smoking and we were cruising along the snowy highway without any problems. Our little Subaru was doing great. About 3 miles outside of Chama, on an icy/snowy straightaway we heard a sound like we had run over some debris in the road. Only, there wasn't any debris. The wheels locked up, the engine shut down, and we began to slow down and skid along the highway. No one was in front or behind us, which was very fortunate. The rear of the car began to come around and we turned 180 degrees, facing from where we had come. This all happened as if in slow motion. We skidded backwards down the road for a bit then gently came to rest in a snowbank left behind by the plows. We were unhurt, the airbags didn't need to be deployed, but we were stuck. A quick look under the car seemed to indicate that we lost all of the transmission fluid. We realized that having this happen here, close to a town and without any other cars affected was truly lucky. What if we had been on the mountain pass? Or on the interstate? It turns out it was a good day not to ski.

Ok, mom, you can start again from here.

Luckily we had cell phone reception so I called for roadside assistance. Lane spoke to the passers-by that offered to help but not much could really be done at this point. We just needed to find a place for our car and to get us back to Albuquerque, 165 miles away. The closest roadside assistance was in Pagosa Springs, an hour north and not an ideal spot to leave our car. The tow truck operator didn't know of anywhere in Chama where we could have the car towed. That's when Teddy showed up.

Driving a 1961 Studebaker sedan, Teddy pulled up alongside our car, against traffic, with his basset hound Louie the Louse panting out the open window. He said he lived around here and wondered if we needed help. Lane told him our predicament and Teddy let us know he knew some folks in town that could help. We hopped in and headed towards Chama. On these icy roads Teddy maneuvered the Studebaker beautifully, using his "ABS brakes" (aka his pumping foot) to come to a stop in a local autoyard. While I waited in the car with a very unhappy, whining Louie, Teddy and Lane went in search of Bobby who might be willing to give us a tow and store the car at his lot until we could come and get it. Bobby was willing to do the tow, for nominal cash, but couldn't store the car. Not to worry, Teddy had an idea!

He tried to sweet talk the local grocery store manager into letting us keep the car in the parking lot for the week. No luck. Then, he said, "let's go to Fina's." Fina's is a local cafe/diner that Teddy frequents at least once a day. Fina enthusiastically agreed to help her regular customer and his new "friends." Bobby towed the car to Fina's and, after much effort, got the car into the lot. All four wheels were locked up and, even at a 45 degree angle on the flatbed, the car wouldn't budge. Bobby used his hydraulic skills to slowly slide the car off. There it would remain for the next 5 days. We exchanged numbers with Teddy and he said he would keep an eye on the car until we could get back up there. Off he went in his Studebaker, back to his house and his two other basset hounds, one of which was having an eye removed the next day.

Fina's was now closed, but the place across the street was open and we had a hearty lunch of New Mexican cuisine and waited for Ron to make the trip up from his place to pick us up. At more than an hour away, it was so great of him to rescue us but the day was not over yet. Once we arrived at Ron's we borrowed one of his vehicles and drove back to Albuquerque. Back at home we picked up our other Subaru, had a quick dinner, and caravanned back to Ron's to return his car. Then we did the last trip south to Albuquerque for the day. What ordinarily would have been a 4 hour trip, turned into a 12 hour ordeal but we were graced with the kindness of strangers, a good friend and a loyal basset hound.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


This post is almost a direct contradiction to yesterday's. Yesterday I was in favor of keeping a routine dictated by my job and being more efficient with my time. There is some truth to what I said about procrastination but I really, truly, love "slow time." Slow time is when things happen at their own speed: the ripening of a tomato, the changing of the seasons, the growth of a child. You can't push slow time but nowadays we've found ways to circumvent it: getting tomatoes at the supermarket any time of year is one glaring example, as is the 9 to 5 workday. I feel fortunate that our simplified lifestyle allows us to linger in slow time perhaps more than others have the luxury to do. Yet, I am torn about how much I need to devote to fast time.

I feel this pull from time quite often. As a teacher I have enjoyed summers free from "work" in the typical sense. I generally don't have anywhere I need to be at any given time. I garden, cook, take long bike rides, harvest, can, read--for pleasure (gasp!). I wake up when my body tells me to and do the same when it's time for bed. The rhythm of the day is slow and things happen in a more natural way. The rest of the year I juggle different responsibilities both personally and professionally and crave the desire for slow time. 

Sharon Astyk, author of several books, including Depletion and Abundance wrote this post about slow and fast time. I highly recommend reading it, as she eloquently describes both notions of time and finding the balance in our everyday lives. I felt better after reading it and maybe you just might, too. 

Monday, January 3, 2011


Winter Break has come to a screeching halt which leaves me with less time to post the goings-on around the lean-to. We had a bit of an automotive-related adventure this past weekend which I would like to document in the very near future. It included a Subaru, a Studebaker and a basset hound named Louie the Louse.

I will miss the lazy days of baking and reading but I know I will jump back into our routine and feel perfectly at ease. Keeping  a regular schedule is actually pretty good for me. I've discovered that I am more productive when my time is pre-apportioned and I don't procrastinate as frequently. That isn't to say that I don't love a vacation now and again but I never seem to get enough done during a holiday. I know I'm not alone in that regard.

My fairly regular posts of the last two weeks will become a touch sporadic. It's not because I don't want to write, it's just that things like dinner and showering may have to take precedence. I become incredibly cranky (and stinky) otherwise.